‘The First Day in the Mill’ is a piece that harks back to my Lancashire roots and the stories I heard as a child. It’s exhibiting in the Quilt Creations category at The Festival of Quilts 2019. It features 61 elongated hexagons – or cloth ‘weaving shuttles’ – each embroidered with a job in the cotton mill. The central panel features a poem by Louisa Bearman, written in Lancashire Dialect, about her First Day in the Mill when she was thirteen.
The cloth is a mixture of modern, preloved and vintage cotton – some from the Arnold’s Attic Collection – and some have been naturally dyed to create a soft mix of textures and tones throughout the piece. The centre of the work features a Lancashire Rose and a vintage weaving shuttle, given to me by my father.
This is a very personal piece. It shares some of the thoughts and emotions that my own family experienced in years gone by. My Grandad Nixon was twelve and his mother was ten on their first day in the mill.
A trip to Rossendale in Lancashire means many things to me. It’s a place where I feel at ‘Home’. I catch up with my family and now and again I revisit aspects of the industrial heritage and it’s textiles stories that had sparked my love of textiles, many years ago. I remember family tales from the Cotton Mills – of clogs sparking on cobbles, the Mee Mawing Language of Weavers and my great-aunt explaining how she used to thread a shuttle. Helmshore Cotton Mill is one of the last remaining Mills in the Rossendale Valley where you can truly experience the full glory of original machinery in working order.
This video is from a recent visit and shows some beautiful working Carding, Roving & Spinning machines. It’s noisier than you might think!
A little bonus for you are the fabulous Fulling Machines showing how Military Wool Cloth was made.