‘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.
The night before a last dashed email had been sent out asking for a final batch of volunteers to clear and tidy up the moat, ‘reply if you can make it’. I rearranged things and replied “YES”.
Friday was a beautiful day and the sun was shining. Perfect. The volunteers were split into teams to tackle the last two areas of poppies. I was first tasked to clear the poppies from around the pet cemetery near Traitors Gate.
The view from the path before the poppies were removed
The processing boxes & tables and the poppies at the base of the distant tower
It was so strange when the tourists started flocking and photographing us doing the clearing up
One of the first pets to be buried on the pet cemetery
The Poppies and their stems were dismantled. Poppies carefully placed into boxes
After the clear-up
Following the clear up we moved to the moat at Cradle Tower where the last poppy was picked by the youngest and eldest volunteer.
The youngest and eldest volunteer and the last poppy: Eileen (82) and Alexandria (18)
The latter part of my day was spent collecting money thrown into the moat at Traitors Gate. All money goes to the British Legion.
There is more money than you think.
Some coins have left their mark
Found Objects – thrown down by tourists, collected and displayed in the moat
So much mud ! Back to get washed up. What was a brilliant experience.