gathering napkin stitchers as we go

The Napkin Project recently delivered workshops to Wordsworth Centre and Roshni Ghar sheltered housing complex in Bristol .

First stop  = Wordsworth Centre

Wordsworth Centre is a community building situated in the Horfield and Lockleaze area of Bristol . It provides space for local groups , meetings and activities. Each Tuesday the Yarn club meet to develop their sewing skills with artist Sarah Winch.  


Participants were really enthusiastic and we had three generations of a Grenadian family stitching a napkin each . They were planning a sewing bee with their friends involving chicken and rice and many other delicious sounding foods! A collaborative napkin stitching project emerged with the youth group drawing and the adult sewing group stitching their designs.


Next stop= Roshni Ghar

Roshni Ghar is a multicultural sheltered housing complex in Bristol.  Ladies from India , Pakistan and Somalia came along came together in a communal room to see what the napkin project was all about. In fact it was rather embarassing to show them my attempts at stitching as they themselves were highly skilled at embroidery and had a thing or two to teach us !




One lady set off to find her own embroidery to show us and returned with a beautiful pillowcase she was making . Another Somalian lady demonstrated a new stitch and set about embroidering flowers on each corner of her napkin. It was clear we had alot to learn from our ladies at Roshni Ghar!

Deirdre Nelson July 2013

 We have just been to Culture Health and 


We have just been to Culture Health and  Well being conference in Bristol and I (Deirdre Nelson) had the opportunity to present The Napkin Project and recent commission with Saffron Gardens . We seem  to be gathering new followers and stitch enthusiasts wherever we go and are delighted that the project has been so well received.  ! Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far and we look forward to seeing the results!


Jamaican Tody bird gets legs at last.

I am adding the last little details to some of the Saffron Birds and the Jamacian Tody is getting some knitted legs and feet. I have tried to create a hand sized bird with different textures which can be held or carried around Saffron Gardens care home. 

Found only in Jamaica, the Jamaican Tody is a small and colourful bird, predominantly green above, with a red throat and yellow underparts, with some pink on the sides. It has a large head and a long, flat bill. It perches on small branches, with its bills unturned and, like its Cuban relative , takes insects, larvae, and fruit. The Jamaican Tody nests in burrows, which it excavates in muddy banks or rotten wood.


Alot of machine sewing has been going on in order to create pages, linings and covers for the books but I am nearly there! I must say i prefer handstitch to the sewing machine but needs must !!  Each book is detachable from its digitally printed cover via poppers thus will allowing each book to be washed easily .  The next stage is to stitch pages into the covers using techniques inspired by a bookbinding workshop with Rachel Hazel 


In creating fabric books , I have been trying to explore fabrics which encourage touch, memory and feelings of ‘home’. ( wool, flanelette, gingham, cotton, silk ). Edges are stitched in various threads to allow for residents to touch and hold and the size of each book has been carefully considered to allow residents to easily look through and place while seated on their laps.  The books reference both knee and  comfort  blankets.

The books also incorporate digitally printed imagery created as a result of conversations with residents at Saffron Gardens ( flowers , pets and even a few stars such as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe ).

It is hoped the books act not only as tactile surfaces but as visual stimulation also.  Fabrics are both patterned and plain , paying close attention to keeping imagery clear to avoid confusion for dementia patients.  Each fabric chosen can be easily washable and suitable for ironing to save care home staff additional work in maintaining the work over time.  As each book has been made, more ideas have developed. There is plenty to explore in the area of visual and tactile stimulus for those with dementia.


There are three elements to my commission for Saffron Gardens , knitted birds, hatstands and fabric books. In creating the fabric books I have been gathering imagery and textured fabrics.  The books will be a combination of digital print and embroidery and present images inspired by conversations at Saffron Gardens .  Each printed image is simple and clear with areas embroidered with texture allowing residents to recognise familar imagery but also be encouraged to touch the books providing tactile stimulus.

Eamon O Kane has created tree drawings on wood, one for each of the four trees after which the residential units are named.  These paintings will be placed near to his cabinets.  Each of my fabric books will be hung on the wall and   I have created cover designs for the books which will be digitally printed incorporating Eamons tree drawings.   Although we have not directly collaborated we have been influenced by each other and the work should sit comfortably within the Saffron home environment.

In creating the digital imagery for the book covers I have combined multicultural embroidery patterns (eg  Phulkari embroidery from India) and layered trees and birds also.