Fabulous Exhibition : Chinese Whispers


Our Exhibition is now open at the Durham World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, 7, Owengate, Durham DH1 3HB 

1 – 31 may 2017

After being inspired by The Quilters Guild project of the same name a few years ago Durham Guild decided to produce work for this exhibition beginning in December 2015 when 12 members of the guild signed up to produce 12 images using fibres and/or yarn.

The task was simple enough…..”A completed textile of 30 x 30 cm to fit a frame of 50 x 50 cm, based on a photograph of the preceding piece within 6 weeks –  sending a photograph on to the next volunteer in line” Easy!!

No one was allowed to reveal or discuss their work until April this year. (See previous blog post)

Sadly, during the project, Anne Reay, our second volunteer, tragically and unexpectedly passed away and so we are dedicating this Chinese Whispers project to her memory – an amazing, bubbly and talented Guild member who is sadly missed.

So….here is the full reveal! We would love you to share this blog with anyone interested in textile arts and traditional crafts and as such we would encourage you to post links on social media too!


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Viewing Guild works on display
Discussing the exhibits
WHS Visitor centre – a great host
Launch Night nibbles!
Launch Night 1st May 2017

The Beginning of the Journey:

Daily Bread, Durham Cathedral. CWGuild-0118

We were asked by the World Heritage Visitors Centre if we could choose an image from the Durham World Heritage Site as our starting point. Ideally, we would have like to have had a photo of the window in situ, with the surrounding stonework but unfortunately we were unable to achieve this, so we opted for buying a photo of the window instead. If you get a chance, please go and see this beautiful window in the Cathedral as this is the image I had in mind as our starting point. The window was designed by Mark Angus and was dedicated on 2nd May 1984. The design is based on the image of the Last Supper – The table (in red) with the apostles(multi-coloured) connects heaven (blue) and earth(green), all surrounded by God (Purple). The glass used was from Hartley Woods of Sunderland.  You will notice we have thirteen frames, which represent the thirteen places at the table and so the journey begins…..


1: Beyond the Window

Angela Colbridge whispers-0023

I have lived in Durham City for over 28 years and am very fortunate to be able to walk into the city from my home across Prebend’s Bridge and through the Cathedral. So, over the years I have seen this beautiful window in all season and all spectrums of light and shade and after all this time its beauty does not diminish. It is always a joy and so uplifting. Having seen the window over so many years I didn’t want to replicate it as I couldn’t possible have done it justice, so I allowed my imagination to flow, which then gave me the inspiration of transforming it into a garden by using the various elements and colours from the window. The table becomes a footpath and the 13 ‘heads’ become flowers. I used other colours from the window for the flowers in the grass, the grass and the climbing plants, the sky and, of course, the walls of the Cathedral became the archway into my garden. The wet felt is handmade, with needle felting and hand embroidery to embellish the piece.

2. The Yellow Brick Road

Anne Carrington Reay CWGuild-0125

I remember when Anne first saw the picture she said “I wonder what is through the arch and round the corner – it has to be The Yellow Brick Road” and that was the start of her project. She made three sketches before deciding to use the journey into the dark forest and to recreate it using wet felting, needle felting and embroidery, most of the fleece was hand dyed to achieve the colour variations required for this piece of work. I know Anne loved the challenge of doing it and she would have hoped people will enjoy seeing it, as much as she did making it. Bill Reay.

3. Elements

Diana Barclay

I knew that the medium I wanted to use was knitting with hand spun and hand dyed yarn but I didn’t want to just copy the picture I had been sent. So, I began to think about how I could take the various elements of the picture and rework them in a more abstract way At first I thought about using blocks of solid colour to represent the different elements of the picture in much the same positions as they were in the original – a band of blue at the top, a strip of grey below etc.

I had clearly been turning these ideas over in my head before I went to sleep one night because the idea of dividing the allotted square into four equal quarters same to me in a dream. I don’t think of myself as particularly susceptible to the influence of dreams but I do dream quite vividly and I can often recall quite a lot of what I have dreamt when I first wake up. However, this is the first time that I can recall basing a decision about how to go about something on a dream. I knew that the first three elements of the picture that I wanted to represent were the tree, the cornfield, and the wall. I had some naturally dark brown yarn for the tree, some grey in different shades for the wall and some white Shetland dyed with weld to represent the cornfield. The fourth panel proved a bit trickier. I did have some pinky blue yarn that could have represented the sky but it didn’t tone very well with the other colours, so I decided to use some of Jenny Howe’s “Shap Summit” to represent the leaves on the trees. The stitch pattern for the trees I borrowed from a pattern for a wedding pillow which I had seen a friend knit. The stitch patterns for the other quadrants I got from my 1975 Introduction to Knitting published by Marshal Cavendish. The cornfield was done in “Wheat ear rib”, the wall in “Brick Pattern” and the leaves in “Embossed leaf pattern”.

4. Intermingled

Alyson Mason whispers-0030

Inspired by botanical shapes and warm Autumnal palette, I have echoed this in a landscape of deep vegetation encompassing a long road, it being tickled by shafts of light from the remnants of a dazzling hot summer.

5. Moonrise

Maureen Murrish

The work I based this piece on had brought to mind the transition between day and night. I carried that thought one step further and envisioned a rising full moon. whispers-0032Samhain (Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year) was the obvious next step for me and into that I wove the modern spinoff; Hallowe’en.

6. Seedheads

Cia Bosanquet whispers-0034

My tapestry is based on the previous image. Maureen’s piece is of a dark, gothic landscape where purple and yellow are her dominant colours. I wanted day to follow night with a linen warp in white with only two colours present which were black and yellow. Black represents night and yellow the sun. The fibres used are mostly paper yarns. With the tapestry being very loosely woven, I have hand embroidered the seed heads in black cotton.

7. Dandelion by the road in Spring

Ann Evans

whispers-0036When I received the photo of Cia’s work I immediately thought of seed heads. My husband, Desmond, always thought that dandelions had a poor press. They are very early flowers, and give colour after a dull, grey winter. Dandelions seem able to grow in any soil and almost to colonise the road or pavement. I had a photo I had taken of a dandelion by the road and I also used a conventional botanical drawing of the flower – in bud, in full flower, withered and the seed head. I then needed to see what I could produce in felt, which was my favoured medium. I started to make a piece of wet felt with the main items, bud, and flower, dead-head and seed head, located where I wanted them. Once the felt was dry, I backed it with a piece of fine cotton and added some detail with machine embroidery. I used needle felt to create the seed-head. I also used some glass beads to indicate the seeds in the dandelion “clock”. Making a felt of a very precise botanical drawing was a challenge, but so far it has been recognised by people who see it. I hope you (the visitor) enjoy it and that you review your opinion of the humble dandelion.  Hand-made wool felt, some needle felting, machine and hand embroidery.

8. Abstract Dandelions

Linda Smith

The photograph I received appeared to be a representation of dandelions , in flower, and gone to see, made of felt. I decided to reproduce the entire image, but in a more abstract manner – roughly matching the colours and their locations, but not attempting to recreate the specific shapes. whispers-0039I was very keen to use the technique of modular knitting, as I had not used this technique before, but had seen several lovely examples created by other Guild members in the past. Hand-Spun, hand-dyed (natural & acid dyes) and natural-coloured yarn.


9. The Oak

whispers-0041Sue Longridge

Looking at Linda’s tapestry of knitted squares of greens and browns, I saw an aerial landscape of green fields, ploughed fields and woodland. Working on my tapestry in November I thought ‘autumn’ and called my piece The Oak. Woven tapestry technique with wool from the famous McKay’s Carpets, who were based in Durham City.

10. Autumn

Anne-Marie Melvin whispers-0052

I was inspired by the beautiful shape of the oak leaf in Image 9. When I think of leaves and trees I think of Autumn, my favourite season. The colours are stunning, so I included these and the fascination leaf shapes in my design. The yellow sections were woven on a small loom and stitched together. The sky and the tree were woven directly into the background fabric. I embroidered leaves on muslin independently, stitching them onto the design at the end.

11. Looking Forward

Jean Nichols

In January I received a photograph to inspire my contribution for this exhibition. I liked what I saw. The Autumn colours were vibrant and the composition of the tree, leaves and sky was varied and textured. The sky, particularly, captured my imagination and combination of white, grey and blue conveyed a windy autumn day, scattering the leaves in the myriad of colours. Influenced by the onset of spring and the emergence of snowdrops in my own garden, I thought I’d like to swap the autumn landscape for early spring, with its promise of new life and hope. the Autumn design had a yellow background, which made me think of a newly harvested field, with the remains of stubble before the field was ploughed and re-sown. Spring brings new growth and I started to think of a hawthorn hedge, with the green buds punctuating the blackness of winter branches. Perhaps I could make a view from the garden with cultivated spring flowers in the foreground. whispers-0054The original autumn sky did not need much amendment, as spring and autumn skies in the North East can be very similar! In February, I completed my knitted contribution. After collecting and preparing my materials, using mainly hand-spun wool. I found that each day’s knitting started with the pulling out of most of the previous day’s work – I love knitting – it is so easy to undo! I enjoyed breaking a lot of rules, which I would normally employ in my usual role as a garment maker – not finishing ends in perfectly, stranding over many stitches deliberately to make the fabric pucker and create a 3 dimensional effect, using intarsia and fair-isle techniques together – it was very liberating! My main wish has been not to let down my fellow guild members who took part in this project. Many are far better artists than I am. I regard myself as a craftsperson tasked with bringing design to life.


12. Fields

Anne Wilson

whispers-0057What stood out for me looking at Jean’s image was the ploughed field. It got me thinking about how diverse fields can be, not just because of what grows in them but what life they sustain. It isn’t until we have a bird’s eye view that we can fully appreciate how stunning our countryside landscape is, with its huge diversity of colour and texture, and how it brings home to us how comparatively insignificant our individual space within it is. I have used every type of yarn I could think of to replicate the huge array of colour and texture – pure wool, alpaca, mohair, bamboo and mixtures of these with silk and cotton etc. To add interest and colour I am including a foreground strip, illustrating a small number of plants we might see at ground level.

We wish to thank :

Weavers Bazaar who kindly supported the project with very generous funding to enable the Guild to purchase the picture frames. Weavers Bazaar is “an artist’s palette for weavers” and their online shop can be found at www.weaversbazaar.com

The World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, Durham for hosting our exhibition, and whose staff have been wonderful. Please do visit their website here.

Mark Angus for his inspirational work and lovely contribution to our brochure for the event. His website can be found by clicking here.

Bill Reay – for generously donating his time, for supporting all of us and for working wonders displaying the exhibition – we couldn’t have done this without you!

2 thoughts on “Fabulous Exhibition : Chinese Whispers

  1. Shirley Nickels May 2, 2017 — 4:24 pm

    Beautiful craftsmanship in these works. Thoroughly enjoyed meandering all the works of art. An inspiring exhibition. Well done to all the weavers that took part.
    I have been inspired to pick up my embroidery again. Thank you.


  2. Thank you Shirley! Enjoy that embroidery!! 🙂


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