Collaborative Crafting



What is classed and a family heirloom and what items are considered important enough to pass on? Often items are kept out of sentimental value, out of obligation or because they have a high monetary value. These items are often decorative pieces and don’t particularly have any use to the current owner. Items often kept within families include jewellery, ornaments, artwork, wedding dresses, christening gowns and handmade objects.Within my project I want to ensure the the product created will hold enough sentimental value to the users to deem it worth keeping. I feel handmade items are often kept or passed on if people value the time they spent and learning experience it took them to create the piece. By making items and learning new skills with friends and family will make it a physical reminder of an enjoyable experience.

Historically Heirloom stitching was passed on in this way. It originated in 1880s by French nuns who hand-stitched exquisite laces onto delicate fabrics for royal families. The idea was they were so intricate they would be passed down through generations of a family, usually used in finery such as wedding dresses and Christening robes. They generally combine lightweight fabrics with laces, ribbons, ruffles and smocking. (Kelly: 2015) In more recent years this form of sewing would be carried out on a sewing machine.

heirloom embroidery

Similarly Cross stitch samplers have traditionally be gifted at celebrations as a commemoration of the event. This European tradition started as people created sample pieces to demonstrate their needlework skills. The pieces more recently are created as decorative pieces for weddings, Christenings and anniversaries and will include the names and date of the occasion they are memorialising.


Modern examples of Heirlooms

The Heirloom

The Heirloom by Nikki George Ferguson is a piece which explores the emotional holds people have on specific mementos “In The Heirloom, the sentimental object is put on display in a glass jar for people to appreciate. There is a spot for people to then record their thoughts or memories of the object that can then be passed down for others of later generations to hear. It, in turn, becomes a meaningful piece and a symbol of family members that have passed.” (Williamson:2014) In a similar way I would like the learning and bonding process within my kit encourage the user to have a deeper attachment to their piece. By passing on not only an object, but also you thoughts and opinions of a time perhaps makes the piece more meaningful to future generations.


The Purple Locket

Artefact Group created a digital locket in order to show how fashion and technology can collaborate. This locket is not only a stylish piece of jewellery but can also be connected to SMS, Facebook, Instagram, and other sources. Like traditional lockets would display the images of a loved one, this piece allows the user to select the people they’d like to receive notifications from. “A simple gesture control interface allows the wearer to browse these collected keepsakes, ‘like’ favourites, or send a message.” (Magee:2014) In a digital age it allows us to swap and change the image and memorial as your life evolves.Purple-locket-by-Artefact_dezeen_784_2

As people now widely use technology in all aspects of their life I would like to incorporate this into my own work. Can I use technology as a way to allow uses to share ideas, remain engaged in an ongoing project and communicate with other participants, potentially making the project global.

Collaborative making


In modern society what activities do families both now and traditionally enjoy together? Collaborative making allows participants to build a community and bond with other people. With modern family being much more cosmopolitan than they once were can craft bring a large group of varied people together? Family crests have historically been used to represented a family name, but these seem less relevant today as we create families in a very different way (adoption, foster care, single parent families, step families etc). I feel these modern family units can use craft to portray their unique family setting in a way more relevant to them and their situation.

American patchwork quilts

Quilting has been a very popular American pastime and quilting circles were a common social activity women would participate in. Handmade quilts were a very common wedding gift for young couples, and are often mentioned specifically in wills due to their sentimental significance. In early American culture quilts would often reflect a mosaic of a woman’s life, often including swatches of material from memorable events such as pieces of a wedding gown or a child’s baptismal garment. In this way I think needlework is an ideal way to memorialise important pieces of clothing and put them on display.

Protest Banners

As mentioned in my previous post protest banners are often made collaboratively by people who share a common goal. There are various colours and iconography used on them to portray a message.  Often created using traditional textile techniques such as applique and embroidery.

Plan of Action

  • What is my product? – I would like a create  craft kit which allows people to portray their own message. As people make their pieces collaboratively and learn a new skill they will hopefully hold great sentimental value.
  • Iconography – I will create a bank of templates of inter-genrational iconography which can be used in the piece to tell a personal story.
  • Technology – I would like to find a way to teach people traditional needlework skills using modern technology. Can an app be used to share you experience, learn with people of a similar ability or create virtual stitching circles? How can it be used to make your experience more interesting and engaging?
  • What techniques will be taught? – I think in this kit I will focus on applique, needlework and embroidery due to it’s strong historical connection with collaborative crafting and heirlooms.


Kelly, J (2015) Basic Heirloom Stitching by Machine. Sew4Home [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Magee, T (2014) Purple locket is a digital version of the traditional heirloom. Dezeen [Onilne] [Date Accessed 14th March 2017]

Williamsin, c (2012) The Heirloom by Nikki George Ferguson. Dezeen [Onilne] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]


Figure 1: A Dictionary definition of ‘Heirloom’. Google (2017) [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Figure 2: An example of Heirloom embroidery.

Figure 3:  An example of a cross stitch sampler. The Cross Stitch Guild (2017) Pastel Beaded Wedding Sampler [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Figure 4: The Heirloom by Nikki George Ferguson. Design Milk (2012) The Heirloom by Nikki George Ferguson [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Figure 5: Artefact Group digital locket. Dezeen (2014) Purple locket is a digital version of the traditional heirloom [Online] [Date Accessed 14th March 2017]

Figure 6: A Dictionary definition of ‘Collaborative’. Google (2017) [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Figure 7 & 8: Examples of a tradition American patchwork quilt. Wikipedia (2017)) [Online] [Date Accessed 15th March 2017]

Figure 9 & 10: Examples of protest banners on display at the People’s History Museum Manchester [Photographs]


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