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Midlands Textile Forum at Forge Mill Museum

While we were in the West Midlands during May Day Bank Holiday weekend I noticed on the map that there is a needle museum. This piqued my sewist interest so we headed to Forge Mill in Redditch. A bonus was the textile art exhibition "Making Connections" by the Midlands Textile Forum and meeting one of their artists, Sarah Cage.

The disused mill historic site illustrates the rich heritage of the needle and fishing tackle industries. Models and recreated scenes provide a vivid illustration of how needles were once made, and how Redditch once produced 90% of the world’s needles. Now, only a fraction of the needles we buy are just finished in the UK!

Here is a sampler at the start of the museum:

I was amazed at the many stages and lengthy process of making the humble sewing needle

I learned the many perils of pointing including dust, shattering stones, and clothes setting on fire. The dust from the grinding stones was hazardous to the lungs. In 1821 a mouth guard was invented but the pointers refused to wear it as they thought less danger would mean less money.

One of the last stages of needle production was and still is called "Spitting" and then "heading and cheeking". This was carried out by outworkers, women and children working at home. splitting the two needles and making the rough edges smooth.

In the "Making Connections" exhibition, artist Sarah Cage was weaving on her inkle loom which she used to create the trees in a hanging to mount on her mirror. It was exhibited in front of a window "Wet Walk in Winter Woods"

Another Artist's work I found inspiring was Sylvie Millen's "Dragonfly Dreams" which is machine embroidery, shadow mounted and shown in monochrome and colour here.

Sylvie also had a mixed media piece "Secret Treasures" of layered fabric, paper, and found natural beauty objects.

Hopefully, this snapshot shows the scope of both the needle museum and the current exhibition.

The Making Connections exhibition is on until 2nd June (with artists present on 25th & 26th May and 2nd June. If you get the chance to visit, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Another current, inspirational textile art exhibition can be seen in my previous blog post Threads Through Creation

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