Monday, 10 December 2012


 The Tales of the Unfinishable book would make a lovely Christmas present not only for any creative or textiley friends but also for anyone who enjoys reading real human-interest stories.  The RRP is £15 but we are offering Blog readers and project supporters our 'Show Offer' price of just £10. Postage and packing is just £2.  To purchase contact Hazel at or call her on 07973 224698 or Felicity on tel 07775 987209.

Next Stop Harrogate

After Alexandra Palace we both escaped to Islands in the sun for some much needed recuperation, Hazel to Sri Lanka and Felicity braved the Isle of Wight. Hazel had less then 30 hours between leaving Mumbai and arriving in Harrogate with a car full of stuff which was a bit of a culture and temperature shock for her!
We arrived in Harrogate excited to see another fabulous exhibition space for TOTU in the Royal Theatre in the middle of Harrogate's International Exhibition Centre. Setting up was a little nail-biting as there was a performance in the theatre on the Tuesday evening and so we couldn't start the build until Wednesday. Even then we had to wait for the seats to be removed and lurked anxiously unpacking stuff in the corridor until this was done and we could set to.  Fortunately we were given special dispensation to stay late and so were the last to leave the premises around 10pm. But the long hard day was worthwhile as we we were fully set up for 10am the following morning and had people arriving to visit us even before the Show officially opened.
 And so we settled in to a delightful 4 days of non-stop talking, meeting project contributors, friends, supporters as well as new visitors whilst everyone shared their personal stories and experiences. 
We'd decided that because we didn't have the time to capture all the lovely comments and feedback at the Ally Pally exhibition, at the Harrogate Show we introduced a Comments Book for anyone to write in if they wished.  We have now collected hundreds of lovely comments --'Inspirational', 'Fabulous' and 'Emotional' being frequently used words. One of our favourite comments was signed from 'Deirdre' who came straight back to visit us again the day after her first visit, having bought and read our 'Tales of the Unfinishable' book overnight. This is what she wrote....
' Wonderful Experience - so interesting and moving to see and read people's life stories through the work they contributed to the exhibition. Sounds were magical. I hope it continues to be shown nationwide. Thank you to everyone who allowed their 'unfinishable' projects to be shown.'

We were very excited to discover that the Beatles had performed in this very same Harrogate theatre, and Sarah Bernhardt too (not at the same time of course). We felt very honoured to be exhibiting in the same space, but this was perhaps always destined to be as one of the contributions to the TOTU project was an Unfinishable beetle! This was created by Genevieve Brading of Floss and Mischief for her range of cross-stitch insect kits, but unfortunately, didn't come up to her exacting standards and so has remained legless and now proudly adorns the Extravaganza.
The next stop  on the TOTU Tour is East Anglia. We will be exhibiting in the Forum in Norwich from 13th to 20th January. Whilst there we are planning to organise a Group Event where a few project participants can join us and talk about their Unfinishable contributions and tell their stories in their own words. We are hoping local radio or TV might be interested in this too.  If you are a project participant and would like to get involved in this, please email Hazel - or call her on 07973 224698. We'd love to see you there.

                                                         (Picture of Genevieve's Beetle)

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Unfinishable Revealed

A bit of a delay on this update, but we had a lot of catching up to do with neglected friends and family after finishing the making of the Extravaganza and launching it in London. We're now ready to take the exhibition on to Harrogate and hope to see some of you there.
It was lovely to meet the people behind the pieces of work at Alexandra Palace and put names to faces, and see all the people we talked to about the project last year. Many were amazed  at how the project had progressed and participants were thrilled to find their own contributions towards it and a good few others were regretful that they hadn't taken part.  We were rather overwhelmed by the reception, peoples eyes lit up as they recognised the syndrome of the Unfinishable and related to the stories. The banquette in the interior provided an oasis of calm for many to reflect on the stories and have a quiet moment away  from the bustle of the rest of the show. One school girl said she would like a bedroom just like the interior. Visitors spent a long time listening to the stories on the audio and were visibly moved by the human experiences that were related. A lot felt comforted by the shared experiences that the project brings to life with comments such as 'I don't feel so bad now' and 'this is my exhibition, and thats my story'.
Jean Littlejohn, co-chair of the Embroiderers Guild told us 'Frankly its a triumph!'.  Such fabulous responses from the contributors and the public  made all the hard work and exhaustion worthwhile, and we are now really looking forward to bringing the Extravaganza to more shows and more people.

This is Felicity Clarke with me Felicity Clarke, one of the stranger coincidences of the project. Felicity is also a textile artist from Australia who like me works with felt, and sent in a very moving contribution that features in our book. Heres us pictured together when she came to see the show.

This is Anne Slough one of our Unfinishable contributors.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Long Road to Alexandra Palace

It has been a very full on couple of weeks for the project as we made the last effort to finish The Tales of the Unfinishable Extravaganza in time for the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. The show opened on the Thursday and we were still stitching the gold craft accessories onto the central column on Monday morning, we finished just in time as the van arrived to take it all up to London. We carefully stowed all our bubble wrapped parcels and the main frame of the Extravaganza into the van and got into Hazels car to follow suit, her car was also filled to the brim with strangely shaped parcels like the pom pom infested finials and the metre high weathervane. Not much room left for humans! It was a strange and slightly unnerving moment for us as we watched the culmination of nearly 2 years work disappearing down a rain sodden road.

The Extravaganza was to be put up in Ally Pally's Palm Court, which looked ginormous when we got there. Was it going to be dwarfed by the huge palm trees and soaring glass roof we wondered. We quickly started to set up the basic structure with Craig and Brian and we began to feel a bit more confident, it was certainly unmissable from the front entrance and filled the space perfectly. In then took us 2 more days to dress the inside, install the lighting and audio systems and add all the finishing flounces. It was the first time we had seen the interior fully completed and in place – the curtained entrance came out just as we had imagined it, the banners looked elegant – we began to feel quite chuffed! We worked such long hours and became such regulars at the Ally Pally the bar that the staff knew our order for white wine off by heart by the end of the week!

Thursday came around and we were finally ready to unveil The Tales of the Unfinishable. We breathed a sigh of relief we'd finally finished and settled down to a great 4 days of meeting project friends and contributors and hearing new stories from enthusiastic visitors coming across the project for the first time. More about this next time...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Unfinishable Book

As well as working like crazy on the the Extravaganza  we have been busily writing a book about Tales of the Unfinishable - copies delivered today!
It is full of pictures of Unfinishables we have been collecting. It features some of the stories behind the work together with a short essay revealing some of the things we have found out about the Unfinishable phenomenum as the project developed. There is also a section of thumbnail pictures of all the contributions we had received at time of going to press.
 Claire Riggall says on the back cover this has been 'a large, imaginative, investigative, colourful textile project'. We totally agree and think that the book truly celebrates this.
The book will be selling at £15 but we are offering a special pre-order price of £10. This will also be the special show price for the Knitting and Stitching Show - a treat to remember the show by.
If you would like to pre-order the book at the special price to pick up at Ally Pally or Harrogate send us an email - / and we can arrange this for you.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Something for the Ears

No Extravaganza is complete without a soundtrack, and so we've made one. In a unit on a converted farm Chris Fort and Joe Donovan of Conjunction Studios were the sound technicians and producers that helped make our Sewing Sounds Symphony a reality. We wanted to create a piece of 'music' or a soundtrack made up entirely of the noises that would have been heard when each piece is made, a sewing machines, scissors cutting fabric etc. However, trying to record sounds as subtle as a pin drop can be very tricky as simple amplification makes them sound like an avalanche of boulders, needless to say the boys had a hard task before them. We spent an afternoon recording using different sewing machines to get different sounds and experimenting with big scissors and snippy scissors for different effects. Chris and Joe then put it all together making rhythms and patterns. There was a fine line between wanting it to sound like 'music' but for all the instruments to be recognisably sewing based. The boys at Conjunction Studios rose admirably to the challenge and we think we've got a real chart topper on our hands!

We also recorded a sample of the wonderful and compelling stories that accompanied the Unfinishable pieces. It was very hard to choose which ones to record as there all so interesting but in the end we chose a selection that represented the different reasons for peoples Unfinishable's. The stories were read by Eleanor Lord, Katie Caldwell, Linda Pateman, Claire Fletcher, Mary Baker and Felicity's daughter Harriet. Whilst they were waiting to record we got them making pom poms, tassels and Berkshire roundels. We do like to keep people busy. The stories will be heard over the soothing sounds of the symphony to help bring the Extravaganza to life. We're very excited about the finished result and look forward to everyone hearing it.
Here are some photos of us all at the studio.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Art in Action and the on loan Unfinishables

Kimberly Jones loaned these Dresden Plate patches to the Project. Made out of material from old flour and sugar sacks she inherited from her great-grandmother. She writes of them.........

'My great gran had started a quilt for my cousin. When she died I said I would finish it for my cousins 16th birthday – then 18th, 21st, wedding, baby, second baby, twins – forget it! Then decided to make a wall hanging. Made two blocks….they looked awful. I didn’t have the skill or knowledge to make them look good so I gave up. Also difficult to find flour/sugar/grain sack fabric to match in the 1990’s.

Now I have the skill to do it – but although the fabric can be found the colours are too bright- I worry about the original blocks falling apart.

They are the only thing I have left which her hands held. So when I hold them it’s like holding her hand again.  I have an idea for reworking growing within me – I’ll let it marinade.

I feel I have let her down by not finishing them.'

Maggie Jackson let us borrow her landscape piece of the Rollright Stones, made in memory of her friend. Her husband was exhibiting in the Printmaking tent so the whole family came to see her piece on show.

'My old friend died that I taught with from 1973 – 75 before I was married and moved from Oxon to Norwich. She was my daughters ‘fairy’ godmother. When we visited her we always visited the Rollright Stones. On Millennium night she spent the night there, so it seemed appropriate to make a piece of work to remember Joan.

The piece of work was emotionally charged and incorporated a lot of memories and strong attachment of love. Initially I said  I’d stopped work on it because I wanted to look at the lichen. I knew despite spending a lot of time on the work that if I finished it somehow my contact with Joan was finished.

The work is unfinishable because of the love and contact of 40 years. I have some wool that Joan spun and dyed which I could use to incorporate into the piece but all I do is open the packet and handle the contents and then return them to a special envelope. I could so easily finish the work.'

Clare Woods grandmother started to knit a baby garment. She writes.....

'My Nan, Jean Slater, enjoyed knitting. She made most of my baby clothes over 30 years ago. In 1970 she decided to knit for me as I was expecting. Katy Woods was born on 19th April that year. The cardigan was never finished.

My Nan suffers from vascular dementia. We think she may have suffered a stroke that affected her ‘knitting brain’. She never picked up her needles again.

I love the work my Nan completed as it shows her love for me and Katy. The unfinished piece marks a sudden deterioration of her illness. A little piece of my Nan ended and is shown in her unfinished work.

I can’t discard it as I want to show it to my daughter when she is older that my Nan’s good intention was there. I don’t want to finish it as my Nan’s work would be concealed and hidden.

I have fond memories of my Nan trying to teach me to knit when I was young. Her knitting reminds me of this. It shows how knitting can pinpoint moments in people’s lives, and bring back happy memories of years ago.'

In the Best of the Best tent we exhibited a set of applique panels which Gienia Bartlett had kindly lent us. They were to form part of her Accident Quilt begun in hospital following a seriously damaging car crash. They provoked a lot of interest and admiration both for the technical skill displayed and the courage and humour shown in the story which accomanied them.

'I had intended the quilt to be shown at the International Quilt Show in 2009, but was gripped with fear as my previous work was in the 2008 show and I never saw it. I had spent a few days with my mum in Bath and was on my way to the quilt show when I had a serious car crash, causing disabilities to my right arm and legs, which I have permanently.

I did find it hard to get going as I was on a strong cocktail of painkillers and struggled to concentrate, feeling very demoralised, however, once I did start I was determined to finish, working in short bursts due to pain and my mobility issues, until the final construction, when I chickened out. I was scared of putting the squares together as the effect was too powerful for me to handle.

I could not bear to throw it away as it was a huge achievement, but it was too emotionally charged for me to look at. I tried edging the pieces to hang them individually, but still cannot bear to have them out, so they languish, parcelled up at the back of a high cupboard. I have not looked at the sketchbook or the quilt pieces until now as I am trying to move on with my life even though I am still emotionally and physically fragile.

Now I have had the opportunity to review my unfinished quilt I am amazed at the amount of work I managed to produce with the determination and sheer bloodymindedness I managed to find at such a dark time. I must thank my mum for the stubbornness gene. The colours on my unfinishable definitely reflect how I felt at that time. If I did one now it would be lighter and less oppressive, reflecting my thoughts on family friends, college and my new life path. My outlook on life is definitely brighter.

My unfinished is dedicated to my husband, Richard, my children, Emma and Chris and to all my friends, particularly Karen, Hafifa and Sellwood, who kept me going over my long recovery. I could not be where I am today, without them.'

Monday, 10 September 2012

Art in Action

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to take the Unfinishable project to Art in Action in Oxfordshire. Art in Action is a wonderful event which started in 1977 'inspired by the simple principle that people are fascinated when artists and craftsmen openly demonstrate their skills and discuss their work.' Its a 4 day event seeing approximately 25000 visitors. We had initially planned to camp but thankfully decided against it as the heavens opened up and let rip whilst we were setting up the exhibit. Luckily for us and our one bucket the rain eased up and there was glorious sunshine by the weekend.
We had some new Unfinishables, the five pieces that we showed were all on loan as they were all too precious for their owners to part with permanently.  We gave each the full works- in lovely gold frames for both the piece and the story. The project caused quite a stir, it was suggested that we should supply tissues on the stand because some of the tales were so moving .

 Ann Humphreys contributed a wonderful dressing table set and this is her story.

Ann Humphreys 

This dressing table set was given to me by my mum when I was learning to embroider. 

The needle got left in the middle and rusted, so when I came back to it after my uni years and wanted something to stitch I sort of lost heart and did get a bit bored of blanket stitch!
I will never use this, so don’t see the point of working on it even if I could remove the rust. But it is a record of my teenage stitching. I am impressed – there is some neat work here. Having filled in the Unfinishable Project questionnaire I realise I cannot part with the actual piece. This is part of my sewing story!

Josie Ireland

We met Josie at Art in Action and she was very interested in Ann Humphreys piece and story as she had inherited the finished version similar to the dressing table set that Ann Humphreys had started from her Grandmother. So here it is, an Unfinishable finished. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

We are Felicity Clarke and Hazel Connors: Welcome to our Unfinishable Blog.

We have created this blog to give contributors and anyone interested an insight into the work going on behind the scenes of The Unfinishable project. We will be updating every couple of weeks with pictures and news of the project's progress as we head towards the big unveiling of the 'Extravaganza' at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October, the first venue of the Tales of the Unfinishable exhibition tour. We will also be keeping you up to date with developments for the tour, the book, as well as any media coverage.

The Unfinishable project started as we questioned the motives behind creative work that had been started but never finished, kept, maybe hidden in cupboards, but never thrown away or made into anything else.  Across the world ideas are often started but never completed- poems, paintings, songs, sentences... 

As textile artists ourselves we realised we had several such pieces of work tucked away, unseen but carefully kept.  So, focussing on our own area of textiles, we decided to ask our fellow makers to share with us their Unfinishables and the stories behind them. We have been overwhelmed by the response and, one year on, have been given well over 200 examples of Unfinishables and their stories, some funny, some sad.  This is all the more amazing as we've seen that it's often hard to let go, to admit that what has been started will never be completed and for makers to consider the emotional and personal value of a pieceWe look forward to sharing with you the next stages of the project. As we bring the Unfinishables out of the cupboards and into the light! 

Felicitys Unfinishable- This is my appliqued patchwork that I started at the workshop, my first ever, which inspired me to embark on a City and Guilds embroidery course. I only had a little left to complete, but after the City and Guilds course I had changed too much in my sewing style to bring myself to finish it even though I had laboured so diligently over it before. It has been in the cupboard for 15 years, kept because it is full of the excitement of learning my first textile techniques. Also the fabrics hold memories of my childrens' clothes, now long grown out of. 

Hazels Unfinishable- A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop given by textile artist Karina Thompson in which she showed how she made and worked into faux chenille in exciting and radical ways.  I was inspired and set to work using the technique over the following weeks. The outcome can often be a little random - different materials respond to slashing and brushing in differing degrees - but I liked the frisson that gave. My aim was to make a small panel which I could box frame. I did the layering using only recycled fabrics - old family clothing and offcuts friends had given me - and wanted the finished piece to be quite calming, rhythmical and aesthetically pleasing (to my eye). This Unfinishable piece is the closest I got to achieving this, and I was initially quite pleased with it, but what I hadn't bargained for was the strength of the memories/baggage that would accompany the fabrics peeping through from lower layers. Extra working and brushing to try to resolve this just made things worse. I can't look at the piece now, but I can't quite manage to discard it because it so easily could have been what I aiming for. So so close.  

Due to its nature (and its name!) this project is a continuous undertaking so we are still collecting Unfinishables. Although the date for inclusion on the Extravaganza has past, amongst other ideas we are planning an online display of Unfinishables with their stories so would still welcome your contributions. Just email us at or or clink on the link at the top of the page to visit our website for more information.