First love: the Carding Engine

In 2017 I fell in love – tall, dark, powerfully built, with hidden depths and not without a hint of danger. Two years on, my passion for the massive carding engine at Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills remains undiminished.

carding engine

There are other wonderful machines at the museum, about which I’ll write more in due course. But the more I look at the carding engine, the more I see, and the more I appreciate the arching frame, the whorls of axles and drums, the menacing toothed carding cloth, the whispy hints of wool and the base stability of iron.

There is scope here to fill a life time of imagination,  sketchbooks and creativity.

carding engine

I came to Armley in 2017  with other members of The International Feltmakers Association, to do research for a joint exhibition, which took place in 2018.

“Wool Stories: The Felted Mill”  was a great experience all round and, as it was drawing to its close, I felt bereft.


There was so much more to explore.


… I had a few conversations,

wrote a few emails,

had help from some very wonderful people

and survived a load of sleepless nights …

… but the germ of an idea was born, nurtured and developed.


So now I find myself a couple of months into preparing for my own, solo exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum.

“The Doffer and the Fancy: Reimagining the Machine” will open on 29th June. I’m planning sculptural pieces, sited around the museum, alongside the machines which inspired them, plus sketchbooks, hangings and displays explaining my processes which will be housed in the exhibition gallery.

I’ve got so much to do before then,

and so much more to learn.

I have to confess I am both very excited and absolutely terrified!

danger sharp spikes

This blog is part of the adventure. How do you get from being textile artist who sells work at shows…to creating and organizing an exhibition for the public? How do you start? How do you put an exhibition together? What new skills do you need? How do you channel and harness imagination and skills to celebrate an amazing museum and reimagine what you see for other people to experience?


Much more on this in the weeks to come, so if you’re curious about the project, or harbour a secret passion for big machines, or love textile processes or just want to keep an eye on what I’m up to, please follow, join the conversation, share, and enjoy the ride!

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