Dear Textiles Episode 5, An Interview With Artist Shanalee Hampton!

embroidery, street art, textiles

In this interview, I speak with artist Shanalee Hampton about many things, including the day she started putting her work out in public and how it made her giddy; the growth her work saw when she stopped making work that people often called “clever” and shifted to making work that focused on love, hope and social justice; and what happened when she stopped calling herself a crafter and started calling herself an artist.

You can listen to this interview on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Anchor and wherever else you listen to podcasts!

You can find Shanalee online at her website,, and on Instagram @shanaleehampton.

Show notes:

@ragtale, a fellow street artist who makes stitched work and shares it in public

Shanalee’s street art work by Cheryl Strayed, Lyz Lenz and Rebecca Makkai

Shanalee’s piece about gun control that went viral

Shanalee’s portraits of Breonna Taylor, X González, David Hogg, Erica Garner
and Nia Wilson

An example of one of the many hoops Shanalee has embroidered with the phrase “We
are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out.”
(Quote by the late Harris Wittels)

Chawne Kimber’s quilt “The One for Eric G”  

“Into Action” festival curated by Shepard Fairey

Corita Kent

bell hooks’ book “All About Love”

Dear Textiles Podcast Episode 4, Interview with Austin Rivers of Knit the Rainbow

nonprofits, podcast

Episode 4 is here! In this episode, I’m speaking with Austin Rivers, the founder of the nonprofit Knit the Rainbow! Knit the Rainbow was founded in June 2020 and collects garments for homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York City. In this interview, you can hear more about why Austin created tKnit the Rainbow, the directions in which they organization hopes to grow, how you can help them and more!

We also talk about starting a nonprofit during a pandemic, why LGBTQ+ youth of New York City need your handmade items, the growing problem of homeless LGBTQ+ youth and why handmade goods can feel like a hug when someone made them. 

Whether you knit, sew or crochet, there’s space for you to volunteer with Knit the Rainbow. You can also help if you’re a yarn shop owner, a pattern designer, a knitting/crochet/sewing teacher or have money to share! 

If you’d like to find out more about Knit the Rainbow and how to help their mission or if you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ youth community in New York City, you can find out more about the organization here:

Also, this episode includes a big reminder of why if you have an idea for a project, you should share it on the internet. 

I loved getting to know more about Austin and his nonprofit and how he has helped LGBTQ+ youth in NYC and connected with the fiber arts community all over with what he’s doing and where he’s going!

How to listen: You can find this episode as well as previous episodes on your favorite podcast platform, including SpotifyStitcherAnchorApple podcasts and more!

Connect with Knit the Rainbow on social media: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Show notes (links to things we discuss in the interview): 

All photos in the carousel below, as well as the header image above, were provided by Austin. (Thanks, Austin!)

Dear Textiles Podcast Episode 3, Interview with Thao Phuong of TextileSeekers

podcast, textiles

For episode #3, I’m speaking with fashion designer, consultant and entrepreneur Thao Phoung, who runs textile impact retreats in Vietnam with her company TextileSeekers!

You can find Dear Textiles episodes and this episode over at SpotifyStitcherAnchorApple podcasts and more!

The beautiful journal that Thao has worked on during the pandemic about textiles and Vietnam, which we discuss in the interview can be purchased at this link: 2% of the journal purchase is donated to the Pacific Links Foundation, which supports survivors of human trafficking.

To learn more about Thao and TextileSeekers, you can check out or follow @textileseekers on Instagram.

The photo of Thao above is by Bèla Adler.

In the carousel below, the photos of the journal are by Celia Suárez. The photos from Vietnam were taken at the last TextileSeekers retreat and the captions on the photos were provided by Thao.

If you’d like updates for new podcast episodes, please sign up for my newsletter by clicking this link!

  • Sapa’s magical sunset lights

Dear Textiles Podcast Episode 2, interview with Sigrún Bragaddóttir

craftivism, healing, podcast, textiles

Dear Textiles now has an audio component! You can find Dear Textiles episodes over at Spotify, Stitcher, Anchor, Apple podcasts and more! Yay!

The Dear Textiles logo is by Clarisse Hassan.

Episodes will be released biweekly. The first episode is about my journey to textiles and how they helped me feel again and connect with my creativity after being numb for a long, long time. You can hear it here.

For the second interview, I talk to Sigrún Bragaddóttir a teacher, artist, crafter and craftivist from Reykjavik, Iceland. We talk about using craft as way to heal and connect and about Sigrún’s own work and journey. 

You can connect with Sigrún at her website, and on Instagram @sigruncraftivist and on Facebook:

If you’d like updates for new podcast episodes, please sign up for my newsletter by clicking this link!

Jem Olsen, Ballarat, Australia

Australia, embroidery

Dear Textiles, 

Like for so many others, my love for you began with a dear Nana who taught me how to sew. Whenever I think of her, I can’t but help also think of you, so strong is the connection between my early memories of my Nana and of textiles. I am so grateful that she introduced me to her own love of you at such an early age. And now here I am, some 35 years later, a textile artist, creating works that allow me to voice my thoughts and concerns and that through their completion make my heart sing!

The town of Ballarat where I live and the place of our many collaborations together thus far, was established during the gold rush in the mid-1800’s and is the site of the Eureka rebellion and massacre of 1854. The latest piece we’ve created together is inspired from that time – a 3.5m length of calico onto which is stitched the statement of a police officer’s wife who lived on the goldfields, a lady by the name of Catherine McLister, of the sexual harassment she experienced from her husband’s boss – the town’s Police Commissioner. 

When I first read Catherine’s statement and learned more about her story, I had a very emotional response and strong yearning to connect with her through you. Catherine’s words resonated so deeply – both in terms of the growth of the recent #metoo movement and some pretty awful workplace harassment I’d experienced the previous year.

In working together to connect with Catherine and her story despite the 170 odd years between us, our daily stitch sessions together provided an outlet to channel a lot of the pain, grief and loss we’d both experienced, at times right there at the very site of her former residence here in Ballarat! And as we slowly came to the end of our daily stitch sessions, all the while against a backdrop of some very high profile men being finally brought to account for their own sexual misconduct and abuse of women, it was like we were helping bring about a sense of peace; a laying to rest of experiences past, to make way for a more hopeful today and tomorrow. I will be forever grateful for the wonderful collaborations I’ve shared with you; especially this one dear textiles. This one was and will always be, a very special one indeed.

Lots of love,


P.S. You can find out more about Jem at and on Instagram at @jemolsen. The photos in this post below are by Louisa West. The photo at the top, a cropped photo in of the work in progress, is by Jem Olsen. To see a video that Jem made about this piece, click over here:

Denise Voie de Vie

indie dyer + designer

For the last four summers, I have been coordinating a worldwide summer design project: “Progress, Hope, & Happiness.” Conceived and started in 2017, the project was my (albeit humble) antidote to the worldwide contraction starting to occur (Brexit, the U.S. election results, etc). I wanted a way to continue to work with my fellow indie designers during a time in the year outside of the holiday season, when the Indie Designer Gift-a-long usually takes place. 

Incorporating indie dyers as well, creating these summer collections of knit and crochet wearables has been an absolute balm and joy. The accompanying make-a-long is always friendly, composed of makers around the world, and most participants walk away with a sense of accomplishment as well as new friends made. Most importantly, our collective ability to create some things both beautiful and functional across time and space each summer has been nothing short of amazing. Many designers have created designs for multiple collections, and makers return each summer to chat with and make alongside fellow hand stitchers. 

I have been a designer, artist, and maker of many things over the last nine+ years, and the Progress, Hope, and Happiness textile project remains one of my brightest ideas – it has brought me so much light and comradery.

To find out more about Denise’s work, see and on Twitter @denisevoiedevie and on Instagram @denisevoiedevie

Flo Awolaja, London, England


Regarding creativity and the art of storytelling through our practice, @Maverikartz shared this with me via Twitter: 

“Textiles can accrue meaning and significance, acting as triggers to people, places and times, but all too often they lie in limbo, unused, too precious to throw away but in need of a new purpose.” Zoe Hillyard 

Fragments: Memories of my past. The interweaving of physical emotions. Exploring the narrative of textiles in a digital age. Memories of the past and dreams of the future. An exploration into the physical manifestations of this through Afrikan textiles.

I have often wondered about the art of textiles and the conversations therein. The making of African materials is not an insular activity it is collective. Within African societies the art of fabric making is a communal and labour intensive activity. 

My interest in creating the collages stems from identity and looks at ways in which stories can be told and conservation had. Much in the way Zoe Hillyard describes an opportunity to rediscover and celebrate…. reviving a worn-out out favourite item or creating something new.

“Mother Tongue…Who says it has to be English!”

There is a richness that speaking in your Mother tongue brings….it binds and strengthens you to your roots, culture and heritage. A means of preservation a means of continuity, passing on why would anyone want to lose that?

A graphic designer by trade, as a textile designer, Flo now mixes oration, and communication within her work.

They are pieces constructed from snippets of conversation through oral history, serving to maintain a rich cultural identity and heritage.

Flo’s current work focuses on the playful relationship between language, proverbs and the textiles practice.

Mah Rana, London, England.

textiles, embroidery, dementia, Mah Rana, Fiona Hackney

“One Day When We Were Young” is a short film by Mah Rana; made as part of “The Power of Making: Material Affect” by Professor Fiona Hackney and Mah Rana. In contrast to mainstream filmic representations of dementia care that often focuses on caregiver burden and a resulting poorer quality of life, “One Day When We Were Young” shows how crafting together can uncover an alternative narrative of care that is reciprocal, strengthening, and liberating.

You can find out more about Mah on her website,, and on Twitter, @itsnicetomake.

(Fiona Hackney is a professor of fashion textiles theories at the University of Wolverhampton.)

Heather Burgess, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland



[Note: Heather Burgess, of Rag Button, sent me the following text and photographs (see gallery at the bottom of the post), about Volume 1 of The Collar Series’, which follows being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. You can learn more about Heather and the series on Twitter (@ragbutton) and on Instagram (@ragbutton).]

The Collar Series

Volume 1: The Delinquent Butterfly

“Hidden like a sentence deep within”

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer at the age of 32 (this type of cancer effects the Thyroid gland that sits in the front of the neck). In response to this I have been developing a series of collars, an item sometimes worn on the neck for decoration. They are an expression of the above event, my therapy and my catalogue of information. The Collar Series is made up of 3 volumes containing 3 collars in each, Volume 1 – Diagnosis, Volume 2 – Treatment and Volume 3 – Recovery.

There was nothing to see before my diagnosis, everything that was happening was hidden deep inside and on the surface all seemed just fine.

The collars progress and appear altered from the first to the last. Small changes and hints are discreetly added. Text from old books and printed words will offer an insight into my feelings and the information revealed at diagnosis. The pieces are created using techniques I love and that give me comfort, patchwork, machine embroidery, hand stitching and using little bits of materials to construct the body of each collar. To those viewing the pieces they will look like nice pretty collars, decorative and aesthetically pleasing, but with an undertone of things that were to come, the darkness that is a cancer diagnosis.

I have chosen materials that give a fragile or delicate appearance, as the neck is a delicate part of the body. The stitching is a combination of both hand and digital embroidery; I employed the use of digital embroidery to stitch out the thyroid cancer cells (taken from my own pathology slides) and butterfly, these can be seen on the left hand side of the butterfly, a dusky purple colour (thyroid cancer cells are roughly this colour).

Dimensions and Materials

One collar 28cm (L) x 29cm (W) x 1.5cm (D, flat)

Blue wool fabric, linen, silk, silk crepeline, vintage fabric, embroidery thread. Machine stitching, hand stitching, digital embroidery, template patchwork, patchwork and inkjet printed fabric.

Jess, Scotland


(Note: I put a call out on Twitter for people’s stories of textiles and resilience. I received replies and photos in DMs and in emails. The following is what Jess kindly sent via a series of direct messages. Thanks, Jess!) 

There’s a few things I could say on this topic. But I’m choosing to tell the story of Gromit.

In March 2019, I got a copy of “Knit Now” magazine which had a Gromit kit & pattern. By then, I had ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for 5 years & was housebound for 3-1/2 years. I started knitting in 2013 and loved it, spending hours each day after work, with my needles. When I got ME, this was not possible anymore. Like many with this illness, I pushed to try & get better, which made me worse. I lost a lot but I’m gonna focus on the topic. As I got worse, I struggled with holding a pen, typing, so of course, knitting too.

The longest I’ve gone without knitting was 9 months. I got so sad then I had to hide all my knitting stuff as seeing it was a reminder of not being able to do what I love. I knew though that I would come back to it, try again. I did, and since then, my knitting is sporadic. There are still periods when I can’t knit for months (I’m at 2 months now). Anyway, Gromit came as a kit in March 2019. I decided that he would be my priority project, that he would be finished. It took 4 months to get him done (it’s supposed to be a quick knit Face with tears of joy).

At first, I could cast on the toes on one of his legs. Then I managed to knit a few rows. I was really happy to see him coming through! I was so determined that I would knit! So determined that I would finish him, no matter how long. It didn’t mean I could work on it everyday. I had to have breaks (sometimes a couple weeks) as ME doesn’t care what I want. But I started Gromit and I even managed some of his parts in 2 days each (I was in a decent knitting roll!).

He’s now sitting on display & when I look at him, I’m reminded not to give up on knitting, on being myself. I have a dream to become a knitting designer. It’s in motion. I’m slowly brewing my first design (I managed 2 full swatches this year so far, I’m in the 3rd). Your call for stories comes at a time when I feel quite low about my (current) inability to knit. So telling you this story reminds me I will not give up, not on knitting.

ME can take many more things from me, I can’t take anything for granted. But until I have no other choice, I’ll keep getting back to my needles. And I pray I will always be able to get back to them, even for a few stitches. Thank you for asking, for listening. Keep making. Be well.