Stitching the Wars (2014-2017)


Stitching the Wars, is a two-year collaboration between older people in Derbyshire and arts organisation arthur+martha. The project was led by artist Lois Blackburn, who met with local people to devise and stitch two quilts and gather reminiscence. In a sense, their work is a history, and these quilts are the page on which it’s written.

The first quilt, A Bomber’s Moon, describes the transforming effect of the First and Second World Wars on rural life. An ancient world of horses and humans is invaded by machines. The quilt is an aerial view of fields and hillsides. Perhaps it’s the view from the bomber of the title. Into this “landscape” are sewn words and phrases that link to the reminiscence and poems in this book.

The second quilt, Fresh Air and Poverty, describes a quieter war, the struggle everyday people made to keep their families fed and clothed in the years between and after the two World Wars. The richness of the materials used for this quilt belie the words: “Two little love birds, fresh air and poverty.” Here we find tramps on the march, children sleeping top to toe in crowded beds, scrimping and saving is everywhere. But we also find delight in one another’s company, human warmth despite the cold.

Many of the quilt-makers were people with dementia. We noticed the beneficial effect that group stitching had, joining people together in an act of making that had rewards (touch, colour, companionship, creativity) and an ambitious goal.


2015 Foundation Derbyshire Award for its mixture of inclusivity and creative ambition.


Approx 700 people aged between 65 and 101


2017 Derbyshire Records Office (3500 visitors)

2016/17 Touring exhibition, Derbyshire Libraries (150,000) and Buxton Museum (16,950 visitors)

2015/16 National Trust’s Lyme Park, Cheshire (10,000 visitors)

2014 Hayfield Country Show (4000 visitors) Manifold Agricultural Show (6000 visitors)

Live Audience total 190,450

On-Line Audience

20,000 so far.


In Autumn 2017 the two quilts will form part of the Quilters’ Guild Collection. 

Poems, reminiscence, photographs, sound recordings from the Stitching the Wars project, will be housed at Derbyshire Archives.

bombers moon.jpg

More Information

Poem readings

Reminiscence, oral history 

Poem collection: arthur-and-martha-poem

Diary, photos, information arthur-and-martha.blogspot.

On-line portfolio photos/arthur-and-martha


2 thoughts on “Stitching the Wars (2014-2017)

  1. This is truly amazing and makes you realise how rich older people’s lives are, when they can so easily become discarded by society today. Wonderful! I will definitely be going to see them.

    Liked by 1 person

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