International Women’s Day | Textile Art


International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on the 8th of March every year around the world. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood. The Womanhood Collection celebrates sexual independence with the ‘SEX KITTEN’ series, a collection of A3 panels exposing the derogatory names given to women because of their sexual independence. Names are based upon my own personal experience. And just to be clear, I am none of these things! Created from recycled materials with beautiful print embellished in beads and sequins, capturing the essence of a woman’s beauty. Let us explore how to create a panel using traditional techniques, choosing recycled fabrics, embellishing vintage and modern prints, celebrating bold and subtle colour, using beads and sequins to enhance.


PATCHWORK – is a very simple process of stitching fabric pieces together, whether by hand or machine, producing variations of texture, pattern and colour. A panel of printed fabric is enhanced by a patchwork surround of bold colour, enhancing colours within the print.

APPLIQUE – is a process of layering fabrics to produce a design with edges turned in or left raw. The block lettering was created from a rather fabulous pair of sequined trousers (I can no longer get into!) with strips cut, layered and hand stitched to create the ‘names’. Sequin fabric is a great source of light with instant impact and sex appeal. Glamour embodies the essence of independence but brings criticism from both men and women.

QUILTING – A panel is established by layering wadding (I use a low tog / summer duvet) between the textile and the backing fabric, with all seams turned in and stitched. A quilted effect is achieved when anchoring embellishments , the tension of a stitch establishing a contouring within the surface structure.

HANGING BRAID – A simple ribbon loop creates the hanging braid.

‘Sex Kitten’ series of derogatory names given to women


Vintage fabrics possess a quality new fabrics do not have with faded colour and threadbare patches to be celebrated. Good quality materials (cotton, linen, velvet) are hard wearing, delivering a history which I love and value greatly. Designs are often revamped and updated, especially florals, but you can’t beat the essence of a bygone era captured in cloth. Charity shops and car boot sales offer treasures overlooked, of no value, in our modern society.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
vintage florals capture the history of a bygone era


VINTAGE PRINT – Faded colours within vintage print can be embellished to bring attention to and celebrate worn areas. Large areas can be adorned in effervescent sequins which reflects light in delicate hues, embodying the fragility of the fabric.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
faded vintage floral enhanced with effervescent sequins and small clusters of detail

MODERN PRINT – Pattern and colour evoke an emotional response. Catwalk trends dictate fashion and a diluted version becomes available to the masses. I especially enjoy bold florals inspired by Nature, from clothing to soft furnishings. Cheap mass production results in poor quality and thus we have a throw away fashion trend for landfill. But this offers an abundance of new textile prints from new and established designers to be recycled into abstract artworks.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
bold colourful print with single bead detail


MONOCHROME PALETTE – A lack of colour can be striking with a simple black repeat pattern adorned in a single jet bead. Silver sequins offer a light reflective source to the plain ivory background.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
monochrome palette offers a striking contrast with simple repeat pattern

ENHANCING BOLD COLOUR – A block colour with a white print is striking and does not require much embellishment. The addition of red, pink, purple and orange beads and sequins establishes depth within the red background .

International Women's Day | Textile Art
bold background with white print


A subtle colour palette of muted tones can be enhanced with a bold pop of colour. Large plastic sequins and beads highlight colours within the print.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
bold sequins and beads add a pop of colour to muted print


Beads and sequins can be used to enhance and add depth to a colour palette, bring attention to detail within print or vintage fabrics, establish light within reflective surfaces. There is a huge range to choose from. The greater your collection in terms of colour, size and material (plastic, wood, glass, metal) the more expressive you can be within your design. Mass production offers a treasure trove of possibilities, especially now that we have the internet, but I still enjoy hunting car boot sales and charity shops for vintage finds, pre used and loved, offering a slice of history within the narrative of a textile.

International Women's Day | Textile Art
embellishing an existing colour palette with small glass and plastic beads
establishing light with effervescent plastic sequins

I hope you are inspired to create your own panel with whatever name you choose. This was a therapeutic exercise for me in using personal experience as a commentary on how women are perceived. I grew up in an era of ‘Page 3’, objectifying women as sex objects to be hated or adored, depending on your point of view (I think they were fabulous!) Click the link for more liberated studies from The Womanhood Collection : Abstract Textile Artist | Ccunningham-textileartist-woman (

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