YARNING: Tales from Birmingham

A podcast series by Sara Fowles about Black women knitters as part of ‘Yarning’ projects by Trevor Pitt

a Black woman rests her elbows on a table in a studio and looks at the camera. There are spools of thread, a box of yarn and other textiles and tools around her.

Sara Fowles (Photo: Hayley Salter)

Podcast series

Yarning is part of Dorcas Stories from the Front Room

A free exhibition on show at the Mailbox, Level 2, 7 Commercial Street, Birmingham, B1 1RS
from 23 September to 29 October 2023, Weds – Sun, 1-6pm

Dorcas Stories from the Front Room celebrates 75 years of Windrush by exploring Caribbean textiles, craft and fashion. Co-curated by Dr Rose Sinclair, it tells the story of Dorcas Clubs and features historic documents, fashion garments, domestic crafts, photographs by Vanley Burke, contemporary fashion, audio stories and films.

How do craft skills and knowledge travel across continents?

Craftspace has commissioned Birmingham based textile artist and Windrush descendant Sara Fowles to collect five stories on the heritage of yarn, knit and textiles within Birmingham’s Black community.

The stories include her own story of her relationship to knit and yarn. Her family memories, how she learnt the skills, what knitting means to her and how it became a passion and obsession in her life and work.

This podcast series marks Windrush Day which, in 2023, celebrates 75 years since the ship’s arrival in the UK.


Craftspace has collaborated with artist Trevor Pitt on his ongoing project YARNING which explores women’s stories and relationships to knitting and yarn.

This podcast series focuses on Black women in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and begins to address research by artist Lorna Hamilton Brown whose masters dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit – the importance of art and oral histories for documenting the experiences of black knitters’, questioned the lack of visibility of Black crafters and documents their hidden histories.

You can now listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


Episode 1: Sara Fowles (29 June 2023)

How can we ensure the oral histories and experiences of Black textile makers are documented and visible?

Birmingham based textile artist Sara Fowles has collected five stories of heritage, knitting and textiles in Birmingham’s Black community.

The first episode is her own story of her relationship to knit and yarn, her family memories, how she learnt the skills, what knitting means to her and how it became a passion and obsession in her life and work. (The episode was recorded in 2022.)

Sara Fowles is a Black woman from Birmingham. She lives in Kings Heath with her partner and cat overlord Zeus. She describes herself as a maker and has always had something to make in her hands.  Sara works as an artist and maker and runs both Stitches and Hos and Yarningham Festival, an annual festival that celebrates yarn and stitch.  Career highlights include K2TO, a participatory knitting project that covered the pillars of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery for the London 2012 Olympics and Yarn & Stitch, a one off print magazine produced during Covid-19 lockdowns as part of Yarningham Online 2021.

Episode 2: Selina Cheshire (29 June 2023)

Knitting with bicycle spokes!

In the second episode Sara talks to Selina Cheshire

Selina Cheshire lives in Sutton Coldfield but grew up in rural Zimbabwe and came to the UK in 2002. Her mother was a teacher and loved sewing so from childhood she developed an interest in fashion, fabrics and textile skills. She and her friends taught each other to knit using grass and bicycle spokes and then in school she continued to learn sewing and knitting.

Later in life she got a diploma in pattern cutting and designing and became a teacher. For a short time she also opened a shop and started sewing for people. After earning her leave to remain in the UK, someone offered her a sewing machine and she got an overlocker so started sewing again.

Knitting became part of her therapy, healing and recovery when she was going through cancer treatment. She gave away over 50 scarves that she knitted to those in need. She uses sewing as a pastime and an activity with her granddaughters.

During the pandemic she trained to be a health coach and has written a book ‘My pain my teacher’ about healing herself from cancer.

Episode 3: Venetia Headlam (6 July 2023)

Do you value the skills that go into making clothes more when they’re handmade? Do you follow a pattern or go your own way?

Birmingham based textile artist Sara Fowles has collected five stories of heritage, knitting and textiles in Birmingham’s Black community.

In this episode she talks to Venetia Headlam, a Black woman born and raised in Birmingham. She was taught to knit and crochet by her mother. Her family gatherings in her maternal grandparents’ home in Aston were the most memorable ties to her Caribbean heritage – paper plates piled with food, reggae, soca and R&B playing and the inevitable loud game of dominoes.

Episode 4: Sarah S. Sammy (Available 13 July 2023)

How can making with others and learning new skills support our mental health?

In this episode she talks to Sarah S. Sammy.

Sarah is from Trinidad and Tobago. She is a scientist by trade, but a maker at heart. She has always been, in her words, “fiddling with some thing or another”, trying to make and create. She can’t remember a time when making and creating wasn’t a part of her life, in fact, she comes from a family of makers. This rich background of makers means Sarah was always encouraged to learn and try new crafts. At this point, she mostly knits and crochets which she learnt back in Trinidad from a lovely group of ladies. However since coming to the UK 6 years ago, she has continued to engage with new crafts, trying her hand at leather craft, pottery, weaving, glass fusing, bargello stitching, copper jewellery making and silver jewellery making to name a few.

Windrush Day Logo
Arts Council Lottery Logo
Dept for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities logo.

Where Next?

Dorcas Stories: Windrush Arrivals (1948 to 1962)

Finding craftspeople on the Windrush.

Evelyn Wauchop's landing card. A recreation of the card with her name and 'stowaway' written on it.

Dorcas Stories: We are Here to Stay (1962 to the 1980’s)

Stories of Caribbean immigrants.

In the foreground, part of a dress with a graphic bamboo pattern on it. In the blurred background is a sewing machine and a vintage handbag.

Dorcas Stories: Windrush Futures

Stories of the Windrush legacy.

Three women stand in a line with their backs to the camera and the sky visible in the background.

Dorcas Stories: Who or What is Dorcas?

Read about the history of Dorcas groups.

A bright vintage magazine with an illustrated cover showing a cotton reel, paint palette and rolling pin. Along side are a Dorcas label on a sewn item and a pin tin branded Dorcas.


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