Lazy days of summer….

I am alarmed to see how long it is since I updated these pages, life has flown by and still without internet so I am still counting the minutes, hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will soon have a fibre optic connection… watch this space. Except that when they came I discovered that the casing for the wires is blocked so no further forward…. I can’t believe how difficult it is proving to be connected.

Since I last updated I have been busy, I don’t like putting new pieces up before they have been exhibited, I have completed one big one and given up, for the time being, on another as it was not giving the result I wanted, maybe I will pick it up again one day. I have had a fair amount of English teaching and two separate weeks away walking with the local group, I now have a library full of inspirational photographs. One of the club members suggested that I gave a show of my photos but my view is very related to how I could use them as inspiration for stitching, textures, pattern, shape etc. so I don’t think anybody other than me would find them very entertaining.

This is a mix from Italy, the Cinque Terra, Florence and Pisa with not outstanding weather in May


Belle Ile in June and the weather was better but changeable, the scenery was fantastic.

In April there was an exhibition of small works, no more than 40cm square so I joined the group, Gaspart 17, and exhibited some of my journal quilts and Fifteen by Fifteen pieces. It ran for four and a half days and I wasn’t required to be there all the time, this meant that I had the time to visit Pour Fil d’Amour at Nantes for a day and catch up with friends who were also there. The exhibition in La Rochelle was a good networking exercise but there were not many people who visited and very few understood the concept of textile art, I will repeat the exercise however because it is a good, if limited, window.

expo 40cm

May saw me spending two days in a lino cutting class down the road in Rochefort, it was designed for graphic artists but was brilliant, it really motivated to do more. I worked on a piece, which is yet to be finished, but it is to produce a work which will be exhibited in September with Gaspart.

I have managed to keep up with Fifteen by Fifteen and my Journal Quilts. For the former I am trying to link the six of this year to the coastline and this region, as for the journal quilts, the first four of the year had to use a sewing technique and were based on inspiration from my Indian travels, the next four have to be made using something other than cotton and are based on photos I took in Israel.

Decay : winter on the coast

Coast line in winter

Horizons: I must go down to the seas again

Horizons: I must go down to the seas again ( John Masefield) the view across the bay with the weather vane from the Gros Horloge, La Rochelle.

Caroline Higgs - March 19Caroline Higgs - April 2019Caroline Higgs - May 2019Caroline Higgs -June 2019

This year is disappearing very fast and I really have not been very productive, I miss having unlimited internet access so that I can listen to BBC all day, having somebody talking to me really motivates me to work, without it I am easily distracted. I still have a, now very overdue, wedding quilt to finish and am working on the next Fifteen by Fifteen and Journal quilts while have just finished a sample quilt for my teaching at the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham in August. This year I am only doing two days because I have been invited to go and teach at the Suzdal Quilt Show in Russia. I was invited at Quilt en Beaujolais (before it became BIAT) some years ago but due to various commitments and the dates of the FOQ this year was the first year that I have been free. It is a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to it. It feels, at last, as if it is really happening now that I have got my visa and my teaching materials are packed and ready to go! I am also taking all Fifteen by Fifteen’s first three months of the year quilts with me to be exhibited.

Last week quite by chance I visited a new place down on the coast, a cabin which belongs to the village, Serge who is running it has chosen some local artists to exhibit their work on the theme of the surroundings and I found myself hanging eight of my pieces of different sizes which is really great. I am also hoping to run some small classes there when I get myself organised.

In September I will be at the EPM in Ste Marie-aux-Mines and again will be teaching a class there. Apart from that I am trying to build a new body of work for next year. My next piece is in the pipeline and is for a Gaspart exhibition in September, the subject is animals and I drew the short straw for an animal starting with an ‘N’, it has been a challenge but …… more in the next update.

February 2019

I am not sure how much progress I have made but I have made some! My life is still blighted by the lack of a proper internet connection, counting the minutes that I am on-line is really limiting, I have, however, discovered that a little negative feedback works wonders… Hopefully I will be connected before too long…. The good news is that I now have a ‘dirty’ sink so can start playing with dyes and printing again.

I have planned a new class for Birmingham, FOQ, in August and another for EPM, Ste Marie, in September.

I am throughly enjoying living away from the mountains and their snow, yes, it has been wet and windy (the latter really frightened me the night it approached the 120 kph.) but the longer and sunny days make up for it.

I decided to do Journal Quilts again this year, they are more prescriptive than previously and the first 4 have to be made using a sewing technique, I have used appliqué and paper piecing for the first two. They have links to India, the fabric used is sari scraps. The first carried on with my positive/negative thinking from last year and the second one used some pieces I had prepared and not used, it was then saddle stitched with silver thread which was given to me by my sewing machine repair man!

I have done two shows since the beginning of the year, the first was Fil’ Passion at Périgueux. It was a great chance to meet up with other artists. I received some very positive comments about my work, which is always nice and several people called it poetic, there is a first time for everything! I spent the show admiring the Russian rooftops stitched by Le Begonia D’Or I love the gold-work but I think it might have to wait for a future lifetime!

Two weeks later I was at Fils Croisés in Cholet; this was an excellent show concerning interest in my work, I even sold a small piece, I was not only interviewed by the local paper but also by the local television. I also had some very enthusiastic ladies who did a short lesson with me with great results.



The extremely helpful sewing machine man even managed to service my machine during the show which was brilliant, I avoided having the lost feeling one has when one’s machine is away from home! Good planning meant that there was also time to visit the Textile Museum which still makes the traditional cotton handkerchiefs and which had samples of old ones, the brown ones were made for those who spat baccy…. There was even one with printed with battle techniques.

And of course there was the centre of Cholet near the hotel..

By walking, almost, daily I am constantly on the look out for interesting things to photograph which could morph in to future designs, whether it is a flower or a leaf, a bit of rusty metal or a building.

This year for Fifteen by Fifteen I am using the subjects to create a series based on the coastline around here. We have a lot of fishing huts on stilts, carrelets, which are very photogenic and I have used them in several pieces. The first Fifteen by Fifteen subject was ‘blooming’ so I used a couple of lines of poetry to kick start me and an old damask napkin and this is the result.

‘Tis the last rose of summer

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone.

Thomas Moore 1779 – 1852

I also did two hand stitched pieces, one was a carrelet but the other was a lady I saw in the women’s garden in Gunjur, The Gambia a few years ago. I had wanted to ‘do’ her for a while and it gave me chance to play with stitch to create texture while using some loose woven cotton which is the only fabric still woven in the Gambia.

Now the time has come to return to the workroom and stitch.

December 2018

I can’t believe that more than six months have passed since my last entry. I think that being ‘rootless’ took a toll on my creativity, I spent four months in temporary accommodation and although there was plenty of space in which to stitch I couldn’t immerse myself in my work. I also had the excitement of being in a new environment where there was so much to do and discover, loads of inspiration and I took far too many photographs. I have ideas brewing in my head for future work but just need time to settle down and plan it!


I finally moved into my permanent home in mid August but it wasn’t until mid September that I had more than a week at home, which meant unpacking my boxes, I had meant to do it slowly but I kept wondering where things were and had to hunt them out. In October and November I had a fair amount of English teaching, I can get on with work in progress at such times but to get the creativity going I need empty space in my head. I now have a workroom in which I am really comfortable and a design wall for the first time so I can step back and ponder. I have a plumber coming to look at installing a sink which I can use for dirty stuff so I am not in the kitchen sink with dye stuffs. I am amazed that, when they have space, people don’t have ‘dirty’ sinks but I suppose that with washing machines people don’t wash things any more, or I was conditioned that way as a child ! While I was renting I had no washing machine and did everything by hand and due to the lack of a ‘dirty’ sink I landed up washing everything in the bath. My garage won’t be used as such but is perfect as a wet room, on the chilly side during the winter but not impossible, a great space for cooking up potions…

I really don’t seem to have achieved much work since I last wrote, my 2018 journal quilts are finished and I am up to date with Fifteen by Fifteen with my ideas for the next year’s projects forming in my head. I have almost cut the two thousand plus squares for my nephew’s wedding quilt, I just need to get stitching, and I have been stitching a larger version of a small 7 inch square that I did. I have so many photos and ideas from various travels and the change in location has changed my view on how I work.

My journal quilts this year were pairs of positive and negative images.

Caroline Higgs - July 18Caroline Higgs- August 18

These two were inspired by the ebb and flow of the tide and the pols of water which come and go.

Caroline Higgs - October 18Caroline Higgs - September 18

I photographed this stone carving and transformed it using two parts of the pattern to create the positive and negative images.

P1170930Caroline Higgs -November 18Caroline Higgs - December 18

My Fifteen by Fifteen pieces had a series of 3 pieces which I based on a poem and wrote about previously, this is the last in the series which had to be using complementary colours.


The final two pieces for the year were Squares followed by Rearranged, I chose to work the two as a mini series using fabrics I had dyed in indigo and which came from India. I continue to be interested in the the idea of jali screens and used stitching to add the ‘jalis’ to both pieces.

Squares: Woven storiesRe-arranged : Indian square dance

The minus side of the move is the internet connection, or the lack of it, I am on a 4G and I am battling to keep my usage down so that I have full strength connection for the full month otherwise I seem to spend the last week of each month with a speed which is almost in reverse. The result is that I connect for the minimum amount of time and don’t tend to stay on the computer very long so that there is no temptation to go online and read… the result is that I forget to do the important things like up dating this !

I will attempt to do better in 2019 even if they threaten me with a delay of 6 months for installing a line to the house so that I can have a normal connection.

In August I went to the festival of quilts for 3 days, I stewarded a couple of days I enjoy doing this as it actually makes me stop and look at work I wouldn’t otherwise look at. I often hear people being surprised that a quilt hasn’t achieved recognition but they often don’t look carefully, the idea or impact may be very strong but when one looks carefully it becomes obvious why it wasn’t a winner, then again it could be that it wasn’t entered in to the right category so it can’t be a winner, I really think that there should be someway of marking a quilt that is in the wrong category as a lesson to others. Then a month later I was at Ste Marie, I had a quilt exhibited as a result of the masterclass I had attended in 2018 with Denise Labadie.


I also taught for two days, the first class was not full the second more than full which was very pleasing. It was however interesting to be criticised for giving a hand stitch class when more than half of the students thought it would be using a machine, I was worried that I had written the wrong information but when I checked afterwards it would seem that very few of the students had read the information to the end because it was clearly stated to be hand stitch. They did however all go away happy !


As I write I am preparing to exhibit and give workshops in January at Marsac and Cholet both of which are relatively near home.

6 months later….

How plans change! I vowed to be better at keeping this up to date but life got in the way! I went to Israel in February and while I was there I negotiated the sale of my house, since then day to day life, and the organisation of it, took over. I had a big exhibition at the Biennial Art Textile (BIAT) show in Villefranche sur Soane in April and then six days later I moved to the opposite side of France in to a temporary rental house. Once here I had to find a permanent home, that is now found and I will move definitively in mid-August. Needless to say that creativity has been on the back burner. I am now vowing to do better.

The visit to Israel was wonderful and I returned home with plenty of ideas for future textile work, I also taught lino cutting to a small class .


Inspiration from nature,




desert landscapes,








IMG_1619the Dead Sea


and market stalls.


Back home it was non-stop stitching to finish everything for BIAT, as the work was virtually all new I didn’t want to post anything until the show was over. The work in the exhibition was inspired by my travels in India.

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I also taught a couple of workshops and had a piece in the event’s competition.


Témoin du passage du temps

Since I have moved I have found it difficult to settle down to stitch, now I am getting back to textile work and the ideas are beginning to flow again. The change in the landscape is radical and there are so many ideas that I want to explore.

I have kept up to date with my journal quilts, this year working in pairs of positive and negative so at the end of the year there will be six pairs.

Fifteen by Fifteen started the year with reflections, then we started a series of three the first two have been completed the first was to be black and white, the second abstract and the third will be complimentary colours.


The Port of Minimes, La Rochelle in the early evening


The inspiration for the series is a poem written by Pavel Friedman (born 7/01/1921 in Prague – died 29/09/1944 in Auschwitz) dated June 4th 1942 entitled the Butterfly, which has the line “Only I never saw another butterfly”….


January 2018

Scan 7

Happy New Year. I reckon with the weather that we are experiencing at present things can only get better. I did end the year by doing some snow dyeing, it was meant to be the first of a batch for my stash but the snow is now so saturated and the thought of going out in the rain has dampened my enthusiasm. I decided to play with primary colours and black;

I tend to leave it outside until it melts but this time after a couple of days I finished it off inside as the temperatures didn’t rise sufficiently!

I am conscious that I have not written anything for a while, it is actually due to the fact that I have been producing work, I am working for an exhibition at Biennale Internationale d’Art Textile in April and I have decided to keep my work under wraps until it has been exhibited. I have been printing and stitching to produce a body of work inspired by my visit to India. I did my largest lino print to date, not easy in a  small space as I had to print it 12 times to get the required size; I am now finishing it off. More of that in a future post.


The last 15 by 15 quilt was on the subject of water and I decided on the subject of Lake Beringo, in Kenya, which a few years ago had an unprecedented rise in water levels which destroyed the lakeside. Working on cotton/silk fabric I painted the background wrapped round a jar and then machine stitched the paint lines. I added rocks by cutting the fabric and inserting them, the trees were stitched separately and then inserted in the same way.


My journal quilts were finished off, one using painted fabric and appliqué and the other quite simply hand stitched both were inspired from Moroccan tile designs. They were designed for hand-stitching during the show at La Roche-sur Foron.

Caroline Higgs-November-BWCaroline Higgs-December-BW

The end of the year meant that I could photograph all twelve of my 11 inch journal quilts together. I really enjoy producing a small quilt each month, it allows me to try new ideas which I can use as teaching samples of inspiration for larger work.

Caroline.Higgs-Black and whitre plus touch of colour

To finish off the year I did a portrait of a friend’s dog for her Christmas present, normally I just stitch bu this timeI added paint beforehand which gave more depth to the picture, it was a small 10 cm square mounted on a frame.

HIGGS. Bretzel

Now back to stitching….




As the leaves fall from the trees I realise how long it is since I updated this page. I like to add new work to prove that I am working but I don’t post any major work until it has been exhibited, so because I have been working on one piece for so long I don’t have much to show for the time being.  This is a small detail of the work in progress:


Having returned from the Birmingham I was inspired to have a go at marbling and it is something that I will go back to. I had a trial run by marbling some ladies for my September JQ, I marbled, appliquéd and on to a commercial fabric which I hand quilted to highlight the vertical lines. I kept it simple but now want to have another go with brighter colours.

Caroline Higgs-September-BW

Mid September was the Carrefour Européen at Ste Marie aux Mines in Alsace. The weather was cold and wet but it was a good show, and as usual the networking was great. I was really impressed by the Zero 3 ‘s Signature IX exhibition and that of Ian Berry who works in denim with incredible attention to detail.


After the show I went on to do a four day course with Denise Labadie, two days of making a mess with paint and then two days of stitching. It remotivated with fabric painting which I have always enjoyed but she really opened my eyes to the ways in which I could use it. We worked from photos so were aiming at personalised colour palettes.

Needless to say I haven’t yet finished my work but I will find the tile to get back to it soon. Very unexpectedly the hotel we were staying in had some wonderful samplers and small dress hanging in the dining room, they were behind glass but the attention to detail was fantastic and they were very well conserved.


While I was away I had my October JQ with me to stitch, I was playing around with a stencil and a flour resist screen. Once the colours were stencilled I concentrated on stitching the background, the idea was to seed stitch with black thread to darken the background fabric.


The end of September was the reveal for the final piece of the Fifteen by Fifteen series. I worked with the same motifs for all five pieces and actually worked them one after the other  because the ideas flowed. This one was using a piece that I had dyed a couple of years ago and fitted perfectly for the centre piece, I then printed some other fabric from the same dye session as the border. The motifs are hand stitched and some added glittery flower centres completed it.

The full series is below with the original photograph which was my starting point and which I photographed in Bagru, India, which is known for its indigo dyeing which makes the  last piece all the more relevant.


Mid October and there was a Creative show just down the road which I had signed up to as an exhibitor. In all there were only 5 of us exhibiting, one of whom was Chantal Guillermet, and we were placed in a dead-end corridor but the visitors we did have were those who chose to come and have a look so were actually interested. I got a lot of hand stitching done and had some really good and encouraging conversations. It is good to hear want people think and not necessarily those who are, themselves, involved in textiles. The photo quality isn’t good but it was a great exhibition space.

With the autumn weather I was inspired to go  for a walk and collect some leaves to have a go at eco-printing. The leaf colours are quite beautiful, and the iridescence of some of them is incredible. The fungi in the lower part of the wood  were really interesting and inspiration started flowing…

Once home I cooked up some leaves and the results were promising, although at the moment I really don’t need any more fabric so I will have to tie my hands behind my back until I get my next exhibition for the International Biennial, in Beaujolais, finished.

Yesterday, thanks to the advice of somebody I met last weekend, I went to two art exhibitions further down the valley. I didn’t know what to expect but I was really impressed, I hadn’t realised how many truly talented artists are living and working in this area. At the fist one in Viuz-en-Sallaz there were two artists who really attracted my attention. One was Lilian Gailly who works recycling cardboard in to sculptures, the transparency of  some of the pieces really appealed to me.


The other was Anne Liger-Mercier who works with locally collected vegetation, her work really inspired me and we had a really long discussion about the methods she uses.

The final exhibition was good,  a really good mix of different styles of painting and sculptures.



All my good intentions of keeping up to date with this page seem to have gone by the wayside, but being away from home rather frequently means that while I am at home I have my day time work to attend to and then I need sewing time…

In June I was lucky enough to be invited to Israel to teach at the Israeli Quilter’s Guild’s annual meeting. What a brilliant experience! Two day classes which were both full of really keen and eager students. I taught two different classes encouraging the students to work on their own ideas in ways that were new to them, stitching from their own photos and stencilling with Inktense blocks.


During my week I visited Caesarea, Tel Aviv and Jaffa, Jerusalem, Acre and Haifa amongst others, they were so many things to see, ancient and modern, man-made and natural and of course the sea was never far away. The first real surprise was the bird mosaic which you could just walk all over…

In Jerusalem we visited the museum which had, above the usual exhibitions, an exhibition of the work of the outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, truly mind-blowing, I found his 2016 Odyssey wallpaper breathtaking, probably because of the subject of immigration….


There were textiles from all over the world as well as ceramics all of which had inspirational patterns and motifs, and a statue of Hadrian which I was rather taken by.

Despite being the end of Ramadan we visited the old town of Jerusalem, I just loved the old streets and the few shops which we explored.

I could go on for ages with where we went and what we did but below are other photographs which demonstrate the richness of inspirational designs.

Since I got home I put my head down and did some sewing. My visit to the Gambia, and the exhibition I saw in Venice,  inspired me to do another quilt about the futility of migration, having talked to young in the Gambia who all know people who have the left the ‘back way’ so using fabric which was dyed with kola nuts and indigo in the Gambia I produced the following:


The text says, “such is their pride, their folly or their fate”….

I also produce a small portrait ( 6″ x 4”) for the Through Our Hands, Save the Children portrait shuffle, it is from a photograph I took in Kenya of a lady with a severely handicapped daughter…



The July/August edition of Magic Patch published an article about me and my work which was very wonderful even if some of the text is not exact…


Other work I have done are my journal quilts, continuing the black and white with a flash of colour. Some have worked better than others but that is the idea of journal Quilts, it gives you the chance to play with ideas which can then we taken as a starting point for other things. The first is one I made after looking at Murano glass in Venice, the island of Murano has no shortage of glass shops and there are designs which are repeated in each. The quilts itself hasn’t worked as well as I had hoped…


Then there was the drain cover in old Jaffa which attracted my attention and was a good excuse to play with stencils on a commercially dyed back drop. A little artistic licence crept in to make the motifs fit the size of the quilt!

The most recent JQ was using lino blocks that I had cut for a larger project and wanted to trial. It was an interesting exercise because the design which i saw at the Red Fort in Agra actually required two lino blocks because the design is symmetrical.

In July I spent a day in London and visited the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, although I have read about him and heard him talk on radio 4 it was the first time that i have seen his work, the Battle of Britain tapestry blew me away, the detail and the amount of information that he managed to include in this piece is amazing as are the references to tradition quilts.

After a hectic 4 days at the festival of Quilts where I was teaching again I am home and trying to make headway with the house and garden which have been seriously neglected these last few months. September will see me at EPM in Ste Marie, Alsace where after the show i am doing a 4 day course with Denise Labadie, watch this space….


An escapade…

The advantage of living on the Franco-Swiss-Italian border is that so many places are so easily accessible, and that is why I found myself spending the better part of last week in Venice, well Cavallino to be exact. Dijanne knows Venice very well and it was really good to be with somebody who knew where they were going. I am sure that I am going to asked what I saw, the easy answer is that I saw Venice, there is so much to see and do and all except the fourth day it was lovely weather and we walked. Staying where we were meant taking the boat and by buying a 72 hour transport pass we managed to spread it over 4 days.

The first afternoon was spent on Burano which is known for its lace making, a lot of the lace is now made elsewhere but we did meet some ladies working in a couple of the shops. One shop had an enormous private collection of old lace, a lot of which we were unable to access due to renovation work but what we did see was wonderful and dated back to the 1600s.

The island itself is beautiful, the houses are all brightly painted in all manner of colours and away from the main street there are very few people and it is very peaceful. (In fact that was the same for Venice itself, we were ‘out’ of high season but with an average of 100,000 tourists a day there were still people around.)

There were inspirational  ideas for future textile work everywhere I looked and I hadn’t even got to Venice, I just love the haphazard juxtaposition of the colours, reflections and shadows…

We decided to make the most of our time by getting the 6.59 boat in the mornings to avoid the crowds, this was an excellent idea and the first morning we changed boats and went on up the Grand Canal.


Before visiting somewhere as well photographed one obviously has an idea of what one is going to see but I found it far larger than I had expected. Due to the early hour the ‘trade’ boats were about and busy and it really made one realise how complicated living in the city must be. I love the wine jeraboams and the rather smart chairs with the delivery crew sitting on them:

Then of course there were the more artistic sites:

IMG_0793Walking around a place so full of inspiration one is always drawn to the things which have a personal design dimension. There was a lot of wrought iron work which suits my growing library of photographs for a future project, there were as one might expect masks.

Then we managed to be in Piazza San Marco while it was empty, well there were the pigeons but very few people, the real plus was being able to have a quick look at the interior of the Duomo before it opened to the public, sadly no photographs are allowed inside, but then something has to be left in one’s personal memory card. The work on the outside of the Duomo is stunning, the sort of building where one would see something different at each visit.

There are then also the sights which are unexpected.

IMG_0944Two things happened which were totally unplanned and really good. It was the  beginning of the Venice Biennial which we had thought that we would visit but the more that we learnt about it and after visiting one of the fringe events we decided that it wasn’t for us, it seems to involve a lot of film and sound. However as we went back to the boat we found an independent exhibition of work by a Bosnian artist, Safet Zec, who now lives in Venice. I had to leave the exhibition because the emotion he expressed in his work was too much for me. I did go back in and we visited again a second time but we were both blown away by the emotion  expresses in his work. This particular exhibition, Exodus, “draws from the biblical dimension of the exodus of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe” and is a subject which has made such an impression on me after me visits to the Gambia. The artist himself has “experienced eradication, escape and exile when with his family he was forced to abandon Bosnia and their war torn city, Sarajevo”.

I don’t usually post pictures of other people’s work but this exhibition moved me more than anything else I have ever seen, this is just a small part of one of the main pieces :

IMG_1023and this one is a detail of another and his provisional sketches for the piece.

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On a more cheerful front we did a morning of mosaic at a studio which opened at the beginning of the year and which is run by two mosaic masters Alessandra de Gennaro and Romuald Mesdagh. It was a really good experience to be taught by somebody who is so passionate about their craft and who is so happy to share their knowledge, I became far more engrossed that I had expected to be and actually managed to finish my small square. While we were working I got chatting to Romuald in French and found that he had lived very near me years ago which was such a coincidence.img_1015-2.jpgThis is one piece in their studio which I really liked, mosaic in a modern form. They also work in glass and produce wonderful commissions The final photo shows Dijanne discussing something with Romuald and Alessandro in their studio at the end of our course. (In the background of the photo is the most wonderful print shop which produces unusual small books and lino-cuts).

IMG_1014 2Now all I have to do is find the time to use all my ideas. I have come back with a new pen and some great powder paints from a shop which has the most incredible range of natural pigments.





Time has passed and I don’t have much to show for it, in fact I don’t know what I have been doing since I came home from India! I did spend two weeks in the Gambia, it  was essentially for a seminar on rural resilience and waste but we tacked a few days on each end. Our accommodation was in an eco lodge, Sandele, which is within spitting distance of the beach so each night, once I got used to it, I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves on the beach and the wind in the trees. The temperature was perfect and I now miss the feeling of salt in my hair!


With delegates from many different countries it was a very colourful gathering, not least when the Cameroonian wore his velvet tunic with bright stitching.


During the days devoted to waste there were demonstrations from ladies who create items from plastic bags and bicycle inner tubes. They crochet the plastic and create key rings with the rubber making paper beads for added decoration.




Ladies from the local town came down to see what was going on and hopefully to inspire them to have a go. In a country where jobs are hard to come by there is a need to inspire the population to find ways of earning a living, the Gambia has the highest percentage per population of people who leave by the ‘back way’ and since I was last there two and a half years ago there are noticeably fewer young men in the town. Between 10 and 13 thousand Gambians have gone, while we were there we heard of a young lad who had died in a camp in Italy. I had spoken with a young welder who has set up in business and he was telling about this lad who had been an apprentice with him who had left and was happily in Italy,  they do not realise that many are in the holding camps in squalid conditions…… What a waste….

The women always seem to be occupied whether tending gardens, collecting firewood or multi-tasking…

No celebration is complete in Africa without music and dancing…


Once the work was over there was time to observe the wild life whether bird watching on an early morning boat ride, walking through a nature reserve, a visit to the reptile farm which allegedly rescues reptiles or assisting with the release back in to the sea of a turtle caught by fishermen….


At the reptile farm we were able to handle some of the snakes, I even had a ball python round my neck for a while, but it was the texture of the skin which fascinated me and I can’t now remember which snake this was but I didn’t handle this one!


Then there was the unexpected wildlife… which moves at the most amazing speed.


No journey is complete without a visit to see textiles, the Gambia only produces a thick soft cotton which is woven on narrow looms and is used for men’s over tunics or blankets, it is coarse but really soft. I was very pleased to buy around a metre and a half which is eight bands crudely stitched together, I intend to undo the bands and dye them… watch this space for what happens next. I was also lucky enough to visit a family who work with traditional batik and I intend to return to spend some time with them. Then there was  a visit to see fabrics dyed in indigo and kola nut, the latter produces a lovely orangey brown, and yes, there was a kilo of kola nuts in my suitcase when I came home. I just need the weather to be warmer so that I can set up my outdoor kitchen for dyeing.



Stitching wise there does not seem to be much to show, I have completed two more journal quilts, one was as a result of a tifaifai lesson with Dijanne Ceeval who came and taught my local club for a day. The free quilting leaves a lot to be desired but I was pleased with the edging, the form is from the walls surrounding Fatephur Sikri and I have filled the holes by weaving ribbons, which echo the sari colours, the central motif was also inspired and adapted from one I saw in India.

Caroline Higgs - April - BW

The most recent JQ is stencilled and then stitched by hand and machine, it is the reproduction of a photo that I took of a light-shade in our hotel in Pushkar, it is made of wood and it intrigued me. The great thing about Journal Quilts is that they are relatively small and they give one the opportunity to experiment and  play with techniques and ideas.


Finally this week I have been working on a sample for my courses, I am off to the Israeli Quilter’s Guild in June, Festival of Quilts in August, La Roche sur Foron and Maastricht in October and I am trying to get organised well in advance.


Now it is time to get back to my fabrics…





Home from India

It is hard to believe that I have been back nearly three weeks now, it took a little time to settle back into the everyday life of being at home. India was all it should have been, sunshine, dust, colours, noise and smiley people, but above all inspiration for textiles. Although we visited, if I have counted correctly, ten museums/forts/temples we had plenty of time for looking at fabrics threads and textiles.

There were marvellous moments such as on the second day when I was admiring some fabric which the guy claimed was cotton, I said it wasn’t so he backed down and produced another range, I still doubted it so did the flame test, his attitude change very fast when I proved him wrong! Then there were the shops which guides insisted that we wanted to look at even though we had said we weren’t interested, their faces and attitudes changed radically when we left empty handed. On the other hand having spent time in a shop not aimed at tourists in Jodhpur where we bought brightly coloured plain fabrics we were called back to share the 4 o’clock cup of ‘chai’. Masala tea sounds disgusting but it is so good, the tea and milk are brewed together and then spices and sugar are added, this particular one had a strong flavour of cardamon….

For the most part the ancient monuments are built either of marble or red-sandstone and are covered with decoration carved or inlaid which are a mine of ideas, shapes and forms which I hope will shape my work over the months to come. It was my second visit to the Taj Mahal but although it is impressive I hasn’t wowed me. We went to the baby Taj which was much more interesting , fewer people lovely carvings and totally unexpected. The Red Fort at Agra was much as I remembered it except that one of the best bits, the haveli was not open which was disappointing.

Fatehpur Sikri took me by surprise, to begin with there was a  tourist complex at the car-park and we had to take a bus, somehow we also landed up with a guide. There was both a temple and a palace, the complex is enormous and it isn’t all open to the public but there was more than enough to feast the eyes. On our way into Jaipur we stopped at the Hamamun or Monkey temple ; what a total surprise. It is very dilapidated and there are loads of monkeys, we didn’t go up to the higher part which was probably a mistake because it overlooks Jaipur. In its hey day it must have been stunning because it was highly decorated with paintings, it is built in a narrow gorge so the early evening shadows give it rather a sinister feel.

Jaipur and a visit to the City Palace where we decided to pay to see the private apartments which was well worth it. We walked up the seven stories on a ramp which spiralled its way up. The palace is amazing and it was even better seeing the private part, not only was it spectacular but due to the cost there were very few people there as well. The rest of the palace was very interesting, although the museums less so, and we had to pay extra to visit them!

We then moved on to Pushkar via the Barefoot college. Barefoot trains women to empower them even if they are illiterate, it was a really interesting visit even if we didn’t have the time to see it all. We saw the medical centre which services the surrounding villages, the solar cooker project and solar lamp project, the latter had 39 ladies from a dozen or so different countries all learning to make lamps without having a common language. We also visited the weaving shed and the communications department. Puppets are widely used to spread information to the villagers and the college has a wide range. On the way in to the college we were held up by a mass wedding, this is common in villages as it shares the costs of the big day, I didn’t count but there were at least 20 grooms on horse-back…

After a night in Pushkar and a wander through town where we found wood blocks and paint for the Holi festival we headed on to Jodhpur.

Our hotel had a roof-top restaurant with a stunning view of Mehrangarh Fort. The amount of carving was breathtaking was so much to see. Again the camera shutters were working over time and I have a library of design elements for future use. The size and scale of the work is breathtaking, there was ornamentation at every turn. The town which is known for its blue buildings has fewer now, they were painted blue originally to discourage termites from attacking the buildings, with modern materials this is less necessary but there are still very colour streets.

On our first evening we found an emporium stuffed full of textiles. We went in and were left alone to explore the piles of things laid out on the floor. When the other couple left we were given a ‘show and tell’ of textiles.


The guy wasn’t pushy and showed us all the different styles of local work and then samples of work for well known western fashion houses. We were blown away and later discovered that there are many shops like this in Jodhpur and in fact we had a second show the following day. The first guy gave the impression of being knowledgable and unusually wasn’t on a hard sell.

There was a local market which had loads of old saris for sale, we didn’t look closely but for the most part they seemed to be synthetic.

We headed back to Pushkar and spent a day happily printing our own blocks and looking at sari scraps at the Stitching Project with Fiona Wright. We had designed blocks a few months before leaving France and she had had them made up for us.


It was a lovely day, a real contrast from the bustle of the cities we had visited. On the Sunday we went for a walk with a local guide in the countryside outside  Pushkar, Mr Sharma at first thought that we were there for temple visit, but once we explained he changed gear, he was great and explained what is cultivated and explained a bit about Pushkar. Flowers play an important part and the roses had the most wonderful scent, one type used for rose petals and the other for rose water. Within walking distance we saw a lot more of the local life.away from tourists. Pushkar is noisy, full of tourists and temples and tinny music but it goes quiet at night and we really enjoyed staying right in the middle of town where we could sit and eat on the rooftop.


Back to Delhi for the last couple of days. Using the metro we headed off to the Red Fort; I was amazed as I had wrongly heard that it was swarming with tourists and hawkers, it was closer to Chandi Chowk than I had thought and there were very few hawkers. It was an interesting visit but I think that we had been spoiled by other palaces.

From there we decided to walk to Sadar bazar, buoyed up by the fact that the distances were smaller than I had thought we set off. We stopped en-route for lunch at Haldiman’s and a short rest. My map was accurate and before long we found ourselves in the spice market, from what everybody had said I had believed the spice market to be to one side of the Red Fort so that was a real surprise! What an experience, the air was full of spice and everybody was coughing and spluttering, it was a great experience.

From there we pushed our way through a local market to arrive at Sadar bazar and the thread shop I had wanted to visit.

Our last day was spent shopping, as if we hadn’t done enough, and visiting Hamayan’s tomb which was built before the Taj Mahal. It was a true haven of peace and a lovely way to pass the last afternoon.


This is just a summary of what we saw, I took so many photographs and got so many ideas, I just now need the time to work on them. Travelling in India has its frustrations, a driver who was lovely but seemed to have a better idea of what we wanted to do than we did, by the end he got used to us and our atypical approach India; roads which are much improved but despite the three lanes vehicles travel in which ever lane takes their fancy; cows doing their own thing; the noise of car horns due to lack of order in lanes; rickshaw drivers who are convinced that you can’t do without their services…. On the other hand the people are on the whole friendly and smiling and willing to help, one only has to look at the map in the metro and somebody is trying to help you; the colours are mind-blowing and the food delicious… Until my next visit.

Back at home I got my latest journal quilt finished, it is based on a textile print that I saw in the Anohki museum last time I was in India. I have used stitch and appliqué to reproduce the idea, the horizontal stitching is as on the original print.

Caroline Higgs-March-BW