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Using Textiles to Bring Communities Together in Leeds

Guiseley-based artist Abigail James talks about her project as a part of My World My City My Neighbourhood.  

Following 18 happy and fulfilling years’ working as a primary school teacher and arts co-ordinator in Leeds, last year I made the leap to teaching independently and working as a textile artist from my home studio.   

I passionately believe in the importance of the Arts for well-being, confidence and creativity.  I wanted to lead a project in Guiseley that would connect people, engage their creativity and celebrate their achievement in learning a new skill. The result is ‘Yarns Well Spun’, a community crochet project that features three linked art installations, created by 54 eager makers inspired by Remembrance Sunday.  

The idea to do something linked to Remembrance evolved in the crochet groups I was running. I was keen to open up this project to the wider community and the response was absolutely fantastic, with more and more people deciding to get involved from across the area. Some are beginners, some more advanced and they range in age from 9 to over 70. Together they have created 370 individual crocheted poppies and squares which have been carefully sewn together to create different installations that are in place in three significant Guiseley locations, including in the Remembrance gardens, for this weekend. 

The first piece for Yarns Well Spun The first piece on a ‘natter bench’ in Parkinson’s Park.

As the crochet groups got to know each other and started to talk about their interests, we learnt from those who have lived here all their lives that Guiseley has a strong history with yarn, and how wool defined the area. It became clear that in bringing people together through yarn, once again we were sharing stories and skills, something that we had all missed more than ever over the last year. 

We worked closely with the Guiseley branch of the Royal British Legion and all three local churches, as the three locations for ‘Yarns Well Spun’ held special significance for them. The first piece is on a special ‘natter bench’ in Parkinson’s Park. The second and largest installation is on the Guiseley Cross at the end of Town Street. Finally, the third installation is around the lamppost next to the Guiseley Wells. All of the installations are within a 20-minute walk of each other and offer a tiny Guiseley Town Trail. 

Working together we felt connected to each other, to our community and by being part of the ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ project for LEEDS 2023, to our city. That commissions like ours are going on across the city gives us a sense of belonging, helping us feel grounded and connected to other areas after feeling cut off. I also like seeing what other artists and makers are doing, how they are telling the stories of their local areas and people, the similarities and differences.  

I love that yarn is the thread connecting everyone in Guiseley once again and look forward to planning further installations and getting more people involved. 

‘Yarns Well Spun’ is in place now and can be seen until 11th December. For more details visit