Commissioned for the V&A Quilts 1700 -2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

“The painstaking hand-stitched text adds a layer of humour that thinly veils a stark social statement: ‘She had the weight of the world on her shoulders’ accompanies an image of weighing scales, while ‘She was programmed to do it all’ sits alongside a television set.” Sue Prichard, curator

How Many Times is centred on research relating to women, the workplace and the home. It asks the question, are women happy with their working lives in the 21st century? The results of a questionnaire were surprising, 8 out of 10 women who worked full-time said they would prefer not to work, and 50% of women who had part-time jobs said they would prefer not to work at all.

The research that Caren does before embarking on a piece of work is extensive, and key to the outcome. Before commencing ‘How Many Times Do I Have to Repeat Myself’, a quilt commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum for their landmark exhibition ‘Quilts 1700-2010’, Caren compiled a vast body of material comprising questionnaires, archive research and interviews. For Caren, ‘The practice is the embodiment of the research’. Professor Melanie Miller, Hand Stitch Perspectives

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Photo credits above: Sussie Ahlburg

Photo credits above: Sussie Ahlburg

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Women contributed to the quilt but instead of stitching (historically they would have stitched together in ‘Sewing Bees’) they were asked to supply fluff from the inside of their tumble driers. This relates to the domestic side of women’s lives, doing the washing, drying, sorting and folding. The collected fluff was then trapped between the layers of the quilt in the same way as some women are trapped into working due to financial pressures when in fact they would prefer to be at home (according to research). Fluff was also used because in the past women were sometimes called ‘Bits of Fluff’. Every woman that contributed to the quilt has had their name hand stitched onto a long ‘care’ label giving them the recognition that was lacking for our foremothers who made incredible quilts but remained anonymous.

In-situ at the V&A

In-situ at the V&A

Measurement: 220cm x 220cm

Process: Hand stitch, hand drawing, photographic silkscreen printing

Materials: Textile, silk threads, quilting cotton, wadding, tumble-drier lint, binder, pigments

Exhibited in:

Quilts 1700-2010, V&A, London (2010)

Construct, Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire, North Wales (2014)

Abode, Walford Mill Craft, Wimborne, Dorset (2015)