A Stitch in Time poster

‘A Stitch in Time’ - A series of workshops as part of the Arts & Older People Programme, at Void Gallery, Derry

Over the coming weeks, Void will be presenting a series of workshops as part of the ACNI funded Arts & Older People Programme titled ‘A Stitch in Time’. 'A Stitch in Time' will be a multi-disciplinary contemporary art project that incorporates textiles, filmmaking, painting, drawing, storytelling & poetry, print-making, reminiscence and exhibition. A team of experienced and trained artist facilitators will work with participants from the third & fourth age sectors including: active age groups, nursing homes, day care centres, community groups, carers associations and government funded bodies. We will work both onsite in Void as well as in offsite locations, bringing the gallery and this project to people who cannot physically come to Void. 


  • ‘Utility Quilting Project’ with Tina McLaughlin, Every Thursday – 12-4pm, 15 March – 3 May (publicly accessible)
  • ‘Writing Workshops’ with Denise Blake, Every Tuesday, 1-4pm, 10 April – 1 May (publicly accessible)
  • ‘Handkerchief Dyeing and Mark Making’ with Karen Cassidy, Seven Oaks Care Centre, Every Tuesday, 11:15-1:15pm, 15 March – 3 May
  • ‘Hand-Printed History’ with Stephanie Gaumond, Age Concern Causeway, Every Monday, 12:30-2:30pm, 16 April – 14 May
  • ‘Shadow Screens’ with Mhairi Sutherland, Age Concern Causeway, Every Wednesday, 2:30-4:30pm, 11 April – 9 May
  • Louise Walsh, Reconnecting and conducting interviews with the women she worked with in 2013, more TBC

At the turn of the 20th century, Derry's skyline was dominated by the smoke rising from the chimneys of the city's shirt factories. More than 30 firms in Derry made shirts and collars, employing in the region of 7,000 women / girls and thousands more out-workers in surrounding districts. A female workforce powered much of the industrial development of Derry, and produced some of the finest shirts in the world. 


Derry was and still is, rightly proud of its world-famous shirt-making tradition. As a highly regarded contemporary art gallery located in one of the city's largest and only remaining shirt factories, we are eager to develop an inclusive project using contemporary art to reflect upon the historical, cultural and social significance of the linen industry here. 


It has huge meaning that this programme will take place in one of the city's largest shirt factories. Void is located in the City Shirt Factory which runs the length of Patrick Street in Derry. It's a very well known four-storey brown and yellow brick building, four elegant art nouveau-style lampposts in muted green line the pavement outside. The City Shirt Factory which was opened by McIntyre, Hogg & Co. in Queen Street in 1863 employed thousands of men and women over the next 130 years or so. 


From having regular conversations with people who are connected to this factory, our aim with this project is to be able to promote social inclusion and honour that relationship between the people in this area and the building that we now inhabit. It seems that this is our absolute responsibility, to take the stories and the people who are still very much active and engaged in society, and provide a space for the telling and creation of their story in a way that bears witness to the thousands of women and men who inhabited this building before Void came along. 


We see ourselves as strengthening the voice of older people in this way. We are aware that there are other archives to the Linen Industry for example in the Tower Museum, but the fact remains that this building is a physical shirt factory that one can still enter. We must create avenues for contemporary exploration, creative programming and social inclusion. 


This project gives centre stage and a platform to the voices of the participants as it gathers and archives their stories, experiences, histories and skills through a range of mediums. Their lived experiences is at the heart of the project.


Breakdown of Workshops


Void will be running workshops with community groups as well as those which are open to the public.


  • ‘Utility Quilting Project’ with Tina McLaughlin, Every Thursday – 12-4pm, 15 March – 3 May (publicly accessible)

During this 8 week programme participants will learn, explore, and experiment with a method called Strip Piecing. Strip piecing is an easy way for using your scraps to create interesting and lively fabric arrangements. Traditionally used to make Utility Quilts, strip piecing also lends itself to many contemporary designs.


Please note: this project is supported by the Arts & Older People Programme. It is therefore only open to participants aged 60+.


Further Information:


Ireland's long tradition of making patchwork quilts grew rapidly out of both thrift and necessity. From the late 1800s Derry had many shirt factories and their goods were exported all over the world. With the increase in production came an increase of off-cuts, and so sacks of remnants became available for purchase at the factory shop, sold by weight. The workers made patchwork in their spare time and stories were told about men on bicycles that picked them up and sold them for their makers. These quilts were often referred to as Shirt Patchwork or Derry Quilts. The early Quilts made from scraps provide a great insight into the Northern Irish Textile Industry. They are now a social historical document reminding us of a different lifetime.




Tina is a Derry-based textile artist and ex-factory worker. She has project managed the shirt factory project 2013 and has taught many community-based quilt-making workshops.


This project is running as part of 'A Stitch in Time' – funded by The Arts Council, The Baring Foundation, and the Public Health Agency.


  • ‘Writing Workshops’ with Denise Blake, Every Tuesday, 1-4pm, 10 April – 1 May (publicly accessible)

Did you – or your mother, aunt, or grandmother – work in a shirt factory? Do you remember the sounds and the smells; the touch of the materials, the hardships and the good times?


Void Gallery would love to help draw out your memories and stories to share them as part of a wider art project. We are planning a series of workshops for storytelling and creative writing in a safe, relaxing atmosphere with a writing facilitator.


The workshops will be held on Tuesdays in April and are open to people of any age and experience. If you are interested, or know someone who would be interested, please contact hello@derryvoid.com.


Please note: this project is supported by the Arts & Older People Programme. It is therefore only open to participants aged 60+.


This project is running as part of 'A Stitch in Time' – funded by The Arts Council, The Baring Foundation, and the Public Health Agency.


****** The above workshops are publicly accessible and Void are still taking bookings for them. The workshops are FREE but are aimed at women who are 60+. Anyone who is outside of this remit may still be considered if the workshops are not fully subscribed or if someone cancels so any interested parties should email (hello@derryvoid.com), phone (028 71308080)or call into Void (Tues-Sat 11am-5pm). *******


  • ‘Handkerchief Dyeing and Mark Making’ with Karen Cassidy, Seven Oaks Care Centre, Every Tuesday, 11:15-1:15pm, 15 March – 3 May
  • ‘Hand-Printed History’ with Stephanie Gaumond, Age Concern Causeway, Every Monday, 12:30-2:30pm, 16 April – 14 May

This will comprise of a five week textile printing workshop inspired by the history, people, and stories behind the shirt factories.


  • ‘Shadow Screens’ with Mhairi Sutherland, with Age Concern Causeway, Every Wednesday, 2:30-4:30pm, 11 April – 9 May

This series of off-site workshops will deepen the engagement begun with this group who were involved with the ‘Showing Stories’ Engage programme (https://vimeo.com/183291104), based on the Katrina Palmer exhibition (2016) in Void. The Shirt Factory theme is connected through the ideas of collective working and the use of fabric materials for projection, and the ‘weaving’ of new narrative from memories and experiences. 


‘Shadow Screens’ will explore participants’ memories and experiences of cinema and/or the shirt factory industry in Coleraine. Developing individual and collective themes based on cinematic/working life memories or recollections, the practical process will involve cast shows, silhouettes, cut-outs, and using overhead and digital projectors to experiment with creating small films, using drawing, light, shadow and coloured filters. There may be potential to explore the history, or possibly use materials from some of the three former shirt factories that operated in Coleraine, the last of which closed in 2008;


“The factories have inevitably dwindled to nothing,” he said. “As well as our own factory, there were three others — Novus Styles, Wright’s and Coleraine Shirt Company, all of which closed at the turn of the millennium.

“They employed between 300 and 400, but they are all gone. My role now is to settle bills and try to sell off the machinery. I did sell off some at rock-bottom prices and the rest will simply be for scrap.”

The programme will include a visit to the Rosa Barba exhibition in Void in March 2018, and an introduction to the Shirt Factory history of the Void premises in Patrick Street. References would include – in addition to Rosa Barba’s work – artists such as Edward Hopper, Susan Hiller, Bridget Smith, Tactita Dean and Douglas Gordon, visually introduced through a slideshow presentation.


  • Louise Walsh, Photographs in Time, time & date TBC
  • This project will see artist Louise Walsh continue her collaboration with former factory workers. Each member will be invited to bring a photograph of their time in the Factory which will be added to a factory archive. Louise will  record  interviews with the factory workers to add to her existing archive from 2013 Her drawings from that period will be exhibited and listening stations of former interviews will be available to listen to reviving the history of the factories.