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Weaving a new story

Weaving a new story investigates how mindful textile work can support mothers with post-natal depression.

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Textiles by Liz Finegold

Weaving a new story was a collaborative project between Dr Tamara Russell, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Neuroimaging at King’s, and artist and psychological therapist Liz Finegold, with support from Cocoon Family Support, a London based charity supporting those affected by post-natal depression (PND), and the Cultural Institute at King’s.

The project combined Tamara’s innovative approach to mindfulness training and Liz’s creative and artistic skills to develop a self-management program that saw Liz through her challenging time with PND. Through a collaborative process, Tamara and Liz created a mindful sewing and textiles intervention to help other women with PND. Coming out the other side of this experience, Liz wanted to draw on her skills as an artist and her experience working as a self-management facilitator and psychological therapist to help others who are in the same situation. 

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The project was designed with these factors in mind, offering a brief, time-limited training programme, complete with crèche. PND can affect up to one mum in eight. Mums can experience feelings of inadequacy, despondency and unending exhaustion; typical feelings of depression exacerbated by the real and immediate pressures of parenting. Paying attention to a single activity such as sewing can provide respite for those suffering from post-natal depression. The act of personally creating something can help to increase self-confidence as well as a skill set in textiles, which is especially powerful for new mothers with post-natal depression who are attempting to look after their child and build a nurturing relationship.

Along with the practical aspect of the project, both Tamara and Liz were keen to establish a strong theoretical position within the work so that it can really be understood how and why these seemingly fun and light-hearted activities have real therapeutic impact.

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Project workshops

Tamara and Liz held 10 sessions for mums with PND. Over the course of 10 weeks, the mums who chose to participate in the sessions were guided through a creative mindfulness-based programme designed to help combat difficult feelings.

Facilitated by Tamara and Liz, participants made quilts and sensory books to share with their babies and, at the same time, learn the basic tenets of mindfulness. All 10 sessions have now been completed with the mums and they have gained skills and knowledge with how to handle difficult life experiences and created handmade items to take home with them to use through the next stages of parenting. The textiles work created during the sessions will be combined into a quilt and exhibited to the public as part of a final project showcase in June 2017 (date and venue TBC). The quilt is being completed in collaboration with an artist based in Winchester. More details to come soon.

Each of the mums completed questionnaires assessing mood, parenting confidence and mindfulness during the sessions. Two Masters students from the IoPPN are now analysing the data and conducting a focus group with participants later in the year.

On 31 March and 1 April 2017, Liz gave workshops as part of Tate Exchange, via the SLaM Arts programme, also supported by the Cultural Institute. Liz displayed some of the preliminary work from the sessions and ran two workshops with the general public that demonstrated the impact of the project.

Tamara has recently given three talks about the project: one to 25 MRC Psychiatry Trainees in the IoPPN, another to 80 GPs in a Pulse GP event and a third to 40 counsellors from RAPt (the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust). On 12 April, the project was presented as part of the Carers Forum in London, titled ‘The 5 Ways to Wellbeing’.

Project Events

Show and celebration, Saturday 3 June 2017, King's College London         On Saturday 3 June a celebration and show of the works that came out of the project workshops took place at The Conservatory, King's College Waterloo Campus. The event involved an open drop in for professionals in the morning and later a celebration for the participatory mums involved in the project which included an exhibition of the quilts and sensory books created in the workshops.

Exhibition 1, July 2017 - June 2018, Guy's Hospital Atrium 1                    Each of the mums contributed personalised squares to a quilt which became part of an art show for family and friends at King’s College London (see above).The quilt is currently being displayed in Atrium 1 of Guy’s Hospital until June 2018, with the support of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity. 

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Weaving sample by Liz Finegold

Project outcomes

The creation of the quilt and the final show allowed a common purpose and goal as well as a non-stigmatizing showcase for discussing the challenges of PND and the routes to recovery. Coming back to the creative intention was vital in keeping the work on track as it allowed flexibility and mindfully met the needs of the group and the mums.

The community created by the quilting processes was an important part of helping the participants help each other. Friendships formed, barriers went down and the shared experience of quilting (including across generations and cultures) allowed an experience that was deeply meaningful and therapeutic. Instead of being ashamed of not being a good mum, the participants were amazed at how they were able to contribute, help each other, encourage each other and really work together. 

This project has helped to inform more precisely the cognitive, emotional and meaning-making mechanisms that are part of the textiles work. It identified the specific features of the textiles work that have the deepest therapeutic impact. The project reinforced the intuition that the sewing act itself is inherently mindful, yet its impact (and especially clinical impact) can be maximized with the explicit addition of mindfulness and models to support the development of mindfulness. 

The project team are planning to showcase the work for three months in Guy’s Atrium 1 on the GSTT Exhibition Wall from 15 January - 29 April 2018. They will also continue to work with Cocoon who are planning to offer a version of this intervention to their service users towards the end of 2017. The team are also exploring the possibility of making a documentary film with the Wellcome Trust as well a publication through Tamara's publisher's Watkins. 

Read Tamara’s blogs about the project here and here, and follow the project on Twitter here.

Watch Liz Finegold introduce herself and the project in the videos below:



Project team

Dr Tamara Russell is mindfulness consultant and trainer and the Director of the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence, London. Trained as a research and clinical scientist, she brings a wealth of academic knowledge and skills to her innovative mindfulness applications in the community. Her research explores creative methods of sharing and increasing mindfulness in the context of mental wealth/health, performance and creativity. Her work includes group training programs as well as in-depth one to one trainings and coaching.

Liz Finegold is a psychological therapist, artist and mindfulness teacher with more than 14 years’ psychology experience in the NHS and third sector. She has a breadth of postgraduate clinical training in various psychological frameworks and in delivering individual and group therapy, as well as self-management mental health courses through the Health Foundation. Her research at universities has contributed to studies published in academic journals.

The clinical aspects of the project are supervised by Dr Jane Alderton, a Clinical Psychologist at Family Space in Brixton.

Cocoon Family Support Trustee Rosie Lowman is supporting recruitment and rooms for the project.


Weaving a new story is a collaboration between King’s College London Department of Neuroimaging and textile artist Liz Finegold, and is supported by Cocoon Family Support and the Culture Team at King’s.

Innovation in Arts, Health AND WELLBEING
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