A tapestry which depicts every building in Wharf Road and Fore Street is testament to the talents of members of the St Ives in Stitches group. In years to come, it will be a lasting memento of a particular time in the life of the town.

St Ives Stitches Jo

St Ives in Stitches is a community project set up in 2017 by textile artist Jo McIntosh (pictured above), who has several years’ experience of running workshops in weaving, fabric dyeing, felt-making, and other crafts. Jo invited participants to take a photo of a building in Wharf Road which they wanted to represent in a medium of their choice, and gave them each a ten-inch square of calico. Some chose a building that had a family connection; others chose one just because they liked it.    

The squares were then stitched together to create a magnificent tapestry — and then the enthusiastic crafters said to Jo: “Can we do Fore Street now?” This second stage of the project, which began in 2019, was hampered both by Covid and the fire which gutted the Salvation Army hall, the group’s meeting place.

But as Jo says: “Everyone had their piece of fabric they could work on at home, and that kept them going through lockdown.” The final pieces were completed at the end of August this year, ready for the finished tapestry to be exhibited at St Ives Library during the September Festival.   

“I started the project because I wanted something that wasn’t just an embroidery or patchwork group, but also brought people of all ages together — people who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as creatives,” says Jo. “Whenever someone said ‘I can’t sew!’, I would say: ‘There are no stitch police, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like on the back, because no one will see the back!

“I had a lot of pleasure seeing people’s confidence grow. They all enjoyed what they were doing — which is what I wanted — and I am amazed with the results. It’s a historical document, because some of the shops have already changed: this project has been a way of capturing a moment in time. I’m now hoping to find a home for the tapestry — it would be lovely if it could be permanently on display.”

“I chose to stitch Brocante, because in the 1960s, when part of the building was Thomas the bakers, and my mother worked there for a couple of summer seasons. Also, in the 1970s, there was a shop which sold gifts and silk for needlework, and my husband Greg and I used to go into this shop on our day off. I often came out with a soft toy which Greg had bought me. The bear in the window of my stitches is a happy reminder of those days.”

Valerie Canavan, nee Paynter, a member of the St Ives in Stitches group  

St Ives in Stitches was funded with help from the Salvation Army, which provided the hall free of charge; Cornwall councillor Andrew Mitchell, who allocated money from his community grant pot; and Tesco Bags for Life.