Spare rib and subversive stitching: feminist strategies to documentary film-making

Broadhead, Samantha ORCID logoORCID: and Hooper, Sharon ORCID logoORCID: (2015) Spare rib and subversive stitching: feminist strategies to documentary film-making. [Video]


The output is a creative project comprising a short, independent film and a paper. The film captures a conversation between two women about the influence of Spare Rib magazines and Rozika Parker’s book, The Subversive Stitch, on their sewing practice and their politics. Research Process: Prior to publishing her book, Parker was writing about the relationships between craft, textiles and art in the late 70s and this was situated alongside other feminist discourses within Spare Rib (such as work; sexuality; violence; control over reproduction; education). Rozika Parker’s narrative research methodology in The Subversive Stitch and the predominance of women’s narrative in the film make connections between both the content and formal aspects of both. One participant rediscovers her personal archive of Spare Rib, artefacts from an ‘analogue’ age, and reconsiders herself through the lens of her younger, more radical self. A conversation about shared learning experiences gives rise to the women’s individual journeys and the film nods to cross- generational feminism and women learning from our feminist and embroidered past. Research Insights: It is a practice-based research outcome that explores women’s narrative and its effect on both content and aesthetic aspects of practice across stitching and film-making. Therefore, the form and content of the film are informed by its subject and line of research enquiry. In tandem with the film, a paper, Feminist Strategies to Documentary Film Making, was also produced. This argues that feminist documentary film has often been excluded from dominant feminist film discourse in favour of those films employing non-traditional techniques of distanciation. The paper argues for recognition of documentary as important representations of political voices and feminist testimonies since the 1970s. Dissemination: Radical Film Network conference, Birmingham University, 2015. The Textile Society Symposium, Armitage Centre, Fallowfield, Manchester, 2015. The Process Continues, Leeds Arts University, 2015.

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