Unravelling Women’s Art


A bestselling book which gives a unique overview of women’s textile art history including embroidery, weaving, soft sculpture and more. Includes over 20 interviews with contemporary textile artists, providing insight into their practices, themes and personal motivations.



Unravelling Women’s Art

Creators, Rebels & Innovators in Textile Arts
P.L. Henderson

The author unpicks the threads that link female textile artists and the arts they produce, revealing a global and historic patchwork of assorted roles, identities and representations. Entertaining as well as informative, this book offers a unique look at women in art with an overview of female-centric textile art production including embroidery, weaving, soft sculpture and more. Includes over 20 interviews with contemporary textile artists, providing insight into their practices, themes and personal motivations.

Tells us:
How knitting became a spying device in wartime
Why dress design was so important for the Suffragettes
Why women and their textile arts were entangled in a web of global mythology
How women’s arts and crafts moved from the backroom to the gallery showroom

Includes over 20 interviews with contemporary textile artists, providing fascinating insights into their practices, themes and personal motivation.


Chapter 1 Representation

Mia Hansson, Frances MacDonald, Margaret MacDonald, Ann Macbeth, Meret Oppenheim, Sonia Delaunay, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Rebecca Crompton, Constance Howard, Miriam Schapiro, Faith Ringgold, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Michelle Kingdom, Jenni Dutton, Miao Ruiyan, Han Ximeng, Shen Shou, Jessica So Ren Tang, Sandra Chung Nga-shan, Lin Tianmiao, Sheena Liam/Times New Romance, Laura Sanchez Filomeno, Ana Teresa Barboza, Ekaterina Penzina, Irem Yazici, Teresa Lim, Faith Ringgold, Harriet Powers.

Interviewees – Jenni Dutton, Sheena Liam/Time New Romance, Michelle Kingdom, Maryam Ashkanian.

Chapter 2 Indigenous

Britta Marakatt-Labba, Marion Tuu’luq, Xao Yang Lee, Mata Aho Collective, Christi Belcourt, Melissa Cody, Anna Brown Ehlers, Gina Adams.

Interviewees – Melissa Peter Paul, Britta Marakatt-Labba, Gina Adams.

Chapter 3 Nature

Louise Bourgeois, Kate Faulkner, May Morris, Jane Morris, Vanessa Bell, Cressida Bell, Laura Ashley, Janine McAullay Bott, Kiki Smith, Moy Mackay, Sophie Standing, Kimika Hara,  Annalisa Bollini.

Interviewees – Meredith Woolnough, Karin Celestine, Rachel Wright.

Chapter 4 Politics

Sonya Clark, Sara Rahbar, Jessie Newberry, Mary Lowndes, Jae Jarrell, Betye Saar, Faith Wilding, Nancy Youdelman, Gert McMullin, Thalia Campbell, Alison Saar, Betsy Greer, Sarah Corbett, Marianne Jorgensen, Leah Dixon, Lea McComas, Mireille Honein, Hayv Kahraman, Shan Goshorn, Sayraphim Lothian.

Interviewees – Betsy Greer, Rachelle Romeo, Sophie Neville, Diana Weymar

Chapter 5 Fashion

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Emilie Flöge, Sonia Delaunay, Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Yoko Ono, Mary Quant, Terese Agnew, Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, Jaime Black, Shelley Niro, Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings, Cindy Sherman, Frida Kahlo, Kate Daudy, Adriana Marmorek, Amal Kenawy, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Nora Fok, Sylvie Facon, Tracie Peisley

Interviewee – Mariko Kusumoto

Chapter 6 Identity

Jessie M. King, Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers, Ottie Berger, Liubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova, Embroiderers of Actuality, Gee’s Bend quilters, Judith Scott, Wu Tsang, Harmony Hammond, Victoria Udondian, Marinka Masséus, Jessica So Ren Tang.~

Interviewees – Alia Ali, Rachelle Romeo

Chapter 7 Sculpture & Installation

Tracey Emin, Nancy Spero, Senga Nengudi, Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendieta, Mona Hatoum, Sheila Hicks, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Dorothy Tanning, Kaarina Kaikkonen, Guerrilla Girls, Mary Sibande, Mary Sibande, Léa Donnan, Ghada Amer, Kimsooja, Chiharu Shiota, Jeongmoon Choi, Rivane Neuenschwander, Ana Teresa Barboza, Joana Vasconcelos, Roxanne Jackson, Maya Gelfman.

Interviewees – Permindar Kaur, Bryony Jennings, Ana Teresa Barboza

Chapter 8 Recycling

Edith Meusnier, Atefeh Khas, Tara Goodarz, Parisa Rajabian, Hillary Waters Fayle, Susanna Bauer, Heather Riniker, Bisa Butler, Stacey Sharman, Vanessa Barragão, Hoda Zarbaf, Anne Kelly, Elizabeth Morisette, Diana Yevtukh, Maura Grace Ambrose, Jiseon Lee Isbara, Karine Jollet, Yin Xiuzhen, Diana Scherer.

Interviewees – Vanessa Barragão, Anne Kelly

Chapter 9 Weird & Wonderful

Susie Freeman, Anna Dumitriu, Rebecca Eakinsmeaden, Natalie Baxter, Ruth Marshall, Ipnot, Lucy Sparrow, Aheneah, Magda Sayeg, Carol Hummel, Olek, The Herne Bay Cosy Crew, Profanity Embroidery Group.

Interviewees – Susie Freeman, Profanity Embroidery Group.


P.L. Henderson was born in the North of England and in her early career entered the field of environmental work. Her skills in music also led to involvement in the creation of music workshops aimed at empowering girls in economically deprived areas. A personal interest in drawing and also cultural histories, during the years bringing up her son, led to a period of part-time study culminating in gaining a BA in Art History through the Open University. Inspired by feminist art theorist pioneers, P.L. Henderson began an investigation of often invisible women artists, which resulted in the creation of the successful and necessary social media project @womensart1 to platform their work.

Presently living in Lisbon, Portugal with her partner whilst working as a freelance writer, she regularly contributes to publications such as ‘Resurgence & Ecologist’ magazine, ‘Art UK’ and ‘Culture Matters’ on topics of art, ecology and social justice. Whilst having a case study published in the book Feminism and Museums, Intervention, Disruption and Change (2017), she was also one of the writing team for Phaidon’s book Great Women Artists (2019).

She is creator/curator of #WOMENSART, see https://womensartblog.wordpress.com.


“Unravelling Women’s Art isn’t only a compelling read, although it is indeed just that. Its focus on the creators, rebels and innovators who have added to the powerful canon of works – by women – in, of and about textiles is comprehensively referenced, elegantly constructed into meaningful and valuable sub-genres, and populated with illuminating examples of both known and lesser-known women practitioners. A timely and attractive publication, Unravelling Women’s Art lives up to its title, un-peeling, un-doing and un-tangling a complex and expanded territory, making delightful work of revealing its joyous, eclectic and culturally vital secrets, polemics, and fine and delicious conversations!”

– Professor Catherine Harper, University for the Creative Arts.

“We’re in a time of #imitation of ‘#influence’ in which people crave acceptance by others – afraid to go against the herd.
The Herd Rules. This great book is about the rebels, the pioneers, the loners.” – Bonnie Greer, writer

“The book I had to dive straight into when I got it was Unravelling Women’s Art by P.L. Henderson, and a fascinating read it is. Looking at the way craft and art was separated and how textile art has developed through the years with wonderful artist interviews.” – Indie Bookshops and Publishers, end of week roundup

“It’s a thrilling story – exploring the global and historic patchwork of assorted female roles, identities and representations expressed through the needle arts so long overlooked, and covering female-centric textile art production including embroidery, weaving, soft sculpture and knit, not just in the western canon but in cultures around the world.

Not merely a scholarly text, its ambitious scope makes for a compelling read, thanks to Henderson’s exuberance in championing women’s textile art.”   Pg 57 March/April 2022 | Embroidery (embroiderymagazine.co.uk)

PL Henderson Celebrates Female Textile Artists Throughout History in New Book, ‘Unravelling Women’s Art’ – PRINT Magazinehttps://www.printmag.com/designer-interviews/unravelling-womens-art/

Four Seasons Magazine – Issue 3 2021 – page 42 (fourseasonsmagazine-digital.com)

Books About Great Women for the Art Lovers on Your List – Woman Around Town

Art book recommendations #1. The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington, Tove Jansson: Work and Love, Unravelling Women’s Art. – Ground Impressions (home.blog)


End of Week Round-up #17 (substack.com)

Unravelling Women’s Art: Creators, Rebels, & Innovators In Textile Arts | Mr X Stitch

Widewalls https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/pl-henderson-unravelling-womens-art-creators-rebels-innovators-in-textile-arts

#WomensArt | book word

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