Nigel Cheney: Tool kit -

Nigel Cheney: Tool kit

Nigel Cheney: Tool kit

‘Tool kit’ is a new series for

Each edition will explore some of the primary tools used by our favourite textile artists, including descriptions of the item, brand name, specific models, and year, if applicable.

In this second edition of ‘Tool kit’ we get a firsthand look at some of the most valuable equipment used by Nigel Cheney.

To see the first edition, have a look at: Rachel Parker: Tool kit


Item 1 – Pencil

Brand: Absolutely any… there are drawers full, in college, at home, at my parent’s home in England… but I can never seem to find even one when I want one!

Model: They range everything from compressed charcoal and graphite sticks, through to mechanical pencils.

Year: Some are little stubs of things 20 years old that I can’t bear to be rid of.

How do you use this item in your practice?

My work always begins with drawing.

Why do you use this specific item?

I enjoy working with a wide range of media in creating artworks, filling notebooks and developing ideas but nothing is ever really as satisfying as a graphite on paper. If stitching were as fast then maybe it wouldn’t matter as much but the ideas come so fast that there needs to be something more fluid to describe them.

And where did you buy it from?

I buy them all the time from random shops, art suppliers and stationers and there always seem to be some wrapped up as Christmas presents…. I’m fickle, no brand loyalty.

Item 2 – Needles and scissors

Brand: Here I am, even more fickle. I can’t separate needles from scissors. I always need both tools at the same time. With these there are paper scissors, fabric scissors, tiny needlework ones through to great bog fabric shears… and I always seem to have the wrong ones with me, and someone else has always made them blunt.

Model: Sharps and ‘tweens. I’m a sucker for a short needle. It seems to baffle people how you thread the small ones, but I don’t like big or long needles. Obviously with more than a few strands of thread you need something more substantial and there are packets of various sizes in the boxes, drawers and bags that house supplies.

Year: I like to work a hand needle in. I don’t really like it until it’s so bent that it’s about to break, and then I sulk and start again.

How do you use this item in your practice?

Embellishment, embroidery, and construction. Needles can do anything.

Why do you use this specific item?

Hand stitch always comes into play somewhere in the evolution of a piece.

And where did you buy it from?

There is an amazing man with a market stall back home in Market Harborough. He has a wonderful range of needles and haberdashery so I love to buy from there. I’m sure he thinks I must eat them.

Macbook Pro

Item 3 – Laptop

Brand: Apple

Model: Mac Book Pro (15 inch)

Year: Is it really bad I can’t remember? It’s at least four years old, maybe older…

How do you use this item in your practice?

It does everything… apart from making the tea, but I’m sure there is an app somewhere for that, too.

Manipulating images for notebook development, the endless paperwork that goes with making and exhibiting anything these days and for working with digital images and readying them for printing in Adobe Photoshop.

As a full time lecturer, it is also a place for research, accessing the world outside the college walls, communicating, and moaning with the world.

Why do you use this specific item?

I have three computers, and yes I’d like to update and replace them all. The laptop I’m on now, the iMac in the work room that tends to just deal with music, and a rubbish PC netbook back in England for when I’m back there.

And where did you buy it from?

Somewhere online.

closeup of hands on tablet searching eBay

Item 4 – eBay

How do you use this item in your practice?

So you may not think this is a tool, but it’s invaluable in sourcing material for me. Increasingly, everything I make has some element of reclaimed or re-purposed material in it.

Why do you use this specific item?

Recently I’ve become increasingly interested in not only the surface of cloth but the manner and context that contains it; display of the work and the actual material it is made from are vital elements. I love second hand shops, but recently they seem to have just got rubbish. I also enjoy the stalking element of eBay. I only buy and never sell things. My poor mother loses sleep over the amount of packages that go to her house. Postage to Ireland is rubbish and many sellers won’t do it, and I don’t blame them as the price is ludicrous.

And where did you buy it from?

I love that you don’t know who is selling an item on eBay; therefore, you are seduced by the object and not vendor.

Item 5 – Computerised sewing machine

Brand: Brother

Model: PE600

Year: 2000

How do you use this item in your practice?

It’s the college machine and I’ve spent time with it to train myself so I can get students to see its potential. It’s older than God and the laptop that runs the software is like something from the stone age.

Why do you use this specific item?

This is the most readily available machine to sample with, but I do outsource production of the actual work, getting them stitched anywhere that has a machine and is competitive on price. The difficult bit is digitizing and sampling so that’s why I work late into the evenings and on research days in college to develop the design work.

And where did you buy it from?

Susan O’Sullivan in Bray. She’s a legend! Only person I would trust in Ireland to service it.

To get in touch with Nigel and for more information please visit:

To read our 2-part interview with Nigel go to: Part 1 – Nigel Cheney interview: Manipulate, construct, embellish and Part 2 – Nigel Cheney Interview: Bombarded with distractions

Let us know us know whose ‘Tool kit’ you would like to examine next by leaving a comment below.

Friday 30th, October 2020 / 03:57

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe


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