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Case Study

Re/threading towards a sustainable future

Over 1000 young people participated in creating a city-wide trail of giant sequins.

From 13 January to 4 February, Re/thread: A Trail of Giant Sequins by artist Jessica Grady transformed the windows of 10 venues in Leicester’s city centre with artworks of children and young people from across Leicester.

In an interactive trail created by over 1000 local young participants, audiences could explore giant sequins while gaining valuable tips and tricks for reusing, upcycling and recycling textile materials. With the project tying in with our Re/action Festival in its aim to rethink our collective use of textiles and how to be more sustainable, we wanted to encourage more audiences to be aware of the little actions each one of us can take to make a difference. The artworks by the young participants and Jessica Grady were displayed all over Leicester’s city centre, accompanied by illustrations by De Montfort University Leicester student Isabel Quinn.

The outreach activities for the Re/thread project started in summer 2023, when artist Jessica Grady guided creative workshops for schools and community groups to promote eco-friendly learning in a fun and engaging way, which were adopted into the school’s and group’s activities throughout the autumn term. Artistically weaving their giant sequins into individual installation pieces for each venue, Jessica then created artworks for a trail around 10 venues in the city centre, including LCB Depot, Curve Theatre, Phoenix Leicester, Leicester Coffee House, The Y Theatre, Leicester Central Library, Button Boutique, St Martin’s Coffee Shop, King Richard III Visitor Centre and Leicester Gallery at De Montfort University.



To help tie the trail together for audiences to enjoy, Isabel Quinn’s illustration design was selected from De Montfort University’s student entries and was displayed alongside the artworks on the trail. Audience members could walk the trail in their own time and explore additional tips and ideas on reusing, upcycling and recycling of textile materials through the LoyalFree App over a period of three weeks. The launch day on 13 January additionally brought lots of creative activities to LCB Depot as part of Cultural Quarter Earlies, Leicester Gallery and Leicester Libraries for young audiences to the city centre.

As part of the installation process, we asked artist Jessica Grady and illustrator Isabel Quinn about the project:

What’s the inspiration behind the project and the design?

Jessica Grady: My ethos as an artist is to create work that uses rubbish and turns it into treasure, I use hand stitch in a contemporary way to create pattern and textures on different materials – I wanted to add this into a project that would champion sustainability as well as making a nod to Leicester’s textile heritage and the idea of reusing old clothing that has special memories. I believe stitch is a truly wonderful art medium that can be used by so many different ages and abilities, and the results of the project really showed this! Younger ones drew their stitches on paper and card showing the patterns created, whilst older ones stitched recycled materials together to create their beautiful giant sequins. 

Isabel Quinn: I find inspiration [for my design] from how people interact with each other. I love to add a sense of community into my design, I think it’s important that art can connect with everyone who views it!

Jessica, how did it feel to receive this great amount of sequins created by over 1000 local young children?

Jessica Grady: It was a fantastic and also very pleasing result to see how my initial workshops had reached so many children and young people, and also great to see how they had taken my ideas and suggestions and made them their own! 

What processes did you go through to develop your work from the original sketch to the actual artwork in the windows, Isabel?

Isabel Quinn: Before I start any illustration, I create mood boards of what I feel is most important, in this case I started by looking at Leicester’s famous textile history. Then I sketch ideas that could represent the hard-working community that worked in Leicester’s historic industrial factories. From here I have fun exploring styles that feel joyful and can relate to us all today!



What was the process of creating the installations for 10 very different venue windows?

Jessica Grady: Each installation had to suit the type of space that it was in, including how used the space was, visibility through the window, physical size and impact and challenges with weather for any that were outside. I worked closely with the team at Art Reach who gave measurements and images of each venue, which was followed by an on-site visit to see the spaces in the flesh. This really helped with actually visualising what the final installs were going to look like. I was also dictated by the materials that the giant sequins were made from, floppy soft sequins made from fabric had to be assembled in a different way to more stiff, paper and card sequins. Each installation was created uniquely for the venue and involved hand stitching, machine stitching, layering and knotting sequins, ribbons and extra materials together. 

Were there any challenges you came across in your process, Jessica?

Jessica Grady: As I conducted the workshops in an online format, I didn’t actually see what giant sequins had been produced until they arrived from the Art Reach team in my studio, so they were a complete surprise! The amount of sequins was a challenge as I had to take over 800 completely unique sequins and transform them into 10 cohesive yet unique installations that were appropriate for each venue space, looked great, gave a wow factor and also showed off the sequins too! I also added my own artistic voice into this with the building process, with extra sequins, embellishments and additions to make the trail look as best as I could. Some of the venues were very large spaces, such as the Curve, so that needed a large-scale installation which could be viewed from inside as well as outside of the space and not look lost! 

A number of giant sequins hanging next to each other from the ceiling in the artist's workshop.

Image: Jessica Grady

Isabel, how did it feel to see your illustrations on the windows of venues all around the city centre?

Isabel Quinn: This is my first time experiencing a collaborative project, as a designer just starting out, I really appreciate the help and guidance from the whole team at Art Reach. Re/thread is a beautiful idea, I’m so happy that I was able to be part of it!

What did you want visitors to take away from it?

Isabel Quinn: I wanted to strengthen Re/thread’s goal to encourage reuse of textiles in a joyful way, taking visitors on an illustrative journey about working together to better our planet. I hope that these fun illustrations can help direct conversations surrounding a positive change in how we treat our planet!



What’s been your favourite part of the project?

Jessica Grady: My favourite part of the project has been seeing the creativity and inventiveness of all the children and young people who have taken part in the workshops and made their own giant sequins. It has been so much fun to guess all the recycled materials that have been used (including a Tesco Clubcard I spotted!!) and also the joyous colours, shapes and patterns that are so brilliant and fun! 

Isabel Quinn: I’m someone who loves to get hands on, so helping to install some of the designs on the windows was such a great experience! I got to meet with the team from Art Reach and some of the local businesses participating, the community surrounding the project is full of amazing people and made my experience even better!

You can find out more about Jessica Grady’s fantastic work on her website here.


The Re/thread trail was made possible thanks to support from all of the artists and participants. Huge thanks to partners BID Leicester for sharing the trail on the Loyal Free App and De Montfort University Graphic Design (Illustration) Department and students.

Materials donated by, and thanks goes to Shibori Masters Dye and Wash House, Net Good City and Tracy Ward Textiles LTD.

Thanks to all hosting venues for the generosity, support and positivity. Thanks also for project funding from Arts Council England, The National Lottery Community Fund plus Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation.

Giant sequins displayed in a window, in three hoops hanging from a balcony.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at Phoenix Leicester.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at LCB Depot.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at St Martin's Coffee Shop.
Giant sequins displayed in a hoop around the logo of King Richard III Visitor Centre.
Sequins displayed in a window above the Municipal Library sign.
Illustrations of two hands in yellow and red holding our planet drawn onto a window, with it's shadow reflecting on the inside wall.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at The Y Theatre, with some colourful illustrations of the recycling sign on the bottom.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at Leicester Coffee House, with some colourful illustrations of the recycling sign on the bottom.
Giant sequins displayed hanging in a window at the Button Boutique, with some colourful illustrations of the recycling sign on the bottom, and a sign saying Button Boutique next to the window.
A giant sequins in a hoop, displayed hanging in the window of Leicester Gallery.