Looking After Our Teeth.


Yes my friends, it is not the sort of picture you want to see on this website.  Fascinating though it is, most of us feel slightly guilty when looking at it. I know I am overdue for a visit to the dentist by well over a year. Here’s another one..


It’s bad enough for the bravest of us, but what happens if you are an adult with learning difficulties and you have a terrible tooth ache?   Understanding the cause of the pain, and the restorative work need to fix it is not easy. The pain is in your head, the tools make funny noises, the lights shine in your eyes as you are made to lie down.  So what has this got to do with textiles?

Well..these diagrams are the patterns we used for participation in the East London  Textile Arts Dentistry project.  Many of you will be familiar with East London Textile Arts as they have worked with Prick Your Finger exhibitions a few times now.

email invite st Martin's 2015 East London Textile Arts were approached by a dentist who specialized in working with Adults with learning difficulties.  She had seen the work which Celia Ward and her team had made with these groups and wondered if a textile project would prepare patients for treatment.

Celia invented ‘The Tooth Witch’ and invited us to work with her students on making teeth.  Pictured above is the invite to a show staring the ‘Tooth Witch’ at St Martins in the Fields, Trafalgar Square.  The Tooth Witch is now on a major tour and is extracting knitted teeth at Prick Your Finger next week.

ELTAgroup2So here are the ELTA Adults with learning difficulties and their carers, who meet in a church hall out in Newham.  They didn’t like working on teeth to begin with but now they have got used to it, they find it funny.



The Tooth Witch herself is terrifying.  Her head is made with Papier Mache by Sarah, and her teeth flap about a bit.  She needs to be frightening because then the project has a bit of edge and the pressure is on us to knit her teeth before she steals the ones in our mouths. We placed some of the knitted teeth in her collar,


She carries baskets of teeth too.  The visitors to the Trafalgar Square show weren’t all that frightened.  One person said they found her  friendlier than a lot of art you see in Central London.
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This is a Tooth Witches helper, made by one of the students, and he wears on of Fleur Glass Pingles’ needle lace teeth on his head. extra teeth 014He is worn around the neck of the Tooth Witch, who wears an amazing gown decorated with repeated printed patterns of embroidered teeth, designed by Celia Ward, and the mouths embroidered by the group.

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Here is a completed tooth, knitted, decayed and completed with plaque and shiney blood, all in one morning.


Everyone knitted teeth in different ways. Some in knit, some crochet, all different stitches and some found it easier to work in 2D and put the pieces together and others worked in 3D.


We used a cream chenielle for the tooth ennamel, cream for the plaque, red fluffy yarn and seaquins for the gums and blood and there was some embroidery cotton for placing holes and cracks.

toothstitcher2I found I didn’t really need to give too much instruction.  

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I made a few examples, and then people asked how you did it I replied, ‘You just make it up as you go along’.  This was quickly accepted, and then I helped individuals form the shapes.  

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I was quite suprized, as usually  my students are frightened if they don’t have a pattern to follow.

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I can only assume that these people have spent their whole lives, making it up as they go along, which makes them very relaxed collaborators.

Here are the teeth which we laid out at the end of the class.

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The Tooth Witch’s tooth extraction window is confusing for the passers by, who didn’t know it was possible to knit teeth.

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The men who have been digging the pavement for the last few days have also been made aware that they need to visit the dentist quite soon.

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Their drill is far more noisy than the dentist’s drill.  All our participants now know that dentists are hugely skilled craftsmen. They used needles just like we do and they have nimble fingers which can stop our pain. Their work is conservation, just like when people fix precious things in museums. We only have one set of teeth, and they are cleverly made. No two teeth are the same, which make it impossible to make a knitting pattern for them. Every tooth the dentist fixes is a new experience, but he or she knows what to do. And when our teeth are well, we can all smile!  Thanks for a lovely time teeth makers!  See you at the next show!