Monday, 28 May 2012

Patching things up

Being the mother of two boys I spent many long hours patching the knees of my son’s jeans in their younger years. These days the fashion would be to leave them looking dishevelled, but when you’re on a modest income old jeans were kept to provide patches for those currently in use in order for them to last the distance until the boys grew out of them.

Didn’t do a bad job if I say so myself, the jeans didn’t look daggy and I hoped my sons didn’t feel like someone’s poor cousin by having to wear them. Hand stitching two patches on ripped knees is one thing, but what I’ve seen over the past couple of weekends is another thing entirely.

For the fifteenth year the Tasmanian Quilting Guild held their annual getaway here in Poatina where they set up their sewing machines and all manner of paraphernalia for four days of intensive quilt making. To me, real quilters are a rare breed, possessing the patience of saints as they create multitudes of squares of the most intricate designs which then blend into the overall design of the entire quilt.

The village residents are treated to an annual “Show and Tell” as each creator displays their work, telling something of the story of its making, who it is for, and often how many years it has taken to complete the project. The incredible skill elicits oohs and aahs from those gathered, but there is also recognition of the love which has gone into making particular ones where there is a special reason behind who will be the recipient.

Over the past few years, the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild of Tasmania have joined them on the same weekend, so we get to see the skills of these ladies, and one bloke, who, complete with their spinning wheels and looms and dyeing techniques, start with the raw product and see it through to a completed garment or piece of work, with beautiful results.
I am in awe of such skill and dedication to their craft. These people are not simply making quilts or scarves or garments, they are textile artists, and they have a lot of fun in those few days as they spend time together, learn from each other, and celebrate each other’s achievements.

However well I did my patch up jobs all those years ago, all I was really doing was covering up a hole, like putting on a band aid so what’s underneath can be fixed or obscured. The patches these women create are not there to cover over something, apart of course from when they become the finished product and someone actually gets to sleep under them.

To watch them choose materials, cut out hundreds, sometimes thousands of pieces, pin them, sew them, iron them, stack them until there are enough, arrange them, then see the squares sewn together is to witness an amazing process. Each little patch is the start of something new, something bigger. The quality of their work tells you instinctively that it will still be around on someone’s bed for decades to come, and will be valued.

Patching things up implies there’s been a problem, a rift that needs mending. It could be transforming if we went beyond the quick cover up job or temporary solution to whatever challenges we face each day, and took into other aspects of our lives as much love and care as the quilters invest in producing their long lasting creations.