I was talking with a friend two Fridays ago about some of the ideas about ‘stuff’ that have been buzzing round my head for the last little while. She has been reading a book I probably would like, The Sacred Year, by Michael Yankoski, and quoted a line that I just loved. To be anti-consumerist, you have to be a materialist. Isn’t that profound? Valuing stuff means, well, valuing stuff! For her, this answered the creeping doubts she had had about the worth of her ongoing efforts to keep a beautiful outdoor dining table safe from the sun and rain. The shine and lift of wood grain cared for is a beautiful thing. Not to throw away something that becomes difficult to care is no less beautiful.
That is my very roundabout introduction to my little ‘material girl’. There is a second hand shop up the road that had a stash of beautiful cotton and linen doilies, table runners and napkins all cotton and linen, hand embroidered or lace edged. I came home with a little treasure trove of them. I barely managed to wait for them to dry before beginning this little doll. As you can see I have guessed and sketched a pattern – so I hope that she works out! So far she is very sweet, with her little butternut squash shaped body and tiny embroidered tummy tattoo. I am not sure why exactly a doll. Perhaps she speaks to my love of the material world (no pun intended!). Perhaps she is a creative, ‘making’ style response to my learning and churning over the ideas of the sacredness of stuff and our embodied lives. Or maybe she is just a pretty distraction from my homework. Maybe, but I would like to think there is more substance to her than that!
I am almost, almost finished a quilt that I have been working on for the last few years. I began mostly to keep my hands busy while I listened to university lectures and tutorials online. I collected up a number of used business shirts from opportunity shops in different blues and cut squares till I had enough to cover a bed for two. As I snipped and stitched life continued; lectures and lessons passed, our wedding came and went. We moved. We moved again. Slowly it took shape and, motivated by a third move, I am trying to get it finished. Pieced together as we were, it seems right that it comes with us to our new country as a piece of our history, our story. We may just need to cuddle up in something familiar and warm when we are far away.
My stitching reminded me of the Luci Shaw poem called Quilt-maker based on “a prairie woman in [who made quilts] ‘… warm to keep my family from freezing; … [and] beautiful to keep my heart from breaking’” (Shaw 2002, 88). Warmth and beauty, woven, stitched together. Mine is simple, mundane even, but carefully and lovingly put together, kind of like a family.
To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that hold together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.
She pieces each one beautiful and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbalble leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings.
Shaw, Luci. 2002. “Beauty and the Creative Impulse”. In The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw Books.
Shaw, Luci. 1990. Polishing the Petoskey Stone. Shaw Books, 33.
Just wanted to share a few pictures of the man’s shirt I made over the holiday break. The fabric was the model’s choice – a patchwork-quality cotton he spotted at Finch’s Nest Patchwork shop in Geraldton when we were shopping there in the closing-down sales late 2013. He asked for a shirt and I reluctantly agreed, taking six months to get myself to the shop to buy a pattern (Vogue 8759). My reticence was not about sewing for him, or even sewing generally (which I really like), but stemmed from my understanding of the complexity of making a shirt (and knowing the standards I’d hold myself to!). Well thankfully, by the end of the year sewing from a pattern was about all the creativity I could muster so I actually started to make some progress on the shirt and, a few months later, here it is! The only significant change I made to the pattern was to include a few more enclosed seams than the instructions suggested to eliminate all the raw edges of fabric I could (I didn’t have access to my over locker so it seemed like the best alternative for a neat finish). It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was dreading and it also looks quite nice on! As soon as the photos were taken it made its debut in the music teaching classroom – it seems he’s happy with it too!
Sashiko inspired, I have finally made a cover for my ‘new’ bible (I bought it early last year I think!). I would love to do some more research and practice looking into using stitches in this way, almost quilting layers of fabric together without batting. Even the simplest patterns look really interesting and I really like the texture created. Thought I would share!