Say it in stitches

Submitted by: Deborah Nash

I always thought basting was something  you did to a chicken, but the only thing cooking at Significant Seams’ HQ  in Wood Street is an amazing technicolour dream  quilt  that will soon be hung in St Mary’s Church  as part of the E17 Art Trail.

Seamstress Ros is assembling the 70 or so patches  for the organisation’s fifth community quilt  themed on the changing roles of women. To hold the squares in place, she uses a tacking (basting) stitch to prevent the fabric puckering.

The quilt comprises a hot mix of individual voices and stories and can be appreciated on many  levels. I counted an array of stitches – running, satin, cross, blanket and back stitch – and techniques  – appliqué, collage, knitting, embroidery, starch resist,  puffed  out and stuffed patches. Makers   have participated in weeks of classes and workshops and come   from across the diverse community that is the borough of Waltham Forest, turning the quilt into something of a feminist flag Trail’s focus of storytelling.

Look out for  Laimons’ cross stitch patch in scarlet and jet of the mythic Mara, Latvian goddess of birth and death and protector of mothers, represented by ‘the cross of crosses’ (an inverted triangle), or the patch of safety pins spelling the word ‘FREE’ from a member of the LGBT community, or the memorial text paying tribute to pioneer woman sailor, Florence, who died in a helicopter crash in March.

Patchworker Cynthia Wenden says of the making process: “We started  by exploring the obvious things that have altered the roles of women like the mechanization of household tasks, birth control and the pill. People have reminisced a lot about what their lives were like as children  and  how  things  have changed and how different life is now.”

Cynthia’s patch depicts a bishop’s mitre in the suffragette  colours of purple and green with a female gender symbol on its front.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do straight away because I’m a church goer and there’s  been so much in the news about women bishops,  it was the first thing I thought of.”

Sheila Aslan machine-sews two patches together representing strong women from the past  and present.

“During WWII women had to work hard in the health care  industry, and today some women are  embracing  the new role (or relatively new role) of being the breadwinners while men stay at home to look after the children.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to get her boyfriend to knit alongside her, Karen Mayor persuaded him to pick up the needles and knit a swervy square in blue and yellow.

So many conversations  have swirled as the quilt took shape, and so many hours have gone into its creation, take one patch away and the whole loses a fleck of diversity and richness.

Go see and enjoy.

The Community Quilt: On display weekends only at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow, during the E17 Art Trail 30th May – 14th June 2015. For more information, please contact Catherine West at Significant Seams; tel: 07742925085 email: catherine@significantseams.org.uk. Significant Seams, 131 Wood Street, London E17 3LX; www.significantseams.org.uk

 

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