I have always loved a good story. And a good storyteller. Both offer the possibilities of being carried away for a while into another world, another time, another life. Patchwork, done well, done in the old way, can be both the storyteller and the story.
I first learnt the art and story of patchwork in the sitting room of a dear family friend. Well travelled, she was full of stories that she would tell me as we cut and stitched patch after patch together. Her home felt almost entirely constructed from books – every wall was a floor to ceiling bookcase and she had pots of knitting needles and bags of wool and fabric embracing every available surface. She taught me to spin, and to sew and to crochet and I have such strong, happy, vibrant memories of time spent in her company, with her cats and her crochet covered sofas.
Beyond the technicality of patchwork construction, and past the passion I felt for the creation of new pieces of cloth fashioned from old scraps – was a connection with the story of each quilt. There were whole cloth quilts at my Gran’s house when I was tiny that I remember the feel and the weight of, but more than that, and what has lived longest in me, is the stories of them being made, and the women who made them. I held those memories with me when I made my first memory quilt – constructed from a huge bin bag full of clothes and fabric too precious to be thrown away when we cleared the attic at our old family home. Dresses we had worn as children. The pyjamas my brothers had worn when they were small. Mum’s handmade bridesmaid dresses and my Gran’s aprons. Dad’s favourite golf shirt. Fabric with a lifetime of memories like invisible threads woven through the warp and the weft.
Mum has the quilt that I made, and now it lives on the back of her sofa, for chilly evenings in front of the telly. And I spend each day fulfilling my long-held dreams of crafting for a living, making quilts full of stories and carving time each day to tell them. And often, all the women who have inspired me, dance through my memories, and nod and smile and I know that this skill of patchwork poetry must never be lost. And I know I will joyfully pass it on, to whomsoever shall ask me. Sharing the story of how patchwork becomes, as well as all the stories of the old fabric scraps that are becoming something new.