CWA Quilt Show

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With the warmer weather, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of events vying for attendance. We planned to attend some last weekend, but felt a little out of sorts and rather sleepy. Nap time instead.

This weekend, managed to pop up to the swap meet in spite of the inclement weather and came away with a new plant for the collection. It’s another of those that will produce more plants over time, so good value for $5.00.

Then this afternoon, dropped in at the Forbes CWA (Country Women’s Association) quilt show. And that got me thinking …

The Gallery

 

The Essay

A phrase or title brings up an idea or image that is, sometimes, a bit wrong. A quilt show in Spring brings to mind images of people (women mostly) sewing their way through the cold Winter months. As the temperature outside gets warmer, the show’s deadline approaches and they furiously finish the last stitches.

It’s an image of community women (there, I gendered it!) who proudly bring to town their Winter handiwork to share with each other, to marvel, to learn, to envy.

I’m more romantic than I expected.

Instead, there was probably a fundraising committee bouncing around ideas. Someone does the rounds and gathers up offers of already completed quilts that go on display, there’s a small entrance fee, a raffle, some stalls and, for a little extra, lunch or morning/afternoon tea.

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My first grown-up hobby was quilt making. I threw myself into it but finished only two. There were lots of ideas, with many partially prepared and never fully stitched.

In dramatic contrast, one of my sisters has quilts large and small scattered across the country, all as gifts.

I trace my fascination … correct that … I blame my fascination on the 80s. And America.

Quilting was designed to use leftover fabric or recycle sections of clothing not yet worn to threads. It was a seriously practical process when alternatives to keep warm were not an option.

Now, the quilting industry is big business and there’s no profit to be made in encouraging us to recycle. The top-of-the-range fabrics are art pieces in themselves, with the results being too precious to actually use. There is so much time, money and emotional effort invested in a piece, regardless of the quality of material, the result is often hung on a wall or stored long term. Using them limits their lifespan. They become quilts that aren’t quilts.

With the 80s long gone, and a social focus on reducing fast fashion, I’m drawn to a Japanese quilting tradition where reused fabric is stitched together with white embroidery thread – Sashiko.

It has its high-end proponents, as well as manufactured samples and products for mass consumption. That’s unavoidable these days.

However, at its heart is the idea that a number of not-quite-matching, variously-sized pieces can be joined and overlayed with embroidery so strikingly beautiful that it obscures the rough and ready beneath it.

The big difference between those two quilt making traditions is how rough each is allowed to look. With the USA quilt, the perfectly matched seams and joins are celebrated. With Sashiko, the embroidery is the means of joining. There are no seams as such. The edges may even fray a little, which itself is celebrated.

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Back at the CWA rooms (where incidentally Mum and Dad held their wedding reception back in 1960), I’m buying our raffle tickets and checking out the stalls, while Mum is working out how some of the pieces were made (with the helpful interjections of the CWA ladies).

I bought a bag of scraps for $1. This is not a signal that I’m taking up quilting again. Instead, I’m going to try pasting them onto a canvas … perhaps a bit of white paint to represent the embroidery … perhaps one day.

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Further reading

A suite of articles about quilting from the Smithsonian Magazine. There are some amazing modern and traditional quilts to enjoy.

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