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Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Quilt for Attawapiskat

Well, the First Nations community of Attawapiskat has suffered yet another blow. On the CBC, they reminded us of how, two years ago, the sewage system suffered a fatal breakdown, and the response was to install temporary housing for the families there.

Two years in temporary housing. Well, to some people that doesn't seem like such a bad thing. But have you looked at a map? We're talking just about Arctic here.

Families. That means old women and children. Babies.

One working toilet for 80 people. One working kitchen for 80 people.

I would hate to share my bathroom with 80 people. And I can barely tolerate my Boyfriend helping me in the kitchen, much less having 80 people trying to get meals going.

I'd be discouraged. Wouldn't you?

Then two months ago the power went off. Did Ontario Hydro rush to the scene? I mean, this is sub-Arctic climate here. Was it an emergency that all these people had no power?

Apparently not.

When we had the Ice Storm here, people started using fireplaces, Coleman stoves, candles, anything they could to stay warm.

And of course, that's what the people of Attawapiskat had to do.

Here, we had people burn their homes down in trying to keep warm. And two weeks ago, that's what happened in Attawapiskat.

Of course it happened. 

Now, I'm not a historian or a specialist in Aboriginal affairs. I can't begin to guess at how this situation got the way it has. I'm sure of one thing - there has been bad faith, mismanagement, lack of understanding and lack of trust, maybe on both "sides," more likely on "ours."

But I am a mother, a daughter, and a quilter. And I'm 56 years old. I've had experiences that have taught me that a little compassion goes a long way. That nobody gets up, yawns and stretches in the morning, looks in the mirror and says "Today, I think I'll become a statistic."

I've learned that life throws us curves. That some of us are luckier than others. We got born into a relatively affluent society, on the right side of the color-and-creed barriers.

And others weren't so lucky. The cynics would say "So what, that's life, it sucks to be you."

I'm pretty sure that if any of us had to live in these kind of conditions, we'd squawk. I'm also pretty sure that if the power went out here, they'd be working hard to get it back on.

Because. We. "Count."

Well, I could go on about this forever, but in the interests of getting to the point, I'm going to send a quilt to one of the persons who has been displaced by the fire.

It's nothing. It's a drop in a sea. It will actually be a large investment of my time and will take determination to see that it ends up keeping somebody warm, because I don't actually know anybody from Attawapiskat.

I'm well-placed in my job to have some contacts, and earlier this week I met with two Aboriginal women to discuss the way I could somehow get a quilt to one of these displaced persons. I'd like the label I will put on it to eventually read "You are not alone." Or "you are not forgotten." Or something like that. But that's even harder to figure out, because then not only does someone have to point the way to a displaced person, it means finding someone who speaks their language and can write the syllabics for me to embroider or appliqué onto the quilt.

One step at a time. If all I can do is send one person a quilt that will keep them warm, that's one thing I can do.

So, has anybody had experience with wool batting? I have a feeling it's warmer than cotton, but I wonder about shrinkage.

All kind comments are appreciated.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Welcome to the Blogathon - Quilting in the 21st century

How do you like it?

What is it? It's a QR code - hmm, though most people who are actively following a blogathon probably already know that. (It's like a bar code, but a cell phone can read it. You get the app for the phone, point it at the qr code, and the app then takes you straight to the web page. It also remembers it for you. No need to write down interminable URLs any more.)

I had hoped, when the idea first came to me, to actually get this made into a quilt before the blogathon, but life, as usual, got in the way.

You can make them in different colors, by the way, and they can still be read. (No pun intended!)

You can even, if you're very advanced technologically, put images into them. I will - one day - but for now it will be probably blue and white, and I'll make one for my guild, as a sample of 21st-century quilting.

A lot of us have been dragged into the online world (kicking and screaming!). My guild (Mosaique) recently held our bi-annual quilt show, and for the first time none of us were allowed to register by filling in a piece of paper - it had to be done online. The reason? It was me doing the registration, and I'm notoriously disorganized. Had it been done by papers, the papers would have been lost. Not an "if," but a "how many!"

Now, some of the ladies needed a bit of help. I took dictation from one lady to make sure she sent in her quilts to be exhibited. She's a repeat prize-winner, so it was necessary to help her along if we were to get her entries into the show. And yes, she won a prize, again!

And I made two mistakes anyway, in the transferring of data from one program to another, but it wasn't lost and I managed with help to get everything fixed in time for the show. (whew!)

But it made me think...

We quilters are practitioners of an ancient and honorable art. Our heads are full of thread count and color, patterns, techniques that have come down to us, mostly through family members, over generations. We are not necessarily the most technologically-oriented individuals.

And yet...and yet...Didn't long-ago quilters, women who were denied any education beyond how to cook and clean, work out complex patterns that go way beyond my (educated) understanding of geometry? Didn't they invent clever systems of dividing fabric and multiplying patterns without our modern systems of measurement?

The patterns I'm willing to try pale by comparison to those of these pioneers.

I'm an AV Technician. I grew up playing with machinery. But even I'm being left behind in the dust of the information revolution. I am struggling in my day job to keep up with the young whippersnappers and "propeller-heads" who I work with, me trying not to look too stupid in their young eyes!

In the guild, I'm pretty near the forefront of technology. At least I'm not actually afraid of it. But while technology is a tool, and a very powerful one, it is not the driving force behind quilting. Social media doesn't actually replace social get-togethers.

The simple act of putting a needle into fabric I find to be a calming, almost meditative, practise. A way to calm my mind, to re-connect with the past, to slow down for a little while and do something that can be done faster, better, and cheaper by machine. But I take pleasure in it.

And there's the key - we people who are drawn to the needle arts take pleasure in this physical activity which calms our minds.

Technology is a wonderful tool. Here we are in a blogathon, women from across one of the largest land masses in the world, who don't know each other, sharing pictures, ideas, tips, techniques... But above all, sharing a fascination with fabric and thread.

We can use technology the way we use thread - to hold us all together.