A Patchwork Economy should be a strength, not a weakness

4 05 2013

Those of you who follow my Unique Stitching Facebook page will have seen that I took exception to the continued reference by members of our Government to patchwork as a negative and problematic part of our economy, our health and education systems and the delivery of disability care and so on.  That comment and this post does not reflect a position on the Government, positive or negative.  I don’t agree that ‘patchwork’ is the term to be used to describe difference, diversity, inconsistency or the requirement to make do.  Yet then again that is exactly what it is.

The Oxford University Press defines patchwork as:

noun [mass noun]

  • needlework in which small pieces of cloth in different designs, colours, or textures are sewn together:a piece of patchwork [as  modifier]:a patchwork bedspread

  • [count noun] a thing composed of many different elements so as to appear variegated:a patchwork of stone walls and green fields

Your Dictionary dot com defines it as:

noun

  1. anything formed of irregular, incongruous, odd, or miscellaneous parts; jumble
  2. a quilt or other covering made of patches of cloth, etc. sewn together at their edges
  3. any design or surface like this

Interesting that both dictionaries state it is a noun, yet our Government uses it as an adjective.

My view is that being patchwork, whether a noun or an adjective should be something seen as a positive.  If we go back to the very reasons behind patchwork, it was about making do with what was available.  Fabrics were recycled and sewn together to make utilitarian, functional items.  At the same time, fabric was put together in patterns so that the utilitarian items also were visually pleasing and beautiful as well as functional.  In times of poverty, such as the great depression, patchwork became both popular and essential.  Patchwork was about saving money and reuse of what we had. Doesn’t that sound like something to be venerated, not condemned, particularly in the wake of the Global Economic Crisis?

To illustrate what I am talking about, I went to the scrappiest quilt I have ever made.  I like scrap quilts because they have this order out of chaos thing going on.  I like that.  In this case, I used a pack of 50 six inch floral charm squares.  This pack was one of those what on earth was I thinking packs.  There were, in my mind, some truely hideous fabrics in that pack.  My challenge was to make it work, so I divided the pack into value – light and dark – completely ignoring colour or pattern.  It got a bit dodgy around the middle and calls had to be made on just how dark the mediums could be and still be classified as lights.  Compromise had to be made and the groupings worked because when viewing the quilt, the pattern dominates the individual parts.  The process of making the patchwork caught up the weaker areas and bought it together in harmony.

Although I hate half the fabrics in here, I love the quilt.  It works because of the compromise and the integration and the harmony that is then created.

??????????

In some cases, the pattern over rode fabrics that were just not nice:

scrap 2

Or just did not belong:

scrap 4

But overall the sense of balance and coherency wins.

scrap 3

So, with some reflection and thought, I think it is good that we have a patchwork economy and health system etc.  It is the very diversity of all the disparite parts that make us strong.  We just have to find the unifying pattern.

Patterns for this and seven other scrap quilts can be found in my Stashbuster Book:  http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/1025033/stashbuster-quilts-by-cecile-whatman.html

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5 responses

4 05 2013
susan shafrir

couldn’t agree more .Your political arguments are very sound. More of the same please, then stand for parliament.

4 05 2013
Michelle

Well said Cecile.

4 05 2013
maureenc

Why do the ignorant (generally politicians) think of “patchwork” as being shoddy? Maybe if they tried it ,they would learn some practical skills instead of being hot-air merchants.
Well said Cecile!

26 05 2013
Judith Morrisey

I love this, particularly after a wonderful discussion on politics versus policies while learning how to make a fabric flower at the Perth Craft Show, May 2013. Thank you, Cecile, for the inspiration for two very important aspects of modern life – creative hand work and contemplation of our political circumstances.

28 05 2013
uniquestitching

LOL. It was a different and interesting class. Thanks for joining me, there and on line here.

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