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:


  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

Machine piecing is my artistic comfort food

11 11 2011

I have spent most of today cutting and machine piecing a quilt top.  It has been a very therapeutic day.  I love the precision of piecing, the predictability of how the pieces form up blocks, the blocks rows and the rows a quilt top.  The rhythm of the stitching, the thrum of the machine and steady reduction of thousands of pieces into one whole top fills me with a sense of balance and completion.  I piece when I need to get back to basics, to reinvigorate my soul or to remind myself of who I am creatively.  When life is not going to plan, I piece.  When I need time to reflect, I piece.  I love that piecing a quilt allows the simplification of complex designs and ideas.  I love  that you see the transformation of many different fabrics into an integrated whole.  I love that you can express yourself through colour, texture and design and that a two dimensional object can have movement and activity, light and joy.  I love piecing.


Today’s Class – Fabric, Stitch, Collage with Lynda Faires

3 11 2010

I had a great time today.  Some of you will know that I have been ‘collaging’ for some time and really enjoy it both as a small showcase for a range of techniques and for a way to achieve and complete projects which can then be used for other purposes such as sewn into bigger projects.

The class today was fabulous fun.  There were no ‘new’ techniques as such, but I learnt stuff and had fun and got to play in an unrestrained, free and supported manner.  It was lovely.  My big hint out of the class and a technique I will be using a lot from here on in is free motion zig zag.  Try it.  The pattern you get when you go sideways is to die for.  Truely.

I have loaded a few photos on my facebook page, but here are the critical ones.

Here is Lynda:

Here is an applique collage I completed:

And here is one where we trapped stuff behind tulle and stitched over the top:

I had a class yesterday but did not take the camera and when the day ended, I got the shuttle bus back from the convention centre to the hotel.  The bus goes to about seven hotels on its loop and it can be organised chaos getting people on and off with all their bags.  As it turned out one of the three ladies who sat next to me on the short trip must have walked off with my bag of samples from yesterday.  I was a bit disappointed, but I have no way of tracking them back.  Hopefully they will work it out, but even if they do, they will not know how to find me.  The fabrics I made were very nice, so I hope that they go to a good use.  I still have the knowledge and the experience in my head and probably did not need to bring home any more bulk than I already have.

Tomorrow I am indulging myself with a quilt shop bus tour.  I am really keen to see if the shops here do anything that I can adopt.  I am curious about layout, merchandising, set ups, stock lines and so much more.  It will be interesting.  We have a ‘traditional Texas BBQ’ lunch at a proper ‘Texas Ranch’.  I am a bit apprehensive about that.  The biggest challenge I have found about the US is the food.  It is awful – not really food at all it is so processed.  And you can taste the chemicals for days after you finished eating.  Yesterday I went into three so called food stores looking for fruit.  Everything was either vacuum sealed or frozen.  Amazing.  Tonight I had Subway for dinner because at least I could see fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomato. 

After that, we have the VIP Quilt Show opening.  I will take heaps of photos to share if I can.

Until then, Cecile

October/November 2010 QA arrived today

27 09 2010

It was a surprise as it is a public holiday here today, but it is here none the less.  I have added it to the website – www.uniquestitching.com.au under current magazines.  There is a link from the home page.

I thought there were some really interesting articles in this one, again.  I really liked the articles on creating digital images, transfering dye colour from silk ties into one off fabrics and especially loved using metal in your projects.  There is more of course, but those are my favourites.  There is an article on using oatmeal as a resist which I have gone out and tried already.  My oats are the ones with fruit and other stuff in them, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.  Andrew, my 16 year old, decided I really had lost it this time, with the oats and the dye all over my work table.  Perhaps he is right.  He will be working with me at Craft Expo in Melbourne in about ten days.  It would be nice if he was reassured that I am not the craziest person on the planet.

Anyway here is the cover of the new magazine:

The magazine is on sale from 5 October, but the subscriptions are packed ready to go out in tomorrows mail and you can order now on line.

On an unrelated matter, I have had a shocking couple of weeks with technology.  One of my blog sites has been corrupted and it has taken me for ever to get someone to work out how to fix it.  Email is haphazard.  Some particularly bizarre things have gone into spam and I am getting clusters of mail arrive four and five days after it has been sent.  And this week, I have had a couple of occassions when I have pressed send and the whole email has disappeared without trace.  Truely strange.  There is nothing like technology to make you feel old and inept.  If you have emailed and not received a reply from me within 24 hours, it will be because I have not received your email and you should try to resend it.  I always reply to emails as soon as I can.


Election Day – What a catastrophe

22 08 2010

I will not make this a political platform, but I have already admitted in thes forum that I am a shocking political junkey.  As an election, it is remarkable.  A hung parliament.  Neither major parties with a majority, a Green in the lower house, four independants.  How can any agreement be reached with such a mix!  It will be days before we have a Government.  It is an amzing result for the Liberals.  I feel sad for Maxine McKew, but agree with her that the ALP election campaign was unfocused, off message and ineffective.  The Liberal campaign was tight, disciplined and targetted.   I  am excited that Gai Brodtmann is the new member for the electorate of Canberra.  I knew you could do it!

I predict we will be back to the election booths within 12 to 18 months.  Back to watching the analysis and I await the ensueing blood bath as recriminations are forced home.  And I promise, no more politics here.