I made a quilt to use as a chair cover for a very comfortable but ugly chair. I’ve never done anything like that before and I was kind of making it up as I went along.
It’s not very expertly done. The binding doesn’t quite lie flat along one edge, because it twisted while I was sewing it. (Note to self: trying to get away with using as few pins as possible doesn’t pay off) It’s not a beautiful pattern or an ornate layout. But I’m pleased, all the same.
I love that it’s all made from fabric that was otherwise unwanted. The patches are taken from discarded trousers that as a family we’ve either worn through or outgrown. (I’ve been hoarding them for a while). The fabric round the edge and on the back is bigger pieces that my Aunty bought and never used and came to me when her house was cleared out. The only thing I paid for was some cotton and some wadding for the centre of the quilt.
I love the fact that it’s all made out of scraps so intimately related to me and my family. I especially love this corner of it – the knee of a pair of jeans that my daughter wore through and then patched.
I’ve made a few things recently, from scraps and discarded items and recycled stuff. Sea glass and driftwood and bits of fishing net from the beach, flyers and newspapers and old maps, remnants of fabric and random bits of wool left over from countless other projects. It makes me very happy! Partly because using free stuff to make something takes the pressure off. You don’t feel the need to make something skilfully and well to justify the expense, I feel more free to play and experiment. Partly it’s a good environmental thing, to re-use, not throw away. But there’s more to it than that.
At the risk of sounding wonderfully pretentious, I love the theology represented by this way of making things. I believe in a God who can take the broken, the ugly and the damaged parts of our life and make something beautiful and new from them. I worship a God who brings order out of chaos, a God who values all who are overlooked and seen as worthless. So it delights me when I can do something a little bit the same.
So after I made this thing, I had a thought.
Can you imagine a group of people getting together, bringing lots of unwanted stuff. Maybe they would bringing fabric scraps, worn out clothing, oddments of wood and empty boxes from their garages and unloved books. What if they raided their recycling bins for stuff to bring. What if they pooled it all and decided what they might make from it, over the course of the weekend.
There might be sewing, glueing, folding, sawing, improvising, inventing and building something from all the oddments. You might need a couple of leaders, good at bodging and improvising, who could give some direction and shape, if the group were baffled, or a bit too nervous to dive in. They might bring a selection of spare craft stuff, and ways of fixing stuff together – thread, glue of various kinds, nails and cable ties. Perhaps a sewing machine would be handy. A laptop with a link to Pinterest would be nice, if inspiration was needed. There are 100s of beautiful things you can make just from empty plastic bottles, for starters.
Maybe there would be a theme for the weekend, to give a starting point. Maybe it would be a Bible story to give a shape to the weekend, or something more abstract like Hope, Creativity, Restoration or New Life.
The group could make one big, shared project, or a few smaller, linked projects by smaller groups or individuals
While working, they might be encouraged to share our own stories, inspired by the things they were making, the theme, or the story they were exploring. If people had particular crafty skills or experience, then they could use their expertise and they could teach other people in the group, but the emphasis would be on diving in, rather than technical precision.
Then at the end, everything would get brought together. We would bring what we had made to God, and we would bring God’s story and our stories into the same place and make connections between them, with story telling and reflection together. If it was an explicitly Christian group, we would probably share worship and Communion together. If it was a community group or more mixed, then maybe not.
I’ve had a couple of experiments with something like this, although not so full on. The closest, and happiest, experiment was this nativity that a mixed group from our church made on. Lumpy and bumpy, but we were all really proud of our recycled figures, and used them to tell the Christmas story together.
I’m sure it would be a bit scary, especially if we are used to worrying about whether our ideas and our efforts are any good or not, or we’ve convinced ourselves, “I’m not the creative type” Maybe we would spend a little time wondering about why it was scary and how we might not fear failure so much.
Wouldn’t you love to give it a go?