Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Quilt

Right, we've left Melbourne (12 hours on the train again).  This time behind two very energetic boys.  Watching the two parents keep them entertained and out of trouble wore me out.  There is no doubt that good parenting takes effort. 

We came back to Sydney to find Chris home from hospital and things moving back to the usual patterns. There were still a lot of things going on, but that is what passes for normal in that household.

Jane is the local coordinator for ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, which are taught at her church.  The classes are attended by all sorts of Asian women from China, Korea, Japan, etc.  Jane says that some of these ladies are in Sydney because of their husbands' work, some are widowed, some have elderly husbands.  In a few cases these women are quite isolated owing to the language barrier and also to the cultural expectation that they stay home and tend the house. 

ESL classes aid not just in learning the new language but also brings together expatriot women from the various countries on a social level, which they enjoy enormously.  Interestingly, given the general respect for education in many Asian cultures, attending an English class is a valid, creditable reason for escaping from the house putting aside domestic duties to enjoy a bit of social contact improve their language skills.  Jane says some of the regular attenders make little effort to learn English, but they enjoy the morning out.

Remember me mentioning the flood in the basement?  Those are the quilt
pieces marooned over there on the pool table.

As an added interest for the ladies, they have started having monthly craft lessons and of course these also add to the range of subjects on which to practice speaking English.   Jane's close friend, Jenny (who happens to be the mother-in-law of Jane's younger son), helps with the craft classes; as does the mother-in-law of Jane's eldest son.  I'm thinking there ought to be a better word for 'other-mother-in-law', particularly when they are a close knit group like this.  As both sons have children, perhaps they are 'grandmothers-in-law'?

Before I had the idea of the spreadsheet...

One of the crafting projects that has been a huge hit with the ESL ladies was learning to knit and being given the assignment of knitting 10" squares to be put together for a blanket destined to go to a hospital in Tanzania that specialises in surgical correction of fistulas.

All stitched up!

Tanzanian women often walk several days to reach the hospital.  [Which puts a whole other level of thinking into the idea of 'access to medical care'.]  In this particular hospital, following their surgery, each woman leaves with a new dress and a knitted blanket.  I had heard the term 'fistula' but never understood what it was.  You can read more about obstetric fistulas here.

The ladies loved finding 'their' squares!
The ESL ladies really enjoyed knitting the squares and Jane had stacks of them on her sewing table waiting to be put together.  The blanket was to be presented to the representatives of the charity in a couple of weeks' time on a Thursday at the ESL class. 

I think they were rightfully proud of what they made.

Unfortunately, these being mostly novice knitters, very few of the squares were actually 10 inches by 10 inches.  When Chris landed in hospital, I could see that sewing together this blanket was going to be quite low on Jane's list of priorities.  I love hand stitching, so I thought I might make myself useful here.  I started by measuring and labelling each of the squares and making a spreadsheet of the sizes.  This helped me group the squares by width and to come up with a plan that would make assembling the quilt easier and to reach the aim of a 60" x 80" quilt - just the size to cover a double bed.

Jenny, Jane and I put together each of the six columns together in an afternoon and started sewing the columns together.  I finished sewing the columns together over the next few afternoons and it was ready just in time for presentation.  I got enormous satisfaction from contributing to this:  thinking of how colourful and cheery the blanket would be to the African woman recovering from surgery, that the ESL ladies would feel proud of what they had accomplished, that I was lightening Jane's load of worries just slightly.  I happened to stumble upon this website just today and I'm thinking I'll look into this further.

I was intrigued by the little 'waffle cookies'.

On presentation day, Jenny brought a whole bag of adorable girls' skirts she'd made from remnants; they were going to Africa as well. 

Jane showing us one of the skirts Jenny made.

I enjoyed helping set up the classroom and Jane told me the ESL ladies liked having their photo taken, so I took loads!   Everyone there was really warm and friendly and some of the Asian ladies were lovely and elegant.  Jane recently wrote that she already has enough squares to make another blanket.   We were brain-storming before we left about possible sources of free yarn; I guess they cracked that one!

Do you do any sort of charity work that gives you satisfaction?


BigLittleWolf said...

I love this, Shelley! Quilting is both craft and art, can be done solo or (lovingly) in community. A wondrous activity - one I enjoyed in my 20s, 30s, and even early 40s as a means to work with my hands, find a few moments of quiet (even with little ones running around), and wind up with something beautiful and functional.

I hope you post more quilting pics!


Jane said...

Ah Shelley, we were talking about you today in English class. The ladies have just finished enough squares to complete the third blanket, and we will hand them both over at our 10th birthday celebrations on 28th June. Need you here to sew the third blanket together! I'll take my computer to show the students all your photos - they will love it.

Anonymous said...

I had not known about fistulas! This is such a good cause. My office mate teaches ESL and I have observed her classes...but I had never pondered the social reasons why these women took her classes.

Shelley said...

LBW - Your comment made me realise that actually I should have called this 'knitted blanket', not quilt, but I agree with all you said anyhow!

Jane - Good on you! Three blankets in about as many months, that's phenomenal!

Terri - Yeah, the fistula thing is pretty upsetting. And isn't it funny how people often have motives for doing things that don't dawn on us?