Strange Material – Leanne Prain – Chapter Ten

Community Storytelling Through Textiles.

“Our stories are reflections of ourselves. treat them with respect and honour those who are willing to share their experiences with you.”  – Jessica Vellenga

The largest community project is the NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was started in June 1987. At the time of writing the book, 2014, over 48,000 panels (with the name of a person who has died of AIDS) have been stitched together. It would take 33 consecutive days to read the whole quilt.

Display in 1996.7_DCdisplay1996

Prain goes on to write about sewing and knitting circles along with yarn bombing. I’m ambivalent about yarn bombing. On one hand I enjoy the brightness and fun of the transformation of an area but I wonder if the yarn could not be put to a better use by making items of clothing and toys for those in need, What happens to the yarn after the yarn bombing event? Does it weather away or is ripped down to go to landfill?

I am a member of a small sewing circle. On pre-arranged Saturday afternoons we meet at Cardiff M.A.D.E. to kantha stitch a quilt. The community project was set up by a lady from Bangladesh.  Layers of fabric were placed together – an old bedsheet and sari and a design was created using symbols which are important to the individuals contributing to the needlework. I was taught how to stitch using an extra long needle threaded with embroidery yarn. The stitch is a basic running stitch.


But back to the book. Leigh Bowser uses the medium of textiles and stitch to raise awareness of DBA through the Bloodbag Project. People are invited to create their own bloodbag using the templates and forwarded to Leigh.


An interview with Leigh about the project is here.

Jessica Vellenga invited members of the public to send her diary entries which she then embroideres on vintage fabrics – that which is intended to be private becomes public – the banal, the silly, the sad……


“Tell me about your grandmother. Tell me, what was your favourite  piece of clothing when you were a child.” At the Broocklyn Museum Robyn Love set up a static  bicycle which powered her spinning wheel. She invited members of the public to contribute to her Spin Cycle by asking them to spin her a yarn as she spun her yarn.


And that concludes the book. I’ve come across many artists I may not have done had I not read it. At last I can feel ideas rising in my brain. I don’t wish to copy anyone’s work – I see it more as being fed food for thought.


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