When you make something, make it matter. It’s a slick slogan to follow, but that’s exactly what my friend Jullie did when she couldn’t bear to throw out a broken umbrella because she was still fond of its pretty pattern.
A dedicated crafter and keen upcycler, she belongs to a local sewing group where projects are birthed, ideas shared, and lasting friendships forged.
Using her creativity, sewing skills and the internet, she found a way to give her old umbrella a new use in life.
“It was as simple as googling, ‘how do I recycle a broken umbrella?’,” she says. “I landed on the website Cucicucicoo and found a pattern for a fold-up tote bag. I was even able to use the umbrella’s original fasteners to secure it.
“A lady remarked to me one day when I was out shopping, ‘I once had an umbrella like that!’.”
Most Cucicucicoo projects and patterns have an ecological focus on repurposing, using up scrap fabrics or creating items to substitute disposable products.
Relaxing hobbies soothe the mind and give us a sense of accomplishment; however, the particular benefits of arts and crafts can go much further than fun and relaxation.
Research into the physical and mental health benefits of craft remains largely qualitative and based on self-reporting, but it’s reasonable to think that occupying ourselves productively means less time to dwell on ourselves.
Arts and crafts, including but not restricted to, knitting, crocheting, weaving, sewing, beading, quilting, needlework, textile arts and woodworking, can be a form of diversional therapy that help take our minds off negative thoughts, putting to flight the old saying that idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
MARTY Nuku creates mixed media story baskets and is affiliated with the Spinners, Weavers, Fibre Artisans of Ipswich, and Arts Connect Ipswich. She runs mobile workshops in the Brisbane, Ipswich and Gold Coast areas and supplies the basic tools of scissors, super glue, pliers, needles and rope.
Participants bring objects that can be woven, glued or stapled into their basket, such as a piece of clothing from someone who has died, trinkets or personal gifts, fabric from a wedding gown or veil, paper objects, driftwood or seashells.
“I have also made aromatic baskets and woven in sage and rosemary to evoke a memory for anyone housebound or in hospital,” Marty says. “It brings the outside in and evokes memories of smell. It’s a tactile basket that appeals to all the senses.
“The basket starts off structurally as a belly button and when we think of the womb as being a vessel to carry a baby, a basket is an extension of the whole idea of carrying something precious.”
Basket making takes Marty into her quiet zone.
“It’s a real calming influence,” she says. “I always use my hands to alleviate stress or to cope with the challenges of the world.”
She makes to order seasonal baskets and all her baskets are functional and aesthetically pleasing as a stand-alone art piece.
PROJECT Linus started in America in 1995 making blankets for children in need, taking its name from Linus, the blanket-hugging character in the comic series Peanuts.
Spokesperson for Project Linus Brisbane, Robyn Frank, says the quilts started for children being treated for cancer to accompany them when they came into hospital for treatment. The program progressed to throws made for children up to 18 years of age who are in and out of hospital regularly for treatment.
When Daniel was just seven years-old, he was in the fight of his young life, his mother, Fran, never far from his side.
Diagnosed with a high-grade cancer, he spent more than a year as an inpatient at Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
In the first month of his hospitalisation, he received a throw quilt from Project Linus, decorated around the edges with colourful dinosaurs, the stuff of dreams for a little boy. The gift sweetened Daniel’s long stay in hospital.
From the outset, Fran says, her son loved the quilt but couldn’t quite get his tongue around the “nigh-nee-naws” (dinosaurs) that roamed over it.
As he grew older, Daniel couldn’t remember much of the intensive treatment he received as a child, but the quilt would often be found wrapped around him when he was watching television.
“When he did go home the quilt was around the home all the time and would always go with him when he returned to hospital for further treatment,” Fran says. “It was a security thing for Dan.”
Daniel made a full recovery and today is an athletic, 29-year-old man who has followed his parents’ footsteps into the nursing profession. He’s also the proud keeper of his quilt.
Project Linus also makes quilts for Be Uplifted Inc, a breast cancer charity that supports women through their breast cancer journey to the end, or into remission. Volunteers are mostly lifelong sewers who quilt purely for relaxation and the joy of giving.
Between the two charities, 1200 throws were made last year, half going to children deemed at risk by the Queensland Government and taken into foster care.
RESOURCES available to crafty minds in brick-and-mortar shops or online are seemingly endless, allowing crafters to personalise their artistic expressions, discover and experiment with new techniques or revive and tweak traditional ones, all the while creating unique repositories of treasured memories.
Julie Tasker learnt to sew on a plastic toy sewing machine that could only punch holes in paper. As her mother sewed on a domestic sewing machine, Julie sat at a mini-table beside her ‘stitching’ away contentedly.
She made her own clothes at an early age and caught her mother’s addiction to patchwork and quilting.
She has never stopped creating and uses the techniques of traditional quilting with various embellishment styles applied to create stunning art quilts that are highly personalised and meaningful.
One of her preferred techniques is thread sketching to enhance details of an art quilt by drawing an outline, shape, design or picture with a sewing machine over a sketch marked out with an erasable marking pen.
“A significant photograph or painting that has meaning for the maker can be the inspiration for an art quilt design,” Julie says.
“Anyone can be an art quilter by putting at least two layers of fabric together, choosing a pictorial, landscape or abstract design of your own, or using somebody else’s pattern.”
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, she is drawn to depicting nature and animals.
She is an active member of Queensland Quilters Art Quilters, a special interest group of Qld Quilters Inc dedicated to promoting art quilts through experience and inspiration.
WHEN Adele Hartley was nine, she could whip stitch by hand (overcast) the ends of seams to stop them unravelling.
Her mother was a dressmaker and Adele’s job was an essential skill in the days before the zigzag stitch was added to domestic sewing machines.
She has fond memories as a child growing up in a remote area of Natal in South Africa, sitting around the fireplace listening to the radio with her parents and brother, everyone knitting. She married a game ranger and as a family they lived in the game reserves in Natal until they emigrated to Australia in the 1980s.
A lifelong crafter, in recent years her passion for authenticity has steered her towards doll making. Through a labour-intensive process, Adele transforms a blank manufactured kit into a reborn, lifelike human infant that she has seen pull a memory trigger in a buyer.
“I have one client in Toowoomba who says their doll looks like their nephew who has just been born, dimples and all,” Adele says. “Some people have three, four or five dolls that they change through the day and put to bed in pyjamas at night. Just to sit and hold one is something each person needs to experience for themselves – the comfort of holding that doll that’s just like a baby.”
Some of Adele’s dolls take pride of place in aged care homes in the Lockyer Valley, calming residents with dementia and controlling blood pressure in others.
Wherever you are in your craft journey – a beginner or an aspiring expert – there are craft groups and organisations around the country to get you started on making something that really matters.
Australian Sewing Guild – aussew.org.au
Social sewing groups; online sewing workshops; library of sewing resources
The Embroiderers’ Guild, Queensland Inc – www.embroiderersguildqld.org.au
Extensive library; classes in modern and traditional embroidery
Queensland Quilters Inc – qldquilters.com
Networking; workshops for a range of craft abilities; special interest groups; library
Arts Connect Inc – artsconnectinc.com.au
Supporting, showcasing and connecting artists on the Sunshine Coast
Officeworks – officeworks.com.au
Derwent Inktense pencils, water-soluble ink-based pencils, permanent once dry, ideal on fabric
Everything Fabric, Hervey Bay – everythingfabric.com.au
Australian owned online patchwork and sewing supplies
Patchwork Angel, Forest Glen – patchworkangel.com.au
Shop in person and online for all patchwork, sewing and stitchery needs; huge range of fabrics; patterns; advice and classes
Make it Sew, Boondall – makeitsew.online
Shop in person and online; weekly classes; themed and quirky fabrics; sewing patterns; craft and embroidery materials