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Under the bushel

I found this video on Youtube recently and wanted to share it with you all…

 

The video talks about Gordon, a former cabinet maker who found his career ending because of our changing tastes. Our need for a fast, cheap, disposable lifestyle left Gordon without employment and forced onto the streets.

The Salvation Army recently changed the name of their hostels to lifehouses, and I grumbled at the cost of coming up with such a name (I’m a Yorkshire lass who calls a spade a spade). I still don’t think much to the name, but I’m glad we have some places left where homeless people can find their feet.

Although my dissertation and much of my research is on spirituality and textiles, as a lover of the ‘old’ ways and crafts I found this video truly wonderful.

A perfect example of how craft skills can be used for good and for the church. Gordon now volunteers (it’s a shame his unique skills couldn’t end in paid work) at a Salvation Army charity shop in Glasgow.

Then again, is his amazing painting skills, and the willingness for the charity shop to hold a mini gallery.

The real beauty though, is in people putting Gordon’s skills and opportunities together. That’s where the real magic happens.

There seems to be a lack of connection between people and skills, especially in the church. I expect many people are nodding their heads at this, and perhaps some nodding in annoyance feeling unused. (Grrrr, no one ever asks me to take the collection!)

The bitterness of attending a church and feeling as though you have no part to play is soul destroying and maybe even a large part in people feeling church isn’t for them anymore.

The old saying, ‘use me or lose me’ comes to mind.

I want to ask who’s fault is it? but I suspect the ‘blame’ is more a lack of confidence for most of us. We might sit there seeing a void and knowing we could fill it, yet we don’t have the confidence to put ourselves forward.

Some time ago church had a trend of getting folks to complete forms to find out where our gifts lay. Like a cosmopolitan quiz finding your ideal partner, the church quiz decided whether we were a hostess, preacher, listener or one of the dozen other skills the Bible lists. The church then could use the results to funnel it’s congregation into the relevant vacant position. The end hope was that everyone had a place in church and a role that suited their abilities.

It all sounded great, until you look at your individual church and realise what works in one, won’t work in another, besides, they didn’t need a social media guru back then. I always thought a better idea would be for everyone in the church to hand in their CV’s, probably the only document where we are confident enough to be honest (and perhaps boastful).

I think about people like my nephew who studied sound recording at university, yet was never asked to work the sound desk at church. What better option than someone with a degree in the subject?

I wonder whether giving him a job he was good at and enjoyed might have encouraged him to keep turning up on Sundays.

And yet, did the church know? Did they realise they had a professional in their midst?

The Bible says we shouldn’t hide our light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15) but that’s exactly what we do. Our confidence has been knocked by the world (and sometimes the church) and it’s not easy to raise ourselves up and point out our abilities.

We are in need of those miracle people who have the vision to stand in the gap between our ability and the churches need.

That person in Glasgow who figured out Gordon’s skills were just what was needed in the charity shop, that shop worker who spotted his talent as an artist and realised he needed an exhibition.

These are the miracles that bring a man back on his feet, the opportunities that can only be seen by visionaries.

 

So what next for Gordon?

Perhaps he could design and build a mercy seat that helped disabled people to approach without the option of sitting on it and facing the congregation?

Maybe he could be used to design the facilities at some of the new lifehouses, with his personal experience and craftsmanship.

I’m looking forward to finding out.

 

 

 

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(Knitted) Quilts of Hope Square 1

For those who have come here from Ravelry, welcome. I encourage you to read my other posts on this blog about the Quilts of Hope project and what we are trying to do.

Being a yarnie and having many yarnie friends I felt a project that only used sewing was just not on. I want to welcome several craftpeople to the project and so, here is the first of several (hopefully) knitted squares for a (knitted) Quilt of Hope.

It’s a simple stocking stitch square with a garter stitch edge, something rather easy to start with. The finished square should measure 4.5 inches. I kept it quite small because I get frustrated knitting plain squares and wanted something beginners could make without getting bored.

If you are making squares for the project (and I really, REALLY, hope you do) please add a note as to whether they are acrylic, wool or one of the many other fancy yarns. This helps with sewing up and washing later.

One project that could benefit from knitted and crochet blankets is the Salvation Army human trafficking unit, who help relocate people rescued from slavery in the UK, Yep, we don’t often think about slavery as a modern day problem, but there are people caught in slavery in the UK, yes, even in Yorkshire.

I was listening to one woman who helps with the relocation of rescued people. Sometimes they’re alone, sometimes in a small group, sometimes with children. They may have a journey through the night, across the country, several hours long.

The people might not speak English, they’ve learnt not to trust, and don’t fully understand what is happening to them. Imagine travelling being that person, in a country you don’t know. I imagined blankets to help through the car journey, maybe with heart patterns on some of the squares (the heart is a bit like a universal symbol). It might help break down the language barrier and at least be a comfort on the journey.

So without further ado, Quilt of Hope, knit square 1

With DK yarn and 4mm needles, Cast on 24 stitches

1-4) knit

5) knit

6) knit 3, Purl to the last 3 stitches, Knit 3

Repeat rows 5 & 6 up to row 30

31-34) knit

Cast off

All done


This is an easy square to get you started with more squares to follow.

If you are in the Leeds area, we will be meeting on Thursday 20th October at Costa coffee shop, Crown Point, Leeds. It’s two doors down from Hobbycraft.

We will meet at 1.30pm till 3.30pm and will be hand sewing squares, knitting and crocheting squares. Come when you can, leave when you need to.

No experience necessary!

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Quilt Kits for sale

I’ve finally finished the first kits for the quilt squares.

The kits contain almost everything you need to make two squares for the first Quilt of Hope.

Contents:

Instructions

Two x 6×6 inch cotton squares

One smaller cotton square (for a heart)

A piece of heat and bond

Four metres of embroidery thread in 4 colours

A needle

A pack of embellishments (buttons, ribbon etc)

I’m selling them for £10, which covers the cost of UK postage and the kit, any proceeds from these kits will go towards the other things we’ll need for a quilt.

If you want to buy one you can buy one online from my Etsy shop, click on the link below to go straight there.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/470923438/quilts-of-hope-square-kit?ref=shop_home_active_1

Once you’ve made the squares you can keep them or send them back to us to be sewn into the quilt.

Our first quilt is going to be for the Joanna Project (www.joannaproject.co.uk) which supports women working in our red light district.

If anyone is around Leeds on Saturday and wants to meet and try the kits we’ll be meeting in Chapel Allerton Saturday, everyone is welcome and we’ll be able to talk about best times and locations to meet and sew.

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The Quilts of Hope Project

There is something special about blankets.

Whether this is the silver blankets handed out to marathon runners after the race,

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Or used to provide emergency heat to survivors and vulnerable people.

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The thick wool blankets handed out in winter,

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or the blankets with arms we use to watch TV.

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There is just something magical in how a large piece of fabric can comfort us, warm us and make us feel safe.

I remember staying with my Aunty and Uncle as a child and becoming ill. Being ‘put to bed’ on the sofa and having a blanket wrapped around me. Being tucked in and feeling that, no matter how much I hurt, everything would be ok.

That’s the magic of blankets, duvets, coverings and quilts.

The Quilts of Hope project will bring communities together to make quilts filled with hope and love to vulnerable people.

We’re starting with a simple quilt of squares

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If you already know how to embroider you can make a cotton square with a positive quote or something more elaborate. The squares can be 5.5″ x 5.5″ or 10.5″ x 10.5″, we ask that when you make the square you think or pray for the people this quilt might help.

Then send the squares to us at:

Betty Virago

45 West Grange Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 3AP

If you don’t yet know what to do we will soon be selling kits to make your square and using the money we raise to pay for the materials we need to finish the quilts.

email Betty at bettyvirago@gmail.com so we can tell you when the kits are ready.

We’ll be making some video tutorials as well, so there’s no excuses.

If you’re near Leeds you can join us for the magical part of quilt making when we all gather to hand sew the quilt. These are special events where we gather, pray, sing songs and talk together, and remember the people who might use the quilt.

Then when the quilt is finished we present it to a charity, to be used to warm, comfort and bless people in times of distress.

Our first quilt is going to the Joanna Project in Leeds who work with women in the red light area. Read more about that project at www.joannaproject.co.uk

But perhaps you know of a charity or group that would benefit from a quilt?

Email us and let us know.

 

 

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The Price of a Coffee

There’s a scene in the film Schindler’s list, where freedom is in sight for the Jewish people but Oskar Schindler is having to flee. He looks around at the mass of people he helped keep alive and no one would complain if he then surveyed the survivors and shouted at how great it is that so many survived.

Instead he looks at what he still has, the ring made by hidden bits of gold fillings, his car to help him escape… How many more people’s freedom could he have bought? It’s the part of the movie that always gets to me. That realisation that how ever much you have given, you might have been able to give that little bit more. As a Salvationist it’s something that drives me:

“While women weep, as they do now,

I’ll fight

While little children go hungry, as they do now, 

I’ll fight

While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, 

I’ll fight

While there is a drunkard left, 

While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, 

While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, 

I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!”

― William Booth

There are some people who know the value of a life and put themselves in a position to do the most good. Oskar could’ve sold his car, but that lavish lifestyle helped get him into places where he could do the most good. Would he have been able to get into the nazi regime if he had turned up on shanks’ pony? If he turned up to a party asking to buy human beings but only bringing cheap wine, would he have got through the door?

I have been lucky enough to experience poverty and to be around people who know how the price of a coffee for some, could mean the difference between an evening meal or a night of hunger. I’ve met women selling their bodies to unknown men in darkened cars so they can put £10 on their electricity meter, and although the going rate for sex in Leeds is a little higher (sorry to be blunt, but sometimes you just shouldn’t mince your words), each time I go into a costa coffee shop I’m reminded of the women I met who charged less than the price of my coffee.

Lucky? Yeah, it’s strange to think of it as luck. A privilege maybe to know real survivors and real strong women, yes, most definitely.

A lot of my ideas and university projects are based around charity projects, mittens for women who work in the cold, craft classes that are cheap enough for all, knitting groups in places that don’t expect you to pay a fortune for a drink.

I know how many people in poverty don’t have the luxury of a wide screen TV and SKY (despite the myth that we all do) I read the studies that show how knitting and crafts can help boost confidence and keep depression at bay, but I also know how the hidden extras of attending a craft group can keep some from benefiting. 

Our latest project at Uni is a craft project. We’re making a quilt by hand, learning the techniques of making and producing a one of a kind item. Two quilt groups, two single quilts.

We asked what is going to happen with the quilts at the end of the project and were told they would be given to a local charity for a family in need. Two quilts to help two families.

Sounds wonderful.

And yet… Something bothers me.

I’ve seen before where something is given to charity with conditions, or in some cases, no conditions but the wrong gift.

  
Recently I heard a story from members of the guild for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

They had a community project where they made knitted squares that were sewn together to make dressing gowns. The idea being that they would keep someone warm over winter when they couldn’t afford heating.

This might be the charity they gave them to.

Cosy at Christmas

Nothing wrong with the idea I suppose, not my cup of tea. I’d rather keep warm with heating or in something a bit less colourful, but the thought is certainly there.

The story I heard was that members of the guild were becoming increasingly worried about the squares they were knitting. Would a person in poverty know how to wash their hand spun, hand knitted luxury squares? Would a poor person know how to wash delicates?

I pointed out to the people worrying that the chances of the person having the means to wash the dressing gown was more of a worry than whether they would damage all their hard work.

It’s not just that many people in poverty don’t have a washing machine, nor is it the lack of laundromats in poorer areas, the simple choice of fitting one bulky gown over several everyday items of clothing into the machine means they might never get washed. At a fiver a load, washing clothing becomes a choice of what is needed most.

There is another niggle I have about choosing what to give. I know many people don’t give cash to people begging on the streets and I see the logic in donating that money to a charity instead, each to their own in that respect. As long as you really do give to the charity instead!

It’s the giving situations where choice is denied the receiver. Those times when you decide to buy the guy a coffee instead of giving cash, but don’t ask first whether the guy even likes coffee, never mind if he even wants one.

The ever recurring rumour that the government will give people on benefits cards to shop in certain places instead of allowing them the choice to spend the benefit money where they want (yep, I know it allows people to spend their benefit on things you might not approve of, I’m sure some of you’ve spend money on things I don’t approve of) So what if some of my benefit money is spend on wool, it keeps depression at bay, has got me into University, and put me in the positive mood to write this blog that you so enjoy.

It’s the removing of choice I disagree with. The idea that because you are poor, your choices cannot be trusted. The feeling of despair you feel when you have so little, and then even the freedom to choose is removed from you.

And that, kind of brings me back to the quilt.

It’s a lovely gesture, hand sewing a quilt, putting hours of love into the project, imagining the faces of those little poor kids who can’t wait to sleep under their quilt. Won’t they be so grateful, so appreciative, won’t they just love me all the more for it, won’t I be treasured in their minds with every warm sleep they get because someone hand sewed a quilt for them. And won’t I get such a warm fuzzy feeling in my giving. Won’t I sleep so soundly under my 15 tog duvet with freshly laundered cover knowing that somewhere in town is a little child sleeping under my thin hand sewn quilt.

And suddenly it no longer becomes about helping a family, but about how grateful they should be and how fuzzy my feelings will be.

I challenged this idea, suggesting an alternative. What if the charity were allowed to sell the quilt, maybe they’d get £100, maybe £10, but what if that quilt could help 2 people? Two quilts, four families helped? Two quilts, twenty families helped?

A quick look on Asda gave me this information:

http://direct.asda.com/george/home-garden/duvets/D26M04G04C14,default,sc.html#http://direct.asda.com/george/home-garden/duvets/D26M04G04C14,default,sc.html?srule=g_price_asc&start=0&sz=20

£7 – single size summer duvet

£15 – Slumberdown 13.5 tog duvet and pillow set.

  
Hand sewn traditional quilts are lovely, don’t get me wrong. I’d love someone to make me one, but it would just be decoration. The quilts at Uni are filled with the thinnest stuffing available and small, they just fit a single bed. You couldn’t wrap up warm in one. 

It wouldn’t replace the softness of a cheap duvet, and it can’t be changed with a new cover as often as the £7 Asda duvet. Who’d pay me £14 for a hand made single duvet? (I’m imagining hands shooting up) Two children will benefit if you do, what about £21 (three children) how many children do you want to keep warm? 

Sadly, I’m in the minority. One family is going to receive our quilt, I hope they like it, maybe they’ll spread it across their knees while watching the wide screen TV they don’t have, maybe they’ll spread it on the floor as a rug. Our quilt group has chosen what will happen to it, we now have to choose which charity is given it.

I have another suggestion, what if every student in the quilt group took the finished quilt home for one night. What if they turned off their heating, removed their duvet and spent the night under the quilt, then decided whether it would benefit a family.

What if I took them on a day trip, I could show them the family who live on my street, no wallpaper, little furniture and bits of scrap carpet for walking on. Four people living in a one roomed flat, a teenager and his little sister sleeping night after night on the sofa (year after year!), mum and grandmother sharing the only bed. What if the students were allowed to go to their little flat and hand the quilt over, sure the fuzzy feeling would be overwhelming, and my neighbours would be grateful, oh my, they would be so grateful. What if, when walking out of the flat I pointed to another flat, same situation. What about them? Two quilts… How many families?

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Modes of making & meaning – Freddie Robins

Freddie Robins work – Craft Kills is a self portrait made from wool on a knitted machine.

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The following is taken from her website

http://www.freddierobins.com/blog/post.php?s=craft-kills

Craft Kills is a self-portrait based on the well-recognised image of Saint Sebastian being martyred. Instead of arrows piercing my skin I have knitting needles. The title immediately brings to mind the old adage of “dying for your art” but what I am much more concerned with is the stereotypical image that craft, and in particular knitting, has, of being a passive, benign activity. How would it be if craft was considered as dangerous or subversive?   Since conceiving of this piece the world suffered the events of September 11th and its aftermath. You can no longer fly with knitting needles in your hand luggage. Knitting is now classed as a dangerous activity.

(Statement written for Flexible 4: Identities catalogue, 2004)

It’s based on a painting of Saint Sebastian who was martyred for being a Christian around 600AD

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The painting of St Sebastian by Mantegna in the Ca d’Oro museum in Venice

I like the knitted piece, although every time I see a knitted suit like this, I’m reminded of a conversation in one of my knitting groups about sexual fetishes and whether there was a knitted one (there is, and they wear things like the outfit Freddie made).

I’ve always struggled with the difference in Art and Craft, is there really a difference?

I look at ‘Art’ like Tracey Emin’s bed and don’t ‘get it’, walking round galleries I feel like the kid in the Emperors new clothes, shouting, “That’s not Art”.

Yep, you can imagine just how much I struggle in Uni.

The painting above is art, Art is something you look at and gasp. Craft…

I understand what Freddie says about knitting being seen as a passive craft. Something old ladies do to keep alzheimer’s at bay.

At the knitting group I mentioned we meet in a pub and often get comments from men asking us to whip up a jumper for free. But the thought of asking a painter to whip up a portrait for free wouldn’t cross our minds.

Art is costly, while craft is cheap. Art comes from years of hard study and focus, craft comes from a wet bored day at Grannies house.

This image has been doing the knitting rounds recently and we’ve been thinking of getting t-shirts with it on.

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I didn’t just wake up last week and think of being a crocheter, nor did I spend months practicing bobbin lace for someone to suggest it’s a hobby.

I get Freddie Robins meaning, Craft kills, it changes people’s thinking.

You expect a crafter to come along and make granny squares for a blanket, cute, soft and cuddly. Those cute squares become blankets for homeless people, get shipped to refugee camps in Syria (we’ve shipped well over 100 now). What you don’t expect from a crafter is attitude, but that’s whats happening.

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Salvation Army Yarn and Beanie pattern

I’ve been thinking for ages that I should raise some money for the Salvation Army by creating a yarn for them. So using the colours on the Army’s flag (yellow, red and blue) I came up with a yarn using blends of the three colours in 100% merino wool from New Zealand.

Here’s the result.Salvation Army wool

It’s already available on my Etsy shop at £5 for a 20g skein. Does that sound a lot? Well, the wool being 100% wool, from small farmers and shipped to the UK doesn’t come cheap. It’s sorted in Huddersfield by a small family business, then hand spun by me on an Ashford traditional spinning wheel. When you think about it, the price for wool like this isn’t too bad.

You’re not only supporting a worldwide charity in doing some amazing stuff, but helping local businesses survive.

Alongside the yarn I’ve made a little pattern for a simple knitted beanie. It’s got the words Salvationist or Salvation Army written across it and is just the thing for those cold nights caroling.

Salvationist

The chart that comes with the pattern has a complete alphabet and space for you to write your own phrases, I might make one for Brian with the words Band Master on it… then one for Colin with the word Major… Thankfully my corps is small so I’ll be done by caroling 2014.

Anyway, here’s the pattern… Salvation Army Beanie

Hope it’s just what you need for the coming winter months. A 20g skein should do 2 hats at least.

Even if you don’t knit, you might know a Salvationist who does, what a great Christmas present.

If you need more than 20g or can’t see any on Etsy, just email me at bettyvirago@gmail.com