16 hours ago
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
China - part 11 - patchwork day 1
We started the first of our four patchwork days with 67 students, 13 sewing machines and not very much fabric. The first box from Singer had arrived the night before, but the main box was still on its way. We began class each day at 8.30a.m., breaking from 11.30a.m. - 2p.m. for lunch (a long lunch break is common here, because of the heat and humidity) and finished the afternoon session at around 5.30p.m.
We started our first day with short speeches from various people involved with the project and an official photo on the steps between the upper and lower schoolyards.
Mr Zhou from Singer demonstrated the sewing machines to half the class while I demoed basic rotary cutting. We didn't have a lot of machines and only two rotary cutting stations, but since not everyone needs to be sewing or cutting at the same time, I figured it would work. Mr Zhou demos for Singer all the time, knows the machines inside out and was very popular with the students - a man with a sewing machine is usually a big hit!
The students were very willing to share and help each other, which made things work very well.
I had planned to do some stitch and flip patchwork onto fabric foundations for our first day, as it would help the students to get used to the machines without having to worry too much about accurate seam allowances. Improvising with the fabrics we had (which wasn't a lot), we used denim rectangles as the foundation, stitching onto the back, so the dark blue didn't shadow through too much, and finger pressed the pieces - the high humidity certainly helped with that. All the fabrics we had to start with was what seemed to be workshop kits for various projects. As the box they were packed in also contained finished show samples, bags and small patchwork items, I really hope that we were sent the right box from Singer, and weren't undoing a lot of their work for a forthcoming show! There was still no sign of the main fabric box arriving. Daniel Wan from Singer had promised us over 50 metres of patchwork fabric, and I started worrying a bit about how we could keep 67 students sewing with so little fabric if this didn't arrive.
Angel was brilliant, loosely translating my demonstrations for the students, and starting to get hooked on patchwork herself.
We hung up some of my quilts, selected for relevance to what I was teaching, and the students liked them very much - lots of photos taken.
I am happy to say that no one sliced off a finger!
After lunch, the main fabrics and the wadding arrived - I was very relieved! We started cutting out for the main project, which was a Corner in the Cabin block. My idea was for the group to make as many of these as possible, so we could make a couple of group quilts. I got everyone cutting approximately half metre pieces from the 3 - 4 metre fabric lengths, so the strips were more manageable to cut.
I had simply asked Daniel to choose fabrics he thought our students would like, and there were lots of bright colours, with some metallics, and a lot of butterflies, which they loved.
At the end of the first day, everyone had made a stitch and flip strip and used it as a base to try out some of the fancy stitches on the machines, which the students obviously liked playing with. We sewed a backing onto them and the idea is that the students would stuff these and make them into rather long and skinny pincushions when they went home. While making them, they had learned a lot of skills they could use over the next few days, but without having too much pressure to make something perfect first time round.
We moved out of the quaint riverside hotel that day and into a more international style business hotel much closer to the college. The riverside hotel was lovely, but having to cross the long bridge in the rain wasn't fun, plus the second hotel was easier for us to go back and have a siesta.
One of the snack vendors near the suspension bridge - the fried tofu was delicious.
We went to a restaurant in a very old house near the river that evening.
The main casserole/soup was served in an interesting dish, like half a bottle.
The second hotel in Pintang.
This was a typical view in China - new development once again.
The reception area was decorated with Maonan designs.
I wish we could have incorporated traditional designs like these into our patchwork, but maybe the students will be able to combine a more traditional style with their work later. Many of them can do the traditional embroidery.