Across the community there are many small groups providing a need for people. Although the group may originate in sharing a similar skill or interest it soon moves to providing friendships, practical and emotional support. The Bluegum Quilters is one of these many groups across our municipality.
For 30 years now we have meet once a month for a full day of patchwork and quilting, hand sewing or machine sewing, making quilts for those in need, sharing news of our craft and families. Enjoying workshops with tutors and trips away to visit an exhibition or patchwork shops. Discussing fabric colours and patterns. All these things were a regular feature of our monthly get togethers.
2020 started with many aspirations, workshops and projects to do. Yes, there were bushfires and a focus on climate change but generally they were matters that entered the conversation and we thought of what we could do for those causes.
Then very quickly we moved in to the ups and downs of Covid 19 in Australia. The news coverage and government announcements were unrelenting. Questions like can we meet, no there are too many of us, is our venue open, no it is closed, are we all looking after ourselves etc.
During our first lock down, we were comforted by the fact we had plenty of unfinished projects to work on and like most crafty people we also had supplies in our cupboards to keep us going. This all seemed okay and by midyear we will be back to some normality. We pushed out dates for workshops and kept our monthly newsletters going. Our Facebook group page became the place to celebrate birthdays and completed projects. Some started sewing scrubs for medical staff that could not access these essential items through normal commercial channels.
Then reality set in, Covid 19 had changed our lives and how we do things like staying in touch, how do we still remain a group. We started to crave for news about each other and their respective families. We then started Zoom sessions, but not everyone has a computer or IPAD and not everyone is comfortable using technology. Let’s face it we were not brought up with it, it arrived about a third of the way into our lives.
For the second lock down, we put our skills to use sewing masks for ourselves, family and others. Our masks were not plain or boring, we had access to a variety of printed cotton fabrics in our cupboards, stores that had reopened and online shopping. We also cancelled all the postponed workshops; activities and our week end away. At the same time many craft shows and exhibitions were also cancelled. Our diaries were full of crossing outs, white out and blank pages.
Instead of going to exhibitions and classes we started participating in online viewing of exhibitions and classes that were being offered. Again, not available to all because of the technology challenge.
It now seems a dream to organise an outing to see an exhibition, have lunch and visit a patchwork shop. Pre Covid we would plan a whole day of activities around viewing other people’s work or in search of a piece of fabric. The day meant we would travel somewhere, chat and enjoy lots of interaction with each other and what was around us, return home tired and fulfilled, brimming with ideas for our next piece of work.
Another reality is conversation is becoming limited as we are not having those adventures to share and our families are not having celebrations that we chat about with each other and show photos etc.
We are missing swapping pieces of fabrics, ideas and providing hints. As a group we have subscribed to some magazines which we would normally browse through at our monthly meetings. Now we pass them on via our letter boxes without stopping for a chat and in the hope that person can then pass the magazine on to another member within their five km radius.
As a group we are digging deep to find new ways to challenge each other in our craft skills and to share our everyday lives so we can stay connected and feel supported. These small things have the ability to brighten another member’s day, put loneliness in the background or help them see light instead of darkness.
Very soon we will start planning and anticipating 2021 with hope and renewed energy.
By Heather Stephens