Wednesday, January 21, 2015

a patchwork life

Last summer I got given some patchwork fabric squares, fat quarters and eighths for Christmas/birthday presents. They sat in my cupboard all year as whilst I had some vague ideas I couldn't quite figure out what to do with them. As nothing immediately sprang to mind and given I was having a hard enough time keeping on top of the projects I already had to do I didn't exactly give the matter a lot of thought I have to admit.

Then as I started packing for Summer Gathering I realised that I could do with some hand sewing to take as I expected to spend a lot of time sitting quietly rather than rushing around being busy. I could've taken my rag rug project as Sue did, but it and the stuff I'm cutting up is a bit bulky and I was trying to pack light. Having seen the glorious technicolour of Sue's that she started at the previous Summer Gathering I'm rather relieved I left my rather dull looking version at home! The problem with using old clothes up for projects and trying to avoid buying anything for it is that you end up with the colours to use that you wear, which in my case meant a lot of black, brown, grey and dull greens with occasional brighter items thrown in. It's actually perfect for it's intended purpose which will be a doormat but that is somewhat beside the point. I did come home resolving to add brighter colours somehow!

Anyway having ditched the idea of taking the rug I needed something else so started looking again at the material I'd been gifted. I had some paper templates from an earlier piecing project so roughed up an idea for starting some stars within septagons and decided I'd figure out what to do with them later. Sometimes a project needs to just grow on it's own.

I thought I had taken far more templates than I'd need but I almost ran out by the end of the gathering and I had just short of 6 completed stars to bring home. I had a night in Auckland on the way back staying with old friends. Whilst dutifully admiring 7yr old Lucy's rotating disco lightbulb she'd saved up her pocket money to buy (it was pretty cool I have to admit, just not very good for reading by!) I caught sight of her patchwork duvet cover her mum had made. Of course! I'd been thinking I needed another duvet cover and the colours I had were perfect for my room - my friends know me well.

So I now have the beginnings of a plan and it is starting to come together. I'll need to get some extra fabric to make it work, but I'm still a way of reaching the stage where that is necessary, I can continue to work with what I've got. I started listening to Dune whilst I sew, so I've been working my way through my 100 Big Reads list at the same time - two birds with one stone!

On Facebook I saw a photo a friend had shared of a patchwork quilt she's started for her daughter and she mentioned the months of thinking, choosing and planning that had gone in to it. It made me reflect on this project's journey and I started seeing parallels between it and my life in general. When the 2Es (as our YM co-clerks are known) visited in February on their way to the Waitangi we discussed the plans for our YM venturing into the relatively uncharted waters of having a paid employee. Instead of having a secretary like Australia YM the plan was to start small and contract out various tasks. As my health was rapidly heading downhill at that stage and my confidence was going with it I couldn't see how it could be something I would be successful in applying for given the number of folk with far better DTP skills than me. However I chipped in with my experience of being a sole Quaker employee responsible to committees etc and how that had worked as they gathered information ready for our Yearly Meeting and the next stage of the process.

Since I was made redundant at the end of 2012 I'd been trying to figure out 'what next?' Yet other than being at home, taming the garden, doing more 'urban homesteading' and working towards a more sustainable life all I could come up with was working for Friends again. Which is a bit tricky in a Yearly Meeting that doesn't employ anyone! So I needed another idea, but none arrived however Phyllis did fall and need a hip replacement so I became a full time homebased carer for a while which did allow me to be at home, work on the garden etc etc etc. Be careful what you wish for! I wouldn't wish an emergency hip replacement on anyone.

After that I reluctantly did a bit more teaching even though I was fairly convinced it wasn't good for my health, and as if to prove a point that is when I really started to go downhill towards the end of 2013. Part of me wanted to hang on to the belief that the right job will turn up, but after a year and then some it was hard to keep that faith and financially it was becoming more of a challenge to hold out. So there I was with some concepts of what I wanted to do, but no ideas as to how to pull it together and make it happen. So like the fabric, the idea of working for Friends got stashed away for now, occasionally taken out and looked at with vague plans but nothing jumping out at me as the way forward.

Ironically being ill levelled out my finances as I started getting benefits to top up my small regular income. And by the time the fixed term job putting Documents in Advance together and other YM papers was advertised my health had improved enough to be able to apply in the hope that by the time it started I'd be properly up to it.

When the job started I just had to go for it and hope I could make it work. Luckily for me at the time (although possibly not for me in a fortnights time when the deadline rolls around!) not many contributions came in early so I had time to set up some systems and get my head around what needed done before actually having to do it.

It took several weeks to get the contract sorted, especially as one of the Monthly Meetings (mine as it happens!) decided to have a session considering guidelines for YM being an employer. So in the end my contract was signed with the caveat that this in no way was to be considered a template for future contracts without taking into consideration the current ongoing process of establishing best practice.

So we had the equivalent of the first strip of the quilt sorted out, what would happen next to be built up around it was very much still up in the air.

Whilst at Summer Gathering a group of us got together to consider how to go forward with a project that had been dormant for the last few years, but was still seen as an important part of our history as a community and there was a strong wish for it to continue. Could it be added to the secretarial role? someone asked, well not as it stands just now, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be in the future! Already Friends are starting to see ways of expanding the original role, extending the pattern yet within the existing colour scheme. What we're still waiting for is that collective lightbulb moment of seeing exactly what it is we need to be creating out of the bits and pieces we have to choose from.

It is going to be interesting to see how things develop this year, will the project get shelved after the first stage until the same time of year roles around again? Anyway whatever happens with the paid work at least I have some idea what I'm doing with my sewing for now! And having now finished Dune I wonder if I can tackle another book from the list whilst I'm at it?

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