Posts Tagged ‘repairs’

Wagga-style Repairs; Everything Old Becomes New Again, Eventually

Monday, January 9th, 2012

About 20 years ago I made this red/black/white/grey colour schemed quilt for our son Ivan to take off to college.  It has a lot of use and quite a few washings since then, and was presented to me last week in serious need of repairs.  I decided wagga style patchings were the only sane way to deal with the little holes along seam ridges, and some surprising fabric failures producing patches just hanging by few threads.  In one patch the batting had gone … but it has all now been repaired, taking several brightly coloured fabrics and about 10 hours of cutting and machine patching over the holes.  And of course all that can be done again in the future in true wagga style!

The pattern used was given to me on a class handout nearly 25 years ago, in the days when of course no one acknowledged sources of patterns and designs they liked and thought they’d like to share… even if something was clearly in the open domain.  So I did once look it up in Ginny Beyer’s  Book of Blocks and Borders, and found it was a traditional pattern or variation of one, which included mosaic in the title (the book isn’t to handto check this as I write)

And by coincidence, just as I was starting on these repairs, I was searching for thread in a nearby quiltshop here in Easton, and noticed among the books this one featuring the exact same pattern on the cover:

These traditional blocks have enduring appeal – here even enhanced by the wording of the title of this booklet, which uses as the base material the 2 1/2″ strips you can now get pre-cut from beautiful batik fabrics, all you have to do for this pattern is sew them up in light/dark pairs and cut triangles, arrange them according to the instructions and sew together. It’s a beautiful pattern done with 1  1/2″too, much finer.  I used larger strips because of the large prints and stripes – it worked well.  I’ve often seen it,  and in certain classes I hand out the same sheet I was given years ago – its the perfect scrap quilt pattern.   In the hand out instructions one had to cut one’s own strips of course – but that was the time when the new rotary cutter and long rulers had recently revolutionised quiltmaking, apparently – I take that on faith because the cutter already reigned supreme when I began making quilts.

Nice to see an old pattern is enjoying popularity again… or still.

The Art Of Repairing

Sunday, October 21st, 2007
Ceramic bowl repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique.

When this ceramic bowl broke, instead of being discarded, it was beautifully repaired using an adhesive or lacquer infused with powdered gold. This repair technique is Japanese, and known as ‘kintsugi’. The break lines are highlighted rather than camouflaged, serving to demonstrate the bowl’s importance to its owner. The changed appearance becomes part of it’s history as a functional object. I didn’t learn of kintsugi until some years after I posted about a wonderful exhibition Mike and I saw in Paris in 2007, at the Musee du Quai Branly. Rewording a bit, I’m going to write about Objets Blesses: la reparacion en afrique again here – because it made a huge impact on me. Unforgettable.

The title of the exhibition translates literally as “injured objects” which of course they were: they were broken and then repaired. On show were artifacts collected in several African countries by French colonists, traders, missionaries and explorers. Made from many different materials – wood, iron, precious metals, ceramic, leather, stone – every object in the exhibition had been repaired. None of the objects blesses were repaired using the kintsugi approach of course, but the array of repair techniques was fascinating – apart from images of pieces in the exhibition here on this page I found a wonderful Pinterest board here that I’ve been following for a while.

An impressive array of techniques were used in these repairs, and despite the mending process changing each object’s appearance, these repairs had all restored usefulness of these valued household tools and vessels, weapons, and religious and ceremonial objects symbolising community offices and powers.

Really interesting ridge pattern formed by repair work becomes an additional surface design.

My grandparents survived the Great Depression, where millions of people lost everything suddenly or gradually, and had to mend, make do or go without. Our parents lived with severe shortages and rationing of everything during World War 2. Inevitably, we baby-boomers were ingrained with the values of mending and making do, wearing something out before throwing it out. Thrift was necessary and virtuous. Today, with over 7.5billion people needing, expecting or requiring stuff, all imposing huge stresses on the Earth’s resources, at last there are signs that many people are making real efforts to avoid unnecessary wastage of the planet’s resources by recycling, upcycling and repurposing, though there’s so much more to be done and practiced daily.

One sad reality in the western world is that so much stuff we use cannot just simply be repaired at home if it breaks, and often can’t be affordably fixed by a qualified repair person, either, making it often much cheaper to just buy a replacement for the broken thing. Lots of footwear comes into this category, though I nearly always buy leather, which does last and is nearly always repairable. Of course, worst of all are electrical appliances and digital things like phones and TVs which feature built-in obsolescence, and we suffer frequent model changes that ensure that parts quickly become unavailable. Because of my upbringing this sticks in my throat.

Until I saw this really impressive exhibition, I hadn’t given any real thought to the activity of repairing something. But seeing these objects’ repairs, and reading about them, impressed on me that we repair things that are important or useful to us. We value their usefulness as daily household or work related items; we value objects which symbolise culture, politics, history or religion; some things we value because we simply find them pleasing or beautiful in some way; and sometimes objects are valuable because our ancestors owned and used them.

Repairing produces scars or visible marks, but that’s a very different expected outcome from the process of restoration, in which repairs are done as skillfully as possible to create the impression the object has been returned to its original appearance and function. It hadn’t occurred to me these are not really interchangeable words!

I don’t recall exactly, but think photography might not have been allowed, which would have been one reason I bought the catalogue; but the other would have been “Why the heck not, anyway?” Having bought two additional large suitcases in Cairo to contain textiles we’d acquired in Egypt, including two large Tentmaker hangings , we already had twice as much luggage as we’d set out with just a few weeks before !!

Gold in the lacquer highlights the break lines, producing additional surface design patterning – kintsugi.

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