Several years ago I formed a “Crafternoon” group. The concept brings together two of my favourite things…craft and afternoon tea! At the time I had access to an old corner shop that could be my craft space and crafternoon space. Amazing things were made in that space…organic paper lanterns for a birthday party, quilts, Christmas gifts, clothes. Amazing food was also consumed...my favourite being a vegetarian curry with Quinoa consumed one breezy summer afternoon when we took our craft out onto the concrete apron in front of the corner shop.
The shop became someone else’s home and we moved to a take-it-in-turns-at-your-place model. Each host bringing out their favourite china and comfy chairs for us to gather, gossip and occasionally craft!
To be honest, at times it felt it became more about the food than the craft! But more than that it fostered crafty friendships. I met like-minded people who happily shared food, ideas and skills and whiled away the hours tinkering at our craft projects. We did lose momentum and the months between meet-ups became longer, the crew became smaller as everyone got busy with life, kids and family! We've been in hiatus for quite sometime, but periodically when a couple of us meet up we suggest a crafternoon, and I'm sure one day we will manage it! I have recently joined a new Crafternoon group, met new people and eaten new foods! Last event included meeting some chickens who didn't mind taking part too!
The tradition of craft groups has a long history. I always remember that movie “How to make an American quilt” where the construction of a wedding quilt is the catalyst for sharing advice and life stories. The idea of not only crafting with friends but actually working together to create something beautiful and something that is a challenge to make on your own really did appeal to me. The movie did rather create a romantic notion in my head about co-creation of craft items (much in the same way “Pretty Woman” made me want a red velvet evening gown and white gloves!).
The tradition of quilting bees is particularly strong in American history. Friendship quilts has a long tradition. Some years ago (when the Australian dollar was at parity) I discovered antique quilts on eBay. I scored a few beautiful vintage quilts. But one of my favourite finds was a stash of friendship quilt blocks, not yet sewn together but embroidered with the names of the creator on each block. The names are wonderful….Daisy… Mary Scott with a tartan fabric…you can’t help but wonder who these women were and what the final quilt was intended for and why it was packed away for many years unfinished. I know some would finish a quilt like this but I feel it’s not right. That a quilt like this needs to be completed in a friendship circle and by hand!
Knitting too has its own tradition of gatherings. I’ve just revisited one of the great “Stitch’n’bitch” books by Debbie Stoller. She talks about the origin of the phenomenon. Starting with a small gathering of older family knitters and younger enthusiasts in a Café in New York. This first small group that waxed and waned spawned a global phenomenon of the ‘Stitch’n’bitch social gatherings. There are many throughout the world today- including Australian chapters. New younger groups and movements are also happening with English mob “Wool and the Gang” creating their own Avon-like social gatherings and parties.
With the advent of the internet knitting groups have gone global. If you ever see the letters KAL – it means “Knit-a-long” and it is a real child of the online age with people in far flung places knitting the same project at the same time. There is even the idea of a mystery knit-a-long that many designers use in which you don’t know what you are creating until the end! The pattern is released in stages…something like a treasure hunt as each weekly or monthly clue is released! Great designers with a reputation for creating beautiful things get almost a cult following for their mystery KAL. Kaffe Fasset the darling of all things colourful knit, for example, produced an afghan in his trademark colour and pattern style.
Now don’t get me wrong I’m happy to craft solo and sometimes you need that quiet space and contemplation to really knuckle down to a project or to unwind after a busy day. But the camaraderie of crafting together is a great motivator, a great way to learn and share skills and a great way to make friends.
So get out there a join a craft group. It will make your heart sing and your mouth laugh!