Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
The Wagga quilt fits squarely into the Australian tradition of ‘making do.’ These quilts were constructed from recycled materials that were available at the time-for the shearer or drover that was wheat sacks, for the poor family on the land it was clothing that could no longer be worn because it was too threadbare, for Depression-era women it was the samples that tailors or fabric salesmen no longer needed. But Waggas are not only the products of hardship on the land. Many of the surviving quilts were used in homes in reginal towns or the suburbs or large cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. The making of these quilts from the late 1800s through to the 1030s did not parallel the American quilt tradition of community quilting bees, but were made in isolation, and although they were constructed quickly, the results show that time was often taken to creatively arrange the fabrics. Although they were made out of necessity the still contain the memories, stories, and lives of those who made them and those who used them. The memories inherent in the Wagga resonate with the viewer more strongly than quilts made for store-bought fabrics. When we look at these quickly made, yet lovingly pieced quilts today, we can feel the emotional pull of the fabrics that represent past lives. These qualities have made quilt making a useful image and metaphor for writers. The similarities between quilt-making and writing have been noted by several authors, as have the metaphor that quilt-making provides when used in fiction. To illustrate this, I will investigate the quilt references in Kate Grenville’s novel The Idea of Perfection (2000) and the Wagga made by Kit Yates for her family in Armidale, New South Wales in the late 1930s.