Red and white gingham: my daughter loved those picnic rug curtains, when her room was all toy-plastic pink, sugar sweet lilac and peppermint green. She loves them still, but her room’s been updated twice since then. Being a part-time sewer and crafter, instinct made me keep the curtains. The fabric is a good, medium-weight cotton and it washed well, ready for projects galore.
Project 1: The peg bag used around half a metre, along with snippets of floral cotton fabric for the inside of the strap and remnants from my son’s black and white curtains for the flap. I made it a couple of years ago when my last one became a shadow of itself, thin, grubby and threadbare.
Project 2: My daughter became a long mobility cane user when she was around thirteen-years-old and carried a flimsy plastic bag to stash it in so its roller ball didn’t mess up her schoolbag or mark her clothes when not in use. Really, though, she needed something to contain the grit, grime and damp collected on dusty or wet days, so the gingham resurfaced and I crafted a long drawstring case with a polythene lining. Not only does the cloth stand out visually for one with limited sight but the bag is easy to stuff into a rucksack when travelling and it also helps to – slightly – remove the self-consciousness faced by a young mobility-cane user while, for example, sitting in a café, minding her own business.
Project 3: Last week, I began making surgical masks for the family as it seems they’ll be as ubiquitous as rainbows before too long: on public transport, in town, in tourist spots. For my own, for weekly supermarket shopping, I couldn’t resist that red picnic gingham. Maybe, on a subliminal level, it suggests fun, leisure and ease, as opposed to protection, regulation and anxiety.
It was only this morning, with thoughts of my next blog, and wondering whether the day would be dry enough to hang out the washing, I spotted the peg bag and realised the house is dotted with splashes of those refashioned curtains. I felt there was an interesting photograph to be had. So, I gathered the gingham! These days, I’m quite a fan of Instagram. Its format lends itself to a quick pic, a speedy snip of a post and. . . job done! And being a visual person, I enjoy the inspirational images and insightful messages of others with the plethora of hashtags for connecting like-minded souls.
So, starting with Insta, I sent my image out into the world of social media. And like seeds, broadcast and left to get on with growing, I waited to see what interest my gingham would germinate.
That’s when my writing friend, Julie, responded. There’s a perfect poem in here, Paula, she said. . . the function and appearance of the curtains changing over time. . . like the world as we emerge from lockdown. . .
And I liked what she wrote so much, I asked her if I could include it in my blog. So, here it is:
The red tab top curtains have
been cut again,
earning their keep as a case
for a cane, a peg bag and
now a face mask,
a shield while we wait for a
With a snip and some thread
they adapt to new
As we blink our way into the
the same snip and reform,
stitch and pull will help us to
both changed, and the same.
by Julie McNeill
I’ll leave it there for today, other than to say, look out for Julie. She has the most wonderful way with words!
Julie McNeill is a mum, philosopher, coronavirus home-educator, poet and writer of prose and she’ll be publishing a non-fiction book about dyslexia this September.
Julie's Twitter handle is: @juliemcneill1