A massive quilt, which has woven together the most treasured memories of the people of Derry, has been unveiled for August Craft Month.
The City of Culture Quilt, which is approximately 50ft by 20ft, has been a real labour of love for the people of the city and for well-known children’s knitwear designer and crochet tutor Aine Clarke of Hansel and Gretel.
After seven months in production, the multi-coloured, handmade quilt, made with the help of hundreds of local people, is now on display in Pump Street.
Aine said the whole city came together to add their most treasured memories to its design.
She said: “It has been really successful. The quilt looks really well and symbolises how people have come together to support the City of Culture. A lot of effort has been put into each individual piece, which is personal to the maker.
“People put in dates special to them and their family, including the birth or death of a loved one. The detail is really beautiful. The Mother’s Union produced a wonderful piece commemorating their centenary.”
There have been contributions sent from the US, Australia, England and Scotland with the Derry diaspora eager to lend their support to the project.
On Monday night, with the help of a forklift truck, the enormous quilt was installed outside the top floors of the Bedlam building -a hub of cultural activity which houses art galleries, craft workshops, and vintage clothing stores.
It all began back in January when Aine received an individual artist award from the Culture Company 2013 to pursue her idea. She has been working furiously ever since, doing workshops with schools, hospitals, care homes, youth and community groups, teaching them how to knit and crochet.
The aim was to bring a diverse range of groups together from the city to work for a common goal.
“Lisnagelvin Primary School made a big effort. The whole school was involved and they made a piece that is about a quarter of the whole quilt. It is great because a lot of children have kept it up so it has helped to revive crocheting and knitting in the city.
“It also brought back a lot of memories for older people in the homes. They hadn’t knitted or crocheted for many years and it was lovely to sit down and hear their stories about their families and the olden days when everybody, including fathers, knitted,” she added.
The owner of the successful Hansel and Gretel knitwear store located in the Bedlam building, Aine has sold her colourful, distinctive hand knit childrenswear products to the rich and the famous, including Michael Bublé and Kirstie Allsop.
She holds six weekly knitting workshops in her shop hosting women from all over the city who have come together to become firm friends.
“We have lots of women of all sorts of backgrounds coming together to learn a new skill. But it has been very difficult to get the men involved. I have offered free classes for men but to no avail.
“I had a bit of a laugh a couple of weeks ago when I got some male traffic wardens, builders and men that work in the street into the shop and took pictures of them knitting and crocheting,” she added.
Alan Kane, Chief Executive of Craft NI, was delighted that the quilt was completed in time for August Craft Month.
“It is a fantastic achievement. Aine has really channelled the energies of the people of the city and has helped to revive the craft of knitting and crocheting which used to be practiced in most households in Northern Ireland. It is a real example of how community involvement can help create a beautiful and meaningful work of art.”
Noelle McAlinden, Arts Adviser for the Culture Company 2013, said: “This Culture Quilt is truly a labour of love and commitment by both Aine the artist and those that have contributed to it. It truly reflects the energy, creativity and diversity of just some of the people of this city and this place.
“We are delighted to be able to celebrate this especially during August Craft Month. This is a very significant time for the North West and for its creatives. Together making their mark and celebrating a Culture of Craft. We are delighted to be able to facilitate this through The London St Gallery and City of Culture.”
For full details of all August Craft Month events, visit the Craft NI website: www.craftni.org and click on the August Craft Month section. To find out about all the makers and events in your area, click on the interactive craft map.