How to make a point of this warm and fuzzy feeling
“It’s like being in a normal world for six hours,” says Mona Absalam, searching for the perfect shade of pink in a box overflowing with multi-colored threads to finish off a shiny shirt she’s making. She describes the world of work which distracts her from the loop of anxieties and worries when we find ourselves on a sunny March morning, when it was still possible to go out reporting in Delhi, in double mask of course.
Absalam, who came to Delhi from Somalia as a refugee in 2018, spent two years learning knitting, sewing and quilting at a five-year center in Khirkee run by the Fair Trade Forum, an Indian network for the fair trade, in India. collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the non-profit Samarpan Foundation. “I never had time to embroider at home. Now I can’t wait to come here. It makes me forget the pandemic, my past life, ”says Absalam, 34, who hopes to open a sewing workshop at some point.
The clothes she and more than 30 other refugee women from Somalia, Afghanistan and Myanmar make are sold online or at exhibitions; each refugee receives a share of the sale. Absalam spent five days a week, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., learning the delicate needle and thread dance and explaining Somali jokes in broken Hindi to the women of Afghanistan and Myanmar who became one big happy family. . “It’s the only time I don’t think about my son,” says Absalam, who worked as a translator and guide until the pandemic broke. Her eldest child went missing outside their home in Mogadishu in 2018, the same year a militant group killed her husband. “It’s a small thing but sewing pieces of fabric, joining threads, filling in holes to create something, a blanket, a quilt, it’s so reassuring, so soothing.
Perhaps it was this act of creation and the promise of a refuge from harsh reality that prompted people around the world to turn to knitting, sewing and quilting in 2020. For Absalam, the angst may be deeper but for many others around the world facing the uncertainty of the virus, working with needle and thread has been just as calming.
Sewing fabric can be more than just a need or a self-help art. If you are creating a quilt using old patches, it can be an exercise in nostalgia. If you knit, it can be an expression of care. If you sew, it can be a playground for individual fantasy.
Over the years, research has also shown that the creative hobbies of crafts promote a sense of well-being in difficult times. For example, a nine-year study, published in the Public health journal, says it’s the play of colors, the demands of concentration, the repetitive movements and the joy of a challenge that “psychologically uplifts” people, making them experience a “flow” that boosts self-esteem, motivation and offers the feeling of creating something unique.
As another even more devastating wave of covid-19 wreaks havoc across the country, people are finding moments of joy in such creativity.
Threads of hope
Shama Dwivedi from Dehradun is one of them. The 50-year-old returned to knitting in March of last year, after a 20-year hiatus. With her children living in the United States, the HR professional was tired of spending her working days from home at Zoom meetings and emails. Her husband had passed away a year earlier and she had lost interest in socializing with her family, even on WhatsApp, but the loneliness held her back. A chance visit to a Facebook page, Knitting Club, piqued her interest – and as summer tightened her tentacles, she pulled out her old needles and thread to create something for the winter season.
“I always do it, even in the summer. It brings me that warm fuzzy feeling … reminds me of the time I used to sit with my Dadi (grandma) and watch her make sweaters for me and my brother, ”she said on a video call.
Dwivedi, who spends at least three hours a day sipping tea and knitting, has created a WhatsApp knitting group where friends and strangers from all over the country share their work. “I have become closer to my extended family now,” she says. “Whatever the occasion, these days my gifts to everyone are socks, caps or knitted sweaters.”
In the Rathi house in Delhi, quilting has become a family activity. Usha, along with her younger brother, grandmother, father and mother, spends two hours a day sewing quilts out of old clothes, an activity they started in October.
“I saw a post on Instagram where people were making these colorful quilts. I thought that instead of spending my free time thinking about what to eat next, I would do something creative, ”says Usha, 29, sales manager. Her grandmother immediately offered to help her. “We grew up doing these things,” says Roshni, 86. “I was just happy to know that she was showing interest in learning some housework; she doesn’t even know how to cook, ”she laughs over the phone.
From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day, the whole family gets together to decide, or even fight, on which patch to add. “It has of course brought us closer together, but what I’ve realized in the last few months is that we are creating a symbol, a piece of history with fabric,” Usha says. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do something like this together again.”
The art of grat
It was with the idea of creating something different that Taruna Sethi launched the Indian Karuna Quilt movement in August of last year. Sethi and her team of around 20 people – she created Simply Beautiful Always, a company that focuses on intricate quilting, in 2016 – are creating 1,000 quilts that will be given to frontline workers as a “sign of gratitude” on the 15th. August, Independence Day.
“My idea is to show my gratitude for the constant work they have done,” says Sethi, 56. To achieve this goal, she collaborates with textile companies, which contribute to the recovery of fabrics, train non-profit organizations across the country to create quilts, and ask people to make contributions in the form of patches or quilts. “It’s open to everyone and everyone. People can make 12.5 x 12.5 inch squares. It can be quilting, sewing, embroidery or painting on a rag. They can send them to us and we’ll turn them into a quilt, ”Sethi says, adding that they’re“ almost halfway to the mark. Nothing says gratitude more than a quilt, and creating something with your own hands has a different kind of magic. “
This is also something Mona Absalam told me this morning in March.
“You know, every morning I wake up and think, why did I come to India? The only reason I’m getting out of bed is this (showing me a piece of ruffled fabric). It gives me hope for life – no matter how bad it has been in the past, there is always an option to rebuild. You just have to find the right design and sew with love. “