Making sense of many individual, artistically diverse panels is a big task, in more ways than one…
This quilt is MASSIVE! A full 320cm long and 150cm wide it is truly, our most EPIC quilting project yet…. and hence it is taking a while to sew! Running this through the machine is a two person ( at least) job and an excellent upper body workout. The shear weight of it pulls and buckles the fabric meaning often machine sewing is abandoned in favour of hand stitching.
Luckily, I have had help from the amazing Lotte who is a whizz with all things fabric, and who has saved my fingers (and sanity) on the past three projects. Together we arrange, re arrange, compose and back the decorative individual panels made over the weeks by our Sense Makers.
Due to the scale of the quilt we opt to sew the panels onto long strips of fabric and then sew the long strips together to form one side of the quilt. We sandwich thin wadding between the decorative panelled side and a blank reverse side, which will boast the collected text, ‘Tales’, from the workshops. We use about a million pins to pin it together and run it – very slowly- through the machine to create long quilted lines along the lengths of the quilt and around the edges. Only a marginal amount of blood is shed during this stage.
Once the quilt is sew together it is A LOT easier to handle. We edge the quilt with long strips which we leave hollow to allow for sound cables to run through. CAUTION: Here comes the technical bit – pay attention!
Multi Sensory Quilt? How So?
We try to hit upon as many senses as possible: Conductive fabric (TOUCH) and LED lights (SIGHT) will point to areas which when touched are activated by the audience. Conductive thread forms clear stitch pathways linking the conductive fabric or LED lights to soundbites stored on mini sound boards and are audible via mini speakers hidden in the quilt. When the audience interact with the quilt they complete the circuit and activate the recordings (SOUND). The sound will be in the form of recordings taken on location during the group outing to Kew Gardens, song lyrics chosen by group members and the voices of the makers themselves. Hidden pockets will have SMELLS from our Memory Smelling Jars workshop. Taste is a tricky one to incorporate into the quilt for both practical and health and safety reasons… but I will keep working on this!
The quilt has very textural panels in the form of chunky knits and weaves as well as many three dimensional objects attached on to its surface. During the workshops we use lots of contrasting colour and try to keep text bold and clear. There is hopefully, something for everyone.
Text, sound, light, texture and smell all come together to create a multi sensory, community, life histories quilt around which, we hope to start conversations into best inclusive practice for arts and wellbeing projects for the elderly living with sensory impairment, their communities and the wider public.
Check in, in the near future, to see the finished quilt, exhibition news and reactions to project. Follow@mcewan_alex and @SenseTweets for similar projects and regular updates.