Coxhoe Quilters’ stall for The 70273 Project at Durham Cathedral. Photo by Chrissy Fitzgerald

Dear Jeanne,

As you know, Coxhoe quilt group worked with schoolchildren on Friday 27th January, Holocaust Memorial day, as part of a series of workshops. Three sessions later in the morning and we had a huge pile of blocks made. I must admit I was a little apprehensive about how it would go, and wondered if it was too big an ask to invite the pupils to sew blocks, rather than simply draw with fabric pens, which would have been quicker and easier.

Photo by Chrissy Fitzgerald

How wrong I was. The pupils listened to the excellent talk given by the museum’s fantastic, helpful education team and then when invited to start sewing, simply picked up the materials without hesitation and got stuck in willingly. Seeing the look of concentration on their faces – it was obvious that most of them were unfamiliar with basic techniques – brought a huge lump to my throat,and as another member of our quilt group mentioned, “goosebumps”. The stitches were huge, knots and the technique of threading needles were struggled with, and those who stitched with the squares in their laps were in imminent danger of stitching their clothing along with the blocks.

The material puckered, and I mentioned afterwards to the group that we could “straighten it out”. No, the answer came – leave it as it is: it is their work and we can work the feature into the quilting and piecing afterwards. How right they were; short of securing anything about to fall off, the quality of the work has a beauty to it beyond the finest workmanship.

It was a lesson to me in a number of ways: setting out to help teach on the day, I ended up learning more than I taught from these children. The way they willingly assisted, even though it was clearly out of their comfort zone: the persistance and diligence as they sended the scale and importance of what they were doing: and the value of standing back – except when asked to assist – and allowing the pupils to explore and create without “jumping in” the whole time and correcting. The unique visual impact that was the result of their creations, and is waiting to come together as quilts, is something the group is very excited and honoured to participate in.

The effort put in by everyone on the day to make this a success was overwhelming, and I feel honoured to be working with so many good, lovely, generous people.

As I contemplated the day’s victory over my control freak tendancies, I had a random memory from childhood: running up to my (Irish) mother and auntie, with two knitting needles stuck into what I now realise was just a huge tangle of wool. “LOOK!” I bellowed, “I’m KNITTING!”. My mother and auntie paused in their gossiping session and calmly regarded my, um, attempts. Auntie Pauline switched on her trademark full-beam twinkly smile and delivered her verdict.

Good girl yerself, she said.

I hope to make blocks with many other people this year, and will be taking a hint from that memory; the blocks will be their own creations, and I will help, but will be embracing the full spectrum of the beauty of creative work from all, and simply enjoying the moment.

With very best wishes from the UK,

 Chrissy

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Dear Chrissy,

The best teachers learn from their students. Thank you for sharing this day with us and for all you and the other Coxhoe Quilters are doing there. May we all be willing to let our child self come out to play more often.

Thank you,

Jeanne

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Children of all ages are cordially invited to help commemorate these 70,273 souls by  making blocks and participating in The 70273 Project.