PGTW: From high tech to high touch

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 29 January 2015, Thursday

From high tech to high touch

Is there a part of yourself that you’ve lost touch with through the years?

Is there something you enjoyed doing but set aside when things you thought were more important claimed your attention?

Over the chilly holidays I decided to use thicker blankets. I rummaged in my linen closet and came across patchwork quilts I’d sewn when I was a young stay-at-home mother.

Here were the crib quilts of my daughters, some of them made by quilting friends in the United States. My girls used quillows – lap quilts that fold into a pillow pocket – when they were a bit older. Our bed-size quilts were riots of patterns and colors, made from blocks and fabric swapped with quilters from around the world.

Unfolding the quilts triggered memories of hours spent reading old magazines and teaching myself the basics, cutting shapes from fabric and sewing them together, and basking in the satisfaction gained from the process and completion.

I’d stopped quilting when I re-entered the work force, and my tools and materials had remained untouched for 13 years. I opened my storage bins. The colors of the quilting cottons I bought in Divisoria a decade ago were still crisp. The rotary cutters remained sharp, the cutting mats flat from having been kept under my mattress. My Pfaff Tipmatic sewing machine only needed oiling in the hook race to run like new.

My first quilts were made in the ‘90s with cotton-polyester blend fabrics from the palengke. My seams were crooked and selection of fabrics limited, but I was satisfied with having made functional objects that gave warmth and comfort to my family and friends.

Later I joined international block and fabric swaps via the Internet. One of the most memorable swaps, held in 1999, was the Great Y2K Quilt swap. Each quilter sent out packets of 25 two-inch charm squares (samples of different fabrics) and a signature square.

These “siggies” bore the names and countries of the quilters: computer-printed on fabric, embroidered, or written with a fabric marker. The goal was to collect 2,000 charms for a “year 2000” quilt. Y2K quilts are now part of quilting history.

John Naisbitt, in High Tech/High Touch (1999), suggested that we live in a “technologically intoxicated zone,” and that the sacrifice of intangibles such as “hope and fear and longing, love and forgiveness, nature and spirituality” impels us to reconnect to those simpler things.

One back-to-basics activity is using your hands to make something, and past years have seen the rise in popularity of crafting and cooking classes.

Trey Ajusto, the “Gantsilyo Guru,” holds basic and Tunisian crochet classes in public venues such as coffeeshops and restaurants, and sells hooks, yarns, and other materials in her online shop.

She looks forward to opening a physical store within this year, where crafters can see and touch the goods before purchase and where they can consult her on their projects.

“I used to have mostly older students,” said Trey, “but lately a lot of younger people have been signing up for my classes.”

Those who remember the cross-stitch rage of the ‘90s know that many supply stores closed when the fad faded. Those that didn’t fold reinvented themselves – Dreams in Glorietta now carries yarns and other materials.

New suppliers have sprouted up, many of them young people who operate online and participate in “pop-ups” in venues around the city. There’s also Craft MNL in Makati City that provides workshop space and can arrange private teaching sessions.

Whatever craft or skill you’d like to learn – paper quilling, bookbinding, screenprinting – chances are there are classes for it. On a budget? Check Youtube for tutorials.

Over the holiday break I culled my quilting magazines and books, rearranged my embroidery floss, and dug up my UFOs (unfinished objects) for completion. I’m ready to quilt again.

Friends have already given me orders – a queen-size in country colors for Krip, one in pink and tan for Adelle, others for Gen and Ricci. I’ve designed two art quilts for an exhibit with other writer-artists in November, and dusted off the hand-applique flower blocks of a decade-old UFO.

Now I take up needle and thread again, and lose myself in color and pattern as I create, stitch by stitch, quilts for my loved ones to use up and wear out.

For we are all makers, and into each work we create, we infuse our chi, our mana. Even when we are gone, that creative energy remains, and we live on in our works.  ***

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