Sunday, August 15, 2010

Steveston Museum park shows off local needlecrafters, spinners, and quilters

Have you ever walked down the hushed hallways of the Richmond Art Gallery? At the top of the curving staircase, behind glass windows, you can see women stitching, spinning, and quilting. Sometimes they lift their eyes to peer at their instructors. Sometimes, there's a burst of laughter as they split themselves over an inaudible joke. Always, I wondered what wonderful things were being stitched, spun, and threaded on the other side of the wall.

One sunny spring day I got my chance to find out. As I walked past the Steveston Museum park I noticed several tents set up in the shades. I had seen people congregating under the trees before and always assumed that they were vendors selling local art work. That day, however, the gathering was purely a show-and-tell community event.

Closest to the white picket fence facing Moncton Street were the quilters. "Textile Arts Guild of Richmond" proclaimed the banner hung from the blue tent. Spread out on tables laden with yellow cloths and suspended from the supporting poles were samples of their projects: a cheerful bright traditional patchwork number, a soothing green quilt covered with graceful curves and pale blue flowers, a rectangular brown piece with bold outlines of trees, and a smaller one sporting horizontal waves of airy reds, whites, and greens that vaguely resembled an Impressionist painting. All of them looking fluffy soft and practically begging to be touched. But I knew better.

Just off to one side were two women, one of them sporting a very charming hat, huddled over a spinning wheel. Now, I don't know a fly wheel from a drive band, a treadle from a footman, but the set-up reminded me of Sleeping Beauty as she extends her royal hand towards that poisoned needle. Well, I know at least one spinning wheel that had escaped the royal decree and didn't end up in the fiery pit.

Lastly, I crossed over to a table attended by two members of the Dogwood Needlecrafters Chapter. Here I lingered over the fine pieces of cross stitching, needle point, petit point, and canvas embroidery. I admitted that I had dabbled with just about every type of needlework in my younger days - before university, marriage, children and a career overtook over my life. However these years of distraction had only deepened my appreciation of the care and dedication that had gone to every project draped across their table. We also shared a laugh about how as we got older, we had to relinquish the finer work to younger eyes and embrace projects that are less demanding on our eyes.

The next time I visit the Richmond Art Gallery, I will feel just a bit more connected to what goes on behind those doors. And, who knows, one of these days, you might find me behind the glass windows, hunched over a spinning wheel or diligently stitching two square pieces of fabric together. You'll know me because I'll be the one with a smile on her lips.

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