274-metre quilt to mark women’s suffrage nears completion

274-metre quilt to mark women’s suffrage nears completion

Textile recycling coordinator of the Vinnies Re Sew initiative, Caroline O’Reilly, at St Vincent de Paul in Kilbirnie working to complete the ‘Suffrage in Stiches’ project. Photo: Emma West

A 274-metre quilt involving more than 500 people to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand is nearing completion in Wellington.

The ‘Suffrage in Stiches’ project is a collaboration between Wellington initiative ‘Vinnies Re Sew’ and the  community that began in September 2018.

Their objective is to create a patchwork comprising 546 individual panels of artwork, 274 metres long –  more than the length of two football fields and the size of the original suffrage petition in 1893.

The work of Re Sew goes far beyond the Suffrage in Stitches initiative.

The Re Sew initiative, funded by the St Vincent de Paul Society, works to re-purpose unsaleable items from op shops and foster community engagement with marginalised people in society.

Textile recycling coordinator, Caroline O’Reilly, of the Vinnies Re Sew initiative has been working with many members of the community in a small work space above the St Vincent de Paul opshop in Kilbirnie.

She says it has helped people to up-skill local people with disabilities, refugees, retirees or those without formal training and break down barriers that she said prevented people from gaining practical and transferable skills.

Caroline described the ‘Suffrage in Stitches’ project as “a learning curve” and said coordinating hundreds of people had been challenging, especially those based further afield.

She said people in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and France had been contributing.

Many people had emotional ties to the project, with one woman taking her panel to China to retrieve the buttons that she had sewn onto daughter’s baby clothes many years ago.

Some also sewed treasured possessions including doilies and broaches from previous generations on to their panels, she said.

Of the 546 panels, Vinnies Re Sew has received 308 with 238 to come.

The completed quilt is set to go on display for a month in Wellington museum from the first week of August.

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Article by Emma West

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