Way back in 3,416 BC or possibly roundabout 2007, I was living in a ‘little old house’ on Jebal Amman, in an alleyway next to the YWCA. By then I’d started collecting lots of materials from Abdali souk and was getting involved in recycling. I was also one of the regular members of Miss Ivis’ Breakfast Club and we used to spend a lot of time talking about crochet (for some odd reason). At that time, Nancy Feely was living downstairs in the basement flat and she was an amazing crochet-wizard, never seen without her hook. So we decided to invite a few people round and to get the older generation (that’s Ivis and Cassie Butros) to teach the younger ones (that’s me, and everyone younger than me) how to do it.
I quickly got bored (what a surprise) so I started experimenting with the various stocks in the backroom (the stock from ‘Awaeena’, but that’s another story) and above all, I was interested in taking old sweaters from Abdali market, felting them, and then making things with them, like blankets. That turned into a group project and over a period of about 4 months, we all sat around cutting squares, piecing them together, adding embroidery and in the end we produced a fantastic blanket all in shades of red, pink and orange, which we gave to the famous Raghda Butros (Cassie’s daughter) as a wedding present.
The whole thing snowballed; some nights we’d have as many as 20 people, but then luckily it got more manageable and reduced down to a hard core of about 8. With the arrival of crafting super star Lillie, we took on a whole new range of crafts and products, including fusing plastic bags, knitting with audio cassette tape, and then the ultimate obsession; bunting. (see Miss Ris and the Travelling Bunting). Another star performance was from Harriet with her many coloured bedspread. She took all the brightest fabric from the recycled dresses from the Awaeena project (the recycled clothes shop I was running as a project), and pieced them together in record time (see Harriet’s bedspread). A dazzling display.
When I moved from the Jebal Amman house to Jebal Weibdeh, most of the stores moved with me. However some of my more anally retentive bitches (ie everyone) took a firm hand and insisted on curbing my hoarding instincts, so about 25 bags were taken away. I still remember what was in them. The best went to Ola as raw materials for Ola’s secret garden and every time I go back to her shop on KhirfanStreet, off Rainbow Street, I see a little bit of my history, but sensationally transformed into some rather more beautiful than I could ever produce.
Having rejected crochet, I soon got bored with felting as well, but I found my true vocation in rag rug making (see previous posts). Everyone was delighted that I was using up all the old woollen sweaters. It also meant that any new arrivals at Stitch and Bitch were immediately put to the task of cutting up the sweaters to make wool balls.
The breakthrough came when Rand, with her graphic designers eye, insisted in separating all the wool balls into colour coded categories, heaped into straw baskets. Visually stunning.
All the Stitch and Bitch crew stayed loyal and joined me in the Weibdeh household, plus we attracted a much younger crowd through Rand, who lived (and still lives) upstairs. Those were the years of Stephanie, Samira, Lilly and young Ruby, and others too numerous to mention, alongside long-term stalwarts like Ivis. So the age band was from 8 to 80. Stars came and went. I remember Jeane’s extraordinary neatness; Beate’s fabulous afghan crochet rug; and UK Lilly’s multi-coloured rag rug. In January 2010 Vanessa moved in to the Stitch and Bitch house and disrupted everything. Bitch. So I left. But Stitch and Bitch continues and I keep an eye on it from afar, and occasionally visit to try and impose my will.
I’m now in Tunisia and I feel my fingers itching. Last weekend I acquired some hessian, I’ve got the crochet hook and a pair of scissors. Watch this space…