Allison Dey Malacaria

Where do you call home, and who do you live with?My two grown children live in the US, and I miss them very much and don't get to visit as often as I'd like. I met my husband five years ago when he came to visit the US. We fell madly in love, I moved to Australia, and we married soon after. We live simply and often caretake for others, so we're a bit nomadic in our middle-age. His friends here think we're a bit mad. I caught the tail-end of the hippie era and slid comfortably into the punk movement in the late ‘70s, so my family is used to my crazy ways. Raised by Depression-era ladies, I never became much of a consumer and always ran my home the way Grandma did, and my husband loves it!

Why embroidery? Small projects using old, traditional, slow techniques provide a kind of personal space bubble where I can reconnect with my own thoughts and still make lovely gifts for friends and family. I was taught hand sewing at an early age, back when new supplies and fabrics were not so readily available. Making something new out of something old was the norm, and I enjoy it so much.

What does sewing mean to you?This craft is ancient and low tech. It connects me to past wisdom and future sustainability. It’s the work of generations of humans who have made the home a place of comfort and refuge and enjoyment. It’s our very culture of self-reliance, self-expression and gift giving. This craft is also slow. It forces me to slow down. It is not something one needs a great deal of skill or equipment to accomplish. It means anyone can create something lovely and heartfelt.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you imagine you’d be doing?If my hands no longer worked, I’d be swinging in a hammock under a big oak tree, reading endlessly. I love to read.

What are your favourite materials to work with?Unexpected treasures. Found objects, such as boxes of perled cotton or embroidery thread or homespun cottons and linens and wools, are my favourites. Threads and fabric and needles. Simple as that. If they've appeared from the collection of a local granny who just isn't using them anymore, all the better. It's like a gift of generations. Perhaps this thread was used in that granny's apron. Maybe this fabric was also used in her kitchen curtains. It excites me that there's a continuity and relationship created in using these older stashes.

5 words that best describe your craft style?Low-tech, natural, basics, functional, artistic.

What is your advice for beginners? Stitching is fixable. If you miss a stitch you can fill in with another. If your stitches are too large, you can pull them out and do it again. If you snip too far, guess what? You can stitch it back again. Stitching is also personal. Relax! Handwork is not perfect; it's meant to be an expression of enjoyment and love.

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