The big community picnic rug

Everyone has a food story…

There are over 20 nationalities and all walks of life volunteering at Abbey Gardens, an innovative community garden in east London where local residents, including Lydia, garden and harvest together. What they share is food – at tea breaks, at events and it’s common to find several people standing around a plant who would each cook it a different way.

I put together the idea of food stories with the strong design ethos created for the garden by its designers, artists Somewhere for their project What Will The Harvest Be? to create a big community picnic rug. Squares in the garden’s colours each have a circular ‘plate’ on which goes a food story.

The project was designed as a collaborative work involving collected stories, a team sewing the base patches and the patches completed with sewn, applied, knitted, drawn and crocheted images contributed by the garden’s volunteers, visitors and friends. The aim was for the range of people involved to create its own variety.

Stories came from gardeners, visitors to events and outreach stalls and friends and supporters of the garden. The team producing the base patches was Lydia, Ashley McCormick and Joan Keating. Contributors making the patches included artists, architects, designer-makers and a scientist: me, Joan Keating, Hazel Terry, Torange Khonsari and her daughter Ava, Marleen Klann, Colleen Bowen, Stacey Siddons, two Fionas, Nina Pope, event visitors – and all the way from Canada from Yvonne Markey. Gardener Russ donated the backing fabric.

The final patchwork was assembled by me – and I would like to thank my sewing machine. A whopping 12 feet by 7, its job is as a piece of display, to start conversations about the garden and food-growing.

More pictures on flickr.