Chicken Scratch Pin Cushion

Written by Kim Harris

The CWA is a part of Australian culture, they are so much more than meets the eye – movers, shakers, and of course scone bakers.

Since 1922 the Country Women’s Association (CWA) have been meeting, crafting, cooking, quilting & quietly advocating for their communities. They run not for profit rather actively helping rural communities as well as city folk. During World War II the CWA would send Anzac biscuits and handmade items to the troops.

With around 220 branches across Queensland and 20,000 plus members Australia wide the CWA is part of Australia’s tapestry, supporting women and families for a century.

Formed in Queensland and New South Wales first then reaching out to all states & territories with the top priorities being health, combating isolation, community services and education.

The CWA isn’t just tea and scones- the association is actively lobbying government; compulsory seatbelts in vehicles, white lines on the edges of roads, flashing light signs in school zones are feathers in the hand knitted caps of the sisterhood. The Howard Branch is lobbying for increased ambulance funding, officers, vehicles and ways to reduce the long ambulance loading times that impact the quality of patient care.

The CWA supports the community and the community supports the CWA.

I reached out to the Howard branch to be part of our Crafters edition. The president invited Alive Magazine to a meeting and learn how to make a ‘Chicken Scratch Pin Cushion’.

My mother was a QCWA member of a SE Queensland branch. As a child I fondly remember the craft, the fund-raising raffles, slices and cakes. My inner child was hoping that a sugary country baked morning tea would be part of this Alive Magazine project. Acting Secretary Irene didn’t disappoint, sharing a freshly baked batch of Fudgy Butterscotch Bars.

Irene’s slice was next level CWA good. When asked how she made the bars Irene had a photocopy of the recipe right on hand, ready and tucked under her purse. I’m guessing this isn’t Irene’s first rodeo. I’d say requesting the recipe is customary within the CWA, an accolade, even better than a compliment.

Pam & I chatted while working on a chicken scratch pin cushion made of gingham fabric and lined with iron on backing to stiffen. Pam explained the steps of stitching the decorative pattern, sewing in the felt inserts (much like pages of a book) and binding the spine and edges in cord. Pam’s husband made cord out of speciality cotton with his cordless drill.

I asked how many hours went into making a pin cushion? Pam was reluctant to say, likely so as not to insult me. I guess that Pam might create one in an afternoon, however at my rate would take until Christmas!

I can’t pretend I mastered the art of needlework in our short time together, but I can understand the allure of learning the delicate and repetitive needlework. I sense the practise would be meditative once mastered. Something like tuning out and allowing the muscle memory and rhythm of the stitch to take over, letting the mind to gently wander, but not too far, stitch mistakes are easily made and easily spotted, but fixed just as easy.

In this Alive Magazine DIY crafters edition, I won’t attempt to share the ‘how to’ like I normally do, rather point you in the direction of those who have perfected the skill with decades of patience and practice.

Pam facilitates the craft offerings at Howard QCWA, teaching quilting and needle work to the Fraser Coast and beyond. Pam’s talent for needlework is taking her to Far North Queensland next month to teach advanced speciality European stitches. If needlework is not your thing, Irene is teaching alcohol ink techniques.

If you would like to learn more about making a pin cushion, quilting, needlework or crafting at the QCWA – follow the Facebook page, attend a meeting, or email your local association.

Meet new people, learn new skills and become involved in your local community by joining Australia’s largest women’s organisation. Remember, the door is open, the kettle is on!

Howard QCWA meets 1st Wednesday each month at 9am at the Steely Street Hall.