I'm stitching patches into my father's batik shirt that my husband now wears. My father would have been thrilled!
The fabric has become so delicate that it feels like moleskin. I choose another Indonesian cloth for the patches. These are offcuts from a skirt that was bought at the same shop called Ibu Bintang Negara. Located down a track in old Jakarta, the smell of wax and dyes would meet you before the colours and patterns. My father spoke bahasa, the main Indonesian language, and he would translate for my sister and me.
"These are the pattern blocks that they use," he explained, pointing to a library of intricately carved wooden blocks that were dark and slightly sticky with years of immersion into melted wax. "This form symbolises the orchid, this the garuda."
I think of the warmth of where this shirt was made. Each crease, as witnessed by the dyeing process, tells of the person who placed the wax and crumpled the cloth into hot dye; who rinsed it and laid it out to dry on the bristly lawn; the person who cut the cloth and stitched it and ironed it, the conversation between my father and this family of batik workers, all under the flickering fluorescent lights and slow-turning fans of Ibu Bintang Negara.
As I stitch, the cloth thickens like a scar. I am no match for the Negaras. Along the edges of my patches, new holes appear with the transfer of tension and I go back to my jar of cloth scraps. I'm not annoyed. It means I can spend more time holding, remembering, fixing.
creating tales of things and other places