The Teepee of Love

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Bernadette Divola knitted and crocheted a rainbow teepee for her daughter’s wedding with the help of 100 people. FOCUS found out more about this amazing project …

What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?

I grew up in Sydney, but my brother married a girl from Bellingen when I was 10 years old. I came to visit her family after the wedding and it obviously made an impression on me, because I returned here 15 years later with a small family. I have raised my five children in Bellingen; it is my paradise.

Where did the idea of the rainbow tent come from?

I was inspired by an internet post that a few people shared with me. I didn’t for one minute think that I could knit/crochet a whole tent, but the idea just wouldn’t go away. My youngest daughter, Millicent, was getting married on the October long weekend and I jokingly shared the post and suggested that I make a “chai tent”, and so it began. I started working on it on the first of January 2016.

How did the project develop?

I originally intended to attempt the teepee by myself. I thought that the best case scenario would be that it might be big enough to serve as a children’s play tent. Millicent was to be married at her grandparents’ property in Gleniffer in a paddock, and she was hiring some tents as venues and accomodation. The wedding concept was “The Festival of Love”; it was to be a two day event in the style of a music festival.

Once I started the project and posted photos on Facebook and Instagram, to my surprise people from near and far offered to make squares. They rolled in from around the world: America, England, France, Germany, Holland, Finland, to name a few places.

Some squares were the product of small children learning to knit. A sweet lady in a local nursing home made 35 squares, whilst a lady in the Blue Mountains fighting cancer crocheted in her bed. Some people contributed one square, while others made many. A friend of mine, Christine, made hundreds. There are so many stories surrounding the contributions; it was a true community effort.

I left a basket with wool and needles in my local café, Hyde, and I’d pick up dozens of squares each week.

Are all the squares really different?

Absolutely! They are all roughly 12 cm and knitted or crocheted, but they are very unique. Some are full of (endearing) holes knitted by novices, whilst others have patterns or even words worked in; some people even used sequins and beads.

How long did it take to make?

At exactly eight months, I put down my needles. I felt like Forrest Gump when he decided to stop running!

Do you have a favourite square?

Not really, I have such an affection for all of them. However, my friend Marion was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she crocheted me some squares knowing that she would not be alive for Milli’s wedding; that meant a lot to us.

How many squares are in the teepee?

I’m really not sure, but I’d say there’s more than 2,000. I sewed every one of them together.

So, how was the wedding?

Amazing! You can’t go wrong when your venue is an emerald paddock in the Bellinger Valley. All the men in my immediate family wore lederhosen as a cheeky homage to the groom, Scott’s, German heritage and my partner, Troy, and I made up a German drinking song as a speech. The teepee served as a coffee and tea tent and was much admired (and photographed) by all.

Do you have a mantra or motto?

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing! I live by this.

What did you take away from the experience?

Love – it was the most loving and inspiring project. More than 100 people contributed of all ages, sexes and nationalities; some were family, some friends and acquaintances, and some complete strangers.

Milli and Scott were bowled over by the generosity and kind regards of so many.

Did you aknowledge the contributors?

Yes, I wrote the name of each contributor on a ribbon and tied the ribbons to a bamboo pole so they fluttered in the breeze at the top of the hill.

What will you do with the teepee now?

That’s the question everyone asks me! I’m sure it will have an outing at some point, but for now it is safely stored at my house.

I made it for Milli and Scott’s big day, and I’m happy that it turned out so well.

Do you make other things?

Yes, I’m prolific. I love making, I love knitting, crocheting, embroidering, drawing, weaving, sewing, cooking – you name it.

At the moment I’m working on some funky little clay dolls, doll’s houses and furnishings to sell on Etsy.

Where can people see your work or find out more about you?

Anyone can follow me on Instagram and see the #festivaloflovebellingen photos. My Instagram name is Queenbernie; I’m always happy to connect with people.

Thanks Bernadette.

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