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Bonus Post: felt squares to support… someone (in the Québec tuition debate)

Religion, sex and politics. I don’t talk about any of these much on this blog, it being a fairly light crafting blog, but religion and sex are more likely to get a passing mention here and there than politics, in part because I consider myself somewhat more knowledgable on the former two matters than the latter.

My little brother, however, just finished his political science degree, and is now going on to law school, and has all kinds of reasonably informed thoughts and opinions on matters political. He also lives in Montreal, site of much political falderah lately with the big students-versus-government fight over tuition hikes. Sides in this debate are now being visually demonstrated with coloured felt, so my brother offered to write this bonus blog post about how to use your crafting skills to indicate your own precise political opinion, just as the folks in Québec are doing. And I really couldn’t turn down a blog post that involves felt, now could I?

And now, I hand things over to Matthias. Take it away!


~~~red squares~~~

You may have seen people wearing red squares around town or heard about Québec’s student protests. They are this summer’s hot new fashion trend! I’m not going to give you a whole blog entry detailing the strike/boycott — go read Wikipedia — but I’ll include a brief summary at the end of the tutorial. Meanwhile, my sister has been nice enough to let me write a special guest article to tell you how to make your very own red square. I may not have the fancy shmancy BA in creative writing that Tally has, but I can show you how to look like Arcade Fire on SNL, like Cannes filmmakers, supporters across Canada, and literally hundreds of thousands of Québecois!


Before you start, you need to decide which coloured square to wear. Here are your options and what they mean:

Red: you support the students against tuition hikes, or you took part in Occupy Victoria and haven’t realized that the red doesn’t refer to Marxism. The red square is the original symbol from the last strike in 2005, based on a stupid French pun about student debt.

Green: you support tuition hikes, and you apparently aren’t interested in having sex with anyone Québecois ever again.

Yellow: you want Québec’s tuition hikes to happen, but over a longer time period than originally proposed. If you are a student, this means you’re a selfish jerk.

Blue: you oppose the tuition hike but not the boycott/strike. (Alternatively, just don’t wear a square.)

White: you want the government and the students to make peace quickly.

Black: you want to throw rocks at cops and/or throw smoke bombs on subways. fr.Wikipedia.org claims that you can wear black just to show your opposition to Loi 78, but… no. Just no. (N.B. If you want to throw things at protestors, you will need a badge. Contact the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal for details.)


~~What you’ll need~~


  • One or two pieces of felt (colour(s) of your choice)
  • A safety pin (not pictured)
  • [optional: for the multicolour option discussed later] thread to match your felt colour choice(s)


  • One large metal ruler (or a small, metal ruler, and a longer, plastic ruler)
  • A cutting surface
  • A cutting utensil (ideally a fabric cutter, but I don’t have one of those, so I alternatively used scissors and an X-Acto knife.)
  • A fabric marker or permanent marker (it has to be visible on your felt)
  • [optional: for the multicolour version] a needle
  • [optional: for the multicolour version] fray-check or clear nail polish
  • One pot or pot lid
  • One spatula or wooden spoon (wood works best)

~~Putting it all together~~

1) Using your marker, draw a pair of marks the same distance from one short edge and one long edge of the piece of felt. I find that you’ll want the marks to be between 4cm and 8cm from the edge of the felt — 8cm is getting a bit unwieldy, 4cm looks like you’re afraid of expressing your opinion. It’s easiest and by far most accurate to measure along the adjacent edges of the felt — if you’re using a new piece of felt, this lets you take advantage of the fact that the felt comes with 90 degree angles.


2) Connect each pair of marks with a line. Since the marks may be fairly wide, make sure you connect the same parts of the marks, just like how you were taught to measure distances on maps back in elementary school.


3) Cut in a straight line, just inside and parallel to the marker lines. The idea is to avoid having any of the marker ink show on the square. I used scissors in the demo, but feel free to use whatever implement you like.


4) Attach a safety pin to the felt. Use the pin to fasten the square to your backpack, jacket, hoodie, etc.


5) Grab your wooden spoon or spatula and your pot lid, and step outside.


6) Strike the spatula against the pot lid.


7) Repeat step #6 once per second until your arm is tired or the SPVM arrests you, whichever happens first.


~~Multicolour Option~~

Now, maybe you’re like me, and your political opinions don’t quite match what any of the squares say. One of my colleagues suggested wearing a two-colour square instead, which I think is a great idea! I decided on red and white, but be creative! This is only slightly more complicated than the previous method.

Additional materials needed for this version: fray check (or clear nail polish) and a needle and thread.


8) Assemble your extra materials: thread, a needle, and fray-check. If one of the felts is a light colour, such as white or yellow, then your thread really needs to match the marker colour. I picked black for both, which I feel gives the square a nice, dangerous edge.


9) For each piece of felt, pick a corner of the felt and make a pair of marks equidistant to the corner along each adjacent edge. It is much, much more important to get these measurements right in this version, because the two pieces of felt must match precisely.


10) Draw a line between between the two points. Once again, be careful to be precise so that everything will match up in the end.


11) Using a fabric cutter or a metal ruler and a knife, cut along the line —- “Along” rather than “parallel to” because blah blah precision blah.


12) Place the two pieces of felt together so that they match each other precisely, with the remains of the permanent market lines facing *out*. I forgot that detail the first time round, which is why you don’t get an illustration of this step.


13) Stitch the two sides together, running the thread *around* the edge that you sew along. The thread should, in effect, form a spiral with the edge of the two pieces of felt in its centre. It will be most secure if you pull the thread a little tight after each stitch, but don’t overdo it. Also, be sure to double-knot the thread when you begin. When you’re finished with the seam, make a knot, and trim the thread on either end.


14) Put a drop of fray-check on either end of the seam. After all, it would be very embarrassing for your square to fall apart while the police are manhandling you into a paddy wagon!


15) Turn the two triangles open so that they form a square, and use your fingers to lay the square flat. Provided you used the right stitch, no iron is needed. One might consider putting a backing on the square, but it isn’t necessary, and I didn’t bother.


16) Repeat steps #5-7. Enjoy being an engaged citizen!

~A brief overview of the strike~

Back in February, Québec’s government announced its plan to raise tuition by 80% over the next five years. In response, many of Québec’s students began boycotting class and protesting in the streets. Over the next three months, the two sides failed to reach a compromise. Many striking/boycotting students blocked their non-striking classmates from attending classes, and a few extremist students destroyed property, fought with the riot police, and fun stuff like that. Ninety-odd days in, the government passed Loi 78 to try to bring an end to the strike. Among other things, the law makes it illegal for more than fifty protestors to assemble without notifying the police eight hours in advance. Protest organizers who violate the law, or fail to encourage their protestors to follow the law, can face six-figure fines, and normal protestors can be arrested and receive lesser fines. Considering the disorganized nature of the protests, the hideous incompetence of Montreal’s police, and the law’s quick expiry date (before it can be challenged in court), it would be something of an understatement to call the law cynical. Since we in Quebec take our Charter rights seriously, Loi 78 hasn’t gone over very well. Two weeks ago, 400,000 protesters met here in Montreal and marched underneath my classroom window —- that’s nearing a twentieth of the province’s population! Meanwhile, I’m told that you folks elsewhere have started wearing red squares to show your solidarity. Awesome!

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