There must still be battles to be fought in the war against sexism because there is, isn't there, a novelty about the idea of males and especially of boys of 11 and 13 quilting? This columnist's ears wouldn't prick up at all at the news of girls quilting. And yet the news that brothers William and Jonathan Bielenberg (11 and 13, respectively) of Evatt are to show quilts they've made in the forthcoming Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair made a newsgatherer's ears snap to attention, like a guard dog's.
Yesterday morning in their very busy home and just before they left for their schools (there seemed to be lots of little dogs everywhere but it was really only one dynamic little dog, Sam, being everywhere at once) the young quilters talked about their work.
Jonathan's quilt in the forthcoming fair is a spectacular Phoenix rising from red and yellow and orange flames.
Jonathan was enthusiastic yesterday about how ''cool'' it was to work with his quilter mother Raylee's big quilting machine and to come up with ideas. ''Yes, yes, it [quilting] is artistic. You can do all sorts. You can pretty much go crazy.'' In every other way Jonathan is a quintessential 21st century boy, interested in sport and in peering into computer screens. Indeed, he admitted, he's been so ''distracted'' recently by computers that, with the quilt fair deadline for his Phoenix almost upon him it's going to be ''a bit of a rush'' to finish it. William will have two quilts at the fair. One of them is called Geckos Galore and is festooned with geckos flamboyantly striped, like footballers in festive guernseys.
''I did all the quilting in one night, which was very tiring. But I thought the colours, which I chose myself, were pretty cool. And I like bright colours.''
William's other, far larger, tablecloth-sized quilt for the fair, looks, to this columnist's untutored eye, like a kind of masterpiece. It will be a tragedy if irreverent Sam, who at one point yesterday was running round with her small jaws filled with a cloth toy she's half destroyed, ever gets her fangs into it.
''It's a square quilt,'' William explained, but then going on to point out a sophisticated, complicated arrangement of repeated rectangles. It is what's called in quilter circles a ''keyhole'' pattern. The quilt's colours, all of them infused with goldiness, are exquisite.
Neither youngster could report a moment's teasing by their mates (and both seemed puzzled by the very idea of it) and in any case quilting is only a part of each one's suite of more orthodox, knockabout, boyish pursuits. William for example plays soccer, does taekwando, and, with a group of mates, has an utterly boyish-sounding hobby called ''Warhammer'' which he explained to me with laddish enthusiasm and which seems to be all about choreographing battles among weapon-wielding hand-painted warriors. Should one ever hear of girls playing ''Warhammer'' a newsgatherer's ears will prick up excitedly.
The boys' mother, Raylee, is a professional, long-time quilter and is thrilled that her boys show signs of perhaps having a quilting gene.
If Sam doesn't destroy them first the Bielenberg boys' quilts will be on display at the Canberra Craft and Quilt Fair, August 9 to 12, at Exhibition Park.