Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Thoughts of a Stitcher

This is from a message board I frequent. This sums up stitching and how much most of us value our time with our needles.

I just read this on another group and while I don't know who these ladies are, I found it very thought provoking. I'd like to share it with you -

Dear Roz,
Needlework is a deeply spiritual experience for me. I am always grateful for my chance to stitch in my comfortable home, with my big beautiful collies by my side and a cup of tea steaming on the table next to me and my dear husband reading in the next chair. Sometimes he will read aloud snippets of things to me, but I find it can break my concentration. I like to listen to music so I can best think.

When I stitch, I often think of the legions of women before me who stitched together their lives and the lives of their families.

I think of the first woman to create a needle, to pull a thread.

I think of the women who struggle to make something beautiful from scraps and bits of precious thread, working late into the night, straining for light from a fire or a candle behind a glass filled with water even as they spent their days hauling water and searching for firewood. They stitch to mark birth, death, marriage; to create warmth and bits of beauty in a cold, stark world.

I think of little girls sitting with their mothers, learning the stitches they will make for a lifetime, learning the patterns of their culture. I see the swirling colours of the Middle East, China, Japan, Africa, Europe and the New World of the Americas dancing and blending before my eyes.
I see the Go-Gos (grandmothers) in the South African townships stitching motif laden pieces for sale to support the children of AIDS.

I think of young women, the most fortunate perhaps, attending "finishing schools" and learning the "ladylike pastime" that provided a socially acceptable means of artistic expression, though discredited and diminished by some men.

I think of the women who sat in a circle in Boston, discussing freedom as they sewed and, with Abigail Adams, decide to give up tea and other luxuries from over the ocean -- including fine needles and thread -- so they could support a revolution and help push forward democracy.

I think of quilting bees and church altar cloth makers. I think of the nuns tending the robes of priests and committees stitching pew pillows and baby clothes.

I think of the stitches my own mother made to provide me with a "purple sweater with popcorn" when I was six and the shawls and afghans that fill my home and the homes of my sisters and the socks she knit my father to keep him warm while he was in his final illness. She wears them still to bed to remember him. I think of her and her friends in the Happy Hookers at the Seniors Center making "preemie caps" for drug addicted babies and blankets for women taking shelter from violence.

I think of the cotton fields of slavery and women breaking their backs in the sun in linsey-woolsey, their skin never allowed to touch the soft yarns and threads their work made.

I think of families starving, removed from the land in Ireland and Scotland so their Lord could graze flocks of sheep and join the expanding wool trade meant to feed the Dark Satanic Mills. Still, the women sewed on the decks of the immigrant ships coming to the New World.

I think of Ruskin and the Morrises reclaiming skills and affirming that "craft" for the home is art for the soul -- as well as a means by which women might earn much needed money.

I think of the women who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the women from many nations who banded together despite language and religious barriers to create the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union. Yes, I think of "Norma Rae" silencing the machinery and demanding her rights.
I think of the weavers, bobbin carriers, and cutters and thread pickers working now for low wages to clothe us and decorate our homes. I think of children who work endless hours, no reading or writing, their growth stunted by work and hunger; their eyes strained from poor light, their lungs coated and full from poor ventilation.

I am thankful that my sewing is recreation, art, rest, reflection. I need not sew each stitch of my husband's shirts or pick apart my dresses to clothe my child. I work carefully to honor the work of the women before me and wonder at their courage and skill. I stitch samplers and reflect on the words in them, one at a time, a letter at a time, a stitch at a time. I stitch presents and think about the person for whom I sew. I stitch treats for myself -- though sometimes the touch of silk thread or fine linen is a sufficient treat and I give away what I thought would be mine.

We are all women. We all sew our lives together. We sew for peace. We sew for love. We sew for change. We sew for stability. We sew for beauty and comfort and the chance to sit quietly and think. We sew for money. We sew and we weave and we start and stop and tear out and begin again. We always begin again, one more time, with patience.

That is what stitching is about for me.
Sincerely, Victoria Cross

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