19 June 2013
12 June 2013
Whenever I visit a wool festival I'm always drawn to the stalls with vintage needlecraft books and ancient knitting patterns. Why? Because they're where the treasure's hidden! My latest find, at first glance, wasn't treasure at all ... pages 59 to 110 of a grubby, dog eared, and unidentified needlework periodical. A remnant, but what of? Not knowing and wanting to know was why I bought it; I never could resist a puzzle. And luckily page 102 held the key to its origins, a mention of the editor's new book, The Craft of the Crochet Hook. Flora Klickmann, of The Girl's Own Paper fame, later The Girl's Own and Woman's Magazine, published a number of crochet books between 1912 and 1919, and The Craft of the Crochet Hook was among them. Turns out I'd bought part of an almost one hundred year old copy of Stitchery, a quarterly supplement to The Girl's Own and Woman's Magazine intended to be "... in the highest degree interesting and helpful to girls and women of the upper and middle classes". And within, among the instructions for 'knitted lace edgings', 'crocheted handkerchief corners', and 'appliqué patchwork', was an article titled "Morality in Needlework. By a London woman". I hope you'll forgive a lengthy quote ...
... Needlework is certainly an unfailing index of qualities. Directly one begins to use a needle, one starts upon a regular character chart; and the very first indication that appears is the degree of patience possessed by the worker. There is no need of an elaborate piece of work to test this quality. ... the mending of a tear is sufficient. ... what a delightful sense of peace, freedom, and satisfaction in right doing comes when one has resisted the temptation to be in a hurry, and has carefully unravelled threads from a piece of stuff, chosen a fine needle, and completed a well-nigh invisible darn. That feeling is proof positive of right or wrong doing; and it ought to show us that even in a simple thing like needlework there is a 'narrow path' to follow. ... Now that wider freedom has been obtained for the majority of women, and even custom and public opinion no longer demand delicacy, refinement, and the mastery of domestic duties from them, it should lead one to think very seriously as to the effect such "freedom" is producing on that homely character-chart, our sewing. ... Restraint, self-control, strength of purpose, are the inevitable guardians of morality; these qualities are absolutely essential to the execution of good needlework. Needlework does not of course produce them, but if we train ourselves to do the little tasks which come our way with respect instead of scorn for that humble instrument - the needle - we may find ourselves increasing in moral vigour by the exercise of the qualities good needlework demands.So there you have it, the recent revival of make do and mend may be driven by thrift but it will also make a better woman of you! To offer some context, The Girl's Own Paper and its supplements were published by the Religious Tract Society, arguably with the unstated intention of shaping women's behaviour at a time of unprecedented female emancipation. To sit quietly and stitch was to demonstrate possession of those supposedly essential female attributes, patience and piety. A woman's place was in the home, and her ability to create a safe haven there for her family might be inferred from her ability with a needle and thread. I wonder how many of us ponder that when we home in on the vintage embroidered linens at brocantes?
08 June 2013
04 June 2013
Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, ... more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud. ... It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before. ... But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.And some days it feels more like putting one's head in the mouth of a lion than a high wire act! In fact blogging is a veritable circus act complete with unicycling, tightrope walking, plate spinning and prat falls. So to those who keep doing it, kudos m'dears. And to those who are faltering ... I know you're all far too polite to blow your own trumpets - unlike me, apparently! - so I'm doing it for you! You're all stars! (With particular mentions to Mel and Elizabeth, who inspired this post.) I'd love to hear your take on all this. Whether you write or read blogs, agree or disagree, please do pitch in. And don't worry, I'm going nowhere. A quick edit to say that I'm really enjoying all your insightful comments and that I will pop back and reply to them all as soon as I have a moment. I'm notoriously bad at responding to you here, but please don't think that means I don't read and appreciate what you write, I always do, every word. My usual practice is only to reply to questions and observations that seem to require an answer - if I did more than that, with all the blog reading I also do, I'd never put my laptop down - but sometimes I find myself wanting to reply personally to everyone and this is one of those times :) * Technorati Media 2013 Digital Influence Report