Stitching, Books and the Human Experience

Isn’t it interesting how hard it is to stitch freestyle? Or is it just me?

After a few more stitches on my practice piece, I once again realized that stitching is only meditative when I know where the needle should go next. Free style stitching without any plan is not relaxing, but there is something new for me to learn here. Not sure what yet. Maybe patience?

On another note we’re in the midst of our bi-annual booksale and this weekend hardcover books were down to 2 dollars each. Imagine an old warehouse filled with thousands of books. It’s heaven! This is a selection of what I schlepped home: Dorothy Parker’s Stories, Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and a German version of The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan by James Justinian Morier of “the many adventures of a nineteenth-century Persian rogue, none of which involve honest labor”. It’s from 1829 and the oldest book I now own.

To touch pages that are over 180 years old is wonderful. They’re almost transparent and the book is in great shape; it has been treasured and well taken care of. To imagine that it was so special to someone that it was brought by boat all the way from Germany and has made it into the 21st century.

One book that I am particularly looking forward to reading is “Cloth and Human Experience” a collection of essays by anthropologists of the role of cloth: ” Cloth in Small Scale Societies”, “Cloth and the Creation of Ancestor’s in Madagascar” and “the Changing Fortunes of Three Archaic Japanese Textiles” are just some of the exciting chapters I can’t wait to read.

While searching for the amazon link, I stumbled over another book, which sounds equally intriguing: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. I just read the first few pages and the book starts by looking at the reasons why sewing and cooking were women’s work for thousands of years.

The premise is that in order to not lose women’s productivity in the childbearing years, they had to be assigned work that allowed easy care for children. After all, children were nursed much longer than they are now. The work had to be somewhat repetitive and boring so it could be put down or picked up easily, when a child needed to be fed or taken care of; work, that was not dangerous for the mother or child and could be done from home. Food and clothing both fulfill these criteria.

Does this come to full circle in the blog world? Look at all the food and sewing blogs out there, many by mothers with small children.

While in the past sewing was shared with family and local community, now the sewing circles have become much larger and that’s a wonderful thing.

Thank you internet!

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7 Responses to “Stitching, Books and the Human Experience”

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  1. Katie says:

    Last year, I stumbled across a book from 1803 in my university’s library. It wasn’t famous, wasn’t at all valuable, and was falling apart. It didn’t help me with the paper I was writing in the slightest, but I spent a little time with it anyway before delivering it to the circulation desk for repairs. I showed the date to the librarian, and he smiled and said that sometimes the books aren’t valuable, but simply old, and yet they are incredible, simply because you are holding that little piece of history in your hands…

    I smiled and said that that was exactly how I felt.

  2. Petra says:

    Free stitching might be easier as you see it as free drawing at first. With a thin pencil or a special watersoluble pen you can draw the ‘design’ on your fabric. I love to do that myself. I lik e to think of the internet, or more specially, blogs, as circles too, but I miss the direct contact with one another.

  3. karen b says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying reading through your archives. I, too, love hand sewing, the Japanese aesthetic and fabric/textiles. You mention Boston in some of your posts. Do you live in the Boston area? I do and would love to invite you to visit the fabric store where I work!!

  4. kathrin says:

    My husband’s family lives in the suburbs in Boston. I’ll be there in fall and it would be lovely to visit your fabric store… Where is it?

  5. Sia says:

    When I do freehand stitch I decide on size of area to be covered, one shape and one type of stitch. I find it much easier to be free with rules that I can brake. A good way to practice freehand is crazyquilts. You have to get odd shapes to fit together and then you can follow the lines in between or fill the patches with different stitches or shapes/motives. Thank you for all the wonderful books you present on your site. My personal library and workcreativity has been enriched. It is a bit amusing how old in America is not always very old in Europe and Asia outbid us all.Your book that is 180 years old today has survived because of the owners care and its quality…will there be anything left from todays generation in 180 years from now in mind of planned obsolescence?

  6. Sia says:

    I forgot the most important ingredient – classical music. Most of the time when I work I like it quiet, to be able to concentrate, but when I freestyle I need to be distracted from the planning and judging part of my brain… : )

  7. michelle says:

    I’ve discovered your blog recently and can’t tell you how nice it is to see someone over the other side of the world doing freeform embroidery. I’ve been obsessed by it for ages, and felt I was quite alone in my spidery free-form sashiko-esque craziness. I literally gasped when I saw Junko’s work on your blog too and have contacted her to try and get a copy of the book.

    This kind of stitching has a soul that neat embroidery just doesn’t have. It’s relaxing and delicious and quite like painting I feel – though tiring on the arm….

    Just wanted to say hello and thanks for the links.

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