Saturday, May 25, 2013

stitching community


Teaching about the restorative powers of textiles has been a big part of my work for some years now. This week I was working with a new group of men and women, in a project that explores the textile heritage of the area they live in. It's a diverse group and English is a second language for many of the participants. I brought out needles, thread, and fabric and watched as a quiet room was transformed into a buzz of chat, demonstration and sharing.


It's good to be reminded of the power of the needle. For me stitching is a common language, it relaxes, unites and inspires.

Does stitching play a part in your life? Share a tale in the comments if you like... .

(Photos are of my own most recent stitching).

27 comments:

  1. I agree entirely with those sentiments... as it happens I have been at my open studio today inviting visitors of all ages to add their contributions to a large embroidered doodle map. I have been delighted with the numbers of people who have embraced the idea including many for whom stitch was new. A guy this afternoon told me how soothing and relaxing he found it.
    The gentle buzz and sense of slowing down from group stitching is really quite palpable. Complete strangers were happy to sit together working and many would have liked to stay for hours... I could have set up an all age stitch creche!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope the final day went well. We really enjoyed your communal stitching. A happy and relaxed atmosphere... stitching creche - I like the sound of that!

      Delete
  2. 'it relaxes, unites and inspires' i agree whole heartedly, i use stitches to mend, to relax and to explore

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find time hand stitching allows me to really think things through - explore is a good word for it.

      Delete
  3. to me it is akin to narrative therapy with a needle and thread. Textiles hold such meaning for us all, a treasured blanket, the tshirt of pair of jeans that is thread bare but you can't part with because you have been through so much together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And they are universal. We all have textile memories and connections...common threads if you like.

      Delete
  4. I think it's very interesting to hear how this shared activity brought people together. Perhaps a focus on a third element (the work) relaxes inhibitions.

    It reminded me of something from years ago. I was working in the toy industry and we did a lot of product testing with young children. At one point we wanted to observe if there were differences in play and communication between girls and boys using a variety of toys or playthings.


    We noted, in general, that girls played and communicated 'above' the toys. In a sense the toys were an irrelevance. Girls would be playing but discussing what they'd done at school, their friends etc. The toys entered the conversation very rarely.

    Boys would basically communicate through the toys themselves, with a dialogue closely centred on the toys and what they were doing with them.

    I have often wondered if this is a cultural phenomenon, if it would be true elsewhere in the world, and whether one might observe similar patterns of communication between adults through an object or an activity.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so interesting. Perhaps it depends on the toys or activities. When I worked in primary school, I was always surprised at how a craft activity that involved needle and thread, or yarn brought out the conversation in both boys and girls. Once the basic skills were mastered it just seemed that the hands could be busy and the mind was free to wander onto other things. The classroom assistant who worked with a small group at a time on a cross stitch task said she heard discussion of all kinds of things; things that we couldn't imagine any other school activity would have brought to light.

      Delete
    2. That is really interesting. I work mainly with women, but in some sessions I ran last year we had a evenly mixed group. The men were quite preoccupied with the technical side of stitching at first but this aspect quickly became secondary to general chat and sharing. I think the difference in pace to some other hands-on activities may also be a factor.

      Delete
  5. How lovely to have gathered in a mix of folks like that.
    And what an interesting idea whitworth2012!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello again - hope all is well with you. Lots of interesting ideas and observations appearing.

      Delete
  6. It is so true. I went to Honduras on a humanitarian mission and introduced sunpainting on fabric then we stitched. It was a unifying event to listen to the chatter that, despite the language barrier, we all sound the same when we stitch together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true Christine. Have you read 'Textiles the whole story' by Beverly Gordon? She writes so well about this.

      Delete
    2. No, but it it will be a book on my list. Thank you.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for reminding me of the simple art of stitching Claire. In your Monday class we are all enjoying the power of stitch.
    We are able to chat and support one another, while our fabric is transformed by colourful stitches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mary! I like your blog. Yes, the Monday class is great in that way. I'm always interested in the different atmospheres that a technique can create - hand-stitch is my favourite I think.

      Delete
  8. As you know I'm trying to re-engage with my stitching and dyeing practice. I found your inspiring blog because of that. Since then I've actually begun to stitch again and find that if I have five minutes I'm much more likely to pick up my stitching than I am my knitting. My days are beginning to be threaded through by stitches made without thought of where I might be going with them and that's a happy thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It frees you up in a way. Sometimes making a 'thing' means you subconsciously think about the finishing all the time you are making it. It's nice to step back and enjoy the process for the sake of it.

      Delete
  9. I love the way your tiny stitches meld the fabrics into a single entity. Stitching for me is a way of setting my mind free to explore things, almost a meditation. Someone said recently they didn't think they'd ever seen me without a needle in my hand or very close by. I think they were probably right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I agree, it's head space and thinking time for me too.

      Delete
  10. Oh I couldn't agree more, but people look at me like I'm nuts when I say it! I knit and sew and it is essential to my very core. Makes me, me. I think everyone has a drive to create, make, potter. It's a matter of finding their niche. Stitching is a very good start!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - it's essential. I sometimes wonder if working in another medium would have the same effect for me. I've never explored it though - too busy stitching!

      Delete
  11. this community, it even happens online. of course there are always the silent one, but i hear the needle through cloth, the smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. A different type of community but such support and inclusivity. We're lucky.

      Delete
  12. i am very much a loner, but i often crave the tying threads of community. to be part of a face-2-face group of slow-clothers would be amazing.

    looking at your work relaxes me, just like stitching myself.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm a knitter first and foremost....but have my little pile of (mostly) unfinished stitching at hand, too. There is just something about handwork that soothes my soul....I can't imagine a day without it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. it does indeed. Since I was a 6, I've been stitching (thank you, GrandMa) and I still do. The stitches tell a story, bring my toys a soul, fill them - and me, too - with life.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I always try to reply to you here if you do.