Monday, January 18, 2010

Piecing it together.

I'm a big fan of Piecework Magazine, done by Interweave, and today I was pleasantly surprised by the delivery of a few back issues that I had ordered with some of my holiday gift money. It may see a strange thing to talk about on a simple living blog: magazine subscriptions regarding historical textiles. But to me, Piecework is a good magazine to have around when you want to do some needlework and yet want a reminder of the simplicity of times gone by.

Piecework's historical patterns are a treat to see, and a lot of the articles in the magazine include cultural and historical information that often make it pretty clear that the majority of needlecrafters didn't have a lot of money or resources, no matter which country they lived in. They used what they could, used it frugally and wisely, and made stunning heirloom pieces, some of which survive today. If you're amazed at a pair of jeans lasting you a decade before you consign them to the scrap pile, imagine a lace shawl, knit or crocheted or tatted out of something as fine as sewing thread, lasting a hundred years or more.

This sort of things reminds me that although making something fancy like that is arguably "not simple", it is a good way to remind myself to slow down, to take my time, to do it right the first time so that it's all done properly and will last as long as I need or want it to.

When I knit or sew or embroider, sometimes I'm struck by the amazing complexity and simplicity of it all. One tiny stitch, the same as a dozen, a hundred, a thousand others, insignificant on its own, but perfectly made just the same, and when put together with all those other insiginificant and perfect stitches, comes together to make something beautiful and meaningful and worthwhile. It's like the world, I sometimes reflect. Each person is perfect in their own right, insignificant on their own, and part of something wonderful when put together with others. What one cannot do at all, many can do easily.

A lot of people think of needlework as a sort of spiritual craft, and in some ways, I can't deny it. It's like playing Fibre God. You form all these little things out of next to nothing, and when you're done, you've got so much more than you started out with even though it's all still made of the same stuff. There are challenges and failures and successes, but overall it's all just a part of the process, and you learn and you improve and you've got something to be proud of and to make you proud.

And it's a connection, to all the hundreds of thousands of women and men who did it all before you, who started off and paved the way for you, made mistakes so that you don't have to, learned corrections so that you don't have to muddle your way through in the dark, and who made a beginning so that you can experiment and make the future. It's history, built one stitch at a time and wrapping the whole world together.

I don't often think of it quite like this unless I'm waxing poetic, but I don't feel any lie in my words when I write them. This is how it is to me, and this is how to is to others, how it was, and how it will still be long after I'm dead, so long as handmade textiles live on. Even if they live on as hobbies instead of careers, they still live, and it's another stitch in the fabric, another knot and bind to the past and the inevitable future.

It's humbling to think like this, and even though the sky outside is grey and threatening to bring snow and wind tonight, and I have work to do that I don't want to do, and I'm still unemployed and without much money, I want to thank the world and history and deities of all kinds of giving me this chance to be a simple insignificant stitch, to reach other and hold and support other stitches, and to be a part of the fabric.

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