Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Lovely Thought

This article about Slow Cloth in Hand/Eye is one of those lovely thoughts you can thinking about, perhaps while envisioning some of the lovely clothes you've made the past, or have been handed down, mulling over the words, and then reshaping them to suit your sentiments.

Hand/Eye editor Keith Recker commented thus:

"Dear HAND/EYE readers,

"A confession: Inspired by Elaine Lipson's Slow Cloth article and the talented makers who energize the movement she writes about, I hand-sewed three pillows a couple of weeks ago. Two were gifts for a niece and nephew whose birthdays are near, and the last for my little daughter who rightly wouldn't accept being left out. Every appliqué was hand cut, every slow stitch accomplished with my own fingers, and every individual bead fixed into place with care. The experience changed my life.

"If you just rolled your eyes, I want you to leave your computer right now and MAKE something by hand. Return to read the rest of this email you are done.

"Even after several decades of looking at, selling, contemplating, tweaking, designing, collecting, sometimes coveting, and always appreciating and promoting the handmade (especially textiles), I was humbled by the act of making.

"Time stopped. Hours went by without my realizing it. A look at the clock always provoked a sense of surprise, sometimes joy, and once in a while sheer frustration.

"I slipped into some other state of being where our electronic "reality" lost its primacy. Who cared about email and texting: there was work to be done.

"Old skills buried away for years came out: I can draw. But frailties also had to be overcome: how in the world do embroiderers keep their stitches the same size? Ideas were great to get the ball rolling, but patience and consistency actually made the pillows.

"I ended my sewing marathon with a whole new appreciation for the skilled hands that make so much of what we live with. Do we savor the objects around us for their functionality, their beauty, their tender reminder of the human touch and the presence of faraway, unknown people in our lives? Or do we take them for granted?

"Honestly speaking, I know how I have to answer. Familiarity and routine dim our vision. In penance (it is Lent after all) I found myself, post pillow project, seeing my world differently for a couple of weeks. I am determined to find ways to open my eyes like that more often.

Have a great week,

Keith Recker email was posted with his permission.


  1. Thanks for both posts, Meg! I'm a member of the Slow Cloth FB group, but rarely go there. I enjoyed reading Elaine's article.

  2. Interesting, interesting...

  3. I've seen an emphasis in the past 10 years in the sale of crafts to the public of "quick & easy" - evening projects, weekend projects. I noticed this especially in patchwork & quilting - more kits, more "stack & whack".

    I think it is hard to communicate to the busy people with money to spend that there is great value in slowing down and taking time and trouble to make something special. It would be nice if someone, somewhere, reading Keith's words is inspired to slow down.

  4. Connie, I just discovered the Slow Cloth FB group when I read the article. I am looking forward to sitting down in front of their discussion some evening.

    Lynn, I like that you like it!

    Dorothy, I know what you mean. Sewing, in particular, I've noticed, overnight or weekend projects. I have nothing against them, particularly for beginners and young people, but I do wish at least it lead to some discussion or thinking of more in-depth work as well. At least more appreciation for slow work. And the willingness to pay for such work is nice, but appreciation and respect for the time and skill that goes into slow cloth, that is what I hope for.

    I love weavers' communities and camaraderie, and the little jokes, secrets and mistakes we share in particular, but sometimes I feel, because the knowledge of cloth-making has become not widely known, I fear us also becoming a mutual admiration society of sorts.

    When you read historical novels with rich, powerful, or religious figures, as you know I like to do, or even courtesans, there is at least the great appreciation for cloth and tapestries, if not for their makers as well. Even within my lifetime I've witnessed advances in technology and materials, to the point cloth can be made cheaply and cheaper methods, (I am thinking of printing methods and materials in particular, as opposed to dying or embellishments), choices numerous, and regional characteristics disappearing. As a child, I still remember my grandfather, (who was the biggest clothes horse I've ever known!) spending a fortune on English wool for his suits. Or Italian cloth for coats. And my train of thought is now wandering and heart salivating for the touch one cashmere coat I was given by my grandmother - it was heavenly to the touch even after she wore it for 10 years. (Granted, she had many many coats, so it wasn't the only one she wore in the 10 years.)

    Make no mistake I'm not against spandex and cotton knits and fleeces made of plastic drink bottles - they have their place in the modern household, including mine, but at the same time I wish we could do something to bring back public appreciation for cloth making.

    Still, I remain hopeful. Look how much books we're still buying, and look how much the Internet has helped us gain access to books which, even 15 years ago, I was inquiring about with faces and letters, and buying by bank drafts or even secretly sending cash in the post!


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