Do you ever wonder why sewing is such a passion? Why it is so satisfying to create fine stitched work? Or to handle the smooth fabric and admire the tightly-woven, straight seams? If you suspect it’s connected to our desire for order, control, and symmetry, I agree. And I’d wager such longings explain the story of our mythic ancestress, Clotho, the Fate, who spins the thread of human life.
Clotho is one of our earliest fore-mothers, in a long line of women stitching. My history is probably like yours in some ways. I bet if you thought about your own family, you might find similar traditions of sewing, embroidery, quilting, or at least mending clothes (remember darning socks on a lightbulb?!)–arts and skills which are making a comeback at present, it seems… in this new Depression era.
My love of sewing is closely connected to my mother’s teachings, who learned it from her mother in Portland, OR, who likely learned it from her German-born mother. (That’s grandma as a tot, second from bottom right, and her mom sitting behind her with a baby on her lap.)
Some of my fondest teenage memories have to do with sewing. (OK, I know! We were sewing store geeks!) Since I lived in the Bryant neighborhood and my friend lived in Laurelhurst, it was easy. We’d ride our bikes down to Stitch in Time, down by the U Village (before the U Village was chic), and spend hours designing our own special looks (Betsey Johnson was our idol), buying the fabrics, and then riding uphill—steeply—to our houses at the top of hills, to admire our stashes and make stuff. Both of us had learned it from our mothers with the help of Home Ed class at school. (Home Ed actually has a fascinating history and provides many key skills. I wish they’d put such “vocational” topics back into circulation in HS.)
I am so attached to this heritage that I kept using grandma’s wrought-iron sewing machine (a 1928 White Rotary, above) until, after multiple attempts to repair it and after getting machine oil all over my hands one too many times, I sadly gave it up. (It’s still in the garage, of course.) My new machine, an industrial model Juki, was recommended by my sister-in-law, a fellow aficionado of textiles, who actually runs a flourishing interior design business in Seattle.
This is clearly a matriarchy of knowledge and skill, a source of power. Just look at our ancestor, Clotho, and her sisters!
Clotho is a mythological figure. In ancient Greek mythology, she is the one of the Three Fates or Moirai. Her role is a spinner; as she spins thread, she brings people to life. In this tapestry, called The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates, you can see how the three Fates work together. Her sister Fates, Lachesis and Atropos, draw out the thread of life (Lachesis) and cut it (Atropos). Thread represented human life and the decisions of Clotho and her sisters–how and when to begin, prolong, and end life–thus represented the fate of all people in society.*
WOW! That is one powerful sisterhood
I love how my quilts are now speaking to the face masks: Here is yesterday’s mask production, followed by two quilts from pre-COVID-19 days:
See how the ginkgo tree green, and the blue cranes, from “Kimono Silk Quilt no. 2” (above, left) have now shown up in face masks? Also visible are face masks made of the black and white chessboard fabric, and black polka dots, from “Alice in Wonderland” small quilt no.1 (above, right). My stash is literally walking out the door! (not to worry, there’s plenty more)
Who cares if it’s geeky? Stitch on, sisters and nieces, near and far!
With love to Andrea, Shellie, and Jessie
info and imagery from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clotho and tapestry: Flemish, 1510-1520, Victorian and Albert Museum, London.
By This mediaUser:PriorymanOriginal workUnknown artist – Image by w:User:Prioryman, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53491807