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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Stitching my life away--some more cultural context

I'm not sure how I would have managed in the Victorian era when sewing was seen as a necessary accomplishment for ladies of the middle and upper classes. I love textiles of all kinds and have spent many many hours stitching away at various projects over several decades. However, the thought of having to sit and stitch politely as a primary pass-time in my leisure hours, without access to more stimulating mental endeavours would drive me mad. I don't think I'm alone in this. I remember reading a biography of Florence Nightingale and the desperate deterioration in her mental health when she was confined to the pursuits which suited her assigned place in society. This article gives some historical context about sewing in the Victorian era. It distinguishes between the roles of women of various social classes and also touches on the different responsibilities of doing plainwork as against fancywork.

  • By my calculations I have about 30 hours of stitching for this project. I considered making it an exercise in meditation, taking my cue from Sarah Goffman's note about the meditative copying of Buddhist texts, but apparently I'm not that good at meditation!

  • The fact that the work is white on white and composed of the same stitch repeated over and over again makes it particularly monotonous. Working to a short deadline also means that I need to stitch for many hours in a day since there are some days when I hardly have time to stitch.

I don't think it counts as meditation, but the project has certainly made me reflect on women's work and the monotony of being confined to such restricted roles and responsibilities.

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