vestigial craft

Embroidery has fallen off the map; dropped off the end of the cultural conveyor belt. Or has it?

I have many reasons for thinking that embroidery is vestigial, once essential, now, no longer needed. I also have many reasons for thinking that what I have just written is not so.

Which is true?

Sitting in the Dr’s office waiting for my mammogram appointment, I was diligently stitching a freehand piece of embroidery for the top of a lovely box from Sudberry House. It was to be a birthday gift for my daughter. My work attracted the attention of another patient. She moved to sit next to me. She watched for a little while I couched some gold thread into the letter Z in my design. “what are you doing she asked? Are you knitting?”  Trying not to show my surprise, I explained what I was doing and how and why. She was clearly fascinated, loved the colors and the idea of creating something but she had absolutely no idea what she was looking at. No idea at all. She had never seen anyone  embroider, never heard of it, never wondered how logos and other embroidered motifs are introduced to fabric. One hundred years ago or less no woman would be without detailed knowledge of what I was doing.  This is not an isolated incident in my experience. So embroidery is vestigial.

Yes…..and No.

Its essential part in the lives of women has gone forever; lost to the massive machine embroidery industry and third world wonders of infinite variety and color and inexpensive clothing. If you want pretty flowers embroidered on your shirt, go to Forever 21, pay $5 and get a shirt with colorful stitching. You do not need to be able to thread a needle or know a chain stitch from a French knot. Cool.

Or is it?

What is lost? Creativity. Satisfaction. Skill. Individuality, ( you are likely to find the lady standing in front of you in Starbucks wearing the same shirt .Oops…she might even look better than you do in it).

I have been very fortunate in being invited to teach embroidery to all 75 third graders in an elementary school. It is an uplifting experience. Seen through young eyes embroidery is exciting and engaging. They are enthralled by its creativity and eager to learn more. I ought to be entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the only person

ever to receive a round of applause for forming a French knot.

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