Thursday, March 22, 2012

To some, sewing is "just" housework (but not to Natalie Chanin)

In a Dec. 14 essay in the New York Times food section, writer Jennifer Steinhauer bemoaned people who buy store-bought goods and pass them off as homemade at bake sales and potlucks. She acknowledged that there are many reasons why someone might do this, including the fact that some people think cooking is boring. And it was that paragraph that struck a chord with me. She says:

"I do not have anything against people who do not bake. The culinary arts, for those with no interest in them, are nothing more than housework. While some of us hammer out life's frustrations with a whisk to batter or sharp knife to shallots, others prefer to take a toothbrush to the sink. Or they ride a bike or something."

That second sentence is the one the got to me, on many levels. First, of course, is that it's easy to replace "the culinary arts" with "the textile arts" and the fact that people who have no interest in sewing think it "is nothing more than housework." The idea that a person can take pleasure and exert creativity while stitching isn't on the radar for these folks, and that gets back to my observation that when you tell someone at a party that you're a quilter, they assume you're a boring old woman and quickly find someone else to talk with.

Of course the other problem I have with all of this is that sewing and cooking and housework are all traditionally "women's work," not valued or worthy of consideration in the greater world of commerce and industry. So silly.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Natalie Chanin. This film about her and her work appeared earlier this week on Etsy's blog and is such a fine example of women who understand the pleasure and power of sewing. And the way Chanin provides people with a satisfying and creative way to make a living is an example of industry and commerce at its best. 


Anonymous said...

Very inspiring. Her clothes are beautiful . I did not know that anyone on this planet still made things by hand. I love working with my hands and truly understand why she does.

Linzee said...

Taking it a step further, here's a fascinating story about a friend who commissioned a piece of clothing that's not just sewn by hand, but the fabric its made from is created by hand (spun and felted) from locally sourced fibers:

Rebecka said...

Great post! You always have something interesting to share. Thanks for posting the video. I love Natalie's clothing. I wondered how she could produce all the clothing to sell. Now I know.
I know what your saying about telling people your a quilter. They just don't get it!
Have a great weekend!