An old column where I present a paragraph from a book or magazine and talk about it however I want.
It took a number of years for me to understand that craft is important women’s work – that it is an expression of creativity, a way of giving voice to love and passion and desire. Like many other feminists of my generation, it took time for me to understand that it could be reclaimed as a feminist project – both in the form of activism (think yarn bombing and subsersive stitchery) and when undertaken as an everyday practice. I didn’t start sewing until I left home and moved into a shared household with other sewers. We sewed because we had very little money, because we enjoyed sewing and because it gave us a break from our often-stressful jobs. During my five years as a youth worker Footscray in the 19802, when I often worked sixty hour weeks, I sewed most weekends. We would light the fire on cold Melbourne winter days and drag our sewing machines into the living room; we would make and talk and tell each other stories. It’s not until I write this now that I wonder if I was trying to re-create the kitchen in my mother’s stories of her life in the village.
The thing about Overland is that the writing is so good and so well edited and proofread that there is nothing in any paragraph that I’d be able to pick out and suggest that it could be wrong. I’ve submitted to Overland in the past and I’m sure I will again in the future, I do not consider my writing to be anywhere near as good as even the least article that I’ve read. I will still submit my work, in the hopes that my writing is good enough for them.
But I could have picked any paragraph in Overland Issue 235. What made me pick this one? It’s the first one I saw when I opened the magazine just now. I read it and decided there’s just so much to discuss I won’t look any further.
One of the issues about feminism over the centuries is that many feminists feel they don’t have to do things their mothers have done. Those crafting hobbies are things they can ignore and look down on. But it has been important for far longer than that and will continue to be important for a very long time. Not just for women but also for men. I have male friends who can sew better than me, they were taught by their parental units or by their friends, some of them taught themselves.
I can’t sew, I did try many years ago and then again before my daughter moved out of home. I don’t have the skills necessary to be able to understand the instructions. The only time I’ve sewn anything successfully is when my daughter took the hoop skirt instructions and broke each one down into three or four instructions for me. It was painstaking and she has the patience of a saint for me. But I succeeded. It takes a certain type of brain to be able to understand how these things work and many men assume that only men have that kind of brain, but then they’ve never looked at sewing or other types of craft to see how complex they can be.
I love yarn bombing. I look at the work involved, and I quietly celebrate it. Sometimes not so quietly as I stand there and take a photo of the artistic work. I don’t understand the activism involved but I have a friend who yarn bombs. She will be happy to give me chapter and verse and tell me what it all means.
But, it’s the last sentence that really rings true to me. That last sentence that tells me that sometimes when we write we don’t actually know what we’re writing and what we’re doing until we put the words down. I’ve done that so many times, not sure of what I’m saying until the words appear on the screen. I might have a rough idea in my mind but it’s only when the words spring on the screen that I find I’ve actually said something worthy. In this sentence the author, Enza Gandolfo, is discovering that she might have been trying to recreate her mother’s life in Sicily with her sewing. And there is nothing wrong with that so long as you don’t recreate the mistakes.
What I suggest is that a subscription to Overland would make a wonderful present. You can buy a subscription just to Overland or one to both Overland and Voiceworks. They’re both great publications and you’ll see more of both in Paratalk? or Torque as I have a subscription.