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Stereotypes and the basics of sewing by hand…

Stereotypes and the basics of sewing by hand…

This morning my wife mentioned she has noticed that many young people do not know how to sew by hand. Not even, for instance, to secure a button to a shirt.

She made this comment after I shared that I’m glad I learned the rudiments of sewing in ‘home ec’ class in public middle school in the late 1970’s. I actually made an entire pillow by hand. Years later this knowledge served me well when I had to grab my wife’s needle and thread in an emergency with a farm animal. Something tells me this isn’t taught in public schools anymore.

I think the basics of sewing is one of those skills we all should have. Young and old, men and women. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think it is especially important for women. Why?

I will put it this way. Sewing is one of those little things that is expressive of something much bigger. It’s certainly not about the sewing itself. It’s most about a woman’s ability and calling to live that astounding reality called motherhood. It has been said that motherhood is at root a disposition of the heart. This strikes me as true.

This disposition of heart manifests itself in many forms; a common feature is a loving, careful attention to the concrete details of life. It is precisely in this vein that I think sewing was often seen as one of the staples of a young lady’s formation. Here is one particular skill she will use to take care of the people she loves, whether in making or mending clothes or home furnishing and decorations, or a plethora of other things.

I realize that sewing particularly raises the specter of rigid sexual divisions and stereotypes. This is probably one factor in the general setting aside of sewing. It is my hope here to suggest that perhaps we have come to the point where we can look again at things we’ve set aside. Unduly rigid sexual divisions are wrong and damaging. But this is no reason to miss the gift of sexual distinction and complementarity, the gift of motherhood and fatherhood. It is also no reason to miss the gift of sewing, for both women and men.

I think that boys and girls should learn the basics of sewing. Some of both sexes will be inspired to go beyond the basics and become proficient, and some will achieve the joy of mastery of a great art. I think that particularly girls might find that sewing serves them well no matter what they chose to pursue, but especially in marriage and household-living.

Xenophon wrote, “In so far as the two sexes have different natural talents…their pairing is mutually more beneficial.” I take ‘talents’ here to refer especially to complementary dispositions of heart and soul, which become manifest in our bodies, and in countless concrete ways.

Motherhood must never be reduced to any of its multiple manifestations. And most concrete arts of daily living, like sewing, will pertain to both men and women. Yet this should not prevent us from seeing a natural affinity and fittingness in offering to young women in particular the opportunity to develop an art well suited for a manifestation of motherliness.

And if nothing else, sewing offers to boys and girls alike the joy of an increasingly rare commodity among the young: a useful and satisfying hand competence. ~ ~ ~

A Short Video to help you ENJOY a special gift of the season: ACORNS!

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Image: Lise Sewing by Pierre Auguste Renoir

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John Cuddeback

Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.

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