I can’t resist embroidery or crochet embellishments. I know that in our day and age these are no longer the mark of handmade items enriched by the mastery and care of skillful artisans, but machine-made, fast-fashion creations (in most part), but something of that ancient handmade spirit is still summoned by these garments, I often find (or maybe I’m just dreaming, which might very well be, since I get little sleep and my awake hours are in fact lost in a daze of semi-reality).
I often like to think of the times when women would sit in front of a wood-crackling stove and work on tedious, detailed embroidery for hours at a time. In agricultural societies, most of women’s work in winter consisted of making clothes for the family and linens for the house. I learned from Mamaia (my grandmother) how to do cross stitch on tablecloths, how to knit vests and winter hats, how to use the sewing machine to alter hems, or make bedsheets and pillow cases; and once or twice I even watched her weaving bed covers and wall tapestries on an old, wood, weaving loom like this one (the woman in the image looks a lot like Mamaia too). For a long while didn’t really appreciate any of these skills I inherited from her, and years later the fast-paced modern life did not allow time for these activities that seemed destined for a life of leisure. I wished we all could still slow down in winter and occupy the time with pleasant, calming projects involving the creation of beautiful things to be used for years to come. How precious those things would be! Let me lie down here for a moment and think about that. With my eyes closed. Just for a second.
Right, I was writing something. Yes. I remember. So, in the thrift shops I always look for peasant blouses and I think I have quite a nice collection by now. I want to learn about the different types of embroidery of various cultures. Only India has a myriad, like Kantha, from Bengal, or Chikankari from Uttar Pradesh. In Romania, the beautiful traditional blouses, called ii, are also adorned with delicate amazing embroidery. I’m also smitten with Mexican peasant blouses, but I know little of other traditions, and I know (and rejoice) that there is much to learn about.
Now, on a different note, I wanted to take a moment and admit how awkward it still feels for me to talk about personal style and clothes and adornments of all sorts on this blog. While in my daily life I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about my what I wear and I often find myself fascinated by other people’s personal styles, there is a deeply ingrained fear that these are superficial matters and not worthy of too much thought, and if I talk about all that here, I will give the impression that I am not a deep thinker, a serious intellectual, and all that which matters. So, in a way, I have to force myself to write about these things, although they do interest me very much and although when I really think about it I know there is nothing wrong with caring about how clothes look, how fabrics feel or how jewelry carries meaning. I watch Project Runway on TV and I have no doubt that designing clothes is an art and designers are artists, just like village women who embroider complicated patterns on fine fabrics are artists themselves. It is about beauty, and nothing about beautiful things is a waste of time. Right? OK, maybe sometimes time will be wasted, but what is one to do with time anyway, if not fill it with beauty? If not adorn it with thoughts of swishing fine cloth? And anyway, it is too tiring, boring and passé to be highly intellectual all the time. My brain needs rest. True, lots of rest, recently, or it loses track of what’s real and what’s only a dream, but don’t tell that to anyone.