A week ago at the Smocking Arts Guild of America annual convention I concluded my two year Presidency and stepped off the board. As I gave my final speech at banquet on Saturday evening, I reminded the membership that we are needleartists. Members of SAGA continue the tradition of generations of women using their talents to beautify the celebratory moments of life, and the mundane moments as well. By picking up their needle and creating something as elaborate as the heirloom christening gown, as average as the back to school outfit, or as simple as a small handmade token for a friend, they anchor themselves in that tradition of women who have used their hands and talents to celebrate life in all its myriad forms.
To help celebrate, my good friend Erna, sent me the book In Praise of the Needlewoman, Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers, and Weavers in Art, by Gail Carolyn Sirna. In Praise of the Needlewoman is a celebration of needlearts and women in art. It is a collection of paintings that depict women plying their art, as well as an explanation of the paintings by the author. The book evolved from the author’s research for the Honors Program at the National Academy of Needlearts. In the introduction, the author notes that, “I have come to realize that sewing and embroidery are the “threads” that bind us (mostly women) to past generations and future generations, and to women around the world… In all cultures, and in all times, there is an imperative to take needle and thread in hand and produce something either useful or decorative.”
When I am not picking up my needle and thread, I will be sipping on a cup of tea and enjoying the paintings of women at their art and Gail Sirna's thoughtful description thereof.