MAKING IT, OURSELVES: Waves of Work / Waves of Pleasure

Waves of Work / Waves of Pleasure Sewing Machine Art

This installment of Making It, Ourselves feels very different from the last one (about my Bellows cardigan). The Bellows post came at the end of a 2-month-long process. Today’s is the result of just an afternoon of labor. Partly, that’s the difference between knitting and sewing. But also it’s the difference between a garment that I hope to wear for ages and a piece of quiet art that doesn’t need to fit any particular dimensions; it just needs to serve as a little reminder, a little tribute to the 19th-century seamstresses whose bodies were exploited and exhausted—and sometimes excited by the immoral rhythms of their sewing machines. (<– See last month’s History Project for more on that.) So, what I’ve made is not a perfect example of master sewing (not even close!), but it’ll hang on my wall and send out a reminding wave whenever I pass by.

When I thought about what might constitute a fitting homage to the excited seamstresses, I knew that it would have to be created using my sewing machine (obvs) and that its design would be based on rhythm and repetition. A wave motif seemed appropriate, as it satisfied the rhythmic-and-repetitive requirement and also could capture the back-and-forth surges of the act of sewing (especially as it would have been strenuously enacted on those first sewing machines). Additionally, I had the metaphorical meanings of a wave in mind—the experience of “waves” of pain or “waves” of pleasure. With these ideas in mind, I gathered my materials and set to work. Continue reading MAKING IT, OURSELVES: Waves of Work / Waves of Pleasure

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WIP CHECK: Bellows Cardigan (SOS!) + Sewing Waves of Pleasure/Work

The last few posts have glanced backwards, toward the historical: Cary Grant and WWII, sheep in the White House’s early days, the arousing side effects of the 19th-century sewing machine. But behind the scenes I’ve been stitching away and planning summer projects, so it’s time for a little DIY check-in—and a cry for help. Continue reading WIP CHECK: Bellows Cardigan (SOS!) + Sewing Waves of Pleasure/Work

HISTORY PROJECT: The Immoral Rhythms of the Early Sewing Machine

Sewing Factory in Late Victorian England

 

It’s Spring in the northern hemisphere and, for many, that marks the beginning of sewing season (#memademay, for reference). So this week, a salty little sewing tale…

In the 1860s, a small but impassioned debate broke out in both England, France, and the U.S. regarding the potentially “exciting” effects of the sewing machine. That’s right—doctors worried that the rhythmic pumping of the thighs resulted in sexual arousal and that women workers were using the machines to stimulate themselves. Equal parts hilarious and infuriating, it is a story that brings up questions of the industrial use of women’s bodies, their unanswered complaints of fatigue and ailment, masculine control of female sexual processes, and the threat of a working woman enjoying a private pleasure. In short, it’s a juicy one. (Pun most definitely intended.) Continue reading HISTORY PROJECT: The Immoral Rhythms of the Early Sewing Machine

MAKING IT, NEW: Alice Anderson and Chi Nguyen

Nguyen 5.4 Million and Counting / Anderson Fort Da

This week marks the culmination of two textile-related projects that seek to make “women’s work” visible, albeit in two different contexts: art and politics. In New York, this is the final week to catch Saatchi gallery’s Champagne Life, notable not only for being the gallery’s first all-female art show, but also for its bringing together of such a variety of provocative artists. The most fiber-forward of the bunch is Alice Anderson, whose pieces for the show include a 3-meter tall hand-wound bobbin. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the 5.4 Million and Counting project, spearheaded by artist Chi Nguyen, presented a collaborative embroidery work at a Supreme Court Rally in support of women’s reproductive rights on Wednesday, March 2. Anderson’s and Nguyen’s works are different—one hyperbolizes a sewing notion to make an artistic statement, while the other gathers sewn stitches to express a political position—but they both link traditionally feminized labor with current questions about the agency of the female body.

Continue reading MAKING IT, NEW: Alice Anderson and Chi Nguyen