For centuries women have used stitching as a means of expressing themselves. For example, deciding what colors, what fabrics, and what patterns to use is in itself a form of self expression. Stitching also has been used subversively such as with the Underground Railroad Quilts used to help slaves escape or Madame Defarge, a character in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, who transmitted secret codes in her knitting.
Sometimes stitching can be used as a form of protest as with Bordamos Feminicidios a group of Mexican women who use embroidered handkerchiefs to protest against female homicides. And many artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Maria Lai, and Tracy Emin, have used stitching not only as an art form but also as a means of externalizing some of the anguish within.
But sewing can offer women something else—companionship. American quilting bees, for example, were social gatherings that permitted women to get together to work on quilts thus combining necessity with pleasure. The sewing circle concept eventually became démodé but made a revival several years ago when Stitch ‘n Bitch knitting groups started surfacing worldwide. Women rediscovered the pleasure of working with their hands while sharing stories with other women.
Everyone has a story to tell and, eager to create an anthology of such stories, Lavinia Lindsay and Cisca Mikx have teamed up to create a sewing bee beyond borders they’ve called 99 Art Project. Women from around the world have been invited to explore the possibilities of using needle and thread to share personal experiences.
The ladies participating begin with finding a white shirt that will act as home base for the journey their stitching will take them on. Because hands make the world tangible. They help us interact with our surroundings. But they also provide a means of interacting with our own being. Working with our hands helps prevent self-alienation.
And working with our hands collectively creates a bonding in the same way that stitching unites one material with another. As the women of 99 Art Project begin exploring themselves, they will share their discoveries with other members of the group. Like a patchwork blanket, they will put their pieces together to make a whole.
I, too, will be participating as well and documenting my journey here on this blog. Because female Synergy and Solidarity will save the world!