Saturday, September 24

Losing Basic Skills

Since ancient times, women of all stations of life have been taught by their mothers, grandmothers and aunts the honorable craft of needlework. Whether it was stitching beautiful things for their home or building a respectable wardrobe for their families from nothing more than fabric and thread, needlework was a basic and essential skill.

Somewhere in the last few decades that skill, like so many others, has fallen out of favor. We are to the point the now where few women even know an accomplished seamstress to learn from if they wanted to. What classes are available commercially teach patronizing fragments like how to make a pillow case and brush off the intricate skills of tailoring clothing as unnecessary or too advanced for the would-be homemaker.

Within the last week, I have run into three separate posts about the serious and detrimental impact on women's lives and health that resulted when girls were no longer taught to sew:

It's not you, it's the clothes.
Why your clothes don't fit.
No s**t.

They all have the same message: clothing off the rack cannot (and is not intended to) properly fit any of us. When something does fit just right, it is a happy accident. When things do not, it is simply our cue to pick up a needle and thread and tailor the piece to fit our needs. Or at least it would be if we knew how! Instead, people are so intimidated by and incapable of tailoring their own clothes that they starve and berate themselves (sometimes to the point of illness) for failing to live up to an entirely arbitrary standard.

This is not an isolated trend. Women who do not learn to cook because they are "destined for a career" and "liberated" from the kitchen are not empowered. They are slaves to fast food, tv dinners and the toxic slop that comes from tin cans and cardboard boxes because they've been denied the skills that would give them the option to do better and make healthier choices.

Real freedom and genuine empowerment are anchored in knowledge. Practical, functional knowledge. It is infuriating and deeply sad that this trend towards learned helplessness is both broad and growing, but I believe there is still hope for reversing it. 

If you know how to sew, will you consider making your time and knowledge available to younger women in your life who need someone to teach them?

If you don't know how to sew, I encourage you to consider putting basic sewing supplies on your Christmas list this year and adding learning to sew to your list of resolutions for next year.

We don't have to be (or stay) dis-empowered. We can turn the tide.

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