Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Meditation on a simple stitch

 "The Silver-haired Raven wore splendid garb." A beautiful remnant of turquoise corduroy was enough to cut into a vest for Pete/The Silver-haired bird. A silk-screened wood cut done by friend and fiber artist and partner in collaboration Pam Winstanley I trimmed and hand embroidered with silver metallic thread.
 To accentuate and add a bit of shimmer to the shape of the vest I machine stitched the curves of the back and front using that same silver metallic thread
The vest is fully lined with cotton flannel, the last of a once warm flannel sheet that has kept us warm in seasons passed.
Can you spot the turquoise vest on The Silver-haired Raven?
"For centuries women have done needlework. It was a necessary skill, it was an accomplishment, and it was a chance to appear to be active while giving one’s mind free reign to consider, to think. Calm, slow, careful stitches gave the appearance of activity, skill and usefulness, but the mind was free to think, to be quiet, to wander... An unbroken thread of women, stitching quietly, their minds pondering, considering, thinking, deliberating... for ages and ages...-Universidad de Palermo

I remember when I learned to stitch. The old house in the valley. An embroidery hoop and colored thread. Cross-stitch. Already an impatient learner I saw how beautifully the colored thread made pictures, and wanted to make those pictures. Now! My brother newly born, we were new to that house, new to the valley. I am four. How do I remember all this when until I sat to rewind the memory those thoughts weren't there? Time would pass and my embroidery skills would not develop much mostly because I did not practice them. The next stitching memory is that of the old Singer that rose from the box when Ma opened the top and pushed down on it. The dark stained wood and black metal machine filled in the wall inside the bedroom shared with all four of us. Two soft and lumpy big beds: one for Ma and Dad and one for me and my brother. Ma sewed and I said under the lid as the machine roared and the sharp needled chewed up and down the material. Ma.Machine.Stitches. Comfort. Closeness.

Sewing is what I got good at. Good at sewing because I loved it, and did it often. Island girls in the 1950's went to Sewing School. I went to Sewing School one block Honolulu-side of my house on Dalene Way it was an easy walk and I had a cousin who went with me. She became a very accomplished seamstress with a day job that paid her bills for decades. We both had day jobs for decades and paid the bills with skills and commitment to being productive in the modern world. But what is miraculous and meditative for me at this stage of life is how the simple stitch practiced over time is the metaphor I feel mostly in my bones. Coupled with my practice of writing, the longer-still disciple and activity of stitching holds me, grounds me while at the same time allows me access to the "minds [of women who have been] pondering, considering, thinking, deliberating... for ages and ages."

Fall is definitely in place here in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. It is cold. My body shudders with the reality of the seasonal shift, and without thinking I wish for the warm sunny sky and salty beaches. A soak and a swim would be heaven. As writer, storyteller and stitcher the magic and medicine of art can create the portal or ha'a kaau to open time and space. That's what the story that began The Safety Pin Cafe chronicles are all about. Creating a cozy space to weather the weather and invite solutions transformative yes, and practical as well. I sit to quiet my aching joints and wrap myself in fleece to warm my fingers: regalia for writing in winter. I process the experience of birthing a project of art and get a sense of what to do next, where to go from here. A bug dangles from a fine invisible thread, wiggling at screen level as my cat curls on the table not far from me. What does a Border Witch do after one performance, one border has been crossed?

She could do many things, do nothing, or perhaps she rests and recuperates, gently grounding herself and forgives herself when she snaps with Mars-infused fire because she is tired. Today, the writer, teller and character from the myth writes and reflects on the simple stitch that led to another, and another creating something from nothing ... a vest the color of those salty turquoise beaches, soft and smooth as silky ocean water. The Silver-haired Raven who worn splendid garb is both a character and a flesh-and-bones old man I know. I stitched the vest, I let my thoughts swim with the story preparing for performance. The jitter bugs and fear of odds and ends stay enough away as I stitch and sew and fit and unstitch, pin and stitch again. The art and disciple takes me through and across the borders of known and unknown space. A vest is stitched. A vest is fit. And in the process the Border Witch shows up to do her work.


  1. Thank you for sending this to me - I must of sensed it before I even read it because I too have been reminded of projects I did as a young person and especially those of wool yarns, crewel work I did. A black cat done in needle work of every possible stitch of needle point. I finished it but never wanted to do that type of structured work again. My work these days is free form, not premeditated and for me the magic unfolding. Thank you for the Safety Pin Cafe

  2. Your free form work is the sort of magic that suits so many of us. To have you playing along side and inside the Safety Pin Cafe is chumming at its best. Thank you Pam, Wild Woman.


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