Needles, Thread and My Matrilineal Heritage

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Getting ready for this internship has involved not only shopping for clothes but also sewing.

1. Vest made of loose weave cotton (Burda Pattern) 2. Wrap Harem pants out of stretch knit (Burda Pattern) 3. Knee length skirt is stretch canvas (Burda Pattern) 4. Skirt out of African print cotton (Custom designed pattern) 5. Cropped Jacket out of Cotton print (Pattern not available online). Burda Patterns is a great resource for people looking for stylish, on-trend patterns.

I'm very proud of being able to sew some of my clothes, not just because it lets me save money and have something unique but also because it is a piece of my family heritage.

My great-grandparents were shop keepers in London, England.  At this time, elementary school was free but secondary school cost money. My great-grandfather refused to pay for my grandmother's education because he thought it was a waste of time to educate a girl - after all she would just get married and be a housewife. So my great-grandmother took in sewing and tailoring to earn the money for school fees. Because of my great-grandmother's quiet persistence, my grandmother completed her high-school education. 

My grandmother did get married, raised her children and moved to Canada.  She continued to sew and also to knit and taught these skills to her daughters. Though she spent most of her time as a housewife, after her children were grown up, she followed her own interest in clothing and fashion and became a business women in her own right, owning a store in Yorkville, Toronto.  

My mother works in the museum field but after having three children she took a break from work to concentrate on her family. During this time, sewing provided an opportunity to gain extra income while being at home.  She did everything from kids clothing to dance costumes to custom wedding dresses. She also tells me that sewing was a way to provide her family with nicer and a wider variety of clothes than she could otherwise afford.

I don't know where my sewing skills will take me or when I may be most grateful to have learned them, but when I look at my own history it shows me the ingenuity of women in using their traditional spheres and skills to change their lives for the better. 


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