Welcome to the May opening of the Ribbon Tin…just in time. Inside the Ribbon Tin is a monthly series featuring a miscellany of bits and bobs, odds and sods, knicks and knacks, all sorts of interesting things related to textiles and making.
First out are my balms for calm and happiness.
I have been rereading E. P. Thompson’s, The Making of the English Working Class. E. P. Thompson was the foremost labour historian of the fifties and sixties, proud socialist and peace campaigner, a kind of David Attenborough meets Billy Bragg.
The Making of the English Working Class is a brick of a book but it sings with the voices of real people all the way through. Here’s a bit that I came across about the wool carder makers of Cleckheaton during the time of labour specialisation just prior to steam industrialism. A contemporary observer noted,
‘little toddling things of four years old…were kept hour after hour at the monotonous task of thrusting the wires into cards with their tiny fingers until their little heads were dazed, their eyes red and sore, and the feebler ones grew bent and crooked’.
I have a four year old and I use hand carders. I wouldn’t let my kids near them. It is salutary to remember that childhood is the luxury of a wealthy, stable, industrial society.
Our Dear Boy brought home his school weaving project recently…a God’s Eye. Well, that’s what I grew up calling them but he called it a kite. Weaving a God’s Eye is sort of a childhood rite of passage. We’ve all made one at some point…a couple of sticks and a bit of yarn. Ever wondered why its called a God’s Eye? I never did till now. Turns out the weaving of these Ojo de Dios (Eye of God) is a spiritual and meditative practice for seeing into what is unseen amongst many peoples in the Americas. They were often woven in solitude or in the case of a young person, with the guidance of an elder. Quietening, looking inward to look outward…I reckon that is school time well spent.
There is only one thing left in the Tin this month. It is a dream, a very curious dream.
As the nights get cooler in Melbourne (and yes I know we are very soft here because it is not really cold, just cooler), two wee children have recently started a-creeping into our bed in the small hours. They are very hot creatures and like to sleep very close to me. I get very hot and then start having anxious dreams. This is one of them.
I was in my old university library which had become massive and cavernous and filled with steep escalators, stairs with no banisters and lots and lots of people. I was trying to make my way downstairs to borrow a book but kept falling off the stairs. After many falls and struggles I got down only to realise I had put my handbag down somewhere upstairs. More panic and struggle and falling of stairs happened as I attempted to go back up and find my bag. I was now weeping in my dream. Then suddenly I noticed someone wearing a B____ sweater, and then someone wearing a P____ and someone else wearing an O____ sweater. By this time, calmed by seeing knitting I recognised, I had stopped dream-weeping enough to realise I was actually dreaming and was an inch away from the edge of the bed and there was a small child’s head under my shoulder pushing me inexorably towards the edge.
Who knows why my subconscious found those particular sweaters by that particular designer but if ever you are stuck in an anxiety dream, look for the breadcrumb trail of knitwear and they will lead you home. I have hesitated to name the designs and designer because maybe that is just a little weird and sycophantic and whilst my subconscious clearly does not care about such things, I do…but I am happy for you to have a guess in comments.
And that is the Ribbon Tin for another month.