“Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
Woolf’s phrase comes to mind every time I re-read Piecework or drool over vintage handmade clothing, accessories, bed linens or quilts on display in museums or antique stores.
What do we learn about the piece?
- Type of craft (e.g., knit, filet crochet, tatted, etc.)
- fiber (e.g., cotton, silk, wool, etc.)
- original purpose (e.g., dinner dress or shelf liner)
- original owner (maybe)
- time period made (within a range)
- donor or current owner (unless item was discovered in a second-hand store)
But what we probably don’t learn about the piece is so sad to me:
- the names of the people (most probably women) who actually made the piece
- (frequently) the name of designer
Because of the modern technology available to us, I think all crafting artists should think about cataloguing their work in some way. I have long kept large, wire bound journals in which I log my sketches, graphs, and instructions (sort of) for everything I’ve made for family and close friends. Each project has a name – generally very uncreative – along the line of “Cabled Sweater for Thor’s Birthday 2011.” I also add samples of the yarns used, the label of each fiber used and, if hand spun, the name and date of the critical people involved (e.g., wool grower, spinner and/or dyer). I note the date begun and the date completed and include any pictures I take. (I have separate journals for weaving, spinning and dying projects.)
As a child, I always pestered my grandmother about who made what, when, and why. And she always patiently answered. My daughter, however, did not take after me in that regard. Thus as I walk around my house, I see many items that, should I drop dead tomorrow, my daughter and grandchildren will not know who made what, when and why. I want my daughter and grandchildren to value, love and care for these treasures made by my amazing foremothers – Hardanger table cloths, stitched wall hangings, crocheted bed coverings, woven table runners, etc. I shudder at the thought of these items, so precious to me, could end up tossed in a donation box for Goodwill after I’m gone.
I have all this family textile history in my head, and I need to transfer it to some electronic form for my children, grandchildren and others down the line. So I decided to start to catalogue them. I’m thinking of photographing each item and creating an electronic book with information about and photograph of each maker. I have also decided to have some professional labels made – not the “Made with Love by Grandma” types – for my pieces. 🙂
I am interested to know whether other textile and fiber folks have done this and, if so, how; whether you made your own labels and, if so, how; and/or whether you had labels custom made and, if so, how. ???