Saturday, 3 August 2019


In my linen closet there is a homemade linen holder. It contains bits and bobs that my mother, her mother, her grandmother – and so on – embroidered, crocheted, smocked, appliqued and tatted, over the years of their lives. Beautifully handcrafted, they are now considered to be old fashioned ... though I do take out the odd piece, from time to time, and add it to a tea tray or a display of flowers. 

Occasionally, in the course of my rural market outings, amid the fresh produce, fudge logs and homemade jams and chutneys, I come upon stands displaying 'olden' things. Often, there amongst the shabby kitchen paraphernalia, ancient tools and rumpled school readers, I find exquisite hand stitched textiles lovingly sewn, long, long ago.

Invariably, I am struck by the give-away price tags on these works of art and see it, as a metaphor for the value that has - historically - been placed on women's work … though I suspect that no price could come close to reflecting the real value of many of these items, for they harken back to a time when women sat and sewed.

At such times as those, conversation rolled along as seamlessly as storybook pages. Inquiries were made into the day's spelling bee. Friendships were discussed. Plans were envisioned and plans were changed. Budgets were rejigged. Good times were recalled and spirited praise for jobs-well-done was bestowed.

The stitches of women's work ... creating and mending ... required that time slow and allow for heart-to-heart sharing. Indeed, I remember it, still, from my own childhood.

So much so that … always, when I lift a doily or dresser scarf or lace edged napkin out into this modern day from its place in the past ... I think of that. 

~ ~ ~

note: This is written for Magaly Guerrero's Pantry of Prose to the prompt of:  writing a short story from an old poem, which fits the theme of 'stitches'. My original 'stitches' tanka being: 

sometimes a simple truth
falls upon a moment
as clear as a mending stitch -
noticeable ...
in a good way 

photos:  Sewing Room in the Roedde House Museum, Vancouver - W. Bourke

© 2019 Wendy Bourke 


  1. I love how your tanka has grown into an anecdote, Wendy, which reminds me of my grandmother’s sewing box. Sadly, we never had a linen closet and none of my grandmother’s finished items shave survived; my mother got rid of them all when she died. It’s wonderful that you still have all those wonderful handcrafted pieces to treasure and how they remind us of the past, when the pace was slower and people had time for conversation. It reminds me of the book How to Make an American Quilt.

  2. The tradition of handwork spanning from generation to generation is something of a marvel. Indeed, embroidered, crocheted, smocked stuff, etc, are considered old-fashioned. But one cannot dismiss the sense of community and friendships formed through that exercise of heart-to-heart sharing by women through ages.

    You are right too, "the value that has - historically - been placed on women's work... [doesn't] come close to reflecting the real value of many of these items." Something of a continued trend, and a shame.

    Great narrative, Wendy. Thank you for this insightful response to the prompt.

  3. There's a lot of truth in this little piece. I love how you depicted the homespun comfort of a group of women creating these slivers of beauty. Sad that it's been so underappreciated.

  4. While I watched and admired my own wife's various craft skills once taken for granted I am even more pleased to have a daughter that has that gene as well and even expanded into pottery!

  5. I love the sense of history in this wonderfully reflective piece

  6. I am happy that some of the pieces birthed by these ladies get to come out and play. This is how it should be. Putting them aside or throwing them away, because they no longer fit, is heartbreaking.

    I love the poem, too.

  7. This narrative depicting a bygone era is done with much respect and love that touched me most. It's also very moving when some of these stitches of women's work make their appearances into the modern times for the purpose of beauty. Your words have made them truly priceless.

  8. Needlework is an art that sadly seems to have passed. My grandma used to make rag rugs and quilts. She was so thrifty. I love that you still place the lace on tea trays, honouring the wonderful art that is no more.

  9. The heart to heart sharing and concise detailed work is something to never be forgotten. This is absolutely lovely writing Wendy!

  10. Love! Sense of history, dream of time to linger and share! "Invariably, I am struck by the give-away price tags on these works of art and see it, as a metaphor for the value that has - historically - been placed on women's work. . . ."

  11. A beautiful walk down memory lane when culture was nurtured and appreciated. I can imagine the wisdom shared between women at the time, while they created beautiful pieces.

  12. I like the thoughtful tanka very much – and I love how you have transformed it into a personal reflection / reminiscence which has become a completely new (and fascinating!) piece of writing.

    1. Both pieces evoke memories in me of stitches my grandmother took many years ago.

  13. Hi Wendy. Your prose illuminates what that creating and connecting meant to those women, balancing that lost art with the timeless art of connection. A piece of writing at once both graceful and stirring. - Jen