The enduring connection of textiles to the body offers rich metaphorical possibilities for exploring the bond between mother and child. Like a knitted garment this bond can stretch, rip, fray, or unravel as the child grows and matures. It is in a perpetual cycle of mending and loosening until death creates the final separation.
Memory knits together the past with the present. Each moment loops and connects with the one prior to it. The adult child is dependent on mother to connect the loops between the newborn and adult self. Buddha referred to these loops of the self as skandas, or skeins, which are loosely, coiled lengths of thread (Gallagher:130-131).
Thread has long been considered a metaphor for life. In ancient Greek mythology the Fates determined one’s destiny. They would spin it, fix its’ length, and then eventually cut it loose when one’s life had come to a close. It is not by coincidence that the Fates are represented in the female form. The severing of the umbilical cord marks the end of one existence and the beginning of another.
Knitting and embroidery themselves are creative pursuits compatible with the demands of childcare. As linguist and archeologist Elizabeth Wayland Barber has noted it is “...repetitive, easy to pick up at any point, reasonably child-safe, and easily done at home”(30). Like women for thousands of years, I can put down my work to attend to family matters and easily resume it at a later time.
Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women,Cloth, and Society, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.
Gallagher, Winifred, Working on God, New York: Random House, Inc., 1999.