Recently while traveling, I tore a hole in a pair of slacks and found myself in my hotel room, watching a storm blow through Rome while plying needle and thread, managing a credible weave over the tear. It was a small repair but the satisfaction I took in it was huge. In another age I might have been called a “notable needlewoman” but these days, particularly in the West, such skills as sewing, darning, or weaving are little appreciated and too often denigrated as old-fashioned or “house-wifey,” even though needles have always been plied by both men and women. We find it easier to simply throw a torn piece away or (if we remember) put it in our junk piles “for the poor.”
It occurred to me while reading two separate pieces on Aleteia this week that when we lose (or never acquire) sewing skills we not only become less resourceful in a personal emergency, as when traveling, we also have one less way to make a positive impact on the world around us, both locally or in the far-away places.
Almost nothing has touched and inspired me as much as the story of a 12-year-old Tasmanian boy who felt a felt a singular calling to bring something good to the lives of sick children, and taught himself to sew, in order to do it. His story was featured over at the Daily Catch blog — part of three great tales featuring young people — and young Campbell Remess knocked me out. His family is pretty awesome, too:
On his Facebook page, you can see how Campbell (whose nickname is “Bumble”) inspires others.
Likewise, this story out of Davenport, Iowa showed us how sewing skills can be applied, at any age, to help make the world around us a better place, as 99-year-old Lillian Weber sews a dress a day (!) for girls in Africa, simply because she wants them “to feel beautiful.”
These two stories came on the heels of the story of another unselfish sew-er: the story of police arresting 102-year-old Edie Simms to help her cross that off her bucket list tells a peripheral tale of a woman who donates hundreds of hand-sewn goods — walker bags, pillows, and scarves among other things — to local senior centers, seeking nothing in return.
All of this puts me in mind of Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Uganda, who has rescued hundreds women from deplorable life situations and teaches them to sew. Helping them to acquire this creative skill sets them on a path to independence and success, and manages to bring some innovative and eco-friendly fashion to the world.
The common thread in all of these uplifting stories is that there is real power in sewing. Such a humble little activity, plying needle and thread, but look what it can accomplish. Stitch by stitch, the world is made better, and people with deeply torn lives can be made whole, and healed.
When gift-giving we rarely think of giving sewing lessons but we might consider it. Why not give someone the chance to acquire a skill they’ll have for the rest of their lives — one that may inspire their most generous instincts — rather than something trendy, or disposable? Tennis champs Serena Williams and Venus Williams won’t be on the courts forever, but both of them have used their sewing skills to repair a tear while on tour or establish themselves in new fields.
Adding to our personal resourcefulness can never be a bad thing.