Stitching and resistance


Heartwarming post arrived yesterday lunchtime with a set of stitching materials from Janet, my PhD supervisor some years ago now, and a funky, customised phone pouch from H, a young family friend who went into hospital recently. Love em both.

Janet is a stitcher. An exceptional stitcher.

We organised a ‘Crafting space for Conversation‘ workshop at a Disability Studies Conference in 2010.  This was with a game colleague who said he’d bring an unfinished Airfix model from his childhood to crack on with. Both he and I stitching novices. The session was a bit wacky but it worked. We sewed, scribbled, knitted and quietly talked for the hour. The idea of the workshop grew out of our increasing  resistance to the circular, sometimes dogmatic and stale ideas that tend/ed to dominate disability studies. From the conference blurb;

“While this form of activity is more often associated with women and the domestic sphere, there is a long and honourable tradition among both men and women of using stitch to express identity, facilitate communication and offer resistance, particularly at times of confinement or oppression. For example, in the Pinochet years groups of Chilean women recorded scenes of their lives, First World War soldiers embroidered ‘trench cards’, Arthur Bispo do Rosario, fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, created stunning representations of ideas significant to him, using scavenged materials and so on. While the ‘artefacts’ and what they represent can be important, what happens to individuals and interactions during the process of creating something (however modest and private) may prove to be equally interesting.” 

Janet wrote and said she’d been thinking about stitching a copy of one of the pictures LB drew of a bus. Splashes of bright red and blue. A vibrant, lively, quirky picture.

On reflection, she sent me the materials and explained why.

The letter made me cry. I was so moved that she’d thought about doing this, and her thoughts about doing this. I wondered if I might join the stitching sisterhood (even though my stitching skills have always been pretty rubbish). Maybe it was time to learn to stitch as a form of resistance.  Resistance to the deeply oppressive process that lies ahead. Resistance to the rage, futility and despair generated by communications and nonsense going-ons that surround an internal NHS ‘investigation’. An ‘investigation’ into something that should never, ever have happened.

And stitching as a way of focusing on and delighting in LB’s unusual brilliance.

H is also passing time crafting and stitching. A kind of bricoleur working within the confines of a different NHS setting. Drawing on materials to hand to create. Engaging in action, activity and communication. The process as therapeutic in different ways, I hope, as it is a delight to receive such a gift in the post.

So, warm thanks to both of you. Stitching army extraordinaire.


1 thought on “Stitching and resistance

  1. So pleased to hear of the love of your good friends. Often in my therapy sessions with learning disabled people we find ourselves doing things – this can range from playing Jenga to creating a piece of art together. The talking and listening takes on a completely different quality when we are busy ‘doing,’ thoughts seem to flow and connect more easily. Sending you warm wishes and hope the stitching is helpful.

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