Last weekend, I got this message from my dear friend Helen, a teacher in a London elementary school:
The school where Helen works features the amazing cultural diversity that is typical of some parts of London. Sometimes, this can make teaching and learning more challenging, but it is also a point of celebration and sharing. Talking Textiles is intended to inspire curiosity and respect for students' own heritage as well as the material and narrative cultures worldwide--many of which are represented in their school.
I love this idea and knew right away that I wanted to participate. But going through the textiles in my home, I didn't find terribly many that held meaning and that I was willing to part with. I knew that the story I wanted to include would come from folklore, which often features traditional work (like weaving), but that was it. Then I stumbled upon some Marimekko designs inspired by Finland's national epic, The Kalevala. Here's one of them:
While I didn't have these fabrics on hand, I did have a folksy-looking Marimekko fabric scrap leftover from a dress I'd made my niece some years ago:
As for the story, Poem 8 from the Kalevala opens with the maid of the North Farm tending to a rather fancy textile. I particulary like these opening lines because they include so much weaving-specific vocabulary. Hopefully the unusual language will intrigue the children and not put them off:
(Translation by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr., 1963)
Do you have a textile and a story to share? Please contact Helen at helen.atherton @ gmail.com and she will give you the relevant contact details. The instructions are purposefully open-ended so contributors will come up with their own creative ideas. All stories, from personal anecdotes to great literature, are welcome as are all textiles, purchased, found, homemade and so forth. The project is happening NOW, so it would be great if you could send your stories and textiles by next Friday, July 5th. I hope you'll be in touch!
P.S. Sorry for the funny formatting. Can't work it out for the life of me.