Episode 38: Needlework

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

“If the knitter is weary the baby will have no new bonnet!” – Irish Proverb

Welcome to the Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things that you didn’t know had a history; like the history of clouds, or the history of chairs.

In this episode, let us join the referee of the Reformation, Professor James Daybell, and the Major-General of the Millenia, Dr Sam Willis, as they look through the eye of the needle and weave strands of knowledge to bring you the unexpected history of needlework.

Sew, hold on tight to your looms as James and Sam pull the wool from your eyes to take you on a journey sewn through time from the American family tradition of quilting to the stark realities of the Iranian carpet industry, from remarkable 16th century ‘sampling’ among young girls to the Napoleonic and Nazi link to the Bayeux Tapestry, and from the political significance of needlework for notable figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and its link to feminism to touching methods employed by destitute mothers to reconnect with the children they gave away in the 18th and 19th centuries.

James and Sam will unravel the thread of mistruths to reveal that the unexpected history of needlework is actually all about: control and subversion, identity and gender, racial myth and invasion, politics and royalty, loss and reconnection.

Keep in mind if you’re in the market for an Iranian carpet, darn it, you may as well wish for a flying one!

“Yesterday’s weaving is as irrevocable as yesterday. I may not draw out the threads, but I may change my shuttle.” ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964)

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