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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Rahman

Slow Work Sewing: A Tiny Manifesto

People tend to assume that Slow Work Sewing means doing things very, very slowly - but really, nothing could be further from the truth. I am an impatient sewist - always looking for shortcuts, my machine forever set to the highest speed, gleeful at any little efficiency I can find in my handwork. Slow Work doesn't mean doing everything slow, but it does mean doing everything GOOD - good for the earth which grew your materials, good for the workers who harvested and processed and transported them to you, good for the body which will wear them, good finishes that will make them last and last. Slow Work means Good Work, and sometimes, that does require slowing down.

The "work" part of the name has deeper meaning for me too. I am a former labor organizer, as enamored as I ever was in my radical teens and 20s with the romance of the worker, the inherent dignity and pleasure of labor, and the idea that the creativity and challenge of work is fundamental to what makes us human. When I first dipped my toe into the world of needlework, I found the profligate use of the word "work" intoxicating - there was bluework, blackwork, redwork, whitework, cutwork, open work, colorwork, mirrorwork, beadwork, lacework, stumpwork - the list goes on and on, and on. I began to understand that in a society that denied women the right to participate in public life, intellectual and creative prowess flourished in the private realm instead - the domestic sphere, the sewing circle. Slow Work pays homage to the centuries of work that came before. Slow Work is a nod to the work slowdowns that are a venerated tradition of organized labor, a means of resistance.

Slow work, can of course, encompass any kind of craft, and my own explorations range through many different fiber and textile arts. But I maintain sewing in the name because that is what feels truest to my own history. I began learning to sew in 2018, but the day I showed up at my first class, I found that my hands already knew how to thread the machine, lower the presser foot, turn the handwheel to begin. I had absorbed this knowledge from watching my grandmother, mother and aunties making their own clothes growing up, an everyday part of life as ordinary as cooking. As I began to build community in the textile and fiber arts, I found that many of us had this embodied history within us, just one generation removed from when the ability to sew and mend and build fabric from yarn was commonplace. The desire to connect with that history by making feels urgent. Ensuring that the memories from the mothers of our mothers aren't lost forever.

1 Yorum

13 Ara 2023

I love this Tamanna, and definitely feel that connection to embodied intergenerational knowledge! Looking forward to seeing you in Allyson's class. Carrie

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