New Month New Beginnings

August 1, 2010

You’re probably expecting to see the usual “first of the month” post since it is the first of the month; but, I decided to shake things up a bit…to keep you (and me) on our respective toes. Today I début a slightly different version of This Needlework of Mine. It occurred to me that, while  I’ve spent the last 13 months bringing you information about antique and vintage needlework, I’ve never really connected it to the present or the future. Now it’s time to connect those dots. You will still see the book reviews and needlework exhibit posts but also look for more posts like the ones on Jennifer Cecere and World of Good and Liberty of London fabrics. And, of course I will post regularly on the projects I’m working on.

I will also post things I’ve found on Facebook and YouTube. You would be surprised what’s out there. I know I was! I’m still passionate about the history of needlework and how it has shaped us but it’s time I take that rich history, bring it to the present and move it towards the future.

Enjoy y’all!!

I love the hand-crafted ethnically infused items sold by World of Good. I also love that its founders, a couple of UC-Berkeley business school grads, also started World of Good Development Organization. This non-profit focuses on selling “ethically sourced” handcrafted items to improve the economic and social conditions of women living in developing countries. This actually is not a brand new concept. There is more than one example, in this country and abroad, of various organizations started as early as the late 1800s with the express purpose of bettering the lives of women through handcrafts.

According to The Business of Charity: The Woman’s Exchange Movement, 1832-1900 the Woman’s Exchange movement is one of the country’s oldest continuously operating charitable groups. Women who had fallen on hard times sold their home-produced merchandise, including all types of needlework,  on consignment at the exchanges.  These exchanges, or shops, were found in many American cities. One 1920s needlework magazine noted that nearly every city and town of considerable size boasts a woman’s exchange; “the primal object of which is to aid workers of disposing of their handicraft.” Interestingly the co-founder of the New York Exchange for Women’s Work, Candace Wheeler, authored The Development of Embroidery in America in 1921.

This type of charitable organization was also popular in Europe. Working under the auspices of the Italian Feminine Industries, local committees (or associations) of upper class women were formed throughout Italy. These committees, directed by one or two women, revitalized certain Italian handcrafts which gave the lower class women the opportunity to find work and earn their own money. One such association was the Assisano committee formed in 1905 as a way for the women of Assisi, Italy to become more self-sufficient. This committee founded itself on the tradition of the embroideries that were still made in the convents and orphanages of Assisi. This revitalization was such a success that, according to one report, the production of this kind of embroidery become a local home industry of Assisi.

There is no question that these organizations helped them but I also get the impression there existed a fine line between assisting and patronizing the lower class women of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In my opinion, whether they realize it or not, the folks at World of Good have taken an idea started over a hundred years ago, refined it and brought it into the 21st century. Bravo!!

To read more about World of Good and their work go to http://www.worldofgoodinc.com.