Keeping The Balance

I've been thinking a lot about traditions recently. In June, we launched our eNewsletter, Traditions Today; last week PieceWork's special issue, Crochet Traditions arrived hot off the press. And now we're gathering together our third edition of Knitting Traditions due out in September. That's a whole lot of tradition.

 While I haven't been kicking out my feet in a Russian dance in the PieceWork office and singing the chorus of "Traditions," from Fiddler on the Roof, the prologue to that play actually has been cycling through my mind. You know, the one where Tevye explains in a single word how the people of his village keep their balance: "Tradition . . . Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years . . . Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is."

Clones lace crochet edging.

I love that idea of balance and identity as it relates to traditions. That's exactly what I've enjoyed the most about working on Crochet Traditions. I learned this from the determined women in the Irish city of Clones who pulled together to create an industry of survival during the famine through crocheting lace and developing their own unique techniques; from wheelchair-bound "Billy Monday," who didn't submit to his challenging circumstances at the turn of twentieth century and instead built a livelihood around making and selling lace; and from the Utah Pioneers who embellished their brutally hard lives with a little edging of crocheted beauty at the end of the day. 

Billy Monday and his family, 1914.

In all of their stories—the individuals, the communities, the cultures—I discovered a thread of steadiness, a balance that these crocheters had achieved in using the work of their hands simply to survive or as a defiant answer to the hardship of their lives. And, too, they all shared a great desire to preserve connections with others, whether it was across generations, across great distance, or simply to create community where they were. It helped them to know who they were.

And isn't this why we take up needle, hook, yarn, and thread ourselves? To achieve a balance in our lives? To connect with the traditions of our past, to learn something about ourselves from them, to play with them, and to pass them on to the next generation?

While I'm still enjoying the rich stories and gorgeous projects in Crochet Traditions, all my attention is focused now on Knitting Traditions (on sale September 27), where we're gathering techniques and projects on a textile trek across the globe from Cumbria and Kihnu Island to the Gobi Desert, from Peru to Canada with a layover in Fredericksburg, Texas. It's so fun—the stories inspiring, the projects dazzling.

We're excited to announce that PieceWork and all its historical articles and traditional projects are now available as a digital subscription via the twenty-first-century technology of Zinio. Let's hope it becomes a tradition.


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