Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Woman's Work

Last Saturday I held my women's history month program at the library. Entitled "A Woman's Work" my program focused on handicrafts and the domestic arts. While I think it's awesome that women's history month shines a spotlight on women in politics, the sciences and even the arts, these are all public spheres and women have been making critical and often unrecognized contributions in the private sphere since the beginning of time.

I wanted to celebrate the smaller things that aren't being passed down from generation to generation anymore- knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, quilting etc... But I also wanted to celebrate the fact that these activities used to be a communal time for women to come together and share, teach, and learn from one another. So many of the kids I work with on a daily basis have parents in their mid 20s and grandparents in their early 40s. They're missing a connection to the older generation and I truly believe that this is a contributing factor to the behavior problems we deal with in the library; if no one in their life has actually experienced the n-word as a hateful slur, why shouldn't they feel free to use it as a synonym for 'cuz'? There's a lack of context and even if a craft circle isn't going to immediately rectify all wrongs, at least it's a place for inter-generational dialogue to begin.

I advertised a crafting circle, open to all ages and genders, for participants to bring whatever they were currently working on or for them to learn a new skill. I supplied yarn, some needles and some crochet hooks (all of which will now live in the craft cabinet in the staff work room) and my vast skill and talent and zero experience as an instructor. I also brought along my current cross stitch project in case no one showed up (it's been a problem in the past.)

Luckily, I wasn't alone. A mom and her teenage daughter came over when they saw the colorful yarn stacked high on the table, our awesome teen librarian sat down with us every time she wasn't directly helping a patron to muddle her way through learning a cast-on stitch and we even had some interest from a 20 year old male volunteer who looked longingly at us as he shelved the DVDs that were his task for the day.

After a slightly rough start wherein I, as a left-handed person, tried to teach three right-handed people how to cast on, our savior showed up. Ms. Emma is a woman in her late sixties who bustled in with her own giant knit blanket project and kind words for everybody. She quickly took over showing the teenage girl how to knit "the right way" and I started over with the mom and a crochet hook.

Not a whole lot actually got produced in our two hour session but everyone talked and bonded. Ms. Emma told us all about who taught her to knit when she was a little girl and I got the teenager interested in other teen programs that the library runs. Her twin sister showed up at some point and looked interested, and their mother offered to help cater future craft circles. As we were cleaning up, yet another woman came by to add her name to my e-mail list and offer to recruit her sister as well.

After talking to my manager, we're on track to make this a monthly program. Hopefully over time it can grow from the four of us that sat around a low table last Saturday to something that kids and adults a like will look forward to.

The beginning of a hat

1 comment:

  1. This is such an awesome project. I'm so glad it went well!