The Circle of Life

The rituals of life are wrapped in cloth.
Louise Todd Cope

Swaddling clothes, receiving blanket, christening gown

Hand-me-downs, Easter bonnets, first high heels

Prom dress, graduation gown, hope chest linens, wedding veil, satin sheets

Cocktail napkins, Thanksgiving tablecloth, Christmas tree skirt

Maternity top, “mom” jeans, apron strings, easy-care clothing, sensible shoes

Electric blanket, moth-nibbled cardigan, hospital gown

Coffin cloth

. . . . . .

Swaddling clothes . . .

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60 thoughts on “The Circle of Life

  1. I just looked up swaddling clothes and found this: narrow bands of cloth formerly wrapped around a newborn child to restrain its movements and quiet it. It would seem we start life being restrained by cloth, and thereafter are often defined by cloth in some form (how we dress, how we decorate, etc.) Your piece makes me appreciate even more those artists who work with such repurposed textiles.

    • I have a young friend with a new baby and swaddling is the trend again–who knew??
      I think we could do a huge anthropological study of fabrics and the way we use them to communicate–maybe that study, or many like it, has already been done.

  2. Easter Bonnets. And the year my mother took dressmaking classes and made spring coats for my sister and I to wear for Easter. Mom would sing the Easter Bonnet song as she put the bonnets on our heads.

  3. ‘Receiving blanket, Prom dress, hope chest linens, satin sheets, Thanksgiving tablecloth, Christmas tree skirt’ are all things this particular Brit of a certain age can’t relate to (my younger daughter had a Prom dress: this American import arrived a couple of years before she left school). All I think I can put in their places is ‘school uniform’. How unromantic! But this is a lovely list.

    • And school uniform would mean little to me. Would “dowry linens” fit in place of hope chest? And what would a small blanket for a baby be called, in place of “receiving blanket”? Interesting how culturally dependent textiles are, too!

  4. When I visited Laos, I learned that grandmothers weave a cloth for their granchildren. It is a part of their life’s celebrations until they die, and then they are buried in it. I loved visiting there because textiles are such an important part of their life! I saw houses built on stilts and the loom was built into the stilts! Love the idea of weaving outdoors.

  5. And all those loving hands that take care of these poignant garments that have become so personal. I have a box with textile memories from all phases of life so far and dear ones I have lost. It is so precious to me! Dear Kerry, I hope nothing sad has entered your life? Xo Johanna

  6. Kerry, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and thought-provoking post about the circle of life…and cloth. Sending love, strength, understanding and as you are perhaps reflecting on your own recent loss. xo Alys

    • Oh, sweet Alys–I’m fine! No worries, no loss–I had read that quote I began the post with and just started coming up with examples that proved the point. I’m sorry if I worried you . . .

      • I’m feeling so much better knowing you are okay. Thank you for clarifying. It was shorter than what you generally post, too. Perhaps it’s my own state of mind. I’m feeling the losses of friends, friends spouses and what feels like doom with the approaching inauguration. I need to meditate more, worry less.

  7. Such a meaningful list! Like Margaret, not all the words on the list have the same resonance with me but many do. It’s almost a check list isn’t it? I googled Louise Todd Cope, of whom I hadn’t heard before. What an interesting artist who uses fibre and cloth to resolve the problems and unhappinesses she has and who has seen that that certain garments and/or linens can have a ritualistic worth. To give or receive something made from fibre at certain stages in our lives can be comforting and life-affirming. Almost like men’s battle-scars. This probably doesn’t make sense at all!

  8. Loved your post Kerry, cloth is such a big part of our lives! Makes me think of the quote about life is a tapestry, with the beautiful finished front, and the intermingled and sometimes messy threads on the back…though whoever wrote it didn’t sew or they would know that part of the challenge is trying to keep the back neat as well…😊 thanks for allowing us in to your circle of life!

  9. Wanda Jackson sang a country song, “The Box that It Came In’ It is a clever play on words about a guy-done-me-wrong revenge tune. It opens with a line about how he took everything including her wedding dress, leaving only an empty box. At the end, he when he returns, “the box is satin lined”. You can figure that out.
    Oscar

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