Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stitches That Heal

This piece is a freeform crochet “doily” that I created for a fascinating installation exhibition in 2003, by fiber artist, Akiko Kotani, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.  It was entitled “Stitches That Heal”. The concept that has helped women focus their energies and ease their everyday complex lives for centuries, led her to create the installation to celebrate the hand-work items that have often been categorized as  “busy work.”  This exhibit demonstrated how individual prosaic items can be combined to show the internal healing power of the manipulation of threads by hands. 

The inspiration for the exhibit came from a visit to her mother, who was 92 at that time.  During her visit, Akiko noticed that her mother was without a filament on her lap or in her hands for the first time. She made a revealing statement to Akiko, saying that her work with her hands had helped her to make sense of a sometimes complicated life. It soothed her nerves. Like many women, this reticence was the extent of her revelation. 

Akiko put out an international call for submissions of doilies and doily like-forms.  The doilies were placed in an intimate setting.  The focal point was her mother’s chair, representing the one on which she used to do most of her handy-work. An optional part of the submission was a description on tape and/or in writing (in one’s native language) of the degree to which stitching the objects helped heal and /or helped to focus on a situation. This tape collection was orchestrated into a sound element of the installation.

The base of my doily was an old fisherman's net. I cut a shape out of the net, then I embellished the piece with crocheted scrumbles and scraps of burlap. Finally, twigs from a date palm tree were woven in amongst the scrumbles.


  1. this is one of the coolest crochet things i've ever seen. i agree that crochet is healing! thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of the world!
    jd in st louis

  2. Thank you so much, jd! Your comment really makes my day! I love craft gossip and am thrilled that you visited my blog!

  3. To deal with the stress of moving, leaving dear friends and living in small apartment with hostile neighbors, I crocheted a doily mountain. We lived in Army housing in Germany and to get away from the "madness" I shopped off the post. I discovered German crochet magazines with schematics I could easily follow. Yes. Handwork can help you deal with life.

  4. Totally agree. I am recovering from a cancer that required major surgery as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy; and during my convalescence I got a real need to start crocheting again, something I had not done for maybe 30 years. Although I am a 'fad' crocheter, this calming activity really helped me through a very difficult time. It is meditative, and at the same time prevents one spiralling down into black thoughts. Thank you for the pictures of this very wonderful piece!

  5. Thank you Teresa and Sian for your comments!

  6. Wow, there's actually a name for a scrumble? Very useful to have a label for it.