Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sewing within Relief Society

Quoting directly from the book, "The History of Relief Society: 1844-1944" it says:

"Sewing for the needy has been a function of Relief Society from its beginning. At first, individual members did sewing and knitting in their homes for the Society, working on materials and used clothing which had been contributed and also materials purchased from donated funds. The clothing and bedding provided in this way were issued by the Society for the benefit of the men giving volunteer service in the building of the Nauvoo Temple and their families, as well as for others in need of these supplies. Phebe M. Wheeler, the assistant secretary proposed in the meeting of October 14, 1843, "That a sewing society be appointed that garments and bed coverings may be made and given to such as are suffering cold an nakedness," and a time was appointed for this purpose. This service became a regular feature of Relief Society.
"A sewing service given by Relief Society women in the early days was the lining and covering of caskets. Also a part of Relief Society sewing service in the earlier days in Utah was the making of clothing for the Indians. A nine-month report of the Nineteen Ward Relief Society in Salt Lake, published in the Woman's Exponent, October 1, 1875, showed that "twenty-four yards of linsey and twenty-eight and one-half yards of carpeting have been made by the Society, and two suits of temple clothes and ten pair of garments for the Indians…" The Exponent for April 1, 1876, reported that the Goshen Relief Society had fulfilled an assignment "to make some good strong durable clothing for the Indians."
"Since introduction of the Church Welfare Plan in 1936 and the subsequent establishment of stake and regional bishops' storehouses, Relief Society women have generously and voluntarily assisted at stake and regional sewing centers. In addition, many local Relief Societies haven given sewing service in their regular ward sewing meetings on articles which have been turned into bishops' storehouses for distribution….bundles of cut articles were distributed through the stakes to the various wards for completion in the monthly sewing meeting and were then returned to the Bishops Central Storehouse for distribution to needy families on bishops' orders. Altogether, 4,000 pieces of clothing for men, women, and children were made in the tree regions during 1941-42, and average of 2,000 women at each monthly sewing meeting giving 15,400 hours of sewing service on this special work."
Again, what does this have to do with me and you? Will we go back to a time when we will have to do our own sewing? Are they hinting at this by having us read the history of Relief Society? Perhaps. It's very likely, but I wonder if that's only a partial answer. I think we must look at everything from a spiritual as well as a temporal standpoint.

For me one simple answer is that I (women) need to spend time thinking about and doing things for other people. Joseph Smith told the sisters, "Said Jesus, 'Ye shall do the work, which ye see me do.' These are the grand key-words for the society to act upon." When I am thinking about those in need (and fulfilling my baptismal covenants) it is a whole lot harder to feel depressed, fat, lonely, overwhelmed, and/or worthless. When I think of others the Spirit of the Lord will penetrate my heart and many of the "blah" feelings that I may feel will be evaporated. For you and I shall be about our "Father's business."

Not only was much of this sewing about serving others, but I also think there is an important element of creating involved. Women thrive in creating; we are at our best and happiest when we are creating and shaping. We create children, we create plans for their growth and their lives, we create and do things that add beauty to our homes, we create foods in the kitchen, we create new thoughts when we read and study, we create systems in our home, we create plans in our callings, the list goes on and on. Yes, we sisters love to create. When we are creating things that are worthwhile and that bring a sense of wholeness to our families lives and to others lives we are happy. The sewing projects that these early Relief Society sisters embarked on were about creating something for others who lacked. When we create we find our wholeness and purpose. So, to me, sewing isn't so much about sewing as it is about becoming who we are meant to be; creators who know and believe they have worth.

A third thought that I will let you ponder on yourselves is that after Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit "they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons." Later, after the Lord spoke to them and right before He cast them out of the Garden He himself made "coats of skins, and clothed them." (Please see Moses 4:13 & 27 (12-32) and Genesis 3:7 & 21 (6-24)). The first thing Adam and Eve did after they discovered their mortality was sewed and the first physical gift the Lord gave Adam and Eve before He cast them out of His presence was to make them clothes.

Yes, sewing is important on a physical and spiritual level. I pray I can learn to appreciate and develop this skill so that I can find wholeness and purpose in my role as nurturer in Zion. We have much to do sisters.


Cherie said...

LOVED this! Since becoming a mother I've felt this drive to revive lost arts... it's been so sad for me to watch amazing skills be cast aside. It's a hard road to try and learn things on my own, but it's so nice to know that there are others out there that are finding these things to be of importance too.

Also, I had never considered a spiritual aspect of sewing, thanks for that! What a great note to leave things on... that does make me think!

just lara said...

Very insightful! It's interesting that so many women I know are having these same thoughts. They want to learn these skills but it can be difficult on your own. Since I was a professional seamstress for years and I also know how to knit, crochet and embroidery I have set aside time to teach others. We have a mother/daughter group that meets twice a month and then twice a month I invite just the moms. Everyone brings a project they're working on or they need help with. It's a great opportunity for some of us to teach what we know but it also inspires my children and I to make time for our own projects. If I don't sew more often my children are never going to learn!

Now what do you have to say about cooking? I have learned so much from studying the stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes.

Kimberly said...

I don't know a thing about sewing, but I'd like to learn. My mom tried to teach me how to sew but I was very stubborn and proud as a teenager and refused to learn. How I regret that now!

Kassie said...

I am loving these posts of yours. You are putting into words the feelings and thoughts I have been having for about 4 years now. I have felt so driven to learn and practice these homemaking and self reliance skills so that when and if the time comes I will be prepared to properly care for my family. When I first thought about it and thought about having to make clothing for my children that would actually stay together let alone fit, i laughed. But I have been practicing my sewing and am looking to expand into hand-sewing as well.
I recently read an Ensign article that touched me. It's entitled The Fruit of Her Hands. It talks, like you did, about women needing to be creative in 'real' ways, ways that matter. Here's a quote:
"When women have something tangible to show for their labor, it reinforces feelings of worth. Weaving, journal writing, and cooking thus become practical as well as artistic endeavors—a result of their longing for a bit of immortality. They wish to leave a legacy."
I also found a similar message in a blog post by Tara at Happy in the Kitchen. She shares how giving so much of herself to making good food for her family brings her fulfillment in a real way.
Thanks again. Sorry to take so much space, but I love this topic.

Rebecca said...

I understand the reasons, I think. I just have no idea how to proceed. I know some basic sewing and I have taught my daughters some of that but we don't know how to sew clothing. I get stuck in knowing how to choose fabrics. I have not been successful in clothing because I believe the fabrics weren't right. It seems like most fabric stores supply craft fabrics not those that work so well for clothing. They have worked for some children's clothing but never last very well. If I felt like I could find appropriate fabric and a price that didn't scare me from experimenting (realizing I may make mistakes in the learning process) then I feel like I could improve skills.
I feel lost about how to proceed. Maybe if you find some sources, you could share. Maybe someone could share their successes with details about the supplies. I'm wishing I lived much closer to Lara but I'll just have to figure it out here.
Thank you, again for sharing your discoveries. I do want to be a woman of the scriptures that is good and careful in caring for her family - and all that this entails.

Celeste B. said...

I read recently in "Leadership Education" by Oliver DeMille that we are "to create, to value, and to impact." Your post reminded me of that.

Maybe we will need to sew because none of the clothes sold in stores are modest enough.

Ranee said...

Amen to everything! I have felt a strong need to learn to be more self sufficient! Maybe this is why I like to "tinker" with my food storage! Some friends and extended family members are in awe that I have made my own graham crackers. I just chalk it up to knowing what to do with that wheat, when it comes time that our family has to survive off of it. I don't just want to survive, I want to thrive! I have felt these same feelings about sewing and other "lost arts" as Cherie put it. They truly are lost arts, and my husband and I were talking recently, about the possibility that when our Lord and Savior comes again, maybe life will go back to simpler times. I can't imagine Him using a telephone or speaking over television or radio. Similarly, we will needs these skills to sustain our families.'s such a joy to provide for ourselves and be self-reliant. What a wonderful missionary tool too! :0)