finished women’s labours

For those of you not familiar, I like to have what I call a “handbag project” a small piece worked in split stitched wool that I can shove in my bag for the odd moment of boredom here and there. Eventually thes many small piece get sewn together as hangings.

Years ago I worked on a labours of the months based on a series of stained glass windows from lausanne cathedral. Whilst working on it I looked at many other labours and noticed that they were all men, with perhaps a woman working in the background, so I decided to do a female labours. I didn’t want women doing men’s jobs, no matter how well documneted this pracice is, I wanted to focus on the more general female experience.

And mrs January wanted a cat, so they all got cats. the cats are named because they’re all cats I’ve known, whether mine, or family and friends.

Stylistically I went for a late c11th/early c12th look, taking images from manuscripts and adapting them where needed. All threads are veg dyed by me, as is the fabric for the border cloth. The background is a mixture of undyed white and sheep’s grey manx tweed (which is very nice to sew in hand)

The ladies are mainly doing jobs that relate to the ones in the men’s labours,

mrs january is spinning, women did this all year round of course, but Mr January is the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces who looks at the past and future simultaneuously, Mr’s january’s activity alludes to the classical myth of the fates who spin the lives of men.

Mrs February is doing her embroidery, whereas that lazy arse Mr february just sits by the fire.

Mrs march is digging her vegetable patch whilst her husband prunes his vines

Mrs April is doing some midwifery whilst her counterpart gathers medicinal herbs

the MAy queen hunts for love whilst her male counterpart hunts for game

In the male Labours June, July and August are all variation on harvesting, mowing and threshing, which Tbh got a bit boring. So mr’s July is helping with the harvest, but Mrs june is seeing to her dairy cow, and Mrs august is tending her chickens and bees, both of which were important aspects of the domestic economy.

Mrs September is checking her beer, whilst her male counterpart gathers grapes for wine.

Mr October drives his pigs into the forest to fatten on acorns, so his wife is taking advantage of the peace and quiet to get some weaving done.

Mr November is slaughtering livestock, so mrs November makes sausages

And in December, everyone parties, including the cats

If you want a closer look at any of the individual images you can use the labours of the months tag in the sidebar to find the images

Size is about three foot by four


~ by opusanglicanum on August 23, 2019.

4 Responses to “finished women’s labours”

  1. Love the cats – you must have had great fun giving them suitable things to be doing!

  2. Will you make the Labor’s into a pattern or provide a diagram for personal copy? Would love to stitch one, but pictures are difficult to see.

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