A long life

This is not what I intended to start right now, but I’m really intrigued to know how long it will get, and how long it will take.

Let’s start at the beginning.

A while ago two things happened that made me stop and think: I read a statistic that the lifetime of a person who lives to be in their early 80s amounts to around 30,000 days. That strikes me as much, much fewer than you might expect. Life is short, even when you get to be old.

I also very luckily found a collection of antique and vintage clothing online that included (hand-stitched!) christening gowns and home-made vintage lingerie. One of the items was a silk petticoat, pre-dating elastic because the waistband was made from lingerie tape, but machine-sewn. It was simply made: a narrow A-line skirt constructed with French seams, and a flounced frill around the hem. The silk is very lightweight and billowy – similar to fine habotai.

Vintage silk petticoat, deconstructed

I wonder (and this is just a hunch that feels ‘right’) if this might be a post-war silk parachute that has been repurposed by a resourceful stitcher in the late 1940s.

So I ended up putting those two thoughts together – taking something from around 80 years ago that has potentially saved someone’s life, and using it to make something that signifies an octogenarian lifespan. There is something quite incredible about launching yourself out of an aeroplane with only a gossamer-thin canopy of worm-spit between you and the ground.

A Long Life, conception stage

So the result is a very, very long cloth, just 6” wide, with bits of vintage silk parachute/petticoat applied to a strip of brushed cotton (for stability and softness) on which I intend to place 30,000 stitches.

Vintage silk, machine-stitched seam

I’m keeping as much of the original sewing as possible.

Back fastening, vintage silk petticoat

I have no idea what 30,000 stitches will look like but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

15 thoughts on “A long life”

  1. Everything about this is beautiful. I am excited to see what you do with it x

  2. The whole thought process of this is wonderful. 30,000 days seem so few. I will watch your progress with the usual great interest and admiration.
    I was ecstatic to find an American Air Force parachute in a local community swap shop last year. I can understand why women used it to make their wedding dresses and other items of clothing.

    1. Wow, what a lucky find that was! Absolutely can understand the excitement of acquiring silk after the austerity of war. Watching the days fly by on the stitch journal this year has been alarming. They seem to pass so quickly… And yes, so few.

  3. Brill idea. I might use that for squares per year of life.? I used to look at reception children in font of me and think they’re only 48 months old ! Thank you for your blog. Kaz

    1. Thank you for coming to visit 🙂 Yes, much of life is unbelievable I find, but that’s a sobering thought indeed!

    1. I’m imagining straight vertical stitches, uniform height and spacing, but will see how it goes…

  4. I love the way you think … putting the numbers together in a way that makes sense and gives purpose … how you might imagine your own days gone by as you stitch … and what the days ahead might hold …

    1. Exactly that, yes – as well as the jeopardy of not knowing for sure how many more days there will be (lots, I hope!)

  5. What a beautiful idea. And what an admirable commitment to your craft.

  6. I’m looking forward to this “unfolding.” The fabrics are delicious!

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