PieceWork Winter 2021: Needlework, All Buttoned Up

Our closure issue takes a look at the subject both in a literal and cultural sense.

Kate Larson Oct 18, 2021 - 3 min read

PieceWork Winter 2021: Needlework, All Buttoned Up Primary Image

Placket Sampler, Germany, 1871; Bequest of Gertrude M. Oppenheimer (1981-28-309). Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The idea of dedicating an entire issue of PieceWork to closures of all kinds has been in the works for several years. In 2019, I (digitally) stumbled upon the trove of buttonhole samplers held by the Smithsonian. I’d seen images and discussions of these textiles, but modern online collections allow us to pore over each stitch—such a joy! Besotted, I contacted needlework expert Deanna Hall West and collections specialist Susan J. Jerome, and an article and project pair was published in the Summer 2020 issue of PieceWork.

Those buttonholes sent me on a quest to improve my own plain-sewing skills, and as I felled yard after yard of ever-improving seams, I had time to think beyond the buttonhole—eyelets, hooks and eyes, clever draping that eliminates the need for any device at all. Each of these opens endless conversation regarding the ability to dress oneself, the time dedicated to getting dressed, and freedom of movement.

We begin this Winter 2021 issue with a fantastic article by Susan Strawn on closures and self-dress, take a close look at Japanese obi with Rebecca J. Martin, and revel in early twentieth-century crochet buttons with Pat Olski. pat olski close up

Delicate crochet covered buttons create closure in Pat Olski's jacket. Photos by Matt Graves.

We also explore ways that textiles symbolize cultural closure. Nancy Nehring discusses the many ways that George Washington Carver sought to end poverty in the rural South and the textiles he created to teach short lessons in needlework. Heather Vaughan Lee starts a research journey with a needlework publication written for young women moving from childhood to married life.

Nancy Nehring

Nancy Nehring's dolly recreates an unnamed design by George Washington Carver.

From buttons to burlap doilies, join us as we explore closure in the Winter 2021 issue of PieceWork.