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Art? Handicraft? Women’s work? What is needlework to you? To Clare Hunter, needlework is not just a decorative frivolity but true skilled labour and a means of telling the stories of the individuals, countries and historical periods. To her, the act of sewing is to secure and trap out personal memories in thread and fabric. ‘Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle’ is Clare Hunter’s exploration of the oft-forgotten tales of the accomplished hands that created many different textile pieces, lost and preserved, and the political and social environments surrounding their work.
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When I’m visiting somewhere new, I take a multipronged approach to trying to uncover the local craft scene. The first stop is usually Ravelry’s wonderful Yarn Shop finder, an essential part of planning any local roadtrip. Digging into the forums for local groups can be a great way to discover more hidden gems as well, particularly as there are a lot of long-running craft shops that predate the Internet and still don’t have a web presence.
The second part is usually hammering my search engine of choice with the names of various crafts and the city. This often has varying levels of success, as again, it is dependent on the shop having a good online presence. Yelp can be really useful when there’s a local crafter who has put up their ‘top 10’ list of places to see. Unfortunately, it’s only as useful as what people have contributed and it’s not so popular outside of big cities.
This week’s adventure was to Leeds, home to the Royal Armouries Museum (not to be missed) and a historical centre for the wool trade. If you don’t have a car and aren’t planning on venturing much further than the city centre, Leeds conveniently has rather a lot of crafty goodness one place, Leeds Kirkgate Market.
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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston boasts a collection that covers every continent, spanning over nearly three thousand years. It’s an impressive feat for a museum that only covers three floors yet still manages to cover every discipline in the fine arts.
The MFA also do free entry on some Fridays as part of the ‘Free Fun Friday’ program, which means you have no excuse for not popping in for a quick visit. Whereas the Victoria and Albert museum might take you several lifetimes to see all of it, you can see all of the MFA in a few hours so it really is a breakneck speed tour through civilisation.
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