Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beauty! Joy! And Sewing...?

Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice.
-Mr. Emerson to Miss Honeychurch
from A Room with a View by E. M. Forster 

Have you ever seen the beautiful Merchant Ivory film "A Room With A View"? Today I'm feeling rather like George Emerson in the scene that has him up in a tree, embracing the eternal "yes" and yelling, "Beauty! Joy!"

Because my weekend was all about Beauty.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian I have not yet celebrated Easter, but did have an incredibly joyous weekend in spite of that fact. (Go here to read the explanation Rita Wilson - wife of Tom Hanks - gives about Orthodox Easter, "Pascha", and why it's usually celebrated on a different date than Western Easter.)

Every year on the Saturday closest to March 25, our parish women's fellowship group celebrates the Annunciation with a tea for our women and young girls.  Our ladies host tables by bringing their own dishes and teapots, and we engage a speaker to come.

This year our Annunciation Tea speaker was Krista West.  As an ecclesiastical tailor, author, and lecturer, Khouria Krista has done a staggering amount of research on the history of ancient textiles and vestments. I hope you'll take some time to visit her engaging podcast, "The Opinionated Tailor", here on Ancient Faith Radio, where you can listen along as she discusses everything from Orthodox church vesture to faith and motherhood.

I can heartily say our women were all inspired by Khouria Krista's talk on the special role the Virgin Mary plays in our lives.  She also encouraged us to intentionally use BEAUTY in our churches and homes, and gave us tips on some of the practical and spiritual ways we can do that.  I look forward to exploring more about historical liturgical garments of the Eastern Orthodox Church in her book The Garments of Salvation. 

Krista and I share a love of books.  Knowing I have a blog about children's books, she asked me for some recommendations for her website because she wants to include a list of children's books about sewing.

Looking over some past posts I've done on the subject of sewing, I found a post about Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester here; one on quilt stories here; a post about a favorite dress, an overcoat, and yarn here; and the sewing of the flag that became the Star Spangled Banner here.

I did a little research today, and  I think Kh. Krista is going to be super happy with these unique books for her website...

The first book I have to mention is Tapestries: Stories of Women in the Bible by Ruth Sanderson. (ages 5 and up)
This book is stunning, and I have it in my home library. Here are stories of twenty-two Biblical women. Some of their stories are tales of bravery and cunning; other tales make use of traditional skills such as spinning, weaving, and sewing. Their stories are illustrated with lush portraits rendered in the style of tapestries, rich and decorative cloths of great beauty.  I have featured Ruth Sanderson's books on my blog before, here and here. A gifted artist and illustrator, Ruth's website is a joy to visit, here.
Pockets by Jennifer Armstrong.  Illustrations by Mary Grand Pré.
Booklist Review says: From Armstrong and GrandPre (of Harry Potter books fame!), a lyrical tale of imagination's transformative power. The story is framed in nautical imagery and metaphor. When "a slim schooner of a woman, driven by strong winds and a broken heart," fetches up outside a prairie town, the industrious residents take her in as their tailor, on the condition that she make only practical, unornamented clothing. She agrees--but in subtle rebellion begins lining pockets with glorious embroidery of ships and fish, shells, and mementos of exotic ports of call. Soon the townsfolk are learning the names of stars, discussing poetry, dreaming of Constantinople, and, hands in pockets, scanning the far horizons. In GrandPre 's rolling, expressionistic painted scenes, the dusky purple light that falls on dreary buildings and shadowed faces is deepened and enriched by the golden visions that swirl about people's shoulders and fill the sky. In the end, heart healed, the mysterious woman sails off alone through seas of grass, having worked a profound change through hidden means. (K-3)

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel.  Illustations by Melissa Sweet.
From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early 1900s, tackling topics like activism and the U.S. garment industry, with hand stitching and fabric incorporated throughout the art.  (I found this book from Anita Silvey's Book-A-Day Almanac.  Today, March 28, marks the birthdate of Clara Lemlich, born in 1886!)  For ages 4-8.

Rumpelstiltskin, retold and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. (ages 4-8)
This fairytale is about spinning straw in to gold, not sewing it, but I couldn't leave it off my list of recommendations!  It is beautifully illustrated, with oil paintings by Paul O. Zelinsky.  After a recent trip to the main branch of the NYC Public Library, my daughter told me about the library's "Picture Collection" exhibit, where she read about this book's illustrations.  The show featured an original oil painting from Rumpelstiltskin and one of the reference pictures Mr. Zelinsky used to figure out how to paint straw.
image source here
Do you have any others to add?


  1. I love "themed" book lists like this one (And it's making me wish I sewed!!)! Wish I made it to the tea- hope someone managed to record her beauty talk!

  2. The "Tapestries" book looks absolutely beautiful!! And I'll have to check out "Pockets"...our current favorite read (and listen) is an audio book of "Carnival of the Animals" with poetry written and recited by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Mary Grand Pre! I love her exaggerated almost caricature and colorful style. And of course, her classic illustrations of the Harry Potter series.