Today one of my students confessed an attraction to a particular scene in Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. "When I read about the girl who baked rat poison into the pie and then her grandmother ate it I couldn't stop laughing." It's only funny in context - the girl had meant to commit suicide and instead had committed homicide. This led to a discussion of a calendar my mom gave me a couple Christmases ago - Edward Gorey's Neglected Murderesses. My favorite murderess was December - a woman stabbed her daughter-in-law to death with a crochet hook, then used the hook to craft the dead woman's shroud in a snowflake pattern. Death in textiles is a pretty common thing - Freddie Robbin's Knitted Homes of Crime is a good contemporary example, but there's a lot of death portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry too - headlessness, impaled horses, really bloody kinds of death. And what better place to portray violence than in a textile? After all, everything textile art is, is made with a sharp and pointed object - we wield blades, stab at fabric and yarn, boil pots of color up with caustic solutions and acids, rip stuff up, spend hours twisting and tying and manipulating things to our will. And for those who are faced with a mystery fiber, there's always that search for a match - set it on fire and the make-up of any yarn is revealed. Just yesterday I found a photograph I'd purchased of a man shearing a sheep - one wonders if this is where Sweeney Todd got all his ideas about how to make a man into a pie?
Anyway, there's much research to be done on why in particular women do this sort of thing, and why men in particular often show a tendency to feel uncomfortable in the Textiles studio. Is it that it's too girly, or is it that they prefer violence as a spectator sport? And why does it bother my spouse when I knit during NFL games on television?