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B. Penn
617: Don't put up my Thread and Needle –

Installation 617: Don't put up my Thread and Needle –, captures the exploration and excitement that literally comes from the art of sewing, the result of the how the artist connected with her own mother who taught her to sew at a young age. Watching her mother in the act of sewing she learned that there is always something that can be revived if you make it wrong or need to alter. She was shown how to take it apart fabric, reshape it, and just stay with it. 

The artist, who often sewed and made her own toys and later clothes, found another connection with her mother to art and fabrication. She witnessed her mother covering the bottoms of pots and pans with starched fabric and paste, and with sewn fabric added later, her mother skillfully fashioned her own hats. She attributes much of her connection to the physicality and materials of art making to her mother's early modeling of skills designated more specifically as female allowable expressions of the 1950's and 60's. 

The artist came across this Dickinson poem at a time when work and responsibility weighed heavily with conflicting demands, preventing ample time in the studio. The poem inspired ideas in the installation about making space for inspiration and determination. Dickinson's words reminded the artist to unite dreams with creative energy and to find resolve.


Don't put up my Thread and Needle – 
I'll begin to Sew 
When the Birds begin to whistle – 
Better Stitches – so –

These were bent – my sight got crooked – 
When my mind – is plain 
I'll do seams – a Queen's endeavor 
Would not blush to own –

Hems – too fine for Lady's tracing 
To the sightless Knot – 
Tucks – of dainty interspersion – 
Like a dotted Dot –

Leave my Needle in the furrow – 
Where I put it down – 
I can make the zigzag stitches 
Straight – when I am strong –

Till then – dreaming I am sewing 
Fetch the seam I missed – 
Closer – so I – at my sleeping – 
Still surmise I stitch –

c. 1862                                                    1929

by Emily Dickinson
from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson 
edited by Thomas H. Johnson

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