Sunday, August 26, 2012

Assimilation - Lace Seam Tape pre 1940s

Art doesn't happen in a vacuum; therefore art is a reflection of the ideas and culture of the individual creating.

Art History teaches students of the discipline about assimilation around the time period of the Roman dynasty.  It was then that the massive Roman Empire's military strategy was to assimilate the symbols and customs of the Druids into Christian beliefs.  It was much easier to conquer a culture which had the same belief structure.   Eventually the symbols and customs of the Druids with pagan beliefs and a matriarchal society took on a new meaning associated with the story of Christ.

One doesn't have to go back thousands of years for another example; in the twentieth century a universal symbol of good luck found new identity with Nazism.  A symbol which could be dated back through history and several cultures and connected with positive meanings took on the opposite in a very short time span.

Even writing the word swastika is difficult.  But then, I have historical hindsight.

This morning I was busy pressing a few interesting pieces of embroidered eyelet.  I was deciding if I was going to offer them for sale at my Etsy site.  I brought my ironing board upstairs and put it by the deck door so I could enjoy the summer day as it unfolded.  I wasn't really looking at what I was doing, I was just doing it.

The Buddhist swastika symbol rotates clockwise while the Nazi swastika rotates counter-clockwise.  With the seam tape I can flip it to indicate either symbol.

It was then that I looked down at the flower on the lace seam binding while pressing.  It looked strange.  I brought my face down to the tape....   what?   No, it couldn't be?  I picked it up and looked at it in the light.   Why yes, it was a flyfoot pattern.

The lace came from a home of a 102 year old woman.  She was an avid sewer.  This was evident from the boxes of patterns and bags of fabric scraps saved - even the tiniest of pieces to somehow repurpose.  Did she put it away (the massive yardage of the seam tape) and decide never to use it?  Or did she think she could one day use the tape for its intended purpose.  Compared to other lace I have had, I was guessing the lace dated around 1920.

I have read where women were so horrified during the war years of quilts with the flyfoot design that they burnt their creations to rid them from their homes.  I can't imagine how many china pieces, anything which could have this symbol attached to it, were wiped from the culture because of the association to Hitler. 

I wrote two fabric lovers to get their take on the seam tape.  Martha, of Q is for Quilter, had a similar experience with a patterned fabric she used in a quilt.  You can check out her quilt she created using a small piece of this fabric design.  My other fabric lover felt if an object had a symbol which was offensive, she would just part ways with it other than sell it at her shop.  She is a very kind soul and does not want to offend anyone with an object with a negative history. 

Both points of view were very well articulated. 

So while I deliberate about what I will do with this seam tape, one thing is for certain:  I am taking some down to the local historical society for them to keep.  It is a little piece of Americana that has survived the obliteration from our culture and remains because it has a big story to tell.  


  1. I have seen this before on older items, but didn't know the original meaning of the symbol. Thanks for the history lesson.

  2. I went to a quilt show in a small house museum in PA. I was not allowed to take photos. I wish I could have there was an 1880 ish indgo blue shirt the small white print. The white print was all of that symbol. It was a lovely blouse. In great condition. I personally am not offended by the symbol. I don't want that ill man getting any more attention and praise! Let me know if you want to sell it.

    I enjoy reading your blog. I am just getting caught up I was a few months behind.