stories from my red thread life

Stereotyping our children from birth?

Toronto couple Kathy Witterick and David Stocker became international news a few weeks ago when they made public their decision to raise their third child, now four months old, without imposing a specific gender identity, and to keep the child’s sex a secret. The couple explained that they wanted to neutralize the way their child would be treated, and to create an environment in which little Storm could grow freely and make independent decisions. The public response illustrated clearly how strong our feelings are on this subject of gender identity and childrearing. I think about gender stereotyping quite a bit, particularly its philosophical and practical application to the design of children’s clothing. Many parents I know have strong feelings about the way children are gender-directed from birth, through their clothing, toys and entertainment, but the vast majority of us participate in this process. Even if we feel the urge to ban the Barbie movies from our homes and encourage our sons to wear whatever they like, no matter how unusual, most of us take the easier road to mainstream social acceptance. I wanted to share a photo with you of an adorable little boy, a toddler, playing outside on a beautiful [...]

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Child Labour, redefined

When I was a child, my mother had a thriving small business designing hand-painted silk scarves. When she was preparing for the One of a Kind Show, my sisters and I were all called into service. My favourite job was ironing the finished scarves, for which she paid me ten cents apiece (according to memory, the work was all voluntary). Being flat, the scarves were easy to iron and it was very satisfying seeing them transform from a wrinkled mess to shiny, smooth silk. It was pretty good work for a ten year old. When I started Red Thread my children were too young to help, and as they’ve grown I’ve been reluctant to exploit their childlike industriousness. But they’re proud of this business that occupies their home: they and their friends are, after all, my target demographic, and many of their classmates profess to dreaming about becoming fashion designers. With the Spring One of a Kind Show just one week away, I have many racks of bright new dresses in my house. This past weekend was set aside for tagging, and my youngest daughter Georgia, just turned 6, was raring to go. A good friend came over to help, [...]

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On sewing and kids

During 2009, I tried something new – teaching classes in sewing and quilting for kids (and a few very enthusiastic adults). Since January I’ve taught more than 50 classes, and it’s been quite a learning experience for me (and hopefully, for my students too). Before I became a parent I knew I loved children, but I didn’t really appreciate their amazing unique qualities until I had one of my own. Likewise, I always knew that children were innately creative, but I didn’t realize how unique their creativity is. I also didn’t realize how much sustained focus they can bring to a task when they’re deeply engaged. It’s pretty fantastic to watch a 7-year-old practice a brand new skill (even something mundane like backstitch) by creating a wild pastiche of intersecting shapes, or to see a vibrant piece of patchwork take shape in the hands of a 9-year-old concentrating so intensely she leaves the animated conversation and goes somewhere else. And then there’s the surprised look of mastery, the gratifying “wow, I actually made this” moment. This past Spring and Summer, some of my sewing kids decided that the little “stuffies” they were making in class were too cute to keep [...]

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