Are threads the tie that binds us?
Threads do bind all human cultures, for we have all shared the art of making string. Evidence found at Pavlov, a Palaeolithic site in the Czech Republic documents that weaving threads together as string binds humans as far back as 25,000 B.C.E.
As I thread my needle as a bird would his beak, I reflect on the binding thread choices of birds echoing those used by humans spanning cultures and centuries. From plant fibre filaments to horse hair, we both orchestrate a symphony of strings together to resonate into the textiles that serve us.
Egyptians were skilled at making thread from plant fibres. The Aztecs and the Mayans were known to use the fibres of the sisal plant for their strength, durability and ability to stretch. Yet the Weaver birds and their ability to expertly thread strands of plant fibre to craft their exquisite nests predate these ancient cultures by far. Fossil records at Olduvai Gorge suggest that the Weaverbirds have been in existence for at least two million years. Could these threads bind the Weaverbirds and the earliest hominids on the Paleo-savanna millions of years ago?
As I thread my needle beak with long and lustrous strands of white horsehair I continue to ponder earliest origins to time worn cultural ties. For thousands of years the Shui women of the Guizhou province have been stitching traditional embroidery patterns with horsehair as the very fine and flexible long tail hairs impart both strength and durability to their threads. As intricate as any birds nest, the Shui women also stitch a carrier for their newborns with horsehair. Perhaps the birds share their belief that horsehair will keep their children (their nestlings) safe and wealthy in the future.
*Chenille No 11 needle ‘beak’
*Horsehair tail strands ethically and sustainably sourced from my obliging Shetland.
* Plant threads from my garden, a relative of the sisal plant, Furcraea foetida (Mauritius Hemp) Thanks to the seed collecting and sharing ways of @joostbakker