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Textile Work Is Feminine
An Older Than Dirt relief of a woman spinning. Note her dress, hairdo and elaborate hassock indicate she is upper class

She seeks out wool and flax and weaves with skillful hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
She is not concerned for her household when it snows— all her charges are doubly clothed.
She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.

First you got to spin, then weave, then sew — and even there, where you have the clothes, you need to mend and launder as necessary to keep the clothes. And iron if wrinkles are a problem. Fancy clothing may require embroidery, though that tends to be upperclass. Knitting can also come into play.

All of these are feminine tasks, undertaken by women and proving them womanly; among well-to-do characters, this is a sign of old-fashioned virtue, especially if other women devote the time to partying, and among poorer ones, a sign of their being thrifty housekeepers. The princess or other lady, handing out The Lady's Favour to the Knight in Shining Armor, often made it with her own hands. This is the source of the distaff in Distaff Counterpart. The Rebellious Princess and other tomboyish female characters are likely to be bad at them, which is generally treated in more modern works less seriously than it was in Real Life.

Female textile work was in fact an economic activity of major importance to the welfare of her kin group given the lack of department stores and ready made clothes for most of human history. In Imperial China silk woven by the women of the household was used to pay taxes. In Norse folklore spinning and weaving were key elements in woman's magic, seiðr.

The art most frequently depicted is spinning, which is the most time-consuming, and also easily portable and interruptible.

Men who engage in such work must pull off Real Men Wear Pink to be taken seriously. Even in Fairy Tales, the tailor is more prone to be a trickster than a dragon-slayer. Compare Feminine Women Can Cook, with added advantage that it's easy to lug about a distaff or some sewing or knitting and do it anywhere.

The Industrial Revolution was the Trope Breaker, slowly working down the tasks. Though early textile mills relied on a young female workforce, spinning and weaving were among the first things that automation took over. In the 1950s, the Housewife had a sewing machine, but nowadays only laundry is normal, and that with laundry machines, so that is a mostly Forgotten Trope, though Granny Classic still knits.

Examples

Advertising
  • A mid-2000s commercial for Clorox bleach took the form of a Progressive Era Montage of laundry chores, with narration describing their timeless nature: your great-grandmother did laundry, and so did your grandmother, your mother — and "maybe even a man or two."

Anime and Manga
  • A Bride's Story:
    • Tileke struggles with the embroidery she must do to become a proper wife and mother, but the other women of the family teach her that embroidery can be just as fascinating as her "tomboyish" love of hawks.
    • At one point Smith voices his amazement that the women of the community can happily spend so much of their time sewing.
  • Subverted in Hetalia. Among the girls, we see Ukraine with sewing implements... and it's only because her shirt's buttons popped out due to her Gag Boobs and she needs to fix it. The one seen actively embroidering is England, a man. (See below for the possible reasons). Additionally, Ukraine's younger brother Russia is seen knitting.
  • In Bokurano, a girl named Mako "Nakama" Nakarai has quite the skill with her sewing machine. She even has a very specific goal in regards to her tailoring/sewing skills: making uniforms for the other pilots before it's her time to pilot Zearth and die as a consequence. She manages to only make some of them, but the remaining girls take up this little "task".
  • In Ashita no Nadja, Grandma Anna is a very skilled hat maker and seamstress. She's even enough to take what remains of a massively torn Pimped-Out Dress and sew it into another without any trouble. Also, Nadja learns how to sew and even spends a whole episode making a red dress that she needs for her dancing skits; Anna allows her to use her own sewing machine and points out this trope:
    Anna: "Many girls around your age are already very good seamstresses!"

Fairy Tales
  • In Rumpelstiltskin and its variants, the girl's father brags of her incredible spinning ability and so sets off the story.
  • In The Three Spinners and most of its variants, the girl's mother claims she spins too much rather than admit that she does not want to spin at all.
  • In The Three Aunts, the other servants claim instead that she claimed marvelous abilities to spin, weave, and sew. The heroine doesn't dare say that she can't.
  • In The Lazy Spinner, the woman tricks her husband to get out of the work.
  • In Odds And Ends, a woman who tears out knots in flax and chucks them loses her fiancee to her servant who industriously gathers them up and makes a gown of them.
  • In The Storehouse Key in the Distaff, the woman brags of how much her daughter spins, and the wooer puts it to the test by hiding a key in the flax she is supposed to be spinning. When he returns, they talk of how they lost the key, and he finds it in the flax and does not speak of marrying her.
  • In East of the Sun and West of the Moon, the heroine wins the hero from the troll bride by washing his shirt clean.
  • In The Friendship of a Vila and of the Months, the Wicked Stepmother sends her daughter to wash white wool and her stepdaughter to wash black wool, and tells her that unless she gets the wool as white as the daughter's, she can't come back.
  • In Vasilissa the Beautiful, the Wicked Stepmother assigned her daughter and stepdaughter textile work. (At the end of the tale, she supports herself with her work before the tsar sees her.)
    One autumn evening the merchant's wife called the three girls to her and gave them each a task. One of her daughters she bade make a piece of lace, the other to knit a pair of hose, and to Vasilissa she gave a basket of flax to be spun. She bade each finish a certain amount.
  • In The Two Caskets, the Wicked Stepmother sets both her daughter and stepdaughter a contest in spinning — having given her daughter good flax and her stepdaughter rotten stuff.
  • In The Black Bull of Norroway, the heroine washes out the hero's shirt, which is the test for the bride.
  • In The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle, the heroine is left these items to make her living by.
  • In Snow White, the queen is sewing when she pricks her finger and makes the original wish about red as blood, white as snow, and black as ebony.
  • In The Six Swans, the heroine sets out to save her brothers by sewing six shirts from starflowers.
  • In The Nettle Spinner, the cruel lord refuses to let Renelde marry unless she makes herself a wedding shift and him a shroud out of nettles. She does.
  • In Cinderella, she has to do the work to ready her stepsisters' clothes for the ball.
    This was a new difficulty for Cinderella; for it was she who ironed her sister's linen and pleated their ruffles.
  • In Andrew Lang's The Violet Fairy Book, in "The Frog", the old woman tells her sons to test their brides with flax.
    Do as you like, but see that you choose good housewives, who will look carefully after your affairs; and, to make certain of this, take with you these three skeins of flax, and give it to them to spin. Whoever spins the best will be my favourite daughter-in-law.'
  • In The Feather of Finist the Falcon, the daughter wins the attention of the bride by washing the blood from Finist's shirt with her tears.
  • Gender Flipped in one fairytale, where a king asks a peasant girl to marry him. She says she only will agree to marry him if he learns a skill, so that they will be sure to have an income if he ever were overthrown. He thinks this is a great idea and takes up weaving, which he's very good at and finds very enjoyable. He proves to her that he's fulfilled her conditions by weaving a her a beautiful handkerchief. When he is kidnapped later, he convinces his captors to let him make them money by weaving something to sell to the queen (the kidnappers don't realize they've snared the king). By weaving a message for help into what he makes, the king is able to tip off his wife as to where he is, and she comes to the rescue.
  • In Soria Moria Castle, when he finds the princesses, they are spinning.
  • In Tsarevich Petr and the Wizard, the three princesses are spinning copper, silver, and gold when he finds them.

Fanfiction

Film
  • In Demolition Man, the hero is repeatedly embarrassed that he had been trained in the fine arts of knitting and sewing while in hibernation.
  • Tangled:
    • Rapunzel, among other activities, knits and does laundry to pass time.
    • One of the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling knits.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Eudora is a seamstress.
  • In Brave, sewing is one of the many feminine tasks that Queen Elinor tries to teach to her rebellious daughter Merida. It proves to be a Chekhov's Skill as Merida sews the tapestry she symbolically damaged in an attempt to break the spell that turned her mother into a bear.
  • In Sightseers, Tina (one half of an Outlaw Couple) knits. She turns out to have been knitting a bra and crotchless knickers. Kinky!
  • "The Sewing Machine Song" from The Perils Of Pauline. The character laments having to spend long hours working in a textile factory, when she'd rather be doing something else.

Literature
  • In the Belgariad, Polgara mends while sitting around even though she could magically repair the clothing much quicker.
  • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, when Professor Bhaer comes calling on her family, Jo sits down with her sewing.
  • In Clan of the Cave Bear making clothes - not textiles, but out of animal skins - cleaning, etc. is women's work. In the Clan males and females have different Genetic Memory such that women can't hunt and men can't cook/make clothes/etc.
  • In the Iliad, Andromache is working on clothing for Hector when she is told of his death.
  • In The Odyssey, Penelope is putting off the suitors with her weaving — not, for once, clothes, but a cloth to be used at her father-in-law's funeral.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, feminine Sansa can embroider beautifully, and tomboyish Arya is always avoiding it. In an ironic reference to the pastime she hated so much, when she's given a sword she names it "Needle."
  • A Tale of Two Cities features Madame Defarge and her fellow female revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror, who sit beside the guillotine and encode the names of the executed into their sewing patterns. This is based on the real life tricoteuses who famously knitted beside the guillotine so casually.
  • Plato:
    • In his account of Socrates, he, arguing that you have to trust experts, points out that a woman's authority is greater than a man's in textile work.
    • In Xenophon's, he depicts Socrates explaining to a man that he could get his female relatives in his household to do textile work, and support them on proceeds.
  • In S.M. Stirling's The Draka books, the serf Rakhsana knits and embroiders, while Draka women never do such things.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Angel speaks at length about clothes mothers make for newborns.
    People that can afford anything at all, always buy white for little new babies—linen and lace, and the very finest things to be had. There's a young woman living near us who cut up her wedding clothes to have fine things for her baby. Mothers who love and want their babies don't buy little rough, ready-made things, and they don't run up what they make on an old sewing machine. They make fine seams, and tucks, and put on lace and trimming by hand. They sit and stitch, and stitch—little, even stitches, every one just as careful. Their eyes shine and their faces glow. When they have to quit to do something else, they look sorry, and fold up their work so particularly. There isn't much worth knowing about your mother that those little clothes won't tell. I can see her putting the little stitches into them and smiling with shining eyes over your coming. Freckles, I'll wager you a dollar those little clothes of yours are just alive with the dearest, tiny handmade stitches.
    Later, she can assure him that his mother must have loved him on this ground
    No little clothes were ever whiter. I never in all my life saw such dainty, fine, little stitches; and as for loving you, no boy's mother ever loved him more!
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books:
    • Miss Cornelia shows her tender side by her relentless sewing — even at Thanksgiving — clothing for poor children.
    • A man, sulking in silence, is finally galvanized to speak when his wife says he crochets beautifully.
  • In the Little House books, both Ma and Laura hate sewing, but are still skilled, efficient seamstresses due to this trope. Worth noting that the only jobs open to Laura are teaching and sewing.
  • In Margot Benary-Isbert's The Ark, Mother takes up sewing, quickly, in order to make money, and Andrea's best friend Lenchen is marvelous at sewing.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones's Castle in the Air, the final reason the soldier cites for wanting to marry Princess Beatrice is that she can probably darn socks. She assures him that she can.
  • In Wen Spencer's Wolf Who Rules, Tinker thinks about how wives do the laundry and even have discussions about how to get grass stains out.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • Song of the Lioness has a few female mages working with thread and string. Alanna, who crossdressed for years to become a knight, learns to do this, and some normal spinning as relaxation.
    • Kel is surprised to learn that Raoul is a skilled seamster in Protector of the Small, but as a bachelor knight he's the only one who would be sewing his clothes.
    • Also used in Provost's Dog. Beka's younger sisters are both being trained in sewing by Lady Teodorie, and Beka is quite good herself. She is surprised to learn in Bloodhound not that Goodwin sews (which is a standard skill for a medieval woman) but that she embroiders.
  • Circle of Magic has many kinds of magic worked through crafts. Two characters are "stitch witches" who work through, and enjoy working with, thread and cloth. All of the main four, including the boy Briar, learn to spin fibers into thread, but it's primarily shown around the two women whose magic is worked through it.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves, he recounts the story of a Mrs. Fidget, who included both knitting and sewing among her wifely and maternal virtues. Which meant the others in the family had to wear the things. (Her death caused them to donate a lot of them.)
  • In various forms of the Constance cycle of Chivalric Romance, Constance is said to support herself in Rome by her needlework, until her husband's pilgrimage leads their reunion.
  • A Brother's Price features a broad inversion of most gender roles. As men, Jerin Whistler and Cullen Moorland are expected to have an interest in fashions, textiles, embroidery and so on, but while they're both proficient at these things neither has a love of it. Some female characters - tailors - have an interest, but others don't think about it at all.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel For The Emperor, one of the insults the former 301st (all male) throws at the former 296th (all female) is that they were doing needlework as rear echelon soldiers.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, in the Back Story, Eramus had once insulted Miranda by saying her lack of womanly talents showed a deficiency of character, and Theo thrashed him for it. Miranda learned the skill and embroidered a unicorn for Theo. In the current day of the story, he still has it.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, the Rothmer women are in charge of laundry and mending clothes.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus novel The Mark of Athema, Annabeth is put to the test, weaving.
  • Inverted in Stephen King's The Long Walk : Ray Garraty teaches his girlfriend how to knit. Also, the mill workers in "Graveyard Shift" work in a textile mill. (An example of Write What You Know, as King himself worked in a textile mill in high school).
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's "Oak Hill" Elaine is the sewer. Even Maris borrows a needle from her to do some.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass, the Sheep in the shop is knitting.
  • In Alethea Kontis's Enchanted, "loving and giving" Friday is always sewing clothes for the poor.
  • In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Mr. Brisk wooes Mercy because she is always sewing, until he learns she is sewing not for profit but for the poor.
  • In Daddy-Long-Legs's sequel My Dear Enemy, Sallie expects this trope; she is surprised to learn that Dr. McRae is rather skilled at knitting. He explains that he learned to do it as a teenager in his native Scotland.
  • In The House of the Spirits, Clara's older sister Rosa spends almost all of her time sewing a massive and very complicated tapestry, which worries her mother Nivea as she fears it's all that she will ever be able to do well. The tapestry is left unfinished when she's fatally poisoned in an attempt on her father Severo's life.
  • Subverted in The Wheel of Time. Most female protagonists are Aes Sedai, and when Aes Sedai speak of 'weaving,' they're really talking about magic and/or casting spells (for example, a fire spell is referred to as a 'fire weave'.)
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, when the inn maid gives Roane clothes, she mentions they are not a lady's, being her own seaming.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's Solstice Wood, the Fiber Guild is all female. Iris explains it's a sewing circle, really. They actually work textile magic to contain the Fair Folk.
  • In Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard, Alicia was always better at sewing than Kate, as well as at general femininity.
  • In John Hemry's Burden Of Proof, Carl talks of how Paul and Jen have settled down since they started to date; he expects Jen to knit and cook and stuff.
  • In Plutarch's Sayings of Spartan Women this is inverted when an Ionian woman showed off her valuable weaving, and a Spartan woman pointed to her four sons, well-behaved: "Such should be the employments of the good and honourable woman, and it is over these that she should be elated and boastful."
  • Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball plays this: hero Galen is an active knitter, much to the surprise of the women. One comments that they had knitted, and knitted, and knitted for the soldiers, and Galen has to tell her that none of it ever reached him. he actually uses his skills to make the charms that defeat the King Under Stone. He notes that it's a useful skill for a soldier: it helps pass the time and the ability to make a nice warm pair of socks comes in handy.
  • In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, when the society had to be disbanded, many of the theoretical magicians became nuisances, having nothing to do — and bothered their female relations at their needlework.
  • In Mansfield Park, Fanny and Lady Bertram often do some needlework. Lady Betram's work is not very useful, nor is it pretty. The ladies also often sew for their neighbourhood charity.
  • Pride and Prejudice:
    • Mr Bingley casually mentions that all ladies are accomplished, meaning that they all do needlework like knitting bags and similar things.
    • Elizabeth is sewing when Mr Darcy asked her father for his permission for them to marry. He needed to speak with her and pretended to be admiring her work.
  • Emma:
    • Emma isn't in handiwork a lot, but she says she may make carpetwork when she's older.
    • English Rose Jane Fairfax sews very well, among her other numerous accomplishments. She's said to be making stuff for her aunt and grandma.
  • In Northanger Abbey, one particular friend of Miss Thorpe's, a Miss Andrews, is netting herself the sweetest cloak Catherine could conceive.
  • Jane Eyre:
    • When Bessie visits adult Jane, she asks about her schooling, and her last question is whether she can work on muslin and canvas. Jane can, and Bessie pronounces her to be quite a lady.
    • At Lowood school, pupils had to sew and repair their uniforms themselves. Jane later mentions they had bad needles and thread.
    • Mrs Fairfax, a housekkeper at Thorfield, often knits.
  • In The Bible, Delilah weaves Samson's hair into the web of her loom. Even ladies of her high social class took pride in doing such work.
    • The "Proverbs" example quoted above sings the praises of a woman who runs a textile business as well as taking care of her family. It's often used by some sects in the modern age to demonstrate "a woman's place", but it was actually written to encourage men to appreciate what their wives were doing. Indeed, the woman in the poem is portrayed as strong and capable, and her husband boasts about her to his friends and colleagues.
  • Mary Renault tells this anecdote about Alexander the Great in The Persian Boy: When the Greek army invaded Persia and captured most of the royal family, Alexander brought the royal ladies some yarn for weaving. Only slaves did this in Persia, and when he was informed, he apologized and said his mother and sisters did this all the time and he had wanted to give his hostages something to do. The Queen Mother became his friend after this. This is based in real events, like much of Renault's work; it's in Quintus Curtius.
  • In With A Tangled Skein, Niobe is a skilled weaver. Her textile skills come in handy when she becomes an Aspect of Fate.
  • In Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, Dr. Dunworthy, trying to scare Kivrin off the Middle Ages, pointed out that she would have to learn to spin — with a spindle, not a spinning wheel, which hadn't been invented yet.
  • A Bouquet of Czech Folktales:
    • The heroine of "The Golden Spinning Wheel" is a hard-working girl who likes spinning. Her step-sister takes her place as a bride of a nobleman. She longs to have the golden spinning wheel from the title, which reveals what she did to her sister. Her husband finds out what she did.
    • The heroine of "Wedding Shirts" is waiting for her lover who went abroad. He told her to spin, weave and sew their wedding shirts and her bottom drawer until he comes back.
  • 1066 and All That credits Richard Arkwright with the invention of the "Spinning Jenny, or unmarried textile working girl," who was made obsolete by the later discovery of mules.
  • Creel, the heroine of Dragon Slippers is a talented embroideress, who spearheads a fashion trend for stain-glass patterned gowns.

Live-Action TV
  • Subverted in Flight of the Conchords, in which the Conchords brainstorm "things that women like." Jemaine suggests weaving, but Bret responds that weaving is a man's game, noting that he, his father, and his grandfather all weave. (Slightly off topic: Later, Bret suggests women's rights, and Jemaine says that that is a man's thing, noting that his father is a women's rights activist who would never allow his wife to become engaged in such activism.)
  • All in the Family: Mike takes up macramé and Archie mocks him for having yet another girly pasttime.
    Mike: Don't say it.
    Archie: There's nothing to say, "Florence." ... Will you stop doing that? Some friend of mine might come walking through the door and find out I got a fruitcake for a son-in-law.
  • Rosey Grier, an actor and American football player, would poke fun at himself on television appearances in The Seventies, as his reveal of his favorite hobby being needlepoint was in stark contrast to his macho/tough persona.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode The King's Demons, the lady of the castle embroiders while talking with her husband.
    • In The Androids of Tara Strella is working on an embroidery frame in her cell, and she and Romana are mildly discussing the work when the Doctor finds them.
    • The First Doctor companion Barbara does dressmaking as a hobby, but neither Susan nor Vicki can sew despite them both being interested in materials and always making a beeline for dress fabric in any settings where it's available (such as "The Romans" and "The Keys of Marinus"). In "The Chase", Vicki actually charges in on Barbara making her a dress while seeking attention, causing her to slice through the fabric and ruin it.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Mudd's Women", sewing is one skill that ought to be considered above looks.
    Eve: Is this the kind of wife you want, Ben? Not someone to help you, not a wife to cook and sew and cry and need, but this kind. Selfish, vain, useless. Is this what you really want?
  • In an early episode of Home Improvement, Brad joins a sewing class purely in order to meet girls. Unfortunately, this backfires on him; his classmates find out what he's doing and join the class too, meaning it winds up being a class full of guys and he's still stuck sewing.
    Tim: Brad, I'd love to help you, but I've got a drawer full of socks that need darning!
  • In Gilmore Girls, Lorelai is very skilled at sewing. She makes impressive costumes for various town festivals and she frequently changes her or Rory's dress.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman:
    • When Dr Quinn expects a baby, she's said to have improved a lot. She made a christening robe for the baby as a present.
    • Mrs Quinn, Dr. Mike's mother, knitted a comforter or blanket for the baby.
    • Emma, Matthew's girlfriend, is an impressive seamstress. She's eventually hired by a singer to sew dresses for her.
    • Many women sew their own dresses and they have gatherings from time to time to sit together and sew or knit.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin (mentioned above) teaches Cora how to spin thread into gold.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, one of the bullies is ashamed to tell anyone that he's in the sewing club and very good at it, though eventually gets tired of hiding his secret. Not that anyone cared.
  • in Xena: Warrior Princess, embroidery is one of Xena's many skills.
  • The Great British Sewing Bee manages to avert the trope by having a few male contestants (and at least one male judge) in the series, however it's played straight in that there's still always a much greater ratio of women to men.

Mythology & Legends
  • In Classical Mythology, the Three Fates spin, measure, and cut thread in their determination of lives.
    • A young woman named Arachne claimed she was better at weaving than the goddess Athena, who is so pissed off (since yanno, Pride is one of the worse sins a human could ever commit) that she comes round to challenge Arachne to a contest or "weave-off". When Arachne loses she's so upset she kills herself, so Athena turns her into a spider. In other versions Athena was still upset but wanted to give Arachne a last chance before she damned herself and did so under the disguise of an old woman, but Arachne was so arrogant that she blew Athena's warnings off and then came the challenge with the same disastrous results.
    • Princess Philomela of Athens wove a tapestry with pictures showing the Trauma Conga Line that had happened to her — her older sister Procne's husband, King Thereus of Thracia, had raped her, cut out her tongue, and locked her away. She then gave the tapestry to a servant as a gift for the queen, which let Procne know about Philomela's Break the Cutie process. It went From Bad to Worse immediately afterwards.
    • During the Roman kingdom, once the men bet about their wives, back at Rome, and return to find all them but Lucretia were partying; she was weaving with her maids. (This was the point at which Sextus Tarquinius resolved to rape her, which drove poor Lucretia to kill herself). The citizens of Rome did not take that kindly.
  • In medieval legend, Emperor Constantine's mother Helena supported herself and her son with her humble needlework until her son's grace and charm caused his royal father to notice him, his identity was revealed, and the couple were reunited.
  • In Chinese lore, a fox woman is often incompetent at the vital skill of needlework.

Music
  • The traditional Irish folksong "The Spinning Wheel" tells the story of a girl spinning and her grandmother knitting. The girl has to wait for her grandmother to fall asleep so she can leave her work and go meet her boyfriend.

Poetry
  • The Chinese poem "The Ballad of Mu Lan" starts with Mu Lan weaving. There are deleted scenes from the Disney film that depicted her working at a loom.
  • In William Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece, Lucrece, following the legend, is spinning while other women are reveling.
    During which siege the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son, in their discourses after supper, every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late in the night, spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports

Theatre
  • In the play Dancing At Lughnasa a couple of the women earn money by handknitting gloves. In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue the narrator mentions that when the textile factory opened up and ruined the handmade market, one got a job there and hated it but worked there until the day she died.
  • In Carousel, Julie and her friends all work weaving at the mill. Not in Liliom, the play on which the musical was based.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's The Emperor Constantine, Fausta brought her sewing to her first meeting with Helena. Maximian comments on it after discussing how she had been his housekeeper since her mother's death.
  • In Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, female lead Senta is introduced when a bunch of other girls in her village, under the direction of their Team Mom Mary, are using their spins to get some textile materials ready for use, but Senta herself is slacking off. She then scares the shit out of her companions as she switches from singing with them a local tune about spinning ("Summ und brumm, du gutes Rädchen", transl. as "Whirl and whirl, good wheel") to telling them the story of the Dutchman.

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original
  • Generator (Jade Sinclair) has become an impressive seamstress in the Whateley Universe. This is important as part of her character development because Jade was born Jared Reilley. She is probably the most feminine member of Team Kimba. She also has a power that is ideally suited to sewing and knitting.

Web Video
  • Welcome To Sanditon: Ladies of Sanditon organize a craft night once a week, and the first thing they did when Gigi arrived was some weird knitted pot holder.
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Jane Bennet works in fashion industry, often with fabric. In her first appearance, she brings Lizzie a blouse which she fixed for her.

Western Animation
  • There's an episode of The Simpsons where Marge tells Lisa about a quilt that her female ancestors have contributed to for decades. Marge added a patch that said "Keep On Truckin'" but she didn't understand what it meant.
  • In an episode of South Park the boys all take shop & the girls all take home ec. (Kenny manages to get himself placed in the Home Ec class, because there's a lower risk of getting killed there.)
    Mr. Adler: Now, does anybody know why you're in shop class?
    Stan: Because we had to choose between this and Home Ec, and we didn't wanna be sissies?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rarity is considerably the most feminine of the mane 6. She designs and sews her own fashions.
    • Even the second place, Fluttershy, turns out to have "freaky knowledge" about sewing.
      • In the micro-series comics, Fluttershy has an 'Extreme Knitting' hobby, which she treats as a Guilty Pleasure. Her cottage has a secret room behind a bookcase, full of objects such as 'cups' for chickens to sit on, parasprites, butterflies, birds, books, dragons... every single one of them made through knitting.
  • Ewoks - In the second season, when all the characters are implied to be studying to become something, Latara is a "hoodmaker apprentice". This is later mentioned in her introduction card for the Shadows of Endor comic, with a mention that she designed her unusual hood by herself. link

Real Life
  • In ancient Rome, the women of the family would come out to the central courtyard to do their textile work as the patron of the family dealt with clients. (By being thus visible, they were demonstrating that the family had nothing to hide.)
    • "She worked wool" is found inscribed on many a Roman woman's tombstone as a sort of shorthand for old fashioned feminine virtue.
  • Averted/inverted in certain parts of the Arab World and India: there, most of the process of making new clothes—particularly weaving—has always been men's work among city people; weavers generally made cloth for themselves as well as to sell; tailors would generally buy cloth from weavers to make their own clothes as well as taking a fee for mending clothes and making new garments out of cloth third parties had bought from weavers. However, laundry was still women's work, as were minor repairs. And in the countryside, duties shifted to the women (as the men had to tend to crops and livestock)—although to what degree depended on how far away you were from town (a farmer relatively close to a fairly large urban center might purchase new cloth and clothing in town, but have his wife do repairs).
  • A major historical exception to this is Britain, particularly England, as the textile industry was one of the largest in the country for hundreds of years. Male English artisans were famous across Europe for their high-quality textiles for centuries, and the continuous British attempts to increase the quality and quantity of textile output led in part to the Industrial Revolution, with English inventors inventing the flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, the water frame, the spinning mule, and finally the power loom in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • In pre-industrial Britain and elsewhere in Europe, weaving was an activity typically performed in private homes rather than dedicated workshops, and the weavers were often male. This is probably why "Weaver" is a fairly common surname in English: it would be a trade handed down from father to son.note  Not for nothing is the oldest Livery Company in London the Worshipful Company of Weavers. Similar things can be said about spinners and tailors (again "Spinner" and "Tailor" and variants are common surnames).
  • 'Spinsters' were almost always women, and the modern use of the word to mean 'woman who has never been married' (with the implication she's a Christmas Cake) does derive from the fact that they were usually women who'd failed to marry and had to support themselves (and as single women had little legal status, they didn't have many options. It's also never seen as a surname as women couldn't pass on their names and spinsters would generally be childless anyway). The actual assembly of clothes, right up until the sewing machine in the late 19th century, usually depended on the gender the clothes were intended for- tailoring was a respected profession, but ladies wouldn't like to think a man had handled their 'smallclothes'! (and women of all walks of life made simple garments, like shirts, at home.) Furthermore, "Webster" — also a common name — means a specifically female weaver.
  • In Elizabethan England, more knitters were men, as they had to be in a guild. This was related to sumptuary laws, as only nobility were allowed to wear certain types of knits (gloves and stockings). When Elizabeth found this out, she changed the laws to allow more common people to have employment options.
  • Opus Anglicanum; embroideries created by mostly male artisans which were highly treasured throughout Christendom. The most famous example of such needlework would be the Bayeaux Tapestry.
  • A common inversion: Soldiers all over the world are taught how to sew as part of Basic Training. As a soldier, one is responsible for the care and maintenance of one's gear, and that includes the uniform.
  • In pagan Scandinavian graves, textile implements are found mostly in women's grave — cooking items were also more common in women's grave, but not by nearly so large a proportion.
  • In some Nordic cultures, the work of textile production was divided among men and women, each carrying out their own assigned stages of the process. Mostly this was to make efficient use of every available pair of hands during the long months when both men and women were isolated in their homes by deep snow, with nothing better to do.
  • A learned young woman was presented at the court of James I, and praised for her knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He asked, "Can she spin?"

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