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 then, when you have the clothes, you need to mend and launder as necessary to keep them in good condition. And iron, if wrinkles are a problem. Fancy clothing may require embroidery and lace-making, though that tends to be upperclass. Knitting and crochet 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. This makes spinning, along with other textile arts such as weaving and knitting, very compatible with childcare. With a distaff, a woman can spin with one hand, leaving the other available to aid with nursing. Once a child is past infancy, he or she can aid in the textile process as well by teasing fleece, carding, and once they reach an age at which they have control of their hands, in the spinning itself. This historical fact is why, until well into the 20th Century, textile arts excepting the more labor intensive activities (such as fulling flax, rope-making, weaving, etc.) were feminine by default. Beginning in the latter part of the 20th Century, this convention faded steadily due to a combination of industrialization, the craft movement, and increasing gender equality.
Men who engage in such work must pull off Real Men Wear Pink to be taken seriously in most works. 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. Since then, textile arts have seesawed between "cool hobby" (which is where they are now) to "fit only for old ladies" (which is where they were in the 1980s). Naturally, since most writers are middle-aged and grew up in the 1980s, media directed at young males mostly perpetuates the inaccurate (and rather strange) idea that nobody knits any more. Cue laughter from the five million users of Ravelry.
These days being a Fashion Designer is largely the replacement, though not without carrying over some stereotypes from this trope.
- 7 Seeds has Kurumi from Team Autumn. She's a sweet girl and her duty in the team's village was to weave clothes, since their own started to fall apart after they woke up in the post-apocalyptic world.
- Ashita no Nadja:
Anna: "Many girls around your age are already very good seamstresses!"
- 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.
- 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:
- Subverted in Axis Powers 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.
- 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.
- 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 Endride, while we learn Louise's father is a great scientist, her mother is a great seamstress.
- Early on in High School DXD, Issei is stressing out the night before a very important dodgeball game and decides to calm his nerves by... embroidering headbands for his team. The girls on the team are shocked that Issei, a very stereotypical teenage male horndog goofball, does enough of such a feminine skill to be so good at it. It's an early hint that there's a lot more to Issei than his behavior and narration let on.
- Averted in Kill la Kill where all of the the sewing club members (who make the shows super powered school uniforms) seem to be male and both of the Kamui were created by men, the same man in fact.
- That said Nui is probably the most feminine character in the series and she's the tailor for the Big Bad so it's not just men. She did pose as a guy, though, and apparently made the disguise herself.
- The Last: Naruto the Movie reveals that Naruto's late mother Kushina and future wife Hinata both enjoy knitting scarves.
- In One Piece, Nami is seemingly the only member of the Straw Hats who can sew, and she is asked to do it a couple of times by Luffy.
- In the Rurouni Kenshin prequel one-shot To Rule Flame, Yumi Komagata's best friend Hanabi is a very good seamstress and is seen sewing back the buttons of a shirt belonging to Houji Sadoshima, while singing happily. After Hanabi is bloodily murdered, Houji kinda repays the favor by shooting one of the culprits dead exactly on the spot where a chest button should go.
- In The Rows of Cherry Trees, Yukiko Nakayama's mother's hobby is doing embroidery. It also comes off as a handy way to make quick cash, since she's skilled enough to make landscape pictures and sell them.
- In Your Name, Mitsuha's grandmother Hitoha is a master of kumihimo, the Japanese art of braid making, and she passes on this skill to her granddaughters. Also, Mitsuha (while in Taki's body) uses her sewing skills to mend Miki's skirt, and Miki is impressed, saying she didn't realize that Taki had a feminine side.
- In Rumpelstiltskin and many of its variants, the girl's father brags of her incredible spinning ability and so sets off the story.
- Whuppity Stoorie revolves about a "green gentlewoman" saving a woman's pig and demanding her child. Even that one,however, spinning appears; the gentlewoman is spinning when she sings of her name.
- 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 bloodstains out of 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. She then sees a droplet of blood on her fingerpad and and makes the original wish for a child who is red as blood, white as snow, and black as ebony.
- In The Six Swans and The Wild Swans, the Wicked Stepmother sews six magical shirts to transform her stepsons into swans. Her stepdaughter sets out to save the swan princes by sewing six shirts from starflowers and becoming an Elective Mute. She either finishes right before being executed for crimes that she never commited, or is still sewing when she's about to be burned at the stake; in any way, her brothers rescue her and put on the shirts to recover their human forms and prove her innocence.
- In the near identical tale The Twelve Wild Ducks, Snowy-White-and-Rosy-Red has to do the same for her twelve older brothers. She's also framed for crimes and near executed, and her brothers also take the shirts and de-enchant themselves to save her.
- 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, Cindy 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.
- In The Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene's grandmother, who is also royalty, is often found spinning at her spinning wheel.
- The Homestuck AU Brainbent:
- The Prayer Warriors naturally believe in gender-segregated roles, so as such, Jerry expresses the belief that females, and only females should make clothes.
- Later on in the Gensokyo 20XX series, Yukari is mentioned to be knitting or sewing from time to time. Apparently, she has hobbies, if this is an indication.
- Suggested in the RWBY Fanfic Various Vytal Ventures with Blake, who shows she can sew in one chapter, though according to Word of God, learned from Adam, which subverts this.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series follow-up to "Journey to Babel", All In A Day's Work by the late Johanna Cantor, has Spock's mother handling things for the families of the ambassadors on board. We find that Tellarite women are never named but are called somebody's daughter, somebody's wife, etc., but this doesn't prevent them from having a sense of importance, pride and ego when it comes to their textile work.
- Rapunzel, among other activities, knits, sews, and does laundry to pass time.
- Two of the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling are into knitting and sewing respectively.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana's mother 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 Demolition Man, the hero is repeatedly embarrassed that he had been trained in the fine arts of knitting and sewing while in hibernation.
- 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.
- Inverted with Benny the cop in Kopps, who knits headbands for his colleagues. It's lampshades by his neighbors.
Mike: Shit, you fag, you're knitting!Benny: Why?Mike: My mother knits!
Ramzi: My wife knits in home, are you wife?
- And later:
- In Suffragette this trope is, as befitting the time, played completely straight. Almost all the protagonists who are shown working are laundering clothes (the one exception being a woman who works in her husband's pharmacy)... a not only time-consuming and boring, but also very hard and dangerous job. The protagonist's mother died in a work accident. Most women take their infants to work regardless, as they need the money.
- 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 (he is, in fact, still alive). She tears it apart every night and starts again in the morning.
- In Plato's account, 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. He also has him point out that where spinning wool is in question, the women are the authorities and so treated as such.
- From 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.
- Dorcas (or Tabitha) from Acts 9 makes clothing for widows and the poor.
- Lydia from Acts 16 is a dealer in purple cloth, and she appears to specialize in the dyeing process.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- Inverted in George Eliot's Silas Marner — subtitled "The Weaver of Raveloe." Silas makes beautiful linen, really loves his work and you can hear his loom going day and night.
- 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 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.
- 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.
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!
- Later, she can assure him that his mother must have loved him on this ground
- 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.
- One of Alanna's more downplayed awesome moments come from her male mage student proclaiming this trope in a sexist manner. Alanna immediately proves him wrong with the thread magic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (though he uses cotton and flax, since his magic is with plants), 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.)
- 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).
- Patricia A. McKillip:
- In "Oak Hill" Elaine is the sewer. Even Maris borrows a needle from her to do some.
- In 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 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. Robin 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Played with in Dragon Bones: Ward finds new clothes in his room, and notes that his Cloudcuckoolander mother is the only person in the castle who would have the necessary skills to do that kind of embroidery. However, it turns out it was actually Oreg, their house ghost/servant/slave who did it. With magic. But he also likes to do it by hand, as he has a lot of time to pass.
- Averted in The Hunger Games. Peeta's stylist, who makes all his clothes, is female but Katniss' stylist is male and plays a much larger role. Outside of the Capitol, all textile work is done in District 8 by men and women alike.
- In Hobby Webb's Rose And The Magicians Mask, Miss Fell uses knitting in magic at one point to save Mr. Fountain's life. Later, she examines Rose and critically observes that as a man, Mr. Fountain is not teaching her what a proper young lady and magician should know; she should know how to embroider, both for propriety and because she will find it useful.
- The Tyrolean and German girls in the Chalet School books are big on sewing, periods are set aside for mending clothes, and being able to sew and mend is considered an important ability for a potential wife and homemaker. More tomboyish or rebellious girls, such as Cornelia and Joey, hate sewing, and Joey's efforts drive Gisela to distraction in the early books. Several girls in the Hobbies Club do various crafts as their hobbies.
- In Tolkien's works, all the mentioned textile workers are women. Vaire (the title of one of the Valier) means "weaver"; and Luthien, Galadriel and Arwen are all accomplished weavers. As with other elven crafts, there is a magical element to their work (Luthien's cloak is the most explicitly magical, as she is by far the most powerful).
- In The Chronicles of Prydain, embroidering tapestries is one of the skills Eilonwy is expected to learn as a lady. Like with most of her lessons, she's not too fond of it. She does make a banner for Taran, but her comments on how well it went when she tried to put a picture of Taran in would suggest that she's not exactly great at it.
- In The Red Tent, Jacob's wives are all seen working on textiles in some capacity. Zilpah and Bilhah are said to be especially good at it. Bilhah tells Dinah a "Just So" Story about how women learned spinning and weaving from a goddess named Enhenduanna, and Bilhah's "personal goddess" is Uttu, also associated with weaving. After Bilhah receives a beating for her affair with Reuben, a major tip-off that something in her has changed is that the thread she spins gradually becomes thinner and thinner, before she runs away.
- In a Mohist text calling for everyone to rise early and go to bed late to get their work done, the women are to spend their time on textile work — spinning, weaving, and preparing cloth.
- In the Five Children and It sequel Phoenix and the Carpet, Team Mom Althea uses her sewing skills to repair the titular carpet.
- In the Heralds of Valdemar novel Take a Thief, Skif is mocked by the other boy Trainees for being in the laundry/mending chore section at the Collegium - he'd learned to do it as a thief, as dirty and/or damaged clothing is easier to take without being noticed, and cleaning and mending it before taking it to the fence improves the resale value substantially for zero risk - until he points out that this means he's the only boy in a room full of girls, at which point he is suspected of secret genius.
- In Barbara Vine's Asta's Book, Asta is a self-willed, strong-minded young Danish woman, but in some ways she's very conventional and she takes pride in the fact that she sews and embroiders beautifully. She's an expert on drawn thread work and petit point. Toward the end of her very long life, she's taken on the project of embroidering her daughter's monogram on every piece of linen she owns.
- Demonstrated in both Ann Clark's 1943 Little Navajo Bluebird and Margaret Phelps' 1944 Chia and the Lambs, both about Navajo girls learning traditional female occupations including sheep herding, preparing wool, and weaving. Both are pretty much Truth in Television although Bluebird has more realism while Chia tends to be Fair for Its Day and strays into Tonto Talk.
- 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 '70s, 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 at sewing. 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.
- Blake's 7. Subverted in an episode involving a planet where both sexes were at war; the leader of the male faction is showing sewing in his hut, instead of his (abducted) wife doing this chore.
- Game of Thrones: The Establishing Character Moment for the two Stark daughters — Sansa Stark is praised for her needlework, while Arya Stark runs out of the classroom to take part in archery. Sansa is also shown to be a proficient embroiderer, furrier, and leatherworker and is responsible for making her own clothes as well as items for other characters. Later Arya is given a sword which she names Needle in acknowledgement of her desire to be a great warrior instead. Subverted in Season Four when Littlefinger points out to Sansa Stark that She Is All Grown Up and no longer The Ingenue... at the time Sansa is sewing what is later revealed to be her Evil Costume Switch.
- In Coronation Street one of the biggest employers in the area is Underworld a lingerie factory and all of it's machinists are women except for Sean Tully who is a stereotypical Camp Gay. There are male workers beside him but they are the co-owner and the stockroomist / delivery driver.
- In Oshin, one of the businesses that the protagonist Shin "Oshin" Tanemura takes up is a textile and clothes-making one handled by her and her husband Ryuuzo. Among other things, she's seen using a Western sewing machine and teaching the local male Old Retainer how to sew manually so he can help her out.
- Cindy on Good Girls Revolt enjoys making clothes herself, and says the same about Bea, though it doesn’t appear to be the case when Bea actually shows up at the magazine.
- 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 hangs 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.
- One of the times Hercules was enslaved, he was made to learn how to spin yarn. It was intended to be humiliating, but he found out that he liked it and was good at it.
- Penelope, wife of Odysseus and a symbol of monogamy, wove a funeral shroud every day for three years and ripped it out.
- 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.
- In Japanese lore, the Tanabata legend has Orihime the Weaver Princess, a great spinner and seamstress who spends almost all the time in textile work. When she marries Hikoboshi the Cow Herder, they both neglect their duties and Orihime's father Tentei punishes them by turning them into literally Star-Crossed Lovers.
- 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.
- 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
- 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' 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.
- The title character in Lysistrata has a long speech in which she compares the management of a state to the preparation of wool for weaving, to make the point that women have a stake in the way the government is run. This is arguably Played for Laughs; the point is that the current government of Athens is doing an even worse job than women would.
- Played with in Persona 4. Kanji Tatsumi enjoys doing textile work and is very talented in doing it, since his mother is the owner of the local textile shop. However, because of this trope, he has trouble when dealing with girls, as well as lacking confidence in his manliness. Obviously, his social link then revolves around this and him dealing with all of this.
- In one of the credits illustrations of The King of Fighters '98, Kyo's girlfriend Yuki is seen sewing his school jacket◊.
- A scene from Kaho Nagira's path in Crescendo has her sewing a shirt.◊
- Very justified in the case of Mira Kagami in Tokimeki Memorial: She is from a poor household, so she learned to sew as a way to help her mother take care of her siblings. If the Player Character lets Mira borrow his coat under some special circumstances note , she will repair it before returning it.
- Fire Emblem has more than one example:
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, Ninja Maid Cherche is pretty good at sewing and likes taking charge of anything related to keep the group's clothes well-mantained. The other two who are skilled at needlepoint, however, are Gerome and Gaius. Unsurprisingly, Gerome is Cherche's Kid from the Future. And Gaius can be his father, if the player hooks him up with Cherche.
- In the Female Avatar's support chain with her potential boyfriend Priam, she repays him for helping her train by both cleaning his training gear and washing/sewing his cape. The discovery flusters the Hell out of him.
- In Fire Emblem Fates, the support chain between Camilla and Hinoka shows that Camilla is pretty good at sewing and knitting, and in the C one she says she repaired the Avatar's cape with her own hands. She then offers to teach Hinoka how to sew in an attempt to bond with her, and Hinoka accepts even when it takes her a while to start doing it well.
- Oboro is the daughter of a famous deceased tailor and not only she's very fashionable, but she's damn good at sewing and knows a lot about clothing. Her dream is to have her own kimono shop, she offers Hayato to repair his clothes when she sees him fidgeting in front of her in their S support, she also chooses Takumi's clothes for special occasions, an official art piece has her sewing, and at least two of her potential children, Rhajat and Gaius' expy Asugi, have inherited her sewing talents.
- In the Second Generation group, Forrest zigzags this since he's a guy who can sew extremely well... but he's also a very, VERY girly guy.
- If the Crown of Nibelung manga is to be believed, the Female Avatar is a pretty decent seamstress too.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, Ninja Maid Cherche is pretty good at sewing and likes taking charge of anything related to keep the group's clothes well-mantained. The other two who are skilled at needlepoint, however, are Gerome and Gaius. Unsurprisingly, Gerome is Cherche's Kid from the Future. And Gaius can be his father, if the player hooks him up with Cherche.
- Gemma from Ninja Pizza Girl makes her own clothes out of scavenged materials. This becomes a plot point in one chapter, and in-game you can dress Gemma up in different outfits that you "buy" with recycled items that you pick up on your runs.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's expansion DLC "The Champions' Ballad", the light-blue Non-Uniform Uniform outfits worn by the Champions are said to have all been sewn by Princess Zelda. Considering the high defense stats that Link's Champion's Tunic has, it's also made with very durable and high quality material on top of being well-sewn.
- Thistil Mistil Kistil:
- Doc Rat:
- In Faux Pas, Myrtle explains her absence with knitting.
- 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.
- 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.
- In No Evil Kajortoq is probably the most feminine of the spirits and she spends a lot of time sewing and weaving. She even enchants some of her work, like the poppy-embroidered ponchos that keep the cold-blooded spirits warm in winter and some saddle-blankets that she promises the jackalope salesman will make the jackalopes that wear them equal to his best animal (too bad for him that he tries to hoist off an unruly beast as "his best animal" in exchange for them).
- 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◊
- In the French series Il était une fois..., the The Roaring '20s episode has Pierre as a mechanic/car builder and his girlfriend Pierrette as a seamstress and fashion designer.
- 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. Especially if she were from a high enough social class that she would have slave-girls to do that work.
- 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. The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a stuffed-wool cushion called the Woolsack, as a symbol of the importance of the British wool trade. The Woolsack dates back to the 14th century.
- 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.
- Another modern inversion: knitting and other needlework is sometimes used as anger management training by occupational therapists...in prisons.
- 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?"
- An aversion can be found in the history of Swaledale in North Yorkshire, where both lead mining and knitting were forms of income. There are indications that as well as women knitting, male lead miners would also knit to supplement their income, according to stories even doing it on the way to work.
- This is being subverted more and more often in recent years as the textile arts inch ever closer to nonexistence. While the majority of spinners, weavers, knitters, and tailors/seamstresses are female, the number of men who actively engage in these arts and work to master it is steadily increasing. The art of drop spinning, for example, has reached a point of such obscurity that a man seen using a drop spindle is more likely to be viewed on the level of "eccentric master of an ancient art" than "a guy who does girl stuff."
- There are also plenty of Men Who Knit. Guys even made their own "pussy hats" to wear as allies during the 2016-17 women's marches.
- Navajo weaving both plays this straight and inverts it. The popular image of a Navajo weaver is female, but that was partially imposed by the standards of incoming Christian Anglos. Gender roles don't work that way in Navajo culture, so male weavers are perfectly acceptable. The weaving tradition is much more nuanced and complex than Anglos are led to believe. Anglo culture values Navajo weaving as art and/or skilled craft, and many books have been written about the history and designs, but its spiritual significance has been glossed over as a cute fairy tale about spiders. Thousands of women and men who created these textiles were glossed over as non-working housewives or retirees weaving as a leisure activity. In reality, the money earned kept families and communities alive. The work was usually sold to a trading post, which often bought textiles by weight, then put a huge markup on it for the Anglo market, the creators receiving smaller and smaller percentages. Today, Indian-run fair trade co-opsnote help weavers sell their creations directly rather than through an intermediary and educate the public, recontextualizing the work in terms of its spiritual significance as well as to the livelihood of the Dine people.