Poetry Friday: Six Strands


summertime clothesline
sun-bleached swimsuits and towels
functional design

taming tough jute
after follow-the-diagram 
precisely forming each
every creation now
to time. Unraveled.

Simplicity patterns and fabric on bolts –
Orth’s Department Store –
a place for dreaming.
Later, pinning pattern pieces –
cutting carefully –
no place for dreaming.

counting cross stitches
design emerges slowly
time-lapse with needle and thread
if you follow the pattern

The Conundrum of Patterns

They are everywhere.
They are beautiful.
They teach discipline.
They limit creativity.
They encourage innovation.
They connect us.
They are thread;
we are needles.

one thread
at a time
to unravel
the apron string's knot --
a tangle of patterns,
precision, and perfection.
Examine each beautiful strand.
Make them into something wholly...you.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write a poem with the theme of string, thread, rope, or chain. My brainstorming took me on a trip down memory lane, beginning with a visual memory of our precisely clothes-pinned swim suits and beach towels in a perfect suit-towel-suit-towel pattern on the clothesline.

Then came crafting memories. So many of the crafts I learned from and with my mother used thread or string: macrame, cross stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, sewing.

My mother’s mother was a home ec teacher and somewhat of a tyrant when it came to precision. Mom had to baste every seam before stitching it, and if her basting stitches were not perfectly even, she had to rip them out and start over. At the time, I never fully appreciated how much Mom had to dial back when she taught me “thread arts.”

I was definitely indoctrinated in “follow the pattern,” which left me with a healthy appreciation for rituals, routines, mentor texts, patterns, instructions, and recipes, but I also have developed a deep joy found in trial-and-error, guess-and-check, innovation, and experimentation.

Here’s what the rest of the Poetry Sisters came up with this month:
Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect
Tanita @ {fiction, instead of lies}
Sara @ Read Write Believe
Laura @ Laura Purdie Salas
Liz @ Liz Garton Scanlon
Kelly @ Kelly Ramsdell
Andi @ A Wrung Sponge

Next month, we’re writing Welsh Byr a Thoddaid Poems. Time for some serious rule-following! Join us if you’d like…or dare!!

Linda has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at A Word Edgewise.

13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Six Strands”

  1. Thanks for stitching your words when we feel unraveled, Mary Lee. I especially love your ‘mama memories’ finishing touches.


  2. I love learning more about your history, Mary Lee. Six strands is a brilliant way to frame this challenge. And “no place for dreaming” made me laugh—perhaps that was my problem with sewing. I couldn’t make simple curtains to save my life, let alone the fancy top I wanted to make as a teen in Home Economics (remember that?) But your mandalas, your precise words, and your ode to patterns resonates with me. We resist, but we need them. Thank you.


  3. So much of your poem touched me in a very personal way, Mary Lee! I also did macrame, cross-stitch, embroidery, sewing. And patterns! I always wished I was more like my friend who could easily whip up a simple skirt with just a few measurements, but I needed the pattern. I love the structure you chose to frame your memories. And a perfect ending in
    “Examine each beautiful strand.
    Make them into something wholly…you.”


  4. HAH, at least now I know why sewing from a pattern is so hard – no space for dreaming! (Actually, maps are hard, too – that’s just part of the way my brain works, but I like my poem-based reasoning better.) I would have loved to have more instruction in sewing when I was young, but not at the expense of creativity. I think embroidery is working for me now because I am ignoring most of my books and instructions and just striking out with a needle and seeing what happens… I love the precision and order of your lines, and how you don’t let form limit anything about you.


  5. They are thread / we are needles. I love that! (Also, I love that when I see creative, trial-and-error embroidery, I think of you. And that was before I read this blog.🙃)


  6. A poem with clever crafting in response to a challenge. I like the idea of separating your stanzas into strands or threads. It works quite admirably with the focus of your poem. You have tied the threads together so well, Mary Lee.


  7. This is stunning…in that it relates very much to the passing on of history, heritage, culture, art, craft and is a perfect poem as well. You inspire me every time I read your words! “make them into wholly you” such a gentle ending to a wonderful poem


  8. I love your six strands SO much!! Beautifully crafted!! Wonderful hearing about your mom and grandmother and the lessons you learned. Simplicity patterns took me back too. Thanks!


  9. If I remember correctly, our embroidery floss comes as six twisted strands, does it not? I worked at the Piece Goods store as a teenager…sooooo much dreaming, but at that age my spatial reasoning really wasn’t up to really effective sewing (and my mom was so good at it, why would I work really hard?) I love the pattern stanza:
    “They are thread;
    we are needles.”
    The metaphors are myriad and powerful.


  10. There is so much to love here. I too appreciated the 3rd stanza and the juxtaposition of dreaming of what could be while shopping for patterns and fabric, and the need to stay focused once you actually begin the work. As a cross-stitcher, I love the time-lapse description.


  11. Love this string of poems unwinding memories entangled with time and spent in needle arts. And your last stanza with the thread unwinding into something beautiful and unknown… And your image of embroidery floss is almost Escher like, thanks Mary Lee!


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