#SuperstitionSat Highlights: Tailors, Spinners & Weavers

Good afternoon everyone, welcome to the last pick of Highlights in our Crafts Month Special! These past weeks, our #SuperstitionSat Sessions explored beliefs related to rural crafts and old jobs. In the first week, we had a look at rituals of the fields of Agriculture and Farming; in the second week, we went Fishing and Seafaring; and last week, we admired Jewellery, Blacksmiting and Mining. There were so many more trades we could have traversed, but I suppose we will just have to leave them for next year, perhaps!

We just love Specials, don’t you? You might recall that we had another month-long feature of all the different regions of the world earlier this year. What was different this time around was that, alongside our Twitter Sessions, we also published weekly articles about Folklore charms related to our chosen rural crafts – collaborating with the Folklore Museums Network who helped us pick each item from a British museum. But wait, there’s more! Coming up later this year, we will be hosting another monthly Special for Halloween, in collaboration with our Folklore Friends from the other weekly hashtags, such as #ofdarkandmacabre. And, we will also continue to write about Folklore objects from Museums in the next few months. How exciting! But wait… there’s still more! Keep reading today’s Highlights to find out what else we’ve got in store for you…

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our first Highlight for today, with a tale shared by Bonjour From Brittany about tailors. In this tweet, it was said that Bretons thought that those who chose this craft were so unlucky, that they were not even considered people – and furthermore, that their trade had been taught to them by goats and druids! As if that wasn’t enough, tailors were also said to have the power to give the “Evil Eye” to whoever displeased them – a power which extended to folks who had inadvertently put on their garments inside out. Tailors often made their trade as travelling salesmen, which had them likened to beggars in Brittany, and in an article from across the pond in Los Angeles – published by the Western States Folklore Society – it is even said that tailors were frequently swindled by their customers and left without payment for their services! With such an intricate job on top of this popularity, it sounds like tailors, especially Bretons, must have been incredibly patient artisans.

For more Breton lore, including spells and curses cast by tailors, check out Bonjour From Brittany’s blog here! And how about this book of Breton Legends, translated to English in 1872 here.

Tweet says:

"In Brittany, tailors were the target of scorn and ridicule. It was said that a tailor was not a man, only a tailor! Taught their trade by goats and descended from druids; in private, they were reputed to speak a secret language. They were also country matchmakers."

Includes colourised photo of a man putting thread through a needle's eye.
Tweet by Bonjour From Brittany.

Our second Highlight crossed the English Channel, with a superstition shared by Olivia Armstrong that said mending your own clothes whilst wearing them is considered terribly unlucky in England. When you think about it, that belief would certainly make sense, as you wouldn’t want to prick yourself with the sewing needle! Though the belief seems to go a bit further than that – at least, according to folklorist Alan Dundes, who wrote in his 1999 publication International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore that there was also a:

“… Jewish superstition that claims it is very bad luck to repair a garment while that garment is being worn by an individual. Once one realizes that the only time a garment is sewn on a person is when a body is being prepared for burial, one can understand the custom. In other words, repairing a garment – for example, by sewing on a button – is enacting a funeral ritual which is essentially treating a living person as a prospective corpse.”

That is scary! But if you’re in a rush and really don’t have time to take off your coat or shirt to mend it before a meeting, fear not – for it is possible to counteract this bad luck! Simply chew on a piece of bread – or better yet, the thread itself you’re using, and you will (hopefully) be safe. An Eastern European participant recalled their mother had this belief, when interviewed by the Digital Folklore Archives from the University of Southern California – which, if you’re curious, is available to read here.

Tweet says:

"Across England, it was known that to mend clothes whilst wearing them would bring bad luck - 'you will sew sorrow to your back'..."

Includes black and white photo of a woman mending a garment.
Tweet by Olivia Armstrong. Image credit: Rory Siegal.

Our final Highlight was shared by Sherry Perkins, who told us a tale of witches and yarn magic. Mention of yarn always reminds me of the English expression “spin a yarn”, which – as the online Collins dictionary says, means: “[to] tell a story that is not true, often an interesting or imaginative one.” And the realm of Witchcraft is certainly imaginative when it comes to textiles, with spells involving knots, ropes and ribbons – like the practice of rope magic and “Witch’s Ladders”, where cords are tied together with feathers until the piece resembles a ladder. But embroidery may also be a resource for witches, as shared by Sherry, especially through the use of symbolical patterns and colours. An example of embroidery magic is the collection of patches housed by the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, made and donated by a witch simply known as “Mrs Dodsworth” in the 1960’s. These patches, which you can see in the image below, are based on talismans drawn on a grimoire called “Black Pullet”, which is believed to have been written in 18th century France. Some of these embroidered patches have even been reproduced and made available for purchase at the Museum’s Shop, like this one and this one!

Tweet says:

"It is said embroidery is a craft suited to witches, for the use of coloured yarn, special patterns and figures can curse or charm the clothing given to another, i.e. red floss is for love, green for money, butterflies for freedom, and a cross stitch will bind the spell."

Includes photo of embroidery threads, a hoop, and pinking shears.
Tweet by Sherry Perkins.
Black Pullet Embroidered Talismans, via Museum of Witchcraft.

That is all for today! I hope you enjoyed our selection of Highlights for the theme of Tailors, Spinners and Weavers, which concluded our Crafts Month Special. Moreover, we hope you will join us again in two weeks’ time, on September 10th for tales:

Under The Moonlit Night: Superstitions of Astrology, the Sky & Stars

This means that we are off to another SEASONAL BREAK, and that there will be no #SuperstitionSat Session on the 3rd of September – but don’t be sad, because on that day we shall be publishing a new Guest Blog article to keep you entertained instead, written by #SwampSunday host and creator, Natalja Saint-Germain!

And as we said earlier – but wait, there’s more! Alongside everything that we’ve got in store for you for the rest of the year, we shall also be making a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT when we return on September 10th – so, as folks say, watch this space…

As always, thank you so much for participating in Superstition Saturday. Whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence is very much appreciated and I am glad to see you stop by. See you in two weeks!

Your lucky cat pal,
– Superstition Sam 🐾