Karen of Bella Industries on Sew-viving Academia

Finally finishing graduate school this year was the hardest thing that I have done in my life. Working through the challenge, I learned so much about myself. Part of that was learning how important it is to me to sew – to work with my hands, to design, and to create. Sewing is my rock that gets me through hard times. Curious to see if others have had similar experiences, I asked some other sewists to share their personal connections between sewing and making it through graduate school. I’m excited to introduce Karen of BellaIndustries.

Congratulations to Erin, on the Completion of her PhD! First off, I don’t have a PhD! I can’t focus on any one thing for very long, so Erin let me into this august group of bloggers because I have an MA-TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and MS – Library Science. Though neither has had much direct influence on my sewing, both have indirectly affected my collection of textiles & appreciation of what we’ve accumulated. In other words, teaching English = travel = textile shopping! Although I’m not an expert by any means, my attempts at knitting & sewing have given me insight into the artistry and just plain hard work of the items we’ve collected.

silk kente cloth and kimono

I’ll start off with a couple of silk items, one from Ghana (bottom), the other from Japan (top). The bottom is a traditional Kente cloth, for formal or ceremonial use. Woven in narrow bands (3-4” wide) on a strip loom, then sewn together, the patterns are intricate & amazing & the colors…well, you can see for yourself! The kimono is actually wool & silk. I love the very retro looking pattern (it’s probably from the 1960s). Kimono are also woven in narrow widths and pieced together. (Typically only 14-17” wide.)

Akha Headdress

Next up, a woman’s headdress from the Akha people, Northern Thailand. We got 2 of these treasures in Chiang Mai. The detailed embroidery, along with beadwork, pompons, and the inclusion of shells, coins and metal disks display a lot of time at work. I’m glad someone does this work—but I wouldn’t have the patience.

Ladakh hat

The next bit of headgear is a hat from Ladakh (the Tibetan Buddhist part of India). It’s made of silk, lined with cotton & is embroidered with silk thread, which also acts as a way to quilt the many pieces together (I’m guessing it has some wool fabric in between the silk & cotton as lining). This hat is a bit hard to understand unless you’ve seen someone wearing one, so I’m including a photo of a young Ladakhi woman.


I blog about textiles, sewing, knitting & quilting over at BellaIndustries. Come visit me there! Thanks again, Erin, for a wonderful opportunity to talk way too much about textiles & travel. And again, way to go, Doctor!!

Comments 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.