GREEK WOMAN SPINNING
Athens, Brygos Painter, Ceramic
ca. 490 BCE, British Museum
Hymn to Demeter
ROMAN STRIPE is illustrated in the "Strip Quilts" section of Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS (#477a, dated 1850-1875). The illustration upper right, is inspired by a coverlet in QUILTS: THEIR STORY AND HOW TO MAKE THEM by Marie D. Webster, published 1915 (see more at FEATHER STAR and JACOB'S LADDER). Compare also with FANTASTIC PATCHWORK. Although the design may very well imitate old Roman road patterns created with inlaid bricks, also relevant to the name, in Webster's introduction, are some exquisite notes on needlework in Greek and Roman mythology (pp. 14-15):|
"While among the ancient Greeks and Romans all the arts of the needle were held in the greatest esteem, comparatively little attention was paid to the adornment of their sleeping apartments. Accounts of early Greek houses state that, while the bedchambers were hung all about with curtains and draperies, these were usually of plain fabrics with little attempt at decoration. Of patchwork or appliqué, as known to the Egyptians and Hebrews, the Greeks and Romans have left us no trace. However, as substantiating the regard shown for needlework by the Greeks and Romans, the following two pleasing myths have come down to us: one, the “Story of Arachne,” as related by Ovid; the other from the “Odyssey” of Homer.
"Arachne, a most industrious needleworker, had the audacity to contest against Pallas, the goddess of the art of weaving. With her bobbins, Arachne wove such wonderful pictures of the Loves of the Gods that Pallas, conscious of having been surpassed by a mortal, in an outburst of anger struck her. Arachne, humiliated by the blow, and unable to avenge it, hanged herself in despair. Whereupon the goddess relented, and with the intention of gratifying Arachne’s passionate love of weaving, transformed her into a spider and bade her weave on forever.
"The other interesting incident of ancient times is that of Penelope’s patient weaving. It is related that, after one short year of wedded happiness, her husband Ulysses was called to take part in the Trojan War. Not a single message having been received from him by Penelope during his long absence, a doubt finally arose as to his being still alive. Numerous suitors then sought her hand, but Penelope begged for time and sought to put them off with many excuses. One of her devices for delay was that of being very busy preparing a funeral robe for Ulysses’ father. She announced that she would be unable to choose another husband until after this robe was finished. Day after day she industriously wove, spending patient hours at her loom, but each night secretly ravelled out the product of her day’s labour. By this stratagem Penelope restrained the crowd of ardent suitors up to the very day of Ulysses’ return."