The Shirt On My Back

I’m fascinated by the history and relationship between people, places and things. My curious mind wants to give meaning to pretty much everything.  I thrive on making connections between old and new, because I believe everything has a history.  Which brings me to the reason for this blog post…

During my recent research on the contribution women played in the development of textiles, I found an image of the world’s oldest preserved linen shirt (as of 1994) pictured in Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years, by Elizabeth Barber.

Sleeved Tunic_1
From a First Dynasty Egyptian tomb at Tarkhan, ca. 3000 BC (UC 28614B’: photograph courtesty of Petrie Museum, University College London, where the piece is on display.)

“A meticulous British archaeologist, Sir William Linders Petrie concentrated on recording the minutest details of Egyptian daily life at a time when most museums and scholars prospected only for splendid works of ancient art and discarded the rest of what they uncovered.”

This homely piece of rag was tucked away in Petrie’s collection housed at the University of College London, and was later uncovered in 1977 by two women curators interested in textiles.  The shirt was actually found inside out just as the wearer had left it.

Petrie’s curiostiy and  fascination with detail provided tangible evidence for the history of textile design.  I was surprised to find a connection between the design of the earliest complete garment and my knitted sweater.

Chevron Sweater
Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall



In My Happy Place

This week I needed to get a way for a day.  I decided to return to the stacks at the University of California, Berkeley’s Anthropology library.  During my stay as a student, I spent many hours focusing on Art History, with little regard or time for anything else. Now I have the time to explore other disciplines.  I was looking forward to picking up a book I had on hold at Doe Library, Decorative Patterns Of The Ancient World, by Flinders Petrie. On my way, I captured a picture of the infamous Campanile.


Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Such a relief to relax and take in the atmosphere without worrying about the next paper or test.  I headed over to the Anthropology library and ventured into the world of prehistoric textiles.  Three books, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 years,  Making Textiles In Pre-Roman And Roman Times, and Textile Production In Pre-Roman Italy,  I was excited to discover because they support my area of interest.

My interest in textile arts began at the age of eight.  Through the guidance of a 4-H leader, I walked the runway in my first sewn dress. I continued to sew through the years and decided to purchase my first weaving loom.  Toting my infant daughter on my hip, I warped my loom for the first time.  From weaving, I moved on to knitting, felting and dyeing yarn.  Throughout the many years of developing my expertise in the textile arts, I didn’t give much thought to the people, places and identities of the individuals that came before me, until now.

On my way across campus to the parking garage, I captured a few more pictures.


Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall


Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall


Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

%d bloggers like this: