Passing On Skills


Have you ever reflected on your surname?  When I got married, I gained a very unusual name – Tamisari.  My husband was born in Italy, and even there, the name is very rare.  Apparently, there are just 147 people called Tamisari in the world and just 6 in the UK – all in Lincolnshire!  The name seems to originate from Venice and possibly Catalonia and translates as, ‘sieve maker’. (The Catalan word for sieve is tamisari!)

That means that somewhere in the distant past, the Tamisari family were craftsmen.  Perhaps they were involved in the production of pigments for dying fabric or glass making, or perhaps in the spice trade. Venice was famous for all these things during the renaissance. We probably will never know the details of what they did, but their craft was so much a part of who they were that they became known by it.  Perhaps, long ago, a man who was always known as Francesco or Giacomo, gradually became known as Frank the cobbler – Francesco Tamisari. When his son or daughter took on the family trade, the name just stuck.

Other names are far more obvious – Archer, Barber, Cooper, Fletcher, Miller, Weaver… all of them and hundreds of others are probably derived from the family profession many generations back in the past.

Passing on the Family Trade

My mother was a teacher – so am I.  My husband’s mother was a teacher – so is he.  Our daughter wants to be a teacher too.  Perhaps it’s to do with inherited personality traits, or perhaps, in some way, we are continuing the age old tradition of passing on the family trade to the next generation.  I saw my mum in a classroom, preparing lessons, marking books and could easily picture myself in the same role and rehearsed it through play as a child. 

My daughter has watched me in the same way and so it makes sense that the pattern will continue.  Back in the past, passing on skills was a necessity. Life and prosperity depended on it.  The world is a very different place now, but I am convinced that it is just as important as ever to pass on skills.

Emulating What We See

I sew because my mum and grandma spent time passing on skills.  At a very early age, they taught me to sew a button on. Then I learnt simple, decorative stitches.  I watched the women in the family create beautiful things with thread and yarn.  I am not sure I wore a ready-made woollen garment until I was in my 20s.  Hats, mittens, scarves, jumpers, cardigans, ponchos (don’t judge, I’m a child of the 70s!) were all knitted or crocheted by the women in my family.  I was given sewing kits and small sewing projects as a child. Exploration of the button box or the sewing table was a wonderful treat. My grandmother embroidered initials on handkerchiefs, darned socks, made needlepoint pictures and my mother embroidered the most beautiful pictures I had ever seen, all while I watched.  I admired their skill and wanted to emulate it.

More Than Just the Skill of Sewing

It’s been such a joy to continue to pass on the family ‘trade’ and teach my own children some of these skills too.  My son combined electronics, woodwork and textiles for his GCSE Design project and is very capable with a sewing machine.  I let my daughter opt in to my sewing whenever she likes and try to be purely encouraging.  I started her off with kits, but I also let her just play with thread and fabric. 

Learning to sew has taught her patience, perseverance, how to handle frustration, how to value equipment and resources, avoid waste, plan ahead – all very useful life skills even beyond the world of sewing.  When she’s in the mood, she can sit for hours, concentrating and creating without even thinking about computer screens, video games or TV.  She made her own drawstring bag for her PE kit a couple of years ago.  Her first love at the moment is drawing, but who knows what will happen as her sewing skills develop. 

Added Value

The skills themselves are of great value. It’s much more than that though.  When we sew together, we sit close, passing the hoop and fabric back and forth between us. We create together. We offer mutual praise, celebrate achievements, and help each other to take pride in our work. It is great to spend time in companionable silence, or laughing together and chatting while we make things. In this way, we can discover that it is possible to learn, practise and eventually master all skills. These are the added benefits of passing on skills that help children to feel capable, develop self-esteem and have aspirations.

My Daughter’s Embroidery

A Seat at the Table

This is why Passing On Skills is our fifth core value at Featherstitch House.  I have been very fortunate in my life to have people to teach me, but that is not true of everyone.  No-one should miss out on these experiences and it’s never too late to start learning.  We don’t just want to sell kits, and we don’t want to simply create art that makes people say, ‘Wow!  I could never do that.’ 

The point of Featherstitch House is to open the door, let you in and show you around.  That’s why we chose our name; we want to welcome you in to the stitching experience and help you find your own seat at the table and feel at home.  I want to share the skills I learnt so that you can, in turn, teach others. Then we can continue the legacy for generations to come.  I don’t pretend to be an expert, I am still learning all the time, but if I can share what skills I do have, then that’s why I am here.

So, whether you are an experienced stitcher or have never picked up a needle and thread before, you are very welcome at Featherstitch House.  There’s room for everyone who wants to learn.  So make yourself at home.

Join In

If you want to join in the stitching adventure, I am starting a new, weekly stitch project for 2022. Check out the video on my YouTube channel to find out more.