Archive for April 11th, 2014

One use of baby carriers was to swaddle a baby so it couldn’t move. Literally. Keeping baby where it was placed was an important use of baby carriers in the Middle Ages and with Indigenous People. The carrier performed the duties of a baby sitter. Some were rigid enough to stand up right, others, especially in the Middle Ages were used to hang up the baby on a nearby wall or fence, while the mother attended her work duties.

edward s. curtis. the nez perce

edward s. curtis. the nez perce

The picture above is of an actual baby carrier used by the Nez Perce. At the left side, one of the two straps that would go over the mother’s shoulder is showing. When I look at this picture, the tightness of the swaddling literally takes my breath away.

While rigid swaddling was used to ensure straight, strong limbs, often it did just the opposite, causing bones to become malformed. But mostly, the baby carrier was used by the mother to keep the baby with her at all times. With a baby strapped to her back, she could travel about and perform her daily work inside and outside the home. Life, it seems, has never been easy on women.

Initially, the baby carrier I was asked to design was supposed to be tight. The baby was to fit through the hood opening. I couldn’t do it. Each time I tried, my own claustrophobia undid me and I’d walk away from the project feeling like I couldn’t breathe. After much discussion between all involved, I was relieved to get the okay to throw out the restrictive tight fit. I could think about proportion and form without feeling restricted and needing air myself. I decided to divide the front to create a center opening, add sleeves, and enlarge the width of the carrier to account for both baby, baby clothes and diapers.

My walk alongside the Hudson River was my inspiration for the stitch pattern combinations. The Hudson is a working river. Tugs, barges, battleships, schooners, tankers, sailboats, the occasional sloop, and recreational boats move up and down it at different times of the year. Ice cutters regularly traversed it this winter to keep a shipping lane open.

The play of light and dark on the water along with a large barge going up river helped me settle on what I wanted to achieve. When I thought of the ship I thought of the heavy ropes on board. I chose to interpret the ship with a braid whose movement reminded me of ropes laid along a deck. I also wanted the braid to resemble the feel of a deck that rocked up and down. To compliment the braid I chose the humble seed stitch pattern. The texture of the pattern and the way it absorbs and reflects light reminds my of the way the Hudson looked that day.

Still on the needles, this is how it looks at the moment. Excuse the lighting, I am still learning my camera.

baby carrier 2

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