1789. Our country is about to inaugurate its first president, and George Washington is wringing his hands over what to wear. He knows his clothes will be a statement and he wants to get it right. The most fashionable suits in powder blue and buff silk are made in England, and he, in fact, is a dandy man. But he wants to wear something born of the colonies, something handspun from this side of the pond, authentic, self-reliant, proud.
He hears of a cloth maker in Connecticut spinning and weaving a handsome cloth. He sends for samples, and impressed with their quality, just two weeks before the inauguration, orders a brown broadcloth suit that looks like velvet. Horses speed the suit to Washington in the nick of time, buttons are sewn on in the eleventh hour. He steps out onto the platform to take his oath looking so grand that the newspapers, ironically, criticize him for wearing a foreign made suit! The next day, he corrects them by sending the label as proof of his commitment to a local, homespun life. Our founding father knows that his clothes, even more than words, declare self-sufficiency. Pride. Independence.
So does Clementine. As a laborer on a construction project in Rwanda, Clementine daily carried impossibly heavy loads of stone and brick on her head. Her stature began to fail under the load, her face grimaced in pain, but her work ethic was evident to all around. When a group called Hand-spun Hope arrived on the scene, Clementine joined and began to carry yarn instead, created with her own hands.
She learned to wash and dye and spin the newly shorn wool; and in so learning, began to spin out her own life of independence rather than laboring for another's profit. Clementine is radiant now, as you see in the image above. She is inaugurating her own independent life. She is spinning her own dream. She is standing tall.
As I celebrate my independence today, I think not only of our Founding Fathers, but of Clementine and the women of Rwanda celebrating their own freedom. Clementine and friends are busy knitting wraps for Ibu's Autumn Collection - but even now, we have in store her Rwandan gorillas. Giraffes. Lovable animals for lovable kiddos.
This is what I want out of my life, too. Like our founding father, like Clementine - to spin forth what is uniquely my own. To let my self-sufficiency grow from the work of my hands and imagination. To let my independence be one with all of the women of the world.
Happy holiday to you each. Stand tall and celebrate well.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker