Now that I have a usable dining room table the inevitable has happened: it has been loaded up with a sewing machine, some bits of fabric I’m piecing into scrap blocks, and a stack of books I’m reading for a course I’ll teach in the fall. I’m using my Janome, which is permanently installed in the sewing room, to machine quilt my last QOV, so I decided to set up my Featherweight on the dining room table so I can do some piecing when I feel the urge.
I haven’t used the Featherweight in quite awhile. I’ve really come to love the automatic thread cutter and all the other luxuries of the new machine. But the Featherweight is as decorative as it is useful, and I like seeing it on the table. I also like seeing my work in progress displayed in my home’s public space.
A table is a powerful thing. I recently had a party for a friend and colleague who won a campus award. People from across the university were invited. In preparation, I cleaned my house, and especially the living room, so that people could have a variety of places to sit and visit and eat. However, most of the guests stayed in the kitchen around my green table and an expanding array of food (it was a potluck). Guests stood around the table two and three deep and only a few people sat comfortably in the living room. It was as if the kitchen table was a magnet. There were plenty of plates so that guests could serve themselves food and move around the house, I had even set up chairs on the porch, but the kitchen table remained the focal point.
The kitchen table is an important icon of African American feminism. Rather than exclusively a place of women’s oppression, it is recognized as a space where women build community and solve problems. It is a place where women’s confidences and wisdom are articulated and shared. The kitchen table is a space for spiritual healing and transformation, for nurturing and restoration.
The dining room table, in contrast, (for those of us who have one) is a formal space where we set the scene for meals that mark important days. But between formal celebrations, the dining room table gets reclaimed for everyday uses. The work of the kitchen spills out into dining room. It is a platform for both creative and mundane tasks.
A lot of dining room tables sport sewing machines. In my previous homes it was the only space where I could set up a sewing machine, even if I had to take it down daily so people could sit and eat there. It’s not coincidental that I’ve also used the dining room table over the years as a place to write. The dining room table is the crossroads of the domestic and the creative, of the familial and the individual. It can be the space in the house where we can claim even a temporary space for our creative lives.