On Tuesday evening, 10 women of all ages gathered around a table in the basement of Hunter Hall. Holding a fabric hoop in one hand and a needle in the other, they worked through a series of sewing basics — threading a needle, knotting the thread, sewing a button and attempting various types of stitches.
“Everyone should know how to sew on a button,” said Rachelle Barkhurst, an instructor with the Hilde Project.
Their voices rose and fell as they laughed, asked questions and lowered their heads in concentration.
For Rosemary Bratton, founder of the Hilde Project, such circles of women gathered to sew or knit are a place to build community and a means of passing on generational wisdom.
“It links us to the ancient wisdom and it links us together as women,” she said. “We’re reviving that here.”
Bratton started the Hilde Project in 2013 after visiting the German homeland of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century nun who became an accomplished artist, writer and composer.
“She was such an amazing woman,” Bratton said. “What she was able to do with her life was so impressive to me.”
Bratton moved to Laramie in 1997 to work for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She served as the organization’s executive director and later led the Wyoming Women’s Business Center.
Inspired by von Bingen, she started leading classes for incarcerated women at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk. The goal is to give women a creative outlet despite their setting — not unlike the life of a cloistered nun — while allowing them to gain practical skills. Some Hilde Project finished products are for sale at Works of Wyoming, 211 S. First St.
Bratton expanded the Hilde Project in the fall with sewing classes. A second round of classes started earlier this week.
Participants are set to meet once a week for several hours to work on projects such as pillows, purses and mittens.
During the opening session, many participants said they’d first learned some sewing basics from their mothers or grandmothers. Many wanted to revive those skills or gain a professional touch.
Bratton said she hopes that women who need another source of income can find that in skills learned through the Hilde Project. At the same time, she’s excited about the sense of community sprouting out of the project and the revival of neglected arts.
“I’m delighted to see it coming back,” she said.
Bratton is hoping to offer career and financial classes in Laramie starting in this spring, and she envisions taking the Hilde Project to additional communities in Wyoming.