any embroidery was going on in the rigging

enkidu68

Senior Member
turkish
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

Q: What does “embroidery” mean here? Complex knots? Because why would any embroidery work be needed in rigging?



Accordingly, when any embroidery was going on in the rigging, I was set to the most inglorious avocations; as in the merchant service it is a religious maxim to keep the hands always employed at something or other, never mind what, during their watch on deck.
 
  • Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Four or five paragraphs before this sentence, Melville talks about sailors who are like embroiderers and make "fanciful collars of hempen lace about the shrouds" along with other kinds of artistry that have to do with fiber, sewing, weaving, making knots, etc. I would guess he's being a little facetious in referring to it as embroidery, although the skill and knowledge required are similar: the 'needlework' is just on a different scale (marlinspikes and fids do look like huge needles).
     

    enkidu68

    Senior Member
    turkish
    So, that is why he "was set to the most inglorious avocations"? In other words, since they works need a kind of adeptness he was sent to inglorious avocations" (dull works?)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    He was an unskilled deckhand who was incapable of undertaking the skilled ropework of an experienced sailor. When they were doing their skilled work he was given unskilled work that suited his capabilities.
     
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