The politics of arts and crafts

Back in the early-mid 1970s, my mom was crafty as all get out. Sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, you name it. She sewed endless purple plaid pant suits for me. She knitted orange mittens and crocheted brown hats in that unattractive style of the day.

Now at home, I learned a lot from her. By age 6 or 7, I’d already learned to crochet simple granny squares and used tissue-paper patterns to sew teeny little outfits for my Barbies. I could also knit a little, but could never remember how to cast off the initial stitches.

One day, my mom volunteered to lead my Brownie troop in a little sewing project.

At the Brownie meeting after school that day, Mom had a supply of needles and thread and pins and scraps of fabric for everyone. She got down to business, explaining the project, assuming all those little girls knew the basics of sewing.

Two dozen pairs of wide, clueless eyes stared at her. Stared at the foreign tools. Looked at each other in confusion.

“Do you girls know how to sew?” Mom asked after a while.

Two dozen little heads shook their “no”. They didn’t have the faintest idea of how to thread a needle, read a pattern, make a stitch.

I realize now that since my mom was one of those older women who’d had a child late in life, she was nearly a full generation ahead of the other girls’ mothers. By that time, it had already become unfashionable for liberated women to degrade themselves with such oppressive chores as sewing and knitting and cooking and cleaning.

Today, though, all those crafty, time-honored skills are making a big comeback… complete with a radical political agenda to “reclaim” and “empower” and “facilitate”.

Young Women Re-Craft Feminism as a DIY Project.

I am completely thrilled about crafts becoming popular again. I’m just not entirely sold on the idea of knitting one’s way to empowerment and self-actualization, but I’m coming to understand the concept.

Fifty-some-odd years ago, all these skills were pretty much essential to surviving. Certainly, you could go out and buy a scarf in those days, but the average person valued thrift and self-sufficiency… so you would simply knit a scarf. It wasn’t a statement or a movement or a radical departure. It was life.

The women’s movement has brought us a long way, but how many generations have grown up with no clue of how to properly nourish themselves? It astonishes me how many women my age and younger don’t know how to cook! We’ve moved out into the world and accomplished so much, but we’re spiritually homeless as a result. Today’s crafters are, I suppose, reclaiming a lost way of life, rebuilding broken homes.

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1 Comment

Filed under cheap fun, frugal

One response to “The politics of arts and crafts

  1. I find it really sad that a lot of children have no idea of crafts. I enjoy so much time with my boys making things. My youngest loves knitting, sewing and needlecrafts. Would love to share it with other children. Been amazed in the come back in knitting, for a long time I can remember being considered strange because I enjoyed it.

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