|photo courtesy of Die Hipster Die!|
Perhaps it's our attempt to hold on to something "real" as our society moves farther and farther into the world of information and technology. Crafting recalls our history. Crafting results in a single, finished, imperfect product and adds a bit of beauty to the world. Crafting creates something that can't be digitized or duplicated.
Our great-grandmothers did these activities out of necessity. Frugality was the primary reason to learn to cook, bake, sew, knit, etc. But there was also a cultural need. Cooking and baking were part of the woman's "job" and women used crafting as a way to stay busy and to socialize. Sewing, knitting, or quilting in a group was a great way to spend an afternoon gossiping with the girls.
Today, frugality doesn't even come into the equation. It's rarely, if ever, cheaper to make something by hand - including a meal. Cheap knit goods from China, fast food restaurants on every corner, and mass production, means that crafting today is exclusively about aesthetics and the pleasure of creating. Interestingly, this dynamic has also created a big gap in the perceived value of hand-created items. A "non-crafter" has no real sense of the time, effort, and cost associated with that gift they just got or that cool piece they just saw at the shop. For the crafter, that misunderstanding of the "value" of the finished item can represent a huge blow to the ego. When you spend three months knitting a baby blanket for someone ("every stitch is knit with love!") it's tough to see it given the same reaction as the one purchased from a big-box store.
I'd like to think that, as crafting becomes more widespread and legitimized, more people will recognize the beauty and value in hand-crafted items. I got my first taste of legitimacy when I saw the movie Handmade Nation at our local film festival. But, it was an indie film with a narrow release so it really wasn't changing too many perceptions. Today, however, the Wall Street Journal Magazine helped us take a great leap forward. In the story titled "A Gripping Yarn," the WSJ editors explore the phenomenon of neo-crafting in regard to home furnishing and interior decoration. It's an intriguing article in both the subject matter (knitted chairs??) and the validity it gives to the crafting movement.
For me, personally, this article represents the moment that my hobby became bonafide - legitimate and beyond scorn from those who give me "the look" when I knit in public. Now, if the NY Times will just do an in-depth article on the cost and effort to create something from scratch, maybe my sister will stop looking at my "homemade" gifts as though they're dead rats.