Sunday, 26 January 2014

On "crafting"...

Although I have unforgivably neglected my blog over the last few months years, I will try and make more of an effort, at least until January and all its determination to stick to New Year's resolutions are well and truly over...
So, Happy New Year, all !!!

Notice the quotation marks in the title ? Yeah, not a typo, sadly. Actually I felt that the way the term 'craft' (and 'crafting') is being used lately made it necessary to qualify the word slightly. Do not get me wrong: I know it is a great trend at the moment, and I wholeheartedly support anybody who gets up and makes anything with their own hands rather than purchasing a mass produced product. Equally, I am aware that ability and dare I say talent are not evenly distributed, so the first garter stitch scarf knitted by person A might mean a whole lot more than yet another 20 colour fair isle jumper produced by person B.

But I feel the way this trend has been bandied about and presented in the press lately leaves a lot to be desired. Ok, it needs to be accessible, people need to feel like they can be part of something without committing to a 5 year intensive learning curve - I totally get that. But pressing a motive out of a die cast sheet and sticking it onto a pre-folded piece of card does not make you a master card maker. It certainly doesn't make you creative, regardless of what the manufacturers of certain craft product would have you believe.

I collect vintage craft books, and I have learnt the bare essentials of what I do from both of my grandmothers and my mother. Based on this and the assumption that I do not happen to stem from a long line of household paragons, I would say it's safe to assume that the average skill level has somehow diminished over the decades. That is totally understandable; neither of my grandmothers would probably have been able to send an email, and I wouldn't want my mother let loose on Photoshop, so something's got to give.

But each time I see somebody write about "crafting" as if it's this amazing new thing that is 'so now', and each time I see someone trying to sell a badly stapled-together piece of tat on Etsy with the air of offering a great artisan piece, a little voice inside me wants to just scream and scream until it all disappears.

Feel free to use the comments to discuss, I would love to hear (read?) your take on this.


  1. Completely agree... yes, something's got to give I guess. However I do think that people spend more time talking about doing things and thinking about doing things (and I don't mean planning the particulars of what they're gonna do, but focusing on crafting as an end in itself) than actually doing them. They might get better at it if they would just actually put the time in it. Seems to be more about the "lifestyle" side of it rather than just producing something useful and/or pretty and perhaps even enjoying the process.

    Anyway, this might have always been the case for all I know, aside from the fact that at some point it would also have been thrifty, which most certainly isn't the case now.

  2. Thanks for saying what (I believe) a bunch of us are all thinking! Another facet to it all is the business end ... suddenly, by framing/packaging/marketing it the right way, consumers will buy raw materials for more than finished products. Not just raw materials ... the tools and accessories and whatnot.

    I have a love/hate relationship with the trend, because, as you said, any movement towards DIY and away from mass-produced cheap soul-less disposable stuff is great ... but yes I don't like Handmade being the flavour of the month for the sake of sales, I don't like seeing handmade things being sold that are overpriced and relying solely on the Handmade aspect to sell, and I don't like people ripping off beginner crafters by selling patterns and supplies at inflated prices when the same or similar things are available for free (thinking of patterns specifically), or inexpensively (thinking of supplies that are overpriced and pre-packaged and matchy matchy and not particularly good quality).

    (an aside ... I had to click through from Ravlery because how could I not click on a blog called General Hogbuffer? Love your sock patterns!)

  3. First, thanks for coming back! :)

    Second, I have to agree to a degree. I agree that the average level of skill has diminished, not only because people craft less, but also because of the long gap in many families and communities where skills were not transferred from older generations to newer ones because crafting wasn't "the thing to do." I feel the urge to somehow differentiate myself from the bulk of the "crafters" who have been crafting for the last two years because, all of a sudden, it is the thing to do. On the other hand, it's nice to be part of a movement for once. Being a knitter 15-20 years ago was not that cool...
    I also think about what is crafting--how do you define it? I think crafting is a hobby, and therefore belongs to all who want to try their hand at whatever craft, regardless of skill level. Whether the end result is worth anything on Etsy is a different matter altogether. But then again, it's not the seller who is off their rocker, it's the buyer.

  4. Thanks for all your wonderful patterns.

    My craft skills are superior to my mother's, for instance, she never larned how to cast on beyond a simple twisted loop, so I must disagree with you. People are making amazing things these days, and designing like crazy. It's one of the few positive things we can attribute to modern times, and I'm sticking with it.

    1. Depending on your mother's age, Katie K, she may have been part of that group of women which rejected handcrafts as a traditional sop to women not allowed to make their mark on Wall Street or in the Operating Room or wherever they cared to make it. Among my friend's mothers, there was no one whose skill at any craft cane near my mother's sewing, and her sewing was not couture.


    2. My mother was all about handcrafts; she just never pushed the envelope on her skill sets. While I respect what she did and am grateful for what she taught me, my skills are now way beyond hers, and I'm an attorney.

  5. This is an interesting thread. My late mom (who would only be 73 today) was a creative person and she knit with reasonable skill. I was in awe. Then I happened to bring back some of her handknits from India and realized that my skills have gone way beyond hers. Then again she never had hand-dyed yarns or even circular needles for that matter.

    "Crafting" is big business in the US. This is the land of fun fur and scrapbooking "embellishments" and people who are well-intentioned but lacking in skill. But I am also grateful for all the true artisans and the inspiration and materials to refine my own commitment to crafting (sans the quotes).

  6. I have just found your blog having put the 7th pattern of yours in my library.

    I agree that in society at large skill levels have decreased. Almost every woman I have met who is 80+ has needle skills learnt in childhood and used. This is not the case now. The same is true of traditionally male skills.... my grandfather, born in the early part of the 20th century could make the tools he needed to repair whatever had broken! He worked with wood, and metal, taught me plumbing and how to install electric circuitry, and rebuilt his car in his late 80s. Although he was exceptionally gifted this skill and diversity was not uncommon.

    However, I have developed tremendously over the last 10 years due to greater access to variations in technique and particularly learning from national variations in approach. In the past it was hard to share knowledge so interesting construction techniques developed by an individual were lost, now ideas are shared and we can build on each other's ideas. My grandmother, a superb needle woman in all ways never talked of knitting as 3 dimensional.....apart from socks she knitted flat pieces and joined them together. I still can't knit such even stocking stitch as her......but I can knit a chicken without a seam!

  7. Interesting question. I am thrilled to meet a fellow knitter/crocheter/crafter in person, but it is quickly apparent if we have compatible passions and abilities and dare I say reverence and respect for our crafts. The etsy tat infuriates me but hopefully consumers aren't be fooled by junk???? In any case, you are amazing :)