Thursday, 29 March 2012

Do you ever wonder?

Do you ever wonder where handicraft will be in fifty years time? 

It's something I think about a lot. 

I come from many generations of handworkers.  I have a lot of their work, kept safe.  I treasure it, but to be honest I think of my many cousins, I'm the only one who really wants it. 

My great grandmother did very intricate work.  Amazingly close work for a woman who was widowed at 40 and left to raise a farm and six children in the midst of a depression by herself. 

My grandmother was one of three daughters.  They all did wonderful work, each different but equally clever in their own right. 

My mother is also one of three daughters.  They are all very gifted women but only she is the one who has taken the craft gene and ran with it.

And then there's me.  I'm the only daughter, but in a family of many cousins, I'm the only one of my peer group..the ONLY one who can even thread a needle, much less create quilts or knitted items for fun.  To be honest, they all look at me as if I am slightly mad.

Of course, it's me and my mother that people come to when they want a job done.  I don't mind, I love to help my family but it does concern me that these able bodied men and women who are smart, articulate and clever can't even sew on a button.  I don't actually think that they can't.  I think they won't, to be blunt.  They have no inclination to learn how to do even the most basic mending.  They amount of time I have heard 'Well, I'll just pay someone to do it'.

And that is what bothers me.  What will we do when we no longer have anyone willing to do these jobs, either for love or money?  Mending is a pretty crappy job, I agree.  I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than change a broken zip on a pair of jeans, but I would do it for someone I love.  Lord knows, there's no money in mending these days.  I had to replace a simple hat band for someone today, and it took me 90 minutes to put it on.  Admittedly, I spent extra time and attention to it as it was for a wedding party, but even so.  When they say 'Oh I'll pay you for it' I wonder how much they would be willing to pay?  And really, if I charged the $25 an hour that business pays now, would they really want me to fix it for forty bucks?  I doubt it.

Many times when I was in the shop we were asked how to do a particular skill.  'I've reached this stage in my pattern, but I don't know how to cast off' or 'Can you tell me how to do the binding on this quilt?'.  We never charged for that knowledge because I felt it was my duty to pass that knowledge on.  I hope someone I taught will do for someone else, down the track. 

But when I didn't know how to do something, I asked my mother.  I'm hoping that my children will do the same from me.  But I know there are whole generations of families out there where Mum doesn't actually know how to knit, or crochet, or sew. 

And that saddens me.  It really does.

I look at all the crafts that have died off over the years, as we are more industrial and as goods become cheaper and cheaper to buy.  Who needs a roof thatcher nowadays?  Or a master carpenter?  Or anything like that? 

I don't know where handwork will be in fifty years.  I really don't. 


  1. I think there about 50 years less craftswomen than now. I work in a fabric store for fashion and there are only customers of 45- 65 years old. The younger girls learn it not more. The have no time anymore, because most work. I have 3 sisters of wich no one does anything to crafts or sewing, my 2 daughetrs can it, but do not even my 2 granddaughters could not.

  2. I think it's all about learning what we see - I saw my mum doing it, she saw her mum doing it. If you skip a level, it's really hard to learn it.

    I *always* make time for craft. It's my meditation. Others always find time to exercise (I wish I was one of those!) but I always find time to sew.

    Thanks for posting!