Then my mom asked me to make a quilt for her charity - Grandmothers to Grandmothers - so I invited a few women to help me; to make it a community quilt. Many of the women I asked said they would love to help out a great cause but they "don't have a sewing machine", "don't know how to sew," or were "hopeless at making things". Now this didn't really bother me - I can make the quilt by myself - I was just surprised and kind of depressed that these wonderful creative and intelligent women don't sew. How do they hem pants, I wondered, or fix a torn seam? Most of my friends love fashion and are snappy dressers, so why don’t we sew our own clothes? For all we wax poetic about the environment and sustainability, about re-use, reduce, re-purpose, re-cycle, about changing our thinking to save our planet, only about 10% of my friends own a sewing machine! This shocked me.
Then a Facebook friend invited me into a kind of “I’ll make you something/Pay it Forward” challenge, which of course I accepted. I think I’ll make some re-usable grocery bags – there are many patterns online. This got me thinking: we don’t make things anymore. We don’t even fix things. Many of us rarely cook.
I remember watching my mother darn socks. I understand the theory of darning socks, but I’ve never actually done it. Have you? Has anyone you know under the age of 50 ever darned a sock? When my socks get a hole, I throw them into the rag bag, from whence they often end up in the trash. A lucky sock might go to a rag dealer via a charity bin and thence to an industrial rag maker – a recycling of sorts, if a somewhat ignoble one.
My mother and my grandmothers all knitted and crocheted and sewed, not because it was trendy (as knitting has of late become) but out of necessity and a sense of purpose and thrift. My mother sewed her own wedding dress for crying out loud! My mother-in-law, a formidable knitter still, also dabbled in furniture making.
It’s not just women and “women’s work” of course. Those traditional men’s hobbies/responsibilities: building a table or birdhouse, tuning the car, installing a light switch have also fallen into memory. My husband is handy, as are my brother’s in law in their own ways, but many men don’t even own a hammer these days. How can they live?
Then there are the foods we no longer make – preserves, jams, jellies, pickles – my mom made all of these back in the day (so did my dad believe it or not). Cookies and cakes now come from Safeway, or maybe from a mix. Juice comes from a can, candy from a machine. Dinner, for many, is prepared with a telephone.
So thus, this blog. I’m going to challenge myself and my friends and readers to make stuff – hand made stuff – on a regular basis. I’m going to try to make one thing a week. I’m also challenging myself and others to make things we would normally buy – food included – hence a few minutes ago, I made myself an iced coffee. So it begins.