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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Crafts/Women's Work

My current default channel on my cable system is WLIW's "Create". WLIW is a Long Island public television station, so the line up are various public tv series - cooking, gardening and crafts,plus some travel.


Crafts are...a strange thing for me. I see the appeal of making cute or useful objects (and the emphasis does seem to be on CUTE) and certainly on using one's hands to create things. But, I don't know.

Take the hobby called "scrapbooking". These are, from what I can see, collections of collages - they use a variety of materials and techniques to create a page centered around a photograph - but you have to use "archival" materials. They *must* be acid free. So you can't just, I don't know, cut letters or pictures out of magazines or other found materials. You have to buy them. In kits. And use as many as you think will fit on the page - I haven't yet seen someone show how lovely a simple page can be. But that won't sell kits, and so the sponsors of the shows won't get more money.

So they say that one doesn't need to be an artist to use these materials, so *even* *you* can create these very busy pieces, whether it's painted glass or embellished cardboard office supplies.

And that's, I think, the crux of my biggest problem. There are two textile shows - one about sewing in general and one about quilting. And both emphasize tools and sewing machine techniques - these are not projects to be done in the tv room so your hands are busy, or to keep from boredom on a plane trip. These are programs so your machine can embroider for you, or long-arm quilters that let you applique in fun ways, and the more you add, the more you add.

Because it's how fast you make the quilt or the poncho, or the embroidered pillow (cook dinner while your panel is being embroidered!) Or,really, it's how many sergers and quiliting machines the shows can sell.

And there are people who prefer this,and who produce lovely quilted works of art. But they don't show any alternatives - I've seen many a woman at conventions hand piece quilt blocks, or stitch away at hoops and they don't show that. Because that won't sell machines.

And they don't show any other textile crafts. No one knits or crochets, no one weaves (hey, *that's* a machine) or spins (they do still sell spinning wheels) and while they talk about "free movement" embroidery, no one does it. There's nothing to get your hands on. And I think it's for several reasons - one is that knitting needles and crochet hooks are not quite the money makers that a serger is. And once you have a serger, you need to use it or it's a very expensive dust collector. Another is that knitting, by its nature, is simple - but hard to show on television. It's also slow. There are knitting machines, of course, and people enjoy them. They're great if you're impatient or want output or don't take pleasure in the act of knitting.

I've been taking pleasure in the act of knitting - of taking string and two sticks joined by a plastic wire and making something appear. It's magic in its way - it's also engineering and design. It's the feel of the wool on my fingers and the weight of my growing scarf (and twisting and untwisting it as I knit.) There's also the weight of family - my mother knits, her mother and grandmother knitted. There's the weight of history, too - women have been knitting forever. So have men, but it's traditionally a woman's job. It used to be taught in schools or be part of a girl's daily chores. How else was she to keep herself and her family in stockings?

And while I wouldn't mind being finished,I'm in no hurry. The process is cool by itself.



Along these lines, I'm rereading Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

What has women's work been throughout most of history? Child rearing, and the work that can be done around and while watching small children. It needs to be safe, and easily left off and returned to, and boring enough that the mother can pay attention to the babies. That's textiles (except possibly dyeing), horticulture, cooking and shopkeeping.

And the most time consuming part of textiles is spinning, but sitting with a drop spindle, or walking, or riding is pleasant, and restful. It's like knitting is today - you're watching tv or attending a panel at an sf con, or just talking with friends, but you're also *making* something. And you don't even need much light, so you can sit by the hearth on a long, long winter's night and spin, and you *have* to spin because it takes a long time to produce enough thread to weave. Or you can bring it into the cool courtyard or on the roof when the house gets too stifling during Middle Eastern summers.

And everyone spun - servants, housewives, merchant princesses, noble ladies, queens and high priestesses. Even goddesses - she has a picture of the Venus de Milo, with arms on, and those arms are holding a distaff and spindle and it looks perfectly natural. Maybe the higher ranking women spun better fibers and wove tapestries, not garments, but they still worked.

I would not want to be responsible for every step of making my own or my husband's clothing. But being able to take fluff and make something out of it - that's something I can do. And it's something of real need and value, and I'd rather learn to use a drop spindle than a long-arm quiliting machine. YMMV.

Comments

Well, quilting *used* to be a practical craft, as you took the good parts of worn out clothing and the scraps from sewing to make your quilt -- but 'art quilts' are an entirely different beast.

I also think that quilting and sewing are different from knitting and crocheting in substantial ways -- my mom and sister quilt and sew, but neither has picked up knitting or crochet. Otoh, they are both lefties, and insist they can't learn how because of that.

"Women's Work" is fascinating, but it's a while since I read it. Does she mention that most of the women mentioned in the saga are royalty and get called things like 'peaceweaver'?

Wait, which sagas are we talking about? The vast majority of the women in the family sagas are housewives and farm laborers, and they're called by their names.

Maybe the eddas, then? You know I get them mixed up.

How? They're nothing alike.

They're poetry in a language I'm never going to speak, set in countries that are too cold for me to visit. You have the training to distinguish between them, I don't.

No, the poetic Edda is poetry. The sagas are prose.

Also, the Eddas are about gods and heroes, the sagas are about mortals; the Eddas are continental, the sagas are set in Iceland; the Eddas are myth, the sagas are recent history; the Eddas are cryptic, the sagas are plain; the Eddas are pre-literate, the sagas were a literature of the written word from their beginning; and the Eddas were so neglected by the commonwealth era that Snorri had to rewrite and annotate them in prose to preserve them, while the sagas were contemporary and popular. All they have in common is the language. It's like saying you can't tell the difference between Don Quixote and "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" because they're both in Spanish.

I'm rather confused. She doesn't talk about any specific saga. Her sources *are* legends, and myths, but also mosaics, numerical accounts and even primary sources like letters, and she talks about all sorts of cultures, although she does focus on continental Europe and the Middle East.

My mother, a leftie, knits and crochets perfectly on gauge. She couldn't teach me. I think it's because, for some reason, my small motor control came fairly late *and* because I need to figure these things out myself, but handedness might have played a factor.

She used to sew, but I don't know how much pleasure she got from it.

I sew, when I have time--I don't know how much pleasure I get out of it but I get pleasure from the results. I am too ADD to knit, crochet, spin or embroider without going spare.

The reason one uses archival materials for scrapbooking is that non-archival materials deteriorate RAPIDLY. I don't scrapbook now, but I did in my 20s. I did not however know from archival materials at the time, and the state of my scrapbooks is sad. Magazine and newspaper clippings deteriorate particularly fast, which is unfortunate because I was in the papers a lot in my teens and twenties; I lived in small enough towns that the doings of fandom were interesting enough to make the papers from time to time.

Nod. Those are what I would call scrapbooks - saving articles and odd pieces of souvenirs.

The fancy photograph albums are something else. Also, I think the resulting pages are unattractive - five different fonts, and everything canned.

Although I do want a tearing ruler. I'm not sure why.

I do understand the need for archival materials in and of itself, but it does make it convenient for the people selling the materials.

Ah, but one doesn't need to buy everything premade. You can buy archival paper and tools which you reuse. Then create from there. I do some scrapbooking, but I don't buy pre-cut letters or frames or that.

I'm pretty sure that's how it works in real life - just because it has to be more fun. I just wish these craftshows emphasized that, not just more product to buy so you don't have to be creative.

Also - I've made needlepoint kits and counted cross stitch kits, and they're fun, and they're canned, but I've also designed my own, and they weren't as pretty but I enjoyed them more.

I've hardly done embroidary kits. I don't seem to finish them if I do. But give me the stuff and a drawing to transfer and bingo!

I still have the firebird I did on one demin jacket. It's been on 3 or 4 by now. I simply cut it off the original jacket when the jacket wore out. The bird was fine and now is a patch waiting to be put on the next jacket.

And I still have a tshirt I put a little dinosaur from a drawing from a science fiction story. Came out really neat and the shirt is still in good shape. But I looong since grown out of it.

What a great discourse!

I personally don't see much appeal in scrapbooking, especially the modern craze where you buy everything pre-made. Machine-made quilts, too - I would have enjoyed being part of an old-time quilting bee, I think.

I crochet and cross-stitch, and for me the process is much more enjoyable than the result. I just finished a year-long project, and what did I do? Immediately started another :-) I do it while watching television, because it keeps me from eating, and lately I've been doing some at work, during breaks, because I find it very stress relieving. Not to mention that hand-made crafts make fantastic presents. But what makes it worthwhile is the time and effort put into the making of it; a machine that would crochet a baby blanket for me while I cooked supper? I might as well just buy the blanket; it's just as impersonal.

That's other thing - the *time*. I have no problem that I'm going to finish my Ravenclaw scarf sometime in June (if I'm lucky) even though I started it in February. Because, yes, finishing will be good - both for that feeling of accomplishment and because then I can start something new, but the process? That's been good, too. I like sitting there with something in my hands while watching television. It's very calming, and knitting is very tactile, which is even more calming. I concentrate better, too.

I want to try socks next. :)

I can't knit to save my life, but I've gotten quite good at crocheting baby blankets - seven friends/colleagues having babies in the past three years helps :-)

What I meant to say, as well - if the whole thing is to *finish* something, then, well, you're going to have a house full of finished things you have to display or give away - and while I get the impression that for a lot of people, more is more when it comes to decoration, there are limits - and to have a machine do it is cold.

I can see wanting embroidered panels in an emergency project. I can. But I'd buy them if I could, or use a pretty print or something.

Things I'd embroidered myself would not be as pretty or neat (I do nothing neatly), and there would be a distinct lack of french knots because I just can't do them, but. They'd be mine.

I've been taking pleasure in the act of knitting - of taking string and two sticks joined by a plastic wire and making something appear. It's magic in its way - it's also engineering and design. It's the feel of the wool on my fingers and the weight of my growing scarf (and twisting and untwisting it as I knit.)

First off, I agree. There's something wonderful about just sitting and knitting something. It's almost meditative for me. Although my personal preference is blankets. I knit too fast for scarves to take long, but a corner to corner blanket gives me a long term project that I can then give to someone and have them enjoy and use it.

But also, this reminds me of something Tamora Pierce said. She's a YA fantasy writer, and she's got an entire series devoted to craft mages, who do magic in the everyday works like weaving and metalworking, and she credits the idea to watching her mother and sisters knit and sew.

I haven't reached that point - it must be a marvelous feeling to have someone use what you've made (especially something like a blanket.)

I've read some Tamora Pierce (the "Protector of the Small" and the Alanna series), but not that one.

I like that idea. Because, you know. It is.

My mother has been a handspinner for the better part of two decades. Up until a couple of years ago she raised llamas, sheared them, washed and carded and dyed the wool, spun it, and knitted it. Nowadays she knits other peoples' llama wool. *G* Spinning seemed, just from my observations, to be a very soothing sort of activity.

I have friends *waves to otherdeb* who use drop spindles.

I watch them and think that, yeah, it has to be lovely to do. And then you make thread.

Actually, it's why I wanted to learn to knit. Because. Gotta do something with that thread, right? And we just don't have the space for a loom.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

Oh, yes. And frugal, too.

:)

Not to say that the quilts on those shows aren't beautiful and works of art - often, truly works of art.

Oh, but those are the most beautiful!

There was a group of quilts in a show at the Museum of American Folk Art a while back that was from a group of American American women, all from one town (dis-remember where, it's been awhile). Some where ones their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc had done and some where newer. None were traditional patterns. All just random and made with what cloth was available.

The quilts were works of art!