31 October 2018

The enormous satisfaction of making stuff

At this start of this month, I made a small pot plant cover. It was for Anna's friend, and while we loved the plant we'd bought her, we didn't like the pot colour so much.

The plant is a zebra plant.


So, inspired by a knitted pot cover I'd seen on Etsy, I gave it a crack, although I hadn't done any knitting for thirty years. After the first ninety minutes, I unraveled everything I'd done and started again. An hour later I'd finished.

The wool was old balls I had stashed away.
The finished product

Sounds painful, doesn't it? In fact it was BLISSFUL. I loved the challenge and the creativity and the dredging up of long-forgotten skills and memories. I remembered how my mother knit fast and how she held her needles, and how I'd always wanted to hold the needles like that but couldn't do it. So I mimicked her in my memory - and lo and behold, I can now hold my needles like that, too!

I was absorbed in what I was doing and energised by it.

I was channeling my inner Laura Ingalls.


I sew, too - mostly to mend or make children's dance costumes, and I'm very basic about it - my old machine can't even do a zigzag stitch, but it marches forward or backward very powerfully. I'm always thrilled at my achievement. I have saved many garments from the dump and saved a lot of money on having to buy new things.

The old girl keeps going - my mother bought this second hand from a church fair about forty years ago.

A pair of school uniform shorts that no longer has a hole in the pocket.

What have we lost?

It was so recently in human history that a family had the capacity to make most things they needed. People were resourceful and skilled. My knitting experience made me think that all that work wasn't just drudgery - I think that deep energy and pride I felt was what they must have felt, too, at least sometimes.

I was stunned in June this year by the craftsmanship on display at the Pitts Rivers Museum in Oxford. Sidenote: if you are interested in ethnolographic treasures, go there. Definitely go there.

The Inuit clothing captivated me the most - possibly because my cold tolerance is so pathetic. They made needles from bone. They sewed this gorgeous, life-protecting clothing with the tiniest stitches.  Such skill! The bottom photo is of a parka cape made from seal intestines. It is exquisite.

A cosy outfit on display at the Pitts Rivers Museum.

A waterproof cape made of seal intestine, Pitts Rivers Museum.

It's sad, then, that we now spend our evenings in front of a screen instead of creating with our hands and minds. The skills will be lost in a few generations. Not long ago every girl learnt how to sew and knit when she was small - those years when the brain picks things up so very easily. Now I know mothers who cannot sew on a button.

It's sexist, isn't it? Girls learned to sew, boys learned to build stuff. I would LOVE to know how to build things and may yet do a woodworking course. But the old process was efficient - each gender concentrated on one set of skills.

I should point out that my husband can sew and knit (not that he does). He told me how to cast off the knitting when I was finished because I'd forgotten that bit. I ignored him and made a hash of it. Next time around I watched a YouTube video - and he was right.

In my further defense, the top photo of this blog shows the plant in a hexagonal shelf beautifully made by my daughter at school and now on her bedroom wall. I should do a woodworking class with her, because that girl is full of ideas of things she wants to make.


The wonderful thing is that we have it all: we have all the information we need to make anything on YouTube! Let's use it!

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