Last year I wrote a post called Art Is Important. Of course, I believe that craft is important too, but I've suddenly realised that I'd lost sight of that in the last couple of years. I'd forgotten how important craft is in my life, and in society. I'd convinced myself that it doesn't matter if I use a five-dollar blanket from the supermarket instead of one I crocheted myself. That it's okay to settle for plastic coathangers in my wardrobe instead of ones with colourful knitted covers. That my clothes are so cheap and unloved, there's no point in embroidering them. I let impulse-bought junk pile up on my sewing table until it was unusable. I'd found myself saying things to my friends like, "oh, I'm too impatient to finish anything anymore." And I'd succumbed to the voices in my head that told me I can never make anything as nice as the things I see on the internet, so why bother even trying?
I tried to snap out of it with different plans and systems, creating elaborate spreadsheets with colour-coded sections and spending hours checking and tweaking them. I tried re-organising my projects to make it easier to access them. Nothing quite seemed to work. It would take more than a spreadsheet or fancy storage basket to change my mindset.
Slowly, a combination of influences has built up to create a change, though. Throughout this year I've been reading about fabric dyeing and embroidery on Rhiannon's blog, as well as many more talented crafters. I've had reason to go through my old blog posts from 10-12 years ago recently, and found myself thinking, "wow, I used to make so many good things!" Mentioning to my friend last week that "I don't finish anything anymore" was more than a little saddening, when I reflected on it. The "final straw" came a few days ago when I read a blog post by Bjørn Bull-Hansen: Your Viking Hands. He writes about the importance of knowing how to do and make things with your hands.
I daydream about leading a traditional lifestyle and enjoy reading about people who embody them. Bjørn's post is about Viking crafts, but it got me thinking about traditional crafts in general. I have a bit of a survivalist streak in me (more so recently), and I often think about things like permaculture, bartering, and local currencies. I realised that I haven't learned many of the traditional crafts that were vital to societies in the past, such as spinning, weaving and woodworking. I'm very glad I know how to knit, but I'd also like to learn crafts such as nalbinding, repairing clothes and bushcraft. I haven't even gotten around to learning how to light a fire yet! (Sure, I've been Bear Grylls do it on TV, but watching is very different to doing.)
Now I'm looking through the List of Handicrafts on Wikipedia for more inspiration. I did a ceramics class many years ago, and it would be nice to do some more, if I can get access to the equipment. I learned felting when I was a kid and the process is easy enough to remember, so I've got that covered. Basketmaking, bookbinding, tablet weaving and lucet cording look very interesting. Then there's the whole world of Japanese Crafts.
(I'm sticking to practical crafts in my thinking right now, not decorative ones.)
I got so excited that yesterday I ordered a drop spindle from Etsy. It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but if I don't do and learn things now, then when will I ever do them? In a world where it's so easy to spend a few dollars on something made thousands of kilometres away in near-slavery conditions, I believe we need to stand up and say, no, there's a better way. I want to be useful to society, not just for my ability to sit in a chair all day and check 10,000 lines on a spreadsheet, but for making practical things with my hands that will improve the lives of those around me.