Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Motherhood and more: Making things by hand provides sense of pride*

I like to make things. I’ve always liked to make things. If it’s something I think I can do myself, well, then at least I’m going to attempt it.

I started young and I’ve tried just about every handwork-type craft there is. I used to sew my own Barbie clothes – mainly evening gowns of course – from leftover material scraps of whatever
my mom happened to be sewing at the time. Cross-stitching came later, toward middle school. And then jewelry making in high school because that’s when all the macramé-hemp jewelry was in style.

Around that same time, I made my mom teach me to knit, though it wasn’t easy because she was a lefty and I’m a righty. We worked more on sewing a few years later, though I still haven’t mastered sewing on a button. Knitting and sewing are probably my all-time favorite crafts, but I’ve also crocheted, gardened and, recently, tried my hand at Papier-mâché piñata-making.

And cooking. Let’s not forget cooking and baking.

My kids haven’t necessarily followed in my footsteps, yet. But I think it will come. They have an appreciation for the fact that I can make things for them. Or maybe they take it for granted that I can.

My son wanted a Minecraft Creeper stuffed animal and instead of asking me to buy it, he asked me to knit him one. So I found a pattern and knit one. And I have to admit it’s a pretty awesome Creeper. Even though I’m not exactly sure what a Creeper is. Or Minecraft, for that matter.

But my point is I like knowing how to do things. I like knowing where my food comes from, I like making my own yogurt, I like knitting my own sweaters and hats and sewing my own dresses. There’s a bit of pride with it, you know?

The problem with knowing how to make things, however, is that lots of times I will look at something in the store and say, “I can make that,” which is a direct quote from my mother. I probably won’t make whatever it is, but the fact remains that I could.

My parents gave my sister and me a pretty self-sufficient childhood. We didn’t buy vegetables in the store that often, especially not store-canned. We grew our own. We canned our own. As such, summer, to me, smells like tomatoes canning on the stove.

My mom sewed and taught me. She made pretty much all of our Halloween costumes, a tradition I’m attempting to carry on with my own kids. She also taught me how to knit and macramé, and that a handmade gift is always, always better than a store-bought one.

Cooking and growing things was a given. We were not packaged-meal people, and to this day canned spaghetti tastes disgusting to me. As does canned soup.

I hope I don’t sound superior, that’s not my goal. I just feel like, for me, making things myself causes a sense of pride that doesn’t come with buying something in the store. Plus, once you find out how easy making certain things actually is, it’s hard to spend the money on a skirt you know you could easily sew yourself.

Making something by hand, whether it is a necklace or mittens or a cake, creates a link to a time when everything wasn’t readily available, when everything wasn’t disposable. And I like that idea. I like working for something. Obviously, everything in my life wasn’t made by hand.

I’m all for clearance T-shirts for the kids and the little heathens love the plastic toys. But I try to input as much homemade as I can into their daily lives to show appreciation for the skill it takes to create something by hand. And to show that effort and taking time to work for something is important.

And I guess it’s working, a bit. The Creeper says so.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on July 23, 2014.

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