What's Crafting?

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

-Paper Dolls-

When I was little, for a few of the early years, we did not have all of the technology we have today and yes, this was obviously in the stone age... Instead we relied on other things, tangible things if you will, like crafts to keep ourselves busy. Well, that and playing outside all the time. Not that you can’t hold a controller in your hand and feel satisfied getting a wicked game score, I’m just saying crafts and outdoor play are awesome too. 

Crafting would come into play even more when my cousins and I would visit our Grandparents because let’s be honest, when young kids go see the Grandparent’s it’s like going back in time for sure. The moms get the phone calls shortly after drop off with whimperings like “mom, they ate Grapefruit for breakfast. For like an hour. And Grandma got me cereal but I don’t like Fiber Bunch, it smells like wet leaves and Grandpa wants to go for a walk in the park later just for fun.”  

Despite the sense of being dropped off ‘into the past’ I have to say I learned a lot from my Grandparents and my Grandmother was truly a crafting genius. She made just about everything but above all her creativity and ability to think about a desired project in a practical way taught me the very basis of crafting, and let’s be honest, probably a whole lot on life as well. She seemed to look at everything from the perspective as though she could probably make it, she just had to think about how. That was surely the answer because once she thought about it a while, it seemed from my observation that her ‘general wondering of how to make something’ then seemed to cleverly develop into her visualization of the process, and then finally the act of making the item itself. 

And this played out in many ways, even in the little ways like making crafting supplies including glue. My cousins and I L-O-V-E-D glue. We loved it. We liked gluing glitter things, and paper things, nature things and macaroni and ribbons and bows and you name it, we glued our way there until one afternoon we ran out of glue (“someone totally hogged the glue and it wasn’t me” was passed around a few times in bossy little girl tones). It was at this point that Grandma proceeded to make her own glue. Why? Because getting a handful of young girls packed into the car all for the sake of getting a few bottles of glue before dinner was not going to happen. It was things like this, her sense of desire to make something as well as her need for it, that brought about the crafting genius.

In line with the title however and aside from my observation of the ease by which my Grandmother made everything, there was also a sense of something new when I would visit and I was more often than not surprised by her ability to captivate my interest. This was very much the case when she handed us paper doll books to play with one day. My disappointment must have been noticed because my cousin Holly said “Don’t worry. I played with these yesterday. They’re actually pretty fun” and she began to play with the paper dolls like a pro. As I watched her pop out the paper dolls, fold the edges and move them around the pages to find the girls with what she deemed ‘the perfect look,’ it slowly became clear to me that there might actually be something to these boring old paper doll books. Yes these books were a bit old fashioned with their little 1920’s girls in outdated outfits and hair styles, but never the less it was in playing with them that I began to realize this was actually a very good way of visualizing what I wanted. 

Looking back, I can’t help but see how influential those paper dolls were in that they helped provide an outlet for new designs and the opportunity to see different clothing styles before a sewing pattern is even pulled out of the envelope. They are not the ‘all,’ in the sense that one must always remember that a woman, curvy by nature, is not a paper doll nor should any one of us aspire to that, but by playing around with designs in a simple paper doll fashion we have an opportunity to view and thus create something new.  If one were to step into the past they would immediately see how our current worldview has been built up from the past. 

For some the best way to explain this might be in terms of building a computer game where the initial code is created and then duplicated over and over again in order to make the multiple trees and hills and valleys, or caves and caverns or monsters depending on the game you are playing. When the programmer wants a slightly different looking tree, the code used to create it is duplicated from an earlier source and altered in a certain way to make the new looking tree. As this is how a computer game is created (and just for the record I am simplifying the role quite a bit but hopefully you get the idea), the same application process seems to take place in our daily lives and it seems as though design is a unique element in that it brings about new, smarter living. 

Today my paper dolls are no longer little folded images popped out of a book but instead are combination of my sewing patterns and favorite designs pinned up on the board and even my sewing doll dressed in something new. It is not just those elements though but also very much an appreciation for the past as well as a desire to create more useful designs into the future that keeps me crafting. Last month for example I found myself pouring over old fashion designs from the 1920’s and though I must say it was never an era that really interested me from a fashion perspective, my appreciation as of late has most certainly blossomed.

I suppose the transformation on my part occurred when I realized that despite the popularity of the V-styled clothing designs and dropped waists (that do not look good on my body shape at all!), there was actually something really quite unique, empowering, and sexy about the styles. More to the point, the garments were in many cases designed and created by the very women who wore them and that makes me happy, primarily because I love, above all, the unique sense that each person demonstrates when it comes to what they like to wear and feel confident and happy and beautiful in. That is because it is never our sameness that makes us beautiful but our individuality.

The general population loves to love & hate the fashion industry (despite how challenging dressing a uniquely curvy female form may be) and even before the clothing industry grew into what it is today, there has always been a strong relationship between fashion and the tone of the era in which that fashion arises. With this being said, as we seem to be in an age in which we use disposable goods without much care so too is this reflected in our current fashions. 

As clothing design regularly changes we in turn should want to make it better. Just as we would not allow ourselves today to be held back by outfits from the 1900’s so too should we realize that on a shorter time scale and in relation to the very essence of our future, we need to find a happy medium between the handmade and industrial aspects of creating clothing in order to bring about long lasting progress.

Just because we have grown to the point where it may not be entirely efficient for us to make everything we need by hand, that does not mean that everything has to be produced by the industry either.  As long as we expect others to do everything for us, we can expect to lose our skills, instead giving in to a standard that in many ways doesn’t really fit anyone in particular but just sort of helps us get by in some make-shift manner. Times change, and just as many of us find some of those old concepts and views from the past are no longer valid today, we also have to remember that not everything from the past should be deemed obsolete either.

Instead, finding a balance where you begin to make a few of the items you need for yourself, support other local crafter's for the items you do not make yourself, and then from there be the best little conscious consumer you can be seems to make the most sense to me. The need for this type of change is necessary both economically, environmentally and even mentally. With that in mind I think all we really need to do at this point is assume that we really probably can make a positive change, we just need think about how.

I think we can do it.
-Lindsay ;)

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