Are we seeing the renaissance of crafting?
In the bottom of my wardrobe there is an old, round tin about the size of a hatbox. It belonged to my Mother. Inside are spools of brightly coloured silk embroidery thread, high quality European cottons, fine yet strong needles for hand sewing, and a few thimbles. While my Mum, like so many Mums, taught me to knit (unsuccessfully) and crochet (with a little more success), embroidery was our ‘thing’. Gypsy style flower patterns covered our tablecloths, our dresses and blouses and the Hungarian/Serbian costumes I wore to church. When we ran out of silk thread, we took a long drive to the only specialist haberdashery store in the city (Brisbane) that sold such rare items.
Embroidery seems such an ‘old’ craft to me. Yet, so does knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, quilting and macrame. Crafts involved mysterious materials Nanna would whip out on a rainy day. Activities to fill the time when time seemed to be in abundance. But when I talk to and meet up with friends, check social media or look around while shopping - Mums like me (and many Dads) all seem to be doing it!
Crafting. Creating. From scrapbooking to homemade jewellery – everyone seems to be making something and loving it!
So, is art of craft making a comeback? Did it ever really leave? Was it in hibernation for a while?
COVID-19 lock downs in their various forms and lengths across the country, and around the world, saw people scramble for ways to fill in the time, and millions of people took up new hobbies - I think that is why they are also called ‘pastimes’! Because, well, there was just so much time to fill!
The opportunity, albeit forced, to just slow down and take some time, actually gave many of us the time to think, to create, to breathe. To re-acquaint us with our fine motor skills and the ability to focus our mind through old skills remembered or new ones attained.
Watching my own teenage daughter take to the garden with art book, pencils and paints in hand to just draw and paint what she could see, gave me goosebumps. Online learning and zoom meetings had her wanting less screen time, not more (one upside of lock-down).
But crafting is more than just a way to pass time. Some crafts are centuries old and combine form and function – consider basket weaving, pottery, tapestry. Every nation has crafts and arts that are unique to them. They can differ from region to region, village to village, family to family. Embroidery steeped in tradition. Identifying like cultural postage stamps.
Craft knows no barrier. There is no age limit nor gender bias. You can do it in solitude or in the company of others. In Amish communities the women and girls of all ages meet regularly to make a glorious quilt of many handsewn squares of gaily coloured fabric to gift to a newlywed couple. All the while sharing stories, problems, solutions, lessons, knowledge, support, love, and life.
Maybe that is how the term “the fabric of society” came about? I like to think so. When I next open that special tin and teach my daughter to embroider tiny red flowers and green garlands, I would like to think that my Mother, and her Mother and all the women from that Serbian village are watching. As we create something beautiful, unique and timeless. Together.
Written with love by our very dear friend Dianne Reilly.
Dianne is a freelance writer and part-time crafter.