spinning · yarn

sharing our making is so important because …

There was an interesting idea that I encountered floating around at work and home that I thought really captured the reasons why we do what we do in the our slow making. Some of this came from listening to Libby’s recent episode and then falling down another YouTube rabbit hole* into the world of professional creativity, but it really got me to thinking about slow cloth, slow making, slow thinking.

*This has been a bit of a habit lately and I’ll tell you all about it later this month!

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Why are we captivated by this idea of ‘slow’ and moving more slowly? What about it is interesting to us? My recent pair of handspun socks cost me $20CAD and I spent about 4 hours spinning the fibre into the yarn to knit the socks. To knit them start to finish, including the time to photograph them for my ongoing project journaling (ie. the blog), with you, I can estimate my time to be about 10 hours of work. If I value my time at minimum hourly wage, which is a whole other conversation for another time, then I earned $10.45CAD per hour. This is minimum wage in British Columbia as of 2016, right now. With some basic math, the socks are valued at $166.30CAD. Let’s say that I wanted to make a 20% profit* to make what I’m creating viable. This would pay for more fibre to spin more yarn to make more socks to sell more items. I would then list them for $199.56CAD.

*This was chosen completely randomly with no idea what people usually set as profit but it was a nice round number!

Did you see what happened there in that paragraph of thought? I immediately valued my items (socks, in this case) by giving them a dollar value. The dollar value in and of itself doesn’t matter at all but it’s how we value our work: By money. How many times have we each been asked Do you sell your stuff? You should.

Why? Why should I sell my stuff? So that I can attach a meaning to the items I make? Maybe. Is that the best way for me to gain value from what I do? Maybe. It certainly is for some and for some, it is simply how they value their work and they need to earn an income. That has value into and of itself, absolutely! But it doesn’t answer the Why? question for me. Money and dollar value isn’t enough to keep me coming back to my spinning wheel over and over and over again. So my socks are actually worth $199CAD … that’s kind of cool. It’s an interesting thing to know. I kind of like that, knowing they are quite expensive to produce and I get to jam them into my boots everyday, revelling in warm, cosy socks. That’s kind of fun. But … it still leaves me wanting a bit more …

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When I think about and chat with others about ‘slow making’ and this idea of making for the sake of making, I am always reminded of this idea that there is meaning in that act of making. I have recently been catching up with Missing Spindle and some other resources that talk about cloth making in Medieval times. People spun for necessity. They absolutely had to if they wanted warm clothing or any clothing at all for that matter. Everybody spun in some way, shape or form. I do not want to go back and live in that time period to be able to experience that. I am not wishing for a world that will never be again. Personally, I love the modern spinning wheels, the technology that is used to make them and the fact that I don’t have to spin if I simply don’t want to. The kids will not freeze next winter if I don’t produce enough yarn to weave into warm wraps for them this summer. I don’t have to worry about spinning and knitting enough yarn for socks for my husband so that his feet don’t rot in his leather shoes as he walks miles everyday to find food, shelter and some work to bring in a little money to pay the Baron next month. And I definitely don’t want to talk about what it must have been like to be a woman in those times.

The meaning, for me, comes from the valuing of that work that was done for so many thousands of years. The men and women (and children) who worked to cloth themselves, survive and continue on, generation after generation. They created and invented as they went, improving upon and changing the models of spindles and looms they were using. They continued to push forward the idea (consciously or unconsciously) that there was a more efficient way to do things that would free them up, eventually, to spend hours as we do now on social media, texting, having coffee with friends and generating ideas, talking about culture and religion, and pushing our creative minds to invent and use technologies we are encountering now to do more for us in the future. We are inspired by one another. We comment, critique, ask questions and learn from one another through these outlets. There are not-so-good things about these outlets as well but the point is, we can use them for our betterment. Making slowly, sharing with one another and creating intentionally is the meaning. That’s the whole point because as we become more and more able to free our time up from productivity-driven time hoarders, we can keep creating, sharing, educating and inspiring one another. And it’ll change the world.

10 thoughts on “sharing our making is so important because …

  1. I entirely agree with you. I spin and knit because I enjoy it, I used to knit because it was the only affordable way I could keep my kids warm back in the 70’s I love the slow way of doing things like hand baking bread and the achievement of making something from start to finish gives me such a great feeling. IT KEEPS ME SANE in a world that lives continuously in the fast lane

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    1. Meriel, you hit the nail on the head for me about the fast lane versus the slow. While I exist most of the time in the slow lane, being at home and raising the kids, making, and cooking, as soon as I leave the house the world descends. We are consumed with consuming and of course, the busy-ness. I like that our life has room in it, that not every moment is scheduled. It’s enjoyable that way.

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  2. I too would not want to return to a world where the skills I have would be necessary just to survive. At the same time I have a great deal of respect for those who did/do make their living and provide for their families with the skills of their hands. Not that long ago knitters in Shetland worked with wool constantly in order to sell their knitted goods and supplement their household economy. It was not a pleasure or a luxury for them but a daily necessity. When I see the stunning work that they did I have a deep appreciation for their time and effort. I also appreciate how privileged I am with all this free time to play and learn. Because I have knitted lace I know what skill and time go into such things so I can feel in a very physical way how much work they truly did. I think that is one of the ways that I feel connected to those makers even though they lived and died long before I was born. When I read about making every scrap of clothing and sailcloth and fabric by hand in ancient civilizations it is not an abstract concept to me. I can easily imagine how much time and human labour would have been required. I understand why Proverbs 31 praises the woman who works hard with wool and flax, spindle and distaff, so she can cloth all her household and not be afraid of the winter. My own study of spinning and fibre craft makes the past a little more real to me. I’ve recently been reading about the Indian independence movement and Ghandi’s philosophy around making their own cloth (khadi). It is fascinating stuff and having done it I understand those people more.

    In addition to people’s basic need to make things to survive, I am also fascinated by their desire to decorate, embellish and make them beautiful as well as practical. In spite of the struggle to survive humans take time to make their items lovely with embroidery, painting, lace, bright colour etc. Why do we have this deep desire to see and work with beautiful things? Making things by hand makes me feel more human I guess.

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    1. As always, Becca, I appreciate your thoughtful response! You’re right that the labour it took to make things is not as abstract to us as it is to others who do not spin and weave. I often feel as if I’m in on some secret that those who buy fast fashion with no thought to where it comes from aren’t aware of, regardless of whether that sounds “snobby” or not 😃

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  3. Lots of food for thought here Rachel. I am often told to sell the things I make, but when you add in the value of your time – it becomes an improbable undertaking. I knit and spin because I love to do these tasks. I often wonder how a knitwear designer can make a living today – people want to pay nothing for the volume of time and creativity that goes into a project. I am unbelievably grateful for their efforts, and would not complain if the prices were higher.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you. I would pay more for the patterns out there, especially if they are tech edited. I think the designers have to balance what people will spend one a whim versus the value of their time.

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  4. Wow this is such a great post. I recently complained to my husband about coworkers who make comments such as ‘this would be a great teacher appreciation gift… You could make this pair of socks for teachers and speech therapists’ I was appalled that she said this as if I just ‘wip up’ a pair of socks in no time! I am a slow knitter so it typically takes me a month or more just to knit myself a pair of socks. This post makes me realize I am not a bad person for not making and selling my items, but that my response is normal to other crafters. I am completely driven to make by an inner desire to create and money has no value to me when I am carding, spinning, plying, or knitting. It’s solely about the creation and the peace and joy that brings me. However, I am glad to know how much I can monetarily value my handspun, handknit socks at now though!

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  5. I believe anonymous above has touched on something there. I no longer value the finished article in money it’s just not enough. I look at the things I have made and often only see the hours of fun I had in playing with the fibre and the yarn and then I give them away knowing that they may, or may not be appreciated but that I have already reaped the reward in enjoyment. You cannot make people understand and unless they are crafters themselves, a pair of socks (a pack of socks) can be bought for pennies and has no more value than that. The value to me is a secret between me and my feet, like the article says. But I do feel sometimes like I am undervalued in the same way as my handmade socks would be if I priced them fairly and tried to sell them. Did mediaeval women feel undervalued? Perhaps the importance of their work and the great skill required to clothe a family from scratch gave them more standing?

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  6. I recently got a message from an old friend, showing a photo of something I had made for them more than 25 years ago, still in use. Although we’re not as close anymore, knowing that the handmade thing is still going strong for that friend satisfied me deeply.

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