Sunday, May 19, 2013

"What can we do?": Crafting a Home (Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 5)

Sometimes Edith Schaeffer's favourite phrases make me a little crazy.

"It is possible," she keeps saying in Chapter 5 of The Hidden Art of Homemaking.  It is possible to learn to weave your own cloth.  It is possible to make your own pottery.  It is possible to blow your own glass, and all the rest of the things she lists.  And then she jumps off into the topic of play houses for children.

She does clarify this, at one point, and says that she's not suggesting that everybody do everything on her list.  Which is a good thing.
For one thing, serious crafting is expensive.  Making candles or macrame plant holders, not so much; and recycling fabric to make braided rugs can be an inexpensive hobby, according to the Tightwad Gazette; but even good-quality knitting and crochet yarn, and the related hooks and needles, aren't cheap.  (I like to crochet but it's mostly with thrifted and discount-store yarn.) And I don't have any old woollen clothing to cut up for quilts and rugs.  One wool coat, that's all, and I'm still wearing it. (Although I do know one lady who turns squares of old polyester and Crimplene into amazingly nice comforters for MCC.)  Woodworking tools, a sewing machine, painting gear all take money and storage space.
Also, you get better at any craft as you learn to do it, but it takes time to learn to handle big projects.  Treehouse readers may have noticed that in the last couple of years I have said fewer bad words about the "evil sewing machine."  However...there are people out there who are even less confident about making stuff than I am.  I hear it all the time:  "I'm not crafty, not even one little bit."  "I couldn't do that."  "Who has time?"  Sometimes, like me, "Who has money?"  And whose fault is that?  Could it possibly be craft gurus in the magazines and on TV who have turned Making Stuff into something that needs an advanced degree, a special studio, a whatsit machine from Michael's before we can even think of starting?  Even Edith may inadvertently scare us away when she starts talking about pottery wheels and glass blowing.

But look at her bigger picture.  Even look ahead to the gardening chapter, where she's talking about growing morning glories in a rooftop garden, during the Depression.  A packet of flower seeds and an old tub didn't set the Schaeffers back much; but it was more than most people would have thought of doing.  Remember that list of nouns?  Imagination, beauty, connection with the natural world and so on.  Rather than wilting with intimidation before those with better tools, bigger budgets, or longer-honed skills, look at the small places you could start.  I personally can't keep houseplants alive, but you might find joy in a pot of African violets or basil or cactus.  (I have a lovely pot of artificial flowers (see photo) that I bought on clearance at Michael's, and both its cheerful colours and the fact that I don't have to water it make me very happy.  Also, Dollygirl made a very realistic vaseful of tissue-paper flowers from the directions in a Klutz book.)
Remember my post last year about the online book Mary at the Farm?  Mary gets a lesson in "you could turn these old faded clothes into something beautiful" from her Aunt Sarah.  (I've never figured out why she hauled a trunk of unwearables along on a summer visit, but whatever.)  She's getting married and wants to make her house beautiful; Aunt Sarah points out the possibilities for recycling skirts and dresses into comforters and "collar bags." 
"Mary, sometimes small beginnings make great endings; if you make the best of your small belongings, some day your homely surroundings will be metamorphosed into what, in your present circumstances, would seem like extravagant luxuries. An economical young couple, beginning life with a homely, home-made rag carpet, have achieved in middle age, by their own energy and industry, carpets of tapestry and rich velvet, and costly furniture in keeping; but, never—never, dear, are they so valued, I assure you, as those inexpensive articles, conceived by our inventive brain and manufactured by our own deft fingers during our happy Springtime of life..." ~~ Mary at the Farm
As Edith points out in other parts of the book, she just wants people to have spaces to live in that make them feel happy, safe, encouraged, connected; that turn dull and same into original and beautiful.  Beautiful can cost a lot, but it can also be cheap or free.  Beautiful can take huge talent and lots of time, or it can be a quick perk-up with some paint.  And since what's simple for me might not be for you (something I could run through my sewing machine vs. something you could nail together in your workshop), having that common goal gives us an extra opportunity to work together and maybe inspire each other.
All photos copyright Dewey's Treehouse.


Jeanne said...

Crimplene. That's a word I haven't heard in a while...

Mama Squirrel said...

Yeah, I was surprised there was even any still around. Too tough to kill...

Barbara H. said...

Good thoughts. I have a friend who does all kinds of things to her house that are intimidating to me, but cross stitch, which I thought was simple, drove her crazy. We each have our own gifts and preferences. That's one reason I love visiting people's homes - to get to know them better and see a bit more of their personality.

amy in peru said...

hahahahaha! this was the main hilarity of the chapter for me, if you've read my post, you know... leather scraps. of course the pottery and glass blowing are that much funnier! but, i agree, her point is to again, start somewhere making your place a reflection of you and somewhere where you and yours feel at home.

i like this post. ;)

Cindy said...

The beginning part of the chapter reminded me of an early married trip (circa 1980) we made to Gatlinburg where you could buy blown glass, fancy carved candles, leather pouches, and carved signs all of which would not stand the test of decorating time even though beautifully crafted. My own old cross stitch pieces which I labored over for hours and hours are not holding up too well.

I guess that sounds a bit cynical but styles change and Amy did remind us that this world is not our home. And every once in a while something really does stand the test of time.