Series: The Anthropology of Sewing; Part I: The Craft Gap
During my interview with Fox-5’s Good Day Atlanta, I mentioned The Craft Gap. It’s my theory of why crafting–and sewing specifically–seems to suddenly be everywhere all the time: blogs, the news, street fairs, online shops, all over.
Sewing has always been around. In my former life as an archaeologist, I spent plenty of time looking at the physical evidence–material culture, we called it–of the lives women lived in the the past. This has always included sewing implements: needles, awls, hooks, pins. So the perception that sewing is new is false. But it feels so new, so NOW–why is that? And what has caused sewing and craft to suddenly become the hip thing to do?
My hypothesis is that we’re witness to the crest of a generation who didn’t have crafting and sewing as a central part of their experience. I call it the Craft Gap. Born anywhere from, say, 1965 to 1990 or so, we didn’t have sewing presented to us as a viable, valuable outlet for creativity. Now, I’m not saying NO ONE born in those years ever learned to sew–obviously that’s not the case, or I wouldn’t be sewing today. I am saying, though, that there was a distinctly different attitude toward sewing after 1965ish than there had been in the past. 4-H programs were fewer in number, Home Ec classes were disappearing all over, and fewer moms and grandmothers were passing on their skills, either because they were less involved in sewing themselves, or because we were less interested in picking up a craft that was increasingly viewed as dowdy and out-of-touch.
What this has left us with is a whole generation–mostly of women, but certainly of men, too–who don’t have the background and the years of experience that our predecessors did. And there seems to be some part of us that misses it.
These days, as I teach sewing classes, I see student after student come through and repeat these same ideas to me: I always wanted to learn but never knew where to go; my mom/grandmother/aunt wanted to teach me and I wasn’t interested; I took home ec, but haven’t done it in so long that I feel like I don’t remember anything. And all of us–me included–have this sense that there is a richness lacking from our day-to-day lives as a result, that having this creative outlet and challenge and inspiration and accomplishment would make us feel more satisfied and connected and a part of something lasting and bigger.
I’m looking to explore in this series of blog posts some of the really big questions, the answers to which I hope will support my Craft Gap hypothesis:
- why now?
- can it really be a resurgence if it never went anywhere??
- how is modern sewing a reflection of a change in design aesthetics over the past 40 years? and where does “crafting” fit into the current interest in “design”?
- where to next??
I’d love, love, love to hear your input as I go along, and answers to the inevitable questions that come about from asking these kinds of questions in the first place.
To start with, what made YOU want to learn to sew? Leave your answer in the comments, and a randomly selected comment will receive a coupon code for free shipping in the Whipstitch Etsy shop!