Some random and not so random links

The craft lifestyle

Found over at Scarlet Tentacle there was an interesting link to a piece on whether DIY is an affordable or even a fun lifestyle, it’s something I think about quite a lot myself, particularly about knitting, as a knitted jumper in a shop is so much cheaper than a hand knitted jumper, however whereas the author of the piece seemed very down on the whole craft movement as a whole, I can see both sides of the argument. Take the knitting example, yes a hand knitted jumper is more expensive but you’re not only paying for the jumper itself but for the hours of pleasure knitting the jumper is going to give you, also chances are the wool you use to make your jumper will be a better quality (more likely to be actually wool for a start) and if you make the jumper yourself you are more likely to care and cherish for the jumper and wear it for many more years than a ‘disposable’ jumper for £30. However, as much as I believe in the above argument, I’ve never got beyond knitting scarves because I don’t trust my knitting skills on such an expensive project, I strongly suspect I’d personally cock a jumper up.

I came up against the same thing recently when replacing the curtains in the flat, I made the kids’ bedroom curtains as I’d bought the material a while ago but noticed whilst I was making them that I could have bought the same curtains ready made for £1 cheaper. When searching for curtains for the rest of the flat I looked at both options; hand made (by me) or ready made, did the sums and found that buying ready made would be cheaper and by a lot more than £1 (£20-£30 cheaper) and as we were trying to justify buying more expensive kitchen stools than we’d originally planned at the time, we went for ready made. Since getting back home and hanging the home made curtains and the ready made curtains, you know what? The home made curtains are nicer, the quality of the lining I used (which was only £7 a metre) is far better than the lining on the ready made curtains, consequently the home made curtains hang better, block out light better and keep out the chill more efficiently, I kind of regret going for the ready mades (but we were trying to save money in our budget) and have promised myself that if we need curtains in the future and we can justify the money, I will make my own curtains next time. It comes to something though when making your own curtains is the luxury option and in a way I think it’s an example of what this society is becoming; everything is manufactured to be cheap, cheap, cheap, it’s no wonder the cheap(er) ready made curtains I bought were badly lined, it’s because they were ‘cheap’ (ok, they were still frighteningly expensive). It’s no wonder as supermarkets constantly drive food prices down (or attempt to), squeezing more and more out of the manufacturers, that that beef lasagne turns out to have horse in in it. And those £30 jumpers, made with nothing that’s actually been near a sheep and manufactured in a Far East sweatshop. The article I linked to above states that the craft movement is just another extension of materialism, whose got the best hand diamanted shoes, that sort of thing and yes a lot of craft is like that and that crafting is the preserve of upper middle class women who’ve got the money to choose between the cheap scarf and the more expensive hand made one and I agree, yes, if you don’t have that much money of course it’s the cheap shop bought scarf but what the article totally misses is that at least for some the craft movement is about reconnecting with how things are made. Before I started thinking about making my own clothes I did not connect the price of the clothes on the hanger in the shops with what corners must be being cut to get it that cheap. I didn’t think about materials or labour or where the item came from. Crafting has opened my eyes to those things.

I do agree though, some aspects of craft are not sustainable, I look at some of the things showing up on Pinterest and places like that and wonder where on earth all these paper machied whats-its or what evers are going, how do they find the space? Is what’s being created being created with thought, care and at least some aspiration to permanence? Sorry to keep on going on about the lack of space in my own home, but as I continue to unpack it is still very much on the forefront of my mind, I am struck more and more that what I make in the future has to have a purpose (even if that purpose is just to be pretty to look at), I have to cut back on making for the sake of making, I don’t have the space, funds or really the time. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes making for the sake of making can be very important but for me personally, not right now.

Amazon warehouses

Sort of linked in with my thoughts about how the products we buy can be so cheap, this article from the Financial Times about working practices at the Amazon warehouses is going to make me think next time I order something from there and I’ll admit, much as I desperately would like our high streets to continue to exist, I do still shop from Amazon sometimes (particularly craft books, because my local bookstore doesn’t stock many, many good ones that is). Basically the article describes how Amazon ‘lands’ in these towns with low employment, everyone thinks “yay!” and then everyone (or at least most, by the sounds of it) ends up not working for Amazon itself but for an agency, making their jobs far less secure, not great for town regeneration is it, when the populace can’t reliably count on still being employed next month? What was particularly worrying was the case examples where people take sick leave, come back and find their shifts cancelled. So next time I order something from Amazon (which I probably will, I’ll admit it), I’m going to at least spare a thought on the poor person walking miles through their warehouses in ill fitting boots with their blisters, knowing they can’t slow down or risk a sick day.

What was particularly fascinating about the article was the comments underneath, they seemed pretty evenly divided between “that’s just so shocking” and “cut the whinging, at least they’ve got jobs, this is the way society is going etc. etc. etc.”. I wonder what all the cut the whingers, sitting snug in their armchairs, enjoying their cheap books (and everything else) are going to say when their children grow up and that’s the only sort of working practice left?

And now for two things completely different

  • This post from Wil Wheaton about failures leading to successes in something else is fantastic. I know I haven’t mentioned it here for a very long time, but I still do want to write, I’ve just been caught in the trap that I did pretty much complete the novel I was working on for years and, well, it’s a bit crap, I’m not going to send it to a publisher, I am in no way going to risk my first impression with any publisher to be with that book. However the book has been sitting there, looking at me, going “well you could rewrite me again” “you’ve worked so long on me, don’t give up on me now” and that’s been keeping me pinned, stopping me from working on anything else. However, I’ve been trying to remind myself recently that chances are there are very very few authors who’ve got published on the very first book they’ve ever written, the first book is a learning journey, I know stuff about writing that I did not know when I started that story and that has been its fatal flaw, no matter how much I rewrite it, it’s foundations where laid when, to be honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Part of me thinks / hopes, that I will rewrite that story one day, from scratch, so that a version does get out there but for the moment I need to take my failure and use it to build a success with a new story, here’s hoping anyway.
  • And finally, read this blog, it’s not for the faint hearted or easily offended and the content is VERY mature (you have been warned) but it’s very funny.

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