On the value of making things – slowly

If you’re, like me, a committed crafter, you may have subscribed to a number of online fora in which crafting is discussed. You may receive regular emails from sites like Craftsy, which advertise (online) classes to improve your technique. You may also glance at the odd craft blog written by professional or semi-professional crafters. And you may have come across advice that goes something like this: “If you use x technique, you can radically speed up z process of your chosen craft.” Or: “If you buy this product, you can do x so much faster, meaning you can produce many more quilts/crocheted products/knitted products/whatever.”

Why? Why do we have to rush through the different steps of our projects, producing more and more stuff? I get that we may wish to speed up some elements of our craft when we’re selling the products or when we have some kind of deadline, such as a birthday. But why are we allowing ourselves to be hurried in everyday crafting?

One answer is: plain old greed. We may have turned our backs on consumer society insofar as we’ve decided we prefer to make rather than buy certain products. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve all become minimalists. To some of us, the wish to have more and more stuff is simply transferred to our craft: we amass a great stash of fabric, yarn etc. as if there’s some kind of craft supply famine just round the corner, and we rattle through our projects, delighting in the finished project, but forgetting to enjoy the crafting journey. Members of a sewing group I’ve subscribed to on Facebook regularly brag about how little time it took them to finish a shirt or a dress (“Only two hours from cutting to trying on!”) or how many items they’ve made (“This must be the sixth dress I’ve made using this pattern – I just could not resist the fabric.”) . I’m not entirely immune to this either. But it is worth reflecting that this is just a different way of producing superfluous stuff. We can probably use one t-shirt, but why do we have to make five or six?  We’ve fallen for the same old capitalist logic – just like everyone else.

In order to make yet another quilt, another shirt, another jumper, we rush through through the various steps of crafting. Ok, so not many of us really enjoy cutting out pieces for patchwork. I personally don’t particularly enjoy cutting out paper templates for EPP (English Paper Piecing). Granted, there are ways of using our time wisely and not to spend too much time on preliminary tasks like this. But that doesn’t mean that I have to scour the internet to buy just one more implement that will help me speed up this part of proceedings. Instead, how about trying to find joy in all parts of what is, after all, a hobby? Taking care to cut out EPP paper templates carefully, mindfully hand-basting rather than using spray adhesives, which we know full well will damage the environment, and then turning to sewing the basted pieces together may take three times longer than cutting corners and using timesaving devices, but at least I’ve enjoyed the whole process rather than just some of it. I may have made three quilts in the time it took me to make one, but what would I conceivably do with so many quilts anyway?

Taking the time to make things mindfully, we can relish the minutiae of the process. This is also why I prefer to hand sew rather than sew by machine – at least when it comes to patchworking, Threading the needle, enjoying the regular rhythm of stitching, watching as the patchwork grows piece by piece – all these things are in themselves enjoyable. When I rush things (and, of course, I do sometimes rush things), I tend to make numerous small errors. When I take my time I rarely do. It really isn’t just about finishing. It’s about the enjoyment of creating, not just the pleasure we take in what we have created.

So, shall we take our time next time we sit down with our latest crafting project?


About alycevr

Academic, translator & maker of things
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On the value of making things – slowly

  1. Thank you for posting this, I am quite a slow crafter myself (not purposefully though), and regularly have many ideas for new projects in mind. This has been a good reminder to enjoy the craft I am actually making and not put so much pressure on my self to make as much as possible!

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