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Craft Time

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:43pm

On occasion I write about crafts on this site. It’s been a somewhat crafty week, so this is one of those occasions.

I spend the last week in the mountains on a ski trip with my friend Best and her almost 5-year-old. You can imagine the definition of ski trip is a bit fuzzy when it involves two almost 5-year-olds and two avid skier adults who have not skied in 6 years- do the math.

Despite a rather limited time on skis, we had an enjoyable time and pursued other favorite activities like reading, breaking up fights and making crafts. I should say, one old favorite activity, reading, and two new ones

As hard working singles, the craftiest pursuit that Best and I engaged in was make-up application, with perhaps a splash of home décor thrown in for fun. Now we knit, sew, crochet and felt. We make dolls and toys and scarves. We discuss needles and fabric and wool. We make things; often but, not long and not well.

A few years back I worked in marketing at a fairly large company that makes craft materials. As always, one of my favorite parts of the job was delving for statistics. At that time, late ‘90s there was a significant shift going on in the field. Where, in the ‘80s much of the crafting was being done by older, empty nesters, now younger women were engaging in craft hobbies. Now we see a significant turnaround

HIA’s 2000 study determined that craft and hobby participants are more likely to be married with children, more educated, with a higher income than non-crafters. Women in these households tend to be younger and employed part-time

Alas, I am hip again. Really hip. Sewing, knitting and crocheting have seen a resurgence in the US and the UK, driven in part by the Internet and the ability to actually get information.

Not quite mainstream hip, Best and I started handcrafts when our sons started attending Waldorf school. Waldorf schools believe in the importance of handcrafts, for two very important reasons. One, at very young ages, children watch parents engaged in meaningful work – that is, in actually making something. Secondly, Steiner believed that children learn through handwork.

The importance of handwork in the Waldorf curriculum is related to the dichotomy of the machine-made and the handmade product. The very imperfection of handmade goods is a mark of dignity and bears witness to the limitations that make the artisan-and all of us, by extension-human. When the first grader finger-crochets a circular mat, or when the sixth grader learns to cut a pattern and sew together a stuffed animal, mistakes inevitably arise and corrections and revisions are made. These provide lessons in humility-in the original sense of the word-derived as it is from humus, Latin for “earth.” The child’s experience of fallibility is an experience of her relationship to the rest of nature. It is this relationship, this connection that Steiner and other thinkers of his day realized the machine would alter. Also, the children experience in handwork class the absolute uniqueness of each human being. Given the same materials and the same instruction and employing the same methods, a class of fifteen children will create fifteen unique pieces of work.

And so I knit, sew and craft, much to the amusement of DH, our moms and my single friends. Much to the pleasure of The Hamster, who, somewhat erroneously believes I can make anything. As he grows and begins to make handcrafts himself, it will aid him in the learning process

The (HIA) study, Academic value of Hands-on Activities in Elementary School, concludes that hands-on craft projects are an effective means of teaching… and that students
develop both a greater appreciation for and understanding of what they are learning.

Mainstream or crunchy, it seems I’m on the right track.

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