>> Jean Railla is the founder and editor of
getcrafty.com and the
author of Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec (Broadway Books). She lives in
Greenwich Village with her husband, two rapscallion sons, and a
gazillion half-finished craft projects.
Why Making Stuff Is
Is it just me, or did crafting become ubiquitous skull and crossbones wrist guard. Even a few years
overnight? In 1998, when I started Get Crafty ago, he would’ve been ridiculed for knitting. Now
getcrafty.com), knitting, sewing, and “keep- he’s a craftster. Or the fashion editor who brags
ing house” seemed quaint, ironic even, but hardly about her crocheted skirt. With a decent paycheck,
a nationwide trend. Then it happened. The Style her own apartment, and an outlandish social life,
Channel launched the hilarious Craft Corner Death other women can’t scorn her happy hooking or
Match; Time devoted several pages to DIY fashion in consider her a “granny.”
their article “Pretty Crafty”; Debbie Stoller’s Stitch- By leveling the playing field between men and
n-Bitch hit The New York Times’ bestseller list; and women (at least in the bottom rungs of the work-publishing houses released a plethora of cool craft force), feminism opened the door for all of us to
books (including my own), with kits, TV shows, and value typically feminine art forms.
other synergistic multimedia opportunities. Theory Number 3: We work at computers all day.
So why now? Why after feminism, the Industrial Crafting allows us the experience of the tactile
Revolution, and the pervasiveness of the Gap are world, the non-virtual, the “real.” In a world where
the young and the beautiful suddenly knitting baby only a few actually manufacture products, making
blankets, hand-cranking mango-mint ice cream, and something that you can touch, wear, or inhabit is
sewing vintage fabric skirts? satisfying on an almost spiritual level. Let’s just say
I have a few theories. it feels good.
Theory Number 1: Painters, photographers, rock Theory Number 4: Crafting is a political statement.
stars, actors, and designers are the folks our culture With globalism, factory labor, and sweatshops as
holds up as heroes. While not all of us can earn a pay- growing concerns, and giant chains like Starbucks,
check from our artwork, crafting allows us to make McDonald’s, and Old Navy turning America into one
art out of everyday life. Choosing the texture and big mini-mall, crafting becomes a protest. By MIY
color of a yarn, creating a pattern, knitting it, wearing (Making It Yourself), we vote with our wallets and
it — it’s a full creative process. Everyone from twenty- assert our individuality, knowing that no one will have
somethings to baby boomers were raised to believe the same hand-knit sweater or silk-screened T-shirt.
that making art is the ultimate contribution — and Given all this, it’s hard to bemoan the populariza-
the most gratifying. Crafting allows us to embody this tion of crafting. What is “selling-out” if you only
bohemian ideal while paying the rent. encourage creativity? Although books, kits, and TV
Theory Number 2: Feminism was successful. shows can inspire you, at the end of the day, it’s just
The leaders of the Women’s Movement of the 1960s you and your craft supplies.
and 70s rejected the domestic as a symbol of their The point of crafting is to be in touch with one
oppression, but they unwittingly paved the way for of the things that make us human — our ability to
all those ironic crocheted sushi rolls that kids love make stuff. And if this spreads like organic honey on
nowadays. Think of the guitarist with the handmade a hot stove, then I’m all for it. ×