Some very thought-provoking posts going around the blogosphere recently about DIY, crafting, clothing, the value of time vs. money, perfectionism, and why we even bother to sit down in front of the sewing machine [or perch on the couch with a pair of knitting needles]. "Is this really the best use of my time?" is a sentiment that I am so, so familiar with, especially when ripping a seam out for the third time in a row.
Yet here we are, in it for the long haul, most likely, dedicating our time and energy to improving our skills at a craft that we could easily forego but choose, instead, to tackle despite frustrations and the quirks of "imperfection," because there's something in it that keeps drawing us back: creativity, self-expression, individuality, self-reliance, liberation from "standardized" clothing sizes, protestation against human rights abuses, a desire for environmental sustainability, or even to subvert what the media tells us about how we "should" look or how we "should" feel about our bodies.
[Bread baking: another craft we could easily outsource from our lives, and must consciously make an effort not to. But homemade bread, like clothing, can be so, so worthwhile.]
One of the cool things about crafting is the great learning curve associated with it. And not just in skill level, but also in tolerance levels. Sometimes this turns against us, like if we get more and more picky about specific imperfections [that whole "what can you live with?"].
But sometimes this is also really helpful. Spend more time constructing a garment, and you recalibrate your "set level" for what type of materials you work with, how well your seams are finished, what type of patterns you want to try, which techniques you utilize.
Spend more time crafting and less time shopping, and you recalibrate your "set level" for what feels like a "normal" frequency of shopping. Spend less time shopping, and you also recalibrate your "set level" for what feels like a "normal" amount of stuff to buy on each trip.
If you take this line of thought one step further: decrease how often you consume, and decrease how much you consume each time you do go shopping, and you decrease the consumerism within.
This past weekend, I was out shopping for the first time in who knows when. I'd forgotten how many things there were out there that I didn't know I was supposed to want to buy -- little wallet doodads, cell phone holders, bling for your purse, etc. etc. etc. Since I've been slowly decreasing how much I shop for about 4 years now, it was really startling to step back into that world again. I felt totally overwhelmed. But I could also see how, for someone who has continuously shopped for those same 4 years, all these trinkets might seem like the status quo for what one should acquire.
But then there are other times when it doesn't work so neatly. Like I'll go through fabric shopping droughts followed by deluges, the crafter's version of yo-yo dieting where you diet then splurge, diet then splurge. And even though I want to think that my overall fabric consumption is trending downwards, a peek at my stash indicates that just might not be the case.
[I cut down the skirt to fit Hana. And as a consolation prize, I ordered some more AMH voile to try again. What was I saying about fabric yo-yo dieting?]
What do you think? Does it actually work that way? In theory, it follows. But in practice? Not always? In certain circumstances? For me, it seems like it practice follows theory when there is alignment between theory and values so that wantiness doesn't get in the way.
Is it even possible to recalibrate our "set levels" for consumption when desire collides with the justification that "it aligns with my values"? Or is it not even about that? Is consumption, in some form or another, inherent to what it means to be a human being living in the 21st Century? (I hope not!)