Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

HANDCRAFTS AND STRANGE MNEMONICS

As you may have noticed from my "What am I dabbling in today?" box, lately I've been crocheting like a fiend. For my handicraft-handicapped friends and relatives, crocheting is not, in fact, the same as knitting. I've never had the manual dexterity to knit, but crochet I can manage. It only requires one hook, rather than two knitting needles. Twice as simple! If you're like me and depend on convoluted sets of mnemonic devices to get you through the day, just think of Captain Hook, give him a French accent, then imagine him saying, "Je suis Capitaine Crochet!" Here are some of the projects I've been working on over the past few weeks:

POST-APOCALYPTIC FINGERLESS GLOVES
I can't help but feel like an extra in a Mad Max movie when I wear these. FLAPPER HAT
This hat was originally meant to be a present for Jeremy, but it looked really weird on his head, so I stuck a rosette on it and claimed it for my own.

MANLY GREEN HAT
My second attempt at a hat for Jeremy faired better.
BLUE WOOL SCARF PREMIE HAT
Our friend's daughter came two months early. She's still in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but her prognosis is good. I made this hat for her.

SCARF-IN-PROGRESSI learned how to crochet in college, when I was working at a job with the ungodly hours of midnight to 5 a.m. My fellow night owls and I took up any hobby we could to keep us awake into the wee hours of the morning. I learned to crochet, others to knit. One of my coworkers spent the dull hours of his shift making chain mail. Five years ago, at that job, I felt the first inkling of the satisfaction only making something with your own hands can provide. I went on a sewing jag for a while, making a full Renaissance festival costume and a quilt, then coming back to crochet the next winter.

Since then, I've seen a resurgence of interest in all kinds of handcrafts, from crochet to quilting, especially among we 20-somethings. Crafts have evolved from grandma's pastime to a staple of counterculture, perhaps because they fell out of favor so long that knowing how to knit or embroider became a rarity. Handcrafts are cool; take the Stitch 'n Bitch series of books, which introduce knitted i-Pod cozies and crocheted "anarchy irony" hats to their 20-something and 30-something readership, or the article in the January 2007 issue of Craft magazine on knit graffiti. For that matter, take the very existence of Craft and Make magazines, which combat the Wal-Mart pre-fab mentality with a rabid gusto for doing things yourself (and well).

But more than a simple and unlikely form of rebellion, I think my generation's newfound fascination with craft is tied to our evolving interest in sustainability, and an understanding that we can't and won't always be able to order our goods from offshore sweatshops. I have to admit that most people my age are probably so wrapped up in Halo 3 and Youtube, such issues haven't yet blipped across their radar screen. But my town is one of the few cities I've stayed where living consciously is a way of life. I feel lucky to be part of a community where people my age care about where their food and clothes come from, how to make the food they eat, supporting small businesses in their neighborhoods, and generally taking care of the place where they live.

Handy links for sustainable crafting:
Stitch 'n Bitch Groups Worldwide - http://www.stitchnbitch.org/snb_groups.htm
Find a badass knitting group in your hometown.

Make magazine - http://www.makezine.com/
Taking DIY to another plane of existence.

Craft magazine - http://www.craftzine.com/
Make's new little sister.

Knitta, Please - http://www.knittaplease.com/KNITTA_PLEASE.html
The confederacy of knitters responsible for "tagging" urban areas with their projects.

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