Sunday, 6 October 2019

Some thoughts on disappearing craft skills!

I listened to the rain on the roof this morning and decided that running was out of the question. So I got up and got myself organised - raincoat on, wellies for the muddy puddles - and set out to walk briskly along my usual running route. Of course, by the time I was five minutes down the road the rain stopped. So I could have run but I would have got very wet feet! After that the day proved to be much better than forecast and mid-afternoon we even managed a walk in the sunshine.

October seems to have morphed into April: gusty winds, showers and intermittent sunshine.

Most of today has been spent on a project set for me by my daughter. She had acquired some Disney Princess material pieces - not quite so horrific as they sound. They have patterns of mermaids (Princess Ariel, I presume) or crabs and fishes. All the mermaids for some reason have red hair. Is this usual for mermaids, I wonder! As her small daughter is a little obsessed with Disney princesses, all of whose names she remembers and I forget, my daughter wondered if there was enough fabric in any one pattern to concoct a dress for the small girl.

She left me a denim pinafore dress from which to draw a pattern. Which I duly did.

The ability to do this kind of thing is a dying art. Ever since secondary school arts and crafts began to operate on a carousel - six weeks painting and drawing, six weeks cookery, six weeks “fabrics” (i.e. sewing), six weeks pottery, six weeks woodwork, and so on - none of the old practical skills are learnt properly. Unless, that is, the pupils opt to specialise in one of the carousel items as a GCSE subject.

Consequently my daughter’s generation and her children’s generation have had a taste of all sorts of crafts but have not really learnt the useful bits of any of them. Goodness knows what will happen when her own daughters decide they want something sewn for their own offspring.

One odd consequence of this lack of school-imparted skill is the arrival in shops like W.H. Smith of a plethora of sewing and knitting and crochet magazines. The knitting and crochet mags mostly have instructions for how to make scarves and hats and cuddly toys. Those of us who want proper knitting patterns have to scour the internet for information about where to find an actual shop selling yarn, needles and patterns.

Another aspect of it is that people are inordinately praised for successfully completing a knitted scarf!

Oddly enough, however, our eldest granddaughter has acquired some of these skills by watching youtube videos and she surprises us with the things she is able to do. Her latest things seems to be to turn herself into a miniaturist. Her boyfriend gave her as a birthday present a kit for making a miniature greenhouse, about 8 inches tall and she is busily cutting tiny pieces of balsa wood to make tiny planters and sets of shelves. Her aim is to make it look as similar to her real, full-size greenhouse as possible. She even taught herself how to weave miniature baskets, about 2 centimetres in diameter. The very idea of the fiddly weaving involved makes my fingers go into cramps.

She and I have long fantasised about running a cafe called Soup and a Sandwich. This has now become a fantasy cafe and craft shop!

The smallest granddaughter, by the way, although rather obsessed by Disney princesses, also has other less-girly obsessions from time to time, including an intermittent love of Thomas the Tank Engine. We do try not to stereotype her into girly activities and preferences.

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