I will always remember a time when I was still at school, and we were studying the Victorians. The teacher was pulling out historic item after item, and we had to shout out our guesses as to what they might be.
Then, she pulled out a wooden object that looked like a mushroom. ‘A pounder!’ said the other kids, ‘a flour grinder!’
I raised my hand slowly, ‘It’s a darning mushroom.’
At the time, my mother was still using an old-fashioned darning mushroom to repair holes in the family’s socks. After a while though, she gave up using it and concluded that her time was more valuable than that –we could just get ourselves new socks.
What is more valuable then - our time, or our resources? According to the lore of today, so many of us would say time. It’s finite. Our resources appear to be infinite.
When you take a look at an item that has been sewn, crocheted or made for you, take the time to reflect that every loop and every fold has been made by a person’s hands. They’ve dedicated this time to their craft, and that’s the most valuable gift anyone can give.
Contrast this with the effects of fast fashion and the churning out of cheap, plastic goods that we see today. In our quest for convenience, to save ourselves time, we’ve become completely detached from the makers of most of our products. When a t-shirt is sold for £2, it means we’re exploiting the people who made it, whose time we don’t value like our own. Plastic today is the very essence of inhuman - it’s uniform and we have no idea who made most of our bottles and packaging. The lack of ownership we take for our plastic is what leaves a lorry’s worth of it tipped into our oceans every minute.
Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with convenience and start to invest time more thoughtfully. Sophie, who created Agnes LDN says, ‘The low waste movement really goes back to how our grandparents used to live. They would make do and mend.’ Sophie’s among a growing number of people who believe that the skills of our grandparents are important and need to be rediscovered, from sewing and gardening to DIY. Sophie’s first ever sewing machine was her grandmother’s from the 70s. She says, ‘Knowing how to sew gives you the liberty to change things and upcycle what would otherwise go in the trash. It means slowing down and recycling more.
One Australian writer, Rebecca Sullivan, was so inspired by the skills of her late great grandmother and ‘heartbroken’ at what she hadn’t been able to learn from her, that she wrote two entire books to salvage and share skills from the past - Granny Skills and The Art of the Natural Home. ‘And so it began,’ she writes, ‘a mission to save these life skills and recipes from being forgotten, and to make sure that the wisdom of our grandparents isn't lost.'
What skill could you rediscover from your grandparents’ time? Is there something that you could build on? Think about taking one skill that uses your hands and building upon it this month –even if it’s just learning to repair what you have. The run up to March has seen me returning to the old darning mushroom to mend my clothes.
And, whatever you do, support and respect the makers keeping traditional skills alive.
Here are three brilliant makers to discover:
Rebecca Desnos for natural dye inspiration @rebeccadesnos
Emma Mitchell for silver casting and nature finds @silverpebble2
Rebecca Sullivan to rediscover traditional skills for cooking and making @grannyskills
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