Friday, October 27, 2006

Undervalued Craft

The Yarn Harlot had a wonderful post the other day about how even knitters undervalue their own work. If someone tells us something is gorgeous, we often reply, "Thank you, it was easy." I often get asked if I sell my work and I just tell the asker that I do it for my own enjoyment. Instead, I really should tell them that my work would be undervalued and I wouldn't sell my work to someone that undervalues it. I mean who would pay over $100 for a pair of handknit socks? But I put about 10 hours into a pair, (I think my time is worth at least $10 an hour) plus the cost of yarn. I've been thinking a lot about Stephanie's post and why knitting is undervalued along with other crafts.

Someone will pay hundreds or thousands for a painting or sculpture. So why not knitting? In my opinion, it's because our craft is something that in past centuries and even just a few decades ago had to be done. It's something that's worn. Women had to knit and to sew in order for their families to have clothing. Sweaters and clothes were necessity and even if women made the most beautiful embroidered garments or knitted sweaters, it still came down to necessity. We didn't have closets full of cheaply made, imported clothing. Each family member might have had a couple of work outfits and maybe one nice "Sunday best" outfit. They wore the clothes until they wore out, beauty was merely a plus.

Today, cheaply made socks and sweaters are readily available. (You do know you can buy socks at Walmart, right?) Somehow many people think less of handcrafted garments because they can get the latest brand name at the store and pay what I think is an outrageous amount and their brand garment (often cheaply made) will hardly last as long as my sweater. I know exactly how well my garment is made and how well it's put together.

A lot of women think knitting or sewing is old-fashioned and don't want to do it for that reason. They also think less of handcrafted items because of that reason. I often get "I wish I had the time for something like that." (I do get that even from knitters on occasion.) They say it in a way that makes my time seem less valuable because I do manage to find the time to do something I enjoy. I'm a mother, teacher, chef, maid, chauffeur, and occasional seamstress among other occupations. My time is actually quite valuable which is why I make the time to do something I enjoy. Something where I can express my creativity. And if someone else doesn't value my work, then who cares, I value it.


Blogger JennyRaye said...

What a great post!!! I couldn't have said it better. I know I am always guilty of undervaluing my work. You and Harlot have gotten me thinking. I need to change my perspective....and the way I reply to people. Thanks!

9:41 AM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

Well said! And I think Stephanie made a good point that WE are often the ones doing the undervaluing. I think it's because our mothers taught us not to be prideful. It's certainly ok to be humble, but there is false humility as well. I wonder if Beethoven, after a thundering applause, ever responded, "Yeah, ok, it's a nice little tune, but nothing special!"

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Rebekah said...

So very true. And definitely something to think about.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

Yes, Stephanie said it beautifully, and you added to the thought beautifully. I also have that problem (most recently when sharing my County Fair win with my mother). I think Dorothy is right; I was also taught not to be prideful.

At my old job, it was a joke to the customers when I said I was the Queen of Phones and the Goddess of Voice Mail, but in my heart I knew I did it better than anyone!

I need to gain that attitude about my knitting -- I may not do it "better than anyone", but I do great work (and I'm wanting to take that back and scale it to "good work" which just doesn't sound as good, but doesn't look like I think I'm somebody). Wow -- lots of work to do here!

12:42 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Very eloquently put and so very very true.

2:09 PM  
Blogger aija said...

This is a great post, thanks for sharing it.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Great post, and I totally agree! I think there is also a holdover thinking that knitting or sewing should be very economical. I work with a very talented woman from Russia who can knit, although painting is her favorite medium. A friend of hers who is still in Russia was having a baby, and I suggested she knit a baby sweater for a gift. My friend said that would never work in Russia, where having the money to buy a ready-to-wear item of clothing is the sign of wealth, prestige, and in the instance of gift-giving, caring. A hand-made gift would show that you didn't want to spend the money on something "store-bought." Hand-made items were devalued as something the poor had to make and use. I think there are still enough people around who remember when knitting and sewing were that way, so a handknit sweater or shawl in a sumptuous fiber just seems illogical.

And I think Mothers have taught a lot of women to undervalue their work. My mom told my husband that she thought I had become a great knitter and beader; she did not tell me. I don't think boys are taught that lesson so stridently.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous deni said...

five stars for this post :)

3:07 PM  
Blogger Stricken madchen said...

You said it so well!

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Ariannah Armstrong said...

That post by the Yarn Harlot touched me to the very core.

You beat me to the blogging about it. But her post has changed my attitude about my own work, and that of other knitters, too.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Opal said...

And yet people will pay $200 or more for hand-stitched jeans. Go figure. :-/

5:55 PM  

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