Wednesday, 7 July 2010


This morning, I was knitting a cotton dish cloth (see above).  On the bus.  On my way to work.  A lady asked what I was creating.  A dish cloth, I told her.  She got a strange look on her face ... surprise, disbelief, a little disgust ... and started to say something, bit her lip, then finally blurted out "why?  you can buy a whole package of dish cloths at the dollar store!"  I've been thinking about that all day.  I realize that I'm not a dollar store fan, although I have shopped there for a few specific things like craft supplies.  I also realize that I automatically go to "I can make _____fill in the blank_____ myself".  That's just part of who I am.

I was raised poor.  Cash poor.  My family had survived the hungry 1930s ... barely ... and fortunes never really improved with the 1950s.  If we couldn't build, sew, knit (et cetera) it ourselves, we did without.  We recycled and re-used long before recycling and re-using became trendy and retro.  I spent most of my early years on a farm.  A very small farm.  On the wrong side of the tracks.  If we couldn't raise it, grow it, can it ourselves, we didn't eat it.  No trendy hundred mile diet for us!  The garden was less than 100 yards from the house, and carefully watered and tended through the long hot Okanagan summer in order to make it through the winter.  I wore hand-me-downs from cousins and local thrift store specials.  Much to my embarassment at times!  I learned very early on how to remodel and repurpose hand-me-down garments and how to sew for myself.  When I took grade 8 home-ec, other kids learned how to sew their first seams while I was already designing and sewing my own dresses.

Then there was the whole creative aspect of our self-sufficiency.  None of us were satisfied with store-bought factory line cookie cutter _____fill in the blank_____ when we were all quite capable of creating special and unique things.  If we did find a store-bought whatever ... usually at the thrift store or discarded at the village 'dump' ... we automatically kicked into plans to repurpose, remodel, repaint, et cetera.  I come from a long line of people that can't look at a recipe or a pattern without seeing potential and planning how to change it.

These are the values I carried with me as I grew up and left home, and are the same values and habits that I operate by today.  Seems normal to me.  Always puzzles me when others are surprised.

Back in the days when I was a newlywed and new mom, we lived in a rented place with a huge prolific apricot tree in the back yard.  Naturally, I made plans to use up every single apricot.  I canned apricots, and made apricot jam like crazy.  One day, my MIL came to visit, and asked why I was busy pouring over a library book on a hot summer day instead of taking baby to the beach.  She didn't come from a family of readers, so my bookworm habits were foreign to her at the best of times.  That particular day, I was researching creative ways to use ripe apricots.  I told her I was craving marmalade.  Basically the same response as the lady on the bus this morning ... "why?  you can BUY a jar of marmalade!"  It had truly never occurred to me that I could buy the stuff.

Yes, I could buy a package of dish cloths at the local dollar store.  However, doing so would deprive me of the pleasure of knitting them, of on-the-bus thought-provoking conversations about knitting and life values, of the satisfaction of creating useful things for my home with my own hands, and of the knowledge that I am creating something that will last a good long time without falling apart. 

The last batch of dish cloths (see above) were knitted over 3 years ago, and they have worked hard.  They are a bit faded, but every bit as sturdy as they were brand new.  And my personal values stand intact.

Now, if y'all will kindly excuse me ... it's over 30 degrees C today, and I need to go get nekkid!  See below ... JUST KIDDING!!!


Karen Deborah said...

I love this post. Applause! Yes you can go "buy" things but not lovely handmade wash cloths. I wish I knew how to knit. I can crochet but I like the knitted cloths better. You do really lovely work. Also there is absolutely no comparison between home made jams and canning of any kind and store bought. It's art!

The old saying about making do, or doing without is going to become truer and truer as days go by. AND you will in good shape with all the know how you have.
Cute flippies.

GMBGnome said...

Thanks for this. It's important to understand how our roots forms how we are.


Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

I understand. I crochet hot pads and when I give them to friends for their birthdays I tell then that love went into the SEVEN HOURS they took to make. I'm rather proud of you. My mother always said if you watch the pennies the dollars will watch themselves. Or some such thing. You are doing what every woman in America should be doing...or every woman in the world should be doing. More power to you.

PS the dishcloths are beautiful!