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Currently, I am reading Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity. And I have some thoughts. First of all, I’m not done the book, but I’ve read a good chunk of it. I’ll spare you all my thoughts on the parenting bits (because hoo boy, do I have them!) and stick with the chapters on blogging and Etsy.

It’s going to sound like I am not liking this book, but I really am finding a lot of good in it. I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages.

The start of the book was hard for me to get through. There’s a good bit of over-generalizing, and broad strokes about feminism. The meat of the book doesn’t really get going until the second or third chapter.

Focusing in on the lifestyle blogs: home decor, parenting, baking/cooking from scratch… the point Matchar ends up making is that (of course!) bloggers edit themselves, and they do try and cultivate an image, and design and craft blogs in particular (and also parenting blogs and definitely the overlap) tend, in large part, to gloss over the failures, the sweat and in the end, everyone is trying to make a few dollars.

I don’t personally think editing is bad. I myself have split off my “creative” side to here and try and leave the day-to-day living and kid stuff over in my other space (though I haven’t written a lick in ages). I read the blogging chapters nodding my head at sentences like, “So when we see what looks like an organized, stylish picture of domestic bliss portrayed on their blogs, there’s a natural tendency to hold ourselves up against that; if our lives don’t measure up, well, we feel like crap.”

It all leads up to this expectation that everyone can be successful at blogging and at crafting and making a living off of an Etsy store. Matchar points out that Etsy perpetuates this idea all the while creating a sort of bubble where we’re all scrambling on top of each other and actually making it harder for us all to succeed (by driving down prices and flooding the market with product). The idea of artisan-made is one that a lot of us can agree is a good one but sifting through it can be overwhelming.

I really appreciated how Matchar takes us from the early punk roots of reclaiming craft, all the way up until now, where it seems like everyone is selling hair bows and crocheted baby beanies on Etsy. As with the blogging chapter, the book makes the clear argument that becoming successful at selling anything on Etsy (in particular) is difficult and rare.

I am not sure that I buy into all the Baby Boomer versus Gen Y theory that is heavily leaned upon, however. I personally don’t consider myself 100% Gen X or Gen Y. I didn’t have the “Free to be you and me” experience, nor was I a latch key kid whose mother went to work in an office. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t see myself in the descriptions of why a person would be embracing the so-called New Domesticity. These reasons, Matchar claims, are what is driving women back to crafts, to cooking from scratch, to handmade businesses (and to Attachment Parenting). The reasons include that Gen Y is addicted to being reaffirmed; that their Boomer parents have created a generation that needs to be told how great they are all the time and who are too good for boring, entry-level, employment.

The argument I do believe (which is also made in the book, but I wish was emphasized a bit more), is that the recession combined with a bit of distrust in the system and not wanting to give big corporations and rich folks more money has driven folks to want to buy locally, support small businesses and artisans. This idea has become more mainstream, but perhaps the marketplace hasn’t caught up with it yet. The casual artisan is lumped in with the serious one. The person selling in a high cost of living state (who really needs the money let’s say) is competing against a person who just wants to make a little extra cash in a low cost of living state (and so that second person wins the business). Matchar points out, that in a bad economy, self-employment is terribly risky. Microenterprise really isn’t the solution that it appears to be on the surface (because the lifestyle blogger above has made it look so effortless) for a woman with children who can’t afford daycare and keeping standard 9-5 job, or a woman who finds herself unemployed. It’s hard work, and it’s very hard to actually make money.

Of course, I’ve always been a bit of a socialist.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know I have more to say, and that perhaps what I have expressed hasn’t been done so in the clearest of manners.

A little bit ago, I was introduced to the Staple Dress by April Rhodes via Nicole at Follow the White Bunny. I’ve been looking to sew something for myself to get over the irrational fear I had built up inside myself of the sewing machine. I’ve had my mother’s old Montgomery Ward machine from the 70s for years now. I had it in college, I moved it to our first house when I got married, and then moved it again when we bought this house. And yet, I still hadn’t used it for anything save hemming some curtains in college. The one unfortunate thing that did happen was the manual got put in a give away pile at some point and the Internet wasn’t giving up the manual for free. Luckily I did find a few things that were helpful.

So, I went and impulsively bought the pattern right after Nicole assured me that it really was an easy sew. And then it sat for a while. At some point last week, I committed myself to getting the thing done. I bought fabric, thread and got the machine out to practice on some scraps. It was kind of a disaster.

But with some work — re-threading, a new needle, new bobbins, and patience, I managed to work out the situation within the same day. I made a few little practice things with just straight lines. And then on Monday, I set to work on my dress. The laying out of the pattern was the hardest part for me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when lining up things, so not getting all the lines perfect when putting the many pages of the pattern together was frustrating. Once I made peace with the fact that it was ok for it not to be just so, things went smoother.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life watching my mother sew, and I just sort of remembered a few things as I went along: what different markings meant, to be slow and deliberate and most importantly, use paper scissors for cutting the pattern, not the fabric scissors. I was pleasantly surprised that the sewing of the dress went smoothly — even the shirring using the elastic thread worked out. I started on Monday and finished it up on Tuesday. There are some slightly crooked lines in places, and the hem came untucked in one spot on the inside of the dress, but all in all, it really came out well.

dressonhanger

I’m a little bit proud.

Block 1 of 4 in my "Going Slightly Blind Miniquilt"

I thought it would be a good idea to convert one of my favorite graphs that I’ve stitched on paper a few times into a mini quilt. I’m still irrationally frightened of the sewing machine, so I’ve decided to hand sew it.

I’m not rushing to finish this — I want to take it slow and now that I have one block down, I’ll be moving back to embroidery very soon. I have a busy June and July planned for myself.

Seems like everyone has an English paper piecing project in the works. In the past, I’ve dabbled with hexagons, but sort of gave up after a little bit. I just wasn’t feeling it for whatever reason.

Things around my place have been busy the past few weeks. We took a little trip to Florida, my daughter had her 7th birthday, we’ve had softball games and all kinds of stuff happening. There has been precious little time to really dig into a project that will take a good chunk of time. So instead I’ve been doing some little things. A few tiny buttons, a little bit of crochet (which is totally new for me) and a little paper piecing.

I’d remembered that I wanted to make a little ball — a dodecahedron, to be technical about it. It’s 12 pentagons put together and stuffed. I had seen it flipping through a library book months ago, and only sort of remembered the instructions, so I just jumped in and winged it.

Naturally, the result was a bit of a disaster.

Majorly wonky but I learned a lot making this. I prefer to learn the hard way I guess...

But it taught me a few things about how to construct the polygon, and so the second time (and I also went back to the library and got the book again) Surprise! when I did things “right” the result was much better.

Dodecahedron number 2 and I'm much happier with the result.

The kids are quite fond of the first attempt, so it’s getting some use being tossed around the house. The second one will become a traveling pincushion.

My science swap piece made it to my partner today:
The Earth and Its Layers: closed

The Earth and Its Layers: open

 

This was really fun to put together. The Earth is based on this illustration by Wild Olive (with some adjustments).

When I was little, we had this set of World Book Encyclopedias that had these really detailed, acetate/transparency inserts that were layered and showed things like the inside of a frog, or the human head, skull, brain, muscles etc. I thought I’d try and accomplish something similar, but simplified.

The process turned out to not be too difficult to nail down. I started with a tiny prototype — it’s just a piece of vellum button-hole stitched over muslin. The hard part was nailing down what exactly I wanted to stitch. I wanted both pieces to be interesting on their own, but also to look good together. (I also loved that the “layers” had a double-meaning. Layers in the piece and layers of the Earth.)

I’m quite pleased at how well it turned out.

Here’s the first layer on its own:

The Earth and Its Layers: layer 1

And the second:
The Earth and Its Layers: layer 2

 

I had planned on satin stitching the yellow as well, but after using almost a full skein (with just a tiny bit left over) on the orange, I didn’t want to chance not having enough for the yellow ring. I like the way it turned out regardless. I loved combining embroidering on fabric and embroidering on another surface. I might just do it again sometime.

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