Crafting in the Current Economy

comments (16) October 8th, 2008     

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Jen_W Jennifer Worick, contributor
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Happily sewing during a crafternoon at Michaelas a few weeks ago.

Happily sewing during a crafternoon at Michaela's a few weeks ago.

Photo: Michaela Murphy

A few weeks ago when the market collapsed, I got freaked out, I'm not gonna lie. I started wondering about my ability to earn a living as a crafty writer. After all, I am not exactly necessary to keep the world turning. CraftStylish's crafty and stylish editor Michaela had a decisive response: "Are you kidding me? If anything, people will crave crafting and nesting even more. They will absolutely need it."

I wasn't quite convinced, but I was somewhat comforted.

Then I was interviewed by a reporter for the Associated Press about crafting in this economy. She started the interview by asking me how I saved money through my various hobbies. Um, well, off the top of my head, I don't really think I'm saving money when I drop $50 for a gorgeous hand-dyed yarn for a shawl or $50 for a torch to fuse silver or hundreds of clams at Michael's on those occasions when I lose my mind.

But as we talked, I did realize that by choosing to craft and create, I am turning away from those $400 boots I would happen upon if I was instead indulging my shopping problem at Nordies. It feeds my soul in a way those boots and lots of stuff that will invariably end up at a consigment shop never can. So as I was watching the debate last night with Michaela and knitting an apron for my next Prairie Girl's book, I remembered that AP interview, which fortuitously went out on the wire last night. Check it out and see what you think.

And we want to know those thoughts. How do you feel about crafting in the current economy? How do you save money (if at all) through your hobby? How are you hunkering down in this economic climate? Do you have any thrifty ideas that you'd like to share about your craft? I, for one, am all ears.

In the future, you can find me at my website or blogs, Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Prairie Tales. My new book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, is in stores now.

posted in: scarf, economy, saving money

Comments (16)

Jerliesify writes: Being a part of this younger generation so into the fashion and material scene can be a little costly as I've come to discover, as a member myself. While I love the thrill of a good, fashion-filled shopping spree, it can't compare to the feeling of having spent $90 bucks less on a silk caftam (made it myself) than if I had bought it off of the internet for $150-$400 from some pakistani website. I can be up in the newest trends, but I won't be broke doing it!

I think a lot of the time when we buy things like clothes, and jewelry, or accessories, we pay for the labor put into actually making it and designing it. So I like think of it as if I'm buying the materials and saving some money by not paying someone else to use them.

My craft is sewing, mostly, and beading (ANYTHING), so buying things that I can use over and over again is a plus.
Posted: 12:22 pm on August 24th
scrapslady writes: As I grow older and more conservative, I realize the value of crafting, restyling (I love that word. It gives the "made-over" stuff I've been doing for years a cool sounding name!), etc. What started as an economic necessity for a young mother of 3 with no job and a husband in school quickly evolved into a lifestyle for me. Now I never throw anything away without considering how I or someone else could use it to make something else. For example, my husband, a minister, just discovered a hole in a pair of his good slacks. He was going to discard them, but I will recycle the zipper, fabric, and anything else I can to make other things--maybe a little suit for my grandson. It's lots more fun to restyle and redo than to go shopping for retail, and it saves a lot of money as well. It's a good lifestyle for me whether or not we are having economic problems.
Posted: 9:31 pm on March 8th
klattimore writes: Your post made me realize how lucky we are to have skills that most of the woman in this day and age do not have. My Nana also tought me to sew and knit. I still have the blanket we made together when I was in grade school. I find sewing very soothing as well. Things for my business start to slow down this time of the year and I do not have a lot of traffic in my store. Fortunatly I have a Juki machine that will sew anything when things get slow at work I work for a local cottage buxiness called baabaazoozoo and sew wool mittens and scarfs. I also run add's for fixing horse blankets and Carharts for the construction guys in the area. I make it through the winter and pay the bills. I own six different machines and can fix anything. As much as I would like spending the Long Nothern Michigan winter designing my spring line of accessories I take on piece work to make ends meet. Many woman do not know how or want to fix their stuff and I am close and my turnover is fast.
You can really make great cash repairing horse blankets if your machine is up to it. I make about $30 an hour, for a collage drop out thats not bad.
Thank you for the post. I feel better knowing I'm not the only one scared about this winter and the economy.
Posted: 1:28 am on November 10th
tc2hes writes: most crafters have a stash stuck in the closet to use someday. during the trying financal times you dig and find treasures you forgot you had. some of my best christmas memorys were when money was tite. i remember as a kid mom and i working in the wee hours making gifts the recevier's were always more pleased with the hand made crafts than if we had taken the timse spent them going from store to store looking for the perfect gift. the holidays won't be the same for me sence mom left use but i will always charish the memorys of mom and i working into the night finishing up our hand made gifts.
Posted: 5:53 pm on October 19th
Jen1964 writes: Wow! Just a few responses! Is there a single person in this country who DOESN"T have either pioneer blood, Native American blood, or immigrant blood in them? We're a nation of belt-tightening, creative, intensely generous people. Why wouldn't the crafts be soothing and the perfect answer to us in hard times? In 1978, my uncle gave my little brother & I each "display cases" he'd built for our collections. At about 14x12 inches, with green plaid removable bottoms, and glass in the wooden top, they were perfect and we never had anything like them. RockHound's dream. Years later, I found out that he'd been embarrassed that it was so inexpensive to make. We loved them. It was instinct and need that made him think it up.
When you get someone's handmade gift, we believe they've given you a little bit of themselves with it. Not so with shopping and store-bought stuff.
Yes, one of the biggest family areas to save is the gift budget. But you have to be thrifty to get the materials at a good buy. ... or else creative to use what you already have stashed away. One year I sewed aprons for the extended family. The kids had a ball, kibitzing. As long as you pre-wash the fabric, there are so many possibilities, and they'll last for decades with a little care. There've been other gems, like the candy-making years, the gingerbread houses, and the quilting times. My favorites were the road trips with needles clicking in the backseat. Never have my brothers been so well-behaved! Well, anyway, you had something to do during the boring hours, and it was FUN. It was bonding time, the way we did it; and when it was solo, it was time to really cherish the person you were crafting for. Love in any circumstance is a treasure, and giving is the best place to find it.
I guess I'm saying, when money is harder to come by, Love makes up the difference. People stand by each other, help each other, are more considerate, and maybe their best selves. I like genuine much better. Money doesn't = happiness; caring for others DOES. Never underestimate the power of a cable scarf!

Posted: 11:04 am on October 19th
Draggin_Wings writes: 12 wonderful years ago I met my husband. When we married, together we had two 15 yr old boys, two 14 yr old boys, and one 12 yr old girl. Economically, we were just barely above the poverty level -- too broke to pay attention, but to "wealthy" to receive any kind of help from social services, etc. All of that was ok because we were a FAMILY--a non-pasturized, let alone "blended" family, but still we all knew we were in it together. My husband HATED Christmas because of residual family drama and chronic poverty, but my stepdaughter and I refused to believe that "giving" meant "spending". That first year, we began "Little House On the Prairie" Christmas traditions. If we couldn't make a thoughtful gift from something readily available, we weren't going to have presents! All the boys scoffed at the idea (circa late '90's, and the ever-present designer label fixation) but she and I did it anyway, with joy and delight. Flash to 2008: My stepdaughter is a FANTASTIC knitter who has submitted patterns to KNITTY ezine, we've both become passionaate about making presents from the heart, and guess what?? Even the guys now look forward to "the amazing presents the women make!" My husband has taken up woodworking, and all the guys have learned crafts, whether autobody repair, house remodeling or paining. My husband just got laid off so we are back to kinda broke, but nothing will ever stop me from expressing love with handmade gifts. I laugh, cry, pray and sing over my projects, no matter how simple, and know that gifts from the heart are SPECIAL. So maybe America has lost its dignity after the world viewing a winky, flirty fluff of a presidential candidate, and maybe we will all be eating a lot more peanut butter, but we can still LOVE. Ending on the lines of my favorite quote:
"If of worldly goods thou art bereft, And two loaves alone to thee are left, Sell one and with the dole Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul."
Posted: 7:50 pm on October 18th
sandydandy writes: sandydandy says, Crafting is calming. In the current state of things it is good to keep your mind off of it.I have plenty of materials and patterns. I have knitting needles and yarn. So I could make clothes for myself and others if need be. I come from a long line of creative women. Amoung them is my grandmother, who during the depression sewed for a dancing teacher so my mother could have free dancing lessons. Things were not easy when I was young. My mother used to take skirts apart that were out of style and make us tops that matched our skirts. My sister and I looked like fashion plates.With just a few ideas on how to reuse something I could recreate things that could be reused. In the past I have taken a pattern and with a few changes I came up with a different version. So believe me I could get the creative juices flowing.
Posted: 12:39 am on October 12th
sandydandy writes: I think that crafting is very relaxing. In this current state of things it is good to keep your mind off of it. I am scared to death. I think we are in a depression already. I have a stash of material and patterns . I can make my own clothes if need be. I also have knitting needles and yarn.I have taken patterns before and made changes to make it a differnt way. I come form a long line of creative women. My grandmother during the depression sewed for a dancing teacher and my mother had free dance lessons. I could use my skills and reuse something I have for something else. My mother used to take skirts that had gone out of style and make tops out of them. My sister and I looked like fashion plates. So with some ideas I could create. That would make be feel good being able to keep clothes on my back that are fashionable. Sandydandy
Posted: 12:29 am on October 12th
RubyKitty writes: The news about the economy is scary, partly because I just don't understand it. How does a solvent bank go bust? How does a country like Iceland find itself talking about being virtually bankrupt. A country!! Crafting is soothing. The repetitive motion of stitching a seam or knitting a row is calming, and lets the mind settle. It reassures you that whatever the dour economic news normal life will still go on. You still have your family and friends, you still need to clean the bath and buy groceries, and you still need to create. Crafting can be expensive if you buy lots of gadgets and geegaws, but there are plenty of sweaters waiting to be recycled in thrift shops and I'm always finding crafty goodies someone else doesn't need any more - knitting needles, crochet yarn, the contents of someone's button tin. Crafting is thrifty and that has to be the word of the moment.
Posted: 3:26 am on October 11th
Sweet_Pea writes: What wonderful ideas for helping us cope with economic disaster. I too am tired of hearing about it and more than tired of living in it. I especially love the idea of a crafting swap. Definitely something to consider if you have excess in your crafting and sewing space.

In an effort to cut back on spending, I've gathered together all of my unfinished projects and made a concerted effort to get them finished. Quite a few are done and only a couple more to go. Great for sales at craft shows and as gifts. Don't forget about the power of the internet too. I use an online photo album to post anything I want to sell. I pass the web address around at work and to others, and I am amazed at home much of these items get sold. I guess its kind of my own site.
Posted: 5:57 pm on October 10th
susanstars writes: I agree - I find crafting very soothing and it's been really nice during these uneasy weeks. I gocco-printed some get-out-the-vote postcards and I'm knitting a scarf for my baby's Halloween costume and both have felt very meditative. As you and Linda have said, I feel less impulse to buy new stuff when I feel fulfilled and creative. and I value the handmade so much more, whether it's mine or someone else's!

Michaela, what you said about watching the debate and beyond was very powerful. thank you!
Posted: 7:06 pm on October 9th
Vivienne_O writes: I'm much older than you girls I learned how to knit from my own grandmother during ww2. I remember how it felt good to be doing something when so much was happening far away. I can also remember begging my mother to buy me certain things at the store way back. Today, I can't remember what those things were, but I do remember everything that I made with my grandmother during those years. It's good to see you all of this on the internet. I think it's very good for us to do.
Posted: 8:13 pm on October 8th
Jen_W writes: Michaela, your post made tears well up. I get so mushy over crafting and friends. Asia_Tatiana, I think a craft swap would be the perfect event for Halloween itself, as I don't usually dress up and the idea of donning librarian glasses, putting my hair up in a bun with bangs, and carrying around a bloody stuffed wolf as Sarah Palin just depresses me. Better to swap that fabric my mom sent me for someone else's evil eye beads! Great idea. Check out my post on how to host a craft swap here: And for tips on recycling that unfortunate store-bought sweater, see Lee Meredith's post:

We CraftStylish folks could tell those economists a thing or two (we could at least teach them how to knit, which is what I did for two days straight after 9/11).
Posted: 5:50 pm on October 8th
Asia_Tatiana writes: Right On, craft sisters! My friends have been talking about this for the last two weeks. How are we going to 'make it' when we're all broke? So, we are planning a big craft swap right after Halloween. The idea is that we all have stuff from our stashes that we are not planning to use, or maybe just need the inspiration of something new. So we are getting it together to haul it all over to my friend's house and trade with each other. I have tons of stuff and I love the idea of it being used to make something even if it's not me who is doing the making. In return, I can swap for someone else's stuff and turn it into something awesome. The answer is creative and not buying into mass production!
Posted: 5:36 pm on October 8th
MichaelaMurphy writes: Last night watching the debate with you I was struck by how soothing it was to be with someone who was making something beautiful that was intended to inspire others as we heard over, and over, and over, from both candidates, how we are smack in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our lives. It's hard for me not to get all wrapped up in an anxious-economic lather with the holidays approaching, bills to pay etc... yet I feel strongly that the solution is creative--not that I am going to resolve the nation's crisis--that I can certainly craft my way through. Making things, practical household essentials or gifts for those I love, allows me to be proactive, expressive and participatory instead of feeling isolated by financial constraints. I am especially inspired by craft materials that are recycled or repurposed--I don't need to go out and drop a bundle on supplies. The craft community helps me to see my world from a place of abundance and as the Dow plunges I am very grateful for this perspective.
Posted: 5:23 pm on October 8th
LindaPermann writes: the way i see it, even if it does take me a long time to make something (for myself), then the $ i spent on supplies counts not only as "useful thing I am making (ie scarf)" but also as entertainment. I've gotten to the point where I really just don't like mass produced things the way I once did- I know I will hang onto something longer if I had a step in making it, so it's worth it to me, even if it costs more.

the one thing i really try to be good about is not being a consumeristic crafter. if you're buying yards and yards of fabric and not sewing anything, i see that as basically the same thing as going on a shopping spree at the department store. it helps keep my hobby spending in check.
Posted: 5:09 pm on October 8th
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