Can craft change the world?

The 2020 election debates in the USA were terrifying. In the first, Donald Trump barely let Joe Biden say a word. Before the second, I was terrified. Would Trump trample all over Biden again?

What can you do about terror? People take pills, I know, but they don’t have immediate effect. Getting drunk? I didn’t want the hangover.

Magic? Getting closer. Maybe old crafts have a mysterious power.

I turned to home sewing. The day before the debate, I cut out 12 pieces of fabric, 6 for a long, linen summer skirt and 6 pieces of cotton to line it. That meant I would have 10 long, straightish seams to sew.

The debate began. I whirred down the first seam. The candidates made opening statements, more civilly than in the first debate.

A bit of debate. Whirr-rr. Whirr-rr. A lot of Trump. A bit of Biden. Whirr-rr. Whirr-rr. My skirt was coming together.

I took a break to make coffee. Amazingly, Biden made a few points without interruption or insult from his opponent.

Whirr-rr, whirr-rr. Before too long, the skirt had come together. Then the lining. Whirr-rrrr…..

By the end of the debate, only the zipper, hem and waist needed to be done. Later I made a belt and put my art deco nurse’s buckle on it.

My magical anti-Trump skirt

Can I really claim that a bit of home sewing had any effect on the US election result? Perhaps not, but who can say it didn’t?

There are scholars who think craft, ordinary home sewing, knitting and other folksy skills can help make a better world. Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University, researches the intersection of fashion, making, design and sustainability. She has written a book called Folk Fashion, Understanding Homemade Clothes.

In a recent interview on ABC radio, she reflected that wearing something your Mum had made was once a source of shame. “It looks like something from a store” was a compliment. These days, however, home sewing is less an act of frugal necessity, more like an enjoyable leisure activity or a type of self-expression. It is also one small bulwark against the throwaway fast fashion that clogs our world with waste.

I looked up this fascinating scholar’s website: amytwiggerholroyd.com and sent her an email with a picture of my anti-Trump skirt. She replied at once:

What a great story! I love the way that textiles can carry these invisible and personal meanings. Whenever you wear it I’m sure you’ll remember the experience… and the worldwide sigh of relief at the eventual election result.

I wore the skirt a few times last summer, but now that spring’s arriving, I intend to wear it again this year, and perhaps for years to come.

PENELOPE NELSON

September 2021

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