Monday, June 27, 2011

Home Economy? Really?

Clearly, the definition of home economy has changed. Some of us learned to sew in the 7th grade, and that was part of a "Home Ec" class. Sewing is now considered by many to be an expensive hobby. Sure, you can save money by making some things, but not necessarily clothing. When did clothing get so cheap, and fabric so expensive? The vision of the dutiful wife and mother, skilled at the sewing machine, clothing her family for pennies, has faded. Furthermore, as a clothing designer/retailer myself, I see that the money it takes to create a finely tailored garment with quality materials far exceeds the cost of a similar mass produced item for sale at discount retail outlets. And we aren't even considering the labor time! So, how does one convince a person (or herself) that a handmade item is worth the cost and effort?

Proverbs 31 refers to the virtuous woman who "procures a supply of wool and flax" and "works with willing hands"(v.13) "puts her hand to the staff with the flax; her fingers hold the spinning rod" (v.19) and "has no fear for her household; since all of them are doubly clothed. She makes her own quilts..."(v.21,22) "She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchants with sashes." (v.24) How shall we reconcile to modern times this oft quoted scripture, which depicts a respected mother and wife who provides for her own household, the needs of the poor, and also conducts a successful business from home using her own hands to create clothing and quilts?

Scripture is timeless, and unchangeable. God wasn't caught off guard when the economy tanked and the hobby quilters hijacked the fabric industry, driving the prices up, and enticing stores to abandon the aisles of bolts for little piles of fabric squares at inflated prices.

I can still remember when $3 a yard was a lot to pay for fabric, and that wasn't long ago. Now I squeal with glee when I see a tag with that price - until I see how cheap, thin, and off grain it is. Then I usually turn on my heel in disgust....And where is the real linen? Real, 100% wool? And flax....wait....what is flax?

It will take a lot of creativity in these modern times to follow the footsteps of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs; but the scripture is not outdated or irrelevant. Good quality fabric may come from overseas, or take some time and creativity to track down. It may be difficult to find a good price. It will require a skillful eye and a sharp mind to make a profit and a good product. When doing the right thing is difficult or seems futile, that isn't your cue to quit. It's a sign that you need to get smarter. Idle hands (the ones that expect success to be easy and obvious) are the ones that fail.

Sometimes it's important to remember that all is not lost. Overseas factories don't have to overtake the USA in manufacturing, and it isn't time to give up and roll over. They can mass produce what takes me an hour to make. So? Is it quality? NO. Those of us who have seen clothing last for generations know quality. I have a dress hanging in my closet that my grandmother wore in the 1950's. I have worn it, too, and so will my daughter. It doesn't have a "Made in China" tag on it either. Time for handcrafters to stand up for what they do. We don't have to die. We don't have to settle for clothing that falls apart after a few months.

Personally, I'm not listening to the naysayers. I also think arguing with God is pointless.

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