Tag Archives | handmade

“Our craft is a testament to our perseverance”


Ever find something that you wrote ages ago that resonates in the now? This is something just like that, which I think other people might want to hear too. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about stress and sadness after the election, so here’s a little something that may help you get through if times are tough: 

I believe that the most radical activism you can do is within yourself. Once you change and better what you can about yourself, you have more power, spirit, faith and courage to do that about other issues.

Craft taught me 10 years ago that I could make. That I had the power and the skill (although not mastery!) to make something. That each stitch was a passage of time. Because sometimes when things aren’t so good, all you have is time. To work through it.

I think a lot of Odysseus being strapped to the mast so he wouldn’t succumb to the Sirens. I feel like sometimes you have to grab on to that mast and hold on until the storm is over. All you have to do is hold on. Or stitch. Stitching shows you that time passes (watching as the item grows) that we grow and move on. That we have the power to warm our hearts and clear our minds.

It is a meditation of the highest order. A soothing of the soul that is comforted by the movement of your fingers and the softness of the yarn. The clicking of the needles. Our craft is a testament to our perseverance, our strength, our hope, our will just as it has been for centuries.

I call upon the strength of all those that clothed their families and survived through so much. If they can do that, I can do this. Sometimes craft is for survival, but all the time it is a sign that we are here. That this time isn’t wasted. That we are worthy. That we deserve the gorgeous warm things we are making. That we can help others with them. It refills our heart through storms and lashes us to the proverbial mast with ‘just one more row.’

We are the makers of our own future. We are the crafters of calmer minds. Our stitches are strength. And hope. And love. For strangers, for loved ones, and most importantly, for ourselves. Because without crafting our best selves, we are less use to others. 

Suffragettes… And Their Banners

I’ve been writing some posts on craftivism for the Fabrics Store blog, and the one that comes out on Friday features suffragette banners, along with Gandhi and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.

As I was looking for photos for that blog post, I came across the large photo collection of suffragette photos from the Library of Congress, and was amazed at all the different ways women used to get their message across. There are just a few of them below.

Please note that the photographs are in thumbnail version, so that if you click on them, they revert to their original size, allowing you to view them in more detail.

A 1917 photograph by Harris & Ewing of an unidentified suffragette.

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Trixie Friganza between other suffragettes on top of steps, New York, 1908. 

liberty and her attendants

Liberty and her Attendants (Suffragette’s Tableau) in Front of Treasury Building, Washington, DC, March 3, 1913.

suffragettes at white house

Suffragettes at the White House, 1900. 

bristow amendment

Suffragettes in Washington, DC, 1917. 

suffrage speaking from cart, london

Suffragette speaking from a cart, London, 1900. 

american suffragette

Mrs. H. Riordan, Suffragette, New York, 1910. 

how long

Suffragettes picketing at the Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 1909. 

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Suffragettes in Washington, DC, 1910. 

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Suffragettes in London, 1900. 


Margaret Vale (Mrs. George Howe), niece of President Wilson in suffrage parade, New York, October 1915.

envoys of russia

Suffragettes in Washington, DC, June 1917. 

trixie friganza

Suffragette Trixie Friganza in New York, 1908. 

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Gen. Jones “Forward,” 1914. 


Suffragettes and young girls carrying balloons, running down the steps of the U. S. Treasury towards three awaiting women, Washington, DC, 1913.

mrs laidlaw

Mrs. J. L. Laidlaw, suffragette, 1910.

suffragettes with banners

Suffragettes with banners in Washington, DC, 1918.

suffrage hay wagon

Suffrage hay wagon, Yonkers, New York, 1913.

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Suffragette Alyce Jenks.

suffragette umbrellas

Suffragettes and their umbrellas, 1910. 

suffragettes with flagsWomen suffrage hikers General Rosalie Jones, Jessie Stubbs, and Colonel Ida Craft, who is wearing a bag labeled “Votes for Women pilgrim leaflets” and carrying a banner with a notice for a “Woman Suffrage Party. Mass meeting. Opera House. Brooklyn Academy of Music. January 9th at 8:15 p.m.

tiny suffrage banner

A tiny, yet mighty, suffrage banner.

suffragette ball butterfly dance

Suffragette ball butterfly dance.

no self-respecting woman

Suffragettes with banner, Washington, DC, 1920. 

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Suffragettes posting bills, 1910.

greek cymbal dance

Suffragette ball Greek cymbal dance, Washington, DC, 1918.

Cozy and Comfy


I took this photo of Bobbin the other week and to me it pretty much embodies what, to me, is essential for “home,” a furry one and some handmade items. Every time I see her curled up with this pillow it reminds me how much I love my grandmother, who made it. As she gets older she likes to give away her things, and once when I was visiting her at her retirement home, she tucked this under my arm without warning and said, “I want you to have this.”

Store-bought pillows just don’t hold the same resonance, depth, and warmth. As lovers of things handmade, I think we are lucky to appreciate the work that goes into them, as they hold traces not just of the hands that made them, but of the people themselves.

Activism Is Not A 4-Letter Word. (Reminder)

Today’s post is a re-post of something I wrote in November 2005. If you’ve read Handmade Nation, you’ll see that I have an essay in the book with the same name. This original post was what led to the essay a few years later. I’m reposting it here because sometimes it’s good to be reminded of just where your heart lies.

Two things for today, this afternoon I’ll be on The State of Things from about 12.40 until 1EST, and tonight I’ll be talking about craftivism and the book at Barnes & Noble in Cary at 7pm.

Dictionary.com defines activism as “The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.” This is the definition I have often been presented with the minute I mention either craftivism or activism. At the mention of these terms, some people rear up and want nothing more to do with the discussion. When such a negative definition is so commonly applied, it isn’t hard to see why feathers are ruffled by even a whisper of activism.

But my own definition of activism lies closer to this, “Activism, in a general sense, can be described as intentional action to bring about social or political change” from Wikipedia. It continues with “The word ‘activism’ is often used synonymously with protest or dissent, but activism can stem from any number of political orientations and take a wide range of forms, from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, simply shopping ethically, rallies and street marches, direct action, or even guerilla tactics. In the more confrontational cases, an activist may be called a freedom fighter by some, and a terrorist by others, depending on which side of the political fence is making the observation.”

Activism (or craftivism) is less about a call to arms and more about a call to act for change. Although there are negative ways one can bring about change, the majority of activists I know are working for the common good, attempting to bring about illumination instead of darkness. By negating a construct and stripping it of its positive intent, the more commonly used definition only breeds fear and unwillingness when in fact every time you make a conscious choice, you are being an activist. In choosing to buy one brand of yarn instead of another due to the way it was produced or by choosing to ride your bike instead of drive, you are being an activist.


The past two weeks I have been living in rural England on a small-scale farm. I can’t think of a time when I have been more inspired or been taught more lessons or been shown so much hope in such a short span. I have been connecting and meeting individuals who continue to farm despite all the obstacles in their paths. After all the governmental and financial restraints have been agreed to, there seems to be little reason to continue an agrarian lifestyle.


As we send all of our textile needs to further shores where people are paid less to work more, resources that the small-scale producers have relied on since the Industrial Revolution have vanished, leaving them trying to fill in the gaps. And as it becomes more and more difficult for small-scale farmers to survive, traditions and methods are lost in the name of technology and progress.

But there is a sense of activism in the air here as people strive to continue to produce wool and fleece as they once did when all the factories where up and running and could take in small quantities of fibre to be prepared. Out of love and determination, activism is alive in its most positive sense- as individuals try and band together to keep traditional methods afloat despite myriad setbacks. In watching their strength and learning from their dedication, I am reminded again and again of why I am not ashamed to call myself an activist.

Create Your Own Adventure or Follow the Printed Instructions?

Today I ventured into a megastore to buy a gift requested in the Season of Sharing letter I was sent, which I talked more about the other day. To be honest, I was a little worried about venturing into the visual assault that is the megastore toy section. I was struck by all the instructions and brands that seemed to alienate and deviate natural curiosity into a more prescripted playtime.

Determined to make this little girl’s holiday a bit brighter, I spent 30 minutes looking for the #1 item on the list, “gilitor lava.” I asked a salesman, a woman with a young girl, and the young girl herself. Each time we sounded it out together and scratched our heads. The salesman and I agreed it sounded like a superhero. After poring over the entire toy section, I realized she meant “glitter lava.” Success at last!

Suddenly I understood the complete sense of panic and fingers crossed that parents must have when trying to buy gifts for their children. The dolls pictured above were a special circle of hell as when I walked down the aisle, they all started making creepy noises in unison. After finding the glitter lava, I then set out to find the other two things on the list. And then there I sat in the aisle debating which was the better present on the list as I could only choose one: glitter lava, Easy-Bake oven, or Polly Pocket Ultimate Party Boat.

This fieldtrip caused so much second-guessing that if I ever have children I’m going to have start buying their presents 6 months in advance complete with a researched list of pros and cons. I ended up with the Polly Pocket Ultimate Party Boat because not only did it have about a million extra pieces, it also came with a jetski for Polly to ride the high seas on. And who knew that being able to “chillax” was a sales point?! I had no idea it was so ingrained in our culture that it’s Polly Pocket approved, even while “ice cream” remained in quotes.

I’m crossing my fingers that my little Santa writer will not be sad when she opens up the gift and doesn’t discover glitter lava….which just seemed boring and too Mr. Wizard compared to getting a boat, a jetski, boating accessories and child-size sunglasses so the little girl can keep the sun out of her eyes while she’s rocking out with Polly on the boat. The obvious front-runner at first, the Easy-Bake oven, failed because I just couldn’t send an 8 year old I don’t know something you plug in the wall even if it meant there would be no little tiny tasty cakes.

I left the megastore feeling overwhelmed by all the shiny brand new things that mooed and baaed and said “Mama” as I walked past. It seemed completely impersonal with way too many warning labels and notes about choking hazards. Coming back home to my handmade crafty things was a welcome respite as my house was soft and comfy and warm instead of robotic and plastic and kinda creepy.

And I wonder what the future will bring, and if one day I’ll find myself sitting down in an aisle comparing and contrasting toys that my child desparately wants. Will they only want the mass manufactured? Will they choose Made in China over Made by Mom? Something tells me I already know the answer, I just hope it will be possible to instill a respect for the handmade so their hand-crafted items will give them as much joy and wonder as the ones made miles away by strangers.

And if I’m really really lucky, maybe they’ll understand the freedom and the power and the love that goes into their handmade gifts and create their own adventures instead of being told where their little busy minds should wander by chillaxin’ marketers who give them numbered lists.

Tuesday morning, December 16, I’ll be on Martha Stewart Living Radio! I’ll be interviewed for the show Whole Living, which is on air 10-11 AM EST. Not a Sirius subscriber? You can sign up for a 3-day free trial here!

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