Late this afternoon I spied this book review on the New York Times website. It’s a fantastic writeup of the book Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meanings of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands. The last paragraph made my heart sing:
Langlands, surprisingly unsentimental for someone who made his fame doing historical re-enactments, resists the pull of nostalgia. Yet he makes a persuasive case that the surrender of our lives to machines represents a regression. “Factory manufacture,” he writes, “robs us of a special something: contemplation.” He’s not talking about the big questions of human existence, but of the hundreds of small ones that go into something as simple — or as complex — as building a stone wall: “Which to use? How to work it? Where to strike it?” In the end, this is the case he makes for craeft. At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.
The thought and consideration that goes into both the preparation and execution of creating something with one’s own hands are what make crafting so much fun for me–the excitement of finding some gorgeous wool, bringing it home and then researching the perfect project for it. I even love making the gauge swatch and feeling the satisfaction when I know the size and shape are likely to suit me or the piece’s future owner just right. And like most knitters, I feel an almost rapturous joy in casting on that new project.
I’m in the market for some new books to load onto the Kindle before a trip to California next month, and this may fit the bill. I love that the author not only investigates the activities themselves, but also words associated with these activities (such as pleaching, retting and marling) that have fallen out of use as these activities were set aside for more industrialized practices. I also like that the tone is described as being not over nostalgic. Though I love my hand crafts, I do appreciate the modernizations of strong wool spun in easily manageable gauges and dyed gorgeous hues–all available to me in my local yarn shop or online. What I do hope comes through in the book though, as hinted by the paragraph quoted above, is that these activities bring a value beyond the final product, and recapturing that value and making it a regular part of our lives can be positively rejuvenating.