Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Like mother, like daughter

My lovely mum when she was in her early 20s, wearing a cardigan she knitted herself.  But she's not creative, oh no.

A few months ago I wrote this post, about feminism and crafting.  I began my musings with this question: Having been long seen as unfashionable and something of relevance only to a few grey-haired WI members, the past few years there has seen a resurgence of interest in baking and crafts among the younger generation.  Without wanting to generalise, my personal experience suggests that most of the young women who are passionate about creating – whether it be cakes, clothes or Christmas decorations – are also educated, career-minded and, in many cases, feminists.  Which leads to something of a disconnect: how does one reconcile feminist views with wearing a flower-print pinny while potting homemade jams?

While I was putting that post together I asked my mum - a feminist and, although she denies it (of which more later), a crafter - for her thoughts.  Her responses have been lurking on my hard drive ever since, until I stumbled upon them yesterday and thought I would share them because, well, because my mum is ace.

The first question I asked her was "when did she start seeing herself as a feminist?"  I don't have a memory of her being anything other than a feminist; she was always vocal about equality issues and challenged me and my brothers if we said or did things she thought were sexist.  But interestingly, my mum's recollection is different.  She responded: Interesting question!  I would have actually said that it was the MA in Women’s Studies which raised my awareness (Sept 1992 – June 1993) but... I guess it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do the MA if I hadn’t had awareness raised already. I probably didn’t call myself a feminist before the course though – not sure.
What was fascinating to me about her response is that I'm fairly sure that by 1992 (when I was 14) I was calling myself a feminist, and I'm confident that I never would have done so had my mum not introduced me to the concept.

I then asked her to share her experiences of crafting with me.  My mum has always maintained that she is "not a creative person," but I'd disagree.  When I go home, I still sleep under a patchwork blanket that she knitted for my cot; every Christmas we use the stockings she sewed when we were children; she recently told me about the time she taught herself to crochet so she could make a dressing gown for me.  Not creative?!  Erm, ok mum!
I sewed, knitted, crocheted, cooked and baked because that’s what women (mothers) did!! I used to knit and sew my clothes when I was a teenager. So just continued that I guess. Maybe it was also about saving money – when you children were little I would try and find material and wool in charity shops or off market stalls. But I also enjoyed the challenge – creating things. But I always worked to patterns and recipes - I don’t see myself as creative; I follow other people’s creations. Also being a ‘stay at home’ mother meant that I had time to do these things – up to a point – and they were much more interesting than cleaning! I have wondered whether I will return to knitting or some kind of craft work when I am retired...... but then maybe not!

I was the kind of kid who was always making something, whether it was a mess in the kitchen during my attempts to bake, or glueing bits of cotton wool onto card to make Christmas decorations.  Nowadays, most weekends will find me working on a project, whether it's making teacup candles, sewing cushion covers or baking cupcakes.  And when presented with the fruits of my labours, my mum always says the same thing: "You're so clever, I don't know where you get it from".  It's clear to me that, like my feminism, I "got it" from my her; it's just bizarre that she doesn't see it the same way.


  1. What a lovely post! It's funny how a lot of people don't think of themselves as creative when they are. I have lots of friends like this who wouldn't admit it, as they don't enjoy art or drawing yet they're creative in so many other ways (knitting, cooking and crochet amongst them). I think there's so many ways to be creative, there's no one I can really think of who isn't! And your mum sounds very talented to make all those things for you.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I'm rubbish at art but will totally own that I'm creative. Slapdash, messy and not always successful, but creative nonetheless!

  2. This is such a lovely post! My mum says much the same about not being creative even though she made all of our clothes when we were little (and these days does a lot of knitting for my nephew and the other kids she knows); her art teacher had told her she was useless when she was at school and it just stuck with her that she wasn't good at anything arty. I know so many people who can trace certain doubts about themselves back to one throwaway comment when they were a kid and it's such a shame how easily children's confidence in themselves can be shaken.

    Ugh, I've gone off on a ramble. My point is: I love this.

    1. Thanks Sarah :) I'm sure it's the same for my mum - after moving from Durban to Cape Town, she got kept behind a year at school and ever since has been convinced she's not clever or good at things, but she's the most able, intelligent woman I know. It's such a shame that childhood events can run so deep into adulthood. I always try and remember that when I'm teaching... and now I'm rambling!!