Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why Make

It's been a slow week at work, so I spent quite a bit of time browsing DIY-type web-sites. The whole floor thing has inspired me to do all sorts of wonderful things to my home, though in truth I know this enthusiasm will abate somewhat and I'll be once more consumed mostly wholly by beading and knitting, but that's OK.

Among the items that interested me were rag shag rugs: strips of fabric attached to a backing of sorts. Most used cotton jersey for the pile, but I've worked with that stuff and I know that when you cut knit fabric across, you cut all those stitches in half, generating gazillions of millimetre-long lengths of wiggly thread, and it's a messy business, so I wondered about woven cotton.
As it turns out, there was a time I thought I'd knit something from strips of fabric, and I even made a gauge swatch, but did not move beyond that. So I have (even apart from the fabric stash that is for sewing clothes mostly but is surprisingly sparse when it comes to thin cotton fabrics) a good length of something that was never intended to be sewn but was always destined to be strips.

I'm thinking bathmat.
At the time the knitted fabric was to be cut on the bias, and I had begun, though barely made a dent.

One of the reasons I was drawn to woven rather than knit fabric for a rag rug is that given the appropriate weave and weight, the fabric could be torn rather than cut, both eliminating those tiny lengths of thread that are a by-product of cutting close to along the warp or weft but not exactly, and also resulting in a softly frayed edge that would fray no more. Cutting along the diagonal is dreadfully tedious though it does also eliminate the thread by-products.

So I cut some of my fabric yarn into four-inch lengths (it struck me that even though five inches was a popular length on the blogs I surveyed, it was longer than necessary) and started attaching it to burlap using a latch-hook to make larks-head knots.

Based on the comments of those people who'd made three-by-four rugs ("It took months!"), I expected to work busily for half the day to end up with a postage-stamp-sized area, but after a little over an hour I have about thirty-six square inches (that's roughly a six-by-six square. Perhaps more, I'm guesstimating because I can't see it from here.
I don't think that's too bad at all, which makes the prospect of a rug of a usable size reasonable in terms of time.

It's way faster than knitting.  I don't think I could knit that area in that time, using yarn and needles in my preferred zone of sizes (rarely bigger than worsted; no smaller than sock-weight), and I wondered what sort of crack these people were smoking when they went on and on about the huge chunk out of their lives needed for a bathmat-sized rug.

I suspect that many of these self-described "crafty" people make things for a fairly narrow range of reasons (apart from the fact that they like doing it well enough to spend the time) which I'd guess can be summed up in one word: money. 

Most of the time, especially when up-cycling, you get a lot more home decor for a lot less outlay in cash, if considerable outlay in time. True, I read about projects which took longer than half an hour though I think most did not and I read about projects which were far from free, but even the long and involved projects involved multiple different steps, so even if the total time necessary was considerable, by and large each step didn't require multiple days or even very many multiple hours.

Don't these people knit sweaters?

Don't they make seed-beaded jewellery?

Even my floor project which took most of four weekends from start to finish doesn't qualify by my standards as exceedingly time-consuming. Given that I can work on a sweater for a couple of months worth of evenings, I'd fully expect a latch-hooked rag rug to take longer than that and not be an onerously lengthy task (the above sample is a proof-of-concept - more to see if I like it than if I am capable of producing a satisfactory product. Jury's still out).

My suspicion is that the person who does crafty up-cycling is probably a lot like the person who does stringing: they are more product-oriented than many knitters or seed-beaders who really enjoy a project that gives them maximum pleasure in the doing, in the making. DIY-ers are more product-oriented, while knitters and beaders are often more process-oriented. Sure we like to finish our projects, but we don't want them to be over too soon; we want to savour the time, bliss out in the repetitiveness, get all zen in the doing and doing and doing.

In case anyone was wondering, I'm not making any sort of value judgement on which is better: neither is preferable, neither is indicative of superior moral fiber or intellect - they are merely different motivations to satisfying a possibly unconscious need (creating something) while scratching a more immediate itch.

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