She’s Crafty

Domesticity on the rise in Oregon.

HUMANITIES, January/February 2008, Volume 29, Number 1

From Fall/Winter 2007 issue of Oregon Humanities magazine: “Handmade and Proud: What’s behind the resurgence in knitting, sewing, and making your own stuff?” by Jamie Passaro.

Locally, there’s a flourishing culture of knitting and craft circles of (mostly) women who get together to make things and talk over wine and snacks. The Portland Church of Craft, which will celebrate its fourth year in October, has nine hundred members. Once a month, members gather and learn to make a project, such as a pendant made from a rubber stamp or a choker made from crocheted wire or a book made from envelopes.

This “crafty-ness” is part of a national trend. Singer reports that sales of its sewing machines have doubled since 1999. The Craft Yarn Council says that between 2002 and 2004, the number of twenty-five- to thirty-four-year-olds who are knitting and crocheting increased by more than 150 percent. Etsy, an online marketplace that’s known as the eBay of craft, reports that it has 300,000 members, 50,000 of whom are sellers. Etsy also reports that in the two years it’s been in business, one million items have been sold from its site, and most of these things are either wearable or for the home.

Call it the new wave of craft, domestic craft, domestic arts, or the new domesticity. Some link it to the third wave of feminism, to the same DIY (Do It Yourself) philosophy found in punk rock and its three chords, or to the Arts and Crafts movement of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. While it may very well be related to all of those things, there are ways in which it looks remarkably like the very thing it’s trying not to be—a little like Mom herself, or maybe like Martha Stewart, that icon of domesticity.