Sunday, April 17, 2011

Changing the World Order with Dishcloths (well, kind of)

It’s interesting how an idea spreads like a virus. This is something I’ve been think about for a couple of weeks, but coincidentally was blogged about by both Susie at Useless Beauty and Rachel at Growing Things and Making Things in the past week. I am too much of a sloth to protest against … well, most things, actually. There’s not much in the way of protesting going on in this part of the world anyway, though I might be moved to a spot of pitchfork-waving if cacti continue to disappear from our Botanical Gardens.

Otherwise I am shamefully passive, so this is my contribution to the topic of
How To Change The World 
Without Leaving The Comfort Of Your Living Room 
in 20,000 Easy Steps
(Many of Which Will Involve Handicrafts).

Part 1: Make your own dishcloths.

Left: Dishcloth of Rebellion. Right: Evil Capitalist Dishcloth
I crocheted a dishcloth. Actually, I crocheted three dishcloths in the past two days. The fact that I crocheted dishcloths will have two possible effects on you, the reader. Either you’ll wonder why I’ve even bothered to mention it, or you’ll wonder why on earth I bothered to make something as mundane as a dishcloth. If you belong in the former category, you’re probably a crafter. If you belong in the latter category – indeed, if you’re still wondering why I’d put so much effort into creating something that I’ll use to wipe encrusted gunk off the hob of my cooker – then you’re either not a crafter … or you’re me a short time ago. 

Up until a few months ago, I used to see pages of knitted and crocheted cloths and trivets on crafting websites and wonder, “Why did they bother?” I mean: seriously!  See, I could buy a pack of 5 scrubbing cloths for 89c. They’re disposable items: they can’t be washed (I’ve tried) but why bother anyway, because they’re so cheap? It’s just more convenient to buy another pack than to try to re-use them. But to spend an evening actually making one and the next morning plonk it into a basin of soapy water to scrub dried-in jam off my breakfast plates? Puh-lease!

But - after a period of deep introspection (excuse me: did I hear you snort?), I realised that I was doing the very thing that drives me nuts about other (non-crafty) people:
If I had a euro for every time I’ve been asked why I “bother” to crochet by someone with the portly stature of a chronic couch potato, I’d be able to afford to crochet my dishcloths in mermaid bumfluff. (Interesting, isn’t it, how people with hobbies never ask you why you “bother” to do handicrafts? Just those who habitually spend their free time sprawled across a couch in their jammes. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but I like to mix my couch surfing with a soupçon of needlework.) So if I’m going to spend an evening watching Cheers re-runs on TV, I can do so - and at the end of it, produce a cloth that I could, theoretically, use for years. If I grow attached to it (which is doubtful, given my loathing of all things domestic), I could possibly even have it for decades. See, here's my radical notion: if we’re being sold things to make our lives more convenient, to free us up to do … well, usually nothing, why not fill that time creating something that replaces the thing that we’ve been sold to give us enough time not to have to make them?

Re-read that. I think I’m making sense, but I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m getting flashbacks to college lectures about Marcuse’s theory of repressive desublimination here, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have used crocheted dishcloths as an example of how we can start a global upheaval. Then again, if he'd had to scour his own porridge pot with cheapie synthetic scrubbers, he might've come over to the dark side, hooks and all. 
That's my theory, anyway. 

Dishcloth pattern here.


Quinn said...

Hurrah for cotton washcloths!! I knit them, and they apparently last forever. Scrubbity scrub scrub.

I can hardly wait for Step 2. Keep 'em coming! I learn so much from this blog. First there was the life-altering tea episode (hurrah again, for good tea!), and now...well, let's just say I always thought mermaid bumfluff was a myth.


Unknown said...

Hmmm, interesting.
I will admit to have been slightly curious about these dishcloths popping up on blogs etc. I have been tempted, perhaps I will now create.

(I didn't actually think that they'd last longer than the 'Evil Capitalist' ones)

Thanks :-)

sue said...

It might be the 12% ABV beer I just drank, but your photo caption made me laugh hysterically and my teenage son is now concerned for my mental health. Thank you, as always, for an awesome blog post. I look forward to your new posts on Google reader. They brighten my otherwise mundane life!

Anonymous said...

I don't know how it took me so long to find you, but I think I love you. In that whole crochet addict kind of fellow crocheter love-in kind of way.

Keri/KinnicChick from Wisconsin.

Shawnee's Girl said...

I love my hand knit dishcloths. They are the first thing I could make (nothing but garter stitch, yarn overs, and knit 2 tog) and still make them as gifts. My problem you ask? Well, I never have enough people to give them too! They last for years and I have to compete with my mom who also makes them! You can also use tulle to make little scrubby pads that work just as well as steel wool, but don't scratch or rust AND you can throw them in the wash with your dishcloths and reuse them.

katiemckinna said...

For the very reasons you state, dish cloths have been on my mind lately. Your blog is really good. I can't believe how much you post!

Kyrie said...

I read recently about the world changing from Labor oriented to stuff oriented. Apparently money is worth more than time now, so people gauge the value of what they have according to the time it took to make it in comparison with the money they would be making on a job. Hence, the disposable concept, the consumable generation. Just try to explain to someone that the money they saved buying something (they really didn't need) on sale would have been really saved if they actually didn't get caught up in the hype to buy it in the first place. Advertisement is "designed" to cause an intense desire to suck the money right out of a working person's pocket. As the rich continue to become richer, the poorer continue to become poorer. And that is why I don't go to concerts, buy paper towels, and am seriously contemplating whether toilet paper is needful (I've heard that women in the Philipines will wash themselves properly with soap and water after each toilet visit). ::: Sigh ::: I wish I had had this kind of insight when my babies were little.

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Kyrie, I think you're so right. It's one of the reasons why people are generally loathe to pay a bit more for handcrafted items - unless they're also paying for a designer label that's the product of a massive marketing machine. Any "non-designer" items are put in the same category as the mass-produced articles from Asia - why pay €25 for a hand-crocheted baby blanket when you can buy one for €15 in a store? Value/Price perception has become completely skewed .

Good for you for thinking about the necessity of toilet paper - I'm not that brave :-)

Rachel said...

How funny that we've all been thinking about the same question at the same time.

If the point of the craft is to enjoy the activity, then you might as well make dishcloths, which are at least useful at the end of it. If part of the enjoyment comes from making beautiful things, then make beautiful dishcloths!

I did re-read that sentence, as instructed, several times, but I think I may be hampered by having missed out on the lectures on repressive desublimation ;-)

As for toilet paper, the disposability of which bothers me too, I have heard that some women use 'wee wipes' - a heap of rags that go in the washing machine when there's enough of them to make it worth it. I'm not sure I can overcome the yuckiness myself, but maybe that's because I don't have children. If you did... hell, you could even crochet them!

Paul & Carla said...

A "warshrag" knitter here. I've crocheted 'em, too, but prefer my knitted ones specifically BECAUSE they are not so thick. Different strokes for different folks. (I do the same garter, YO, and K2tog as above, AKA "Granny" Dishcloths.)

Voie de Vie said...

Forget repressive desublimation - think ordinary double negatives ... and trying to avoid them. :)

I think there's a real shift in attitudes about the time/value thing (which I generally agree with the perceptions written here) - and that's why a real artisanal movement is under way. Useless Beauty blogged more about making while mundane as opposed to artisanal work, although there's a link between the two to be sure.

Becci ~ Becci's Domestic Bliss said...

I've recently found your blog and have been having a wander through your old posts.
I love crocheted and knitted dishcloths!
I have made a heap over the last 18 months or so.
I have just rediscovered tunisian crochet too and think I am going to prefer that for my dishcloths as it's a tighter weave. Similar to knitted, but I don't knit.
Another fave is facewashers!
I've started selling them here and there (will be doing much more in the new year) and they have been very popular.

So I guess I don't belong to either of the groups you mention. I belong to a group the rubs their hands almost evilly and says Welcome my friend, there is no turning back :)