When I wrote up my initial description of a new liberal art called New Home Economics, I debated whether or not to include sewing. Sewing, knitting, and the like were definitely part of the “old” Home Economics. I’m reading a really old Home Economics book (from the 1800s) right now and the author goes on and on about knitting your own stockings, weaving your own straw hats, etc.
My first instinct was to not include sewing. I had to draw the line somewhere, and I thought it would be better to focus more on daily activities — eating and basic household stuff — in order to make the biggest impact. Most of us don’t buy clothes every single day. Plus, at some point getting all DIY about everything becomes unrealistic when you work full-time. Part of the reason we are able to do a lot of the from-scratch cooking we do is that Adam is home part-time. He can whip out a pot of dried beans on a Monday. We don’t have to cram every single thing into Saturday and Sunday.
When I think about attempting to make even some of my own or my kids’ clothes, I feel overwhelmed. I enjoy knitting, and I sew a little bit (hemmed some curtains 3 years ago). I knitted a couple of pairs of mittens last year, and considered that an accomplishment. We DO buy a lot of our clothes second-hand, so that’s something.
But maybe there’s a place for sewing. I just noticed that one of the sheets for my bed has a hole in it. I hate to throw out that whole sheet, when most of it is still perfectly good. What else could I do with it? I also have some old dish towels that my grandma embroidered for me that I am saving. I want to turn them into some cloth napkins, and maybe a bread bag or two. When will I get around to this? Hard to say.
Realistically, we’re not ever going to see huge numbers of people sewing all their own clothes. But what if people darned their socks? Sewed buttons back on? Repaired tears to jackets or mittens or pants? Most of us do at least some of those things, but could we do more? Could I do more?
Maybe it comes down to being more conscious of what we throw away and purchase new, and examining each with much more care than we used to. So I am hereby creating a small checklist that I will try to complete before throwing a piece of clothing, or really anything at all, away:
1) Can this be repaired and still used?
2) If not, can it be taken apart and used for something else?
3) If I must dump this, can any part of it be recycled or composted?
4) If I must replace this, can I replace it with something that I can buy second-hand? Something that is more energy-efficient?
Do you think sewing should be included, or would that be taking New Home Economics too far?