Now What?: An Intro to Green, the DIY Movement and Handmade Nation

Hello, AutoStraddle! I’m Green: novice crafter/reader of books/admirer of pretty things/inquisitor extraordinaire. I have a lot of feelings and questions and ideas. My brain’s like a rubber band ball of plans and ideas and projects!

OMFG_WHITE_SPACE

In fact, it’s nearly impossible for me to stay focused on one thing long enough to complete it because I have SO MANY IDEAS. I’m the girl that doesn’t return your calls all weekend because I decided on Friday to rearrange my bookshelves and by Sunday I’ve sewn 3/4 of a patchwork blanket, organized my my music folder, and started a blog about antique doorknobs that I’ll only update twice. Oh, and the bookshelves are half-finished. Get the picture? That’s why I’ll be writing Now What?, which will be a weekly-ish piece about whatever in the world I’m into at the moment. Is that open-ended enough for you? Hoorah!

I hope to be bringing you some flippin’ sweet interviews, tutorials, recipes, book reviews, run-on sentences and hyperlinkage out the whazoo! And of course, if you have tips or blogs or ideas or anything at all you’d like to share with me, prance on over to the Contact page and share share share! I also think videos would be fun, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What Does It Mean To Be DIY?

Now What? will mostly revolve around the DIY movement, which is such an all-encompassing catchphrase, it can sometimes be hard to define, but I’ll give it a shot. It means supporting local and independent sellers as often as possible, making and doing as many things for yourself as you can, and getting in touch with your creative side, either for fun or for money.

yourgrandmaknits

I’d never presume to be on the cutting edge of anything, much less the ever-changing world of indie/handmade/awesome, so my main goal with Now What? is just sharing. Sharing! I don’t want to type that word again. A quick thesaurus check shows that I can use bestowing, dispensing, and experiencing. Sure, why not. Let’s dispense!

Say Hi To Your Grandma For Me

Before we go any further, I feel compelled to get something off my chest regarding the crafting community. My biggest pet peeve is the employment of the phrase, “This is not your grandmother’s [insert craft here]!”, as a tagline for books and blogs. I understand why it works to pull people in — it’s so sassy and youthful. And no, I guess my embroidered Darth Vader pillow isn’t an exact replica of something my grandmother would’ve made.

these stitches and knots have been around for thousands of years, and using them to make something – anything – puts me in the company of some amazing women, both queer and straight

I did, however, use the same stitches and needles and thread that my grandmother used when she made her Elvis Presley tribute cape. Had it not been for our grandmothers’ grandmothers passing down these art forms, we wouldn’t have them to analyze, question, and make our own. For me, one of the best things about knitting and sewing is that these stitches and knots have been around for thousands of years, and using them to make something – anything – puts me in the company of some amazing women, both queer and straight. For the record, I approach this with nothing but respect for my crafting elders. What’s so bad about a macraméd plant holder, anyway?

Queers + Crafters = MFEOstichnbitch

Being involved in the DIY community is a lot like being part of the queer community. In fact, their causes and ideas overlap so often, it’s easy to confuse one for the other.  For example, we’re both known for avidly supporting our own members and neither of us are afraid of getting political when the opportunity presents itself. Interestingly, both communities seem to inherently promote environmentally ethical lifestyles and independence from major corporations. And, best of all, crafters and queers both love sequins!

What’s Now?

What really interests me about the current incarnation of the DIY lifestyle and movement is 1) its roots and 2) how and why did it get so big so fast? I know the internet machine did a lot to spread the word and the products, but why did we embrace it so enthusiastically at the turn of the century?

When Debbie Stoller, co-founder and editor-in-chief of BUST magazine, decided to start the first Stitch ‘N Bitch group in 1998, did she know it had the power to catch on like this? Maybe we could go even further back, to the ‘zine explosion of the early 90s. Women, no matter their age, background, or sexuality, used ‘zines to find their voices and make sure others could find theirs as well. We were sick of the capitalist bullshit of the 80s and we were going to do something about it. While some of us were forced to grow out of ‘zines and pink hair and riot grrrl, others, thankfully, haven’t, and it’s these sassy girls that have kept the torch burning throughout the early 00s. That same kickass spirit is thriving today — on the internet and on your block. And on AutoStraddle.com! Holleration!

Now that we’ve endured the clusterfuck that was the B*sh era, I think we all feel like it’s time to take back our world. We don’t want mass-produced clothes made in Cambodia. We don’t want the same dinner plates as our neighbor, also imported from a country in Southeast Asia. We don’t want that silly fishing pole lamp from IKEA [shit, yes we do – I love that lamp]. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to make a difference and have fun. Because it’s time.

So Now What?

  • I finally picked up Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. It’s basically a love letter to independent crafters and the idea that every person can have a positive effect, in small ways and large, by just making something. It includes a timeline titled ‘The New Wave of Craft’, which illustrates how DIY evolved from Amy Shroeder’s Venus Zine in 1994 to eventually exploding into about a billion different websites and craft fairs in 13 creative years. The book includes essays, interviews and pretty, pretty pictures. Don’t buy it expecting patterns or how-to’s — this is strictly a book about the movement. Lots of talking, lots of loving. Handmade Nation was written as a companion to the documentary by the same name. For more information on screenings and to watch a satisfyingly long trailer, go to handmadenationmovie.com.
  • How do you feel about randomly stumbling upon adorable indie writers who doodle, twitter and sell their own books? What’s that? You think it’s fabulous? Me, too! That’s why finding Carissa Halston was such a happy little accident. Her book, A Girl Named Charlie Lester, received an Honorable Mention at the New York Book Festival 2008. After you’ve ordered your copy [I received mine Monday!], make your way to Aforementioned Productions and peruse her, um, stacks. I recommend A Bad Day For Rain. If you’re in an aural mood, head on over to Carissa’s MySpace [autoplay enabled] and listen to her read The Vanity of an Unapologetic Bisexual. I’ll have more to say about this author after I’ve actually read her book. Oh, and did I mention she’s adorable?
  • I have so so many excited feelings about Spring! Too many, in fact, to squeeze into this little paragraph. To tide you over while you anxiously await Now What? Spring Edition , let’s make Eggshell Seed Starters![@instructables.com] I’m so excited, I can barely type this. All you need is an egg, some seeds, and a little potting soil. The great thing about using an eggshell is that it’s biodegradable, so when you transplant your sprout, there’s no waste! I think the official time to plant your seeds has passed, but I personally don’t care. I want a sprout in my kitchen, damn it. I’m not even going to transplant it. I just. Want. A sprout! Join me, won’t you?

This was fun. I hope you enjoyed the first installment! If you have any crafty/indie/pretty things you think we should be talking about, please let me know.  And come back next week for my very first interview for AutoStraddle!


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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 36, has two kids, two dogs, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox. More at LaneiaJones.com.

Laneia has written 648 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. 0

    This whole post is marvelous! The rising DIY/handmade lifestyle interests me a great deal. I have been ever so slowly investigating it & trying to create my own handmade fun stuff. Super excited to read future installments of this. Hooray!

    • 0

      thank you! it took most of a weekend and was a second thought, as most fun things are. i originally intended it to be bleached onto the pillowcase, but that didn’t work.

      i still want to bleach something!

  2. 0

    I will one day quote that first paragraph when trying to explain how my mind works, except substitute “favorite lines of contemporary poetry” for “antique doorknobs.”

    You are going to teach me things. I’m going to get this book! I feel this is all key to the revolution.

  3. 0

    I’m so red right now…it’s either this lovely write-up or the bikini-clad girls under Technorati Profile.

    Regardless, Green, Now What? is definitely a shiny spot of the internet that I’ll read faithfully each week.

  4. Pingback: Adoring press « Carissa Halston

  5. 0

    YES to recipes! You said recipes, yes you did! I can’t wait for all you have to offer. Holy shit. That Darth Vader pillow?!! SO AWESOME.

    I have a lot of feelings about the DIY movement, and I’m really hoping the state of the economy and other things will slowly and surely push us more towards this DIY/getting creative/getting back to basics sort of stuff. Just no basket-weaving for me, k?

    I love the future!

    • 0

      YES! there will be recipes! and pictures!

      that’s exactly how i feel w/r/t the economy. i hope it forces ppl to stop being so wasteful and thoughtless. i have more to say about this topic! bet you didn’t see that coming!

      TO THE FUTURE!

  6. 0

    awesome! over at Be Yr Own Queero we are all about the DIY. we’re also what i like to call the gay little sister of Be Yr Own Hero which just happens to be accepting submissions for the 3rd annual Hero Fest right now!

    Hero Fest is an annual radical Do It Yourself (DIY) festival in Wilmington, NC. It includes workshops, info sessions, awesome live music, free stuff, free food, lots of fun and friends from far away and close by!

    so you guys should definitely help us let the world know. we really want to queer it up this year. we’re thinking of maybe saving all the super queer stuff for the last day and having a Queero Fest!

  7. 0

    Green, this was a great read! I can’t wait for your next post.
    I’ve recently got into DIY. Pillow cases, artsy wall stuff, little things like that.
    So this is going to be fun to learn more about DIY.

    Awesome post Green!

    • 0

      i’m beginning to realize that apparently every creative person has this problem! like we’re too creative for our own good.

      i’ve read that you should write down every single idea that you have as soon as you have it. that way, it’s not weighing down your brain. this would require a special composition notebook, obvs. or maybe a new moleskine! ohhh yesssss.

      • 0

        I have about ten notebooks (different sizes for different bags) which I use for different kinds of ideas, and I always carry at least one with me. but if i’m at the gym i take notes on my ipod touch, or i send myself emails from my blackberry, or scribble on magazine subscription cards. my friends like to make fun of my notebooks ’cause if you read them i sound even crazier than per ushe, but it makes me feel like i’m not losing all my ideas. this also means i get panicky at performances and stuff where i am supposed to be paying attention in the darkness instead of writing down every “brilliant” idea that comes into my head. like this comment, which is really brilliant.

        • 0

          hahah yeah! i have a ton of notebooks, post its, scraps of paper, to do lists (on and off line) and then my problem is that I can never remember where each idea lives. i’ll have to try consolidating!

  8. 0

    The Darth pillow was awesome…and the little bunny in a blanket was just plain cute. My crafting skills seem to be limited to peep centerpieces. Maybe you’ll show me the way…

  9. 0

    Great job!

    I especially love how you spell out “clusterfuck”, but not “Bush” in the same sentence. It’s like you couldn’t bring yourself to fully acknowledge the name.

      • 0

        Oh yeah, we go way back. Back to when awesome people did awesome podcasts about a not so awesome show. Back to when you posted on the site which shall not be named.

        I’ve contemplated using a different name on this site since “Bren Ryder” is linked here. I don’t want to confuse / accidentally impersonate anyone. But 1) I’m really bad at coming up with internet handles/screen names and 2) I have an awful memory so even if I made something up I probably wouldn’t remember it every time and 3) It’s my name too, darn it.

        Anyway…glad you’re writing here.

  10. 0

    <3 i love crafting and the whole diy movement. right now stuff i have going on: 1. need to fix some really cool plates i made but forgot to seal, 2. working on getting a container garden going on my balcony to have some fresh vegetables, 3. trying to find a sewing machine via craigslist or freecycle or a garage sale, 4. waiting on some new crafting books to come in teh mail, 5. making pretty tacks for my bulletin board.

    why is it that crafty people always seem disorganized? i too have 1000 notebooks full of ideas. so many thoughts, not enough time!

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