Sunday, 3 May 2015

Cheap & Cheerful Crochet

We need to talk about privilege.

Allow me some ramblin' here, because it's been sitting at the back of my mind for quite while now.  It came to the fore again this past week as I followed Jack Monroe blog about her Live Below The Line Challenge - surviving on £1 a day for five days - as she used to do, scraping together balanced, nutritious meals for something like 17p for dinner, 12p for breakfast, using up the last wilted spring onion in her soup, diluting the juice from the canned peaches for a drink, stretching that one can over five days.

And yet we (I) can get so blasé over the origin of our coffee beans, the presentation of our food, how predator-friendly our lamb must be.


In South Africa we have an ongoing, raging debate over (white) privilege (e.g. ) and the realisation whether you were/are privileged.  

I didn't grow up in an affluent home. Many months my parents were in their overdraft (privilege) within a week of payday.  Yet, there was no question that I would not attend university (privilege), albeit with the help of bank loans (privilege).  And once these were paid off by my dad's pension payout (privilege), I could continue with postgraduate studies where my Hons. and MSc degrees came basically free, courtesy of bursaries, research grants and the like (privileges galore). 

And then one (I) become so used to be studying/working in this milieu, that you (I) can forget that you're actually part of but a small group.  Same when you start travelling, or working as a registered professional. Your (my) privileges become so part of your (my) background, that you don't even realise it anymore. 

For me that realisation came when we returned to South Africa from Aus (privilege) and chose to buy a house  (privilege) in a less affluent area than where we previously lived.  We did this to afford me remaining a stay-at-home-mom (privilege), but still being able to buy the house we wanted, at half the price and triple the stand size compared to where we looked before.  There, many people I met weren't university (post)graduates.  Travel wasn't a taken-for-granted annual occurrence.  So very quickly my casual references to coffee shop this or Canada that or bought such and such or Scotland/HongKong/Nairobi what not became much more guarded, more thoughtful to where and when it may be raised.


While the more affluent acquaintances would raise their eyebrows at our choice of neighbourhood, choice of lifestyle :-0

Now, raking this topic all the way over to hooky - this can so easily happen over a crochet hook and a yarn of wool.  I'll be the first to admit that I do love my German Prym hook (not available in SA, but a very common buy at Kaufhof).  I love pure cotton Vinnis yarn, pure merino, or bamboo, something laced with silk,.  I go glassy-eyed at the sight of Malabrigo at my LYS, or Katia Cotton Jeans, or linen (priviliges ad infinitum)...but I will not shy away from a nice acrylic - and there ARE nice acrylics.  

Managing Ons Hekel, I came to realise that there many hookers who can't afford the lovely natural yarns exploding on the South African market, or who can't access it from their country towns/farms (our postal system is in a shambles).  Now, when you are constantly bombarded by others enthusing about the above, you can either strive to get your hands on one of these, or begin to feel resentful about the fact that so many other are boasting about it, or begin to feel embarrassed to show off your work, as you don't deem it to be of the same quality/to be as pretty.

And these are all valid, true bona fide remarks I have read on the group or received in my inbox.

Privilege dampening the experiences of others.

That is not something I would have wanted to read, that the joy of one would lead to the withdrawal of another.

It's all about the way one expresses oneself, isn't it?

Therefore I'll take even more care of my use of the term "squeak", because even though I might hate the feel of Mirage, it might also be the only yarn another woman can get in her town. Or someone else might actually love it.

Be a bit more mindful about the way I talk about yarns.

So, hand in  hand with our ongoing discussion on colour (the use of, the combinations of) on Ons Hekel, I decided the launch the Cheap & Cheerful Challenge, a challenge to make something real pretty from cheap acrylic yarn. To show that you CAN make a beautiful blanket with Charity. To show that you CAN avoid horrid colour combinations when you work with Chick. That it is not the end of the world if you choose to /are only able to work with Pullskein.

Off I went to my local Checkers supermarket to buy some Chick and this is more or less how far my own contribution is.

Just two colours, grey and denim blue

I promised a prize to the best contribution on the condition that to qualify the blanket then be donated to the Maak 'n Verskil group (Make a Difference).  I've already had pledges towards the prize and quite a few blankies have been started.  Looking forward to see what comes up!

Disclaimer -  I know that not everybody will agree with my train of thought and/or links between these...that's also fine -  the thought is mine.

PS (ed.) - I want to add on to Ale's comment below - she's residing in the neighbouring Mozambique; much less developed than RSA, much less availability of everything.  My South Africa has very different levels of living - you can experience this country as totally First World, or else totally, hopelessly Third World.  Within three, four km of my house there are squatter shacks, bush sleepers - but also houses with more bathrooms than people to use it.  There are people selling household stuff to get money to buy food, there's a guy driving the latest Ferrari.

What I'm saying is - don't feel guilty about buying great quality, expensive yarn...four balls of aforementioned Katia came to my house this week.  I'm just seeing this against the context of life around me, the things we can get so smug and boastful about - is it really that important?  It's not a bloody achievement.  

Just a privilege. 


homemade@myplace said...

I really love the words of this post. I have the same thoughts since I started to live in Mozambique, where everything is so expensive and where you cannot find good quality yarns…. I know mirage, as you can find it in the local markets and in a few haberdashery stores here in Maputo. With mirage I made my european banner and I even started a blanket for Tobia…. I'm happy with the results and as you stats what is really important is the creativity : you can do anything with that gift even with the acrylics!!!! When in Nelspruit, I go shopping to Checkers, too : so happy to do that!!!!
thank you for sharing your thoughts, xxxxx Ale

Stel said...

I can imagine the difficulty there, Ale! You would the yarn shops on Pretoria. Xx

homemade@myplace said...

…..yes, I know !!!!! ;oD
xxxxx Ale

Anonymous said...

Mooi gese. Kreatiwiteit kom van binne, en het niks te doen met die prys van die wolle nie

Hanlie said...

So 'n wonderlik mooi stukkie wat my hart geraak het. "PRIVILEGE"... Laasjaar toe ek die komberse op die trappe by die Monument beleef het en ook 'n week of wat gelede by die Uniegebou waar duisende komberse die terasse bedek het, was dit wat in my kop bly draai het. "Fancy" wolle was nie hier 'n faktor nie.... My hart het warm en opgewonde geklop....kreatiwiteit kan nie binnegehou word nie. Dit leef in die hande van die skepsel en nie in die naam van die wol nie. Die spreekwoord lui mos; 'DIE VER MAAK NIE DIE VOEL NIE." Ek het net vanoggend 'n stuk gelees oor die "healing power of creativity" en "prayer shawls".

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Stel♥♥♥ Jy verwoord wat in my hart en kop aangaan. Ek het 'n grys kombers gemaak vir die challenge en beplan 'n rustic lace square een ook. Dankie dat jy die challenge begin het♥♥♥ Melanie

Bonnie said...

Thank you for writing this. It is something about which I need to be more aware. It is easy for me to get caught up in indie dyers and small batch yarn producers and forget what a privilege it is to own yarn like that.

Jo-Ellen said...

I read this with tears in my eyes. So beautifully written. We all need to learn to count our blessings.

Nelba said...

Om 'n eie bloginskrywing (oor iets anders)te doen, het ek gaan kyk na statistiek oor hoeveel mense in SA spandeer op kos en klere. Toe ek agterkom dat ons as gesin so soort van op of selfs onder die aanbevole bedrag spandeer op kos, was ek vir 'n oomblik verlig. Tot ek besef het dat die maandelikse bedrag waarskynlik meer is as wat die meeste mense in SA verdien. Baie goeie inskrywing wat mens laat dink...

Anne said...

What a thoughtful post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter - they certainly made me think!

Take care
Anne (Crochet Between Worlds)

Amy Putkonen said...

Hi Stel,

Nice to meet you. You made some very important points about privilege. I was just watching a documentary about this American team that went to Guatamala and tried to live on $1 a day USDollar. It was hard. I don't think that many Americans could do it. I am American and very privileged. I can't help it, in some ways, but I can at least try to be more sensitive to the way I talk about things. Thank you for opening my eyes.

I am also doing the knitting/crochet challenge. I hope you will stop by and say hello!

charlien said...

Well said

Happy in red said...

Oh, yes how I feel privileged. I even feel priviliged that I can make my own decision. I decided to work for my home and be with my husband. Some girls are already with a husband at a young age and have no choice but to raise kids and never raise their voices. Love your challenge. Probably the same as ´Wibra´ yarn in The Netherlands.

Jodiebodie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodiebodie said...

An excellent post, Stel, worded with honesty and sensitivity.
You do not need to add a disclaimer - the evidence is in your experience, observations and direct feedback from others.

You have given another example of how we can be unwittingly excluding people instead of creating an inclusive society or, on a smaller level, craft group. Thank you for bringing this important message to our attention.

You prompted me to revisit my own blog to see what I had written about acrylic and to re-evaluate my attitudes - just in case I was turning into a "yarn snob" after having the privilege to access some beautiful (but expensive) yarns.

Ale is right when she said "what is really important is the creativity : you can do anything with that gift even with the acrylics!!!!"

She reminds me of a musical metaphor: A good musician can create a professional performance on a toy piano, but the most expensive instrument in the world will not make a poor musician sound any better!

Thanks for a very thought-provoking post and your challenge is a great idea to challenge people's values and attitudes as well as their crochet skills (including mine!) Great post, Stel! :-)