Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Baby Blanket

Recently, an acquaintance told me the story of a baby blanket:  When his wife was expecting their baby, they bought the yarn and pattern to make a baby blanket.  The project was started, then they realized their lifestyle did not include the time for things like stitching a blanket, so the project languished.

They thought about having someone else finish the job.  A friend who knew how to crochet said of course, she’d be happy to make the blanket – for $200.  My friend and his wife gasped, just a bit.  It’s just a baby blanket.  How can it cost $200 to make up?  And so the yarn continues to sit in a corner – of too much sentimental value to throw away, and still no time to finish.

Anyone who stitches has heard these stories.  I would be willing to make the blanket for half that amount – these projects are usually pretty brainless, and I could work on it while walking.
But the more I thought about it, other ideas suggested themselves.  A baby blanket is often 6 balls (@ 100 grams each) of worsted weight yarn, with each ball taking about 4 hours to stitch up.  That’s 24 hours of billable time.  A finer blanket, out of DK weight yarn, would probably be double that.  For $200, that’s less than $10 an hour for the thicker yarn.  Actually not a whole lot of money for the time.  How much is 24 hours of billable time worth to my acquaintance?

Then again, the child in question is now seven years old.  It’s a little late for a baby blanket, but a perfect age for her to learn to stitch.  There’s a window of opportunity between about 6 and 10 for people to learn manual skills. They become engaged in the physical world, learn how empowered they are to transform raw materials into finished pieces that are real in their lives. They have the fine motor skills to do the work, and know how to read and follow instructions.  They can make all kinds of  toy things first. Then, in a few years, they look at the process and figure out that, with a little more yarn, they could make bigger things for their own use.

At the very least, those of us who learned in childhood know that there are patterns out there for just about anything.  A lot of them are free, and many of the more creative ones don’t cost that much.  Even better, some of us realize how easy it is to design and make real solutions to meet our needs - then we just do it.

Understanding a problem-solving methodology is a powerful tool.  Even for problems that have nothing to do with knitting or crocheting, knowing that there is a way to tackle problems and create solutions is a priceless tool in adult life.

Of course, all this depends on the young lady's lifestyle.   Would learning a craft put her at odds with her peers or challenge the values in her home?  Would her parents see this as setting her on a path of demeaning women's work or of helping develop a powerful attitude to be a force for good?  One of the unintended consequences of the women's movement was dismissing traditional women's work as demeaning.  Traditional crafts teach us to think, be creative, be calm, engage in the world, as well as cope with the stress of everyday life.  It has taken a full generation for people to start realizing again the rich value of doing things by hand.

We may live in an ideas-economy, but it doesn't hurt to know how to work with your hands.

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