When I was eight, I wanted a Barbie doll desperately. Well, that and an easy bake oven. My desires stemmed not from the attractiveness of Barbie’s perky bustline or her tiny shoes, but from a circle of fourth grade girls that sat under the shade of the school’s eves and traded tiny shoes and outfits from their dolls’ seemingly endless closets. I wanted to sit with them and pass judgment on Barbie’s eveningwear, or prepare her to go out with Ken – but mostly, I wanted to be included.
I made a doll that night from my old and not-so-old clothing (much to my mother’s dismay). I can’t remember ever playing with the doll or showing it to anyone, but this act of creation is burned onto my brain, right down to the stonewash bluejeans I cut up and the tapestry on my little sewing box. In fact, I am fairly sure I never took that doll to school because during the eighties, something homemade was sure to invite torture.
Sarah Gordon, in an article she wrote for Journal of Women’s History, states that “if sewing and related arts were a source of pleasure and pride, then they were also a means of forming communities.” In the past, women formed dress clubs and quilting circles, and some formed clubs that sewed for charity. As sewing went out of vogue, there were fewer and fewer of these communities and they had fewer and fewer members. Crafters had a harder time finding communities. Fifteen years ago, I did not know anyone who sewed beyond those who worked at the fabric stores. And none of my real life friends sewed either.
Thank God for the internet.
Crafting communities now flourish – places like craftster and etsy and ravelry are booming with people eager to impart knowledge to newcomers and socialize with others. My little doll never saw the light of day when I was eight because I knew that it – and I – would not be accepted. I and my craft had no society, no community, no circle of fourth grade girls who identified with me.