I’m interrupting my plan for my next blog post which was meant to follow on from the last, BUT as significant events in the world in recent days have, I’m sure, swayed many people’s attention and sparked the most remarkable debate on social media, I thought I would add some thoughts on Craftivism and Activism. Recent news has certainly swayed my attention, and I must admit, crafting activities which usually occupy much of my spare time (for my fingers are nearly always busy with yarn or fabric) have been almost suspended. Perhaps I should say, it has been my fingers that have been suspended, mid-movement whilst spinning wool, as the next news comes out about the decrees and instructions flying out of the US White House – and I think to myself ‘No, you’re kidding, what is the world coming to?’

Seeing as, outside of the Gohomespun sphere, my background is in Environmental Science I am, for instance, agog at the situation that environmental scientists in US find themselves in. All because they wish to communicate current thinking about  #climatechange. See #hashtags like #ClimateChangeIsReal and news that USDA Scientists Have Been Put on Lock Down Under Trump. It all has serious implications.

On another note, as the hashtag #Craftivism  gains momentum on Twitter and elsewhere, I watch with interest. Pussyhats, hand-knitted or hand-crocheted by their owners, seen in abundance at Women’s March crowds only days ago, has turned heads and raised interest in crafters as activists. A thread of activism has been infiltrating my own blogging for some time now. I find myself inciting people into a little gentle activism. If you craft with yarn or fabric, buy wool, if you are British, buy  #BritishWool… don’t let that wonderful, renewable, biodegradable, warm and insulating yet breathable, natural, sustainable material go to waste. Buy #rarebreedwool  because those sheep represent thousands of years of farming heritage. Their life alongside people has created genetic diversity that we mustn’t lose, in a land where monoculture farming gains ever more ground. They are sheep with character, and I understand from Mr Gohomespun’s father who ran a small farm for years, that they have personality too. The stuff off the backs of sheep bleating in the fields on your doorstep hasn’t been tankered in over hundreds or thousands of miles, but it is being composted or burnt year after year in the face of limited demand, and instead we choose non-biodegradable synthetics made from oil? Darn, stitch, get creative with #makedoandmend – save good clothing from becoming landfill; gently refuse to consume more than you need to. Make, create and produce, because along with the love of making, you get to take back a little bit of your life dominated by mega-industry and big corporations. Support other makers too, in a bid for #sustainablefashion. There, I’ve got on a roll, and I could go on. As I’m mainly a tea drinker I should stay off the coffee or the extra shot of caffeine will definitely make me go on.

Sometimes I wonder where the tendency towards sporadic break-outs of tub-thumping comes from. In turn, I’m curious as to where it comes from in others that I follow – is it nature or nurture? That question (nature or nurture) in my own case, has brought me round to some family history which says something to me about history and activism repeating itself.

I used to think that I have no activist upbringing, I don’t know where it comes from and that it can’t be nurture. Maybe that’s not true though. My own dear father doth quietly protest from time to time, but because he’s unlikely to incite knitters to unite, I haven’t seen the connection! A tendency to incite/protest goes back a generation too. I never got to know my Grandmother (my father’s side) as she died when I was two. She was fervently religious and a pacifist to boot. Some time ago, when searching through family documents, I found a copy of her own letter of protest addressed to Alderman Cyril Wilson Black about the Suez Crisis in November 1956, alongside a petition from others, that I think is related, to the then ?Prime Minister Anthony Eden. For a transcript of the rather blurry copy below see here.

Suez Crisis 1956

My Grandmother’s letter of protest about aggression in the Middle East (Suez Crisis) in 1956

Petition to Downing Street relating to military aggression in the Middle East (Suez Crisis) in 1956

Does it sound familiar? Do we see history repeating itself today? These days I sign many digital petitions to ban bee-killing pesticides, save the Arctic, stop big banks and corporations from funding the destruction of rainforests and the demise of orangutans. My interests differ somewhat from those of my Grandmother, but all the same, I wonder if I’m a ‘chip off the old block’ and if blood runs thicker than water? It can’t have been nurture, unless she was whispering activist thoughts into my toddler ears, for she never made it long enough for me to have a conversation with her. Conversely, my other Grandmother (Nan) who I did grow up with, wouldn’t have petitioned and campaigned. She quietly got on with everyday life, knitting, sewing, mending embroidering, cooking, baking. Hmm, perhaps I’m a chip off two blocks, and hence two opposite ways have merged?

I started this post on Sunday, but broke off to travel out for a family get together. On the car radio the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme came on, and this time it was about Leah Chase: The cook who changed America, a 94 year old cook who recounted her days at Dooky Chase, her family restaurant in New Orleans. It became a favourite haunt of Civil Rights activists and Freedom Writers, fighting for the end of racial segregation. When asked if she worried about what would happen to some of these people, who were living a quite dangerous lifestyle, she said ‘…back then, in those days, we kinda thought a little bit more positive than we are thinking today. Today we don’t think positive, we just give up too soon, and we don’t realise if we just hang in there and do what ever we have to do, it’s going to be alright, it’s going to be alright. I always say we changed the course of America over a bowl of Gumbo [stew]….’.

Inspirational words. When you feel that Presidents, Prime Ministers and large corporations are just too big to fight, perhaps we should bear Leah’s word in mind: do what ever you have to do, whether that be writing protest blog posts, signing petitions or little acts of defiance, like refusing to over-consume, making stuff not buying stuff – whatever makes sense to you. Just don’t lie down. No action will get us nowhere.