The Granny Skill Set
Brenna Cook Fowler
The Granny Skill Set
…with an updated mindset. Crafting, or handicrafts, is no longer common practice among people in recent generations; and if they are, the people doing them are often viewed with certain biases. With the rejection of the idea of the “homemaker”, paired with current consumer culture and fashion, handmaking became a devalued skillset.
For me, handicrafts have always been something that I’ve enjoyed, but as I got older, I stopped seeing the value in those skills, buying into societal “norms”. I cast them aside and turned my focus to other artistic endeavours. Even coming into art school, where the exploration of all mediums is strongly encouraged, I was left feeling like there wasn’t a place for my crafty skills.
However, in the last two years, with an unexpected and prolonged time at home, I found myself bored and needing something to do. I returned to my old skills such as crochet, sewing, and knitting. I began to look at these skills in a new light, as they unlocked possibilities that I had not considered before. The ability to sew/mend my own clothes was empowering and gave me a sense of resiliency.
Searching the thrift store for materials and creating items from what I’d found sparked a new outlet in my constant search for new sustainable choices, and left me wondering why these skills ever fell to the back burner. For previous generations, these skills were common, practical, and even necessary.
With climate change altering what our future may look like, and systems such as supply chains being interrupted, the ability to rely on one’s self is more important than ever, and that applies right down to patching the hole in your socks. I grew up with the crafty influence of my grandmothers, but not everyone has had that luxury. I wanted this project to give people the resources to start exploring handicrafts once again (or for the first time) – and connect with their inner “granny”.
One of the main issues with handicrafts these days is the lack of shared knowledge, so I chose to create zines that could be easily shared and gifted. I wanted them to have a laid-back feel like you’re talking to a friend; no judgement, just a helping hand.
Each booklet tackles a different topic, the main one discussing why you should craft, the second addresses building a sustainable practice, and the third is a compilation of resources and tips. Much of the information comes from my own learning experience, as well as some that I’ve learned from other sources (such as social media or my grandmothers). All zines include handmade elements and are riso printed.
Patches & Stickers
I made a selection of hand-embroidered patches (and one title patch) with little slogans to enhance some of the messaging behind this project. I then turned those patches into stickers by scanning them and printing them on the Risograph.
- “unravel your bias” – “Bias” is a term used in knitting and sewing, so this play on words was intended to address the negative opinions around crafting being something that was old-fashioned, not useful, or “granny skills”.
- “resting stitch face >:( ” – Is playing on the term “resting bitch face”, but with a nod to the look of concentration that one gets while doing finicky work such as embroidery (it’s basically a depiction of what I looked like while making it). This patch again touches on the biases that surround handicrafts, such as it being “women’s work”, but with an angry feminist twist.
- “mending is better than ending” – This sticker is a play on a quote from the novel Brave New World, originally “Ending is better than mending”. In this case, I’ve flipped it to reference the importance of mending your clothes (and other textiles) instead of replacing them.
Towards the end of my project, my grandma gave me some pattern clippings that had belonged to my great-great-grandmother – I immediately knew that I had to find a way to use them. I scanned and printed them using the risograph; this not only resulted in a poster, but it was also a beautiful way to memorialize these old clippings (and pieces of family history) as well. The blending of old and new material in these posters speaks to these skills being a practice that can be passed down through the generations.
This vest was something that I crocheted during the lockdown in 2020. While its creation may have filled my time and kept me occupied, the resulting garment ended up being something that was never worn – mainly because it’s too big and the yarn is too stiff and doesn’t drape. I’ve since learned from the mistakes I made, which ended up being the catalyst for my idea of mindful making. I figured it would be the perfect victim for adding text to and upcycling it into a piece for this project. I pulled this quote from my Conscious Crafting booklet as it perfectly encapsulates the process that I should have used while making this vest.
Craft kit / Zine pack
When I realized that I needed a way to contain my zines, the idea of a cellophane bag or something similar didn’t sit right with me. I opted to make a crafting kit of sorts (completely freestyle, no pattern); I crocheted the outer layer and sewed in the pocket lining afterwards.
The idea behind it is one of a (deluxe edition) zine pack that you could give to someone that would come with some supplies, such as a crochet hook, needles, thread, etc, to start them off on their crafting journey (with some patches and stickers as an added bonus!).