We're all gonna DIY, hard.

photograph of a wagon train

Image via Wikipedia

Basic skills our grandparents knew are making a comeback: woodworking and furniture repair, canning, scrap-booking, knitting, sewing,  crocheting, embroidery, gardening, glass blowing, jewelry making, ceramics; you name it.  Shared kitchens are “booming”, and craft fairs now get beer sponsors. There are more than forty community gardens in Chicago, with sixteen of those being vegetable gardens.

Everywhere I look, I see people saving money by “DIYing”. My neighbor is growing vegetables in the narrow stretch of dirt between our two buildings, and every other day I watch a squirrel steal a tomato or other newly sprouted item. A couple of my friends are feathering their own headbands (the “hottest accessory right now”), cardigans and dresses. I know another who is making her own make-up.  A youth in my neighborhood welds bikes. My roommate grew her own spices. I’ve been making my own cereal and trail mix and I have been working on making jam. Why should my relatives in Europe know how to make these things and not I?

I enrolled in a Chicago Park District sewing class this month, because I want to save money and in this digital age, I realized I know no real skill with my hands and this troubled me.  My first assignment is a quilt, which is very practical considering Chicago’s winters. I’m not actively “critiquing the modern consumerist culture”, I just can’t afford to participate in it, let alone “stimulate the economy”. For those unfamiliar with Chicago, the Chicago Park District is the oldest and largest park district in the US, with an annual budget of 385 million dollars. Besides sewing and sports, the CPD offers a variety of craft classes including stained glass and upholstery. Prices range from free to over $100 depending on the class type and what neighborhood the park is in.

With all the consignment and thrift stores in Chicago, it’s very hard for me to justify buying something “new”, the condition the secondhand clothes may be in is not enough of a deterrent when you compare prices. For those without access to sewing machines, problem solved: last Friday saw the opening of Chicago’s first D.I.Y. Store, called D.I.Y. Hards ( DIY is pronounced “die”). The shop sells custom and hand-crafted items, and provides space and equipment to help you make your own items.  D.I.Y. Hards charges $5 for 30 minutes on their sewing machines, and $7.50 for the same amount of time on the silk screen machine. If you need help, employees are standing by for an extra $4 ph. Sarah Vuong (the 23 year old co-owner, with her friend since high school)  says the DIY movement “is getting bigger and bigger”, and yeah, she wants to “change the way people consume.” Vuong and I talked briefly over the phone about that feeling of satisfaction you get when you are wear something no one else could possibly own. “People feel really proud when they make their own clothing” says Vuong, and I agree. I am already feeling pretty smug for taking this sewing class.

I can’t wait for the day when ladies flaunt their own craftsmanship over their store-bought designer bags.  At the very least, the older generations can stop calling us lazy.

Here’s a song to get you pumped up for your next DIY project (NSFW language included):

[youtubevid id=”OTyw6cq86kY”]


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