I woke up the other day with an intense desire to knit. Perhaps it was the rain pattering on the roof that sparked the longing to create something cosy and warm. Or maybe I was inspired by the memory of my grandmother who taught me to knit with soft wool she’d spun herself from neighbour’s sheep.
Most likely, my aspiration to make my own jumper this winter came from a more unimaginative source: my Instagram feed has been overtaken by a knitting frenzy. Friends are posting pictures of homemade blankets, and others are crying out, ‘teach me how to cast on and off!’ Similarly, Pinterest is loaded with DIY tutorials, confirming the popularity of all things homemade. Whether we’ve made the items ourselves or picked them up from local markets, there’s something deeply personal about the term ‘homemade’ and we can’t get enough of it.
Made with love
And so I wonder: is there a change on the horizon that a mass manufactured world can’t anticipate? Like lightning flashing across a dark horizon, wholesome words like ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, ‘handmade’ and ‘fairtrade’ are suddenly shaping our purchasing habits. Despite a synthetic culture, we suddenly want to do things with our own two hands again. We want to knit, make bread, and grow herbs on our windowsills.
Advertisers have persuaded us that this way of life is too hard. However, I recently discovered all that bread requires is my fists, an oven and four ingredients: flour, water, oil and yeast. Since then, I learned that by melting cocoa powder, maple syrup and cocoa butter, and then setting this decadent mixture in the fridge, I can craft homemade chocolate.
It has been a revelation to discover making stuff isn’t hard! Yet billions of marketing dollars has been spent to ensure we forget these simple pleasures. Not so long ago our great-grandparents baked their own bread, fashioned their own clothes, and grew their own food because this was the most cost effective and efficient way to live. The result was an earth that was nurtured, diets that were chemical-free, and the powerful restrained from scouring the globe to exploit the vulnerable. But today, consumerism has fooled us into believing we live in an ‘un-hand-made’ world of magically appearing stuff. The reality is, the unseen hands that fuel global trade are bound by injustice.
To meet consumer demand and deliver substantial profits in a highly competitive marketplace, means that dirt-cheap production deals are made. This is achieved through exploiting the world’s poorest. This is how everything — electronics, children’s toys, shoes, furniture, groceries, even the cotton in our underpants — comes into being. More often than not, the threads that weave together our favourite products are spun from inhumane working conditions, environmental hazards, child slavery, abuse, poverty and even death.
Take for instance the Rana Plaza industrial disaster in 2013. The collapse of this cheaply constructed Bangladeshi garment factory resulted in over 1000 fatalities, mostly young women.
Similarly, the bittersweet currents of the chocolate industry also camouflage tales of injustice. World Vision’s Ethical Chocolate Guide states, only five per cent of chocolate is certified to be free from forced, child and trafficked labour. In West Africa, where 70 per cent of the world’s chocolate originates, a 2010 study by Tulane University revealed almost two million children in Ghana and the Ivory Coast worked in cocoa fields. Many of these children are victims of human trafficking.
I’m not trumpeting these unspoken realities to drown us all in floods of guilt. Though our daily lives may be sketched by patterns of capitalism, and though conglomerates may manipulate us with marketing campaigns; a change is here. Those wholesome words flashing like lightning are pressurising market leaders like Nike, Apple, Target and Coke into a more just way of doing business. This is because suddenly we, consumers, want items that enrich our lifestyles with all that is personal, fair and good. We want the warm reassurance of all that’s homemade.
There are unfathomable benefits behind the popular rise of ‘homemade’ goods. While we all don’t need to knit clothes or make chocolate, we can all make choices that benefit those who do. The Shop Ethical! mobile phone app identifies what brands are ethically better than others. While the Good On You app helps consumers find fashion labels with values. Or browse the Oxfam online shop (oxfamshop.org.au) and you’ll find a range of products with similar prices to mainstream ones, except these are fair, ethical and environmentally sustainable alternatives.
To relish the homemade is to learn how to honour one another and the world in which we live.
‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’
(Psalm chapter 24, verse 1)
Amy Manners is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Screen & Media, and now works as a freelance multimedia journalist. She was runner-up in the 2018 Basil Sellars Award.
Amy Manners previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html
Amy is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Screen & Media, and now works as a freelance photographer, videographer and writer. She was runner-up in the 2018 Basil Sellars Award. Her previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html