If you are any long-term reader of this blog you’ll know that rarely do I waver over my opinions. OK, NEVER do I waver over my opinions. When I declare Robin Thicke to be a festering undropped bollock formed wholly from thievery, sexism and wasp shit that’s exactly what I mean. The same as when I deride mansplainers for actually trying to write a sentence while the last drip of special sauce dries on their nib. However, since opening for business as Kraken Kreations, where I make accessories and home decor from my sewing shed, I’ve had this continual internal argument where the feminist angel on my left shoulder and the button loving angel on my right repeatedly punch each other in the face while hollering, “She’s mine!”. Let me explain.
(In fact, before I explain let it be known that the rest of this blog post may not seem entirely logical. That’s because I’m trying to put into words the face punching that I’ve outlined above. So feel free to pick up on any contradictions or signs of lunacy because I expect them to be splattered through this blog post like dog diarrhea over a busy pavement. Ok? Warned? Good.)
You see, while I’m a committed feminist and while I adore running Kraken Kreations I have a chip on my shoulder that’s roughly the size of the Vinson Massif. That’s because as a teenager in the 80s I felt so bombarded by feminine stereotypes and sexism that I made a weird internal decision to eschew anything and everything that I felt wasn’t feminist. That meant going to university, choosing a career, ignoring the cleaning, proving that I was as good as any man at my work and generally partying in ways that weren’t outlined in books about keeping house. Yes, yes, I understand that this is insensible and I understand, now, that feminism isn’t about the choices I made as a teenager but about owning who I am as a woman and rocking the shit out of it while helping to free other women from stereotypes and inequalities. Thing is, I don’t think I am actually free. That’s because while I truly believe that my work at Kraken Kreations is utterly what I want to do, there’s a tiny voice in my head saying, “Well, you would sew wouldn’t you? You’re a woman for fuck sake! What did you expect! Now, put the kettle on and shut yer mouth”.
Now, I have no idea where this voice comes from and I suspect it’s an overhang from those heady teenage days that, at the age of 43, I am yet to shake off. I don’t actually believe that it’s more ‘natural’ for women to sew than it is for men. In fact I feel enraged whenever it is suggested because it’s our patriarchal society that created this notion to begin with (are you getting a glimpse of the chaos in my head yet?). That’s why I’m starting to think the problem is with everyone else.
Look at it this way: whenever I tell anyone that I sew for a living I get the same responses, responses of “Do it for pin money at the kitchen table, do you love?”, “Yeah, women love home decor?” and “Typical girl!”. And it’s these responses that send my noggin into a festering spin. I don’t sew because I am a woman. I sew because I enjoy designing and creating, in the same way that some women are astronauts because they enjoy zero gravity while other women are professors of law because they love jurisprudence. I have analysed this over and over and while my career has nothing to do with my being in possession of a uterus the assumption that I regularly face says that it is.
Now, when I set up Kraken Kreations in 2014 it was for several reasons. I was looking for a new challenge, I loved the tangible results of sewing clothes that were outside of the sticky confines of fashion and I was sick to the back teeth of the high street being awash with pink, floral, vintage prints. I distinctly recall looking at toiletry bags in Boots the Chemist and wondering why it didn’t cater for me, a woman who wanted a toiletry bag in vivid colours and graphic prints rather than in an apologetic mix of teeny roses and shades of fuschia. I decided to start making my own and Kraken Kreations was born.
That wasn’t the end of the problem, though. Fuck no. Upon starting my business I was immediately plunged into a world of crafting that mortified me. While there are many female crafters out there carving their own glorious way through the world (some literally) there are many, many, many more who insist on sticking to the stereotypes. You have no idea how many times I have seen female crafters insisting on making blue bunting for boys and pink bunting for girls. In fact a recent networking group caused chaos by asking members to post handcrafted items in ‘girly’ colours. A number of members rightly questioned it and all hell broke loose. The dissenters had their comments deleted and those left furiously defended their gender bias in a way that made my heart shrivel up along with my ageing baps. Ask yourself what it must be like to have a crafty talent and a blank canvas only to churn out the age old stereotypes for the living. It’s like watching hope being shit on by a giant mongrel. I suspect this is what lies behind my range of feminist brooches, the urge to prove to myself and to the world that sewing doesn’t have to mean prettifying all that is patriarchal.
And this is part of why I keep wrestling with the feminist vs sewing problem. While I make items that give women choice and freedom from the scourge of the high street buyer, I cringe at being part of a world where pink is still a dominant colour on the pages of millions of female crafters. On one hand I want to support the women who embark upon these careers while on the other I want to holler at them for making products which make the stereotypes more entrenched than ever.
That’s when the feminist angel on my left shoulder and the button-loving angel on my right really get stuck into each other. I want to pursue my crafting dream but I hate that every time I mention the word ‘sew’ to someone it conjures up images of Kirstie Allsopp blowing off her husband while darning with one hand and stirring a spag bol with the other. So imagine what it’s like in my head. I’ll defend to the death the fact that women are not natural sewists yet I sew and beat myself up for doing so as if it is a betrayal of my feminist principles.
So what’s the answer? I’ll be fucked if I know. Perhaps it’s about shaking off those teenage ideals, perhaps it’s about me simply getting my head around what it really means to be a feminist, perhaps it’s about punching in the bollocks everyone who suggests that sewing involves doilies and cross-stitch patterns of kittens or perhaps it’s about me getting out more. That’s why there’ll be no well-crafted ending to this particular blog post. I’ll keep on being a feminist and I’ll keep on sewing and hopefully, one day, the shoulder perching angels will stop making such a bloody noise. I’ll weave my way through my sewing career forever wondering if my threading fingers are betraying my feminist heart.