At a children’s talent show, listening to flaky child sopranos warbling about over songs built for the meandering squelch of autotune rather than any naked human voice, I started thinking about Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda. I don’t think about Gwendolen Harleth very often – though she’s possibly my favourite George Eliot heroine (alright, favourite after Dorothea Brooke), she’s a character about failure, and since George Eliot is bound up in probably the biggest failure of my life, the resonances are all just a bit too keen.
If you’ve had a look at my Writing page, then you’ve probably noticed that I have a bit of a thing for crafts. And now Comment is Free at the Guardian has provided me with a platform to declare my love of making stuff, and my hope that more schools will give their pupils the opportunity to learn practical skills:
The idea that an education should train your hands as well as your head has been consistently chipped away at over the last 30 years. Up until 1975, UK secondary schools offered pupils training in home economics and textiles (for the girls) and woodwork and metalwork (for the boys). The Sex Discrimination Act banned gender-specific classes and helped to undermine the stringent channelling of children into “domestic” or “labouring” futures, but it also – as Joanna Turney explains in a recent book – forced schools to compress craft education into nothing more than a set of “taster classes”.
To find out what I think about craft and class, the domestic in drag, and how compulsory metalwork can be a progressive force (YES IT CAN) – read the rest of the article…
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2009
So, Webster Jr (the sewing side of our sisterly craft nexus) has not only made me a ribbon for my Matilda Jane cardigan (which I will, I will, I will show you) but is also one zip-placing session away from making me a skirt. And I have done nothing – nothing at all – about making her something to wear in her classroom. Until Thursday, when I cast on for the Lamour slipover from Rowan 44.