Ever wondered why a locally-manufactured dress costs so much more than something you could get from a chain store? Or why some knitter is charging $100 for a scarf? Or why the price tag on that hand-made dining table has so many zeroes? It’s all in the hand-made skills.
Leaning a new skill like sewing, knitting or woodworking will not only teach you to make your own cool items, but also give you a greater appreciation for what goes into a unique, hand-made piece of clothing or furniture that will last a lifetime.
So here are the skills to make you a more conscientious shopper.
Learn to sew
This is the fastest way to understand why an Australian-made shirt costs a lot more than a $10 throw-away t-shirt from a chain store. Once you know how to sew, and what it takes to make a garment, you’ll be able to spot the difference and see the value in quality.
A lot of community colleges offer learn to sew courses ranging from beginner to pattern making (that’s designing your own garments from scratch). If there aren’t any classes in your area, but you can get your hands on a basic machine (try second-hand, Spotlight or even ALDI for cheaper options), then there are still at-home options to learn the skills. The School of Sewing book teaches you the basic techniques gradually through 12 projects, designed to be completed one per month, and you can even make it a group activity like a book club.
Pick up knitting or crochet
As an avid knitter, I’ve been asked so many times if I would sell the items I’ve made, but in reality, with the cost of the fancy yarns I use and the time it takes to make something like a cardigan, the end price would be $300 or more. So I just make things for myself and family and friends who really appreciate it.
My grandma and mum taught me to knit (my dad can also knit because he grew up in a generation where if you didn’t make it yourself you just went cold), but you can also connect with your local knitting store to find out about classes near you. If you’re not up for going back to school, Patons has a great Learn to Knit book that is easy to follow (there’s also a crochet version), and there are plenty of great ‘how to’ videos on YouTube from companies like Purl Soho and Brooklyn Tweed if you get stuck.
And aside from learning a new skill, crafts like knitting and crochet are also great for mindfulness. It’s a win-win.
Join a woodworking group
The Men’s Sheds network was set up to help combat mental health issues. There are similar community groups that are open to everyone – you can just search “woodworking groups” in your area, or contact organisations like Woodworks’ Association of NSW which holds workshops and exhibitions for members. My mum recently returned to woodworking and she’s made me all sorts of fabulous furniture, like this coffee table/laptop stand:
And if you need a celebrity in to get you excited, Nick Offerman, of Parks and Recreation fame, is a woodworker and has his own book, Good Clean Fun, which goes inside the Offerman Woodshop. It even includes projects you can make yourself.
Get crafty and build yourself a new appreciation for all things hand-made.