I learned traditional domestic arts at an early age, taught by great aunts and uncles who were our official babysitters while our parents worked. My siblings (both male and female) and I learned the basics: how to sew, cook, bake, and clean. But we also learned office and warehouse work in the family business and how to use tools to build and fix things. It was early gender neutral camp.
Beginning in my teen years I employed those skills in making Christmas gifts for family and friends. I’ve given hand beaded evening bags, needlepoint Santas, seasonal quilts and assorted crocheted items. I’ve designed and built decorative objects, baked sweet treats and made personalized ornaments. Through it all I’ve maintained a well-known aversion to being pegged as anything resembling a traditional domestic arts practitioner. And I kept my craft addiction mostly on the down low.
As the years went on, the pressure I put on myself to be Santa’s best crafting elf went from simmer to boil. Each year I tried to one-up myself, either in quality or quantity or both. The circle of recipients grew. Quality control standards became more exacting for items to be deemed “gift wrap worthy.” I deadlined myself so that personalized ornaments had to be distributed to dozens of people at Thanksgiving in order to be displayed on holiday trees. It stopped being fun. And well beyond domestic, it became a chore.
Thankfully, hundreds of seasonal markets touting one-of-a-kind and handmade items, and websites like Etsy that sell small-production goods, have filled the void. Crafting of all types has become popular again, and women in traditional roles and those in the workforce can all meet, say, at a knitting circle, without judgement on either side. Christmas has never been craftier. Or more domestic.
Now I purchase handmade items from a wide range of people to supplement my Christmas list. But I haven’t completely gone cold turkey. I’d love to talk more about it, but I have to finish two dozen monogrammed Christmas stockings. No pressure.