Homemade Socks are the Bomb
A few days ago, I was taking an afternoon break from my usual chores, and I sat down and pulled out my knitting. I was working on an adorable little newborn sock for our coming little one (surprise!!). As the foot began to take shape, I was filled with so much joy and pride in the job that I was doing. My effort for my baby. Full of this feeling, I suddenly realized why socks used to be such a popular Christmas gift (and still are if you have grandmother knitters!)- they were homemade! What’s the thought in buying a six pack of plain white ankle or crew socks? Why would someone really appreciate that, when they can go out themselves and buy the same, boring, bland (albeit very useful) clothing staple for next to no money? But, think about a cozy, soft, and warm pair of knit socks, done in your favorite color, and made for you by a friend or family member. Imagine them picking the color and type of yarn with you in mind, designing a pattern, and working on your socks for a few hours. Those socks become more special, more satisfying, don’t they?
That’s what I thought of as I was knitting those socks especially to plop on my baby when he or she is born. And I realized something else, too. I had been planning on buying my baby 6 or 8 pairs of socks-just to make sure they have enough- and I, myself, have probably 30 or more pairs (for all seasons). Now, if I made all of those myself, for all of my family members, all I would ever do is knit socks. Yet, mothers used to knit everyone’s socks and still have time for a ton of other work. I suddenly thought, sitting there thinking of baby wearing the socks mommy made, who actually needs that many pairs of socks!? If I made 2 or 3 pairs for my baby, I would be satisfied, and they would have enough. Because I was appreciating the socks, the work put in to make them, the art of the pattern and stitches and shaping, the type of yarn chosen and their coziness, and especially the quality of the socks, I didn’t have a desire for more. I was satisfied with and appreciated what I had. That sock had an important purpose, and I had made it to provide for my family, and it was enough.
Because of the incredible amount of goods available to us, we have completely lost this sense of satisfaction. In Laudato Si, paragraph 203, Pope Francis says, “Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its goods, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending.” He calls this “compulsive consumerism.” How true this assessment is of all of us! Just the other day, I needed some new clothes, so I went to Kohl’s in an attempt to save some money with their sale items. I came out of the store fully satisfied with my purchases and with $20 in Kohl’s cash. When I went back a few days later to cash in on my free money, I ended up spending $40 more dollars, when only a few days earlier, I had not wanted anything else!
The more we buy, the more sales we see, the more we think we need. We see an advertisement for clothes, appliances, technology, and say, “If only I had that, I would be happy!” We buy the item, and in a few days, we see something or think of something else and the process starts all over.
This isn’t the only drawback of industry and the market, however. We also completely lose the process of production, and often, our goods are bought online, where we don’t even get a chance to touch, feel, smell, or see them. What things are made of becomes negligible. I have often seen old tools and kitchen goods, and their “mechanicalness,” I guess you could say, awes me, and makes me feel more connected to the earth and to the process. Usually, looking at these things, you will see roughly shaped iron and wood, real resources harvested from the earth. With my sweet little baby socks, I picked the light wool fabric out on purpose. But tell me-where does plastic, silicone, rubber, even the refined metals from today come from? Polyester, acrylic? When our goods are homemade, we not only appreciate them more, but we appreciate the natural world more and feel more connected to it. We understand that the wool that made my socks came from a sheep that ate from the land, was sheared, and then that wool was cleaned and made into yarn before it could be used. The iron and wood in old tools were crafted by carpenters and blacksmiths who worked with their hands and the actual resources. Even food is this way! Milk came from the cow that you had to nourish, take care of, and milk. Produce came form the garden that you had tended with your own hands and watched grow.
When we have this kind of understanding and experience of how things are made, we appreciate the natural world and our place in it. We are more connected to nature and therefore we know not only wjere we belong in the scheme of life, but we also know that all of nature was created, in part, to serve our needs. We have a place in this world, and this place is as stewards of creation, not dictators, not disinterested observers, and not with the power to ignore and abuse. In making the things we use, we come to appreciate where they came from, their usefulness and purpose, and consequently, our role as stewards of nature and providers of our families.
So, what does all of this mean for us today….???
I’m not saying you should never use something you didn’t make yourself. But, we have definitely lost a lot by completely abandoning this practice. So, how do we fix it? In our house, I do try to make as much as I can, and so does William, but this isn’t possible for everything we own, and definitely not for every family. My recommendation is that you try to learn one form of production; something you can experiment with and that will bring you back to nature and the work that goes into making something. This can be gardening, sewing, knitting or crocheting, woodworking or carpentry, whittling, fishing, hunting, cooking, or anything else you can think of. Be creative!
Other than this, though, we try (extra emphasis on try) to fully consider everything we purchase, never buy on a whim, and never buy something whose function can be replaced by something we already own. Also, we do spend the money to buy the nicer, higher quality, natural products that we can. I would much rather buy a real leather bag than the cheap imitation that is kinder to my wallet. I would rather buy cotton, wool, silk, or hemp than polyester, acrylic, or rayon. I would rather buy fair trade chocolates or goods than mass produced goods from sweatshops. I prefer to make my own crackers and breads to buying the boxed or bagged alternatives that are full of chemicals and processed fillers. At all opportunities, I love to buy local, handmade goods like soaps, toys, necklaces, and clothes.
What will you do to reconnect with your possessions and begin to appreciate those socks?