I know — this sounds like one big Midwestern craft fair. But hang on a hot second and hear me out.
I recently moved to New York City sans full-time job, sans apartment, sans anything save two suitcases, a lot of wedges, not enough handbags and a laptop. At first this challenge was fun — it inspired me to get out, try new things, look for new opportunities, and meet new people. Then it had been five weeks and I still didn’t have a full-time job and the apartment hunt was abysmal. My savings account was depleted. I was probably going to die somewhere alone in a corner with a placard hanging around my neck saying “Big City Dreams Gone Bad.”
So, in an effort to abate my suicidal tendencies by at least engaging sunshine, I wound up in Washington Square Park one day savoring my bodega coffee bought with the change hidden in the bottom of my purse. It was there that I received a call from my dear friend Jack who said: “I’ve started crocheting. It’s really calming, and I think it would be good for you.” He then went on to say that he originally planned to tell me about his new project by making me something and sending it to me unannounced, but that in my desperate state this might be just the creative Xanax I needed. Although I crocheted a lot as a teen, I hadn’t done it in years — but suddenly, the prospect of funneling all of my frenetic energy into something physical that I made was so exciting that I ran to a yarn store in Chelsea and assaulted a saleswoman with demands of how to make a scarf as big as me. To her credit, I — a hot sweaty mess who was clearly putting way too much emotional energy into making a rudely large scarf — was more than a little terrifying. But she kindly helped me pick out the perfect shade of mustard yellow and instructed me as to where I could find directions to begin making my person-sized dream scarf.
That night, as I drank a bottle of three buck Chuck, watching old episodes of Top Chef on the Internet (yes, I sought out and self-induced a Top Chef: Las Vegas marathon) and talked to Jack, I began crocheting my scarf. I felt happier in that moment than I had felt in weeks, and it was because I had taken a creative hold of something and built an object from a series of choices — color, size, length, the option of fringe, how it would eventually be styled —that were none other than my own. It seems small and perhaps a bit over-exaggerated, but without a proper job and a temporary drought of creative work, this was the sartorial outlet I needed to continue activating myself as someone who thrives on the energy of fashion.
I had a conversation with a British film student the other night whose fashion insider girlfriend of eight years and propensity towards travel has taught him a great deal about international style and the cultural motivation of trends. We talked a lot about how fashion is in a transitional moment right now — recessions have stagnated design impulses, we’ve lost some of our greatest innovators to suicide or addiction, and while the clothes may still be well-made, the overall creative energy of fashion seems reduced when compared to glory decades like the 60s, 70s and even 80s.
What this is all meant to say is that we — the creatively inclined, the fashionably minded — have more control than we may think and that’s why DIY projects have come upon such a vibrant moment. There is a bureaucracy to fashion design that will always remain in place, but rather than feeling stunted by that or your own personal limitations, it behooves you to readjust your expectations and activate your own creative impulses. Suck down that bodega coffee and figure out which alterations you need to make. If not for the greater good, at least for the good of your own creativity. And who isn’t in the market for a self-crocheted, human-sized scarf?
1. Wear And Tear Necklace, $86
4. Salvatore Ferragamo Crochet Clutch, $990
5. Giant Scarf
— Amanda Aldinger
Image Layout: Amy Newling
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