After taking the kids to swim lessons we spent the day making. My husband and I got to be the manual labor for my father-in-law in his woodshop. We planed some ash for a project. What is planing? Planing is like course sanding before sanding. It’s making workable wood happen. Trees are cut (sustainably from the forest out back) and travel to the local mill and kiln where they are sawn to boards and dried. Then they come back to the shop, but they are very rough. They need to be planed and sanded before they can be used to make furniture (or other things). Today we planed about 500 board feet of lumber.
This board has been planed twice (once per side). Watching the wood grain appear was a little like magic. I found myself thinking about pieces like this where there is still bark attached. The wood grain to which we are accustomed is visible on the left. The growth area (which if this were the proper type of oak would be cork) is the layer just below the bark. Then the bark as we see it on the outside of the tree. Little holes such as those at the very bottom of the picture were often visible too. I believe those are from insects (but thinking of cork-I could easily be wrong).
It’s likely this caught my mind because I’ve been thinking more about sewing (seemingly impossible, but true) with regards to where things come from. I sew, embroider, and crochet and have done a bit of spinning, weaving and dying. The process of making, of things becoming, fascinates me. Last weekend I learned how flax was traditionally processed and turned into clothing. It took about an acre and a half of flax and perhaps a couple of years of processing to make a shirt. A shirt. That puts the “slowness” of spinning wool and then crocheting something with it into perspective. It’s slow, but it isn’t years slow (of course I’m not counting the livestock husbandry). I’ve known potters who worked with local clay, which they processed themselves. Somehow I feel that the more involved we are in creation, the more we value it, the more we are willing to work for it. $20 for a sweater or something you spun and knit or sewed yourself. As I carted lumber to and fro I thought about making over time and how it has changed. I thought about sewing and the vintage pattern I used to make A’s rocket dress and the instructions for hand stitching buttonholes which were included. Until this year it had never occurred to me that buttonhole stitch was originally for making buttonholes in clothing. Obvious now, but I’d never seen or heard of a hand stitched button hole in clothing only in stitching projects. I thought about the details, the practicality that went into everything from sewing, knitting and cooking, to carpentry and masonry, but I look at what they are now and what we see from the past. These necessary jobs still get done, but they often the results are ugly. We are surrounded by modern buildings, as well as, buildings with mosaic floors and small touches of design around the windows. I see Ikea dressers and spoon carved dressers. RTW and Me-Mades are there next to fastfood and gourmet meals. The things that last are those that are valued, usually in part for their beauty. The eat local and vintage trends of recent years probably reflect an increased understanding of the value of making and making well.
The community of makers around me, online and otherwise, is amazing and magical. Learning to value, to make less and make do with less, but make beautiful and to value more. I would like to thank you all for sharing your work, your projects, your learning, your beauty and the beauty you see around you. Knowing there are people in the world who’s eyes are open to possibilities and needs and who are courageous enough to share is heartwarming.
You’ve made it. Feel free to join us for a picnic.