“My mum died four years ago and I have already thrown away all the jumpers she knitted for me.”
So begins an old blog entry I found today, loitering in the drafts folder since November last year. I’m publishing it now, unfinished (see the last paragraph), exactly as I found it. I think it speaks to my current state of mind and my deep feelings about the culture of consumption in which I find myself living and upon which I am dependent for my continued wellbeing. This is how it continues:
Now, at the time, this seemed like a good choice: they were in colours I didn’t always like (some were black and blue because they had been created for me to wear at school, though my favourite was cream and green speckles) and the sleeves, and sometimes also the bodies, were invariably over-long (the black one caused me embarrassment at the age of 13 because it felt like I was wearing a dress). God bless her my mum, she was taking care to knit long-sleeved jumpers for her tall son, because she knew the market didn’t provide garments that would meet my need for warm wrists.
Two years ago, when I was looking for a job after my African experiences, I bought a suit. Nice, smart, cheap (£50!) pin-stripe affair, I love it. I had to try hard, however, to avoid getting one with two pockets on one side — remember that? It seems to have gone now, but it was fashion for a while. My fear was that it would be unfashionable within a year-or-two; I wanted a suit that would deliver value by surviving the test of time. I still own suits I bought when I was in my 20s.
The concepts in my mind that affect what I value have changed since I was at school. Now I’d love to have one of mum’s hand-knitted jumpers; a bit saggy in places and with bundles of spare length in the arms. But then I found them embarrassing. Though my values have changed, I feel as if the society in which I now live wants me to buy stuff rather than enjoy making it myself. Harry Potter, and everyone who gets a jumper from Mrs Weasley, find them funny; but there is greater respect for robes, wands and books purchased from Diagonal Alley.
Buying new stuff is virtuous behaviour in a consumer society. Sending old clothes to the charity shop (or to be circulated in the mutumba markets of Kenya) is a necessary side-effect of filling our wardrobes with new ones. Fashions change twice these days in the time it took my mum to knit a jumper on which I doubt anyone would compliment me for its look. I’d like to have one of those old jumpers again now for at least two reasons:
- to remind me of my mum
- as a symbol of what I value these days
Mahatma Ghandi advocated wearing and spinning homespun cloth as a form of resistance to British colonization. Perhaps we could knit for liberty from colonization of the mind?
My mind is under attack