The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘craft’

I’m A DIY Cupcake Feminist

Posted by Cate on August 26, 2008

I quite enjoyed this article in The Guardian recently by Viv Groskop. It’s about the apparent ‘resurgence’ of feminine pastimes such as baking, knitting and sewing. The article details the ‘rise’ in retro and ’50s kitsch and pastimes traditionally enjoyed by stay at home mums such as tea parties, baking cakes and having a liking for tablecloths and aprons and debates whether this is a throw back to pinny imprisoned women of years past or an example of women spending time together engaging in ‘feminine’ crafts because they want to. I have divided opinions on this.

I should state my personal bias up front. I have always been crap at sports and elected to participate in all things crafty from an early age as a sanctuary from physical exertion. I run my own craft business and I run workshops on crafting. I’m in the middle of organizing a sewing bee making pads for women in Africa. But onto the article…

Firstly, the article offers numerous examples of ‘subversive’ crafting such as a cupcake drop, burlesque and naked afternoon teas and the like. Is there anything that can’t be made sexy? Sexing craft up doesn’t necessarily make it any more subversive an activity if the focus is still on the fetishised, sexualised women. But is it any better if the crafty burlesque is for a female audience? Is the wearer of those DIY nipple tassles a crafty crusader or does her presence serve to offer women yet another opportunity to compare their body to other women’s and find their sadly inadequate? But fear not readers, there’s a whole spectrum of subversive and radical crafts out there that you could do knitted or otherwise really (here’s a pattern for a knitted vagina if you feel the urge and you might enjoy this site whilst waiting for the GST on tampons to lift.

Secondly, there the issue of context as the author offers the typical contrast between second and third wave feminists. Is baking such great fun if you have to do all the cooking?.

According to a 2008 study by the [UK]Institute for Social and Economic Research, for instance, men do four to five hours of housework a week, compared with 12 hours for married women and live-in partners (single women do seven hours a week). And when it comes to cooking and washing-up, 2005 figures from the Office of National Statistics show that women spend double the amount of time in the kitchen that men do.

I can’t say this is my experience. My feminine crafting hardly extends to an immaculate house of my own efforts. Actually, my partner kindly vacuums up my dropped threads from the carpet and makes me cups of tea whilst I’m crafting. But I do agree that some crafts such as knitting and cross stitch can take a long time. I think that in some respects traditional female crafts are the luxury of middle class women who are meaningfully employed. With time to go and trawl the charity shops for their ‘reusable’ materials of course. Any woman who’s checked out the prices of Japanese or retro fabrics knows that it isn’t a cheap hobbby.

I would have liked the article to go a bit further into the ethical considerations of crafting. Is DIY baking and crafting still a valiant attempt to have a social conscience? Is it better to buy handmade if it is made from fabric woven in sweat shop factories? Are my labours as a crafter any more valued since I don’t have to sew to survive? (Perhaps not, judging by the masses of painstakingly cross stitched dollies residing in charity shops all over Australia).

I agree with Jazz D Holly statement that craft is about

”a chance to carve out their own space away from men, a place where they can gather to celebrate and enjoy traditionally female crafts”.

It can also be a good time to talk about your vaginas and plans for anti-beauty burlesque.


Posted in Blog Watch, Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

You Can’t Go To School With Your Period!

Posted by Cate on August 19, 2008

Imagine missing about a week of school (or work) a month because you have your period.

In many areas of the world, access to adequate menstrual supplies is difficult to come by. Many women and girls rely on rags, newspaper, camel skin or nothing at all for their menstrual needs. A lack of sanitary pads can be a big barrier to a girl’s education.

I was recently told about Good 4 Girls a non-profit organisation who seek out donors to sew or purchase new, reusable menstrual pads for donations to areas of Africa where these products are needed most, such as schools and refugee camps in Sudan and Kenya.

Providing reusable supplies not only provides a more environmentally friendly alternative for these young women (in areas of adequate water supply for washing), it reduces their dependence on outside aid organizations to continue providing for their monthly needs.

The Dawn Chorus thinks this is a fabulous, pragmatic initiative and we want to help. I’m currently organising a sewing-bee to make a stack of reusable pads to be donated. Can’t sew? Maybe you can cut out patterns or iron seams or something. Or perhaps you’d like to donate some fabric (cotton flannelette) and thread?

In case you have no real idea what I am talking about in regard to a cloth pad, this is one example of a cloth pad from Health Home and Happiness.

If you would like to get involved and join the sewing bee (the first one will be at Chez Cate in early September in Melbourne), feel free to send an email to me: ms.cate [AT] . At some stage I will design a flyer with all the relevant details.

Posted in Uncategorized, Women's Health | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

I’m Anxiously Crafty…

Posted by Cate on July 3, 2008

Hi folks, I’m organising an 8-week series of ‘craftea chats’ for women who have experienced mental illness and are based in Melbourne.

We’ll have different materials and teachers each week and you can bring along your current project or learn a new skill such as knitting, sewing or cross stitch. All materials are provided and each session is free. Depression, anxiety and the like can be lonely and isolating and the workshops are a great chance to meet other women and engage in some crafty fun while enjoying tea and bickies.

Weekly from August 6th
Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

The workshops are funded through a grant by The City of Melbourne and auspicing of the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council

Interested? Check out the details below and email to book your place ( spaces are limited).

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Make Dolls Not Barbies

Posted by Cate on June 30, 2008

This is an invitation to be a part of Totem, the latest exhibition presented by Omnific Assembly.

Totem is a group exhibition exploring self identity through the resurging craft movement. Artists are invited to create a self portrait doll, not of how they look on the outside, but showing how they feel about themselves or how they secretly see themselves on the inside. These dolls will then be hung in the Fracture Galleries at Federation Square in Melbourne from 22nd of September to the 13th November as part of the Melbourne International Fringe Festival.

These dolls can be created from scratch (sewn, knitted, crocheted, carved, glued etc), conversions from pre-existing dolls, sculptural assemblages from any materials, found objects or anything else you can imagine. They can be a human, an animal, a mythical creature or anything else. They can be as fantastical or ordinary as each artist feels themselves to be. Artists can submit as many dolls as they wish. The venue can cater for dolls from 30cm to several metres.

The Totem exhibition recognises we live in a growing culture of alienation which results in an increasing suspicion of strangers and shame of the self. The central premise of Totem is that no matter how different from each other we might seem on the outside, we all feel the same on the inside and it expresses this through individually created dolls which expose each artists deepest sense of identity, demonstrating that the realm of human experience is the same no matter who we are.

To find out more, please visit

To be a part of this exhibition please contact curator Sayraphim Lothian on

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