Living the 'Crafty Lifestyle'

I recently received an email about a new magazine called The Simple Things. It's from the publishers of Mollie Makes and as an ex-subscriber of MM (read why here), they thought I might be interested. I'm sure some of you have also received the same email. Here's the main part of it:

"As a previous subscriber to Mollie Makes we wanted you to be the first to know about the launch of The Simple Things - a new monthly magazine celebrating the things that matter most. On sale 6th September, The Simple Things features a gorgeous blend of interiors, gardening, cookery, lifestyle and crafts. [Fine, that sounds quite nice]

The Simple Things is all about slowing down and taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life - a walk in the country, making a warm inviting home, sharing food with loved ones, gardening, traditions worth reviving and memories worth cherishing. [Hmmm, OK]

The Simple Things is about knowing that there's no satisfaction like that at the end of a long muddy walk, [Uh oh...] no pink so pretty as freshly-cut rhubarb, [Oh no...] no perfume to compare with your own home-grown flowers. It's keeping your dad's old typewriter just because it's beautiful [Oh no. No no no no no]. It's an empty beach on a Sunday morning. It's backpedalling. It's the Simple Things." [........]


I found it difficult to make it to the end of those paragraphs without a physical, toe-curling reaction. Who on earth did they get to write that? It's a hideous piece of prose, truly. It is also symptomatic of the increasing commoditisation of craft and handmade goods and the development of magazines that cater to a so-called 'crafty lifestyle' - as also seen with Mollie Makes.


The "crafty lifestyle" that is so often espoused seems to be centred around a Kirstie Allsopp-style vision of a middle class lifestyle in the English countryside, sprinkled with Cath Kidston brand goods and knitted cakes. Where the people involved have all the time in the world to gild a pear (Kirstie again), enough room in their house to display a lot of useless stuff and enough money to spend a small fortune on craft supplies for all the 700 crafts they want to try before coming 'Top of the Show' in the village show with them all (yes, Kirstie yet again).

I am most decidedly middle class and I DO like a bit of Cath Kidston in moderation, but I find the idea of this whole crafty lifestyle depressing. Moreover, I hate the fact that the various reasons people often have for making things, such as to be sustainable, be individual or save money, are packaged into this hideous idea of a 'crafty lifestyle' and fed back to us through magazines. With Mollie Makes, I found the tone could verge on patronising with poorly written generalisations about what 'we' (all of us crafty lifestylers) liked to make or do.

And yes, I know that feeding on women's insecurities is what fashion magazines have been doing for years - but history shows that they do make you feel bad about yourself. So how might you expect to feel after reading these crafty lifestyle magazines? A bit crap that you don't make enough things? A bit like your lifestyle isn't good enough if you don't have time to gaze intently at a stick of rhubarb or don't have the space to display a useless typewriter?


What I am getting it is that there isn't just one generic 'crafty lifestyle'. It's not all about making cutesy twee things or crafting biscuits out of felt (looking at you, Mollie Makes) There are so many ways to find your creative niche and enjoy making things for yourself and others. People make things for so many reasons and we should celebrating that and encouraging that, instead of presenting just one generic lifestyle that is only relevant to about 5 people in the UK. And I bet they're all insufferably smug bastards.

And as for The Simple Things? You can read some sample pages here. I had a look and you know, it's not as heinous as that introductory prose makes out - they've done themselves a real disservice with that. I think the concept might get a bit grating/preachy after a couple of issues but I am tempted to throw in my £5 for 3 issues and see how it pans out.

I don't need to convince any of you that making things for yourself is great. It can be enjoyable and empowering, a way to feel good about yourself and a means to connect with others. If this magazine encourages more people to think about how they can introduce handmade concepts into their life than that is fantastic. Let's wait and see. In the meantime if you want to read diverse and intelligently written articles about textiles, I can highly recommend Selvedge magazine.


K x 

39 comments:

  1. As a sometimes reader and on-and-off subscriber of Mollie Makes, I also got this email and had pretty much the same reaction. It's just so cutesy and twee! Ugh. However having had a look through the sampler, I agree it looks more interesting than expected. Time will tell!

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  2. I really dislike Mollie Makes and I have to say I find the sales pitch of this The Simple Things magazine bordering on offensive. It's so cynical! All of this about slowing down, enjoying the simple things - well, fair enough, but the sole purpose of a magazine like this, any magazine, is to make money through advertising. So how is it slowing down, enjoying the simpler things, if the whole time you're being sold to? Yeah okay you might be buying crafty things which you can use to spend time making, but still, what I hate is how disingenuous this whole thing is. And don't even get me started on the effing knitted cakes and gilded pears! I also really hate the title - there's nothing simple about crafting, about mastering a skill, about being able to create and to make. So I say a big FU to this magazine!

    Whew. Didn't know when I sat down to write this comment I'd get so annoyed!

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  3. LOL I'm still laughing at Dolly Clackett's outburst. But I agree. Fortunately being in Australia means I shall not be subjected to it, however I am not one for country lanes & sniffing rhubarb or gilding pears in my spare time. I LOVE to sew but I'm not going to sit around a campfire and sing about it. I might hang out in a pub tho...

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  4. I loved this post and Roisin's comment! The Simple Things blurb almost has me retching, wanting to burn my dressmaking pattern stash and run off to Primark! x

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  5. Great post, nice bit of venting going on. I'm afraid I also received the email, but clearly my lifestyle needs to slow down since I'd discounted following the link as the email didn't appeal to any kind of crafting/ making addiction that I have either.!

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  6. I wish you had a 'like' or even 'love' button. Good point, well made!

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  7. The writing is fairly insufferable. I looked at the sample pages from the link you provided (thanks!). I was okay with it until they wrote about rustling up a turkey pot pie. How does one 'rustle up' a pie? :P

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  8. Well said all - Roisin's comment (vent) really made me laugh, but I completely agree with her! I bought Mollie makes once or twice and I just found it way too twee for my tastes, so never bought it again. And The Simple Things blurb had me reaching for the nearest bucket! They really aren't doing themselves any favours!

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  9. Ugh. Like we all live with a soft sepia edging following us around. I was so hoping that Martha Stewarts prison stay would make her edgier and eventually a cage match with Mollie would ensue while we all watched gleefully and threw clove oranges at the loser. A girl can dream, right?

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  10. Since I live in the States I don't have first hand knowledge of your mags, but I can tell you that it has a kissing cousin here. I am sick to death of women's mags patronizing me as well. Every flipping issue of Martha Stewart has to have a big spread of what she collects. Come on. Who needs 200 Christmas trees? I can see it progressing now. First I learn how to make lemon curd like her, then tatting my own lace, to all of a sudden I just HAVE TO HAVE 200 serving pieces of Limoges China and my life will be perfect! These mags want you to believe that you are living a simpler life, but you are still buying into consumerism. I craft for my own pleasure. My on-line sewing community is a source of inspiration and help, without an ad-driven agenda being shoved down my throat. Excellent, thought provoking post.

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    1. I was wondering how things were in the US, as I know you are ahead of us in crafty terms. I suppose Kirstie Allsopp is the closest we have to a Martha Stewart style figure, but still nowhere near as popular as MS.

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  11. Amazing post! That commodified Kirstie upper middle classy country house idea of what crafting should be. And i so agree with Roisin about the 'simple' thing as well!

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  12. I saw the email for The Simple Things and I find it kind of ironic that we're being sold a magazine telling us about living a 'simple life'. Er, isn't the point of that lifestyle that it's not about spending money, it's not aspirational? It's meant to be about appreciating what you have, not what a magazine is telling you to appreciate.

    I find Mollie Makes rather depressing. It makes me feel like a bad crafter because I don't have a studio and I don't make money from my crafting like so many of the people featured. I've never understood the desire to make felt biscuits, etc, I prefer my crafting to be useful which is why I'm trying to learn dressmaking. Each to their own, I guess.

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    1. Yep, it feels good to be able to make something you can use.

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  13. Bless you all! My entire life I've felt like a bad woman because I didn't colour in my colouring books with a felt outline and matching coloured pencil in fill. I drew instead of tracing. I made from scratch instead of sticking made things together. Heaven help me, I like messy crafts that require a modicum of talent and creativity, that are not just components of a kit stuck together.
    Mags like Mollie Makes also make me break out - felt cookies?!! ERk!! How is making c-rap like that doing anything good for anyone.
    I am so elated right now that you wonderful people are of the same mind. I finally feel exonerated, and just a little bit emotional (and here's me without a hand embroidered dimity handkerchief with and tatted edge hehehe)

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  14. hahahaha Hilarious. I've seen MM in magshops and often wondered why it exists. I think it's targeted towards people without internet access (because pretty much everything in it is accessible as online tutorials for free) or people who like to be perceived as makers. I can't say for sure as I don't know anyone that reads it. This Simple mag here looks like more of the same. The sad thing is, a lot of people that want to get into making i.e. food, clothes, etc incorrectly assume, based on magazines like these, that in order to be a good maker you have to be a .. how do I put this without causing offense, unemployed female with Betty Draper (MadMen Seasons 1-3) levels of free time and money. I come across people like this all the time- random strangers comment on something I'm wearing and on finding out that I made it myself assume it's either my 'business' or that I have way too much free time: "Oh I'd like to do it too but it seems so expensive/ time consuming/ tedious according to (fill in magazine/ tv show here)".

    Also, Selvedge is interesting but it's really expensive here in Oz.

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    1. It's a shame when people are put off trying to make something. Probably bodes well for those who do want to make a living through creativity though.

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  15. I just had a conversation with one of my friends who has just been told about Mollie Makes - and I told her not to bother, although it is up to her to try it out. I am totally with you, why would I want to make biscuits out of felt when I can bake some and get to eat them? In France, I subscribe to Marie Claire Idees - which tries to be more on trend (as in catwalk trend analysed) , a bit more practical patterns (bags etc), and so far that is the best thing I have found. But in Britain it all so Cath Kidston, I am not a fan... May look at Selvedge though.

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  16. I'm so glad you wrote this, I was feeling somewhat alone in my hatred of the sudden popularity of Allsopp-esque 'crafting' (even that word makes me cringe now) that Mollie Makes embodies. I've never actually bought an issue because nothing on the cover ever made me want to, although now I wish I had as they seem to have been a sound investment.

    I read your post on Selvedge too and it looks fab, really interesting, but I just don't think I could part with that much money for a magazine!

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    1. Selvedge is expensive for sure, you can usually pick up back issues on ebay for cheaper.

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  17. Thanks for posting this. Me, personally? I FUCKING HATE CRAFTY SHIT. HATES. HATES. HATES. If it's felted, or has birds, or little button eyes, or was anywhere NEAR a scrapbook I want to barf. On it, preferably. I mean, to each her own. If hot gluing shit and gold leafing shit and modge podging shit is your idea of a good time, awesome for you. But I will not read that magazine or buy your stuff on etsy. I will glide right paste your cutesy cupcakey stand at the indie craft fair. I want beautiful things that have a function I guess.

    Everything is so niche these days that crafty types are subdivided into even further craft niches... It would be pretty hard to design a "lifestyle" magazine to appeal to all of us. Which is why blogs are the best - you can curate your own lifestyle magazine every day! Thank you Google Reader for killing all of my magazine subscriptions! (Although I was looking at back issues of Readymade the other day and it is still pretty rad).

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    1. I agree Heather Lou, blogs are the best for daily inspiration.

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  18. This post is like a breath of fresh air, such a relief to know I'm not the only one who's been stewing! I decided not to renew my MM subscription a little while ago, too much sugar and not enough spice. I have one old copy of Selvedge and often get it off the shelf for a look which shows it's worth I think. I just can't get over the fact that I am not the only one who finds Kirstie Allsopp annoying and smug, hooray! And Roisin, brilliantly put! Thank you!

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  19. Thanks for commenting everyone - I'm loving the spirited responses to this post.

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  20. Yes yes yes!! I cancelled my MM subscription ages ago after getting very tired of seeing the same old 'vintage' naffness. Seriously, what grown woman needs to crochet a vegetable for christs sake?!

    As for Simple Things, I think I've been so turned off by MM that I've got no intention of reading it. I was given a subscription to Oh Comely magazine for my birthday which is great but only comes out every 2 months. I agree that blogs are by far the best way to see what 'crafty' people are making!

    ps While I wasn't at all a fan of Kirstie Allsopp's tv programme, I met her once and she was absolutely lovely so I can't join in the Kirstie bashing ;)

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    1. Ooh, will have to check out Oh Comely

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  21. haha- i totally agree with Roisin! i have looked at Mollie Makes in the newsagent but never actually bought a copy. it seems to either be full of coushion or totally useless things (who on earth would want to make a camera strap from patchwork? - i promise this is in the current issue). Luckily i picked up a copy of Threads instead!

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  22. I've only seen one issue of MM-- it was in my one and only local fabric chain store. (I live in a fabric/crafty drought area of the US. Thank God for the internet.) I bought it partially out of curiosity, and partially because it came packaged with a free wedding magazine. I'm recently engaged and want to do some DIY stuff for the wedding, so what the hey? Well, both magazines ended up not appealing to me... I guess I'm not quite hipster enough since I'm getting married in a church instead of a barn with bird feathers hanging from the ceiling and fringe-y paper garlands. And the only use I can see for felt cookies is kiddie play food, and I don't have kids, or nieces or nephews. Otherwise, I'd rather just bake real cookies and eat them, thankyouverymuch.

    That magazine description sounds pretty awful. Again, thank God for the internet, because I'd rather read a real person's craft blog any day. Plus they're free!

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    1. Ha ha, love your description of the hipster wedding :)

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  23. lol, I do agree with you. I have been known to rant about my hate for the cupcake trend and other overly saccharine trends out there. But funnily enough, I am guilty of making cutesy little stuffed animals! I do love cute stuff. But not felt cakes... lol.
    This was a well written article! :)
    Some of the commenters seem to be getting a bit hot under the collar though...I mean, if someone likes making stuff you don't, that's just their taste and that's okay too! :) No need to throw around words like "hate" and look down on others.

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  24. Y'know your life would be much better if you'd only take a few walks in the countryside and gaze at your muddy shoes a bit more. All of that other stuff like work, bills, & taxes are irrelevant, if they get you down then you've just not appreciating simple things enough. Maybe you should just let your husband deal with it and not worry your pretty little head, after all you've got cupcakes to embroider.

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  25. Now THAT'S what I call a PROPER rant. Beautifully written and deliciously cutting! LOVE LOVE LOVE!
    Px

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  26. My father's typewriter is unattractive, and fresh rhubarb is not pink.

    Based on that description, I feel as though the writers are high on something fun or not in tune AT ALL with the real world!

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  27. Yup - me too. The French are very much into crafts and the magazines like Marie Claire Idees, and Marianne - think that's right - just emphasize doing things because you like to do them.

    The 'lifestyle' aspect a la Kirstie, is a bit overly twee, and that programme was one I watched and did some things, made perspex hearts. I did remind myself constantly that the TV company was paying her and paying for all the stuff she needed. I was very suspicious about the prizes she won and thought those events where she didn't win anything had held out when pressured by the TV company and good for them.

    The same is happening with Vintage, a sudden abundance of magazines. I bought a years subscription of Woman and Home as it had glowing references, most went unopened to the charity shop. The airbrushing was outrageous! It took me half a minute to realise that the woman on the front was Lorraine - they had done such a job on her!

    Phew, feel better for that!

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