Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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“YouTube taught me to knit”

knitting youtube

A few months ago, my husband’s father sent him a bow tie in the mail. It was Carolina blue in honor of my husband’s alma mater, and went perfectly with his tan seersucker suit – very Southern gentleman.

But neither of us knew how to tie it. Yes, we are both adult professionals a stone’s throw from 30, but neither of us has learned this particular art.

So we turned to – what else? – YouTube, and watched this excellent and adorable video on bow tie-tying.

It strikes me that one of the reasons we’re seeing such a boom in old-fashioned domestic activities is that we now have so many digital ways of preserving and sharing skills that have been nearly lost to history. Maybe your grandmother didn’t teach you to can tomatoes. No worries – if you become interested in canning as an adult, you can turn to hundreds or thousands of blog tutorials and watch experienced canners in action. Maybe, like my husband, you’ve lived hundreds or thousands of miles from your father since you were 18 and never got a chance to learn bow tie skills from him. So you turn to YouTube videos. I have talked to so many people who have learned to knit or crochet from watching online video tutorials.

The internet seems to be filling in skills gaps, serving as a repository for the kinds of wisdom that has often (though not always – I know some people have always canned, knit, etc) become lost over the past few generations – because of disinterest, because of geographic distance between families, because modernization made certain skills seem unnecessary. No matter how niche the activity – from tatting cluny lace to skinning a squirrel – there’s a YouTube tutorial for it. So for all the recent books that talk about “lost crafts,” I wonder – will anything ever really be lost again?

It will be interesting to see what this will mean – how much will this change the passed-down-through-the-generations nature of these very, very old skills? Are things that were once regional (like a certain knitting pattern) now popping up all over the world?

Excuse me while I go blacksmith my own paper towel holder out of steel…

3 comments to “YouTube taught me to knit”

  • I think part of the reason for youtube being such a big resource with crafting is simply because youtube doesn’t loose its patience–it can be paused and backed up and played over and over and over. My grandma is great, but she crochets at the speed of light and she’s not a saint with infinite patience. If I have a question on how she cooks her roast, I’ll give her a ring…but if I want to know how to make lace, I’ll google!

  • This is a very interesting idea…YouTube (and the internet in general) filling in the gaps in our knowledge. I have gotten a lot of necessary tips and lessons from all kinds of sites across the web. I’m just not all that convinced that everything can be learned in this way, even if the tutorials exist. There are some things that go beyond the simple learning of a skill or a craft.

    I come from an Italian-Sicilian background. One of my earliest memories is watching my Sicilian-born grandmother making her own pasta. Noodles draped over the backs of chairs was a common sight in her house, which by the way always, and I mean ALWAYS, smelled like garlic (in a good way–like there was food being prepared at all times).

    I learned to cook through my grandmother and my parents, both of whom were great cooks. But within this acquired skill, there is much more than simple knowledge. As a result of watching my grandmother (primarily), I learned how to cook in a way that doesn’t really involve recipes. I can put together a meal with a few items and know it will work in the blend of flavors, herbs, spices, textures, etc. I know which ingredients will work together and which ones won’t. I have never needed a recipe for most of the dishes that have been handed down through my family (most of them involve “a pinch of this” and “a splash of that” anyway, making the concept of writing them down pretty pointless), and I’m able to extrapolate a good majority of other dishes from the knowledge I’ve acquired.

    One thing that the internet will never be able to teach us is, for lack of a better term, “intuitive crafting.” You will always be able to find a recipe for lasagna on line. But not everyone has the memory of watching a 70-year-old white-haired woman in a gingham apron dipping a wooden spoon into a pot full of simmering sauce, tasting it, thinking for a moment, and knowing–just knowing–that what it needs to be perfect is a little more oregano. Then she gives it to me to taste and I internalize that this flavour is my grandmother’s sauce, and right at this moment, this is what it tastes like when a bit more oregano will make it just right. I’ve internalized so many of those little kitchen-related things over my childhood and adolescence that it’s almost the only thing I rely on to cook. And that’s one of those things you can’t learn on the web.

    Maybe I’m just an analog girl at heart, but if I had to pick between digital information and a folk tale, I’d always choose the latter. This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for all the skills I’ve picked up from the internet. But I’m a very different cook than most of the people I know. My sister is the same, and we owe it to our family history. This isn’t even to mention the whole family bonding thing, but that’s for another post. ;)

    Cheers
    Jenny

  • I learned how to double-dig from YouTube :)

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