September 28, 2021

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What Have You Made This Year?

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Were you among the millions of people around the world who crafted during the pandemic? If so, what did you make and why?

Even if you didn’t craft the kind of work featured in the slide show above, think about “making” more broadly. Did you cook or bake? Make music? Garden? Write? Draw comics? Take photographs?

How did making things help you this year?

In “What We Learned From a Year of Crafting,” Steven Kurutz writes about how making things — masks, quilts, ceramics, mandalas — was a practical and sometimes political response to the moment. Here is how the article begins:

Necessity is the mother of invention, and at the start of the pandemic, the thing everyone needed was masks. To help keep people safe, an army of home sewers banded together last spring to make face coverings and other personal protective equipment for health care workers, family members and strangers.

Stuck at home without the diversions of socializing, travel or dining out, the crafting continued. Americans knitted, crocheted and wove through the lockdown. They made hand-tufted rugs, paper orchids, wooden chess sets, tiny shrines and botanical mandalas.

Sewing machines got hauled out of closets, dusted off and used to create, among other things, jackets out of vintage quilts, which spurred a fashion trend. And if the crafts themselves look modest and homespun, the money they are generating is not: A booming trade on Etsy more than doubled the company’s revenues to a record $1.7 billion in 2020, according to its financial reports.

Making things was a practical and even political response to the moment — seemingly an antidote to digital fatigue, but flourishing everywhere on social media, with colorful ceramics and Indigenous beadwork selling out on Instagram and crafters sharing “reverse-knitting” patterns on TikTok to make Harry Styles’s cardigan or Bernie Sanders’s inauguration-day mittens.

He continues:

But the pandemic has supercharged the popularity of craft — or maybe just reminded us of its emotional and practical necessity, not to mention deep roots, in American life. As Mr. Adamson writes in his book, the first 13 registered taxpayers of Allentown, Pa., in 1762, included two carpenters, two tailors, a smith and a wagon maker.

And the qualities that craft teaches — resourcefulness, resilience, flexibility — were much needed in a year filled with so much uncertainty and loss, and with the political and social turmoil of the election and the protests for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What have you made this year, and how has making it helped you? (Keep in mind that any kind of making counts!)

  • Do you agree that crafting teaches resourcefulness, resilience and flexibility?

  • Click through the slide show of reader-submitted work above. Which pieces do you like most? Which look like something you have made or would like to make?

  • Some of the pieces featured in this article also make political and social statements. Do you ever make crafts that make statements in the same way?

  • One person quoted in this piece says, “To make something is such a powerful experience for someone. It is a meditation. And then the internet gives you an opportunity to share it.” If you are a maker of any sort, do you agree? Have you ever shared anything you have made on social media? What was the reaction?

  • If you made more this year than other years, do you think you’ll continue when the world fully reopens and your life returns to normal? Why or why not?

About Student Opinion

Find all of our Student Opinion questions in this column.
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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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