Some Thoughts on the End of Summer

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Unless you have the fruit trees, the canning jars saved, and all the supplies you need, making your own jam costs about 17 times the price of going to the store and buying some nice, delicious jam. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy canning, and have put up a ton of jam over the years- but that was back when I lived on the west coast, where apricots, plums and raspberries grew in my yard. Out here in the mid-Atlantic, I either have to drive two hours and pay-to-pick, or I have to pay the markup at DC grocers and farmers markets- neither of which is more economical than buying the already-made jam. I’m a romantic, and I love the idea of preservation; I’m also not stupid.

When I left the west coast four years ago, I gave all my preservation supplies away. My water processor, my cases of canning jars, my funnels and mills and tongs and cooling racks. There was nowhere to keep them in a tiny urban townhouse. It’s the same reason I got rid of almost all my fabric and sewing supplies- I managed to hang onto the essentials and a small sewing box. That was a true act of faith from a woman who had supported herself by sewing for several years. It was also really hard and sorrow still swells a tiny bit when I think of the notions, pretty fabric, estate-sale buttons and green spools of Isacord. I hope whoever got them really loves them and has made beautiful things.

Sewing clothes is a lot like making jam. Unless you already have everything—and it’s a substantial investment that took me years to accumulate—it’s just not economical to sew your own clothes, or even (ouch) your own quilts. It hurts me to acknowledge that, as a quilter. It’s a hobby that takes a lot of time and money. I understand the love- I really, really, really do. And there is value in creating heirlooms, I know. But to make Abby dresses now, it costs more than double buying off the rack. If I find something on sale, or at a second-hand or consignment shop? It’s no contest. I’ve consumed nothing new, and spent a tiny fraction of the resources and she’s got a lovely dress.

I hate these economics.

I enjoy the home arts. I find contemplation, solace, healing, completion and connection with the seasons in stirring a bubbling pot of raspberries we picked in the hot summer sun only hours before. I have a trunk full of quilts that not only functioned as the source of my income for years, but which I hope my children and grandchildren will someday value and desire. These quilts are tiny pieces of calico sewn together by my hands, stitched without a machine in many cases, and peppered with my tears on occasion. They have material and spiritual value in a way a purchased quilt does not. Because of that, I want to weigh that sentimentality heavier than the economics. But once one has trunks of quilts, and once one had sold all the supplies, there isn’t justification for doing it again.

So here I sit, deep into August, feeling the siren call of the County Fair, wishing I had a quilt to enter, or a batch of beautiful Huckleberry jam to submit. It remains a soft, distant tickle in the middle of the back of my psyche, where I cannot contort myself enough to reach, and I’m not sure if I even should anymore.

5 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the End of Summer

  1. You carft beautiful pieces of art right here- stitched together and shared with a wide community. The impulse to create is strong and by honoring it you grow it.

  2. I’m all about freezer jam, you don’t need a canner and it is so tasty! I also tend to make too much if it, as it appears I have a three year supply in my freezer.

    It’s really sad that domestic arts seem to be disappearing. No one in my neighborhood bakes, hardly anyone cooks, and I don’t even dare ask if anyone sews.

  3. Growing up in Alaska – canning was in no economical…so I was in my 30’s before I canned the first time. I loved going to our little town’s farmer’s market and purchasing the supplies. I made salsa, jam, apple sauce, pie filling…and thrived in the process. I have made it a few times since, but it always has to coincide with being home in Utah at harvesting season. I just don’t even think about canning while overseas, especially not here in Zimbabwe.
    But sewing – it is a time of relief and peace for me, and I count my blessings, with such gratitude, for a husband who supports me in this hobby…you are right, it is not without expense, and is definitely more cost effective to buy. But there is just something about curling up in a homemade quilt – and love that our children can always be found cuddled in something handmade.

    • Oh Kellie, I know! I treasure handmade things. I buy old handmade things at estate sales because I don’t want heirlooms to be homeless! I just cannot figure out if I can justify sinking the expense again- I never would have gotten rid of everything if I hadn’t had to. Perhaps knitting will suffice… but for now, I steer clear of fabric stores, because I am powerless once caught in the vortex of gorgeous calicos.

  4. I don’t actually know how to do any of these things, so it’s something of a relief that they aren’t economical so I don’t have to feel guilty for not doing them. But having said that, I do love that OTHER people know how to do them. (I’ve been known to stay awake at night worrying that square dancing will become a lost art.)

    In this same vein, I got on a farming kick for a while and read every book on farming I could find and dreamed about some day having a hobby farm of my own. After many chicken deaths, though, I’m thinking maybe this is best left to the people who aren’t as lazy as I am and who like actually being outside more than I do. I love the idea of outside until– gah– bugs!!!

    I’m really rambling here, but mostly I wanted to say that I love that you know how to do all these things, even if you don’t do them at the moment. Just having the knowledge and keeping that alive means so much, I think.

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