Thursday, 11 October 2007

Clean Dishes

I've been following the recent action (most of it's in the comments) on Jane Brocket's yarnstorm blog with interest. She's just published a book called The Gentle Art of Domesticity, based partly on the content of her blog. Yarnstorm is great; when I found it I bookmarked it immediately, and read through the entire archive. It's about knitting, sewing, baking, gardening, reading, and she takes beautiful photographs. I'm sure the book is even more of a pleasure to read.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity has received some negative criticism. It seems that celebrating the 'domestic arts' can be seen as an attack on feminism, a call for women (only women!) to get back into the kitchen and to stay there, or even as a symptom of a willfully technophobic and Victorian-scented eccentricity.

That's a photo of my dish washing kit up there. I made it myself. Grated Sunlight soap and water, diluted for washing dishes. Spirit vinegar, for adding to the rinse water. Bicarb, for scrubbing, because it will clean anything and everything. A knitted string dishcloth, which doesn't get ratty, and which I throw in with the laundry every few days. A pile of newspapers for wiping very greasy pots and dishes before washing. No plastic bottles (except for the vinegar, but if you buy it in sufficient quantities, you're still using less plastic.) No rotting disposable sponges or scrubbers. No allergies. Cheap, efficient, pretty, environmentally friendly. And you can clean the bathroom with this stuff too. *

Making things isn't about rejecting the 21st century or wanting to live in some dream world of embroidered nightgowns and smelling salts. It's about knowing how things work, knowing how things are made, being able to fix them when they're broken. It's about knowing what goes into your food; about being able to tell if clothes are well made before you spend your money on them; about making things you want rather than settling for something that's sort of okay, almost the right colour, and possibly the right fabric. It's about being able to change and improve things in your immediate environment.

I make no distinction between wiring a plug, building a table, or knitting a sock. They're all part of domesticity. Making things.

*Google 'homemade cleaners' to find recipes. There are tons.


lori said...


It feels like a can't win situation. I choose to be "domestic" in my ways and I decided I don't care if anyone thinks less of me as a "modern" woman for it.

I sometimes tell people "When the computers take over the earth and we have to fight them and eventually overthrow technology and go back to how things were before electricity, I'm all set."

They usually back away slowly and I never get bugged about being "domestic" again.

Freshly Found said...

I am so inspired! Even washing dishes can be beautiful. I appreciated your fresh and balanced view of living life now - respectfully

the sloth said...

How I love a good rant, one that comes from such a good place, and is so grounded in absolute good sense. It suits those many many companies that make cheap and nasty things that don't last half as long as they should if we have no imagination and just buy the same thing again. Homemade solutions are wonderful. And progressive, not regressive. I think your dish-washing solutions are just wonderful.

Heather Moore said...

Jesse you knock my socks off. Wish I could be half as green as this! Points well made too!
ps: Great word verification for my comment - miiikj. Dutch, I think?

nunu pepe' said...

HOWZIT, always good blogrolling and finding yet another superbly talented South African :) I am going to give your alternative cleaning a try, I hate throwing any chemical down the drain. Thanks for the practical tips. Also your arrangement of containers far more attractive to the design eye than sunlight option.