Not that I am suggesting anyone fail to pay their lawful taxes – look where it got Al Capone, for a start. Instead, I turn to the time-honoured practice of the cash-free economy, as a convenient way of reducing or minimizing tax incurred.
A wise and talented friend of mine suggested some time ago that we could swap skills to mutual benefit. I knit, she doesn’t; she is a professional artist and I can’t even conjure the artistic verisimilitude of a stick-man.
So, I am going to knit her a warm wooly winter hat and scarf (patterns selected from Ravelry, the only online social network to which I belong) and she is going to draw a portrait of me (which I plan in due course shall grace the About page).
Let us hope, for the sake of the sighted public, that her kindness as a friend outweighs her accuracy as an artist…
There are a lot of benefits to entering the cash-free economy.
For example, the lack of tax. Yes, tax is still payable on the materials, but the labour is untaxed, as is the final product.
Consider: How many hours at the DDJ would it take to earn the money to pay for a portrait? More than I care to think of, particularly considering that the government would insist on taking a nice fat slice of tax off the top. Shudder.
So much more pleasant to knit instead, which is a) something I enjoy, b) something I find relaxing and c) something I can do while either watching a DVD or listening to my husband read – it doesn’t get much better than that!
There’s also the social aspect – particularly important for those of us who work at home. I spent a very enjoyable morning with my friend going through patterns and then selecting yarns and needles. As Marianne asks, “is there a felicity in the world superior to this?”
What skills do you have that others might have need of? Conversely, what skills are you in need of? Cash can be a convenient arrangement when there isn’t a directly reciprocal need, but why go via cash (and be taxed) when you don’t have to? It’s worth asking around – most people are happy to be offered a chance of legal tax avoidance.
Barter, cashless economy, payment in kind, quid pro quo – call it what you will, it’s a great old idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my feet up, have a cup of tea and knit.
If, as Holbrook Jackson maintains, your library is your portrait, then surely your public library loans are your latest snapshot.
My list of current loans reflects my recent fascinations with tea (social, cultural, historical, comestible), simplicity, Jane Austen’s times (tea and crime) and Victorian-era New Zealand (mostly crime). I also have books on undertaking and rhetoric, which simply caught my eye as I browsed.
I expected to see wabi-sabi mentioned in the book on the Japanese tea ceremony and it seemed natural to encounter it in one of the books on simplicity. But when it popped up for the third time in the book about modern Canadian undertaking, I was surprised.
My favourite of the three encounters is the essay ‘Wabi-Sabi Time’ by Robyn Griggs Lawrence; in the book Less is More, edited by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska.
Wabi being notoriously hard to define, she gives a variety of descriptions, including “a little monk in his torn robe, enjoying a night by the fire – content in poverty.”
Sabi is a bit easier to define: it refers to the effect of the passing of time (literally: rust).
Together, the words wabi-sabi conjure a sense of imperfect beauty, tarnished with time, but valued all the more for its age and imperfections.
“Wabibitos live modestly, satisfied with things as they are. They own only what’s necessary for its utility or beauty (ideally, both). They revere humans over machines, surrounding themselves with things that resonate with the spirit of their makers. Wabi-sabi is imperfect: a beloved chipped vase or a scarred wooden table… It’s like going to Grandma’s house.
“Our Depression-era grandmothers knew wabi-sabi. And their houses were so comfortable because they understood, inherently, the difference between wabi [or possibly sabi -DM] and sloppy. Their tablecloths and linens were faded, but they never had rips or tears. Their furnishings had a settled-in quality, but they weren’t dilapidated. Their floors showed wear, but they were always swept, with rag-rugs that wove together memories in their use of old garments.” (Less is More p.160).
I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as a pretty good way to live. Banish perfection, or the illusion of perfection for which we strive; banish the cheap (or expensive) tat which is heading for planned obsolescence, or never had a purpose to begin with. Have little, but take joy in the little you have.
Beauty. Simplicity. Usefulness. Mmm.
Have you been surprised by synchronicity lately? What’s your take on wabi-sabi, or similar concepts? And what do your library books say about you?
The seed of the idea was planted in my head by this post and its comments. Several weeks and sleepless hours later, the thought takes form – and photographs (click to enlarge).
But do I need a stuffed Jabberwocky head in my life? I hear you ask. A beheaded (or rather dis-embodied) Jabberwocky is a symbol of triumph over oppression, whether in your past or your future. You should have one by you at all times.
Furthermore, when completed, this piece of ‘wocksidermy has stress-relieving properties. Read on for details…
Don’t worry if your sewing skills are not of the finest – that is no impediment to successful Jabberwock creation. They are known to be ugly beasts, and having your head chopped off does nothing for the looks.
a sock (as ugly as possible)
fabric (I used wine-red and olive)
ribbons (I used white, green & grey and grey-green bias binding)
a tennis ball (optional, but much more satisfying)
stuffing (I used old quilt batting)
thread (I used brown, green and orange)
needle & pins
First, cut the heel out of your sock, and put it aside. Your sock should now be tubish, but with a slit in it.
Cut a piece of fabric (I used red) big enough to fill in the slit and apply it to the wrong side of the sock. A bit fiddly, but best done when the sock is right-side out, in my opinion.
This forms the first hack neck-wound; have it as wide or as narrow as you like. Use blanket-stitch to attach the raw edges of the sock to the under-fabric. Ragged and messy is perfectly acceptable. A vorpal blade is not a delicate weapon.
Then insert the tennis ball into the toe of the sock. This will be the head.
Cut two circles of fabric (I used olive green) each about 5cm (2in) across. Do a quick running stitch round each, about 5mm (1/4in) from the edge. Cut a piece of white fabric or ribbon (about 4cm or 1 1/2 in long) and place this in the centre of the wrong side of each circle, before pulling on the thread to gather the circle into a puff. These are the eyes.
Lips: cut the heel piece in half lengthwise, then fold each half lengthwise (right side out) and whip-stitch the raw edges together, folding in the scraggy ends.
Teeth: cut two lengths of white fabric or ribbon (beware, ribbon frays), each twice the length you want the teeth. I made the upper teeth longer than the lower. Fold each piece in half – raw ends together – and sew down the sides. Stuff gently, then quilt a groove down the middle of each to create two teeth (this is where I used the orange thread).
If you want it to look extra tidy, you could sew wrong sides together and turn before stuffing – I didn’t, and it isn’t too obvious. (I think.) Also sew along the bottom of the teeth so the stuffing doesn’t come out.
Cut a piece of fabric (again, I used red) the shape and size you want the mouth. If you aren’t sure, consider the size of the lips. Pin this fabric to the head (refer to pic for placement) and sew down the edges – doesn’t have to be tidy as the lips will cover it.
Sew the teeth on, lining their raw edge up with the edge of the mouth piece. Again, doesn’t have to be perfect – Jabberwockies are not noted for their good teeth. (It’s “the jaws that bite” not “the jaws with the perfect bite”.)
Then sew on the lips by their whipped edges. These should cover the edges of the mouth fabric and teeth.
Sew the eyes on smooth side out (refer to the pic for placement) using tiny whip stitches around the edge of each eye.
Now the fiddly bit: using a small pair of sharp scissors, cut a slit in each eye about 2/3 of the way down, being careful not to cut right to the edge, or through the white underneath. Neaten the raw edges with whip-stitch or blanket-stitch (eyelashes!).
Use any combination you like of the ribbons, bias binding etc to create chin spikes, horns, fleshy mustachy bits, or any other facial excrescences that take your fancy. (I used bias binding with cord inside it for the ‘horns’.)
Follow Tenniel’s depiction or your own fancy, whichever you prefer.
The Coup de Grâce (Finishing Off)
Trimming: If there are any unwanted bits at the top of your sock – decorative bands, tight ribs etc – now is the time to whack them off. Use a vorpal blade, or failing that, scissors.
Stuffing: Your Jabberwocky can be stuffed as loosely or as tightly as you like. Too much stuffing, and the head will be smaller than the neck; too little, and it will be a sock with a tennis ball in it.
Where the Vorpal Blade went Snicker-Snack: Figure out how wide a circle will be needed to fill the hole at the top of the sock. If uncertain (as I was) try the lids of jars etc until you find one that fits comfortably without stretching the sock. Draw around this on your fabric (I used the red), cut out, and attach with blanket-stitch. Again, this is a gaping wound, so don’t feel your stitches need to be even and regular.
O Frabjous Day! Your Jabberwocky is complete.
And now for the stress-relieving part. When your work is not going well – be it writing, rewriting, or anything else – simply pick the beastie up by the neck and bounce its ugly head on the desk, walls, floor or any other firm surface within reach. (Now you know why tennis ball.)
Possible variations include shank buttons covered in fabric for eyes; a loop for hanging the Jabberwocky up; or if you’re feeling very adventurous (and have a long sock), a Jabberwock-Ouroboros or even a Merlion.
As with everything I put on this blog, these instructions and photos are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 New Zealand licence.
Which means that you are welcome to make any use of it that you please, including your own derivative works (even commercial if you like) as long as you a) say where you got it from, and b) share the same way.
Please leave a comment if you make something based on this – I’d love to see what you do with it!