speak/listen

Be the change

By John-Paul Flintoff

I’m sitting on the Northern Line, on the City branch, in the middle of rush hour, on a carriage crowded with people dressed in smart clothes, with expensive accessories.

I used to be just like these people, and wore the same kind of clothes. But not any more. These days I tend to wear home-made. Today, every item of clothing on me has either been made from scratch, or significantly modified or repaired.

Not that I would expect you to notice: indeed, I try to make the clothes look just as good as the ones I used to buy. If I didn’t, my wife might not let me out of the house in them.

But there’s no point making clothes yourself and keeping it secret. Not if you want the whole world to start doing the same. Not if you believe, as I do, that home-made, locally sourced clothes are as important to the survival of our species as home-grown, locally sourced food; and similarly good for your wallet at a time when the economy is in collapse. Not if you believe that the act of making clothes is its own reward – an outlet for creativity and empowerment that used to be enjoyed by every person on the planet.

I didn’t come to these conclusions overnight, or by myself. I can’t even begin to count the number of people who influenced me, including some you would hardly believe, such as Jeremy Clarkson. But the one who’s at the forefront of my mind as I sit on this train is Gandhi. He predicted that if Indians learned to grow their own plants and spun and wove the fibres into cloth themselves, and used that to make their own clothes, they would destroy the British cotton industry and ultimately overthrow the British empire. And he was right.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi said. And he did it too: not only wearing homespun clothes but actually taking his spinning wheel to political meetings.

Me, I don’t have a spinning wheel – yet.

But I do have a crochet hook. It’s hidden in the pocket of my jacket. In the other pocket, I’ve got some yarn.

I look around me casually at the passengers who pretend, as ever, not to be looking at each other. I know that they are looking really, surreptitiously glancing at anything out of the ordinary. Do I dare to take out the hook, and the yarn, and Be the Change…?

To find out, buy the book!

A version of this post appeared in my book, Sew Your Own

Posted: April 6, 2012