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Hearing about the scarcity of craft stores in London makes me wonder -- are Americans more "artsy-fartsy" (my non-crafty ex-SIL's term) than other folks?

Speaking as an Australian, no I don't think so. Certainly, every 2 horse town I've ever been in in Oz has a haberdashery section in its general store. I believe New Zealand is the same (I've never been there, but I have friends who have). Ditto South Africa (according to a colleague) and Canada (according to my ex-boss). I haven't had any problems in France, either.

This is my opinion, not fact, but I think Britain's problem is due to a backlash against the economies imposed by rationing during/after World War 2. Let me explain: <long ramble>

My perception is that after the war, Britain missed out on the golden years of the '50s and '60s. The "swinging '60s" were a London phenomena, whilst a lot of the country was still comparatively poor; their standard of living was much lower than ours and their spending power was a lot worse.

During the 1970's, Oz and the US suffered inflation and recession due to the oil crisis, but we were comparatively well off compared to Britain with its 3 day work week and public sector strikes. Their economy was strangled. (I vaguely remember a statistic that when Maggie Thatcher came to power, 70% of Britain's economy was owned/controlled by the central government!)

Throughout the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, British women (predominantly) crafted, sewed and knitted to save money on clothing and home furnishings. Knitting in particular was perceived as "making do" and "poor person's behaviour". When the boom years of the 1980's came along, people had money to splash around and turned their backs on the hobbies of their predecessors, prefering to demonstrate their wealth by buying what they'd have previously made. It was also a way of disassociating themselves from the previous generation. The only craft that may have flourished was needlepoint (Princess Diana was an avid needlepointer).

The 1980's was the first decade EVER when the majority of British people lived in homes they owned instead of rented (in a thousand years or so, anyway). At the end of the decade DIY became the BIG thing, but much of it was formulaic (ie, they'd buy the "look" out of the catalogue at the hardware shop). This has continued to today, when the most popular programs on TV are either DIY, Gardening or Cooking shows (ironic, since few people cook from scratch and most people would rather "get the decorators in" than DIY). They have become a nation of voyeurs not doers.

In craft terms, the young British adults of the 1990's never stood a chance, since they didn't have parents to teach them by example. The shops closed due to lack of demand, as the older generations died off.

In Oz, the US, NZ, etc, life wasn't like that. We have traditions of self-sufficiency, pride in craftsmanship, and the pioneering spirit. Our bicentenaries included huge celebrations of the "feminine arts" where the handiwork of the pioneers was displayed with pride. We marvelled in the beautiful things they created during such adversity, then bought the kits and tried to copy them. Crafts became a demonstration of our nation-hood.

We have no cultural cringe associated with knitting, sewing and crafting. The British do.

(That's my thesis and I'm sticking to it. Apologies for the sweeping generalisations.)

- Pam
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