November 17, 2003

Handwork Productivity

In the bottom-right corner of page one of today's Daily Californian is a picture of a spinning wheel accompanied by the caption:

SHEEP TO SHAWL: Alfred Eberle of the Spindles and Flyers Spinning Guild uses a spinning wheel in a demonstration of the method to create a shawl from sheep wool. Seven people contributed the shawl in four and a half hours.

That's 32 socially-necessary labor-time hours. In America today, the product of one average labor-hour retails for about $30. That means that a shawl was as great an expenditure of social labor back in preindustrial times as something that costs $1000 is today.

God! They were poor! Three cheers for the Industrial Revolution!

Posted by DeLong at November 17, 2003 04:05 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Most of the labor was by people who were paid nothing. Women and farmers.

Posted by: Dick Thompson on November 17, 2003 05:31 PM

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But don't you think it's very worthwhile to have people who still know how to do such things? That way if everything really goes to hell we won't be stuck wearing bark and leaves.

Posted by: northernLights on November 17, 2003 06:27 PM

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Have you tried to buy an American-made (or French-made) shawl lately? I've seen some that cost $1,000. Unless, of course, my mother made it.

Posted by: paulo on November 17, 2003 06:39 PM

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Go ask someone who knows what it took to clean a suit of clothes.

Posted by: Josh Halpern on November 17, 2003 09:36 PM

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That's four hours including the time taken to shear the sheep and spin the fleece. There's more than one shawl's worth of wool on a sheep.

For what it's worth, the Guinness Record for "sheep's back to man's back" is 32 minutes.

Posted by: dsquared on November 17, 2003 11:29 PM

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didn't ghandi want the indians to go back to hand looms etc. and wore handwoven clothes.

Posted by: big al on November 18, 2003 03:49 AM

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"Three cheers for the Industrial Revolution!"

Well, I know this is an informal site, but coming from an economic historian I have to ask you exactly what you mean by this.

- that "in the end", after some extended period of time, people were better off because of the undeniable productivity improvements from the industrial revolution?

- that although the spinners and weavers of the time never got to partake of the benefits (I guess you folks call it job market inelasticities or something), we shouldn't worry about them from this period in history?

- that you believe even the spinners and weavers of the time were better off in the mills?

I do think this matters, because you hear much the same kind of arguments about industrialization in "developing" countries. If you say "three cheers for the omelette!" we should at least ask if the eggs feel the same way.

Posted by: Tom Slee on November 18, 2003 05:44 AM

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Decline in handiwork *relative* productivity should basically explain why 1st world population arem losing, and in the case of Japan and W.Europe already have lost, their reproductive ability. With non-increasing preference for having children and increasing relative cost, the outcome is given.

Posted by: Mats on November 18, 2003 07:44 AM

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Plus, another negative side effect of the Industrial Revolution is all those men walking around in their ill-fitting, mass produced pants.

I read an article about a man (with pants fitting problems) who needed to wear tuxedos on a fairly regular basis, so he watched the airline sales, and then bought a ticket to Hong Kong and had a couple of tuxedos custom made for less than it would cost him to buy in the U.S. He thought it was great, and I think it's a good idea to support customworkers, even if not in your own country, because more money goes to the person doing the work and the skill base is not lost.

When one of my husband's deer hunting friends was laid off from mining in the 80's, he started up a custom kitchen remodeling business and did very well. It sound ridiculous to hear how much some rich people will pay for their kitchen cupboards when they are custom made as opposed to factory, but it provided him with a very good living.

Posted by: northernLights on November 18, 2003 10:12 AM

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"Plus, another negative side effect of the Industrial Revolution is all those men walking around in their ill-fitting, mass produced pants."

Without the Industrial Revolution,
(1) Most of these men wouldn't be alive today, because either they or their forebears would have died prematurely of the various ailments that were the lot of the poor pre-industrialization, and
(2) Of those that would have been around, the choice would have been between wearing the same old bunch of dirty, itchy woolen rags over and over indefinitely, or simply going stark naked whatever the weather.

All in all, I'd go with the "ill-fitting, mass produced pants" over the alternative any day of the week.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on November 18, 2003 06:17 PM

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In reply to A. Lapite.

Should increased survival be attributed to the Industrial Revolution or to scientific discoveries which accelerated during the Renaissance? I'm not sure if increased survival should be attributed to the Industrial Revolution, at least in the early stages, with the harsh working conditions, child labor, and dangerous factories and accidents. Perhaps its more likely that the increase in population after developments such as the smallpox vaccine helped create the work force for the Industrial Revolution, who had no other alternative way to make a living.


Posted by: northernLights on November 18, 2003 09:51 PM

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Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges has knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:26 PM

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Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges has knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:31 PM

____

Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges has knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:35 PM

____

Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges had knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:36 PM

____

Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges had knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:39 PM

____

Well, I am glad that our little exercise has sparked some interest! That was the point, after all. Sheep to Shawl competitions are team events--in which we work on communication skills, pipeline coordination, and cooperative effort--in addition to carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing a garment.

I am the weaver for the team and custodian of the website (www.moralfiber.org), and I can tell you this: in 1960, there was one producer of spinning wheels in the English speaking world. Today, there are over forty--selling a couple million wheels every year. Not since the fifties have colleges had knitting clubs, but now most universities have several. In our mass produced world, people crave something that is completely unique, handmade, lovingly created.

``Moral Fiber'' is an eclectic team. Members include full time fiber artists, a public relations consultant, a banking executive, an executive administrative assistant, a shepherd, a third grade teacher, and a statistician. There are no slackers in this group. Each member of our team in this competition also has a disability. Two members have seizure disorders, one has a severe lupus-like autoimmune disorder, two have had cancer, and the weaver is legally blind. The composition of the Moral Fiber team demonstrates that anyone can excel in fiber arts, and that physical limitations can be overcome in the march toward personal and artistic excellence! Each one of us has grown personally, developed our artistic skills, and improved our self-esteem--and we carry all of that into our daily lives and professions.

From an economic standpoint, we all enjoy a fruits of the industrial revoltuion, especially in textile production. I sleep on machine woven sheets and wear machine knitted underwear. Nevertheless, I can tell you that my children and husband take out those special socks I spun and knit, or that special sweater I made for them, or the "magic" blankets I wove when they want some luck for a presentation, some comfort after a bad day, or just to remember how much I love them. Economics cannot define quality of life nearly so precisely as economists think it can. I gave up a career as a statistician in an economics firm to be a full-time fiber artist. Not everyone can make that choice nor should, but I love my work, my art, and my life.

Next time--come out and watch the competition! Late January is the time, and our website will have the details. It is great fun. Who knows, maybe we can make a fiber enthusiast out you, too.

Posted by: Denise Lai on November 20, 2003 07:44 PM

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