vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.

The Original DIYers

If you’re anything like me, you’re old enough to have had grandparents who survived the great depression, the utmost faction of survivalists who knew how to fix the hell out of anything. “Waste not, want not” was the creed.

My grandfather had a beautiful used, Oldsmobile Delta 88. “Beautiful Used” was a good thing back then. Nowadays, you buy a cell phone and it’s uncool in a half an hour.

We soared around in that thing like Kings and Queens after school, and my grandfather, who burnt my grandparents’ mortgage after 20 years of dutiful payments (people didn’t refinance back then), knew every nut and bolt on that thing.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’d watch my grandmother sew beautiful patterns from scratch on the Singer 1882 foot-powered sewer that I’m typing on right now. I could probably thread the loom today-it might take me a while, but I could do it. She showed me how. She taught me how to sew and mend and fix. It wasn’t unusual to see her perched up on a ladder with a screwdriver (not the cocktail) fixing up the door frame.

During Lawrence Welk (now I’m completely dating myself), my grandmother was always working on something. Pillows, buttons, shirts. She used to say, “We don’t throw away —it’s still good.” She instilled that in me fiercely.

Which is why I’m a chronic ebayer, recycler and diyer. I really try my hardest not to waste anything. It’s probably annoying to some (I’m not of the hoarder variety), but to me it’s a lost art form and I treasure it.

I love vintage cars. Clothes that don’t fit me get spruced up and thrown on ebay. If a lose a button, I sew it back on with my big spool of industrial thread my grandmother endowed to me. I call her “Big Bertha.” The needle I have could probably harpoon a whale, but it has literally saved me from many a wardrobe malfunction.

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Big Bertha

I can change my own oil. I don’t walk into Autozone like a cocky asshole, but I don’t pretend I don’t know what I’m talking about either. I’ve sat in the middle of my driveway under moonlight tuning up my car with my brother. There’s something really bonding in the experience of shutting off your phone and getting your hands dirty. You talk. You curse. You laugh.

It’s also really empowering when some dude from Speedy Lube tries to sell $500 worth of basura that you don’t need. I hear it happen all the time, especially to the ladies.

I can clean a cell phone charging port with a safety pin like nobody’s business. Sadly, a lot of millennials (shakes finger) don’t have that kind of skill set. Just get a new one is the mantra, adding to the teeming, human-fed landfill. This is why we have snow falling on tulips, folks.

Youtube is my biggest DIY go-to. Pinterest is good too. It’s not that I don’t have the money to buy new stuff. I do. It’s the process of self-sufficiency — the security of knowing that if something falls apart, I’m not totally helpless without Triple AAA or Verizon. An estimated 10.5 million tons of clothing to go to landfills in the US each year. That’s pretty harrowing, especially since the majority of it was produced in sweatshops.1.

So recycle your clothes if you can. Give them to a thrift shop or sell them on ebay. Learn how to change a tire in case you get stranded on the highway. Make my grandparents proud. They’re baking cookies from scratch somewhere in heaven and some thrifter with a beard/man-ban is gonna LOVE that animal print shirt you haven’t worn since 1990.

By the way, Auto Repair for Dummies is written by a woman. Dat’s right, ladies!

 diy

About Kristen Demesilda

Kristen Demesilda
Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.
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