“It seems to me that nothing can be done. »

This is the conclusion reached by host and columnist Rose-Aimée Autumn T. Morin and Marie-Hélène Taschereau, content producer at KOTV, during the pandemic. No longer able to count on the precious help of those around them for small manual jobs, they felt helpless. This reflection led to the creation of a television series, Autonome, broadcast this winter on Télé-Québec.

We can see Rose-Aimée, Simon Boulerice and Pierre Brassard trying to improve their autonomy by navigating through a list of learnings created by their mentors. These are “incompetents who become better”, sums up Rose-Aimée Autumn T. Morin. Her challenge: renovation. The moment she reveals to her mentor, the amazing Edith Butler, that she doesn’t know what gypsum is gets her a lot of backlash.

For this feminist who “likes to be independent in life”, there was a whole sphere of hers where she was not at all. Laziness perhaps, she analyzes.

Autonome also deals with repair, upgrading and cooking. “Are there a lot of people who are very, very good at all of those things? Certainly. But can we talk about the majority? I’m not sure, ”says the columnist, contributor to La Presse.

These hammer and needle incompetents are not all urban millennials. “There is also a very large proportion of seniors who have lost this knowledge,” noted journalist Eugénie Émond, when writing the book Savoir faire. In this beautiful book published last fall, she portrays 20 seniors who teach techniques ranging from sharpening a knife, to making a quilt, to restarting a a fridge and the sewing of a trouser bottom.

“Fernande Desgagnés in L’Isle-aux-Coudres, an 89-year-old woman, in her siblings, she is the only one who knows how to do everything”, underlines the author. At the time, it was a question of survival, she adds, but for Fernande Desgagnés, it is also “a matter of passion”.

Michael Schwartz, founder of Les Affûtés, a Montreal company that offers group workshops to develop manual skills, comes to the same conclusion. “We reach people ranging from 20 and a few years old to over 60. It’s a larger clientele than I had spontaneously imagined at the beginning. »

“We have outsourced our know-how”, sums up Eugénie Émond.

“Why spend time making a sweater for my baby when I can buy a cheap one?” Why waste my time? That was what was conveyed in advertisements in the 1970s,” recalls Marie Parent, president of Cercles de Fermières du Québec.

Young retirees are numerous among the new members of the province’s 580 circles. “Retired” in the feminine since the association, founded in 1915, is still reserved for women. Making it more inclusive would require a change to the bylaws, voted on by members, which has been rejected in the past but is again being considered, Parent said.

Marie-Hélène Lapointe did not wait for her retirement to acquire new skills. Her children having grown up, she invested this newfound time in learning cabinetmaking first, then welding, repairing, sewing and even stained glass. She has attended around fifty workshops at Les Affûtés.

“The first thing I made was wooden jewelry. I learned to operate the machines. Even the simplest one completely terrified me. After three-four workshops, I experienced a moment of grace. She continued her journey, making a chair, a shelf and a bedside table.

But what’s the point of investing time and money in learning these skills, when we can ask for help or hire someone to do it for us?

“Because a pandemic happened so quickly,” replies Rose-Aimée Autumn T. Morin. Or a labor shortage, or a social crisis. “I’m part of the pessimistic gang about the climate crisis. »

Beyond survivalism, what she has also discovered is the pride of doing one’s own, which leads to a form of “empowerment”.

It is also this feeling that led Michael Schwartz to found Les Affûtés, after learning cabinetmaking with a mentor. He also speaks of a relationship to time which, out of productivism, becomes different.

But, it is necessary to have it, this time, precisely. “When Edwin [Girouard, from Moncton] told me that his mother taught him to knit a stocking when he was 4 years old, I have a 4-year-old daughter, I have three children, and then I can’t see myself showing him how to make a stocking,” says Eugénie Émond. Without going back to the time of household arts lessons, the journalist believes that it would be important for the teaching of this manual knowledge to find a place in school. Remember that home economics classes, where a whole generation learned to sew boxer shorts, were abolished in the 2000s.

And this is at the heart of the mission of the Cercles de Fermières du Québec, whose members teach textile arts in certain schools, as an extracurricular activity.

Many seniors unfortunately believe that their knowledge does not interest anyone, deplores Eugénie Émond. “For the people I met, these were everyday gestures that they did all their lives. They didn’t feel like it was that important. However, intergenerational activities can have benefits that go beyond transmission, such as slowing cognitive decline and reducing depressive symptoms, continues the one who has completed a master’s degree in gerontology.

“You’ve never sewn, you’ve never weaved and you want to learn it? We have workshops that are open to everyone, we can provide you with the materials! invites Marie Parent.

Everything can be learned, adds Eugénie Émond. Although some are more gifted than others, “it is not a gift to be manual”.

Since its launch in 2019 in Little Italy in Montreal, the Affûtés community has grown with the addition of two new addresses, one in the Village and the other in the Mile-Ex district. The company offers a wide variety of collective learning workshops daily, led by experts. You can learn how to work with wood and metal, sewing, knitting, repairing small appliances, renovating, as well as car and bicycle mechanics. It is also possible to carry out the project of your choice by renting workshop time.

In addition to offering the possibility of borrowing tools, La Remise offers its members fully equipped workshops for carpentry and cabinetmaking, sewing and bicycle mechanics. Specialist volunteers are on site during certain opening times to guide users. The cooperative also offers training. In addition to the wood and sewing workshops, located in the Villeray district, La Remise has a bicycle workshop in Rosemont as well as a workshop for small jobs, newly opened in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Since 2011, La Fabrique éthique offers private or small group sewing lessons, for beginners as well as for those who have a little sewing experience. During short five-week sessions, you can learn, among other things, how to operate the sewing machine, repair and adjust clothes or make lingerie and swimsuits. It is also possible to rent a machine by the hour to carry out your own projects. The workshop is located in the Centre-Sud district.

Collective workshop, “tool library”, recycling center and meeting place, the Atelier La Patente cooperative wishes to promote the transmission of knowledge, increase collective resilience and encourage circularity. Established in Quebec City, in the Limoilou district, it offers thematic training as well as free access (for members) to its workshops in wood (cabinet making and carpentry), metal (forge, welding, metal), sewing and technology (electronics, computer programming, 3D printing, software). Repair cafés are also held there every Tuesday evening.

With their 30,000 members and their presence in 580 communities across the province, the Cercles de Fermières du Québec are a great way to reconnect with our artisanal heritage. Founded in 1915, the “largest women’s association in Quebec” focuses on the transmission of textile know-how (sewing, embroidery, knitting, loom).