It's not a new debate but it interests me nevertheless. Is your or my desire to pick up a needle or paintbrush predetermined or is it something we learned at mother's knee? Given my unscientific approach to this question, I don't think I'm going to be cracking that nut any time soon. But still, let's discuss...
On any given day I can convince myself that the desire to create, make or manufacture is something I was born with. It just seems it has always been a part of me.
As a little girl I used to make tiny beds for teeny dollies from a matchbox. I'd open it a little, slip the dolly in and use a scrap of material to make a blanket. I'd then put the dolly in the bed inside the house I had made from a shoebox, using playing cards as room partitions. In my mind the house resembled this Georgian affair but in really it was dull as dishwater.
Simple as they were, I loved those dollies and their houses, but none of them lasted long. Whether that was due to overuse or destruction at the hands of one of my brothers I can't be sure but I do remember that once my tears had dried I relished being able to start over. Looking back, I must have tortured mum for match and shoeboxes.
I did (eventually) move on from dolls' houses to more challenging things. I remember giving macramé a go - I think I made a hanging plant hanger (random!), I did loads of finger-knitting and had the first of several unsuccessful attempts to perfect the art of knitting and at one time I even had a thing for pottery.
I have a penchant for granny squares. They're delightfully colourful and completely kitsch.
It doesn't sport granny squares but check out this crocheted blanket I bought (new) at a hospice craft fair a couple of years back. I thought it was a total bargain at $25, do you?
A recent stay by my mum provided me with the perfect chance to give crochet a go. After all, I was a whiz at fingerknitting as a kid and mum assured me there was little more to crochet than that.
So we sat down with a crochet hook and yarn and I watched and tried, really tried, to focus on what she was doing. But man did her fingers move like the speed of light. I was bamboozled. She started over and showed me slooowly what she was doing. But by jingo, I just couldn't get the hang of it. I'm not ashamed to say I was outwardly calm as I made what seemed like our 15th cup of tea, but inside I was furious.
What is it about yarn stuff that just doesn't grab me? I love the end products but I just have trouble trying to come to grips. I think it could be how I am learning. I am not a good observer, I only learn by doing - there's a name for that but at this particular second it eludes me.
There's something I have been meaning to tell you about myself which is both embarrassing and annoying. For reasons that aren't immediately clear, I have a fear of undertaking any project which involves a significant amount of fabric. Has anyone noticed that all the little things I make are just that - little?
It's not like there's any shortage of bigger pieces, in fact my craft cave is bursting with them. In the past two weeks alone I have bought 2m of this and a metre and a half of this for no real reason, they've just been added to the stash.
I think my reluctance to apply a blade to a big, beautiful piece of material is due to a crisis of confidence. I mean, what if I chop in the wrong place or measure wrong or muck up the pattern match? I would be furious with myself, so I think I avoid that possibility by only cutting tiny pieces and therefore avoiding any crimes against craft.
The single biggest things I have ever created using my sewing machine are curtains, but even then it was sometimes under the guidance of my mum the first few times and then slowly and carefully after that.
I have to get over it. I really do. I'd really like (at some future, undetermined date) to make a patchwork duvet cover using large contrasting squares. I think my sewing skills are up to it - after all I can sew straight and around a corner, but I just need a little confidence before I get to all that cutting and pinning. At least with knitting you can just undo if you make a mistake. Once fabric is cut, it's cut. Even aprons, which are simple, have escaped me so far.
Oh dear, I've been at it again. When I say "it" I mean acting out on a slightly obsessive compulsion. In the past it's been the yo-yos, pin cushions and door stops but now it is birds. Yes folks, I have morphed into the sewing equivalent of an ornithologist.
I sometimes get wind in my sails and keep on at an idea until I run out of puff. As with most projects, it all started when I picked up a piece of fabric and smoothed it between my fingers. Then, I spotted an equally lovely but contrasting piece of fabric and felt that one up too. That was me done for.
Out came the ironing board, on went the sewing machine and out the window went all plans of clearing out drawers, sorting out cupboards and cleaning bathrooms. First I cut one, then five, then 20 fabric birds which I then went on to pin, sew, stuff and close. Oh the pleasure one can find in rummaging through a stash of fabric coming up with fabric combinations both weird and wonderful! Some are a little kooky, others are traditional matches made in textile heaven.
Bliss. I am totally in love with them. I have made loads of these before but there's something about this particular flock which makes me all gooey inside.
I'm going to perch some on little twigs and suspend them from the ceiling, I might just balance several on a large twig, or make birdie mobiles from them. I don't care if they never have a purpose other than to make me feel good. I know some of you see that as pointless, a la the dozens of yo-yos I made a few months back, but I see the pleasure they give me as a reason for their existence in themselves.
Guess what, readers? I have been invited to join a craft club. Oh yes, a craft club. Loosely speaking, it's a bunch of women (no men yet) who get together one afternoon for a knit and a natter, a stitch and a song, a cuppa and a cross-stitch. Not necessarily in that order or all at the same time, and actually if there's any singing I'll be leaving but you see where I was going with that, don't you?
To me, a craft club is a place where I can go with any old project I'm working on, somewhere I can be sure I will drink deeply on the milk of human kindness. It should be a feel-good place, rather than a place of education or anything too serious. Of course I want to learn something too but I'd head to YouTube or enrol in a class for that. It's the like-minded companionship I am after and an insight into other people's tastes.
The only drawback in this case is that I'm pretty sure I have been extended an invitation because they are hoping to learn from me. Haven't they read my blog? I'm still sporting the "L" plates. I think I'm good at amassing ideas of things I want to do, and as you know I'm a good starter. It's the execution and finishing that sometimes give me grief. I don't want to feel the burn of shame if they ask me to give them a rundown on Needlefelting 101, only to have to refer them on to the internet.
I'll have to make it clear where I'm at. That I'm muddling my way through just as they are, that I make mistakes and I don't always learn from them. Just this week, when making a dolly for a friend's daughter, I sewed three out of four limbs wrong and had to unpick and start over. The killer is that it was the same beginner's error each time - instead of having the right sides facing I only had one right side facing. There was a lot of cursing in the cave that afternoon, let me tell you.
Who out there has a craft club? A friend of mine has one at her workplace - they got together at lunchtimes. How awesome is that? Imagine Penelope from Accounting whipping out her latest taxidermy project or Glenys from Human Resources unveiling her granny squares. I bet they all see a side of each other that's not always on show at work.
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