I’ve always practiced a variety of crafts (OMG, this is so cool, collaborative offscript crafting). From an early age I sewed, embroidered and knitted. And then I stopped, knitting first, sewing as a teenager (after the point where modding school uniforms proved useful), and so there was a hiatus.
Is it a mid-life crisis? Well I don’t know.
Some of it is motivated by being tight fisted. I refuse to pay hundreds of dollars for curtains. I mean, there are better things to spend hundred of dollars on. The state of curtains in the United States is horrible. Expensive and ugly, ugly beyond belief. Revolting. What were these people thinking?
So, part of it is that sewing ensures that I don’t have financial or asthetic crimes against humanity hanging over my windows.
But that doesn’t explain the skirts, and it sure doesn’t explain all the other fabrics. The fabric I got from IKEA (please imagine a heraldic sound as the word IKEA is uttered because IKEA is a type of religious experience for me, and I only recently heard about the whole take an IKEA product and mod it while you’re making it up… what a brilliant idea). So, the fabric I got from IKEA to make tote bags for kids (why shouldn’t they be introduced to environmentally friendly shopping, and have bags that reflect what they are able to carry, no, no reason at all—it also doesn’t explain why Mom is using it for her crochet, but that’s a different story…). It also doesn’t explain the time that my husband went away on business and I chose to spend my time in a pattern store loading up on boat-loads of cheap patterns for skirts. Or the magazine I recently purchased to teach me more about modding clothes.
(It turns out, and this is not so surprising, I hate following instructions… virtually everything I sew starts in my head and not on paper. When I do follow patterns I usually like to customize them. Add a pocket, change the length, do away with the zipper—I hate zippers—and so forth). Sewing is actually a remarkably creative thing for me, and something that gives me significant pleasure when I see the end results. Even if I always rather rush to get there, patterns in my head appear to have a short life span in the head.
Embroidery was like this. I don’t do it now, but I have a shirt. The back features an embroidered elephant. It’s my own creation. An elephant in a ceremonial dress walking along. I made the pattern and selected all the threads to create it. Not embroider by the numbers or within the lines. I don’t wear the shirt often, but I keep it as a reminder of creativity and imagination.
Knitting is the latest one to make a come back. I don’t really know how or when it happened. Well, that’s not quite true. I tried to teach myself to crochet. It was a disaster, how can something like that completely mystify me, I don’t know, I still don’t know. But I know that despite my best efforts I can not crochet. I guess it was Christmas, perhaps last year that I wanted to teach myself. But it turns out I bought a load of wool and then couldn’t actually do it. So I needed to do something else and knitting (as I have mentioned before) speaks to a past, a family, memories of long ago, not just of people but of motions with my hands.
But, I am taking to knitting exactly as I took to sewing. Patterns bore me, well the ones I think I can make do. So, one of my first projects was to reverse engineer a robot. So, that’s how I learnt, the hard way, to do intarsia knitting. I then discovered that that’s considered not what a beginner does. I’m not sure I know anyone whose taught themselves intarsia knitting from the experience of reverse engineering the entire pattern (I had to decide how many stitches, how to knit the piece, etc… there were no instructions, I just thought it out, thought carefully, and then started knitting).
So sewing, embroidery, and knitting are pretty creative me, whether it’s modding school uniforms, making elephants, adding pockets, or imagining a pair of shorts and bag… whether it’s knitting a robot or just knitting a bag… it’s a very creative process, and one that is very visual for me, which is perhaps why patterns don’t work so well for me. It’s about the idea and then a full force of creativity to get there, not being too worried about a mistake along the way, because the confidence comes from knowing that nothing is irreversible, even if you are not quite sure how. How is this different from research? Well it happens over a shorter time span, but it requires the same types of skills, an ability to think outside the box, a degree of comfort with ambiguity while things are “in progress” (and potentially not going well) and a degree of confidence and optimism that things will work out. It’s like risk taking in the small, but if you don’t craft don’t underestimate what it means to go “off pattern” or the experience of what might result if you go off pattern and then begin the process of innovation.