Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Being Bi-craft-ual

"Hey, there's going to be a class in [insert craft here].  That looks fun to try."

I'm sure that at this point, these words are enough to send chills down my husband's spine.

For me, crafts are like foreign languages.  Once I learn one, it feels a lot easier to pick up another one.  Most of my friends who craft do at least two.  Many of us need to impose some kind of limit on what we learn.  Whenever a quilting class is going on in the workshop room at Home Ec, one of my friends will turn to the group and say, "Tell me I don't need to quilt."  In fact, "I don't need to [craft]" has become a kind of incantation, something we all say aloud in the hopes that voicing those words will remove the desire.

Of course, the desire remains.  Why do we feel the need to pick up more skills?  Aren't there enough challenges to take on with one craft?  Perhaps it's a result of the "hedonic treadmill," the human tendency to feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness only briefly before we have the urge to move on to the next conquest.

I have definitely felt a greater need to try new crafts ever since I got more crafty friends.  On any given Saturday, as many as half a dozen crafts are represented.  Knitting, crochet, surface embroidery, cross-stitch, weaving, sewing.  A few weeks ago there was even a man with a spinning wheel, spinning yarn of hot pink and purple.  We look at others making attractive objects and feel a mixture of awe and envy.  We want to find out the secret password, to learn the magic of how they are creating something from nothing in a new way.

The physical space itself is also inspiring.  Bright, colorful fabrics in white shelves to make the patterns really pop.  Piles of scrumptiously soft yarn.  Perle cotton thread arranged in neat little rows. It makes me want to hold the materials in my hands and turn them into something wonderful.

After learning several crafts, I have a greater appreciation for the unique properties of each craft that make them better suited for some tasks and not others.  It also gives me a window into history, and the people who created "a world made by hand" (to borrow a title from a post-apocalyptic novel).  You learn to knit socks, and it hits you that there was a time when ALL socks were made this way.  You learn to embroider the with same stitches used to illustrate the Bayeux Tapestry.  All fabrics, from the finest dresses to ship sails were once hand woven.  You want to become a part of all of these legacies.

I also like having different crafts to work on so I can shift depending on my mood or circumstances.  I tend to embroider during the day when the light is better and knit at night when I can rely more on feel.  Winter calls for warm yarn, while summer demands embroidering on cool cotton.  If I am frustrated with one project, I focus on a different one for a couple days.  Knitting large or complex projects is for times when I can relax at home, while I bring portable cross-stitch projects with me when I travel.  (Yes, I know people bring knitting with them on airplanes, but I would rather avoid the uncertainty of TSA agents.)

Which ones have I tried, or want to try?  Here's my checklist:

Knitting:  Learned when I was six and kept it up.  I love learning new skills for patterns and styles.  My most recent development is knitting socks.

Gave these toddler socks to a friend with a new baby.
Crochet:  Because I learned knitting at such a young age, crochet just never made sense to my hands.   I think I have a knee-jerk reaction to crochet because it is more popular than knitting in a lot of areas.  I only know enough to be able to edge a knitted project.  I learned how to do Tunisian crochet, but I have never finished a project with it.  (Funny story--I took a class on Tunisian crochet from an author who was about to release a book of patterns for it.  It ended up coinciding with the Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia.  She kept having to tell people, "No, this doesn't actually have anything to do with Tunisia.  No, I am not doing this as a response to the uprising.")

Surface-Embroidery/Cross-Stitch:  The reason for this blog.

Needlepoint:  I never really felt like learning this because I was used to seeing bad 1970's tent-stitch pictures of rainbows and clouds.  (Bonus if it has a Hebrew word in big bubble letters.)  It wasn't until I saw canvas work at the state fair when I realized the possibilities of playing around with different stitches and geometric designs.  Now I'm interested in trying it out if I can find a good kit.

Sewing/Quilting:  I learned how to do this because, realistically, I only have so much wall space in my house to hang embroidery projects.  Sewing a pillow or a wall hanging is a useful skill.  I've made a few small things and one picnic blanket (which is technically a comfort, not a quilt).  I'm glad I know how to do it and I occasionally take a class if they are offering something I'd like to make, but it hasn't grabbed me the way other crafts have.  I prefer working with my hands, and a machine isn't quite the same.

I made my picnic blanket in patriotic colors, since July 4th is the day when I am most in need of a picnic blanket
Weaving:  I'm getting the itch for this because one of my Saturday breakfast friends weaves.  She has made beautiful projects and samples.  Lion Brand Yarn sells some looms that seem affordable.  The local craft guild teaches a weaving class, but it is usually in the fall when it conflicts with the High Holidays.  There is also the problem that if you get really into it, looms take up a LOT of space.  Still, I'd like to try it at some point since it is one of the oldest fiber arts.  This might be one that has to wait until I move from my apartment into a house.

Spinning:  This is another craft I want to try because of historical curiosity.  I don't even want to think about the cost of a spinning wheel, but drop spindles are small AND portable.

Tatting:  Tatting is for making doilies, decorative edging, and other extremely dainty things.  The French term for this craft comes from their word for "frivolity."  I'll admit it.  The only reason I tried this is for the bragging rights.  And brag I can, because I'm actually getting decent at this.  After making a few small flower motifs, I'm on my way to making my first doily.  My friends now consider me the BAMF of crafting.

Only the beginning
What crafts do you do?  What would you like to try?

1 comment:

  1. this post really resonated with me, as I'm exactly the same! I love crafts and I love to learn new ones. My list of crafts that I've tried, that I do and that I'm intending to try is far too long to write here, so take a look at the page I have on my blog that documents my quest to tackle all crafts!