I am almost to the end of crochet month and the other day I was thinking about the art of crafts. A lot of times when you say you want to make art, perhaps what likely comes to mind is painting, drawing, sculpting, or something like that. You don’t often see an art school that focuses solely on crafts like weaving, sewing, or knitting. Sewing is for fashion design schools. But I feel like most art schools focus on visual arts. But I find that I really enjoy these crafts that create some kind of useful household product. Items you can wear or use around the kitchen but also enjoy how they look. Maybe I am wrong about this. Maybe there is a big movement in becoming master knitters and I just don’t know about it. I know through the pandemic, we really started to enjoy shows like Blown Away and The Great Pottery Throw Down along with British Bake-off. All of these shows highlight crafts that a single person does that can be functional and very creative. Beautifully decorated cakes that the family can enjoy. Lovely coffee mugs or dishes that have color and design. And for me, so far I’ve enjoyed embroidery and crochet for those reasons.
Obviously, I am no great craftsperson. I am just a beginner in both of those. Right now I am working on a blanket. It’s small and intended for a baby or toddler. But I am still practicing trying to get the crochet work even. I like how repetitive it is. I like how I can work on repetitive loops of yarn and listen to music or watch a show or have a conversation. It’s kind of soothing that it doesn’t need intense concentration.
And honestly after the intensity of the last several years- the pandemic, the political issues, everything-its taken a mental toll over time. A lot of times mindless television or scrolling can be what I turn to in order to relax. But it’s not nearly as satisfying as semi-mindlessly creating a blanket that I can actually give someone in the end. So far I’ve made a kind of sad scarf that I don’t think anyone will want, a hot pot pad to give to a friend, and now this blanket. I am not sure who I can give it to, but so far I like the work. I used to love writing and would think of things to write all of the time. I don’t know what it is about the last few years. I find myself less able to string together a coherent narrative. Less able to organize a piece of writing. So I find it very soothing that creatively I can sit and do some small activity over and over until it turns into a lovely functional gift.
Every month, this creative project, in some ways, makes me a beginner again. This month, being a beginner at crochet made me frustrated. I’ll be honest, I have not picked up any creative project that is completely new or foreign to me. I did embroidery, which I hadn’t really tried before. But I did learn basic stitches from my aunt when I was young and I did cross stitch occasionally over the years. Video-last month- was not a big success, but I also have been doing videos for my youtube project for over a year. NANOWRIMO is writing and I have been writing off and on for myself for decades. This month, crochet is a project I grew up adjacent to. My mother crocheted. My neighbors crocheted. Didn’t everyone have the crocheted blankets in 70s brown, yellow, and orange laying around the house? I know all of my neighbors did. They also seemed to have the ones that were throws that were patches of crochet webbed together and not one complete blanket. Instead, it was hundreds off circles connected leaving gaps where cold air would come in. Despite all of that crocheting around me, I never had a crocheted hat or scarf or set of mittens in the winter.
I tried to learn to crochet once. When I was 16 and pregnant. But after a few attempts I was frustrated and really though sitting still for hours to finish it was too boring. At the beginning of this month when I started, I was frustrated. I watched multiple videos trying to find the best one to help me figure out how to hold the crochet hook and how to make it work. I started and restarted at least 5 times. And finally I started to get the hang of the basic stitch. And I’ve made a scarf so far. It’s kind of small, like a scarf for a 9 year old. But I finished it.
Being a beginner again is hard. And to do it repeatedly month after month is definitely a different experience. I’ve been wondering what 6 months of starting over translates into over time. Will I be more flexible? More confident? Or will I just get tired of it? Perhaps I find myself more sure of what I like and don’t like. One thing I find that I do like, is that I do like alternating storytelling projects with hands on crafts. For example, I did NANOWRIMO followed by embroidery. And with crafts, I like having a useful finished product. For example, I like having an embroidered dish towel that you can actually use. I really want to do pottery but it’s a challenge to find a pottery class that is for one month or even single lessons. They are usually 8 week courses.
I completed month 2 of my 6 months of art. What I learned from month 2 is that life can easily get in the way of finishing. In fact, with the holidays, I actually did not finish my second project. As you can see in the image, it does appear finished, but I meant to finish the coffee pot with red.
I really do like the little cinnamon rolls. I also do think the red would balance it out. Perhaps I will come back to it. But not finishing is a reoccurring theme for me.
January is the month of video. I already do work on videos every month on YouTube. Sometimes I post every week, sometimes every other week. So for this month, I was trying to think of what my project would be. What specific skills do I want to learn? What specific project do I want to work on? Before the month started I found myself unsure of what to work on. I considered a daily Vlog. I considered a specific video to work on or a specific style. And to be honest, I am not 100% sure. I did start recording today, but I still need to come up with some ideas. We will see what happens!
Embroidery is something women in my family did. My mom used to embroider various little projects like table runners. My aunt taught me how to do a basic backstitch and attempt letter. I have done cross-stitch projects occasionally, but generally, I found them a little unsatisfying. I usually chose them because I thought they were easier, but just making Xs gets boring. Because of my (limited) experience, for the month of December, I decided to work on embroidery as my creative work. I finished the basic project from the last post about midway through the month. That was a good way to practice some basic stitches I might need like the satin stitch, lazy daisy stitch, french knot etc. From there I wanted to be sure that the next piece was a creative endeavor and not just a predetermined image chosen from JoAnn’s Fabrics. I decided I would embroider something that I drew, which, to be honest, is not a skill I have. I don’t draw. So instead I traced. I traced an image from a cookbook that I like onto a flour sack towel and I chose the colors (although I did not stray much from the original).
What I find is that making time every weekday for a project is the hardest part. Discipline. I start out thinking I have all the time in the world and that I can finish an ambitious amount of work. But then I don’t. And this lesson applies far beyond this month’s project. I have a little more than a week to finish my flour sack towel. But I am really enjoying making these little cinnamon rolls.
Last night, when I went to bed my phone said it was 19 degrees outside. Nineteen. Winter has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and I need to get into a habit of taking Vit D. Gray skies and lots of time indoors are here.
For November, I did nanowrimo and although I did write 25k +/- words, I didn’t finish my project. Towards the end, I started to wonder if this project was really one I wanted to put out into the world. Typically, that kind of doubt is centered on whether I want people to read what I wrote because they might think it’s terrible? Or did I just overshare-now everyone will know what I think?? But this time, I really found myself glad that wrote it and organized it for my sake but perhaps that was enough.
I wrote about walking and the time we spent walking the Camino de Santiago this year. It was and continues to be a strange, adventurous year. Perhaps all of that work of writing was more of a good exercise in reflection so I could move on to the next things.
This month, I am looking forward to switching creative modes and I am working on embroidery. Not just as a task or skill that ends in a product, but also as a creative endeavor. I am starting the month by practicing stitches with this simple embroidery project.
After I finish this, I am planning to create something of my own design. We will see how it goes. Anyone else getting creative this winter?