Thursday, March 29, 2012

You either get it or you don't

When it comes to crafts and the time we spend on them, you either get it or you don't.  If you get it, then when I tell you that my daughter and I drove from Seattle to Portland to attend a bead show, you nod, "well, of course you did" or perhaps "WHAT! I missed a bead show?".  If you ask "how much did the gas cost?" or "what else did you do while you were there?", clearly you don't get it.  Sometimes the most surprising people get it.  A guy who thinks nothing of spending most of Sunday afternoon at Home Depot, followed by the rest of the afternoon organizing his nuts and bolts, gets it.  He is the same guy who rummaged through the recycle bin to retrieve glass baby jars so he could nail the lids to a piece of wood, fill the jars with screws and admire how the combination of shiny glass and shiny metal in neat little rows reflects the light from the overhead bulb.  Now that those little glass jars no longer abound in our grocery stores, I can just imagine his pain. But he gets it. 

My family learned years ago that me announcing I was going to the bead store, was me announcing "don't call, don't text, don't ask me if I am on my way home...I am not. I will be home when I am home".  They get it. 

My mom doesn't.  She thinks she does.  She wants to.  She tries to.  But she just doesn't.  Taking her with me to a craft store starts out well.  After all, craft stores are bright with, banners, beads, paints, toys, picture frames, candles!  After collecting a cart she is sure she will quickly fill (are these little carts big enough?), she is immediately drawn to the $1 bins.  Notepads, stickers, pens, magnetic shopping lists...all are carefully sorted thru and a few items make their thoughtful way into the cart.  On to the holiday decorations where she picks up several items, then discards them as being too pricey, too big, too small, too something.  On to the frames...nope, doesn't need any frames.  On and on it goes until she returns to the front of the store, where I am still on the first group of beads, and exclaims over the colors and varieties.  Would I make her some earrings with these beads?  Of course...they are added to the cart. What about these little crystal beads, would they make  a nice bracelet? Of course! They also make the cut.  Annnnnd that's it for her.  The rest of the time in the store she spends wandering aimlessly up and down aisles, looking at nothing in particular, returning finally to the jewelry supplies where I am still searching for a 6mm lavender bead that will perfectly complement the larger purple beads I found hanging on the last chance sale rack.  After shifting from foot to foot for a moment she asks "can I help you find something?"  Yes, patience and understanding.  After all, she is my mom and I love her, but she just doesn't get it. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's never really finished until it's out the door

Hello. My name is Sue and I am a re-crafter. In my world there is no such thing as a finished craft project. There is always something I can tweak, one more line I can adjust, another bead I can add. I once took a framed pencil sketch of a moose off the wall of my mom's house two years after I had "finished" it to add some shading to an ear.  I have been known to rip apart half an afghan to change the color of a row of stitches.  It's not that I am a perfectionist...not at all.  I am the first to admit that I don't turn out perfect projects.  They are, after all, handmade not machine made.  But I always look at something I have done and think "what if I added..." and unless you actually take it out of my hand, I will do just that.

Sometimes it goes horribly wrong.  Like the time I repainted a wooden Santa because I didn't think his face looked jolly enough. Instead of a happy smiling Santa, I ended up with Santa's evil twin...a scary looking troll with squinty eyes and a lopsided sneer. Or the time I added so much embroidery to a guest towel that my son accused me of wanting to make sure our guests never, ever washed their hands at our house again.

But sometimes it works. I am new to Etsy and have been building up my inventory for the past month.  Each time I have added a finished bracelet to my store, I have felt this amazing sense of pride that something I made is being viewed by someone in Alaska or Kansas or England. So this morning I was completely taken by surprise when, as I sat reviewing my store, reading emails, browsing Treasuries, drinking coffee, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to rework a bracelet.  I thought I would maybe add a bead or two, tweak a link.  Within minutes I found myself completely dismantling it, shortening one chain, adding to another, taking out some beads, adding in beads I had thought would be in other bracelets. The result is similar to the original bracelet, but cleaner, sleeker and I like it!  I may not be finished with it...but right now, I like it.

Hello. My name is Sue, and I am a re-crafter.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Skeletons of crafts past

I'll bet there is not a crafter in the world who has tried only one craft.  I would venture to suggest that we all have crafting closets crammed full of past relics.  Maybe not real closets, although I imagine there are plenty of us who have those, but certainly closets in our memories.  I personally have crammed tons of old crafts and their accompanying detritus into bins, boxes and storage areas until I reach that certain time when I come across them and think "why on earth did I ever want to make that"!  So I have been thinking a lot lately about why we craft and what we craft and why we stop crafting. 

Sometimes I have made things out of necessity.  When my kids had Cabbage Patch dolls, I made them clothes, quilts, bibs, a carrier and even matching clothes for my kids. Partly because it was fun, but mostly because I just couldn't afford the astronomical price of store bought accessories.  What I could afford was a variety of colorful fabrics so that my son and his doll had matching shorts and my daughter and her doll had matching dresses.  I even made my own patterns by ripping apart old shorts and dresses to follow the lines.  I tried my hand at making an actual doll with less than stellar results.  It was lumpy, fragile and completely unattractive.  I wasn't even upset when my dog took it outside where I found it weeks later in the dog house.  Apparently smoothly stuffed and pretty aren't canine requirements for a woobie.

Some crafts I have tried my hand at have been an attempt to make something prettier.  When my son was a baby and spent a lot of time on his tummy during naps, I found myself looking at the back of his shorts and thinking, wouldn't a little butterfly look cute there?  So I embroidered one and yes, it did look cute.  But it took a surprising amount of time and he outgrew the shorts, so that was the end of that.  I once did a labor intensive band of counted crosstitch for one of my daughter's Christmas dresses only to have her ask "do I have to wear that?" My crafter's spirit rose up in affront and my first thought was "YES, YOU HAVE TO WEAR IT!!! WHAT KIND OF A DAUGHTER DOESN'T TREASURE SOMETHING HER HARD WORKING MOTHER HAS CRAFTED HER FINGERS TO THE BONE OVER???"  Fortunately my rational, non-crafter's side asked "Don't you want to?".  To which she replied "Yes. I just wondered if I had to". 

Sometimes I tried crafting things just because everyone else was happily crafting away.  Take stamping.  I loathe stamping and all the ink that goes with it.  But, I went to a stamp party and soon had an array of stamps, birthday stamps, stars, flowers, butterflies, leaves, basketballs (?), stamps with my kids' names, even stamps with my kids' faces! Red ink pads, black ink pads, emerald green, glittering silver, purple, pink ink pads. Even a glow in the dark ink pad that was supposed to be so amazing that your kids would enshrine you in their hearts forever.  By stamping, we were all supposed to save a ton of money in greeting cards alone.  No one factored in the cost of the card stock used as we tried to perfect the quick stamp and release.  And no one factored in what happened when you encouraged your kids to "stamp with mom".  Red meets black meets green meets purple.  The glow in the dark pad was collateral damage.

Some crafts seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to be costly/messy/dangerous.  I once traded a sketch I had made of a deer for a big block of beeswax, with images of the amazing candles I would craft dancing in my head. I made one batch of tiny little candles in molds and almost burned the house down in the process.  Who knew wax was flammable?  Probably every other person who has tried to make candles on their kitchen stove. 

So here is a list of crafts I have tried in no particular order.  I am sure I am forgetting some.  Rug hooking, sewing, embroidery, candy making, doll making, stuffed animals, stamping, counted crosstitch, quilting, crocheting, knitting, decoupage, sketching, water colors, woodcrafting, leaded glass work, making pillows, Christmas ornaments, decorative painting, plaster casting, pottery, stencilling, macrame, collecting little pieces of driftwood and gluing on straw flowers, candle making, upholstery, refinishing furniture, beading, jewelry making, wood burning, tie dying, creating transfers for T-shirts, card making, making sachets/potpourri, making bowls out of partially melted LP records, canning, scrapbooking, shadow boxes, cake decorating and food crafts. 

Some I loved, some I hated, some I was just plain awful at and some have provided endless hours of enjoyment, both in the crafting and in the wearing/admiring/gift giving.  And nothing compares to the feeling that you have when someone picks up something you have crafted, whether it be a crocheted throw or a bottle of homemade Baileys and says "You made this?  Cool!" Of course, if they pick it up and say "You made this?  Yikes!", then calmly say "Of course not.  I bought it at the Elementary School Crafting Fair in (insert far away city here in case they want to attend next year's fair).  It's a wonderful event, held every year to raise money so that all the kids, bless their hearts,  can go on this great field trip....." 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So this is how it starts

I have never blogged before, but not having done something has rarely stopped me from trying something new.  Although I am new to blogging, I am not new to crafting.  At one time or another I have tried just about every kind of craft there is.  Some of them from necessity, or maybe frugality is a better word...ok, so I might be cheap...some just to see if I can do them.  In high school I made my own clothes, because that is what everyone did.  Not my school clothes,  the fine clothier, JC Penny, provided those.  But when there was a special occasion, a trip to the fabric department was the first step.  I remember paging through those wonderful books, assessing the options, determining the difficulty involved then finally selecting the perfect pattern.  Then on to the fabrics....yards and yards of choices in every color and hue...then notions!  Buttons and zippers and ric rac, oh my!  The fact that the finished product was rarely as it was actually depicted on the pattern was of little consequence.  To me, the dresses I made for myself were perfect!  They were in my favorite colors, in fabrics I loved (or were on sale), and they always, always fit as though they were made for me, as of course they were.  They weren't high couture, but they were my couture.  (I can see my daughter rolling her eyes over that phrase!) 

So that was my start, making my special occasion dresses.  My crafting has changed focus over the years as I have either lost or gained interest in other crafts, but I have never stopped wanting to make something with my own hands all by myself.  Which brings me to this blog, something else I am doing all by myself...with Google's help.  I hope to hear from other crafters and do-it-yourself-ers.  After all, the fun is in the journey and who you meet along the way.