Monday, August 13, 2012

CRAFTING


I have actually become a teeny bit of a “crafter!” No seriously it started with what I hoped to be the cost-saving measure of making rubber-stamp Christmas cards last year (which ended up setting me back about 250 bucks) and from there went on to knitting, curtain-making, several dinner parties, and now I’m thinking maybe I will try my hand at a couple of pillows. I don’t even need to put a zipper in, I'm thinking, just buy the foam or down thing and some material and baste the fourth side. The heck with it, when they start getting shabby, I’ll make more!

The curtains, green-gold organza with swirls, were many weeks in the execution. I had to shop/plow through zillions of possible selections for the material, thread, pins, a tape measure, and then I had to learn how to use my dear housemate's sewing machine (I gave mine away three years ago in an ill-advised faux St. Francis of Assisi "paring down") on which I promptly broke the needle. Jacqui has a darling little guesthouse-type building that houses TWO sewing machines, on which she apparently used to fashion, among other things, pillows and sell them at farmer's markets and probably make a killing as she is possibly THE most entrepreneurial and handy person I have ever known.  

Anyway, this cottage is great. French doors before which are positioned two tailor's dummies clad in smartly-styled jackets with slash pockets, fabric-covered buttons, gussets, and perfect lapels which Jacqui no doubt dashed off in some long-ago spare hour. Hardwood floor, an old kilim, the rich smell of good cloth, lace, trim, and sewing machine oil. My mother was an expert seamstress so this is all evocative of my childhood. I was a miserable pupil--as usual (the one possible exception being writing), I wanted the finished product without having to go through the long hours of painstaking trial, error, and work.  

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed kneeling, turning the fabric under, pinning, humming, and saying, "Oh shoot" when one panel of a pair turned out to be five inches shorter than the other...You would not want to examine my curtains up close--I ended up measuring more by eye than measuring tape and the hems look somewhat like they were done by a blind person--but I am happy with them and my plan is to remedy all imperfections by sewing a nice length of tassel fringe along the bottom.  



Caryll Houselander, of whom as you may or may not know I'm a huge fan, believed we should all have a little handicraft. She worked with traumatized children and was always teaching them how to carve animals out of wood or make papier mache masks or paint icons and she saw how the work soothed and calmed and stimulated and delighted and helped bring the children back to the land of the living. I am not very handy and yet I have come to treasure the hours I spend on my amateurish projects. We all have a deep urge to create, to make something out of nothing, to see some physical form take shape. Flannery O'Connor also believed a writer should cultivate at least one other art. For her, it was painting, which she was actually good at. So there is something here as well about the fact that we need to let our minds lie fallow every so often; to "see" with another eye than the one we use for our main work. 

Finally, I am building a nest. I live pretty much in one large room and day by day, week by week, month by month, in two years it has become almost a living thing on its own. The light now filters through sheer green curtains on all sides, making everything seem fresh and hopeful and new.



12 comments:

  1. Heather, I was amused by your descriptons of your sewing, everything but what it should be, being creative in the arts. My daughter who is blind took on a new job as a sewing operator. She has learned very quickly compared to some it takes almost 3 months. She is sewing shorts for our military people. If you meet any, ask how are the shorts. By the way, I enjoyed your blog. It is so down to earth and meeting your friends has been a pleasure.

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  2. I have what I hope is a holy envy for writers who have cultivated at least one other art, especially if that art is visual. Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath were both able at drawing and painting; in fact, I think one edition of Bishop's selected poems has a Bishop watercolor as the cover!

    Occasionally, in adolescence, I'd try to draw or work in pastels, and produced the most godawful stuff. One picture was almost tolerably unbad: a somewhat "expressionist" portrait of Tracy Chapman!

    I wish I could sing better, or maybe play guitar and/or piano. (Am thinking of that lyric from the '80s band the Smiths: "She said, hey, I know you and you cannot sing; I said, that's nothing, you should hear me play piano.") If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly!

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  3. Heather you sound very happy and content. Creative projects have a way of instilling contentment.

    I commmented earlier - my computer lost connection before it would send and I lost all those lovely, erudite thoughts! It was just about creativity. Such a wonerful topic. I heartily recommend creativity. That's not well put but about the gist of what I said earlier. Keep on knitting sewing, baking, drawing, dancing, gardening and ... oh, I WISH my earlier thoughts would come back! Blesings to every creative endeavour.

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  4. How is your mother doing?
    I just read your words in The Sun and came over to say hi and wish you well.

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  5. Gosh Heather, I've had this page open in my browser so long I forgot what I wanted to say when I opened it hours ago. Well, keep at girl! (that'll have to do).

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  6. I love your curtains.

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  7. If you start scrapbooking we might have to call in a de-programmer.

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  8. I went back to work full-time after many, many years of raising kids and doing part-time work here and there to make ends meet. One of the things that I really miss is having time to just sit down and knit or sew or whatever. I hope that one day I can get back to that.

    AMDG

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  9. ha ha, CA, Crafters Anonymous. No, you must let go of the sequins, the paste, the half-spools of old thread, the moldering "pastels"...Thanks for asking after my mother, Goatman. After I was called not once, but twice, to her deathbed Ole Janet M. King has semi-resurrected! Mom is nothing if not resilient. I talked to her yesterday. She answered after about 20 rings and, in her diminished but still somehow spark-of-life way gave me to know that All is well, all is well, all manner of things will be well...

    I love the blind daughter who is sewing shorts for "our military people"...Thanks, too, Tom, Jane,
    Owen, Carie, and Janet, faithful readers/commenters all. And I was just writing I hate when the computer convulses just as you're CRAFTING some "lovely, erudite" thoughts when my own wifi temporarily died, thereby eating my OWN comment...

    Happy Solemnity of the Assumption!

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  10. I think there is a Venn diagram of Artists and Crafters, sort of. I bless knitting because it uses up a lot of nervous energy in a practical way. Like the old woman's onion top in the Russian folk tale, I may reach heaven on a stack of baby hats.

    I do love Houselander's article on Creativity and Children.

    Thank you for the update on your mother. You are all in my prayers.

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  11. Venn diagram: Venn diagrams or set diagrams are diagrams that show all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets (aggregation of things). Venn diagrams were conceived around 1880 by John Venn. They are used to teach elementary set theory, as well as illustrate simple set relationships in probability, logic, statistics, linguistics and computer science (see logical connectives).

    love it! yes, artists and crafters, related in unexpected and mysterious ways. I agree knitting focuses or absorbs nervous energy...I am on yet another scarf, puce and mauve...sounds horrible but is kind of startlingly splendid...

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