Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Craft of Being Crafty

I’m a crafty sort of gal. Not in the sneaky sense like the GR. Nope, I mean in the sense that I can do a lot of handcrafts: crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting. I was taught by my Mom who excelled in even more textile arenas including quilting, needlepoint on plastic canvas and, in homage to our golden one, chicken scratch embroidery. Mom entered her items in the State Fair and won as many ribbons for that as I have for cakes. No doubt in my mind that given enough golden yarn, she could crochet our chook!

The first piece I ever did was an embroidered sampler about the Girl Scouts. Samplers for the uninitiated are pieces that reflect some aspect of life. A saying such as “The flowers of tomorrow are the seeds of today”. The alphabet is often included along with flowers and elaborate borders. This first effort had the Girl Scout oath. I used satin stitch, chain stitch, outline stitch and the ubiquitous French knots. Laborious for a 10 year old but boy was I proud of that!

Then I learned how to crochet. Could not even tell you the moment I started single stitching and double stitching…probably just watched my Mom. She had a vast array of different crochet an armory for yarn. My first granny square afghan had brilliant central colors of pink, blue, green and yellow surrounded with black. Stayed on my bed through my high school years. It kept me warm in more ways than one. I also learned how to crochet with string. You know, of doily fame? Mom had a pattern for the sweetest baby bib and I still have her early (1940's era) pattern books for doilies, tablecloths etc. with a pineapple motif.

Next, I discovered counted cross-stitch. In a bizzaro switch I taught my Mom to do that! And we were off. Spent over 10 years creating masterpieces with hundreds of shades of floss. Hues every bit as wonderful as tubes of paint. My brush was a needle, my canvas Aida cloth. The stitches strokes very like painting. My mother especially became enamored with challenging pieces like this picture of the little girl gathering shells on the beach. It hangs in my living room, a constant reminder of my Mom's love.

Knitting? Well, I learned that working night shift at the hospital. Oh, now come has to do something to stay awake at 2 am. Of course, "back then" people weren't as sick as they are nowadays. Using my newfound skills I knitted my newborn godson a sweater, cap and mittens. The gauge was off a bit and while Brian never got to wear it, his sister did…when she was 2 years old :-)
What brought all this to mind was a recent rash of expectant mothers among my staff at work. I am on my fifth knitted baby afghan and yes, my wrists hurt. (Send Motrin). But when I’ve given these modest gifts to the mothers to be their mouths drop open. They are in awe. “You MADE this?” has been the common refrain.

Well, yes I did. Making something as a gift shows the pleasure and happiness I feel for them as a part of my life. Hooray for babies and lets snuggle them in a blanket that Joan Darling made. This is what I grew up doing. I didn’t get their astonishment.
And then it occurred to me that with all the modern conveniences, specialty items (esp. for babies) that handcrafted gifts are rare "nowadays". The generation behind me…for the most part….do not know how to do these things. Let’s face it, many of their mothers were working, balancing raising children, keeping house, and bringing home the bacon. They did not have time to spend with silk threads and yarn. Time is of the essence in today’s world and no matter how sincere the wish, we just don’t have time for crafting.

The signs are there. At the State Fair the textile exhibit shrinks a little bit more each year. I mean for about 4 years the chicken scratch category was entered only by my Mom and some nun! I know, GR....calm down.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong but when you see a young 20 something girl’s eyes round in awe at a simple knitted blanket, ya gotta wonder if these talents are a dying art. I sure hope not.

What about you? Can you do any crafts? Knit one, Purl two? Ever made Christmas ornaments out of felt and toilet paper rolls? Snowmen with styrfoam balls and crocheted snow? Have you passed it on to the next generation?

I hope so.


Jennifer Y. said...


Jennifer Y. said...

I love crafts! But I don't really have a talent in anything specific. I'd love to learn to knit or cross-stitch or quilt. My great-grandmother was a knitter and I still have the little knitted purse she made me as a kid lined with a plastic baggy along with a blanket she made me as an infant.

I used to make t-shirts for people with iron-on designs and would hand-paint them. And as a kid I loved to weave pot-holders in that little square loom thingie (yeah, it's a technical term ROFL)...yeah, we never ran out of loom mysteriously disappeared one day though...hmm...

I haven't done anything craft in a while though.

Gannon Carr said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Jennifer!

I haven't done much in the way of crafts in quite awhile, but I used to do cross stitch. In fact, I have a few unfinished projects. *hanging head in shame*

Knitting seems to be all the rage, and I have several friends that are crazy about it. I would love to learn someday.

Keira Soleore said...

Bwok, Bwok, Bwok.

Keira Soleore said...

OH no!!! Jennifer, you're way too quick with that trigger finger.

Keira Soleore said...

Gannon, a friend of mine knitted the most deliciously warm scarf for me one Xmas. I love it!!

Similarly, one of my grandmothers gave me a crocheted doily made from her newly married days. Another one has been hand-making special clothes for my daughter, all of which I save.

Me crafty? Other than scrapbooking author bookmarks and the like, I don't have a crafty eye. (See, what a sweet-tempered gal, I am? Har. Har. Can't help it if a perfectly valid term is being repurposed to mean something else.)

Anna Campbell said...

Goodness, Jen, is that three days out of four he's been with you? Wow! You're feeding him too well, gal!

I'm hopeless at any of this stuff which means I really admire people who can do it. My grandmother was the most fantastic knitter. I've got quite a lot of her work that I'm holding onto as heirlooms. As you say, JT, a lot of this stuff seems to be dying out, although I have noticed a vogue for knitting in recent years. I can remember seeing samplers and stump work (amazing 17th century embroidery that's almost sculptural) in stately homes and museums and being in awe of the artistry of the women who created these masterpieces. Wish I had the talent!

Nancy said...

Jennifer, congratulations!

Joan, my mom was a fabulous knitter. She typed at work all day, then came home and knitted at night. I had some gorgeous sweaters as a result. Her knitting fell off as she developed arthritis in her hands. The last thing she knitted was a layette set for the boy, which I carefully wrapped in tissue paper for any offspring he may produce. I tried to learn but never could get the hang of casting on or casting off.

Keira, better luck next time on the bird! A classmate of mine makes beautiful scrapbooks. I'm doing well, OTOH, to get the pictures in an album and labeled.

I used to do needlepoint, but I got out of the habit in grad school. I think you may have a point, Joan, that a lot of these crafts are fading, which is a sad thing. I love to go in museums and look at embroidered garments or old tapestries and think of the vision and time that went into them.

Anna C., the samplers are impressive, too. I love to see them on Antiques Roadshow.

Gannon, I've seen some beautiful cross-stitch pieces. Don't feel too badly about leaving them undone. Life happens and you can always fnish them later. So they're not abandoned--they're just not done. Yet. *g*

Pat Cochran said...

In my younger days, I greatly enjoyed doing all types of crafts. Every Christmas, I love using handmade decorations on the tree. There are craft items all over the house made by the children and myself over the years. I have afghans made for me by a dear
friend and her mother(who is no longer with us). Sadly I never
learned to crochet or knit my self.

Pat Cochran

Joan said...

Congratulations, Jennifer. With a quick reflex like that you'd be a natural with a crochet hook!

Hand painted tee shirts! That was popular when I was *ahem* younger. We did sweatshirts here with all the traditional holiday motifs.

I also learned how to crossstich patterns on sweatshirts. It involved waste canvas that was a bear to pull apart once the design was done.

But my Mom made me one with the word "Nurse" surrounded by bears.

I don't wear sweatshirts anymore but will never part with that one.

Joan said...

Gannon, as Nancy said they are not forgotten just delayed.

I too have a few projects wallowing at the bottom of a craft basket. And I'm gonna have gobs of yarn left over from these blankets.

Want me to send them to you? :-)

Keira Soleore said...

OK. I've made ornaments. I've sewn cross-stitch samplers, cross-stitch patterns, made a plastic basket using plastic beads and plastic yarn, and sewed a denim skirt--but all in school. I painted, too, then. I graduated from high school and all crafts went bye-bye. The scrapbooking and card making, I just picked up.

Music is my thing to pass onto my daughter. Appreciation, enjoyment learning, gaining a keen year, distinguishing styles, and of course reading and singing. An instrument if she want one would be good so she can be part of a band or small orchestra/choir and be able to carry it forward and keep with her always.

Joan said...

Darn, Keira....missed it by THAT much!

Scarves and doilies and baby clothes....precious memories and special gifts.

This is where heirlooms have their beginning. Just think, Keira..your child will treasure them too...and their children and their children....

As to scrapbooking, I admire the creativity that takes. I have piles and piles of photos that..well just can't seem to make the 1 foot leap into an album.

Can I send them all to you to fix?


Joan said...

Oh, man Anna the historical samplers, tapestries etc. are just amazing aren't they? These women not only had to dye their own thread, they had to draw out the design, weave the cloth everything.

Yes, knitting is enjoying a resurgence which gives me some hope that "the old ways" are not dying out.

Joan said...

Nancy, I had a hard time remembering how to cast on and cast off stitches too when I started the FIRST baby blanket.

But they've invented another wonderful thing since I last plied my craft...the internet.

All I had to do was google "knitting cast on/cast off" and voila....web video demonstrating exactly how to do it!

I also searched high and low for that picture of the little girl picking up shells. As I mentioned it is one of the patterns that calls for sublte shade differences. I would always stich a area of a certain color. My Mom would do it line by line....THAT is dedication to craft.

It also is customary to stitch in intials and year of completion on counted cross stitch pieces. It boggles my mind to see some of mine with 1982 on them! I was an infant! How????

Joan said...


Oh, we made gobs of things like ornaments when I was a kid. There was nothing that my Mom couldn't create out of felt and glue.

One of them is a small drum. Yup, it's made with a small piece of a cardboard toilet roll, felt and red braid for trim.

I still hang it on my tree.

MaryF said...

When I was a student teacher, I made money on the side sewing jumpers and t-shirt dresses. I enjoyed counted cross stitch until my eyes got too bad. I started sewing again recently, and I crochet occasionally - nothing too challenging. I've even quilted some small projects and given them as gifts. Sometimes you need some instant gratification, especially when it takes you 6 months to write a book!

My mom says we're jacks of all trades and masters of none, but at least we try ;)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Loved your post, Joanie!

I too hope the interest in hand crafting gifts is not dying out. :-( My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was very young (6 or 7). We made pillow cases and days of the week dish towels. I know how to do cross-stitch too but always found it boring.

My mother taught me how to knit when I was 13 and it is one of the 2 things I do right-handed. So Jennifer or anyone else who wants to learn to knit, we'll set up a lesson at National in SF! I'll bring the yarn coz heaven knows I have enough to start my own retail outlet. But I prefer to crochet.

Neither my mother nor my grandmother could teach me to crochet, though they both tried numerous times -- they were right-handed and I was left. I finally learned how at an adult ed. class where the teacher sat all her lefty students at one table and taught us separately. I did manage to teach one of my right-handed nieces to crochet a few years ago and I was sooo proud of myself! Oh, and her too. :-P

Like you Joanie, my favorite things to make are baby gifts. SHHH! Aunty has her reputation to maintain.

jo robertson said...

Great post, Joan. I love those crafts and am sad that they're dying out. I think it's up to the grandmas to teach their grandchildren so the art won't be completely lost.

I embroider, quilt and crochet, but am woefully out of practice.

jo robertson said...

Jennifer Y, you're really jamming on capturing the rooster. You must have a method! Congrats!

Tawny said...

Oh man, I love crafting :-)

I've done everything from ceramics to woodburning to miserably poor oil painting. But my current (and lontest lasting) crafting focus is scrapbooking. I love it. Its like multi-tasking at its best LOL. I'm taking care of pictures, showing my kids how much I love them and releasing all those frustrated creative urges (those frustrated creative urges never seem to want to write - go figure). The one thing I've never been able to get a hang of and have always wanted to is any kind of thread or yarn related craft. Needlepoint, knitting, crochet, they are all gorgeous and wonderful and beyond my abilities LOL.

Keira, I'd love to see your scrapbooked author bookmarks! or do you scrapbook the bookmarks themselves? *g*

Tawny said...

Wait - do I see that Aunty Cindy offered to teach knitting in SF?

OMG I'm SOOOO there!!! Teach me, teach me!!

Helen said...

Well done Jennifer he really enjoys it at your place.

Lovely post Joan and the pictures are beautiful.

My Mum taught me to knit when I was 7 and I knitted a jumper and hat for my doll then went onto knitting a jumper for myself she also taught me to crochet and I did lots of embroidery I still have lots of duchess sets that my Mum did as well as some I have done. I have crocheted a few doilies with fine cotton but I can't seem to get the tension right so Mum did those for me. I have lots of doilies with pineapple stitch around the house and all of her grandchildren have blankets that she has crocheted for them and her daughters as well.

I still have her pattern books and mine and the needles and hooks but alas I don't seem to have time to do these things anymore.

Mum and I tried really hard to teach my daughters how to knit and crochet but they didn't have it in them as you know I am one of four girls and only myself and the next sister can knit and crochet the youngest 2 never learn't either.
My children had some lovely jumpers with animals on them that I kintted but kids just don't seem to wear them these days.
One day I will get back to kinitting again I always enjoyed it.

Have Fun

Margay said...

I come from a long line of crafters of which my mother is reigning Queen. I love doing anything artistic - painting, drawing, etc. - but my favorite craft is knitting. Nothing compares to the feeling of looking at a completed project and thinking, "Wow, I made that."

Carol said...

Hi all, Yes I've knitted and crotched.
My mum was a fantastic Knitter, hardly even looked at the hands working away, and rarely dropped a stitch, My brother and I had lovely jumpers even though Mum was the only breadwinner.
My Nana taught me to crochet and I made my wedding dress in a Irish rose pattern.
My D daughter has done some beautiful tapestry, one for me with a series of dogs which I really love!
Craftwork of any sort is a really satisfying pastime! And it is great to to look at a piece of work years later and remember the time you made it.
Jennifer y. The Gr must love your house down there in Georgia, congratulations.
Lovely topic Joan, there are so many crafts to do...something for everyone.
Cheers Carol

Buffie said...

Oh yes, I am a crafty type of gal too!

I was into cross stitch for years. I have so many pattern books, and I did so many Precious Moments ones it was unreal. I remember one Christmas the hubby went to the craft store and bought me every single color of floss available. I thought that was kind of sweet.

Currently, my craft hobbies are pretty much just scrapbooking and card making. In fact, yesterday I had a "ME" day and spent 8 hours scrapbooking with my MIL and some of her friends. It was wonderful. And in another month or so, I'll begin making all of my Christmas cards. I just love doing that.

And believe it or not both of my boys love to make things. So I have all kinds of books with paper projects that we make over the summer and any school holidays. The latest thing was making a three foot long coral snake out of pieces of construction paper. They had a blast with that.

I think the craft thing is in my blood. My sister is very crafty, but in a different type of way. She paints and sews all types of window treatments. She can looks at something and then go home and make it. My mom, she still makes quilts "the right way" as she says. A sewing machine doesn't touch a speck of the material. And my grandmother, she knitted and crocheted and even tatted (that is a lost art!).

Jennifer -- Wow, that bird must really enjoy the humidity here in Atlanta :)

Buffie said...

Oops, totally forgot that when I was in elementary school, my mom and I would go paint ceramics twice a week. I still have a couple of the pieces that we did. That was a wonderful time for the two of us.

Marisa O'Neill said...

Oh how wonderful, a post about crafts! I love to craft and I'm really bad at it, but I don't care. I started scrapbooking, making cards and altered books about 4 years ago. It's something I share with my mother and older sister and it's terrific. I was fortunate enough to devote an entire room in my home to crafts. And every time there is a craft show I'm there with my sister and mom. We're teaching our niece and nephews and they love it. Making things, creating and experimenting with different objects, fibers, found materials, paints - well there's nothing better! And it's such a great way to spend the time with friends.

Of course I give the things I make away as presents to family and friends; and since they are family and friends, they have to keep them.

Anna Lucia said...

Oh, Joan, I so admire you for your crafty talent and hard work! I haven't the skill, or the knowledge - it's something I regret (like when the zip went on my new skirt and I knew there was nothing I could do about it... wish I had the skills to replace it just like that...)

I can, however, spin. You know, raw fleece into wool, on a proper spinning wheel? I can even spin wool with a drop-spindle, which is wonderfully soothing.

My Mum can mend, make, bead and quilt. But then, she's just wonderful all round.

Christine Wells said...

Joan, how talented you are and what a lovely post.

Unfortunately, the crafty gene grew weaker as it went down the generations in our family. My grandmother could knit and crochet and sew. Her sister didn't need a pattern, just cut. She made all the five sisters' wedding gowns -- all with gorgeous trains and the bridesmaids' dresses as well. My mother can knit and sew and did needlepoint at one stage. I can't knit a scarf and I don't even own a sewing machine.

But you're right--one of the most special gifts for my first baby was a little matinee jacket my best friend knitted for him. It took her almost the full nine months to finish it because she was a little rusty, and I was so impressed that she'd go to the trouble of making him something rather than buying it. It's one of those things I'll keep forever.

Louisa Cornell said...

Jennifer, people are starting to TALK!!!! Are you the Mata Hari to GR's James Bond? Hmmm?

Great post, Joan, on one of my favorite topics. I LOVE crafts of any kind, although I am not gifted in all of the ones I love.

If I can ever get to the point that writing lets me flee the prison that is Wal-Mart any time I am not writing will probably be spent quilting. Members of my family (including the guys) bring me quilt patterns and say "When it is my quilt year I want this one." That is because I usually only get one quilt done each year and it is given as a gift to a family member. My brother, Jim, who designs steel mill kilns for a living even helped me design his last quilt - a pattern called bear paw in black denim and black, gray and white flannel.

I love to cross stitch as well and have some really lovely pieces completed. I could spend hours looking at tapestries and needlework in stately homes.

I also tat - for those of you who don't know that is making lace by hand. My great aunt, who also taught me to quilt, taught me to tat. Time consuming, frustrating, but therapeutic once you catch the rhythm.

These days, however, my craft room is sitting idle while I try to get this writing thing down. And I happen to think writing is a craft as well.

I must agree, Joan, that many of these crafts are fading. Our state fair nearly dropped the crafts divisions until a huge outcry from the public changed their minds. My niece wants to learn to quilt and tat and when I get more time I will teach her. I love the idea of passing on a family tradition to her.

Anna Sugden said...

What a lovely post, Joan - such a wonderful tribute to your mum too.

I love crafts ... sadly, my enthusiasm for them is not matched by my skill! I can knit ... a little, crochet ... a little, cross-stitch ... a little. There were no craft genes in my family - both grandmas fell down on their crafting duties! Neither of them could cook either - I feel so deprived!

The kids I used to teach loved that I wasn't very good - I always made a point of it in art lessons - it gave them the confidence to try! And made those who were artists, but not academic feel so proud.

I'd love to be able to scrapbook - maybe when we go home that will be my new hobby (got to replace the hockey somehow - sob!).

And one of the few things we never managed while we were over here, was going to a real state fair. The one in NJ is apparently not worth going to. Maybe on a trip back we'll go to one.

Anna Sugden said...

I love those wonderful Victorian samplers. So gorgeous and such skill. And in a lot of our historic houses there are many wonderful embroidered pieces.

Two of the prize possessions we're taking home with us are a hand-made Amish quilt and a hand-made Navajo rug. They're both truly stunning.

Gillian Layne said...

Congrats on the bird, Jennifer!

My grandmother was a brilliant crafter. She could sew and crochet and embroider just about anything. I have a great deal of her work tucked away in a cedar hope chest my grandfather made, and I pull it out to enjoy on occasion. My mother's craft seems to be the ability to take any old or discarded item and use it both effectively and beautifully.

I'm with dear Louisa (hugs, you busy bee, you), writing is my only real craft. I can hook a rug and crochet a bit, but small detail work makes me impatient. I did panic a bit when you mentioned passing something on to the next generation. I hope what I'm passing on is a fervent belief that pursuit of any creative passion is time well spent.

Great post, Joan! :)

Oh, and my heart is breaking at the thought of missing Aunt Cindy's knitting lessons. I'm going to tuck more pennies away for Washington next year right now ....

Joan said...


Ahhhh...sewing. That, unfortunately, was not one of my forte's, much to my Mom's chagrin.

I'll never forget the jumper I sewed in Home Ec in junior high and the PRIDE my Mom had in that.

But other things? Could do very little past a straight line and almost ALWAYS had to get Mom to thread the sewing machine.

I have that sewing machine and wish I could use it. (sigh)

MaryF said...

My mom kind of forced me into sewing - she couldn't sew for both of us, no time. My first project was a pair of shorts, then I made several halter tops (I was 14 or so). When in HS, I worked in the fabric dept at the local five and dime and spent most of my money on fabric, then I'd come home and sew an outfit to wear the next day. I had an old Singer back then, easy as pie.

I hadn't sewn in...well, since I last felt comfortable wearing sleeveless....until this week. Amazing how easy threading the machine came back to me!

Joan said...


Oops, did I say that too loud?

Man, did I embroider pillowcases and those dishtowels when I was growing up.

Our church has an annual summer picnic and one of the booths is a linen booth. When I was growing up there were loads of hand embroidered pillowcases with elaborate designs (plus my Mom would crochet a beautiful edging on hers). THOSE were worth vying for!

Alas, this past year most of the stuff had been purchased at Walmart. Hardly anything handmade.

I'm not even sure you can still buy the stamped cases? Maybe Herrschner's??

My Mom did teach a left handed friend of mine to crochet. I'm pretty certain she didn't keep it up, but it was another prime example of passing on the skill.

Joan said...


Grab some yarn! It'll come back to you.

Quilting is a wonderful craft to know. I CAN quilt but like Mary need instant gratification and don't have the time to spend on projects that big.

My Mom and a bunch of church ladies formed a quilting club back in the early 90's. One of my favorite things to do was to go and hang out with them (No, I NEVER put my inferior stitches in their masterpieces)but it was a blast listening to their stories and jokes.


Joan said...


Nothing is beyond T Depp's ability! It's just a matter of weighing out writing hot, hot heros or slipping needles into yarn....

Which one? Which one?

Ok, so the hot heroes win by a thread....I'll knit him an Irish sweater. Of course, there will have to be many, MANY fittings..


Joan said...


Whoa. I bow to your talent.

Aside from the aforementioned baby sweater I never had the ability to knit clothes! And you did ones with motifs within them?

Man, that's a knitter.

I enjoy the doily type of crochet though the hooks are as fine as surgical instruments. Lacy things are so beautiful.

I tried years ago to teach myself to tat. Maybe it's the Irish lace in me comint out, LOL.

NEVER could get the hang of it.

Joan said...


Yes it is satisfying, isnt' it.

One of the new mothers at work called me on the phone after delivery Friday. She was still talking with awe about the blanket and how all her family was talking about it.

In the world of knitting it was so simplistic...4 knitted rows and one with yarn over holes..and repeat.

Sigh, we gotta start teaching...

Joan said...

Wow, Carol. You crocheted your WEDDING DRESS?

That is awesome! I bow in your general direction.

I've watched knitters like your Mom and am amazed. I can't take my eyes off the stitches for one moment or disaster.

I have a friend who knits and reads simutaneously...freaky, I know.

Terry Odell said...

Coming from a heritage where 'handwerk' was the norm, my mom taught me to knit at an early age. I gave it up when we moved to Florida, though -- too hot and no use for the end-products. I did neelepoint. Lots of needlepoint. Did crafty things but nothing that would qualify as a 'hobby' beyond filling my walls with my projects, unless you count the fabric-painting phase I went through. Did tons of that, almost exclusively for my kids (cheaper than buying the clothes with the logos already on them).

Margay said...

I hear you. But, what seems simple to us might not be so for others. I keep trying to teach my girls, though. I think I had the advantage, growing up with a mother who was always making something,whether it was knit, sewn, or otherwise. My attention is sidetracked by reading and writing which, I am happy to say, I have passed on to my girls, one more so than the other (they both love to read, but it's the younger one who secretly loves to write).

Joan said...


How thoughtful of your husband to give you a gift like that.

I used to love to go to the specialty store and absorb all the different colors of DMC thread. Like paint, I tell ya.

And then came the various metallic threads and beading and....well, those pieces got ahead of me with their intricacy.

And I'm with your Mom on the "right way" to quilt. My Mom hand pieced and hand quilted all of hers. I, sadly, have to machine piece.

And good on you for involving your little guys in handcrafts.

Passing on tradition....priceless

Margay said...

Terry, here's a thought: If you ever get the knitting bug again, there are plenty of organizations out there that can use the end product - socks for the soldiers, chemo caps for cancer patients, blankets for premies are just a few of the ideas I've heard about.

Joan said...

Oh, Marisa. A whole room devoted to crafts? Ala Martha Stewart?

It's official. I have craft envy.

And kudos to you for getting the youngsters in your family into the world of crafting. It is a gift that they will carry all their days.

I'm starting to feel more optimistic about the state of handcrafting.

Joan said...

Anna Lucia, how AWESOME it it that you can spin?

Pretty darn awesome!

I've watched demonstrations in various places, the most recent being at Muckross house in Ireland.

Do you weave also? I've always wanted to have a go with that.

Joan said...


Your friend's devotion to making something very special for your baby only adds to the value of the piece.

Over the years, the jacket may get worn, frayed but the love that went into it?


Joan said...

Oh, my gosh, Louisa! You tat?

Teach me, teach me, teach me.

Darn, I guess in SF the bar won't be the most conducive spot to do so, LOL.

I adore all the varied patterns of quilts...bear paw, drunkards path, log cabin, wedding ring..on and on.

When I see these, I find to fully appreciate them I have to my hands over the threads, the material. Like I'm absorbing the beauty.

Thus do I have issues with museum docents :-)

Joan said...

Oh, Anna S. Poor baby, being so gene deprived.

Here, I'll wrap you and the GR in a cozy afghan with homemade chocolate chip cookies.

And turn on the Learning Channel to needlepoint.

It's too bad you missed out on a true American State Fair. It's an experience all it's own and a real centering type of experience. Still very rural in its flavor.

I love the simplicity.

Joan said...

But see Gillian, you recognize the value in the craft and I applaud your goal of passing on passion for any craft.

And how cool that you hook rugs. I've never tired that though as a child I did do like Jennifer and wove potholders. I LOVED those kits!

As to knitting, start with something simple. There are probably knit shops around that offer classes and/or there is always Google.

Joan said...

LOL, maryf...could you come thread mine?

I remember I was determined to sew a long dress for a chorus recital in 8th grade. The most godawful orange print material with about a 10 inch ruffle along the hem.

Ruffles suck.

I was struggling, making a perfect mess of it, crying and sniffing guessed it...Mom came to the rescue.

I sang so well in that dress :-)

Joan said...


I never did pick up the skill to needlepoint. The patterns always confused me.

As to fabric painting, remember that well though again, I didn't do it.

I did however in art class in high school do batik...THAT was fun!

PJ said...

Alas, the crafting gene waved as it was passing by but only stopped for short visits. My mom was a talented seamstress, crocheter and cake decorator but didn't have the patience and always claimed lack of time to teach the skills to me. I wish I'd had the incentive to find someone to teach me when I was younger. I'm still pretty hopeless with a needle and thread but a friend is going to teach me to crochet and I'm really excited about that! I used to make crewel Christmas ornaments for everyone in my family. I haven't done that for several years but I really enjoyed the satisfaction of completing each of those projects.

My youngest brother got all the artistic talent in my generation of the family. He's a graphic artist and very crafty. When he was in Jr. high and high school he designed all of our Halloween costumes (we dress to greet the trick-or-treaters) and my husband made them. (yes, he could sew).

PJ said...

I am crafty in the kitchen. My maternal grandmother started teaching me to bake when I was just a sprout. I have such precious memories of our times working together in the kitchen and I've passed on my love of baking and candy making to my nieces, my youngest brother and several children in the various neighborhoods where I've lived. I have a whole album filled with photos of young children sitting on my kitchen counter learing to mix cookie dough or knead bread.

Joan said...

PJ, I'm sorry your Mom lacked the time to show you how to do these things.

But you have one of the key elements needed for successful crafting...a desire to do it.

To learn, to try, to keep at it even when frustrated beyond the tangle of yarn (wait, I think I just gave an analogy of a writer's path, LOL)

If urge you to check around local craft stores/specialty shops. It is so gratifying to take slips of yarn, thread, material and create something of beauty.

You wont' regret it.

Joan said...

Good on you, PJ for passing on the art of baking! Butter and eggs replace the thread and cloth plus you can eat it!

I am not any good at candy making. I never get things heated to the right temperature and am really messy with the dripping chocolate.


terrio said...

I don't do crafts of any kind. My grandmother was a fabulous cook and my mother used to make her own clothes. However, neither bothered to teach me or my sister how to do these things. I admit, it bothers me now and then.

Last year, some friends and I made a quilt for another friend for her retirement. We only had to do a square then someone else put them all together. Luckily, a good friend who does many crafts let me use her equipment and showed me how to do it. I actually had the best time. I hope someday to do and learn more.

I'm afraid the only thing I'm passing to my daughter is a love of music, reading and writing. She's only 9 (tomorrow!) and says she wants to be a writer. Even if this ambition changes as it's want to do, I hold onto the idea that she will come back around to the writing and make a career of it.

Joanie - what happened to the quilt on your bed? Do you still have it?

PJ said...

Terri, a love of music, reading and writing is a wonderful legacy to pass on to your daughter!

Virginia said...

I enjoy crafts, but I do not have the talent for such things as knitting. I do make quilts and enjoy doing that. I piece them and then have my sister quilt them on her quilting machine. That is about as crafty that I get.

limecello said...

I love crafts - but I haven't had much time to do any of them. I've done some bead work [and of course just making bead bracelets - not difficult, but labor intensive]. Generally I did more "art" things - like oil pastels, watercolors, things like that. I guess the most unique would be silk painting - and that was such fun!
I don't know how to crochet- would love to learn. I learned how to knit in college- but only know how to make simple things. Essentially... scarves. I made about 10 in one year (I went a bit crazy) and maxed myself out. I've done a few cross stitches, but nothing too special. Did one for an 8th grade project and felt like I was going blind :P.
I'm part of the younger set [haha the one you described with the wide eyed "you made that?" For some people, I think it might just be shock that you took the effort and time to make something "real." And for others... yes. No concept of crafts at all.]

terrio said...

Thank you, PJ. Since I was a working DJ while pregnant, Isabelle has been tapping away to music since conception! LOL! And this school year she won an award for outstanding musician (for her singing) though said what she *really* wanted was the best writer one. :)

This year she's going to start on the violin. I'm guessing it may be tough (to hear) at first, but I know she'll love it. I played instruments in school and her dad is a musician in a band so she comes by it naturally.

Count me in on the knitting class in SF! And Joanie, my crafty friend has an embroidery machine. I'm sure the purists would hate it but I loved pressing a button and watching the machine do all the work. :)

Keira Soleore said...

Joanie, bring your pictures in to me. I'll make 'em presentable.

AC, I'm in line behind Tawny to learn knitting from you. Something very simple, OK? Oh, and small.

Jennifer Y. said...

So Jennifer or anyone else who wants to learn to knit, we'll set up a lesson at National in SF! I'll bring the yarn coz heaven knows I have enough to start my own retail outlet. But I prefer to crochet.

OOOH!!! I really want to learn to crochet too. My great-grandmother also did that. In fact, maybe that is what she did to make that bag I have...hmm...I'll have to go look at it again.

Is it hard to learn? Just curious.

terrio said...

I'm with Jennifer. How much hand-eye coordination are we talking about here? LOL!

Jennifer Y. said...

Jennifer Y, you're really jamming on capturing the rooster. You must have a method! Congrats!

Nope...LOL. I'll recount my last few captures because they have all gone this way.

Me (thinking): It's late and I better cut the computer off. I'll just check the Bandits page one last time. You never know when they'll post the new post.

*clicks on Romance Bandits in Favorites section and discovers a new post with 0 comments*

Me: Muwahahaha! The bird is mine...I think. I better leave a quick comment to claim him.

*types a quick little comment and clicks on "Submit" before the rooster thieves can come and take him away*

Me: Yay! I was first! The bird is mine!!!

*sits back and watches as the GR magically appears on the futon next to the laptop*

GR: I am so glad it was you. Those other people wear me out. So what books do you have now?

Me: Well, I have a few new ones. But you better not tear the pages this time. That beak of yours ripped the pages last time. And don't think I didn't notice that it was only on parts.

GR: I was just marking them for you, my dear. I wanted to make sure you didn't miss them.

* The GR somehow manages to perfect a pout and a tear rolls down his feathered face.*

Me: (hugs the bird) Well, don't cry. That was nice of you to think of me. C'mon, let's go to bed...or watch tv or something. Just let me read the post and leave a comment for the Banditas.

*a sly grin appears on the GR's face*

GR: I like that first suggestion, but I guess we could watch tv. But not the Food Network. That show on frying chicken still gives me nightmares.

*I cut the computer off and the GR snuggles up and watches tv with me until we fall asleep. It's a bittersweet moment because I know that at this time the next day, I could lose the bird.*

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Jennifer, and everyone right-handed,

Basic knit and crochet is VERY EASY! (Though I bow my unworthy self before Carol who crocheted her wedding dress!!!) And I'll be you can find a community service class or a needlework group in your area where you can learn. If you are left-handed it tends to be a bit trickier, like most everything in this right-handed world. :-P

Once you learn the basics it is just a matter of practice and learning to follow a pattern. Who said they had pineapple doilies? Helen? I LOVE those! One of the last things my mother made me before she died was a pineapple tablecloth. It is sooo beautiful!

I'm so happy to see so many who do know how to do needlework. It is difficult to keep up in these busy times. And Louisa, are you up for tatting lessons one of these days?!?!

Beth said...

I guess I'm a crafty sort of gal as well, Joan! I do counted cross stitch and am currently trying my hand at beading and scrapbooking. Unfortunately, my skill levels on those two aren't up to my enthusiasm *g* I've also gotten back into sewing (I blame Project Runway) and am teaching my youngest to sew.

My mother knits and taught my youngest (she's the only one interested in crafty stuff) and the last time my Aunt visited she began to teach me to crochet but I haven't put as much time into it as I'd like.

And I can honestly say that Tawny's scrapping projects are FANTASTIC! My CP is multi-talented, that's for sure :-)

Jennifer Y. said...

Oh, I forgot a craft that I do now. I make beaded book thongs. I usually just make them and give them to friends.

Jane said...

I'm not a crafty person at all. I wish I was. Knitting has become very popular among younger women recently. I would love to learn how to knit or crochet. I've been trying to get into scrapbooking for the past couple of years. I bought the fancy paper at JoAnn's and Michaels. I've even bought those cute stickers, but I have yet to do one page.

Terry Odell said...

Margay --
Thanks for the suggestion, but the 'too hot' also refers to the very thought of sitting with a pile of wool in one's lap. Not that I don't doubt there are places who can use hand-knit items, but until we retire, which I hope will be to a much cooler climate, I figure I'll do something that doesn't leave my hands all sweaty.

flchen1 said...

Woohoo, JenniferY! How's the GR doing on his crafts, huh? Or is he sneaking around the house spying again?

I've always enjoyed crafty stuff but haven't had much time lately. My mom tried unsuccessfully to teach me how to crochet when I was young, but I tried again when I was a little older and liked it. I used to make afghans for my friends' new babies, but stopped when I had my own ;) I can knit in rows, but nothing fancy... I did the embroidery kits and latch hook kits as a kid... I love papercrafts--origami, scrapbooking... used to do calligraphy, but again, not much lately :) Of course, I do still have piles of supplies gathering dust though, much to my husband's dismay...

Kim said...

PJ--You're lucky, girl. I was getting ready to kick your butt if you didn't mention your talents in the kitchen! You're a maestro with the candy's you create. The chex mix is a masterpiece ;)

That crafty gene passed me by too. I actually can sew really well but I hate it. Once year I made a quilt for a friend for Christmas that turned out really well. Once I designed a tote bag and made dozens of them to sell to raise funds for a cancer patient with no insurance.

Mostly, I get ideas but I'm too impatient to follow through *g* I'd love to learn how to make greeting cards. I love homemade cards.

My mom is really crafty! She crochets and embroiders beautiful stuff.

Donna MacMeans said...

Great post Joan - My Mom won many blue ribbons with her knitted sweaters. She crocheted as well, but her preference was knitting. I have an embroidered prayer that hung in my bedroom growing up. And I have a few counted cross stitch pieces under glass that I have hanging on the walls.

Now that my mother has passed, these pieces are invaluable to me. A piece of her that I can hang onto.

I have knitted - not so much anymore, crocheted - dido. I've done counted crossstitch and I think my eyesight suffered for it. I've done some quilting - never enough for a full bedsize quilt - and as an ex-scout leader - I have PLENTY of homemade Christmas ornaments.

There's a pleasure in making something from nothing, and if that something is useful and can stand the passage of time - even more pleasurable. So far, my kids haven't latched on to that concept - but I still have hope.

Joan said...

terrio, how wonderful that you added to the quilt used to commemorate someone's retirement. I know it meant a lot to them.

Actually, it was a crocheted afghan I made and no, it is packed away somewhere at my Mom's house.

I do however, have a quilt that she made for me on my well as a dozen more in a cedar chest.

Good luck to your daughter with the violin. I begged my Mom to let me learn guitar when I was young but the instructor was a cranky nun and I rapidly lost interest.

Every now and then I consider taking banjo lessons but fear the dexterity in my hands is not up to par.

Joan said...

Limecello said: Did one for an 8th grade project and felt like I was going blind :P.

Girls, girls, girls. That's when you get the HUGE 14 ct. Aida cloth! If I recall correctly you can also get 10 ct which is like Aida cloth on steroids.

When I was actively cross stitching, I did some pieced on linen. Cross over two squares. Not THAT was challegning...but oh, so pretty.

Joan said...

OOOH!!! I really want to learn to crochet too....

Is it hard to learn? Just curious.

It's all in the wrist :-)

Actually, once you get the rhythm of the hooking motion you can single stitch, double and treble stitch like lightening.

Before you know it voila....heirloom.

Joan said...

Oh, I forgot a craft that I do now. I make beaded book thongs. I usually just make them and give them to friends.

Ok, I'm gonna have to take these new glasses back. I seriously read "beaded thong", LOL.

My first thought was Yow!

MaryF said...

Joan, ruffles do indeed suck ;) My trick is three lines of basting, two at less than 5/8 of an inch and one greater, and you pull them together like smocking. Once it's gathered, you take out the third basted line and it should fall pretty nicely.

My mom watches some PBS show with a seamstress who has lots of tricks like that.

Anna L, how cool that you spin! I did some in college, for a course, believe it or not!

Terry, I know what you mean about being too hot to crochet. I'm in San Antonio. I made a chenille afghan last winter that came in pretty handy, though ;)

Helen said...

I am really enjoying hearing about all the crafty things that people can do.
I taught a friend of mine to knit many years ago and she was left handed but she knitted left handed she couldn't do it right handed it made it really hard if she dropped a stitch and I had to fix if for her but she did knit some really nice jumpers.
Aunty Cindy the pineapple pattern is really nice I have trouble with tension when using the finer cotton I am OK with wool.
I have a beautiful crotched tablecloth that my husbands Grandmother made back in the 50's all fine cotton squares that she joined together it is really beautiful and I still have the jacket bonnet and booties that my mother knitted and brought me home from hospital in.
It really is a nice feeling to see the finished item and say I made that.

Have Fun

Jennifer Y. said...

With all the crafty people in the lair, it looks like y'all need to have crafting classes...LOL

I'd love to learn and be able to make some of the gorgeous items Tawny makes too.

Joan said...

Joan, ruffles do indeed suck ;) My trick is three lines of basting, two at less than 5/8 of an inch and one greater, and you pull them together like smocking. Once it's gathered, you take out the third basted line and it should fall pretty nicely.

Yup, that sounds like the technique I was shooting for...

But throw in a thread that won't pull right and a 14 yo, hormone raging girl and, well, it's not pretty.

MaryF said...

Joan, yup, I had those threads all the time....stupid bobbin, I think. Like I said, I stopped sewing for a long time and now I just want to make easy stuff. But you should see my brother...he makes period costumes. Very fastidious!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats again Jennifer!!! Uhh, you aren't a double agent are you??

Great topic Joan, I am late to the party but I am still going to put in my two cents. As far as my family goes, I am the last of the crafties. My daughter wasn't interested at all and my granddaughter is too far away for me to even try.
I used to quilt, sew, crochet, embroider, cross stitch, and make "rag" rugs, (I actually count that as crochet since it is crochet stitches you use for the rugs). The last person I taught to do anything was my cousin when we were still both in school, I taught her for a home ec. project. To the best of my knowledge that was the only embroidery she ever did.
It is so sad to see arts of any kind lost.

Joan said...

Maryf said: But you should see my brother...he makes period costumes.

My eyes started to glow at this.

Sooooo {swings hands casually} does he make any ROMAN costumes?

Just asking, just asking...

Joan said...

dianna, what a shame.

I wish I had someone to teach these things to. When shopping for my friend's little girls I often wonder about buying a craft set...but then think "Why would they want to when they have computerized Barbies?"


hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Joan said...
dianna, what a shame.

I wish I had someone to teach these things to. When shopping for my friend's little girls I often wonder about buying a craft set...but then think "Why would they want to when they have computerized Barbies?"

Exactly! In this day and age all of the old arts are being lost to that great thief "time". Though I always found it relaxing when I tried to teach my daughter it was a case oh, I don't have time, we (whatever friends were available at the time) are going here or going there, meeting up in a chat room, playing video games, etc.

I have bought my granddaughter craft sets (friendship bracelets, the infamous "loom", that sort of thing) but since it is her mommy that would need to help her I haven't really had the heart to ask if anything was done.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Joan! I love this post. My mother started a stained-glass window quilt when I was a young girl of about 8. She worked on it one small piece at a time until she went back to nursing school. It got put in the closet until I was in high school when her elderly father asked if she was ever going to finish it. She dragged it out, parts of it yellowed, showed me how to do the tiny stitches and she and I worked and worked until it was completed. It was a King-sized bed quilt. And to this day it hangs proudly on the quilt rack my dad made her. (It's heavy as heck, too!)

Then in nursing school I learned to crochet from a classmate. On summer break I was dilligently working on my first granny square quilt when my then 80 year old grandmother sat beside me and told me how she used to crochet before her kids were born. (We're talking 1915 here!). She was so wistful that I took her to the store the next day and bought her her own yarn (garish orange yellow) and a hook. That summer when she was back hom in Tennessee, she and my aunt completed an intricate granny square afghan with all the holes in an X pattern. She sold that afghan and started taking orders. For the first time in her entire life she was making her own money! :) My mom learned that pattern and now makes baby quilts for family and grandchildren of former co-workers.

Cross stitch? YEP!! Made some lovely gifts for friends, a few pieces for my house and Christmas stockings for each family member. Taught my daughters both how to do that. (Oh man, must make new DIL and Granddaughter one this year!!)

And I am very very very impressed you learned how to crochet doilies. I tried tatting lace, but my fingers just wouldn't cooperate.

Joan said...

Hey, Suz!

Oh, that stained glass window quilt pattern IS intricate! I THINK my Mom made one a long time ago.

I think it's fantastic that you and she worked on it together. A true bonding time when two women share over needle and thread.

And kudos to your Grandma too!

You know the last two months of my Mom's life she developed what was termed "pseudo dementia". Wasn't truly demented but was so messed up with her electrolytes and mild depression that she began to shrink away from the world.

I went out and got brightly colored variegated yarn and one of her crochet hooks and got her to start making granny squares. She made about three before she lost interest. But even in the midst of a fog she could not understand, the familiarity of her hands working to make something beautiful gave her comfort.

Sorry, gotta go tear up now.

Jennifer Y. said...

When shopping for my friend's little girls I often wonder about buying a craft set...

Some of my favorite gifts were always the arts and crafts sets!! Sand art, a weaving loom for beads, paint-by-number, make you own suncatchers, jewelry makers, latchhook, etc. Of course, I used to watch all the craft shows on tv too and wish I could do it. LOL I still like looking at the kids craft sets to see if there is anything I can make...I figure if an 8-year-old can do it, I would be less likely to mess it up.

I have done printed (or whatever it is called) cross-stitch (haven't finished it though...need to do that).

MaryF said...

Joan, he DOES make Roman costumes! I'll try to get him to email me some pictures. His latest was a Darcy-esque jacket, though. He and his girlfriend dress up all the time....

Tawny said...

Every now and then I consider taking banjo lessons but fear the dexterity in my hands is not up to par.

JoanieT - my hubby plays 5 string banjo *g* he's awesome. Loud, but awesome. I wish I had talent to play a musical instrument. He plays the stringed ones, our oldest plays flute and our youngest piano. Me... I tried guitar lessons but really really really sucked.

I'll stick with scrapbooking LOL.

and somehow I have to figure out how to get Jennifer Y. to a class :-D

Caffey said...

When I was in my early teens, I had crocheted afghans over at my grandma's house. She taught me and we both made them and gave them to the doctor who did house calls to visit my grandma. He then took the afghans and brought them to his patients that he did home visits with. I loved doing it. It was such a wonderful feeling. I still crochet but not like before. But just talking about this motivates me to do them again! Usually I do in winter because as they get bigger they are heavy and warm and I don't get to do much with them in the summer when its so hot. I love to do them in the winter tho! I need to plan for this for the fall/winter.

I do dollies too. Those are the string yarn that I crochet different designs with for on tables, under lamps, on furniture etc.

Thats it for me! I tried knitting and just could not do it (Even after I tried as a kid over my grandma's then sat on them! And she said 'see I told you so, you should not knit' LOL. Other crafts I don't have the creativeness to do with the many different items having to put something together (like those who make dolls, etc)

Gonna find a pattern and make my list of what I need now for doing an afghan this fall!

limecello said...

Joan - I don't remember the count - but it was pretty small. And ambitious - it was an entire village scene, so I think it was almost the size of a sheet of paper.

MaryF said...

Joan, I've posted some pictures of my brother's costumes on my blog, if you're interested: