Monday, December 19, 2011

Crafty Mama

When I realized I was going to be interviewing someone about crafting, I was excited about the idea of talking to one of the little old ladies from my tiny country church Unfortunately I keep strange hours this semester, and never could catch one of them long enough to keep my answers. So I turned to the craftiest person in my family… my mother of course.

Me: “What is the first craft you remember making yourself?”

Mama: “At Vacation Bible School we had to make these little baskets to hold fake flowers. They were made from soap and beads. They even had handles and legs.”

Me: “What crafts are you currently involved with?”

Mama: “ I’m not expert at anything but I enjoy some sewing and machine embroidery from time to time. I mostly do scrapbooking lately though. And next week I’ll be starting a quilting class.”

Me: “When did you learn to craft?”

Mama: “ I learned to sew in Mrs. Newkurk’s home economic class in 9th grade, which would have been 1977. Some girls at work got me started scrapbooking after our first trip to Hawaii, so Fall 2001. And my coworker, Nurse Smith, has me wrapped into this quilting class, but we’ll have to see how that goes.”

Me: “Is there any craft you wish you could learn?”

Mama: “ I said I could sew, but I honestly would love to learn to sew better.”

Me: “ Was there any craft you have tried but failed at or never developed, and if so did you ever try it again?”

Mama: “I’m bad at most everything I’ve tried, or I at least started that way. I did try to learn to crochet at bible school, I couldn’t even chain. My teacher got frustrated and took it away from me to do it herself. I tried again later, but it never worked for me.”

Me: “ Do you usually craft for yourself or others? “

Mama: “I have usually sewn, crossstiched, and embroidered for gifts for friends and family, but I guess I scrapbook for myself.”

Me: “Do you work better/faster alone or when you work in a group or circle with others?”

Mama: “ I’ve never really worked in groups, so I guess will know next week… I think having a group will motivate me to finish more of what I start though.”

Me: “What project are you most proud of?”

Mama: “ Oh, well let me think about it for a second… I’m most proud of two things, my wedding sampler cross stitch & the 40’s Army costume I made for your senior pageant

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I grew up listening to my parents’ collection of music which varied from the classic genre to Alan Jackson to Debussy’s Clair de Lune. But one of the songs that became imprinted on my brain the most was the first movement of Vivaldi’s Spring violin concerto from The Four Seasons; the song was so catchy I would catch myself singing it internally many a time. When I was little, Marie, my sister, and I would put on tutus dancing to Spring while we were pretending we were ballerinas. However, I never dreamed that I would get the chance to play this wonderful piece.

Learning to play the violin was a second choice because originally I wanted to take voice lessons. Since they said my voice was not mature enough to begin vocal training, I stated that I then wanted to learn the violin instead. So I began my sojourn into the musical world. Learning to play the violin is one of the most difficult things that I have ever learned to do because it requires the coordination of the smallest muscles and the control of two different hands. Upon beginning to play, I knew that I wanted to learn Spring, but it seemed such a monumental task as seeing I was a mere beginner and I would not have the skills needed to play Spring for a long time. On my 14th birthday, my mom bought me the sheet music to Spring complete with the piano accompaniment. Excitedly I took it into my violin lesson, but my teacher Drew said that it was too difficult for me. The music sat on my shelf for three years, until my senior year of high school. The same teacher Drew told me that he wanted me to learn a violin concerto so I went home and pulled out Spring. He gave me the ok to start working on it.

I became very well acquainted with Spring, and I gained a deeper understanding of the music. Listening to the music as a kid, I thought it was just a pretty melody with an exciting tempo, but I was not fully aware of all the emotions and imagery tied into Spring. The first few lines, the main melody, tell the story of a few nymphs frolicking about in celebration of Spring; then Vivaldi takes a few lines to catch the sounds of happy birds singing in the trees. He accomplishes the birds by having a trio of three violins answering back and forth to each other. The scene with the birds is followed by a slower, more subdued section which represents flowing fountains. All of sudden, the gorgeous celebration of Spring is interrupted by a thunderstorm where the musical key switches from major to minor chords. Then the storm abates, and the original melody returns with a bunch of happy nymphs picking up their celebration. Vivaldi captures the imagery so well through his music.

I never thought I would be able to learn this piece because the thunderstorm section was especially difficult. The rain exists as a bunch of difficultly fingered arpeggios that required me to shift my whole hand up and down the finger board. But I loved the challenge of learning to play. Once I mastered the thunderstorm section, I was so thrilled that I would play it over and over again. Spring was one of the last pieces I learned to play on the violin before taking a break from the instrument for awhile. But I am proud that I overcame the challenge of learning the piece, and I also appreciate the ability to understand the intention of the music. It is a musical ode to the wonders of Spring.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let me preface this by saying that novice doesn’t even begin to cover my inexperience in the knitting and crocheting realms, but I really do love them! There had never been so much as a single pair of knitting needles in my home prior to me joining this class, I had never held a crochet needle or bought any length of yarn. I have now 3 FFO’s (FINALLY finished projects). I am very proud of each of them, but I think my smallest and latest exposé is the most impressive to me.

My two scarves helped me with overcoming the initial learning curve, allowing me to work out the kinks and gain experience, but I felt more relief in finishing them than pride. With that said I never really want to see either of them again… which is a good thing since they are both destined for charity. My headband however, is a different story. I learned how to knit ribbing, to intentionally increase and decrease stitches, and how to crochet (chain, single, double, and V-stitch) in order to complete it. Not to mention that it took the least amount of time to create! I spent weeks and weeks maybe months on each scarf, but the headband only took a week and a half.

I enjoyed making an item I that was trendy and fun while functional. Everyone who saw me with it in class or in my friends circles complimented it—despite their initially mockery of my new hobby. Since I did give it away in the CASA buy one, give one sale, I have already started on a new one. I am about ½ way there now, and it looks even better than the first (probably because I worked out the kinks last time and bought better yarn the second time around). I loved seeing how people’s perspectives changed when they saw the versatility of handcrafting.

I also prize this new pattern because it is something I never imagined I would be able to make on my own. I made the band with no outside help, and the embellishment only took a little coaching. The autonomy I found through its creation has given me some confidence after a shaky start in my crafting experience. I am a perfectionist, and can still see some flaws in the work—despite ripping out row after row to restart—but seeing others admiration of my work at this rather primitive stage really encourages me to continue trying to improve and expand my work.

Another element that I enjoyed about my knitting is knowing that it will help us raise money for our cause. As a future educator, my passion is for children, especially those who have had to work to overcome many problems in their lives that were not consequences of their own decisions. I really want the monetary donation that would potentially come from this piece to make a child smile and feel important and loved. I enjoyed making an item to show the boys and girls that we put time and effort into a specific piece for them, but my continual fear with my scarf project was that the 12 year old girl I made it for would be disappointed in my lackluster attempt, since I am so new at this; however, since the children will receive benefits from the money from my headband, I feel like they will gain something they truly need or want.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prized Craft

I have now finished a total of three objects since I have started my knitting life; in knitting years I am about ½ year old. The three objects that I have finished, in chronological order, were a scarf, a baby hat, and a baby blanket. All of the objects I have made I have given away, and I have absolutely no regrets with those decisions. I am an extremely giving person, and I would give something away before keeping it for myself (in most cases). But anyways! I would have to say that of those three objects, the baby blanket is my most prized work of art. There a few reasons for this. The first reason is that it is one of the few knitted objects that I have created. Trust me; it was an accomplishment for me to just learn to knit, so the fact that I have made three objects far exceeds my starting expectations. The second reason is that it looked dang good! I do not like to brag, but that thing looked like a blanket! It even had a little design around the edges that came from the pattern that I chose. It looked something like this picture…

… but better of course!
The third reason that this baby blanket is my proudest object, is because of the amount of time that I put into it! It took a full 3 days straight of what seemed like non-stop knitting to create this amazing work of art. Finally biggest reason I made this blanket was the purpose behind the blanket. I made this blanket for a 1 year old boy in the CASA organization. This little boy has gone through a hard life for what little life he has lived, and that made making this blanket so much easier. This made making the blanket so much easier and so much more worth it! Knowing that this blanket was going to a kid who needed it much more than me gave me purpose and determination. I think that is the driving factor behind anything that we make from our own hands. I can easily say that each stitch that I put into that blanket meant much more than the entire scarf that I made, even though the scarf took much more time. It is this idea of service and giving back to the community that we live in that stitches a much tighter and better town in which we reside.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Almost Dreamy Crafting of Glass

My dream craft would have to be glass blowing. I have always been interested in how glass was made, even as a child. When I asked my parents how glass was made, they told me that people melted materials like sand in a very hot fire and then blew the glass into shape through a hollow rod that resembled a huge metal straw. I thought that this was really cool, but that was all the experience that I could get as a child growing up in a small rural town. Recently, my family took a huge family vacation and drove all the way up to Niagara Falls, then down to New York City and Philadelphia and back to Arkansas. We made a lot of stops along the way, including some spur-of-the-moment stops. After we were driving away from the wonderful Niagara Falls, my dad suggested we stop at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. He said it was a very interesting and awe-inspiring place that would be worthwhile to see. We all agreed, so we drove off to the museum. When we got there, we discovered that they actually had live shows and demonstrations of their special glass blowing techniques. We bought tickets to one of the shows and watched in amazement as the man wielding the long metal stick with its glowing orb of glass slowly, but surely molded, reheated, molded, reheated, added color, molded, reheated, and molded the superheated glass over and over again in order to create a wonderfully artistic and multicolored vase! From that moment on I wished that I could learn how to blow glass. After the demonstration, we wandered around the unbelievably complex and beautiful glass museum where there were hundreds upon hundreds of glass sculptures on display. When we left the displays, we found a place where Corning was selling a lot of different art sculptures.

We bought glass flowers that were expertly crafted and delicate looking. We went to one of the visitors desks to see if there was anything that we had missed, and there was something we missed. Corning offers paid lessons on how to blow glass! I couldn’t believe that we had missed that even though it was fairly pricey. Unfortunately it was close to closing time at the museum and there were no more lessons being offered that day. I was so disappointed that we did not have the time to learn the basic techniques of glass blowing. Ever since that day, I have been determined to go back to Corning Museum of Glass and learn my dream skill of glass blowing.

My Dream Craft: Jewelry Art

If I could had the time, ability, and resources, I would love to complete the craft to the right of the page. As anyone who visited my room last year knows, I have a love for designing cute and artsy ways to display my jewelry. In my bathroom my sophomore year, I organized my jewelry (as well as Shelby's, as we shared a sink) in a cool design next to our bathroom mirror. I was often complimented on it, and immediately decided I wanted to do something cool this year.

Sadly, I haven't quite figured out what I want to do with our jewelry. I know; I know: it's November. How much more time can I take? It's ridiculous how long it's taken me, but I just can't seem to make a decision on how I want it organized. Ideally, however, I would love to do this arrangement. I think the idea of taking a picture frame (or old mirror, in this particular case), removing the middle, and stringing lace across the frame to hang jewelry on is so cool! I saw this picture on Pinterest (one of the most amazing websites in existence, if you ask me!), and I fell in love immediately. I have also stumbled across a craft much like this one, where the crafter used a picture frame instead of a mirror frame. In that case, the crafter used branches instead of lace to hand jewelry on. I love both ideas! I think this idea is perhaps a bit more classy and sophisticated, but both are amazing, and so innovative!

The main reason I haven't tried this yet is because I haven't managed to come across a cool frame like this one. I also don't really have the time or money to try to put something like this together. However, if I stumbled upon a great deal for a frame, I would absolutely do this craft! I think it would look amazing in our bathroom here at school. Shelby and I both have extensive jewelry collections, so we need something cute to collect and display our pieces on. We rarely wear our jewelry because we can never untangle all of the different pieces of jewelry, so this would be a great solution to that problem! I really hope that I can do this someday in the future - and if I do, I will definitely post a picture to the blog so others can see I finally realized my dream!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Crafty Roommate

In my quest for someone to interview about crafting I considered a variety of people, including my mom and my grandmother, but in the end I decided to learn about someone new.  When I began thinking I realized that I knew that my roommate Allison likes to redecorate rooms in her house and cross stitch, and my roommate Ashley likes to create her own costumes for parties, but I had no idea what my third roommate Laralyn liked to do, or if she even crafted anything.

I interviewed Laralyn over dinner at IHOP.  I found out that she did indeed craft something, vases, from an interesting medium.  It turns out that Laralyn practice upcycling, even if that’s not what she calls it.  She told me that she liked to make vases from old liquor bottles, which are considered a hassle to recycle in Conway because you have to drive them to the recycling plant.  She informed me that she liked to use materials like rhinestones, ribbon, and fake flowers to make vases and flower arrangements for them to use as decorations in her rooms.  Unfortunately she can’t keep any of them in the dorm because it’s against school regulations to have liquor bottles, even if they have been repurposed.

When I asked Laralyn why she liked to craft she said “I enjoy making things that aren’t sparkly, sparkly, and making things that I think are ugly pretty.”  Beauty is behind her medium as well.  When I asked her why she choose liquor bottles her answer was simple “Because I think they bottles are pretty.”  It’s a sentiment she seems to share with a lot of people.  If you search Etsy you can find a variety of items people have made from liquor bottles.

My last question to Laralyn was if she had any crafters in her life.  She told me “My mommy made cross stitched things for me when I was a baby, I have a baby blanket that has a bear on it, it was ugly, but it was sweet.”  I can see the evidence that her mom still crafts in our room.  Her mom decorated her initials with paper and rhinestones and they’re hanging on her door, and they reflect her personality perfectly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Interview With My Mother, the Crafter

Me: What is your earliest memory of crafting?
Mom: My grandmother's hands. They were always in mid stitch. Whether that was crocheting, knitting, tatting, or quilting.

Me: Has someone in your life inspired you to be a crafter?
Mom: Both my grandmother and my mother were 'handy' with a needle, but in very different ways. My mother is my most direct inspiration. She was never a pattern follower, where my grandmother followed design.

Me: What is your favorite type of crafting?
Mom: I enjoy the creation process, the design. I'm not a pattern follower either. So, for the most part I enjoy sewing items I can design, like curtains, pillows or other home design items.

Me: How often do you do this craft?
Mom: I'm sporadic. Sometimes I go months between projects.

Me: Do you prefer to do this craft alone or with others?
Mom: I like to sew alone, but have others validate me with their approval.

Me: Is there any specific craft you would like to learn?
Mom: I learned tatting as a teenager. I'd like to re-learn. I think it's a lost art that definitely reminds me of my grandmother.

Me: Do you find importance in passing on the crafts you have learned?
Mom: Yes, like my mother, I am comfortable with the creation process without a pattern to restrain my design. I think she has passed this on to me.

Me: Do you wish you had more time to craft?
Mom: Yes. I look forward to more time in my retirement... but I still have a few years to wait!