On Reading I JUST LIKE TO MAKE THINGS

IJustLikeOn the recommendation of a creative friend, I picked up I Just Like to Make Things: Learn the Secrets to Making Money While Staying Passionate About Your Art and Craft by Lilla Rogers. The author is both an artist and an agent who has secured contracts, licenses, and other agreements for herself and others who have a knack for modern illustration. The book is filled with testimonies and tips on how to make a mark in children’s books, textiles, craft papers, and other goods that carry color and design.

 

I most enjoyed the bookends of I Just Like to Make Things, first Rogers’ use of a bird analogy to demonstrate how we artists can visualize our life’s work:

 

…for every person on our planet, there are fifty birds. Wow! I would love to meet my fifty birds. They are all out there, and we don’t even know which ones are ours… If you think of the life of your career as having fifty birds, what would they be? Let’s let them equal fifty meaningful events or highlights in your career. They are out there, but like your birds, you just don’t know what they are yet. You won’t know until you reach the end of your life and look back; but in the meantime, they will happen. 

 

I love this visual. I love that my success doesn’t have to be defined by just one epic moment—a sum of many makes up the whole. I also love that, like birds, my art can boast diversity and color and merry tunes of all sorts. Yes, this imagery will indeed stick with me as I discover my artistic identity and calling. 

 

IMG_3739The other bookend? One of the concluding exercises of I Just Like to Make Things is to consider the many different turns an art career can take. Rogers presents forty-plus ideas to help “garner some self-awareness” and arrive at “what you really, deeply want to do next” in the creative realm. As she suggests, I photocopied the page, cut all the options into little rectangles, then drew five pieces randomly from the pile. I was skeptical of this assignment at first, but in the end, I gained some valuable insight:

Open an Etsy shop
I attempted this about a year ago with some scarves I made, but I think I definitely need a lot more stuff and a more defined personal style. I plan to work on the latter to arrive eventually at the former.

Volunteer to help creative kids
I love this idea! My dream of dreams would be to facilitate a kids’ knitting and crocheting group. My daughter is attending a fine-arts interdisciplinary school this fall, plus my church is starting a free after-school program for grades K-5. Perhaps I could start groups at those venues?

Sew for fun
Another option that piques my interest! It was at a Fourth of July parade that I became aware of the efforts of Iowa-based Dress a Girl Around the World, and I’ve been thinking about making simple little dresses for charity ever since. I also came across a few fun videos on Creativebug on “Patchwork Improv.” I’m in!

Start your own company including manufacturing
I began my own company about twelve years ago when I became a freelance writer. I changed the name of it some time later to make sure it could grow beyond communications. My next steps? To honor my intentions from long ago! To get creative! To make stuff!

Make jewelry
This option wrinkled my nose at first, but it grew on me when I thought about how I can use my current skills, know-how, and supplies to make small items for sale. I plan to experiment a bit with crochet and buttons and yarn and beads in the weeks ahead.

 

I know I’ve read a good book if it motivates me to some kind of action. Boy, do I have a to-do list from this one! Stay tuned as I get to work.

On Trying CROCHET-ALONGS

I knit. I crochet. I’ve made hats and sweaters and blankets and so much more over my past twenty-five years of experimenting with yarn and needles and hooks. But it wasn’t until recently—last summer, to be exact—that I tried a “crochet-along” or “CAL” for short (you guessed it, there are “knit-alongs” too).

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Just a few of the hats I made last summer as part of a crochet-along

Through the Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community on Facebook, I signed up to join thousands of other crocheters from around the world to work on different patterns together. The group’s organizer, Breann Mauldin, is an accomplished crocheter and pattern writer who shares free PDFs (for a limited time generally) of her original creations, thus rallying the rest of us to get hooking too.

During a CAL, a new pattern is released weekly, then we post photos of our finished products on the group thread. It’s amazing to see how the same pattern results in such unique works of craftsmanship—it’s fun to see how people put their own spins on it. Different colors. Different textures. Different adornments. Artistry abounds!

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Here’s my progress so far on the sampler afghan CAL pattern. Each week entails adding another few inches of a different pattern to our blankets.

The Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community is currently in the middle of another hat CAL, which I completed for the first time last year. In the end, I donated about twenty finished hats to the cancer patients of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which is where one of my dearest friends fought and won her battle with the disease. I also enjoyed taking part in a sampler afghan CAL over the winter. My blanket is still in progress, but I’m determined to get it finished before the snow flies again. Just a couple more sections to go and some kind of border, then I’ll be done!

There’s something special about knitting and crocheting, how versatile they are not only in what I can make, but also in where and with whom I can focus on my projects. In the quiet of home. At a coffee shop with a friend. Around a computer with the rest of humanity. There’s no doubt I’ll keep knitting and crocheting along!

On Learning FINGER KNITTING

Finger knitting. I remember learning how to finger knit from a childhood friend so many decades ago. We’d spend hours together during sleepovers making long lengths of narrow knitted tubing in various colors. Sometimes we’d attempt to make something useful from our thick, long ropes of yarn—little pillows or blankets for our dolls, for instance—but we were never quite satisfied with the end results. I eventually traded in finger knitting for embroidery and cross-stitch, which seemed much more sophisticated back in the day.

homepage-knitting-without-needlesIt was through Creativebug that I was recently reminded of the fun of finger knitting.  And thanks to the brilliance of maker Anne Weil, my eyes are now open to the craft’s possibilities. In one of her six Creativebug classes, Weil walks viewers through the steps of creating a pretty and practical woven rug from finger-knitted cords. The same project is featured in her book Knitting Without Needles, which is full of patterns for finger- and arm-knitters alike. I picked her book up from the library, along with Finger Knitting Fun by Vickie Howell, Arm & Finger Knitting by Laura Strutt and Finger Knitting by Mary Beth Temple. Sweaters, toys, hats, and blankets—the options seem endless as I page through these resources on finger knitting.

Of course, I have all I need to get started again: a good pair of hands and plenty of yarn. I think I’ll try Weil’s idea for a wreath first, then maybe I’ll finally have something presentable to show for my finger-knitting skills. It only took forty years.

 

 

 

Writing on Stilts

While rifling through some used books for sale the other day, I landed Knitting Through It: Inspiring Stories for Times of Trouble (edited by Lela Nargi). As a knitter of nearly twenty years, I resonate with the title–not just because it involves one of my very favorite pastimes, but also because it acknowledges one of my strongest motivations for knitting: to cope.

Sylvain Dornon knitting on stilts (1893)

Anyway, this book features little stories about people who have knitted through unemployment, poverty, imprisonment, war, illness, and other life events that test our spirits. But what I like most about the book are the photos showing knitters hard at work in a variety of environments–some typical, some strange.

None caught my attention more than a picture of Sylvain Dornon, a French shepherd in the 1800s who knitted… on stilts! Apparently, his tribe–the Thchankats of Landes–did just about everything while elevated a few feet off the ground, mostly to avoid the poisonous snakes familiar to the group’s territory and to better brave uncharted terrain. In addition to knitting, Dornon journeyed to Moscow and back on his stilts–he even climbed the Eiffel Tower on the fool things!

You won’t catch me on stilts anytime soon. Heck, I can’t even hop off a step stool without feeling a bit woozy. But I think there’s a myriad of lessons to learn from Dornon’s escapades–even lessons that apply to the writing life…

1. Avoid becoming paralyzed by the feeling of impossibility. If Dornon can scale the Eiffel Tower on stilts, for Pete’s sake, you can prove yourself as a writer! You can get published! You can write that book!

2. Consider a story from a number of perspectives–on ground level and from a higher viewpoint. Such investment will only improve your writing.

3. Step around the venomous voices–both internal and external–that say you’re too busy to write. Enough excuses already–get to it!

And so on… May your writing reach new heights today!


WRITING PROMPT 1: Have you ever tried walking on stilts? Do you have an altogether different memory that involved someone on stilts–perhaps at a parade, circus, etc.? Describe one of those experiences.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Write about a situation from someone else’s perspective or while considering the bigger picture–from your metaphorical stilts, if you will.