Tag Archives: memories

Day 14! – Heartfelt and Handmade: An Apologia

Well peeps, this is it! The final day…*sad face*. I have enjoyed myself so much. Every time I do one of these blogfests I always end up with more incredible friends, more incredible patterns/recipes/projects and so much more appreciation for just what a wonderfully generous community the crafting one is!

In order to get through today I turned to baking. Baking fixes everything…and you get to eat it afterwards. Perfect! So I rustled up a batch of the Muesli Bars that were in yesterdays post. Yummy and very good with my iced latte that I made to Leethal’s great recipe.

And while watching the Wimbledon Men’s Final, I finished off my ‘Sweetie’ hat from Day 6, that I am now lovingly calling my ‘Crown of Leaves’ :) It is such a sweet project, fast and satisfying, and sits really nicely. I only did 5 rows of plain, between the end of the lace pattern and the start of the decreases for the top of the hat, to make it sit snugly on the back of my head. The perfect summer hat!

And so today I will leave you with one last thought, provided by Lilycobweb, the person who taught me how to knit and crochet. Thank you to everyone who was involved in this project…I’ll be doing proper thank you’s tomorrow (as well as telling you what really happened to the missing Day 11 :)

Heartfelt and Handmade – An Apologia

by Lilycobweb

AMDD is now drawing to a close. As an avid daily reader, I will miss the blog posts that bring together such fascinating elements from the minds of creative folk web-wide and world-wide. I have noticed a slender thread running through a number of the posts, from the Pilgrimage Cuffs to Susan Moloney’s amazing mixed-media pieces. This is the idea of Art or Craft as memoir or personal history.

This is not a new idea, but it’s certainly one worth revisiting. It requires an understanding of the value of anything handmade, not in terms of the quality of the materials, the time spent in its making, or the skill it takes to fashion it. Another leap of the imagination is required. You must imagine the flow of energy between the creator and the object, the music of an idea or design coming into being in a joyous, exciting way. That is what gives art and craft its magic.

It’s a personal crusade of mine to spread that message. Craft is widely misunderstood. I cavil slightly when people say (and they do!) ‘That must be very therapeutic for you’. I don’t do it solely to calm my shattered nerves. A course of high-dose Vitamin B would do that more effectively. I do it because it is how I give expression to an idea, a form, a function, a design, or a combination of colours. That is what makes the process calming and fulfilling-the fact that you are transforming your creative energy into something real.

An added dimension to that wonderful process of becoming is when it has a specific significance for the creator or the recipient, when found or significant objects are incorporated into the design and the making. Then, the value of the creation is so much more enriched, for the maker and the eventual recipient. American patchwork quilts are the obvious example, notably the AIDS quilts made in the ’80s as a way to commemorate the victims and console the survivors. It’s a perfect example of a community response to trauma through creativity and craft. There are lots of other examples, and I’d like to hear yours, if you’d care to comment. Otherwise, this may become a PhD thesis….

In pondering these worthy notions, I began to think about my personal history of the handmade. I have always had a huge fascination for things that are made by hand. It’s a family thing. My sister Brid and I go into transports of joy when we enter craft shops and art galleries, much to the dismay of our loved ones. They know it will be a whole-afternoon affair. Brid has gifted me so many lovely handmade things over the years….earrings from far-flung places are her specialty, and she had a rare talent for choosing the perfect ones for me. They are often translucent green (to match my eyes, I like to think) Thanks, Brid, and we have a date when you come home from Portugal!

I learned my craft of choice (crochet, for those of you who don’t know me) when I was a little girl and crocheted up a storm until my teens. Then, I abandoned it for cooler pursuits, like painting and life-drawing. (Well, at age 18, drawing the nude male form beat the double-treble or the bullion stitch hands down! ) In time, I abandoned those pursuits too, and just did nothing that filled that creativity space in a satisfying way.

That was when I got obsessed with other people’s work-buying it, hoarding it, hoping some of its magic would rub off on me. In 1980, when I was a young student, I remember buying the most amazing crocheted afghan in shades of red, grey and black in the Bloemenmarket in Amsterdam for 4 guilders. That’s probably about 3 euros. I kept it for years, then gifted it to a friend when she had her first baby. Shameful to admit, I sometimes wish I hadn’t, so much did I love that blanket!

I remember every handmade thing I ever bought, the joy of the purchase and sheer delight if it was a bargain. I could tell you many stories, but the point of it all is this. I was just flirting with my own creativity then, not realising the need for it to be liberated in some way, any way. How really didn’t matter. It just needed to be done. And it was.

I buy just as many handmade things these days, but for different reasons. I don’t need the vicarious thrill anymore. I create myself these days. No matter how it is perceived by anyone else, what is important is that I do it. It’s very important for me.

What follows is a list. A list of handmade things that resonate with meaning and history-some I’ve made myself, some were made by family and friends. Treasured and shared, they have brought a lot of joy. That’s the point of the whole thing. I invite you to add to the list and share your treasured handmade thing, something you made or were gifted. Just comment below. I’ll be fascinated. I always am. Thanks for listening.

  • Kelly Donovan’s crocheted wool scarf. A gift from her to me before we’d even met.
  • A ‘Labour of Love’ or a crocheted cot coverlet-. When I was pregnant with my son Keian, I started making a fine lace cot cover in very intricate Irish crochet stitches. (I was convinced I was having a girl!) I didn’t finish until he was 15 years old. Artist  and great friend, Marie-Claire Douglas of Seacrest Galleries, convinced me to frame it for an exhibition of textile art she curated in 2007. I’m proud I finished it in the end.
  • Flannel nightdresses that came from Iran. My mother-in-law is a seamstress. I didn’t meet her for 10 years after I married her son. When we had Parisa, and then Maryam, she would send us these amazing flannel nighties for them in her unique pattern complete with frilled yoke. I still have them all, and nothing evokes memories of their babyhoods more than the made-with-love nightwear sent by a woman I’d never met.
  • A Summer Garden. This wallhanging was made as a group project at Northern Ireland Baha’i Summer School in 2006, I think. Every group member made a flower or a leaf. (I can still remember who made what!). Zhenia Mahdi-Nau, friend and artist extraordinaire, helped me to join the motifs and mount it on a stretched canvas. It is now in the private collection of Tina Salter.
  • My daughter Soheila has sensory issues and hated to wear a hat when she was a child. I made her a beanie from the very softest chenille I could find. I was HONOURED that she wore it until it didn’t fit her anymore. She loved to wear it when I was hoovering-to block out the noise!
  • Queen of the Fairies- the most amazingly intricate cross-stitch artwork I have ever seen! This was a gift to me from my lovely cousin Angela Moriarty, when I visited her in Huddersfield in September last year. It looks like a painting, and I need to post a photo worthy of it.

Lilycobweb is a crochet designer and artist from Ireland, who has been crafting since she was little. She has passed her incredible skills on to many people, not least her daughter…me! You can contact her via her etsy store: lilycobweb.etsy.com


Day 4 – Crafting & the Art of Travel

Hello All and thank you for your patience there. Murphy’s Law in full swing but I’m back on top of everything now. So without further ado…

Crafting & the Art of Travel

…is today’s theme…because I do believe that travelling is an art form which you get better at with practice. The first time I left home, heading for India to do volunteering for my gap year, I packed too much, bought tons and had to get kind strangers to help me lift my suitcase off the baggage carousel! My last trip to Australia and home through Asia and America was definitely a vast improvement on my first experience, but even with so much packing and backpacking experience under by belt, I still slipped up a few times.

This last trip however had an extra element that my first didn’t. By now I was a committed (addicted more like) crafter…a knitting fiend…a crocheting tornado…a yarn-consuming mad woman who, after working in a yarn store in Brisbane, had the most ridiculous stash ever and NOWHERE to put it all! It was the yarn or my clothes and I’m not ashamed to say that 9 times out of 10 the yarn won!

Now when I look at the pieces I completed while on the road, I see a story, a memory of where I was, what I was thinking, how I was feeling as those stitches were made. The DB thinks I’m nuts because I’m not big into taking tons of photos and he is but my knitting has become my ‘photos’ in hindsight and I love them all the more for it.

Another huge element of my crafting was the social side of it. In college I started a Stitch n Bitch in the cafe across from our main building. My friends, even the ones who didn’t knit/crochet, all knew where to find me on a Tuesday night and I was never there alone. It brought us together away from the pressures of our Degrees and it was fun.

When I moved to Brisbane last year the very first thing I did was look up Ravelry to see if there was a knitting group there. And there was…an amazing one, with people offering advice on public transport and areas to live and their phone numbers so we could meet for coffee when I finally arrived.  I knew noone in this city (and truthfully was going because the DB had the job opportunity he just couldn’t turn down there and I had nothing better going on at home…eck!) and these wonderful strangers took me into their community with open hearts…all because we crafted. It was through them that I got my yarn-store job and will be eternally grateful for that opportunity. They held a full-on Christmas party in JULY (Southern hemisphere’s Wintertime) because I moaned so much about having upside-down, hot Christmas in Australia! I miss them all lots now but I know what I have to thank for ever meeting them…and it is a simple, honest craft that I do everyday.

10 Days, 1 Backpack, and a Project that Fit in My Pocket

By Stephanie Bryant

In 2008, my husband and I went to Costa Rica for 10 days, and our plan was to arrive, spend 3 days enjoying the sights, then buckle down for a week-long immersion Spanish class on the beach. We knew we’d be taking the bus to Samara, our beach destination, and we’d witnessed plenty of luggage theft in Central America, so we limited our luggage to one backpack the size of a bookbag, and my one small purse. A goodly portion of our luggage space was dedicated to notebooks for school and a Spanish-English dictionary.

It was tough packing for such a limited-space trip, but it became easier when we realized that one pair of sandals would be sufficient footwear, and that Samara would be in the 90’s all week long, so we could get by with bathing suits and shorts.

But. I am a crafter, primarily a knitter. How was I going to “get by” when there was literally no space in the pack for the four balls of yarn I would certainly want– if not need— for beachfront knitting?

It was simple. I would have to do without the knitting. For 10 days.

But not, as it turned out, without crafting entirely. I had recently taken up tatting, which is a method of making lace using tiny knots in thread. Tatting is a lovely craft, and one that many think is “dying out” (it’s not, as evidenced by the thousands of tatters on the tatting groups). As a plus, a tatting project is cheap– for $7, I can buy 2 shuttles and a ball of thread, plenty to make several doilies or other projects.

I wound a good amount of thread onto two tatting shuttles and downloaded an easily-memorized pattern. I wrote the repeat onto half of a business card, and printed the whole pattern for reference. I would toss out the larger printout at the airport shortly after we landed, once I no longer needed it. The entire project fit inside a small coin purse, which I kept in my pocket wherever we went.

I started tatting on the way to the Miami airport. I’d intended the tatting to keep me sane while we endured long bus rides, but it also served as something to do when sitting on the beach, and when waiting for my classes to start. Because my class was conducted entirely in Spanish, and my teacher was intrigued by what I was doing with my hands, I even learned the Spanish words for tatting (frivolite), shuttle, and thread.

I had also brought one other arts and crafts project with me, my colored pencils and a small unlined notebook, in which I drew some of the beautiful sights around me. A camera is a lovely way to record a trip, but there’s nothing quite like sitting cross-legged on the side of the road while waiting for a replacement bus to come pick you up (the one we’d been in lost a fan belt), and sketching the cute cottage across the road while you wait.

Halfway through the trip, I had finished the doily pattern as written. Since the project was worked from the inside outward, I added another round to the doily, and kept going. I finally tied off my knots in the airport on the way home– the perfect 10-day project.

When the trip was over, I’d learned some more Spanish, I was deliriously rested and relaxed, and  my husband and I had some lovely, space-conscious mementos of our vacation.

Stephanie Bryant is a knitter, blogger, and writer. She writes and publishes Handknit Heroes, the superhero comic book for knitters (http://www.comicknits.com/update). Her Ravelry username is mortaine.

Crafting Abroad

by Gradskoolknitter

As part of my PhD program we are expected to go abroad for a semester or two to do some research. (I study Spanish literature, so you can see how it might be useful to study abroad for a bit.) So as you read this I am probably sitting in the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) of Spain…. or possibly hanging out with some knitters. Now, I might be biased, ‘cause I am one, but knitters are pretty much the nicest people you could ever meet. I learned to knit when I was young – less than 10 years old – but left it alone for a long time through high school and my undergrad career.  When I moved to the States from Canada to start my PhD I took it up again.  There was a new shop opening up near my house and a (now defunct) knitting group run by some other grad students that met twice a month (later the shop started a Saturday knit-in and I found another group of young professionals and graduate students to fill the void created by the defunct group).

I can’t tell you how many times these groups saved me from boredom, amongst other things. I have met people from all ages, politics, backgrounds, races, religions and whatever else you can possibly imagine through knitting. So when I had to move across the ocean, away from my family, my friends and my boyfriend I searched Ravelry for groups that met in Madrid.  I packed my bags (complete with a stash to last me a few months) and transversed the Ocean. As soon as I met with the ladies of MadridKnits I felt more like Spain was home. It’s funny how two groups, from two very distinct places can both bring me the same sort of comfort. Even though it is in a different language, we often talk about the same topics, laugh at the same jokes, knit the same sorts of things. A good knitting group can become a second family, and both of mine, here and across the ocean, have been some of the most supportive people I have ever known.

So, if you find yourself having to move and worried about how to meet new people, I would seriously suggest taking up a craft and googling groups in your new area. You just might find your new best friends!

As for traveling and crafting – which I strongly suggest ‘cause knitting while waiting for planes or on a long train ride really helps pass the time – I have a couple suggestions:

  1. For plane travel (especially outside of the US) make sure your needles or crochet hooks are wood. In many countries they will take your metal needles (right out of your project, no matter how much you beg or cry!) away when you go through security.
  2. Chose small projects: my fave is socks! You generally only need one or two small skeins of yarn and tiny needles which makes it easy to pack a couple different projects to work on. There are lots of free patterns available online, but I would suggest taking something easy, either a plain stockinette sock like these:
  3. Or a simple pattern that you can easily memorize. I have a few patterns that I designed and put up for download (for free!! we all like free, right?!) on ravelry:
  4. Socks on Fire: A top down lacey sock available for download here

Socks for a Winter’s Night: A toe-up, gusset heel sock with lace cuff available for download here.

If you aren’t a sock knitter there are lots of other small projects you can take along with you, like this cowl available for download here:

Of course there are lots more out there, all you have to do is a quick ravelry or google search and you will come up with lots of free / cheap patterns that will help you pass the time while you travel and when you get home you’ll have a new project!  Not to mention all the friends you will make along the way… not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about my latest project as I work away on the metro to and from the Biblioteca!

Honestly my knitting groups, here and back home, have been life-saving for me… they were both very welcoming, open communities when I was new, and both have spawned what I think will be life-long friendships.  The two I regularly attend at home have been supportive through moves, break-ups, new relationships, school drama… you name it, they have been supportive of me through it (and vice versa, of course). The yarnstore near my house in Baltimore is like my safe haven and the owner Sue is like my cool aunt/mom away from mom. There are times that I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have Sue and the group there I would have seriously considered giving up on grad school and gone home!

Happy Knitting!

If you want to know more about Gradskoolknitter’s projects and patterns you can check out her blog or find her on ravelry as gradskoolknitter !

Happy 40th Birthday Sesame Street!

One of my favourite shows of all time, and the only thing I would take a nap for as a child, turned 40 years old on the 10th of November. The threat of not being allowed to watch it, unless I had my afternoon nap before it started, was what got me into my bed and quiet…for a little while at least.

It was one of the first musical influences in my life as well and I always sang along! I learned lots of interesting fact that I used to annoy everyone at the dinner table with, and I really loved the multi-cultural cast it always had. While the producers were concentrating on showing a realistic view of American society, to a half-Irish, half-Persian girl in rural Ireland it portrayed something that looked more like my family than anything else on TV. I felt part of a global community, where a wee half-and-halfer fitted in perfectly!

The Rubber Ducky song is still sung in my household…the Darling Boyfriend gets treated to a rendition of it when I am feeling particularly cheerful or particularly clean :)

Thank you Sesame St for all the songs, the Count, Elmo, Bert and Ernie and for openning my little childish eyes to the wonder of Jim Henson puppets and all related projects (The Muppets Christmas Carol is my favourite version of the Dicken’s classic).