Monday, November 14, 2011

Where Women Create

While perusing knitting magazines in the bookstore over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a
publication on the racks entitled Where Women Create, a lavish, thick magazine with pictures of whimsical spaces where women craft or sew or engage in other artistic activities.  The images of the spaces where these women work are eye candy for the reader.  Otherwise why would anyone spend $15.00 to look at rooms where women make greeting cards or knit socks?  Another magazine by the same publisher followed on the heels of Where Women Create, entitled Where Women Cook provides additional saliva inducing glimpses at  work spaces, or, rather, boutique spaces, as the craft rooms and kitchens in both these magazines are as staged and stylized as a Ralph Lauren or Anthropologie store.   

Despite my efforts to the contrary, I am always drawn to these publications and to the images of the happy, industrious women on their pages.  However, my relationship with these titles is one characterized by both love and hate.  In fact, I sometimes I try to force myself to hold back and not open these magazines, but somehow  I always find myself looking at an image of a smug woman standing in front of 500 vintage glass mason jars filled with colorful buttons, cunningly arranged along shelves on the wall of an entire room.  The afternoon sunlight spills warmly across her rustic work table, a piece that the aforesaid woman “picked up” on a trip to the south of France. 

In my world, however, there are no workspaces filled with antique vases of double-pointed needles or aesthetically pleasing wall bins with cleverly arranged colorful skeins of yarn spilling over their edges.  There are bags and bags of yarn stuffed in the back of my closet along with a plastic storage bin filled with a snakelike mess of circular needles.  There are a spinning wheel and antique yarn winder in our too-small den and a serger and two sewing machines that have to be cleared off of the dining room table before we can have a meal there (usually a once-or-twice-a-year event).  There is a nomadic dress dummy given to me by a home economics teacher.  Her hard-knock life shows in her raggedy covering and off-kilter stance (the dress dummy’s not the teacher’s, although the profession isn’t kind to the looks of its members).  The dummy takes up residence in the garage sometimes, but likes to hang out in the kitchen and dining room too.  There were a bunch of these dress forms at my old high school that, much like the many copies of thick classic novels with small print, were moldering from lack of use. 

My dining room, like the dress forms and complex novels, shares this neglect.  But I’m a traditionalist, and in a world where my children are assaulted on all sides from a culture that I often find vulgar and disjointed, the dining room, with its collection of inherited furniture and knick-knacks, is a way of reminding my boys that there are other ways to live—that our drive-through lifestyle isn’t normal—or at least isn’t ideal.  So I don’t convert my little used dining room to a permanent workspace.  And I don’t have enough bedrooms to turn one of them into a studio, or do as the mother of a friend of mine who transformed her master bedroom into a work room—she needed a large space for her quilting frame.  Her husband is, needless to say, an admirable model of for all other similarly burdened crafter/sewer/knitter spouses to follow.      

I do, however, create all over the house, as I have been doing this weekend.  I’ve been sick with a virus and have been in bed or on the couch since Thursday night.  While my illness put a damper on any plans for meals out or trips to yarn shops, I was able to make some real inroads into my holiday knitting—even if I had to leave my sickbed to spend time on my knees in my closet, digging through bins to find a cable needle. 

Fiber Trends Clogs I finished this past weekend (shown here before felting).


After Felting
Adding the felted designs is a lot of fun.
 This weekend, I’ve also had time to sit still and to think about my craft room, adding it to my to-do list.  As we move into the holiday season, this list is ever-expanding. 

1.        Finish lace scarf for my mother-in-law.  She’s allergic to wool and I purchased some acrylic for this that’s a bit rough on my hands. 

2.       Finish scarf for my son’s football coach.

3.       Finish cabled chunky vest—while trying to keep in mind that the pattern has five errors in it.

4.       Finish novelty yarn poncho and decide whether it’s tacky or artsy.

5.       Cast on shawl with lace weight yarn purchased in Italy last May. Be sure to finish this by Christmas, as it is a gift for my mother.  Hmmm, I’ve never knit with lace weight.  Those ladies in Estonia do it.  Right.  It can’t be too hard. . . .

6.       Finish pink worsted and twisty, colorful, fluffy yarn hat (another attempt at “artsy” rather than “classic” knitting).  Half of it has been on needles for six months. 

7.       Finish sewing girls’ dress and coat made using a vintage pattern (from 1957).  This project was started with an aim of selling the dress and coat (a $60.00 investment so far) on Etsy, to help pay for my knitting habit.  The dress is almost done.

8.       Learn how to professionally finish stuff—my back-stitch seams are ruining my projects and I can’t seem to teach myself any other method of seaming.  I must have some kind of special learning deficit—the instructions in my how-too books don’t translate into the movements of my hands.    

9.       Figure out the math in spinning.  I’m just turning the wheel and drafting—the books say there’s much more to this process.  Maybe I’ll have time to really study the science of spinning next year. 

10.   Figure out how to create a craft room, or at least a craft nook to store my knitting accoutrements. 

11.   STOP KNITTING, SEWING, AND SPINNING!  So that I can grade papers, prepare final exams, shop for the holidays, help my sons with their homework, sort eight million pieces of Lego, organize mountains of receipts and statements, and, in general, get on with my life. 

Of course, my local knitting  shops don’t have to worry about dips in revenue anytime soon.  And my kids aren’t going to escape having a mom who is no longer a “crazy knitting lady” in the near future.    I figure there might be a realistic chance that I’ll finish items 1-9 in a year or so, and by then I’ll have lots of other projects on the needles that will require my attention before I can ever get to number 10 on my list.  Along the way, my students’ papers will be graded and other tasks will be attended to, although not without the beckoning of knitting projects and crafting room creation in my ear.  But while I knit, the clamor of to-do lists is silent.  That fact is what, perhaps, keeps me at it, even if knitting clutters up my life and creates a conflict in my obligations.  When the rhythmic motion of the needles begins, I am lost in the process itself.  A very Zen activity, I suppose, and very necessary in my hectic life.  When I am engaged in the act of knitting, I don’t think about the need for visually stunning or practical work spaces.  Where I create becomes irrelevant.  The process itself takes hold, driving and shaping the experience.    
This is a cabled vest -- another item on my to-do list. 

The hat that became a cowl
The yarn I used, Karaoke, seems to grow as I knit.
This particular color is also no longer made, and I
ran out of it before my Hagrid-sized hat was finished.
After trying to no avail to order more, I finished this piece
off. It actually looks great on the wearer.

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