Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Driving Instruction

Miss Abigail started her driver's instruction in Albuquerque this week. Because we home school, she has not had the benefit of a school program, so we have to make other arrangements. My husband and I want Abigail to learn to drive in city traffic so that she won't be surprised and frightened to drive to the city when necessary. I decided I wanted someone else to be the teacher for this, so we signed her up for a course at a private driving school. It is a pretty big hassle to get her there for the classroom portion. The actual driving lessons will stretch out over the next few months.  I really love where we live, isolated as we are on the high plains of New Mexico. But when it comes to situations like this, it is a bit of a burden. Soon, however, Abigail will be able to get around herself, which will be a bigger relief to me.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

A very happy Easter to you all. I love Easter and I especially love what this holiday celebrates - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I cannot express how much I appreciate His redeeming love and the effect of His gospel in my life. Blessed Savior, Dear Redeemer!

This is a picture of my sweet sister and I on Easter Sunday in 1966. No we aren't twins, but we are just a year apart in age. My sis is older than I. My mom didn't often dress us alike, but when we were young she sometimes indulged that urge. This picture was taken at the home of my grandmother, who was an avid amateur photographer. Can you guess which is me?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Peek Inside: Easter Figurines

I think it is always a blessing when you can spend holidays with family around you. Dinner at grandma's house, games and activities with cousins, learning manners and visiting etiquette, family pictures! I grew up with a close extended family and I have warm, happy memories of holidays with my family. However, since the early days of our marriage, our extended family has been many miles away. Our children have had to grow up without the happy buzz of family holidays. My sweet mother-in-law did her best to compensate for that. When our boys, and then Miss Abigail, were young children, their grandmother would send holiday boxes full of treats and inexpensive toys. She really never missed any major holiday or birthday! Our children came to count on these boxes and eagerly looked forward to them!

After Abigail grew into a teenager, the boxes gradually trickled off and finally stopped. Obviously my mother-in-law couldn't keep it up forever and Abby is the youngest grandchild. The last Easter box came a few years ago. Together with candy and a beautiful card, Grandma included these figurines to decorate the table. Naturally they are included in the hope chest for future Easter celebrations!.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sewing Room Makeover: The First Step

I've been thinking all weekend. I know what I need to do. I need to ask hard questions: Do I love this? What will I do with this? How long have I stored this without using it? Do I have a project or a plan to use this? Where will I continue to store this?

If the answer is affirmative, then by all means I want to store the yarn or fabric or beads or paper, but I will try to make a plan for how I plan to use it. I could find a pattern and add it to my upcoming project pile. I could at least write a note on an index card and tuck it into the fold of the fabric, or attach it to the label on the yarn with a safety pin. If I have a specific project in mind, I need to set aside the yarn, thread or fabric together in a project bin or in my workbasket so that it doesn't get buried too deep in the stash. When I'm ready for a new project I will try to go to the project bin or workbasket rather than plan something entirely new, which usually requires new supplies.

If the answer to the hard question is negative, I think I know already what I have to do. Here are my best suggestions for excess craft supplies. In case you have the same problem I do.

  • ask crafty or teacher friends if they have a need
  • make a giveaway basket to take to the next fiber swap or club meeting
  • sell those items in a yard sale
  • make a donation to a school or a charity thrift shop

Do you have a good idea for dealing with excess craft supplies?

This project may take some time, but I've begun the initial sorting. I've emptied one large RubberMaid tote, freeing it up for items that I want to keep. Thanks for the earlier suggestions about the room and I hope you'll continue to contribute your ideas. I'll post my progress as it happens. If you happen to follow me on Pinterest, please hit the "send" button with pins of ideas you think might help me. I can use your help.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Cleaning in the Sewing Room

Okay folks, this is one of those true confession posts. I think it's time to do a little spring cleaning in the sewing room. I had a resolution in January to organize and store my supplies more efficiently. Here it is, a couple of months later and I still need to work at it. Who's with me? My son casually mentioned the other day that he (and his wife and our three small grandchildren) would like to come visit. "Wonderful," I said, "We would love it!" Then I walked into this room, which is also the guest room, and began to panic. You can see the bed under the pile...

I know! You are probably thinking "How does she even work in that mess!" Even more importantly, "Where is she going to put three small children?" I didn't clean anything for the pictures and I apologize for the early morning light. I wanted to clean it, but decided to reveal my problems, in the hope that you might have some good suggestions for storing stuff. Especially small stuff. Well, and large piles of fabric. And yarn! (sigh...) You can see that I don't have a lot of real estate in this room. The rest of the house is just as bad - no room at all. But I need my stuff! I do most of my crafts right here in this corner. The ironing board is my work table.You can see my breakfast is there as well. I'll confess that I emptied the overflowing trash before I took the picture. I didn't think you needed to see that.

I admit to being a pack rat. I think it comes as a consequence of being frugal. (I guess you could just read cheap.) I love to be creative and that means I need supplies, often expensive supplies. So I'm always on the look out for deals and sales and good stuff from other people's sewing rooms. I try to collect ahead for when I might have a need and I always save leftover supplies (even scraps) for the future. Sometimes this gets out of hand.

My husband teases me still about the two boxes he moved into our first apartment. They were labeled "large material scraps" and "small material scraps." I guess you could say they were part of my hope chest! He has been moving them around ever since. I don't think I'm a hoarder, except perhaps with fabric, and maybe fiber. But I do have a lot of craft tools and supplies and I find that it is hard for me to pass up a good deal. I've been thinking and realize that I have to do something

Well, the first day of spring is just around the corner. Wish me good luck with my spring cleaning. I likewise wish you success. I was inspired by a picture of Donna's fabric sort over at Jackson Family Farm. Please, if you have any suggestions, don't hesitate to share them. You won't hurt my feelings.

I took a picture of the hope chest. It has been sitting open because I need to re-organize that as well! You can see there is no room for the Pink & Brown kitchen set in there. Time to shift some things to the "auxiliary" hope chest!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Threaded Running Stitch Monogrammed Dishtowel

This is another very easy, very quick embroidered dishtowel for the hope chest. The project takes just minutes to complete. I used the simple running stitch along the hemmed outside edge of the dishtowel and then threaded a second color back and forth through the stitches. This is called threaded running stitch and it is so easy to do! And, since we will soon be entering the spring bridal shower season, the towel, along with the ruffly dish scrubby (tutorial here) and a nice wooden spoon would make the perfect gift for an upcoming bridal shower!

The monogram is cross-stitched using an iron-on transfer.

The stitch size is fairly large on this towel so I used all six strands of cotton embroidery thread for the running stitch on the edge. If you make the stitch smaller in size you should use three or maybe four strands.

The only trick to this stitch is to use a tapestry style needle when you do the threading so that you don't pick up any fabric as you push the need under the running stitch. This second thread shows up only on the top. The running stitch continues to show on the back of the towel, so the back looks pretty as well.

I love the way the towel looks and I really love how quickly I could get the embroidery finished. You may have noticed that I favor quick projects when it comes to kitchen linens. There are a couple of reasons why this is. A kitchen towel is used hard and it obviously will show the wear after some time. I want Abigail to be comfortable using these towels for everyday. If I put too much effort into such a practical hope chest item, she might be tempted to think it too pretty to use and leave it in the hope chest. I would hate for that to happen. So, if I can make it quickly, the article will seem more practical and more utilitarian, rather than merely decorative. I'm not sure that will be the case, but that is my thinking anyway. Of course I am extra happy when the article is both quick and beautiful!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sew on Saturday: Envelope for Pink & Brown Set

Here is the fabric envelope I made to keep the Pink & Brown kitchen set together in the hope chest. I call this an envelope because I don't know what else to call it. I need some kind of article to keep everything in a set from shifting around and becoming disorganized as we stir around in the hope chest. I began to solve the problem by tying things together with ribbons, but I find that ribbons are totally inadequate for the job! I've done this envelope thing a number of different ways for a few of the different sets that I've completed so far. Not all of the completed sets have an envelope yet; some are still just tied with ribbons. But, I'm on a quest for the perfect style.

For example, the envelope for the Thanksgiving set has four radiating arms that fold over the linens and tie together on top. I included a tag made from a scrap of the apron fabric. This gives Miss Abigail a reminder as to what is inside the packet without having to undo the bow. I like how it looks and how it completely encloses the set, but it is a little hard to measure and construct.

The envelope for the Brown & Aqua set is a wide fabric rectangular "ribbon" and closes with buttonholes and 5 different buttons on the top of the stack. The sides are open so that contents are easily seen and I like that aspect. It is much easier to construct. This envelope has an embroidered monogram. I posted a tutorial explaining this style.

The envelope for the Peachy/Green set is also a wide fabric ribbon and closes with 3 buttons and tabs on top. No monogram, but a little bit of embellishment with lace and a contrasting fabric strip

I like the fabric ribbon style because I find that I like the open sides. I'm such a visual person and enjoy seeing at least a peek of the linens that are included in the set.

For the Pink & Brown set I thought about making another ribbon style, but ended up adjusting make it very easy. First, I measured the stack of linens. It was 34 inches around the stack. I cut a piece of matching fabric 18-inches by 40-inches to give me enough fabric for hems and overlap. On the short end, I folded over 1/4-inch and pressed. Then measured and sewed a 2 1/2-inch hem. I did this for both short ends of the fabric strip.

Then, on the long sides, I again measured and pressed a 1/4-inch fold and pressed again at 3/4-inch for a casing down the length of the sides. I left this casing open at both ends for the ribbons.

I measured two ribbons 39-inches long and pulled them through the casing with a large safety pin. Be sure to pin one end of the ribbon so that it doesn't accidentally pull through before you are ready to gather it up.

Finally, I placed the stack of linens in the middle of the fabric and just folded the ends over the top. I gathered the ribbons and tied them to enclose then linens and secure the envelope. I think it works pretty well. I like that there is a bit of fabric down the sides to keep things from shifting. It was also much easier to make than any of the other styles. It is much more plain, though, I should have put some lace on there at least! Hmmm. Maybe I'm just getting lazy in my old age. If I can find some time I may go back and add something. Well, regardless of how plain it is, the envelope will keep the linens in this set together in the hope chest, while allowing one to easily see what's inside. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tutorial: Scalloped Net Crochet Edging

I especially like this scalloped net crochet edging for a kitchen hand towel. It has become one of my go-to edgings because it looks a little bit fancy, but is still quite easy and quick. This simple pattern makes a very nice edge on a pillowcase as well.

Kitchen towel
#10 size crochet cotton (I used DMC Cebelia for this project)
Size 7 (1.65 mm) steel crochet hook (USA)
Tapestry needle

Begin by marking the foundation on the towel. This edging has 5 rows, an odd number, so you can mark and begin with the right side of the towel facing you. I usually put the marks 3/8-inch apart. I made a simple cardboard template to help me mark. It is much easier to see than a ruler. Use a marking pen with removable or disappearing ink. You will want to have an even number of spaces across the towel. Depending on the total width of the piece, you may need to adjust the width of the spaces so that you come out even.

Push a hole through the edge of the towel with an embroiderer's awl. Push the awl through the holes and keep ahead of your crochet about 6 or 7 holes. If you make too many hole at once, they will just close before you can get to them. No use wasting your time. If your towel has a looser weave in the hem, you may not have to use an awl. Sometimes you can just push the hook through the fabric at the mark. There are also special "sharpened" crochet hooks that you can use to pierce the fabric as well. Since I have an awl, I use it.

Foundation Row: Cast on in the first mark at the right side and chain 3. Put a (sc, ch 4) in each hole across the front of the towel, ending with a sc in the last mark at the left edge of the towel. Chain 2 and turn.

Row 1: Sc in the first ch-4 space. Ch 4. (Sc, ch 4) in each ch-4 space across, ending with a sc in the last ch-4 space. Chain 3 and sc in the cast on stitch. Chain 2 and turn.

Row 2: Sc in the first ch-3 space, ch 4. (Sc, ch 4) in each ch-4 space across, ending with a sc in the last ch-2 space. Ch 2 and turn.

Row 3: Sc in first ch-2 space. Ch 4. (Sc, ch 4) in each ch-4 space across, ending with a sc in the last ch-2 space. Ch 2 and turn.

Row 4: Sc in the first ch-4 space. *Make 7 dc in the next ch-4 space. Sc in the next space. Repeat from * across to the last ch-2 space. Sc in this last space and fasten off.

Weave in the ends. I use a tapestry needle to weave down the stitches of the end rows.

At the bottom of the stitches I push the needle into the towel and along the hem of the towel for about four to six inches and then bring the thread up out of the towel.

Then I pull it a little to create some tension and clip the thread so that it pulls back into the hem of the towel. This creates a "lost thread" in the hem and I don't have to worry about it.

 The finished edging is pretty don't you think?

If you like this edging, you may also like my "Posies Edging" tutorial. Posies is also scalloped, but the scallops are smaller and more shallow. The overall look is a bit more blocky.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hope Chest Interview: Rozann Thoelke

In a second post to celebrate Women's History Month, I want to introduce you to Rozann Thoelke, a faithful reader of the blog who had a hope chest as a young woman. I have such a curiosity about how this hope chest tradition worked in the lives of other girls. Rozann graciously consented to answer a long list of my questions about her hope chest and her feelings about that activity. I hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I did! Thank you so much Rozann!

Q – How were you introduced to the concept of a hope chest?
A – My mother had a beautiful Lane cedar chest that she had used as a hope chest before she got married, and as a repository for keepsakes after she got married. I grew up with the idea that we girls (I have a sister seven years older) prepared for marriage and homemaking by saving things in a chest.

Q – Did you take to the idea?
A – Yes! I wanted to be a wife, mother, and homemaker for as long as I can remember.

Q – When did you begin actively working on your hope chest?
A – I never really actively made or gathered things for my hope chest until I was in my late teens when I began to have my own money. Before that it was simply an idea that before I got married I would put away things I might need to keep nice until I needed them.

Q – During the time you worked on your hope chest, were any of your friends or other girls in the community actively working on a hope chest?
A – Not really. Most of my girlfriends were more actively working towards going to college. Marriage was something they wanted, but it was after they had done many other things. I graduated from high school in 1975 so this was the era of “women’s lib” and breaking off the shackles of being stuck at home as a housewife.

Q – Was there a feeling of support from friends? Was there any friendly rivalry?
A – No we didn’t make things together, if fact, I sort of downplayed the fact that I didn’t want to go to college or have a career, other than the career of homemaker, so there was no rivalry, but there was sometimes good-natured teasing about my desires.

Q – Can you remember the time that the idea of hope chests waned and then disappeared from your community? Why do you think it became less valued?
A – As I mentioned previously, I came of age during the seventies. My older sister was probably the last generation to have hope chests. She graduated in 1968, and I remember many of her friends also had hope chests, but I don’t know that any of mine did. I believe that the interest waned as the idea of marriage and family was denigrated and the idea of college and careers for women took over. Which is a sad thing, because whether or not we marry, we still make a home, and have a need of linens, dishes, etc.

Q – What was your motivation for working on a hope chest?
A – My goal in life was to marry and raise a large family. I knew from growing up in such a family (six children, not large except by the world’s standards) that I would need things. I knew from seeing my sister get married (at age 19) that many things are given as gifts at the wedding, so I wasn’t very worried about not having things, but I wanted to be prepared regardless.

Q – How did you stay motivated?
A – Well, the fact that it is called a “hope” chest gives a clue. I called the things I gathered and made my “articles of faith”. I didn’t marry until I was thirty, so it took a lot of faith to believe that God would bless me with the righteous desires of my heart. I served a mission and experienced living in an apartment or trailer with the barest of necessities and knew that I didn’t want to live like that when I had my own place. When I was about 25 I moved out of my parent’s home and lived on my own. This was when I truly began gathering things. Some I used immediately and some I saved for later.

Q – Did you have a plan or method behind your work?
A – Heavens no! I didn’t really have anyone to guide me. My mother didn’t have a plan so she simply gave me things occasionally. I gathered and made rather haphazardly.

Q – If you had a plan, did you feel like your hope chest was “completed” or did you run out of time?
A – I actually burst out laughing when I read this question. I didn’t run out of time by any means. I do regret not having a plan, because when I finally did get married and began a family I discovered huge gaps, and a difference in teen/young adult fantasy vs. family realities.

Q – What kinds of things did you include in your hope chest?
A – I had some kitchen linens such as dish towels, hot pads, place mats, a couple of bath towels (which are still being used!), table cloths, an apron, dishes, stainless silverware set (I know that sounds contradictory, but you know what I mean), Tupperware, serving bowls, juice carafes, cookbooks, and such. (I can’t remember everything.)

Q – Can you remember the first thing you made, and do you still have it?
A – Yes, and yes. The first thing I made was in Primary, if you remember the cross stitched sampler that says “I will bring the light of the gospel into my home.” That was the first thing I made and I still have it. The next year we learned how to knit and I have the first two little things I made, a hot pad and a coin purse. 

 Q – Describe the actual chest. Was it big enough? What did you use for excess?
A – My parents have several gifting traditions, one of which is giving a Lane cedar chest as a high school graduation present. We got to choose the style and they bought it. I chose a very plain, un-ornamented chest. I used it for all my linens. The dishes, etc. I kept in boxes in a closet. If I had been collecting what I truly needed, the cedar chest would not have been big enough. Nowadays I use Sterilite plastic totes to store things in, such as out of season clothes, bedding, and such. Those totes would be perfect for a hope chest.

Q – If you had to buy an actual hope chest now, what would be the most important factor in your choice?
A – I prefer timeless, or classic furniture styles. My mother’s hope chest is very typical of her era, as is my older sister’s; but I don’t think mine can be dated. It is simple and classic. We are using it currently to hold our flatscreen TV. Works great! The most important factor would be thinking of how you would use the chest later. I actually have two cedar chests, the second one was purchased second hand from a girl who was selling things to go to graduate school. I use both of them to store important fabric (sewn or knit or quilted) keepsakes and heirlooms.

Q – Where did you find resources, such as patterns, materials or supplies to help your efforts at creating items for your hope chest?
A – My mother was a great resource. She sewed, quilted, knit and did all sorts of interesting things. After I learned to knit she taught me how to make the bias knitted dishcloths, which she had learned from her mother. I had learned to sew in a summer class between seventh and eighth grades. My mother would buy me patterns and fabric and I would sew clothes with her helping me learn any new techniques. Occasionally I would use the scraps to make things like throw pillows. Mom bought flour in 25 lb. cloth bags and we used those bags to make dish towels. I learned to crochet from a boyfriend I had before I went on my mission. He had learned from a missionary companion of his who learned from his mother. When I got home from my mission I crocheted an afghan for my hope chest.

     Now I frequent thrift stores and buy up lovely things that others discard. I prefer real linen dish towels, and old fashioned embroidered dresser scarves and doilies. They can be had for next to nothing and I can enjoy beautiful handwork without actually doing the work! There is usually a tote full of yarn, many times full skeins, that can be used for projects. And if you’re looking for a way to save on fabric, here are my ways. Let the ladies at church know you are looking for fabric. Many times older women, the older grandmas, no longer sew but still have a substantial stash that they are willing to share with someone who will put it to good use. Look at the thrift stores, not only for “fabric”, but at the bed and table linens; I look for 100% cotton sheets, and 100% cotton flannel sheets (for use in making pjs, or quilts). I’ve used cloth shower curtains for table cloths, and sheets for curtains, placemats, pillow cases, and lots of other things. I’ve also used a lovely tablecloth with a hole in it to make wonderful damask cloth napkins. I think thrift stores are a treasure house of materials to be used, reused, recycled, or upcycled.

Q – Did you have any support for your efforts? I’m thinking in terms of learning skills, financial help with supplies or even outright gifts from other people.
A – In addition to what I said previously (above), my parents gave me a complete twelve place setting set of fine china when I was eighteen, to be stored until I got married, as it was a wedding present. We lived in San Diego, a naval base, and knew men in the Navy who traveled to Japan on assignment. Buying the set in Japan was about a third of the cost so she had someone get her a set, my older sister a set, and then me a set. At one time I received a small inheritance from an unmarried uncle, my mother’s brother; with that money I bought a couple of pieces of furniture. One was a beautiful curio cabinet, about five feet high. It was unfinished so my dad helped me choose a stain and finish the cabinet. I used that to hold all my pretty serving dishes and souvenirs from my travels. I loved that piece of furniture! Unfortunately, it didn’t survive our four sons. The curved glass in the door and one of the sides got broken and would have cost more to replace than I had paid for the piece originally. We were not able to afford that extravagance so I got rid of it during one of our moves. (My husband served 26 years active duty in the Marines.)

Q – Were any of your skills self-taught?
A - No, as I said before, my mother was very accomplished in all the needle arts and she taught me many things. Along the way I’ve also learned or perfected skills from other women in Relief Society. Currently I see a dearth of homemaking skills practiced and taught to the younger generations. It makes me sad; and sometimes worried about who our sons will marry. I really want our grandchildren raised by a mother who knows how to be a homemaker.

Q – Did you use the items in your hope chest? Were you reluctant to use any of them?
A – Yes! I have used all the items in my hope chest. Although I will admit that for some years I was reluctant to use some of my prettiest pillow cases that were gifts or heirlooms. But I have come to the conclusion that things are made to be used and we can’t take them with us so we might as well enjoy them and get full use out of them. I have used the items in my home to beautify it and make it a welcoming place.

Q – Which item were you most proud of creating or acquiring?
A – I don’t know if I can answer what I’m most proud of; I can say what I’ve used the most or has been most useful to me. I bought two large bath sheets at a mill outlet in North Carolina on a trip through there when I was 19. We have used those bath sheets the entire 27, almost 28 years of marriage. I wish I’d bought more of them! I also have regularly used some glass serving bowls and a set of luncheon or dessert plates that I bought at a “Princess Glass” home party when I was about 18.

Q – Did you ever have a negative feeling or experience related to your hope chest? How did you overcome that challenge?
A – I mentioned some teasing, by both my brothers and some of the girls at church. I just ignored them and quietly went on my way. I knew that someday God would answer my prayers to be married and have a family and I was going to be ready for that day.

Q – Can you identify ways having a hope chest helped you?
A – I think the biggest help was in focusing on showing God, by my works, that I had faith that I would marry and have a family. Faith without works is dead, and I wanted to show God that I had faith in His promises to me (in a Patriarchal blessing) that I would someday marry and be a mother. Secondarily, I learned skills of sewing, knitting, etc. that have blessed our family. I watch girls who are so involved with sports and other activities that they neglect preparing to be homemakers. In twenty seven years of marriage I have never once needed to know how to play a sport; but I have needed to put meals on the table three times a day, every day! And I’ve needed to know how to sew to make the Halloween costumes our children have requested over the years. I’ve needed the skills to make items for our use rather than buying them to be able to live on one income and be a true homemaker, the maker of a home.

     I do wish I’d begun with a specific plan, rather than the catch as catch can way I did things. I wish I’d put together half a dozen twin sized quilts, simply because by the time I had children who needed them we were homeschooling, and, unfortunately, unable to afford the time, space and materials necessary to make them. We had to make do with a hodge podge of bedding. I wish I’d made a dozen aprons, since I wear them every day. I will say this, though; tastes change. The colors, patterns, and styles I liked as a teen no longer appealed to me by the time I got married at age thirty. And who can foresee what color tiles are going to be in your kitchen or bath in twenty years? I think you are so wise to be providing Abigail with a variety of colors to work with. I wish I’d had that foresight.

     Another thing I wish I’d collected before I left home was the favorite family recipes. I had to spend a lot on long distance (in the olden days!) calling my mom to get a recipe or planning ahead and writing to her.

     One last thing. It is true that we are not all alike. My one daughter (almost 27) has never been interested in the homemaking arts like I was. She doesn’t sew or knit, she does a little bit of crochet in the form of a single stitch afghan. She isn’t interested in much cooking, though she loves to eat. Although she knows how to clean, she isn’t very diligent about it, always finding something more to her liking to do. I love her immensely, but have to accept that she just isn’t like me. She has other interests, strengths and desires.

Rozy was born and raised in San Diego, California. She served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tallahassee, Florida (1979-1980). Worked, traveled, and attended college until she met and married a Marine in 1988. They have five children, one daughter, age 26, and four sons, ages 25, 22, 19, 17. Rozy has traveled to 44 states and seven foreign countries. She has been a wife, mother and homemaker for the past (almost) 28 years. Besides her children, her personal accomplishments include having a story published in The Friend magazine, and speaking at a BYU Women’s Conference. She loves to read, sew, cook, knit, create, and encourage her children, who are now adults and among her best friends.

Rozy didn’t have a plan for her hope chest, or as she called it, her articles of faith, rather put things away as she acquired them, including linens, dishes, kitchen gear, and children’s books.

Thanks again Rozy!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: The Emotional Benefits of Crafting

I've known for some years that crafting helps me emotionally. I don't think I've ever mentioned on this blog that I've struggled with depression and anxiety in my life. It started with postpartum depression when I had my first baby and just never went away entirely. Thankfully, it seems to come and go in long cycles, so I do get something of a break off and on, but it has been a regular struggle. I've learned how to manage depression better as I mature, but whatever eases my soul and calms my anxious mind is a blessing and crafting has been like a miracle to me.

Although I may not have talked about my depression, I have talked about my need for creativity. Some time ago I wrote in this post: "My mother is the single most important creative influence in my life. She expressed her artistry constantly in our home. She always had some music playing -beautiful, rapturous music, like Rachmaninoff, that just made my soul soar. All the pretty things around me were the work of her hands. Things like the painted kitchen cupboards, my hand-sewn dresses, the living room drapes, the watercolors on the wall, the artful arrangement of knick-knacks on the lamp table, the flower garden and even the molded Jello were all the result of her constant effort to bring beauty into our lives. She always had a project of some kind going and one project just bubbled constantly into the next. With such an example, I could not help but be creative myself!

We all live a life of which beauty is a part. While we are all not named as artists, each of us responds in some way to that which is beautiful. Many of us see a necessity of keeping beauty around us. Vibrant color, fascinating form and designs, exciting textures and patterns seem to fill some part of our soul. In my mind an artist is simply one who makes beauty visible (and certainly audible or tactile) and thereby holds onto the beautiful for a little longer"
I still feel this way and crafting is the vehicle by which I can make beauty visible

pages from my art journal

Crafting actually does even more for me than satisfy my creative urges. Scientists are beginning to understand the benefits of meditation and are coming to recognize that many crafting activities mimic the meditative process. Crafting is now a regular part of occupational and behavioral therapy. I know that I thoroughly enjoy when I reach the "zen" stage of crocheting or spinning wool. I love the slip of fiber between my fingers and the repetitive movement of my hands. It just calms me. My husband is a scientist and frequently needs to solve problems. He taught himself to knit because he wanted hand-made woolen socks, but he tells me that he keeps doing it because it helps him think through tough problems. When a meditative activity combines with a cognitive activity, such as counting and following a pattern at the same time, you've struck mental gold. It is really good for the brain.

Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi is a behavior psychologist whose studies focus on the "positive" human strengths of optimism, creativity, and intrinsic motivation. Anyone who has been depressed understands how important these functions are and struggles to maintain them. In an October 2008 TED Talk, Professor Csikszentmilhalyi describes something he calls "flow" -- that short intense period of time when we are so involved with something that we lose track of time. We are simply absorbed in the creative process. The professor says that during this time of creative flow, our mind feels as though it is involved in something important and that we are living more fully. This is the key to happiness, he says. I think I agree. Apparently the Buddhist monks, and others who practice and teach meditation, have known this for ages. The trick, of course, is to hit the flow at an appropriate time, and not when the family is waiting for supper!

Crafting also helps my depression when it gives me small successes. Many small successes add up to a feeling of empowerment to face larger challenges. I remember when I learned to crochet lace with thread. I really was proud of myself. To be able to create something so beautiful is a wonderful feeling. To be able to repeat the creation again and again and share it with others (and get their positive feedback) is a blessing. I still love it when my mother watches me crochet and comments on how beautiful it is. High praise indeed from such an important, talented woman in my life.

pages from my current smash book

Creative meditation and the mind/hand occupation that comes with crafting also offers me a way to self- regulate strong emotion and to cut off irrational thoughts. And it isn't a pharmaceutical drug, thank goodness! A number of years ago I had a particular responsibility that required me to attend meetings where discussions would often leave me soul weary and very cranky. After a time I started taking my crochet with me and weathered the criticism because I found that it would keep me calmer than when I had only a pencil in my hand. I thought better with my hands occupied and I was better able to keep my mouth shut as well. I find, even now, that when I am creating a page in my art journal or working in a scrapbook, crocheting a simple dishcloth, or looking through color cards, my thoughts are always more hopeful and I feel less chaos in my soul.

So, I want to encourage crafting. This is truly part of the reason I write the blog, not only to see my creative process in print, but to share and help others feel the joy of making something wonderful. In addition to Women's History Month, March is also National Crafting Month. And, if that were not enough to celebrate, March is also National Crochet Month, declared so by the Crochet Guild of America. I'm planning to fill the days this month on the blog with thoughts and projects about women, history and all sorts of crafting, particularly crochet. It will be a busy month here, starting tomorrow with a wonderful interview about a hope chest. I hope you will check back often.

Have any of you felt these same emotional benefits of creativity?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...