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Naughty patterns like this might just inspire me to pick up the needle again.

Some thoughts on breaking out of a creative funk.

 

Confessions of a Former Cross-stitcher: How I gave up the needle and found myself again

by Jan

In my heart, Iíve always been a crafty gal. When I was seven, I made a 3D paper sculpture named "Boxbird" out of cubes and cones that I had crafted from some scraps. I spent hours making paper houses and furniture for him. Later, in junior high, I taught myself to knit, designing my own pattern to create a sweater as my first project. And in my sophomore year of high school, I made a different pair of earrings for each and every day.

As a kid, anything was fair game for art. We made crazy collages with pictures cut out of my mom's old magazines. The unfinished wall in my brother's room became a perpetual mural/graffiti project. I never sat down to watch TV with the folks without my current paper craft project and my mother's "good scissors" in hand. Even in high school, where craftiness wasn't exactly encouraged, I made a dress of dishtowels, a bracelet of bobbins, added artful 1980's paint splashes to my shirts, and made drastic monthly changes to my hairdo as an ongoing project.


I relegated my craftiness to evening hours spent finishing one more row on the floral pillow top I was crafting.


But when my twenties took hold, my craftiness took a strange turn. I focused my efforts almost exclusively on cross-stitch. I counted off the little x's that made up Christmas ornaments, replicas of medieval tapestries, and even a few hopelessly cutesy animal scenes. All of my freeform make-something-out-of-nothing spirit was stifled and instead I spent my hours following a rigid grid, not daring to vary a stitch, let alone a color, lest the end product turn out in a less-than-perfect way. When folks remarked on my creativity, I scoffed at my own efforts. What idiot couldn't follow directions?

When I think back to that decade of my life, I am horrified at the amount of time I wasted trying to live up to someone else's standards. Outside of the creativity-less crafting, I adjusted my wild attire to a sort of quirky conservative. I grew out my hair and permed it, as was the accepted style. I left my crazy job in radio promotions for a "real job" in a rigidly corporate company with a dress code. And I relegated my craftiness to evening hours spent finishing one more row on the floral pillow top I was crafting for Mom. That was a confusing time, what with finishing school, trying to figure out how to find a good job, getting married, buying a house, and taking on more and more responsibility. Seeking out instructions for everything, whether from books or just conventional wisdom, seemed to make sense. With everything else out of control and chaotic, there was comfort in following simple, recommended guidelines to achieve a promised outcome. Stitching row after row of identical x's became a soothing addiction. Living up to expectations, following directions--it's all the same after a while.

It's killing me to admit this, but I couldn't get back to creating for creating's sake until a book instructed me to do so. A friend kept talking about Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way," and how great it was. When she gifted me with a copy, I gave in and followed the prescribed twelve-week program designed to get me living more creatively. And what do you know? The darn thing worked! I started making collages and drawing little cartoons. And I emerged from crafting solitary confinement to get together with my fellow craftygals to cross-stitch and critique all things pop-culture.

From our stitching circle grew a writing circle and from that grew our website. We were tired of looking at crafting magazines that depicted perfectly coiffed women in their pristine homes doing neat and tidy crafts. We wanted to see girls like us making stuff out of old tin cans, using power tools and living messy, interesting lives. So, in true crafty spirit, we decided to do it ourselves.


I'm following my own interests and allowing inspiration to strike as it will, just like I used to do back before my own era of self-imposed exile from creative pursuits.


Starting the website forced me to look at the world in a whole new light. Any old junk lying around is the basis for a potential craft. I have no qualms about approaching craftswomen and asking for interviews. After years of following recipes, I'm cooking up my own. I'll say it often and I'll say it loud--I'm crafty and I'm proud!

Making up each issue of craftygal as we go along has reminded me that following directions isn't always the best way to get things done. I'm following my own interests and allowing inspiration to strike as it will, just like I used to do back before my own era of self-imposed exile from creative pursuits. Once again, I'm inspired to seek out new experiences, to go to new places, ad to try new crafts.

So, what are the lessons I've learned during my journey toward re-discovering my inner craftiness? First, being crafty is an important part of everyday life. And second, if you've lapsed into the creativity doldrums, please follow these simple steps to get back on track: 1. Go start a new project. 2. Donít follow the directions.

 

 


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