Learning to Craft

Learning to Craft

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When I saw the tweet from one of my friends who owns an LYS here in Edinburgh asking if anyone could teach cross stitch I thought, well why not? Granted it had been years since I last did any cross stitch, but I used to do a fair amount of it – I even found my alternative name spelling via a cross stitch book! (a post about that in the near future)

And so I met the lovely lady in a local quiet pub. She had brought along her project and I had brought some 14 count Aida cloth so that I could demonstrate. At the end of the almost 2 hours she was cross stitching competently, although still unsure of her abilities she can certainly perform the stitches and the back of her work was neat.

But that’s not what this post is actually about. This post is a result of the general conversations that we had in that session, conversations that made me realise just how amazingly lucky I have been.

You see, craft has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Mum would always include something crafty in our Christmas gifts, never made a fuss about it, just had the stitching kit or model or painting kit there. Part of Christmas was always starting a new project.

My paternal grandmother, was always crafting as well. I have a couple of pieces that she made that were framed by my grandfather and I have some happy memories of her helping me to complete the tapestry kit I had gotten for Christmas one year. I thought it was the most perfect piece of tapestry work ever completed, it was only many years later that I realised just how many mistakes there were!

Grandad made more than just frames, I remember “helping” him to design the brake system for my billy cart. I also remember the day that I decided that all I wanted in the whole world was a circular skirt. Mum helped me find fabric and then she set up the machine and left me to it. I figured the rest out myself with the occasional suggestion for improvement from Mum.

And that I think was a key. I was always encouraged to have a go and to figure things out and then when I needed help it was there for me, but Mum never would have done it for me and I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I couldn’t do something. The day I came home from school and announced that I wanted to learn to tat, Mum said she’d found it impossible but she never for a moment made me feel that I wouldn’t be able to do it. She handed me her shuttle and thread and then later gave me money to get pattern books and more threads once I’d taught myself the flip.

I was lucky in that by crafting from such a young age I was able to draw on skills learnt whenever I picked up a new craft, which in turn made it easier to learn those. The result of all of this is not only a lifelong love affair with making stuff, but also a good grounding in how to follow instructions, how to pay attention to what I’m doing so that I can undo it, and also an innate belief in my own abilities to pick up anything that I want to and not just craft. If I’ve ever had difficulty with a craft I’ve just put it down and come back to it later, I’ve never ever for a moment considered that I was too stupid to understand, it was always a case of not the right time.

And this belief in my own abilities to do stuff and to figure stuff out is what allowed me to move to the other side of the world before Facebook existed. It also allowed me to have friends and contacts all over the world and gave me an appreciation of cultures that would be hard to get from just reading books. Crafting also gives you an appreciation for the journey, it’s as much about the process as it is about the end result – you learn to stop and smell the roses and to appreciate the details.

Of course I was lucky enough to have patient teachers who allowed me to explore and make mistakes. The worst thing you can do with a student who is having trouble “getting it” is to tell that person that it’s their fault – if you know your stuff you should be able to re-explain from a different perspective and help that person to understand what they need to do. And then there’s YouTube. On one hand it’s brilliant as it gives access to so many instructional videos, but then again there’s so many really bad ones too – another post coming up soon on that topic!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to teaching Katja to do all sorts of crafts, and looking forward to the self confidence that this will give her, not to mention the future filled with beautiful things, self-reliance and amazing friends and maybe even a career if that’s what she wants.