When I look back at my life growing up, I can see the beginnings of my crafty, creative life. Being both immigrants, my mom and grandma knitted, crocheted, and sewed out of necessity and frugality. My mom even worked as a seamstress.
My Paw Paw, maternal grandmother, lived with us, and I remember watching her crochet blankets for us and our friends. Now she didn’t use any fancy, nice soft yarn. We had a next door neighbor who worked at a warehouse and would bring home damaged samples of all kinds of merchandise. We got free clothing, shoes, stuffed animals – all kinds of stuff, including yarn. For many years, we had all this bright pink yarn, and my grandma would crochet away, creating all these blankets and afghans as gifts.
I remember for the longest time, my mom had this red sweater she was forever trying to complete. It started out as a sweater for me. When I outgrew it, it became a sweater for my brother. Then he outgrew it, and my mom never completed it.
All this knitting and crocheting did rub off on me, and my mom finally gave me a pair of knitting needles – pink, no less. She and my grandma showed me how to bind on and knit, first in garter stitch and then in stockinette stitch. I would knit row after row, but in my eight-year-old’s hands, the rows came out uneven. Some stitches would be loose, some would be really tight. Sometimes, I would drop a stitch; other times I would miraculously pick up an extra stitch. Needless to say, my resulting scarf/project ended up looking like a center aligned paragraph – lol!
I didn’t pick up my knitting needles again until more recently, as an adult. While I can say that my knitting has dramatically improved – my rows are even, except when I do the moss stitch – I still can’t knit anything beyond a scarf. And for some reason, I keep getting knots in my stitches! When I go to unravel my yarn, instead of just pulling the yarn continuously, I have to stop frequently because the yarn has knotted up, and I have to cut it. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing wrong. But I know I’ll eventually figure it out once I pick up my knitting needles again. Whether I ever become an advanced knitter is another thing, but I do enjoy the repetitive nature of knitting. There’s something so calming and dare I say – therapeutic – about it. I could just knit and not make anything definitive, and I would be happy. The same could probably be said about crocheting, although I have yet to pick it up and give it a try it. There’s something so mesmerizing watching that hook loop in and out and back and forth.
All the problems I’ve had with knitting only make me realize how remarkable my mom’s talents are. Ever since she was little, she has always been able to pick things up just by observation. That’s how she learned how to knit and sew – from watching others. She never had to take any classes; she was entirely self-taught. She sewed all our clothes for many years when I was growing up. At the time I didn’t appreciate all the work and effort she put into our clothing. I just felt embarrassed that a lot of my friends bought their clothes, while I had to wear handmade ones, even though my friends would marvel at my mom’s skill. Now as an adult, I can look back on all that and marvel at my mom’s frugality, creativity, and talents. It’s a shame she has never really explored her creativity to the fullest.
When I finally reconnected with my creativity as an adult and shared some of it with my mom, she confessed to me that she had considered starting a home business when my brother and I were little, creating doggie clothes. Imagine that, from someone who isn’t really even an animal person!
I guess my story in some ways reflects our culture’s feelings about handmade goods. We initially sewed our own clothing, made our own soap, and baked our own bread out of frugality. We drifted away from our handmade roots as our lives got more complicated and we embraced convenience. Now we’ve come full circle, back to our handmade roots because we see the value in creativity. It is a respite from our crazy, hectic lives. For a lot of us, handmade means one-of-a-kind, character, and soulfulness. We feel a part of the creator in each handmade item. What used to look quaint is now considered unique, and even hip.
What are your memories of creating from your childhood? Did you grow up in a creative home? Please share in the comments.