Aunt C learned crochet from a Presentation nun, which was to stand to her all her life. To my eight-year-old mind, she made spiderwebs and flowers and grasses come to life out of boring old mercerised cotton. Out of her hands came christening robes and tops and tablecloths, a wedding dress, a Communion dress four of us wore and loved. I didn’t think of what she made as fusty then, and I appreciate it on a whole other level now.

I look at the work of my friends who crochet- N, who made a Spiderman blanket and another N whose first crochet project was a triangular shawl in shades of berry and spice- and I see them in the same way. I cannot believe what they’ve done with that magical equation of yarn + time + hook. Crochet is not fusty. Crochet has beauty, timelessness, energy, elegance and even a sense of humour about it. And just like knitting or any other art form of the like, some use it to amazing ends (Aoibhe Ni, are your ears burning? They should be!) and others forget the helpful maxim, “just because I can, doesn’t mean I necessarily should”.

Recently, two people (one on crochet and the other on knitting) have misrepresented both, when a few minutes research would have uncovered the incredible resource that is Ravelry. Ravelry would’ve answered any questions they had, put a few myths to rest and everyone would’ve been happy. Oh well..

So, to review: plenty of people knit in Ireland, and crochet is about many things beyond doilies. I could go into much more detail- line by line refutation- but it strikes me that neither party is willing to listen, considering that one of them talked of being “misinterpreted” when offered her own direct quotes.

it’s bingo time!

September 19, 2011

Gentle readers, you will have to forgive me today. This may yet turn into a Force Seven rant, so I advise you to make sure those hatches are battened down, all small and easily excitable children and animals are seen to etc etc etc.

There are some attitudes to crafting (and indeed, those of us who do so) that I fail utterly to understand:

  • Craft is an anti-feminist, retrograde enterprise and women who craft are not feminist or are setting back the cause by doing so
  • People only craft/do things for themselves now because it is trendy, not out of any form of necessity, and they certainly didn’t grown up doing so
  • Most people who craft just make silly needless little tchotckes that are amateurish, poorly made and a waste of materials
  • Craft is a waste of time when you can buy everything readymade
  • People who craft do so because they aren’t capable of anything more high-minded/intellectual/worthwhile
  • Crafters are white, relentlessly middle-class trendy/hipsterish types

A few of these attitudes crop up in this article (published in the Observer yesterday), but the main one that caught my eye is that the last one mentioned. Those of us who craft *apparently* only do so because we are unwilling or incapable (mostly the latter but also both) of doing anything more serious. You know, worthwhile. Knocking out shapeless jumpers in front of the Late Late (oh, Fintan, such fail!) instead of reading, or running businesses, or.. well, something *useful*:

“But I am uncomfortable with the subtext to some of the more modish incarnations of doing things with your hands. Why do women want to embroider when they could be reading Hegel?”

This article is hardly the worst offender. It does hit the main knocking-craft bingos mentioned i.e. crafters waste their time making rubbish (“Why do people insist on bedecking their houses with homemade candles and old mirrors adorned by an inept mosaic frame, when all these things are clearly both hideous and slightly creepy?”), crafting is boring and takes a long time and is not usually worth the bother (“Luckily, I already have a scarf. I bought it with money I had earned by going to work instead of staying at home and making things.”) and aren’t people only doing it because it’s trendy? (the “modish” reference above) but it saves us most of the more sexist, classist and patronising assumptions and inferences, I suppose.

I’m not so thin-skinned that these attitudes upset me or put me off, but I find them desperately tired and boring. Change the record, please! I’ve no interest in trotting out my intellectual/’useful’ bona fides just to prove a point. I make things from necessity, because I love to do so, because of curiosity and largely because for me, a day without making things or experimenting is not my kind of day. My crafting kin have these reasons and more for what they do. We’re not represented in the prevailing narratives; we’re not bored and witless fashionistas, and neither do we pine for a time when women knew their place. We’re curious about the world, we love history, we love colour theory, we love the communal element of crafting and most of all, we love the satisfaction of something well-made, long-lasting and utterly, utterly unique.

a new broom

September 12, 2011

The alternate title for this post is, “What in the name of all that is good have I let myself in for?”

I’ve been Organising, you see. Gone are the days of my supplies being kept in a dizzying arrangement of tubs, tins & lunchboxes of beads, wool and papers; in their place is a sleek* new system. Operation New Broom has begun in earnest.

*may be exaggerating just a tad

This is what happens when one wakes on a Sunday morning, filled with what can be charitably described as “zeal”. Starting off, I thought I would be an unstoppable tea-fuelled force but I got a little sidetracked by memories on occasion. I have an odd talent; I can tell you where every single bead/finding/yarn/thread/paper/fabric/card etc I use came from and when I used it last. Not exactly something that’ll land me on Mastermind any time soon, but it meant that memories of my travels came flooding back yesterday. The howlite from Heidelberg, the delicate origami paper from Edinburgh, the handspun wool from Munich.. a heady day.

I’ll post photos and details of how I’ve managed it when it is all done but (of course!) there’s a while to go yet. Did you notice how I didn’t mention fabric above?

Apart from the obvious good effects of all this ONB lark, I’ve also come up with ideas for new work and have regained an appreciation for all that I have. Now, regular readers will know that I battle with the whole stash issue (and Twitterfolk will know all about #stashdown11), but going through all those packets of beads and reels of stringing made me all the more determined to keep ignoring the siren calls of sales & coupon codes for the next while.

I thought I might share something I’ve finished lately- something I’ve made for myself. Through the good offices of Himself aka Husband Elect, I got my hands on the most beeeyooootiful, squishable Malabrigo Silky Merino (scroll down to the end and look for Velvet Grapes) as part of the Ringsend Cowl kit from This is Knit.

It’s a beautifully simple knit, and while it turned out a little larger than I might have liked (possibly to my wimpish self only steam blocking it), that’s just an excuse to make a shawl pin (*hat tip to a certain Twitter Knitter*). This calls for those deep pinky-purple Czech beads I’ve been saving for that perfect project..

Anyway, take a shufti below. Isn’t this a great shot?

Ringsend Cowl- isn't she an aul' beaut?

Styling and photography by Julie of Half A Dream Away.

I plan to make it again, but this time in Purple Mystery. And yes, I’ll make another shawl pin..

hello there, 2011

January 4, 2011

After a New Year’s Eve involving a surfeit of my fizzydelicious poison (Club Orange with a chaser a’ tay, in the time-honoured fashion of my mid-wesht forebears), my thoughts on New Year’s Day were roughly along the following lines:

– Ugh. Is it possible to hear scraping sounds coming from your eyelids when you open your eyes first thing?

– Can’t be all bad. Haven’t I got that cardigan to finish?

Have a very crafty New Year, folks- over here it’s the Year of Craft and boy howdy, my crafting counterparts and I plan to make the most of it.

Have you any resolutions of a crafty bent? I don’t tend to make them, and the closest I have is to never have a day go by where I haven’t made something, learnt something new or both. I liked some of the ideas in this post from the Crochet Me blog. A new technique, perhaps? Is this the year I shall conquer tatting after all?

one of these days..

July 7, 2010

One of these days, I swear I will make a piece according to a pattern that I stick to, damnit.

That’s right- I decided to lengthen the Featherweight Cardigan. Why must I always fiddle with the perfectly good instructions, eh?

Gosh, it has been rather a while, hasn’t it?

In the interim, there was

– a schlep over to Berlin (the zoo! OMFG the petting zoo! With zombie sheeps!);

– a birthday (now we are 26- I am awaiting the Fairy Godmother of Maturity to come cosh me over the head aaaaaaaaaaaany minute now);

– a great deal of cake (and fruit and vegetables, Maman. Yes, I am eating my apple)

and

– beadswoolpaperinkhooksandneedlesnotionsthreadsembroiderysilk* *pant pant pant wheeeeeeeeeeeeze*

I need a little sit down after all that. In the meantime, all things crafty continue apace but with the latest load of feltables nearing completion, I am looking out for something I can knit for myself. (I know! I feel nearly guilty just typing that.) I have settled upon a pattern I found in Woman’s Weekly called ‘Pas de deux’. A ballet wrap, of all things, in such beautiful yarn: Bergere de France Cotons Nature (Platre on this page). It is not a colour I would normally choose, but for this pattern, it really works.

I have many a project queued on Ravelry right now (I’m watermemory there, but of course), but the prospect of the many, many yarn substitutions I will have to make in order to work on them is rather daunting. I’ve seen experienced knitters substitute yarn, and it usually goes like this:

[Wayne’s World-esque dream sequence moment]

Novice Knitter: “I trust my humble offering of bath salts and wrist pads will not go amiss, oh Experienced Knitter- I am in great need of your help.”

Experienced Knitter: *grumbles, grudgingly looks over the offerings* “Fine. What is it this time?”

NK: *bows head* “Yarn substitution.” *flails around, sobbing* “It’s hopeless! The original pattern calls for a yarn is dyed with the tears of year old goats and is a cotton/ polystyrene/ yak furball blend, produced in the US for precisely six weeks…”

EK: *in trance* “Yardage,  swatching, taking into consideration variables schmergedy mergedy and flim flam…”

*A low hum, seeming to come from the earth itself. The stash basket starts to glow with an eerie green light before spewing out a few skeins of yarn*

EK: “Ha! It is done. Tell no-one of what you have seen.”

NK: “Uh…” *scampers off with the new yarn, hides under table and whimpers*

Aaaaaand we’re back in the room. Now, all that remains is to wait for my delectable new yarn. Expect some photos of the thing in progress- but I’ll leave out the ones of me, wild-haired and cursing because I forgot to read ahead in the pattern..

*on a sesame seed bun? (You’re fired- Ed.)

The market returns tomorrow, so today has been a blur of findings, muffled curses (why oh why are crimps so liable to roll everywhere, damnit?) and lists. Oh my, the lists. In the flurry to get everything ready in time, I have realised that some of my working habits are here to stay.

– I need everything piled around me. I start off with a bare, pristine work surface, and it quickly becomes piled with strands of beads, pins, findings, buttons, bad sketches on the backs of envelopes. I have tried to fight it, loving the austere work spaces and processes of other artists, but it ain’t gonna happen.

– If I work with silence, music or a film, I tend to work differently. I today discovered Stereomood and to my delight, they have a mix entitled “Let’s Knit”! I’m tempted to put up a few mixes of my own. Music or silence is ideal for my more involved work- if I am doing routine piecework, then it’s box set time.

– I really, really like “One Nation Under A Groove”, and nearly did myself an injury jigging about the kitchen to it early. Note: hot, bubbling liquid and the shaking of one’s thóin do not mix.

– I may knit or crochet on the couch, but for needlework, beading or papercrafts I absolutely must be at a table. Weird.

Fingers crossed that the weather is with us tomorrow. We have endured some pretty tough conditions, but it would be lovely to have an easier start to the year this time.

P.S. Isn’t Mastercrafts so absorbing? Watching the episode on weaving at the moment.

Over here, Norma Smurfit is well known for her charity work, hosting events involving the great and the good for donkey’s years. I know that the whole area attracts bile and some fairly valid criticism by turns, but there is no denying that she is exceptionally good at what she does, and obviously feels passionately for the charities benefiting from her events.

Until today, I had no idea that she was involved with microfinancing. First Step does precisely that, offering loans between €5,000 and €25,000 to companies who have difficulties accessing conventional lines of business credit from banks. (And from what I’m hearing, that is a widespread problem lately.) Thank goodness for that, eh?

I looked at the application form, and in several ways I know that I would not be a right fit. Number of employees? One. Number of employees in twelve months? One. Yep, me. I do everything from tagging my bags to making the stuff to doing the promotion, and that’s how it will always be (barring some sort of major coup involving a crazed pack of celebs suddenly taking a liking to felted bags and crystal jewellery, that is).

So, I must ask the question (cue Carrie Bradshaw-esque voiceover and zoom into screen): Am I a crafter, or is this a business?

Perhaps this is a business for the following reasons:

– I act like a professional. I don’t dismiss my competition- I work to be as good and better. Instead of engaging in snarkfests or ‘borrowing’ other people’s ideas, I work hard to make my work distinctive and to come up with my own stuff.

– I have a big fancy shiny till and schtuff. (Joke. I have threatened to get one like this if I ever have a bricks and mortar shop, though, but that’s for another post.)

– I keep records and receipts for everything. It goes back quite a few years and includes entries like “tuppence ha’penny for receipt book and vegetable samosas for elevenses” ;).

But on meeting other crafters, I realise that they are just as professional as any business in the important things- serving customers, charging fair prices, keeping things professional, doing their absolute best. They (like me) just appreciate the flexibility of being able to work at their own times and at their own pace, from their kitchen table or a studio.

Like me, they are keenly aware of the best materials to use for x, what venues are the most suitable for selling, what particular types of goods sell better than others, their cashflow etc. They just feel that keeping things slightly less official (not illegal, mind you! We’re all tax compliant) is a better environment for their work to truly flourish.

crafter’s humour..

January 13, 2010

Very good post over on the Etsy forums: You are truly a crafter if

The scary bit is how many of them I recognised and agreed with in my own life, especially the beads at the bottom of one’s bag, the walk-barefoot-at-own-risk in my work area.. I wonder if there’s a twelve step programme out there?