Craft and Creativity

When I said that there is overlap in my Ideal Life Themes, I was not kidding.

I have found that, for example, as way to channel my hormonal rage, the sound of the sewing machine and the act of tearing something apart and sewing it back together again are therapeutic.

At the same time, in part as a spiritual exercise but also as a personal style challenge, I made a decision to buy no clothes this year and see what it would look like if I let God provide: either new clothes, or hand-me-downs or ideas to refashion and tailor my existing closet so that I love everything in it.

Simultaneously, I don’t want to waste anything if I can avoid it.

Finally, I want to set an example of frugality, resourcefulness and industriousness for my scalawags.

Craft and Creativity is right there at the overlap on the Venn Diagram of the categories of Mental Health, Spiritual Life, Personal Style, Ecology and Parenting.

Maybe she’s born with it…

“Nature or nurture?” This is a question my indulgent husband and I used to ask about our first cat. She was the sweetest, most delicate, most snuggly little thing. She had no faults in our eyes. We wondered, from the depths of our childless freedom, whether it was just her personality, or if the way we cared for her helped turn her into this little pile of whipped cream.

I watched a TED Talk by researcher Yuko Munokata recently that made the case that how we parent makes less difference than we actually think it does…(thus liberating all parents (ourselves and our own parents!) from some of the responsibility about who we become.

This TED Talk has had me thinking all kinds of thoughts lately, but most germane to our topic today, that there must be a crafting gene.

I am extraordinarily thankful to my mother who set the example for me from a very very young age about the critical importance of making time to be creative. “Figuring something out” in a sewing project to her is like doing crossword puzzles to others. I know it keeps her sharp. The day she stops telling me she found something “she wants to try” is the day I will start worrying about her!

Some of my favorite Gigi (my paternal grandmother) memories happened around a sewing machine, her telling me stories about some of the insane things she did in her youth. Gigi was like me: a winger. She was never one to hesitate before cutting… “Measure twice?” she would guffaw as she brandished her pinking shears. “Whoever said that had no self-confidence!”

My father has always been an avid woodworker, not to mention he has the eye for beautiful things. He, on the other hand, doesn’t have the “fly by the seat of his pants” gene to the same degree Gigi and I. He was engineer, after all. But still, He can make something out of nothing, and I admire this trait.

That fine line…

Lest I go off on one of my crazy rants about spirituality, I will carefully filter most of it out to say this: The God I believe in is a creative God, who made something out of nothing. He stood back at the end of each day of creation and said, “Wow. That’s good stuff I just made!”

Therefore, I can be confident that not only is the creativity that bubbles up in me is something that is genetic, it is something that makes me, in this tiny but not insignificant way, like God.

Learning to live with the ebbs and flows of my creative process has been critical. Remembering that God also took a day off to rest when he was done with his creative project means that, if suddenly all my urge to create leaves me, I don’t panic. It’s just that I need to rest.

Also, I have memorized my favorite passages of Living with a Creative Mind, a revolutionary perspective and help for surviving being a creative person in a world that doesn’t always get creative people.

Useful, frugal, resourceful

I have attended my fair share of craft shows with my mother. Not to buy, no, no, no…but to see what ideas other people have.

My mother inevitably would turn to me and say, in a hushed voice so that the lady at her stand wouldn’t hear, “I could make that…” And inevitably, my mother would go home and figure it out.

Learning to put time, energy and resource into things that will make your own life and the that of others you love better through useful projects is absolutely heavenly.

Case in point: during the height of the COVID crisis, my mother made facemasks for everyone she knew from the beautiful fabric in her stash. This was useful, helpful and creative.

A friends’ mother had been decluttering terrycloth towels and had a brilliant idea to cut them into cute little rounds, bind them with pretty fabric and make cute little reusable eye-makeup removers. She gave all of us these little rounds for Christmas.

This inspired me to do the same with some old towels, too. Now, in my house, we do the dishes with upcycled terrycloth bathrobes and bathtowels instead of sponges. We have been doing this for six years and honestly, I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner.

Use what you have:

The need to create is so strong, it sometimes leads to unexpected decisions. What could I do with this men’s sweater that my neighbor had planned to trash? I had to do something, in part just for the process of taking something apart and trying something new. I had seen a few Instagram accounts I follow wear fashion daredevils turned their dresses into maxi-skirts. I thought I would try it. Sure, the stripes weren’t going to lend themselves to being a skirt, but I am all about stripes these days…

I stuck my feet through the neck hole and pulled the waist band up. And I’ll be. This might just be something! I thought to myself. It was super cool, the way the stripes met up under the armpit, so I chopped off the sleeves to take advantage of that detail (seen best on the third photo.) To make up for the v-shaped neckline, I cut the sleeve in half long ways, leaving the seam intact, giving me a kind of chevron…I macgyvered it into place and it literally made a little mermaid skirt.

After wearing it once, I had to take in the waist band quite a bit…but I absolutely love this skirt.

Another one?

More than happy to oblige:

There was nothing wrong with this polka dot top. I just never wore it. I mean, I know why I never wore it: One, I was irrationally irritated with how the polka dots were lined up better down the middle center of the top (why did I buy it then? Because it was cheap and served its purpose. I was post-partum with my second and my body needed something to not cling to the belly. This did the trick.

I chopped off the bottom edging, to use it as a middle section between the “bodice” and the “peplum” (two of my favorite refashioning vocabulary words); I cut the bodice down the middle front seam between those irritating-too-aligned-for my-taste polka dots; from the peplum, switched around the three pieces, sewed it all back together and sewed down the new neckline. I added a snap to close it and a little black ribbon, because I had one in my stash.

In my Ideal Life I am a person who:

  • Uses my creativity in productive ways
  • Inspires other people to get creative
  • Creates meaningful, useful objects out of otherwise condemned or unused things
  • Reuses elastic, snaps, buttons, ribbons, wrapping paper, holed socks…
  • Finds peace in the act of creating
  • Is always learning new techniques
  • Always has a project on the burner to turn to when life gets to be too much
  • Proudly says “Yeah. I made it.”
  • Does not buy supplies for which I don’t have an immediate purpose

The Ideal Life Exercise:

What is working? can be answered by ticking off any number of completed projects or repairs I have accomplished. It can also be about a fun activity I found to do with my littlins (painting can be fun under the right circumstances!)

What isn’t working? is usually like my wildcard…if something isn’t working, it’s that I am taking this all too seriously. I say that, but then, I did have a period there where my sewing machine literally wasn’t working. I got a new one. It feels so good to have problems with easy fixes!

Things to consider is usually a series of screen shots of outfits I have seen that I am inspired by. Things to do is usually related to little finishing details, like “trim threads on…” or “finish the hem on…” or “vacuum the Boudoir” (where my sewing machine lives.)

Conclusion

There are themes which have their fingers in plenty of the big beautiful cherry pie that is our Ideal Life. For me, Crafting and Creativity is one of those.

I would encourage you to invest yourself in some kind of creative endeavor. It doesn’t have to be sewing (although it is incredibly useful!). Something that will help you feel like you are making something out of nothing and that will help keep your stuff out of landfills.

In my Ideal Life, I can make something out of nothing.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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