Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Crafty Thing, You

I have been absent and I am sorry! I have been putting more of my creative energy into knitting than into writing this week. I'm going on an extended vacation in June and I have a lot of projects I want to finish up.

It doesn't happen often, but yesterday I was working on something and I said to myself, I said, "Self? What this project needs is some sequins."

See what you did right there? You judged me! I felt it!

I swear, I don't go for the old sequin box very often, but I needed to yesterday. (It was for a present, so I'll post pics after it has been - um - presented - then you'll see how much better it is with sequins. I swear.)

But I didn't take a break from my knitting to defend my use of a sequin now and then. I took a break to tell you about my sequin box.

My Aunt Mimi was an old-school crafter. She always had a project going. She taught me to crochet when I was seven (and I am eternally grateful). She always let me help with whatever the craft d'jour was. When I visited her, I never knew if we'd be weaving yarn flowers on a loom, or sticking sequins into styrofoam fruit, or dipping wire frames into melted plastic to make flowers - whatever the next new craft was, she was into it. It was all extraordinarily tacky, but tacky crafts and seven year olds were a pretty good fit, so it worked for me. For us.

As she aged and her fingers became stiff and sore, she would bring me the projects she wanted to make and I would make them for her. Chunky shawls and afghans crocheted with acrylic yarn. She wanted them for herself and she wanted them to give as gifts. By then, that was no longer my thing, but it was what she knew. It was what she wanted. So I'd put aside my natural fibers and my delicate needles and make - exactly what you probably picture when you hear crocheted shawl...

Years later, I was selling baby items in a juried craft show and chatting with the woman next to me who did beautiful rustic paintings on old barn wood. She said she hated when people asked her what she did without seeing her work, because just the words conjured up images of blocks of wood that said "I Heart Country". I told her to imagine what it felt like to tell people you crocheted... She said, "Oh! I see your point! Acrylic afghans and dishrags!" Yep. (Oh, and in case you're wondering? I'm not above making a dishrag now and then. They are very practical and are a nice "traveling project". Just sayin'.) But we both lamented the stereotyped treatment our crafts had been subjected to and cheapened by. We both felt the need to defend what we actually did. That was a little snobby of us. But we found it necessary.

'Cause when you hear crafter? Well...

I swear I've never made a cozy for toilet paper rolls.

Ahem.

Back to my sequin box.

(See? You thought I'd forgotten... sooner or later the shiny, sparkly sequins were bound to bring me back...)

When my Aunt Mimi passed away - over twenty years ago, now - I was given her sewing box. The aforementioned sequin box. Because I mentioned her love of all things tacky, right? This box has been a treasure trove of adornments for me for the past couple decades. There are all manner of shiny things encased in this box. There are, of course, sequins - in every color and many shapes and sizes. There are little bits of shiny ribbons and ric-rac. There are mismatched buttons and needle threaders from the 50's still in their original packaging. There are wee handpainted doll heads. (I hate to even imagine what her plans were with those...) And there are handwritten patterns for those afghans and shawls. Those afghans and shawls that I hated to make and that I thought tainted my craft with tackiness... yep - I treasure those handwritten patterns.

So yesterday, when I opened my sequin box to finish off a project, apparently I opened up a lot more than just a box.

I should use sequins more often.

11 comments:

Pam said...

I've never been much of a "crafty" person. I just don't seem to have the patience for it. But I'm impressed that you have participated in a juried show! Wow! I knew you liked to knit, but I didn't realize how serious you are about it. I'm in awe!

I love the story of your relationship with your Aunt. What great memories and how lucky for you growing up. I can completely understand how special her sequin box is to you.

When my grandmother died I got her giant sewing box and her button tin She wasn't much of a sewer, but she had this great tiered box full of treasures. Some still in their original (1950s) packaging. A real treasure chest!

Housewife Savant said...

You even make stories of "In my day..." sound rocktastic.

My throat closed a little when I read "extended vacation in June." You WILL be blogging, won't you? SAY YOU'LL BE BLOGGING...?

Knitting and crocheting are now cool, thanks to Martha's jailtime.
I admire and envy your skill, though not enough to learn a new trick, being an old dog 'n all.
Old enough to conjure up images of acrylic shawls and afgans. I shudder.

... and I wonder if your Auntie had you making poodle cozies for her gin bottles...

Gibby said...

OMG! Those sequined fruits were all over my great-grandma's AND my grandma's house!! I loved them. I haven't thought about those things in forever. The same goes for my great-grandma. Thanks for stirring up that memory. (Another reason I love your blog.)

Anyhow, I took up knitting a couple of years ago and produced a few scarves. I stopped when we got our puppy because he attacked the yarn all the time. Oh, and then I started blogging. But I digress. Anyhow, during my knitting phase I went to one of those outdoor art fairs and there was a booth with a knitter, and her sign had her name and her art, which was:

Jane Smith
Fiber Artist.

How cool is that? So, Tammy Howard, you are not a knitter, but a Fiber Artist!

mama-face said...

I have to tell you that when I saw the word "crafter" in your title I almost let out a little scream...and not a good type of scream. But your post actually left me a little teary eyed. My mom is/was the most wonderful crafter ever and now really the only thing she can do is knit. I'm going to wish I could knit in a few years. Can't wait to see the final product.

I am the anti-crafter. Which is so ironic being that crafts are basically our livelihood. ha.

Alex the Girl said...

I am so uncrafted that I don't even know whta a juried show is. I've tried, and tried again, but my friend the procrastinator always shows up and spoils my initiative.

My aunt was a mean old shrew that could piss off a nun if she wanted to with her crotchety self, but I loved her dearly. She loved to sew and was forever trying to teach me how to quilt. She went as far as to do the cut outs and send them to me. In honor of her passing, I actually got the quilt done. It took me a while, and it is really offset in width and length, but it is like having your box of sequins from your aunt, a constant reminder.

Ergh! June? Vacation? Extended?


Have fun...le sigh.

MiMi said...

Ok, first, are you gonna be able to blog from said vaca??? I hope so!
Second, I almost didn't do my post about crocheting becuase, seriously, it's embarassing, a little!
I know better, and I still conjure horrible pictures in my head when someone says "crochet." And...I'll admit...sequins. But! Somethings DO need sequins!!! They just do.
Can't wait to see your project.
You should see the craft basket I inherited from my grandma...I don't even know what some of it is!
Macey

Unknown Mami said...

I got totally excited when you mentioned sequins. I really think sequins have gotten a bad rap.

Deb said...

Oh, that fruit!!! My fingers still hurt from making apple sequin ornaments for my teachers in 5th or 6th grade. My mother was so strict about gaps. More, more, more were needed. I guess if you are going to do sequins right, you should just do it.

Noah's Mommy said...

how bout a sequined cozy for toilet paper rolls...LOVE this post...you had me at sequin box...thanks so much for coming by on my feature day...I'm so glad you did cause I love your blog

WhisperingWriter said...

Sequins can be a lot of fun.

I wish I were more crafty. As it is, I don't have the patience. But I'm always amazed at what other people can create.

MaryRC said...

i know what you mean about the piegon hole. most people think i work at a makeup counter or sell mary kay when they hear im a makeup artist.

i love your aunt, she reminds me of my grandma, im getting a little verclempt just thinking about it!