The Craft Gene


I am not crafty.  I do not make stuff.  I do not create.  My home is not festooned with things that I have made.  I walk into Michael’s or JoAnn and I wander around like a zombie for twenty minutes and then I just give up and do the DIY Walk Of Shame back to my car, empty handed.  I have no interest in becoming a crafter, either, and I tend to make fun of those who are really into it.  The words “country crap-fest” are a part of my lexicon.

Growing up, this was a source of scorn in my family.  My mom was a serious crafter.  I have three crocheted afghans, an Amish quilt, and countless things she painted  in my home.  Seriously, there was a period of time in the late ’70s when no flat surface went unadorned by yellow glossy paint and orange rick-rack trim.  She put a lot of energy into cultivating this hobby with my sister and me.  Latchhook (omg do you remember latchhook?) rugs and pillows were our summer projects.  She would give me a size K crochet hook (I just had to google the sizing system, and K was the Big Fat one for noobs) and a remnant of yarn (usually in some brown/yellow/orange combination) and patiently sit with me while I painstakingly made three feet of awkward single or, in one blaze of glory, double chain stitches (again, googled to confirm terminology).  My entire body would clench up.  The yarn would be so tight around my hands that the end product appeared to be felted.  Hated. every. minute.

To make matters worse, my sister became a champion crafter.  Her medium was counted cross-stitch, and she became quite a skilled cross-stitcher (is that what it’s called?  I’d ask her but, um, we’re not close…).  When I last crossed the threshold of her home, the decor consisted mainly of her intricately stitched masterpieces (and brass and glass, but it was the 90s and I assume she’s redecorated by now, because really?) and I firmly believe that our coming down on opposite sides of the crafting divide predicated our current distance.  I digress.

Crafting was a big deal going back generations in the family.  When my mom’s grandmother passed away, the embroidery she was working on at the time was lovingly placed, unfinished and with the threaded needle still where she put it last, in the cedar chest.  I have a quilt that my own grandmother and her sister in law sat down and made together.  Stuff like this was how the women in my family expressed themselves.

So every summer, my mom would come across a craft thing (pattern? idea? template? whatever.) and she would make dozens of them and those would be Christmas gifts for everyone we knew.  One year, everybody got these amazing Christmas tree angels that still take my breath away.  And this time of year when I’m starting to put our gifting lists together, I spend at least an hour or so wishing I was crafty so that I could fill my own stupid Pinterest board with my Wonderful Handmade Gifts and ideas.

I have other skills, yes, but when people ask what my hobbies are, I’m kind of stumped.  I love to read.  I watch movies.  I…. um….. I’m actually sitting here trying to come up with more “hobbies”.  I don’t have them.  I don’t have time, and I don’t say that in an attempt to convey how Very Busy I am, because I’m really not so much busier than anybody else, but I’d rather fritter my time away in a quiet corner with a trashy romance novel than making or collecting or whatever it is that hobbyists do.

My daughter is now of the age where she wants to make stuff.  She wants to draw and paint and glue and string beads.

Exhibit A:

Boo and Auntie Shae make a bracelet.

Of note, this picture was taken yesterday at my friend Shae’s fabulous bead shop, Sweet Beads.  Go check it out!  We’ve added this activity to our rotation of Things to Do because Boo sat there for a good thirty minutes, quietly yet enthusiastically stringing beads.  Awesome.

I wish I could teach Boo how to make stuff.  I wish I’d had the patience/interest/ wherewithal to pay better attention when Mom was teaching me how to do this stuff.  In the years since my mom passed, people have given me the things she gave to them (not in a “OH GET THIS OUT OF MY HOUSE” kind of way, either) and that’s why I have 3 Christmas angels and two magazine racks and a crocheted Ernie doll, among other things.  Her summer projects became her legacy.  When I see them, I remember exactly what was going on in the rest of the world when they were being made.  I want to give that sort of memory to Boo.  She helps me bake bread (she can stir like a champ) and we do puzzles but that’s really as far as we’ve gotten.

There’s more to come on this topic.  What do you do with your kids?  Are you crafty (and not in a Beastie Boys way…)?   What are some easy starter projects that maybe we could learn to do together?


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