Something about sewing, knitting, crochet – or perhaps any craft anyone ever undertakes seriously – leaves me feeling like I am always a beginner. So often, the beautiful things I see made by other people leave me feeling like I lack skill or ability. But that’s not true at all. At least, so say my family and friends. Every once in a while, a strong little inner voice chimes in as well, but usually I’m left feeling like I’ll never learn. But it turns out that I’ve been learning for quite a while.
The first handmade gifts I remember making were knit potholders for Christmas back when I was in elementary school and living in Rapid City, South Dakota. They were made with something like single stranded Red Heart Christmas colored variegated yarn and must have been a sure ticket to a burned hand if used as intended. But hey, I was a kid, well intentioned, and I could knit! In high school, no longer South Dakota, I borrowed my mom’s pattern and made delicate crochet snowflake ornaments. I had forgotten about making them until a few years ago when I visited an old friend’s parents and saw them on the tree. In college I sewed a couple dresses. While I was traveling, I crocheted a baby blanket. So all along, it seems, I’ve been making a little bit here and there.
In 2004, I moved to The Netherlands, as girls are wont to do when in love with foreign men. We lived in a little top floor apartment with even less light. He worked a medical resident’s schedule and I didn’t know many people. The winter days were short and dark. I discovered the online crafting community, bought myself a copy of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch and decided I needed to learn to make socks. It worked. A whole lot of Dutch sub-titled TV later, and I had learned Dutch and sock knitting. It was a great opportunity inflicted my entire family with their own pairs of handmade socks.
A few years later, a sewing machine came into our home courtesy of my husband’s grandmother. She was moving and her old machine was no longer in use. I discovered that I loved sewing. I could sew until three in the morning and still be disappointed that my body wasn’t going to keep up any longer. I made accessories for myself and the house. My fabric stash started to grow thanks to thrift shop finds and the generosity of friends. I discovered more modern crafting blogs and even more inspiration.
We were going along just fine until one day, my machine gave up. The gentleman at the sewing machine shop kindly told me it wasn’t worth saving. I took a look around and saw all those new machines. It was so tempting, but I’m not an impulse shopper. I was also rather pregnant and not sure I’d have the time to sew. We went home. We talked. I knew I wanted a new machine quite badly. Another used machine could work, but I was at a point that my machine wasn’t keeping up with what I wanted to do. It had given up after sewing one too many bags with multiple layers of heavy fabric. It only took a few hours and we were back at the store, picking out a machine and bringing it home.
Since then, I’ve sewn a lot. We spent a year in Chicago and my mother was thoughtful enough to have a second hand machine ready for me to take along when I got home. I can’t imagine being without my sewing machine now and went into a bit of mourning when it was in the shop for a week this summer. I’ve made a lot of kids clothes over the years, especially pants. In addition to accessories, over the past couple of years, I’ve started making more of my own clothes. Skirts are so easy to make and fun to wear. T-shirts are a bit less easy to make, but it’s so satisfying to have one that fits and is a bit flattering that it’s more than worth the work and savings.
But perhaps most importantly, since I’ve stopped working and been home with the littles full-time, I’ve started to give my creative self permission and space. Feeding my creativity with materials and inspiration, has allowed it to grow. It turns out, I’ve got a drive to make that I never acknowledged in the past. What a treat it has been to let myself become. It’s a luxury I wish for everyone. Most importantly for me, I’ve found myself dreaming of a different kind of future, a making future. It is so exciting to again feel like I’m at the start of something. It’s exciting to realize that even when at a moment in life when things seem to have settled, after all the traveling is done and the children are here, this moment too can be a beginning.