Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Yarn About Yarn

I have been surrounded by arts and crafts for as long as I can remember. My mother has always loved to paint and I grew up with her art adorning our walls. She took me with her to painting classes and encouraged anything I decided to create, no matter how messy. My grandmothers both had artistic talents (whether it was crocheting, knitting, or arranging flowers), my aunt is a professional landscape designer and an all-around amazingly creative person who and always sent me wonderfully fun birthday craft projects, her son--my cousin-- does some really cool things with clay and wood, and my dad has always been one of those tool-type guys who, if he couldn't find something that he needed for a project, would come up with it on his own, whether it was a boat accessory, some woodworking project, or even a golf club.

Somehow, these artistically inclined genes worked their way down to me. Now, I would describe myself as a crafty person. Ever since I was a little girl, I've had a craft box. It grew into a couple of craft shelves, but soon shrunk once I was in high school and became distracted by other pursuits (Sadly, we had no art classes at my small town high school the years I attended). In college, for lack of space I kept a rubbermaid tub with some craft supplies under my bed. I had many "artsy" friends, though I would never have described myself as such-- I was too conservative, too restrained. Honestly, the art department intimidated me. But I braved enough classes to graduate with an art minor-- trying out studio classes in watercolor, oil painting, design, and sculpture (working with power tools was both exhilerating and horrifying all at once).

And then, once I got married and started volunteering with kids, my little craft box grew into almost an entire closet. A few years ago, with the encouragement of a friend, we took a night class in oil painting, and I acquired a great new storage box on wheels to hold paints, brushes, canvasses, etc. Since then, I've scaled down a bit, passed some of my crafts along now that we've retired from Apartment Life. However, I plan to carve out some time this summer to resurrect my oils and brushes, especially since I have a full-scale easel that has gone largely unused. I even try to work some art appreciation into my high school English classes--if nothing else I have a collage of "great art" on my walls at school. Currently, (and I hope to write more on this once we finish) I am part of a weekly group in our church that meets to discuss the book Creative Call.

Though I have acquired sundry skills over the years--painting in various mediums, sketching, scrapbooking, coloring, collage-making, paper-mache, jewelry-making, woodworking, and about anything else you could find in the aisles of a Michael's store--it is in no way an exhaustive list. Until this past weekend I had never spent too much time in the yarn aisle. (I think my grandmother tried to teach me to crochet once, but I probably gave up out of frustration-- despite my love of all things craft-related, I am in no way dexterous.) Rows upon rows of tactile comfort-- soft, fluffy, furry, fuzzy, sleek, puffy, warm, luxurious textures, all in a garish to gentle rainbow pallette. I was in a crafter's paradise, but I had no idea what to buy. Some of the older ladies in our church had offered to give us "knitting lessons" on Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to at least come with some supplies, so if I got hooked I wouldn't feel bad taking theirs. I ended up picking up some cheap yarn in a dark blue and two size 8 needles.

Well, despite the promise of clacking over wollen sweaters, it turns out that none of the three ladies present are actually knitters. They are all much better with the art of crochet. So, after some light snacks and a heavenly introduction to making homemade Southern biscuits, we sat down with our yarn and our clumsy fingers and learned another new skill. Their deft fingers contrasted sharply with our frustrated fits and starts, and there was much re-doing and pulling out of thread, but eventually we learned the basic steps. (I also learned never to buy the cheap stuff and that it is better to buy light-colored thread as a beginner because it is easier to see.) I have no idea what the terminology is for this skill, since I was too busy concentrating on how to actually accomplish it to remember, so if anyone has any good book recommendations, please let me know.

Though we only had an hour of practice before they sent us out into the wilderness, and my potholder will surely be misshapen, I think I have been taken in by the whole knitting/crocheting craze. We left with promises of future lessons, and I know there are other ladies in our church who knit quite well, so I am hoping to expand my textile repertoire in the near future. What I think I appreciate most, though, about our afternoon crocheting adventure was the lessons in hospitality, service, and patience. The organizer opened the session with prayer and the verse from Titus 2: "Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

Those ladies who took the time to teach us impatient young housewives definitely passed along much more than just their knowledge of working with hands and yarn. I look forward to future lessons, as we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord while making socks and scarves and sweaters for our families as well as for those less fortunate around the world. (At least, that's our plan. The actual making of said scarves, sweaters, and socks may be a long time coming.)

As an added bonus to this little tale, tonight I found this fun article about a reluctant knitter whose inspiration came after she bought her own pair of llamas. Even if we didn't live in an upstairs apartment in a large metropolitan area, I don't think I could be that hardcore. Those things spit! Still, I'll never say never...

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