This is the time of the year when I look back and wonder where the time went, and what I actually accomplished, and whether next year I'm going to sew exactly the same kinds of bags and dresses as I did this year. And also whether I'm going to do the same old on the blog as I did in 2011, and the year before that, and the year before that. Yes, friends: once again, 'tis the winter of my discontent.
Some people have sewing blogs. They're focused and they're singularly productive in turning out garments and bags and toys and curtains and bedlinen. Some people have quilting blogs, and they design block after block of gorgeous color and ingenious matches. Some people have crafting blogs and they make stuff I can't stop pinning. Some people cook and bake and I gain pounds just looking at their photos. Yum. And some people are a bit all over the place. They sew a bit and get bored. They make cardboard toys and get bored. They draw silly cartoons and get bored. Secretly they actually just want to go swimming, which is never boring.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. That would be me.
This coming year, I need to be challenged -again- because, honestly, I'm bored. I already said that last year, so even saying it now is boring. In 2011, I managed to fill the days with all manner of odd things to make, and dug out some ancient unfinished projects and actually finished them, by gum! Throughout the year, I'd been fighting the sense that all I was doing was playing catch-up with old projects. I told myself stuff like, "if you don't finish those dolls, or those bibs (ha ha ha ha ha! My eldest, for whom I cut them out, is now seven, for heaven's sake) or alter those pants, you have no right to start that new ambitious project." So I finished them. Like squeezing blood from stone, I finished them. And now, as I don't think I have any more outstanding incomplete projects, I might just be able to peek around the corner into 2012 and start planning my crafting year on a fresh slate.
Which brings me to creativity. What should I make? Or, more helpfully, in which medium should I make it? Fabric? Cardboard? Pen-and-ink? Electronics? Yarn? Dried squid skin and thumb tacks?
Fabric is more stylish, of course, and sells better (than cardboard, and certainly squid skin), and is easier to buy in different varieties. I've made some wacky things on my sewing machine in the distant past but they are nothing compared to the cardboard ideas I have to beat down every day just so I can put dinner on the table at a decent time. I still want to make that full-size rocking horse from cardboard some day, for instance. Even the kids think I'm nuts, and who can blame them? "It's not strong enough to sit on!" they feebly counter. Oh yes it is, my sweet children - you don't esteem cardboard quite highly enough. At least not as well as you will by the time you have kids of your own. We've only been scratching the (corrugated) surface all this time.
When I first thought about it, I postulated that all this listlessness stemmed from my having been sewing for just too many years. It's that horrible proverbial plateau everyone dreads will happen to them, an attenuation of sorts (to borrow a Physics term). This may sound silly, but there are times when I get comments from people who have just started -or resumed sewing after a long hiatus - and I envy their enthusiasm and excitement. My husband, who listens to my craft complaints, reads my blogs and solves my computer and camera problems, thinks I should try a new craft field. Like fine art. Or pickling. Or anything, really, that doesn't involve gigantic cardboard boxes to infest the basement. Interestingly, we also ruled out knitting/crochet (gigantic skeins of yarn), soap making (gigantic tubs of lye), pottery (gigantic kiln) and upholstering (gigantic industrial sewing machine). Not a bad idea in itself, taking up a new craft, but - here's the irony - I've been playing with cardboard even longer than I've been sewing, and I'm not bored with it. So what gives?
I often think that there is a limit to creativity in fabric that is absent in cardboard. I mean, we're all still in very safe waters where sewing is concerned- same bags, same dresses, same pants, some dolls, same patterns, same vintage remakes. New designer prints to quicken the pulse a bit, yes, but we're still bouncing off one another's safe, cute, easy ideas, aren't we? And no, it does not count to take gorgeouser and gorgeouser photos of the same bags, dresses, pants, dolls, patterns and vintage remakes. My new year wish for the crafty/sewing blogging community is this: let's raise the ceiling this year. Remember Jodie's Selvedge Frock? I remember how good it felt for my jaw to hit the floor when I saw it. Bless her. I've seen nothing close to that ingenuity in sewing blogland since, frankly. Please don't misunderstand, friends- I've seen amazing and clever and beautiful things on blogs and in books this year and have had many of those "why didn't I think of that?" moments. And I've even made a couple things from other people's ideas because they were so much fun. But I'm not talking about a new little novel project that I'd pin or bookmark - I mean, when I saw Jodie's frock, it never crossed my mind to try and make my own selvedge frock, or selvedge zippered pouch or zippered crayon roll or whatever. Its jaw-hit-the-floor-ness was entirely based on its making me sit up, and wanting to try something new and different with my own craft simply because someone else pushed the limits of her field a little farther out of reach, and made it all the more enticing for it.
It's easy with cardboard, but I want to do that with fabric, too. Push the limits, I mean. Just as I've done by moving to and living in the US these past years, I almost feel as if I need to move to another country for a while and immerse myself in their fabric and sewing culture. I'd love to be able to sew the clothes that are popular there, or study the way they manipulate fabric into garments and other products. I don't mean buying a couple of sewing magazines from, say, Japan, because I already have magazines like those and I haven't felt inspired to sew Japanese frocks. Wait- unless it's a kimono, I mean. A real kimono. You think?
A couple of months ago, I was at the birthday party of one of Jenna's classmates. His mom is Vietnamese and she had a sewing machine and a serger in her house. We talked a bit about sewing - she sewed clothes professionally when she first came to the US, but doesn't now. I also found out that, like me (and practically all of Asia, really), she doesn't use patterns and can't understand them, so she drafts from people's measurements, too. "It's how we were taught." We said to each other, sadly, as if it were some kind of genetic defect. He he he. So what is it like to sew in Italy? In Africa? In Russia? In Korea? In Mexico? People leave comments all the time, saying they covet the fabric we have in the US. Well, I covet your sewing culture, wherever you are. It's different and new and fabulous and you have so much to teach me.
I'll tell you what else it feels like, though - it feels like my girls are growing up and moving on from handmade pigs and chickens and table tents and strawberry shortcake costumes. They are asking for cardboard toys more than fabric stuff. Kate (she's the three-year-old) had this conversation with me yesterday morning:
K: Mum, can you make a Barbie castle?
Me: What's that, Kate?
K: A Barbie castle! You know!
Me: How do you make that?
K: You take cardboard and tape and you make it! Pleeeeeeease? Wight now?
So that's where we are this year-end. Thought I'd just share. Sorry for getting all introspective on you all. I have projects planned out, of course, for 2012, that have nothing at all to do with the sentiment in this post but they're just projects. They're not the essence -or the embodiment- of creativity by any stretch of the imagination. And the last thing I want is to fill my year with more of those Just Projects. So come on in, 2012 - and bring something awesome with (as they say in Minnesota)! And you, lovely readers, tell me what you're planning for your new year!