Thursday, August 06, 2009

Maybe It Skips Several Generations...

I'm not what you would call crafty--or creative.  Though I like to consider myself a writer, I am always spell-bound by these authors who say their characters just come to them, speak their stories and do the hard part for them.  Yeah, that doesn't happen to me.  The only character I really know is myself.  Plots and conflicts fall flat in my head unless they are--girl gets pregnant, ends up on bedrest, writes a blog, has kid, gets know the rest.   Even though I have had 1/2 written novels tucked away in boxes at certain times in my life, they are put together in snippets and scenes, not cohesive, linear plots.  So, even in the area that I consider myself "most" creative, I fall pretty short.  

And let's not even think about my utter black-hole of crafting ability.  We remember this entry in which I attempted "arts and crafts" time at our house.  The problem with doing crafts with a 3 year old comes into play when you have as little or less crafting ability as said 3 year old.  I think when you see that this was the best I could do, 

you realize you can't hold out much hope that I'm going to inspire a love of creativity and craftiness in my child.  (foam paper is hard to cut, y'all)

And if you've been here since the very beginning (of the blog, not time), you might remember that I attempted to learn how to knit while on bedrest.   It wasn't pretty.  

This has always come as a shock to me, given heredity and all that genes-passed-down-from-one-generation-to-the-next stuff.   My maternal grandmother was a kick-ass old bird from the day I met her. (not that my paternal grandmother wasn't amazing, but "kick-ass old bird" aren't words I would use to describe her--and she'd probably be relieved by that).  My Gram could do EVERYTHING.  Most of her front yard was a flower and vegetable garden, she painted (mostly oils), drew with pastels, crocheted, knitted, latch-hooked entire room-sized rugs.  Her creations have decorated my family's walls and floors and bodies for as long as I can remember.  
She was also the Julia Child of my family--to this day I don't know exactly what she did there, but in my early childhood, when she wasn't babysitting me and my cousins, she was working in the kitchen of a country club with some guy named Vito.  I like to believe that she was the head chef, talking in a Child-esque tone to others in her kitchen.  I don't know, maybe she just put the salads together.  But in my head, she ruled the place. 
As a child, if I was making super duper 70's trivets out of popcicle sticks and yarn, or painting brown hair and red ribbons onto a just-out-of-the-oven dough doll, it was at Gram's house.  

Okay, so I just googled pictures of these, and apparently they are called "G-d's Eyes"?!! Um.  That is CREEPY!  We just called them trivets.  Gram wasn't one to pull the "G-d is watching you so you'd better be good, my pretties!!!" scary stuff on us.  Thank you, Gram, for saying these were simply a nice thing to put underneath a casserole.  Way less intimidating. 

Gram also let me in on her creations.  I recall many a days standing next to her, in the good light of the kitchen, watching her apply oil paints to a canvas, handing her brushes and whatever else she needed.  If she was water coloring or using pastels, she might let me get a brush stroke or swipe of the pastel into the picture, too.  She gave me sheets of drawing paper and her nubby little pastel left-overs and let me have at it.  I never really did anything but make a few lines and then rub the colors with my fingers to get them to blur and spread.   I'm super complex and abstract, people.  

I also distinctly remember her teaching me how to latch hook giant rugs.  When we weren't playing Parcheesi, gin rummy, scrabble, or attempting a jigsaw puzzle that was bigger than my entire body, Gram usually had a giant hooking frame in her living room and I'd sit on her lap, or on the chair next to her and she'd show me how to hold the hook and reach through the canvas for the loop of yarn or fabric below.   She also taught me how to crochet and knit.  

I was never any good at any of it, but I loved it in a way that makes me think that even as a child, I knew this time with her was precious and something that would stay with me forever, shaping, at least in my mind, if not my abilities, a little bit of who I would someday be. 

My own mother, who I honestly believe could possibly build a house from scratch with her bare hands, has never been super-crafty or artistic in the way her mom was.  My mom would love to rip out the wall-to-wall shag carpet that is the bane of your houses' existence and refinish the floors.  She'll go to Home Depot, buy one of everything in painting supplies department and have your place looking transformed and fabulous in no time.  But she's not going to sit down and bang out a room-sized latch hook rug or crochet a baby blanket.  And that's cool.  I always just assumed that that particular leaning or ability skipped a generation and secretly hoped that I'd end up with it.  

Alas, I have embarked upon yet another experiment in the "Do I have ANY of my Gram's natural ability to do artsy-craftsy things?" After mentioning the idea of knitting again, someone told me that crochet is exponentially easier for a beginner to master, and so perhaps I should start that way.  One hook?  Has to be easier than two, right?! 

So last weekend, I bought a book.  Then on Monday, I bought supplies.  Last night, I broke into the bag o' goodies, cracked open the book to the first page of instructions.  And sat there.   Yarn fumbling around my fingers and re-reading instructions on how to make a slip knot around the hook so I could let the magic begin.  The words and pictures?  Let's say the cat sleeping next to me at the time had about as good a shot at understanding them and creating his own slip knot as I did. 

Someone had recommended the tutorials on youtube.  I kid you not when I tell you I watched this clip  no fewer than a half dozen times before I got something that MIGHT have been an actual slip knot.   After watching several other videos, many of which were filmed in super slow-mo for losers such as myself, I was able to produce this...

It stretches the length of my couch, but it really isn't anything.  It's just a long strand of stitches, some okay, a few super kick-ass, and most just abysmal.  I honestly have no idea how people do this.  They turn this into hats and blankets and sweaters?!  Seriously?  Because it took all my concentration and effort to get a couch-length strand of stitches.  Poor Husband was trying to tell me about his "OHMYGOD, I QUIT MY JOB TODAY!" day and all I kept saying back to him was, "I know.  But you've got a new job.  That's a good thing," because I was trying so hard to hold onto the slip knot while winding the yarn and pulling it through.  Poor guy.  Biggest day of his life (well, one of, second and third of course to marrying his prize of a wife and the birth of his son), and I'm sitting on the couch, hunched over a ball of yarn, muttering obscenities to myself.  Awesome. 

But tonight I will sit back down to it (perhaps after spending some quality time with Husband upon his return from work?) and make another pointlessly long chain of stitches to see if I remember how to do it.  As a awe-filled adoring child, I just assumed my Gram woke up one day and knew how to do all these things.   She certainly knew how to do it all by the time I came around.  Maybe, though, she had to start from scratch years earlier, too, without any real "natural" ability.  

Eh, I know we're not doing anything particularly crafty here, but people didn't take eleventy billion pictures of everything their kids did in the 70's.  So unwrapping the "Busy Surprise Box" will have to do. 

Gram in her garden. One of my favorite pictures of anyone. ever.  She really was a kick-ass old bird. 


lonek8 said...

love it! when I was 25 I had to buy myself knitting for dumnmies so I could figure out how to finish the "blanket" I started when I was 9. It is 12" x 18". pretty amazing accomplishment for a 16 year effort, huh?

also, I can't believe it, but your mom sounds just like mine! Mine actually works as a handyman, fixing woodwork, painting,etc for people. She is totally jealous of me right now because my house is closer to Home Depot and Lowe's than hers is. She was actually measuring the distances in her car today and tellingme all teh things near her house that are further away than my Home Depot is to me. Cause she's crazy

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sarah. This is simply beautiful. She was a beautiful woman with so many talents. You will get the hang of this so keep on trucking. Uncle Al

Sarah said...

Love this

karen said...

As your psychological twin it should come as no surprise that I have zero craftiness/creativity but my grandmother (paternal for me) was a painter.

You did take me way back to when I used to latch hook rugs and make potholders from these weird fabric rubber bands, though. Man, those things were ugly!


PS - and don't get me started on the number of novels I have started and stalled on!!!

Amy said...

That chain is all kinds of awesome. And I think people are way more crafty in Northern Cali, so I bet you could find a craft store that has crochet or kntting lessons. My mom learned how to knit doing a class a few years ago and is making blankets for the kids like a pro!

Beawhiz said...

You go girl! I learned how to chain probably 10 years before I picked up a hook again. It's hard to learn from directions! The videos make it a little easier, but still aren't as good as having someone show you. Keep trying! No one is awesome the very first time. If you find a class and/or someone to teach you, it makes it a lot easier. Your chain looks really nice! How did the 2nd time around go?

Alice said...

I totally agree w/ the last comment, it is really hard to learn how to crochet or knit w/o someone there showing you how to hold your hands, the yarn etc. All these things take practice, if you keep it up, I'm sure you'll be as crafty as you want to be in no time!

Anonymous said...

you have your mom's and grandmother's eyes. i love seeing family resemblance.
i agree about needing someone there too - my mom taught me to knit but i can't do it without her there to help w/ the mistakes.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm less crafty than you. No, seriously, I am, I am. And I believe that you can, if you want to, do it. It may take you 50 years longer than anyone else to do it, but you can.

And if you can't? Do what I do and make fun of your efforts.

Wendy said...

Man, I hope my kids or grandkids think of me as a "kick ass old bird" someday!

Keep going on the crochet, you'll get it. Or switch to embroidery. I think that's more straightforward.

ps - I haven't forgotten about posting birthday party themes, I just haven't gotten around to doing it yet.