I’m not super-crafty and I’m always interested in / amazed by folks who can make things, including really complex things, and how they wound up there. Did they watch a show about glass-blowing on TV and decide to heed an irresistible calling? Did they start off knitting a scarf in a single DIY class at the rec center, and now they can knit a blanket in their sleep?
Some things seem relatively low-stakes to try your hand at – e.g., baking, cross-stitch, stringing some beads for a one-off necklace. You can watch GBBO and decide you want to give scone-making a whirl, or go buy one of those pot-holder kits and see how you feel about it. Other crafts seem so complicated or challenging that I always wonder: where do people start? Home Ec sewing, or a shop class in eighth grade? How do you find out whether you want to weave your own cloth or do soap-making or pottery without spending a bunch of money on supplies and equipment first? Do people buy all the stuff for, say, making an entire quilt and find out they hate it? Are there unfinished quilts tucked away in closets everywhere? (Probably.)
The idea of having a sewing room or basement woodworking shop set up and never using it gives me hives, although I can’t really say why – it’s not like I haven’t “wasted” a small fortune on perfume. I’m kind of a crafting dilettante – I’ll do a single embroidery kit for fun, and then I’m on to something else, but I never go all in on stained-glass-making, or buy a loom, or build a darkroom. I’d love to have that kind of commitment to a craft, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Years ago, my daughter who (up to that point) had baked nothing other than brownie mix from a box decided to make some of those fancy French macarons. This was before you could buy macarons everywhere; they were rare and exotic, and she wanted to try them, I think, or maybe she’d had one from a patisserie and wanted more. We went and bought whatever macaron-making supplies you need, and I privately predicted disaster – I don’t think they’re hugely complicated in terms of ingredients, so much as you need to get the chemistry/technique/timing exactly right. She whipped them up in various flavors and outlandish pastel shades and … they were perfect, and delicious. She made them until she got bored with them.
I never learned how to use a sewing machine; I can do basic bits by hand (like buttons and hemming and repairing a seam) and I keep telling myself that one of these months, probably post-pandemic, I’m going to take a machine-sewing class so I can decide whether I want to buy my own machine to make a skirt and other things. My “hobby” right now is what I refer to as tragic tailoring; I take thrifted garments and remake them slightly to suit me – add darts, replace buttons, take in waists, add or change trim. Stuff like that. I find it incredibly soothing and fairly low-pressure. It’s all by hand and I’m probably doing it “wrong,” but having repaired/remade various vintage garments of sometimes-dubious craftsmanship, I’m okay with that. Right now I’m adding (vintage) lace to a not-particularly-well-executed Edwardian shirtwaist, and I just did pintucks to shorten a too-long skirt. It’s funny, though: a friend saw the blouse and said, I could never do that. I thought to myself, yes you can, it’s literally a needle and thread! But here I am, thinking about a bunch of other hobbies the same way — like, I could never.
I really understand the desire to hand-make something, though, especially as our lives move more and more online and everything is virtual. No wonder the cool kids are baking focaccia and crocheting shawls. When I’m done with a project, whether it’s an embroidery kit or mending a blouse, I’ve had the satisfaction of doing a thing, as well as the tangible enjoyment of the thing itself.
Do you have a craft or a hobby that involves making something? How did you get interested in it? How did you start doing it?