I have a feeling I was born too soon. Or possibly too late. At lot of what I loved when I was a teen was dreadfully uncool. I probably shared more interests with elderly ladies than with most of my peers. I almost feel a little hard done by that over the past few years my hobbies I have had since childhood have been rediscovered by millions and found to be cool.
By the age of ten, thanks to my mother, her mother and my fourth class teacher, I could knit, sew, crochet, cook and bake. For a while I had a small loom and actually used it. As a teen, I taught myself patchwork from a book. I tried out decoupage and cross stich. I stripped and stenciled a wooden rocking chair that was being thrown away. I made pencil toppers and sold them at a craft fair one pre-Christmas Sunday. I experimented with making natural dyes for yarn and cloth.
Now, for a teen or tween, that’d be reasonably trendy, but in the early 90s it wasn’t. Far from it. So once school was nearing its end, I decided on a degree in business studies. I dropped my creative side, left home and blended in with the non-creative scene. Reading was the only hobby I kept up. For about five years I neglected my natural creativity entirely.
Thinking about it now, it is hard to imagine. I had a notion I was no good because I can’t draw and drawing was what the focus was on in the art curriculum at school. If I was no good, then there was no point in pottering about with crafts, was there? As for cooking and baking, well that was for housewives, as far as I could tell from society’s attitude.
What exactly brought me back to being crafty and creative, I am not quite sure. Partly solitude – I was working as an au pair in a village in Bavaria – and partly, I suppose, the feeling that something was missing from my life. I had to work on it at first, but bit by bit it came back to me.
For years now crafts have been part of my daily life, as much as cooking is. There are some staple crafts I have – paper crafts, sewing machine embroidery, upcyles – and there are some that I dip in and out of, like rolling beeswax candles or knitting. One of my current favourites is crochet.
With no patience for pattern-reading and just a basic knowledge of stitches, I am never going to be a magnificent crocheter. The more skilled among you will no doubt spot the flaws in my workmanship. But it doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t need to be brilliant at it. As long as I enjoy it, that’s enough.
I can make things that look nice and do what they are supposed to do, like hats, blankets, bags and scarves. I’m not in it to be on trend or because crochet has been all over everything for several years now. That said I find it fantastic that crochet, and craft work in general, have resurged and become more appreciated. I’ve even developed an appreciation of my own adolescent works.
On trips home to Ireland over the past few years I have been decluttering my childhood bedroom. In the process I came across sketches and the fabric work that made up a small part of my art exams in the mid-ninties. Now, without thought to what is cool or uncool, on trend or old-fashioned, I can appreciate them. They are hung in the hall with the fabric picture I inherited from my grandmother.