“What you would seem to be, be really.”

What you would seem to be, be really.Yesterday, I had my students free-write on a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanack. They were directed to choose one from a list of twenty-three aphorisms and explain what it means to them, why they chose it, and if they have any experience to which the aphorism applies. Being a free-write, they could address all or only a few of the topics as long as they explained what it means and wrote for ten minutes straight. I wrote alongside them. The one above is my chosen aphorism. I think it speaks to us writers and crafters, especially for the former in this age of Twitter (etc).

So, what does Franklin mean? Don’t just dream it; make it happen. This is the basis of many motivational posters one sees in teacher catalogs and the like, and for good reason. Many of us dream of being something (or someone), but unless we work to make it happen, it remains but a dream or desire.

20170827_004952When it comes to writing (or any kind of creating, more on crafting later), it is easy to go on Twitter and proclaim oneself a writer and join the #WritingCommunity and hashtag #amwriting. We ask each other questions about style, motivation, main characters, setting, etc. And this is all good, to a point. However, if we don’t get off Twitter and actually sit down and write something, we are just seeming, not being, writers. Joining a community is great, but eventually I (and you, each of us separately) have to sit down in my chair alone with my thoughts and wrangle them into some semblance of meaning.

There are days, many days in fact, when this is easy and exhilarating. The words flow and the story or poem or essay falls into place. There are other days, however, when this is hard. The ideas either churn in your brain but resist flowing out through your pen (or keyboard), or they go on vacation altogether, leaving your brain a temporary tumble-weed town. And it’s the memory of those rough days that can make us reticent to sit down again; they seem to stick to us more powerfully than the wonderful days. Sometimes the anticipation of the hard work involved in writing is worse than the experience of it, and so we talk about our writing rather than do it. We seem instead of be.

20170715_232938When it comes to crafting (I told you I’d get to it!), I think perhaps it is even easier to seem rather than be. Maybe this is because the world at large views crocheting, sewing, quilting, knitting, etc. as hobbies rather than professions. Though some can and do make a living from them, most of us, even those of us with Etsy shops, don’t rely on our crafts for income. And we are not expected to. (Of course it is not easy to make a living as a writer either, but it is more accepted and expected.) If I say, “I’m a writer,” then others ask about the product. “What have you written?” If I say, “I’m a crafter,” then others either say very little. “Oh, nice.”

Additionally with crafting, we run the risk of building our stash without building our stock. Being a crafter, it is hard to resist the allure of the fabric store, the craft store, and the like. And once there, it’s nearly impossible to walk out without purchasing something—often many somethings. To justify the cost, we tell ourselves that we’re going to make something for our Etsy stores, but more often than not, we’ve been to the craft store three or four more times before we get around to making one item. And the stash piles grow. All over the web, there are articles, blog posts, and Tweets about them and how to use them. Our stash piles are lovely things, full of possibility. But, unless we make something with them, they profit us little, and may actually oppress us with their untapped potential.

What we write on a given day may need much editing or may need even to be discarded as we start again (this piece itself has undergone several revisions), and what we craft may or may not be a success in either construction or popularity, but we did it. We tried. If we are writers or crafters, or both, let us be them, not just seem so.

Twitter Tree Monday

In an effort to promote my Etsy shop, I tried a Twitter Tree this morning, sharing a couple of my own wares and then promoting others. Here’s a link to the original post with many diverse items to view and buy. There’s holiday jewellery- Halloween, Christmas and Hanukkah- as well as other jewelry, ponchos, lithographs, jewellery-bags for craft fairs, and more.


Create Something Today

facebook_1564941375570.jpgI saw this posted on FB today by #KevinSmith. Yes, I thought. Yes. Let us create in the face of destruction. Write a poem, a letter to the editor, a short story–it can be about the tragedy our nation faces or it can be about puppies; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we continue to create, we continue to make this world new, we continue to affirm our community with others, all others. So, knit a scarf; paint a painting; make some jewelry; hook a rug; sing a song; play an instrument. Do what you do to create some beauty in world that looks pretty ugly when we turn on the news.


Do Crafts Have a Season?

I just posted a poll on the Facebook page for my Etsy shop asking friends what their favorite summer craft is. I did this because I have more time in the summer to craft, so I think of it as a time to create. I’ll be honest though, unless the air conditioner is on high, I prefer to save the yarn crafts for cooler weather! There’s nothing nicer than being halfway or more through a blanket on a cold winter evening. In the summer, I tend to turn more towards sewing.

Part of this may also be because I am a high school English teacher. During the school year, I use my crocheting as a way to unwind (unwind the mind while winding the yarn!); I sit in front of the TV with my hubby and crochet. It helps me let go of the hectic day so that my brain is ready for bed.

Sewing, on the other hand, I have to do while I am alert and focused. It is more exacting and fires up my brain rather than relaxes it. When I have off from work, it’s exciting to engage in a few projects during the day that charge my brain. I’m currently working on a sundress and have a plan to make some Roman shades too.

Writing is an all year activity, but I will admit that I do rachet up the hours during the summer. Teaching, planning, and especially grading can be exhausting, so I while I journal a lot and write some during the school year, less gets polished than I would like. During the summer, I can devote more time to “finishing” works.

Another all year activity, without the caveat, is painting. Our school’s annual art show is always in June (last weekend in fact). Then, we start again. Rain or shine I go, even in the snow if it isn’t too bad. And if it is, I might draw at home. Painting/drawing demands focus as well, but in a different way than sewing. I have to focus on what I’m seeing and put all the other random thoughts out of my head. I find it rather meditative and cleansing (even though my paint clothes might not show it!)

What about you? Do your crafts have a season?

Halloween: Sew Fun!

Zoning out one day a few weeks ago, I scrolled through the promotions tab of my e-mail to see an announcement from JoAnn Fabric that their Halloween fabrics were 50% off. And, that got me thinking…wouldn’t it be fun to make a Halloween skirt to wear to work? One Sunday, my mom and I went to the store, and I found some fun black and gray zombie fabric. Two yards plus a zipper and I was ready to make myself an A-line skirt.

Over the summer, I had googled how to make an A-line skirt pattern and found plenty of tutorials on how to measure and draft a pattern. Then, because it was already too late to go to the store for pattern paper, I kept surfing and found a video of how to make an A-line without drafting a pattern. By using a skirt you have that you know fits, you can create your own skirt without all the math involved in drafting your own pattern. I have unfortunately lost the link I used. If the directions that follow sound like you, put a link in the comments. I’ll give a shout out if the video I saw was yours!

Simply lay the skirt down on the doubled fabric and mark one inch all around. There’s your pattern. The blogger went on to show how to split the back and put in a zipper in the center back and a simple rolled waistband, but as I looked at the skirt I was using as a pattern, I noticed that the zipper was on the side. Why should I go to the trouble of splitting the back? Why not just put the zipper on the side? I did and was very happy with the results. This gave me the confidence to make a Halloween skirt even though I did not have much time. Luckily, I also realized that I shouldn’t just double the fabric because I didn’t want the zombies on the back to be upside down. Instead I cut one piece, then laid it down on the rest of the uncut fabric and used it as a template for the back.

Again, I’m very happy with the results. Because at my school the students do not come in on Halloween (it’s a faculty conference day), I wore my zombie skirt yesterday. At first, many students did not notice the zombies, but then, wow! Lots of laughter and Walking Dead references! And when students asked where I got a skirt like that, I answered, “I made it. It’s easy, and if you learn how to sew, you can have a zombie skirt too for less than $20.” Needless to say they were impressed, but I hope some were also inspired to try.

Then, after work, I went to an art opening and out to dinner. But this is New York, so no need to explain why I was wearing zombies. I look forward to pulling the skirt out again next year!