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Tips for Teaching Crafts

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via 5 Artistic Expressions)

I remember when I took up bobbin lace I was informed by several of the books I got early on that it was important to keep the craft going by teaching at least three other people to do it, too. I took that challenge seriously. I taught one on one, helped run a beginner’s workshop, did demonstrations where I handed out information for getting started and helped people try out a demonstration pillow… yeah, I don’t know how many kept doing it, but I pointed a few folks in the right direction to get going.

Of course along the way I made some spectacular goofs. That first demonstration where we didn’t bring along lists of recommended books and suppliers was a classic. I also picked up a few tips that would work with pretty much any craft you might want to teach someone to do. And today, I pass them on to you.


How To Save a ‘Dying’ Craft

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via Stuart King)

Mention bobbin lace, and chances are if the listener knows anything at all about it, this is what they think of: an old woman in antique clothing doing something they can’t for the life of them figure out.

A hundred years ago, that’s exactly what bobbin lace looked like, too. It was something nobody needed to do for themselves anymore, so they didn’t learn it. It was something only very poor people did, and most of them had been run out of the market by the machine laces that were so much faster and cheaper to make.

By the time I took up the craft in 1990, most people I saw at demonstrations thought it was tatting and would pontificate that it was a ‘lost art.’

In reply, I would hold up a tatting shuttle to show them the difference, and explain that bobbin lace isn’t lost at all. I found it just fine.


Help a Crafty Person, Feel Good

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
By Twistie

Check out the pretty soaps. They smell good, too, like roses. They’re quite reasonably priced, too, at just $5.95 for two 2.5oz bars. They’re the work of  one Mary Thomas, known on Etsy as WickedCreation. She’s also a pretty amazing lady. You see, she’s the founder of April’s Army, an Etsy group that various crafters contribute work to in order to help fellow crafters through hard financial times. During the last week of every month, the craftwork donated for that month is sold, and all proceeds sent to help out a crafter facing unemployment, disease, injury, natural disaster… whatever has gone wrong in their lives.

Well, right now Mary herself needs help.

Her husband, a construction worker, sometimes has to go months without steady work, and then Mary lost her lucrative day job, too. Since October, they’ve been living on her Etsy shop earnings. Then her husband got a job, only to wind up with a stress fracture in his foot. He lost his job, they have no health insurance, and he needs foot surgery. Their utilities have been turned off, and they’re on the verge of eviction.

So please, if you have a few dollars to spare, take a moment to help out someone whose huge heart has unfortunately not made for a solid bank balance. Mary has spent her time helping others, an now she really needs our help as a community. Go to her shop and buy some soap or a pair of earrings. Go to April’s Army and purchase one of the items donated in her benefit. Or just go by her webpage and make a donation.

I don’t have a lot, but I can buy a couple bars of soap to help out someone who has done so much for others as her life slowly fell apart around her ears.

It’s really the least I can do.

Knock(er), Knock(er)!

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
By Twistie

What, you may well ask, are those?

They are, not to put too fine a point on it, boobies.

Not the natural ones that women grow as they hit the brick wall of puberty, but prosthetic ones. Knitted prosthetic ones. In fact, they are the work of a charity called Knitted Knockers. They knit these… well… knockers, and provide them to women who have had mastectomies.

Why knitted ones? Aren’t there already options for women who have had mastectomies? Aren’t these kind of… silly?

Yes, they are silly. Gloriously silly. Joyfully silly. Silly in a life-affirming and surprisingly practical way. In fact, here are a couple of the advantages as listed on the website:

Knitted prosthetic breasts for mastectomy patients. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet, when placed in a bra, these knitted breasts take the shape and feel of a real breast. They are lighter and more comfortable than silicone prosthetic breasts. The knitted fabric breathes and prevents the heat rash experienced by many women wearing the silicone ones.

They also note that the silicone prosthetics are quite expensive, which means they’re beyond the means of some cancer survivors, and, when covered by insurance,  will usually only be available one at a time every couple of years. That means if one gets damaged or destroyed, it’s going to be a long time before another is available.

The site features links to patterns for both knitted and crocheted boobies, as well as information on how to start your own Knitted Knockers group.

Come on, let crafting bring out the breast in you.

Fire in the Hole!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011
By Twistie

Photo by Greg Crane

Do you know about the Crucible?

No, I’m not talking about Arthur Miller’s classic play about the Salem witch trials written in response to the McCarthy hearings. I’m talking about the school of fire arts in Oakland, California.

What are the ‘fire arts?’ Well, any craft or performance style that requires fire of some sort to make it work. At the Crucible you will find classes on such diverse topics as: ceramics, glass work, blacksmithing, kinetics and electronics, welding, and fire performance, among others.

Whether you want to learn about making neon sculptures, enameled jewelry, or bicycle repair, this is the place in the Bay Area to go. Oh! And look at that! They’re having an open house on April 2 from noon to four pm.

If you happen to be in the area, drop on by and check out the range of classes. Or, you know, just marvel at the fire eaters  and fire dancers.

Crafts on the Front Line

Monday, March 14th, 2011
By Twistie

The smiling lady in camouflage with the pretty purple yarn is Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Almy, who is a physician in the US Navy. She’s also the organizer of the Combat Knitters.

For US troops serving overseas in Afghanistan, life is an endless round of khaki and homey comforts are hard to come by. But the Combat Knitters have found a way to bring a little joy and a little normalcy to their lives through craftwork.

According to the Washington Post, (in an article brought to my attention by the fabulous Fabrisse) the Combat Knitters range from their early twenties to their mid-fifties and are Navy corpsmen, physicians, and nurses. They even have their own patch that many wear on their uniforms, a pair of knitting needles crossed over the outline of Afghanistan.

Of course they can’t get their yarn and knitting needles from the base bazaars. These aren’t exactly the sorts of things the military would think of as a necessity, and well, I can’t exactly blame them for that, either. It’s not like yarn is food or water, after all, and they can’t supply the desires of every person on every base.

But that didn’t stop Jennifer Almy. Almy took up knitting three years ago to help strengthen her left wrist after surgery, and has been doing it ever since. Last summer she was at Fort Dix for some pre-deployment training when Capt. Michael McCarten noticed her knitting a green shawl. He promptly asked if she was a member of Ravelry. When Almy said yes, McCarten got her in touch with his wife, Kathleen Marra, who is part of a Ravelry group called Knitting in Alexandria.

When Almy told Marra about the number of servicewomen who were asking her for knitting lessons, Marra’s group ‘adopted’ Almy and her fellow service knitters. They began sending yarn from a local knitting shop.

Now Almy always carries both her stethoscope and her knitting pouch with her. When she has a few moments to spare or goes on a break, she can bring out a ball of brightly colored yarn and knit. Other members of the Combat Knitters use their yarn to break the tedium of waiting for transport, or to keep their hands busy on movie nights.

In a situation that many compare to living in Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray film in which he lives the same day over, and over, and over again, knitting helps these women stay grounded. They can measure actual progress in a situation where progress is hard to come by. They can control something in a place where so much is out of their control. They can look at something that isn’t khaki and isn’t regimented.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, if you have a loved one serving overseas or if you contribute to care packages to support the troops, consider adding a ball of yarn, a couple of knitting needles, a chart or two, or even something like a tatting shuttle and thread to your offering. It’s a little thing, but it might be a real aid in helping someone stay sane and grounded in the midst of war.

Allez Crafting!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Twistie

I love Iron Chef… the Japanese version, as represented by the Chairman here. Sure it’s fun once in a while to watch Bobby Flay get his backside handed to him by a gutsy challenger, but it’s the original that appeals most strongly to me. The OTT presentation, the Chairman’s flamboyant sartorial statements, the bad dubbing of the obligatory ‘cute’ starlet saying a dish ‘makes my mouth giggle’ or some such nonsensical observation, it all makes me bizarrely joyful.

I wanted something similar for crafters. It existed for one brief, shining moment that was known as Craft Corner Deathmatch, but that went away after a mere six episodes.

But did you know there was something similar exists on the web? Oh my friends, if you have not already done so, go thou forth and check out Iron Craft. “1 Year, 52 Challenges… Are You Creative Enough?”

I’m betting a lot of you are.

Hallelujah, Brothers and Sisters!

Friday, January 21st, 2011
By Twistie

image via Batsto Village

We all believe in something.

Don’t panic. I’m not going to make any attempt whatsoever to tell you what you should or should not believe about the creation and purpose of the universe, or mankind’s place in it. That’s something you need to work out for yourselves in your own time and follow in the way that makes it all make sense to you.

But I think we can all agree on one thing, here on this particular blog: crafting matters to us. Making things is important to us. Creating community is a positive thing.

And that’s what brings me to probably the only church I’ll ever feel a need to join: the Church of Craft.

It’s not about a specific form of spirituality, or a particular faith, beyond that which promotes making stuff. It’s about the peace, joy, and sense of purpose to be found in creating things. It’s not about a particular kind of crafting. There’s room for everyone, whether they knit, crochet, sew, scrapbook, sculpt, or do origami. Teaching is encouraged. Learning is encouraged. Finding common bonds is encouraged.

Their mission statement is simple and profound:

The Church of Craft aims to create an environment where any and all acts of making have value to our humanness. When we find moments of creation in our everyday activities, we also find simple satisfaction. The power of creating gives us the confidence to live our lives with all the love we can. By promoting creativity, we offer access to an interfaith spiritual practice that is self-determined and proactive.

The Church of Craft maintains no dogma or doctrine beyond what every member believes for themselves.

I don’t know about you, but I can certainly believe in that.

There are chapters in place in a variety of cities across the US, Canada,  and Great Britain, but there are plenty of places that don’t have chapters, and some of the chapters seem pretty inactive. If, however, you’re in the Los Angeles area, there’s an event this weekend, and the Oakland/San Francisco chapter had an event just last week (Drat! Missed it!).

If you think this might be a church for you, and that you could be a crafty spiritual leader, consider starting a chapter. You can find guidelines and suggestions for that here.

Let there be crafts.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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