I am the only one in my immediate family with an actual, genuine, paid-for college degree in art. (Never mind that said degree came from a college smaller than many high schools, with an art department consisting of two people, only one of whom was a competent teacher. There’s still a valid signature on my diploma.)
Despite this official testimonial to my possessing a minimum of creative skill, I am the only one in my family who doesn’t currently “do” art or crafts. My mother quilts. My father is a capable woodworker and has a gift for cartooning. My sisters quilt, sew, make greeting cards, embroider, knit, crochet, and decorate their houses in attractive and innovative ways. All of them produce beautiful things that apparently turn out just the way they are supposed to.
When I try something of the sort, I usually get halfway through and realize, a), this is more work than I thought it was going to be, and b), what I’m creating bears only the slightest resemblance to the picture on the pattern. At which point my tendency is to give up and go read a book.
I may, however, have just discovered a craft that is truly suited to my talents. One of my sisters has been making bags and hats that are “felted.” The technique for this is to knit something out of wool yarn, making it significantly larger than the desired size. Then you wash it in hot water, toss it in the dryer, and shrink it to the size you want.
Now that just might be a skill I could master. I do have experience along those lines. There was the prom dress from high school that, as a college student with no money for dry-cleaning, I washed carefully by hand. The process transformed it from a full-length dress into a mini, which would have been okay if it hadn’t gone from a size 8 to a size 0 at the same time.
Then there was the nice green sweater of my ex-husband’s that I washed and—forgetting it was wool—tossed in the dryer. By the time I took it out, it just fit our son. He was four. Handing down clothes is a time-honored tradition, to be sure, though it is customary to wait for the smaller person to grow into things rather than adjust the clothes to fit. Oh, well, at least it gave the kid something green to wear for St. Patrick’s Day. Never mind that he said it itched.
Over the years I haven’t practiced this skill consistently. Still, I haven’t completely lost my touch. My most recent attempt at “felting” was my partner’s thick terry-cloth bathrobe. It wasn’t quite dry when I took it out of the dryer. Considerately not wanting him to have a damp bathrobe in the morning—it was January, after all—I tossed it back into the dryer for a little more time. When I took it out the second time, it was dry, all right. It also was six inches shorter than it had been and considerably narrower across the shoulders. Perhaps I could have kept it for myself, but I prefer my winter bathrobes to have sleeves that come down past my elbows. After I made a trip to the mall for a new bathrobe, we gave the old one to the thrift store, where it probably found a new owner who was a skinny eight-year-old.
With all this experience, felting might be just my thing. It probably would be best to start with a simple bag, though. No matter what size it turned out to be, I could pretend it was exactly the size I had intended. “I know the pattern called it a purse, but I really needed a little bag for my paper clips.”
Or maybe I could save all the time and effort and just go read another book.