Hygge and Craft

The winter holidays are upon us. I know because I’ve started adding my chili chocolate mix to my coffee, and my house is full of twinkle lights and paper chains. I love this time of year; I’m a world class celebrant. But apart from celebrating and visiting and family-snuggling, I’m also really looking forward to crafting so hard my hands cramp.

Winter is a time when I make a bunch of cards and tags and gift wrap all at once. I send holiday cards and use the tags, of course, but I also gift people boxes of cards and packets of tags that I have hand-crafted piecemeal in the fall and flockmeal in the third week of December.

(Tangent: do we know that “flockmeal” was a word in Middle English? The opposite of “piecemeal,” it means to do or have a lot of something all at once. You’ve just witnessed my first attempt to bring it back.)

Handmade ornaments from years gone by. It’s too big a world for just one hobby.

But back to crafting. I’ve talked about craft as occupational therapy before, but since a number of articles have appeared in my feed recently extolling its mental health benefits, I’m thinking seriously about it again. It seems to me useful for all those reasons they list: the meditative, zen sort of flow, that distracts us from the problems of the world and gives us something productive to do. And one of the benefits, of course, is social; quilting bees and “stitch and bitch” sessions leap to mind.

Tonight I’m thinking of the introverted half of me. I do have a weekly crafty time, and I also host a few parties throughout the year where I have people come over for a crafty cocktail party, where we make stuff and munch. I am also very happy crafting by myself.

My hobby is making cards and papercrafty sorts of things. And like knitting or quilting or some of the other crafts getting props these days, it has an end that aims outside myself. I make cards with the intent to send them. I make tags and gift wrap with the intent to give them away. I use them; they’re functional, so they serve me. But they’re also cute or pretty and that is aimed at serving someone else. It means they have as their end goal making someone else happy. That is social too—just Introvert’s Paradise kind of social. That I can be thinking about other people and forging connections while in my pajamas, listening to music I don’t have to explain… it’s like the crafter’s equivalent of telecommuting. And it’s awesome.

Tags and Parts That Will Become Tags.. Mwa ha ha!

So after the finals are in, after the last committee has met, and after the grades have been submitted, I’m going to be stamping and punching and coloring and cutting till the cows come home. And then the tag-bombing of the neighbors and co-workers and other wonderful people will commence. And then there will be peace in my happy-ass little heart this holiday season. May you find yours as well.

Here are links to a couple of those articles I mentioned:


Keep Moving Forward

There are some things I feel very confident about. But it’s weird, isn’t it, the kinds of things people can feel comfortable with and still worry about other things that might seem less significant?  And how some things can intimidate one person but not faze the next?
Maybe it’s just years of desperation in grad school, but we pretty much had to be able to teach what we were assigned, and it made me scrappy—not an expert, but enough to teach a lower division class. I taught books wildly out of my areas of expertise, and made it work. Give me some library time, and I am confident that I can find a way to make most literature accessible, and maybe even entertaining.
So you’d think, maybe, that I could plan a crafty workshop.
I mean, I can, but I worry. Since I’ve found My Hobby (after years of trying on others that were temporarily interesting, but ultimately I didn’t stick with them), I’ve tried a number of ways to fund it and to get more out of it. My hobby is paper-crafting or card-making. I also make gift bags and tags and other gift-wrapping paraphernalia. To support this hobby/habit, I have resorted to flogging crafting supplies at in-home parties like Tupperware, and to indulge my desire to share what makes me happy, I have had “Make your own holiday tags” parties every December for the last several years.
The tag party works because it feels like such low stakes. People make little gift tags for the holidays. They’re quick to design and assemble; I put out a number of samples with appropriate materials, and off they go. Usually people leave with a dozen (or twenty) tags, and don’t have to buy them that year. I like that. I think the gift wrap industry is outlandish and have ever since a friend gifted my son a $10 Lego set and gave me the receipt in case he had it already. She had also paid $10 for a bag, tissue, and a card. I was mortally offended for her and vowed to address that.
So I do the tag party. I’ve given up on having the parties where people buy stuff.  My heart was never in it, and it’s a hobby for me, not a career, so I just provide the materials and let people play. That makes me much happier.
This year, though, they also wanted to do cards. You’d be amazed how much I fretted.
For someone who has pulled off half a dozen tag parties, a card party shouldn’t have been daunting, but it was. It really, really was. Cards seem like something a real crafter teaches, not some dilettante who stamps more for therapy than because she knows what she’s doing. The stakes felt much higher, for some reason. I still can’t quite explain why.

But I have a couple of wonderful friends who encouraged me, and who brought some extra supplies to help out, and off we went. And it was a lovely event. People made 2-6 cards instead of 12-20, but everyone had fun, and my little ambivert self found the sweet spot between having too many people depending on me for guidance and blending in with the crowd and making some of my own cards.
It was glorious, and now I’m slightly embarrassed by how much I fretted about it. When I was in grad school, and worrying about whether or not I could finish my dissertation, my wise 29-year old husband said to think of it like a boat you’re building. If you know what a boat needs and you get the materials and spend time building it, you need to trust that it will float, because that’s what boats do. Trust the boat to be boat-like.
And this feels like one of those times, when I should have been able to say “trust the boat” and move forward, but I didn’t. The good news is I get credit for pushing myself in to uncomfortable territory and doing just fine. And every time I do that, I have a little bit more street cred.