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:


Making and Doing, Creating and Sub-Creating

I love the idea of a self-sustaining hobby. In order for that to work out, however, I would need to be more determined in the promotional department. I am not. But once in a while, someone asks me to make them some cards, and offers to pay for them. And every once in a while, I let them.

I had a charming moment with my uncle last week. I had made graduation announcements for my little cousin, and the happy result of that was a pressing need for “thank you” cards. This may be my favorite little nicety, the “thank you” card. I make and use a lot of them. It’s probably my mom’s fault. But now it’s so engrained as a simple gesture that people really appreciate, I keep some in my desk at work as well as a pretty big stash at home so that I can write a little note whenever the occasion arises. People are pretty cool; the occasion arises frequently.

So naturally I was happy to encourage my cousin in her quest to be visibly grateful. I made her ten different styles. It was a blast, and my first creative project of the summer. When my uncle insisted on paying me, I used the money in less than an hour to order a new, elaborate stamp and die set, and I was reminded of one of my core values: encourage the makers—of clever, useful things, of crafts, of art, of music, of story. Makers make the world much more palatable.

My uncle recounted his relationship with his mom, my grandmother, who crocheted covered hangers by the score when her hands were feeling good, and quilted when they weren’t. He would “sell” these covered hangers for her and give Grandma some money, with which she bought more yarn. (This really entailed giving cushy hangers as gifts to all his co-workers and friends by the dozen, until they all had more than they could use and told him to stop).

Yep. I recognize the pattern. It’s a good hobby, especially for a teacher who used her head all day long and then wanted to relax by using her hands and resting her head. Boy, do I get that.

Really, though, there are lots of different kinds of “makers.”

Musicians make music, for instance. One of the things I insist on when we travel is tipping the street musicians and other performers. My kids got to the point where they started asking for some money as soon as we heard them in the distance. Whenever I can, I buy handmade items and art, craft beer and homemade jam, and, in addition to books, art supplies are my favorite gifts to give. Anything to keep that good juju going.

I have talked about the unique satisfaction of making something beautiful or useful in another blog, but here I’m most in awe of the way in which creators and patrons and happy supporters form a symbiotic community. JRR Tolkien talks about people as sub-creators, making on the microcosmic scale, as God created the world on the larger scale.  But for me the microcosm is enough.

Because in the effort of each of us to make a little something to make the world better, easier, more beautiful, all those little gestures of good faith and industry and inspiration–they add up and overwhelm the world.