Who Taught You The Art of Making?

I can’t imagine who I’d be if I weren’t a maker.

Granted, I think I’m naturally inclined (and I believe most of us are, in one way or another), so if things had happened differently I might just be a different kind of maker. Maybe a chef.

Most of my friends are makers. My home is filled with handmade furniture and art and supplies for making more things. My husband is a maker, and so are our sons. And yet it’s not about the things we’re making, really. It’s about the process. It’s about how we identify as makers and what it means to each of us, individually, as we use our creative energies in the space around us.

Some use the term artist, and I’ve struggled with that one because my physical art skills are embarrassingly poor. (My former knitting students are shouting Amen! to this one.) And even the word creative doesn’t do it for me. Sometimes I don’t feel particularly creative. But I do feel like a maker, and even on my worst day when the creative muse is ignoring me and my sketches are letting me down and even my swatches are refusing to cooperate, I still proudly identify as a maker.

I think about making. I dream about making. I wake up and fall asleep making. I am a maker.

And because it’s so central to who I am and the values I hold, it makes me deeply appreciate the people who inspired me along the way; the people who took the time to teach me HOW to be a maker. Do you mind if I get a little sentimental for a moment?

My mother taught me to hand sew when I was about five years old. She showed me how to poke the needle through the fabric and bring it back up through to make a stitch.  I remember being so proud of my stitches and I stood up to show her, only to realize I’d sewn the tiny piece right to my nightgown.  It was the first, but certainly not the last, time I had to pick out stitches and start again.

At some point in my early years I joined the local 4H program (which was a big deal in the Midwestern USA back in the day) and, thanks to community volunteers, I learned things like quilling, Hardanger and how to bake yeast breads. Mrs. Dueringer taught the yeast breads class and I remember her telling us to never ever EVER use a metal bowl when proofing our yeast. To this day I can’t find a legitimate reason for that advice. (Though I admit I was probably 25 before I used a metal bowl because she’d warned us so sternly about it, and even now I look over my shoulder when I do.) 

It was Mrs. Cox, my 7th and 8th grade home economics teacher, who taught me the proper use of a sewing machine. She instilled the wisdom that the inside of my project should be as pretty as the outside – that my lines should be smooth and seams, tidy. I made my first carry-all bag, first – and last – sweatshirt (because, why?) and first drop waist jumper, lovingly sewn in a sage green fabric covered with tiny brown teddy bears. In spite of some major fabric regrets, I still have that last one and you should see how pretty those inside seams are. One of these days I’ll dig it out and show you.

My maternal grandmother was the knitting instigator (I know you’ve heard me gush about my grandma); she started giving me knitting lessons somewhere around the age of 10-11, and while I enjoyed sewing, I loved knitting far more because it was portable and I could hide it in my purse. I never entirely gave up my other hobbies, but when push came to shove, knitting always took the lead.

Sure, I was probably born with an inclination toward making things, but I’ve got to give credit to the people in my life who both encouraged me and took the time to share what they knew. They didn’t have to, and even if it was their job (as in the case of Mrs. Cox), they didn’t have to do a good job of it. But they did. They taught me AND they inspired me, and that’s a winning combination.

Who taught you the art of making? And who will you teach?

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