What does making mean to ME?

I was glad to see a new episode of the Playful Day podcast pop up on my phone app this week. After a bit of a hiatus for creative reload, Kate is back in full force and talking about The Maker's Year. She's issued a blog prompt in her latest post: What does making mean to YOU? And I think I'll play along.

In some ways, it's hard for me to answer this question. For one thing, "making" as a verb without an immediate direct object is not something I'm accustomed to using. I want to ask "Making what?" Cookies? Sweaters? Hand-carved spoons? I suppose if I step back and think about this reaction, it tells you something about my intention whenever I make something. That something, the thing being made, is actually just as important to me as the process of making itself.

I am a practical person, and a busy parent in a small house. My time is limited and my needs are specific. These days, when I make something, I want it to be useful. Beautiful, yes, but it must be useful. I knit sweaters and oh, so many hats because winters here are cold. I sew t-shirts for my children because they are growing and need new ones and I don't like the ones available to buy. (Notice the photos interspersed here? More Flashback Skinny Tees. I can't get tired of making these, and I'm running out of interesting things to say about them, so I thought I'd add some visual interest to this post, relevance be damned.) I cut up cashmere sweaters and sew them into a big lap blanket because we need something soft to cuddle under on the couch.

For another thing, I have been making stuff as long as I can remember. My very first creative project in my memory is from when I was about three or four, when I took a stack of papers and stapled them together along three edges. I called it a purse and insisted that my mom send it to my great aunt for her birthday with a note explaining what it was. (I don't know if she ever did. She may not have, and I don't blame her.) When I was a little older and had better developed fine motor skills, I learned to sew and knit and cross-stitch, and I messed around with beads and fabric and occasionally paint and all kinds of things. Now that I've been a grownup for a while, the hobbies that have stuck with me are knitting and sewing.

I realize now how lucky I was to have so much creative opportunity in my life. My parents are both creative people, and my mom, especially, has always shared my enthusiasm for fiber arts, so when I was growing up there were plenty of supplies at hand whenever the urge to make something struck. When I visit my parents, I still love to go rummaging in the basement and find fabric scraps and whatnot to bring home.

This is all a long way of saying that another reason it's hard for me to answer the question What does making mean to YOU? is that I've been making things (I still need that D.O. there, yo, even if it's nonspecific) for so long I haven't really had the need to pause and reflect on why or what it means to me. It's just something I do.

It's like baking bread. I learned to make bread from scratch when I was growing up because my mom always made our bread and she taught me. She learned from her mom, who must have learned from her mom. We need to eat bread, so we will make bread. Baking bread was never revolutionary for me, or life-changing, or even - to be honest - all that exciting. It's just something I do.

Learning to make other yummy things from scratch, on the other hand, has been pretty fun. Ten years ago my brother taught me to make tortillas from scratch, and last year a friend taught me to make gimbap (it's basically sushi, but Korean style). These things have expanded my cooking repertoire, if you will, and my whole family benefits.

One thing I have realized fairly recently is that I have an intense need for constant tactile input. I don't mean at all that I have some kind of unusual sensory needs or a disorder. Far from it, and I won't insult or patronize the people who do by claiming otherwise.  I just need to use my hands all the time.
In my professional life, I am a musician. I play and teach piano for a living, which means that I use my sense of touch and hearing in a specific and intense way for several hours every day. But music is ephemeral, something that has to be experienced in the moment - even if that moment takes weeks to prepare for - and there is something I find equally satisfying about knitting a sweater and looking at it when it's done and wearing it over and over again. (The same could theoretically be said about sewing a garment, but my success rate with sewing things for myself is...let's just say it's something I hope to improve this year!)

If I want to adopt The Maker's Year for myself, what do I want to get out of it? Some things (knitting, baking bread) I've been doing so long it's like second nature. But the last thing I want is to feel like I'm stuck in a rut. After all, there are always new skills to learn and old skills to refine.

I'm a little afraid that if I jump too enthusiastically onto the social media bandwagon I'll get overwhelmed. It's easy for this to happen with all the beautiful blogs (waaaaay more professional than this one) and well-curated Instagram feeds. You could scroll forever, never see it all, and never get anything made. It's the main reason I've never joined Pinterest and don't plan to.

Still, there are some goals I'd like to set for myself, or at least some areas I'd like to work on. So here goes:

  • Blogging. I've been blogging here and at Madtown Mama for ten years. Ten! I don't see big changes there, but I would like to keep posting, and maybe even plan content like tutorials or a series on a topic or even try doing a video every once in a while. The technology just gets easier to use. And if I've stuck with this for ten years, I obviously feel the need to share!
  • Photography. Last year we got a new camera and I learned how to use editing software. I'm still pretty clueless about how all the camera functions work, though, and I have been meaning to buckle down and learn some of the basics. I mean, I couldn't even explain to you what an F-stop is.  Pretty sad.
  • Sewing. I have been accumulating quite a stash of supplies for sewing garments for me and the kids (not Stuart yet because he is one picky fella) and I am excited to expand my skills beyond the Flashback Skinny Tee! I've involved my kids in the sewing process and that's been fun. I need to do that more (and blog about it).
I'm sure there are many things I could add to this list, but I think I'll leave it at that. My maker's year will grow organically. I will make things as the need arises and according to my whims. 


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