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July 2017

crafting guilt

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Growing up, it was understood that my dad would spend a certain amount of time in front of the television during football season. My mom supported it (he needed to relax after busy work days). The same football ritual was upheld and supported by countless females in the family. The women tended to household responsibilities and children while the men relaxed.

I'm not writing to pass judgment on sports. As my mom recognized, it is a valid way to wash away the worries of the world and engage in some fun. What I'm wondering is, does society bestow upon me, a mother of young children, the same unquestioned right to relax? Because I've noticed something lately, especially when I pick up my knitting project. It's a feeling of guilt. A “bad mom, bad housekeeper, selfish artist” kind of feeling. And I guarantee that my darling dad never felt that when he sat down to watch a game.

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This feeling is surprising to me, given that I have a very supportive partner. He willingly provides me time to knit and sew. Sewing time, for me, can be filed under the “getting stuff done for my small business” category. Knitting, though, is pure diversion. All that time I spent knitting my Find Your Fade Shawl? He jokingly said it best himself: “Each of those stitches is made possible by my Dad Skills.” Unquestionably, he has some mad Dad Skills, but I noticed a shift in my own self-consciousness when he said it. Was I overly depending on him for my leisure time? What do my extended family members think about a mother who sits down to knit an unnecessary garment? (Why would she do that when there's Target?) On and on went the grumbling, negative voice in my head.

When my partner read this, he said, “I feel the same guilt when I play the banjo.” Perhaps the gender-specific hobby guilt is shifting with the times, but it still doesn't erase the feeling that we, particularly as parents, should always be doing something else. Something immediately productive.

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As I've written before, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with my (very short) to-make list. I don't resent my children because they keep me from obsessively making. I find the process of slowly making things to be meditative and fulfilling – when I can get over that feeling that I should be making a grand dinner/doing the laundry/reading to the kids/putting together some sort of amazing science experiment. I recognize this feeling of guilt is a construct of my own mind, helped along by societal expectations. And so, I've started considering the following, in order to access the mindful, relaxed state that I seek when I craft:

  1. Knitting and sewing are my Artist's Way. Just because I am not writing in a journal or painting, it doesn't mean that what I do is not an artistic practice. I should speak of it as such – to my children, to my extended family, and to my friends. Fiber art is a productive and worthy form of artistic expression. It is good for me to show my passion to my children, and for them to see me as a real artist (even though I don't make a penny from my knitting.)

  2. A regular knitting/creating routine is in order. Just like Monday night football, I think it would be helpful for me and my family to know what to expect in my artistic practice. Perhaps I should sit down with my coffee and yarn for a predictable 30 minutes each morning? Maybe a weekend morning sewing session? I am also going to try putting on an audio book that we all enjoy while I work with my hands. I suspect that my eight year-old will also pick up his own knitting project while we listen and knit.

  3. Communicate that handwork is also a spiritual practice. Taking time to breathe, clear my thoughts, and enter the present moment with my craft ultimately helps me be a more present mother. A mother who is comfortable with slowing down, ripping out stitches, starting over again, and being at peace with the process. Because truly, that's the heart of the problem. Our society prioritizes “doing” over “being.” I have no problem “doing.” Most people don't. I can always use more practice just “being,” and my fiber art can help with that.

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“Feelings about the past and the future pass through our knitting consistently. Thoughts can be neatly filed away into the fabric, enabling the present to be less cluttered and free for more mindful knitting. Let your processed thoughts flow with the yarn into the knitting. As your rows build up, let your stories of the past and future leave the present, and find a suitable place to rest within the knitting. As the stories are knitted away, notice the sentiment behind them and, with a clear head, continue to form useful, beautiful fabric. Woes will start to evaporate into your knitting rather than reside in your body. As you knit more rows, continue to use this simple filing system, until you feel you have fully entered your peaceful, sacred knitting space, and are free of any niggling fears.”

Rachael Matthews - The Mindfulness in Knitting - Meditations on Craft and Calm

Pattern info:

Rainbow shawl - Find Your Fade Shawl, knitted with fingering-weight yarn from my stash

Cropped sweater - Tegna Sweater, knitted with yarn from Welthase in Antique Rose colorway

White, two-tiered dress under Tegna Sweater - upcoming reversible Metamorphic Dress pattern from Yours Truly. ;)