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this whole creative thing

24 May

It’s possibly weird, and probably because the things others regard as creative I regard as just part of everyday life, but when I think about my own creativity, it extends to what I do musically and not at all to the sewing, knitting, crochet and the like.

The music? I take a song and make it my own. The words and the notes provide direction but the interpretation is mine. I think about it even when I’m not actively singing. I plan how I should best approach certain technical aspects and ponder what story the words are telling and, therefore, how they should be delivered to impart maximum impact.

The knitting? I’m just following a pattern to make something that looks like what the picture says it should. I don’t necessarily consider that clever. Maybe if I were a more adventurous knitter, I’d have a different view of things but, you know, what I knit is easy stuff and pretty yarn does a lot of the work. Mostly, there’s a need for something and I have the skills to make the something to meet that need. It’s usually the case that someone else has already done the hard work of nutting out the pattern. And that some other knitter could follow that pattern and come up with a very similar result.

The sewing, specifically making clothes? I arrive at having something functional and necessary that possibly – even probably – fits better than RTW and is better made (I don’t, however, make many clothes because, frankly, I don’t see the need for a new dress each day of the week; and I wear my clothes for a long, long time). I understand about the cleverness some people bring to their sewing, cleverness that is decidedly creative, but I simply don’t sew enough and certainly not enough clothes.

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that's almost as good as new. You don't need a new jumper every day!

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that’s almost as good as new. You don’t need a new jumper every day!

I make lots of lavender bags and simple things like shopping totes and bandannas and toobs for cyclists but they’re neither terribly clever nor at all spectacular and, in many cases, not truly my invention. Someone else came up with the idea for a toob, for example. I merely re-created something similar when necessity dictated because YoungB was fed up with having a cold face and something that got dragged down his face each time he put his helmet on. You might call that an improvement, I suppose, but the basic idea wasn’t mine.

I have a book that describes making pyramid-shaped juggling balls for kids (to stave off boredom during holidays) and I saw some dashing pyramid-shaped paperweights (filled with rice, I think the seller told me). I’d spent a lot of years making little, ravioli-shaped lavender bags, completely handsewn and extraordinarily time consuming, so I was looking for something simpler and faster. I merely adapted those two similar ideas to come up with my pyramid lavender bags (look on Etsy and you’ll see that plenty of folk make pyramid lavender bags). Original? Hardly; though perhaps the mix in mine is one nobody else uses. Creative? Not to my mind.

Is it all about the mystique that nowadays attaches to these once mundane tasks? Time was, and it really wasn’t that long ago, when every woman and quite a few men did these sorts of things as a matter of course and necessity. It is probably true that there have always been some who took it to better levels – tidier stitch definition, neater seams, precision finishing – but it wasn’t anything exceptional and/or special. My Dad used mattress stitch to mend everything; not always neat but always effective! My Mum, who’d been taught by her own mother who was a tailoress, had the right stitch for each mending job: always tidy, even when she apostrophised it as “cobbled together”. She would often add in such cases that, “A blind man would be glad to see it.” Quite so.

Time was, we were a more musically literate society, too. I grew up in a family where everyone sang, everyone had piano lessons and it wasn’t at all weird to gather for a sing-song. I’m of an age and system where the recorder was standard issue at school (or fife if you went public system, like Youngest Aunt; a much trickier instrument altogether) or perhaps there was even a school band where you could have a good time blowing your own trumpet (or possibly trombone, if your arms were long enough). I’m not necessarily suggesting we have to bring back that era or those values or that older system. But when I grew up and everyone knitted and sewed and a lot of people played piano and sang, to bring excellence to the music was special. You had to have something extra to do that.

Maybe that’s what I mean when I say music is where the creativity is, because there were many fine, skilled pianists and singers, too; but only some of them made you sit up and listen and really pay attention to their performance. By and large, the other things – the sewing, knitting and crochet – don’t grab your attention as anything out of the ordinary. They’re part of life and that’s about it. And if they do, then perhaps they’ve gone past that utilitarian stage to being something beyond. Perhaps then they truly are creations.

And perhaps you should now go and read Karen’s post!

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