Lest you think I’m throwing all of this autodidactic learning material at you because some thinktanker said it was cool, I thought I’d whip up a Friday Five to share with you my own self-directed learning origin story.
I grew up in a very crafty family. Both of my parents crochet and do some type of needlepoint. Mom does at least a dozen other crafts beyond that. So, it came as no surprise when I started making things, too. While I’ve tried my parents’ crafts (they were handy), I’ve played with some other crafts, too. While the list below isn’t exhaustive, these are the crafts I’ve done the longest, or that had some personal significance to me when I was practicing them.
1. Jewelry Design – This is probably the craft I’ve been practicing the longest. I started with friendship pins in elementary school. I gathered all sizes of safety pins and beads. I learned the symbolism behind the colors. (I was already pretty deep into children’s mythology books, so stepping out to other branches of anthropology wasn’t a stretch.) By middle school, I’d switched over to friendship bracelets, which were great for carting around on road trips and to summer camp. (Everyone in my cabin napped. I made bracelets, or taught someone in my cabin how to make their own.) In grad school, I dabbled in beading, which I didn’t enjoy, and then discovered chain mail and wrapped wire. My Etsy shop (which is woefully understocked at the moment) is home to mostly wire jewelry, but maybe someday I’ll make some macrame projects (the grown-up way of saying “friendship bracelets”) for the shop.
2. Crochet & Knitting – Many efforts have been made to teach me crochet over the years, but it never took. I really don’t know why. Maybe it was having to learn a skill by mirror (I’m left-handed), although I did that for years in ballet. Maybe it was just too labor-intensive for free-spirited me. Who knows? Last year, though, I decided I wanted to use up the drawers of yarn gathered from years of other projects, and so I snagged a crochet hook from my mom, set up an account on Ravelry and found a pattern, found a series of instructional videos on YouTube, and made my very first scarf. I’ve made more scarves since then, and they’re being offered in my Etsy shop…when I remember to post them. Knitting still remains elusive to me. After years of trying to make loom knitting work the way I think it should, I”m now in the market for my first needles. I’ve found YouTube videos, and am ready to completely frustrate myself.
3. Needlepoint – Needlepoint was probably my second craft, and it’s the one I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with. I have probably half a dozen or so (conservative estimate) projects started and stowed away in a drawer, and another dozen or so projects waiting to be started. I have a picture I want converted into a cross stitch pattern so I can make it and then frame it to look like a canvas painting. While these projects are time consuming, it’s fun to effectively paint with thread, to handle all those colors, to be able to make a wide variety of projects with nothing more than a needle, thread or yarn, and aida cloth or plastic canvas. I can’t tell you the last time I worked on a needlepoint project, but I should seriously think about trying to finish some of the projects in the drawer.
4. Polymer Clay – I used to love playing with Play-Doh as a kid. I’d make up a full playset, and then smoosh everything down and make something else. (Now you know where that metaphor comes from in the PLE.) To this day, I can’t handle a lump of clay without first turning it into a coiled mug, a throwback to a childhood spent poring over Childcraft books. So, it seemed logical that I would get involved with polymer clay. Except…the only reason I took up polymer clay was because I wanted to make a necklace like one I’d seen on television, and I couldn’t find stones that would work. (I should find that necklace and post a picture of it. It came out completely awful. Heh.) I’ve made canes, toys, and coasters, but I still just can’t make myself get into polymer clay. Perhaps someday.
5. Weaving – Ever since I was a very small child, I have loved Native American handcrafts. There’s a beauty in the work that I think is unrivaled in many other cultures. Mom had a small automated loom, but it was a bit much for elementary school me. When Fisher Price released their loom, I received it the following Christmas. I made so many things on it. I loved it. We still have it. I think I might even know where it is. But none of my current yarn stash is well-suited to it, so I guess I won’t be busting it out and working on it.
So, there you go. A collection of handcrafts I’ve learned, mostly on my own, over the years. When I tell you stories about self-directed learning projects, you’ll know now where I’m coming from…at least on this front. (I”m a self-trained digital storyteller, too. But that’s a conversation for another time.)