I was having a conversation with my sister recently during lockdown about crafting and in particular using pre-made craft kits. She had posted some gorgeous pictures of some of the things she had made during lockdown using some beautiful kits, and not only were they super lovely in and of themselves, I was in admiration of the fact that she had carved out the time for herself to sit and craft – knowing as I do, the joy it brings in my own life. She is a busy working mum of three, and also very creative – she lovingly hand-crafted the most beautiful wedding invites for us all those years ago before babies were on the scene for any of us, to name just one thing. I genuinely feel excited that she is making again and hope it is something that can last beyond lockdown.

When I complimented her on her handiwork we got chatting about craft kits in general and the pros and cons when it comes to creativity and what they can offer in terms of creative confidence, and even simply, the joy of making.

Certainly during a situation like the pandemic that we have all just been in, using ready-made kits is an obvious and very useful go-to if you want to make something, but don’t necessarily have the energy or means to find and buy all the materials separately, or the inclination and head-space to “think something up” and create something from scratch. In this sense they can be beautifully effortless, giving you a bit of time and space to get crafty, with something lovely to keep at the end of it.

Patterns, tutorials and kits keep crafts alive

The question of “originality” came up in our conversation too. It’s so easy to feel that in just “following some instructions” we are not really being original, because we didn’t come up with the idea ourselves, and it can lead us to question our own creativity. I would argue however, in defence of creativity in all forms – even in using craft-making kits! Not only is it practically impossible to be 100% original all of the time, in a world as busy as ours, but any kind of internal pressure to be original can be a real blocker to just getting started. And whilst I acknowledge that it can be really hard to overcome that internal pressure, I think if we do get started by choosing a beautiful kit to explore, hopefully the joy and satisfaction of making can take over and free us up to find a new creative confidence in something we may not otherwise have discovered. Originality of course can become an entirely valid goal in and of itself, but maybe later, once we have given our creative impulse a chance.   

There are so many ways in which I see value in picking up and reproducing existing patterns – for example, crochet & knitting – not least because it is how crafts pass on down through generations and stay alive.  They express traditions that can hold meaning across generations and thus connect us to our wider community and ancestors. I also truly believe that even when people follow a pattern/kit/design or whatever – the spirit of the maker is in it. That always seems very real to me; it is in the colours they choose, the little imperfections – maybe a stitch dropped here or there – or the embellishments they may add or how they choose to present it afterwards, where it is hung, how it is gifted, the frame they might choose… even the choice of the kit in the first place can reveal something about the personality of the maker 😊.

Our stories make our creations unique and original to us!

In essence, the things we make take on our stories. A few years ago, I began to crochet. I was initially inspired by a pattern in a magazine however, that particular pattern was too tricky for me as I didn’t know how to read it! I turned to YouTube and came across a number of tutorials for crochet star blankets. This seemed like a simpler pattern to start with and that if I could get the hang of, might make the snowflake blanket pattern in the magazine a little easier to master. The first blanket I made was started when my dad became unwell. Happily, he is doing really well now, but that anxious time was made so much easier when I kept my hands busy with row after row of the same repeating crochet-stitch. I took my crochet everywhere, and it was a great channel for all the excess (anxious) energy that I was experiencing. I loved the end result so much that I couldn’t wait to get started on another one.

So, the following Easter, the kids and I took a trip to the wool shop during the break. A trip to the wool shop is a huge delight and treat in and of itself!! All those colours and textures! Together we set about choosing an array of bold and bright colours that could go into another crochet-star blanket that I would make for my sister and her boys. We went for plenty of strong bold colours including an abundance of bright orange! On the way home, we stopped in at the fish & chip shop and bought chips for lunch, so that we would be able to eat in time before an afternoon visit from friends. That is the only time we have ever gone to the chip shop at lunch time – and both the children really remember that day.

It took me what felt like a really, really long time to make that second star blanket. Again, I took it everywhere (I even had it with me at some PowerWood events!), and made bits of progress on it whenever I could. The final push came when I took it with us on our summer holiday last year, and finished the pom edging on the boat journey on the way home. I then managed to wrap it up and – feeling somewhat triumphant – gift it to my sister at the end of a long summer, the colours somehow echoing the vibrancy of the summer warmth and days spent outside.

These stories are so tied into the making … the pattern was not mine to begin with, but the stories woven into the threads are unique and – entirely original. And of course, the blanket now gifted, will take on yet more stories as it acquires a new life of its own in its final destination.

Anything created during the pandemic – needless to say – has its own particular story as well. Our endeavours tell stories of how we spent our time, how we tried to soothe and uplift ourselves, how we came together, how we inspired each other if we chose to share our creations, how we made a little time for ourselves… and in the course of time they will reflect back to us memories of this strange experience in our collective history.

Complimenting ourselves on all our creative endeavours, whatever they may be…

I totally believe that we should give ourselves a pat on the back and compliment ourselves on any of our creative endeavours, whether it is something we have come up with, something created from following prompts or tutorials online, or from buying a pre-made kit or pattern. Even doing this is to take a creative leap and risk – things can still go wrong with a kit, it may not turn out how we hoped and it takes a lot of effort to focus and put energy into learning something new. It is also a starting point. Starting with patterns and kits can, and often does, lead to creating your own designs later on if you practice one thing for long enough. Sometimes we have to be creative magpies to find out what that thing might be.  To be a creative magpie means giving ourselves the permission to explore and try different crafts – I can think of no better way than having a go at a lovingly pre-made kit to get us started on our creative journeys, re-acquainted with our creative selves, or even – if we are already artists established in a certain craft, a fresh perspective from trying something new.    

Kits to try out

Lampshade made using a kit

There are an abundance of craft kits available out there! Some of the things we’ve tried over the years include – marbling, bath bomb and soap-making, needle-felting, cross-stitch and sewing, candle-making, paper-cutting, tie-dye and most recently we even made our own living-room lampshade using a kit, recommended by a friend – at that point I didn’t know such kits existed!

My favourite go-to for crocheting a granny square is this YouTube tutorial, and a few things that I haven’t tried but would like to include macramé, embroidery and print-making. With a little research, it’s entirely possible as well to buy kits that have good green credentials and of course support small independent creative businesses too.

Feel free to follow your curiosity and see where it leads! Happy crafting! 

© Abigail Cole 2020

For more creative ideas visit www.forgetfulfairyartstudio.com

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