I’m back! And these are some things I’ve done, and learnt from, in the meantime.

One of my housemates volunteers with a community theatre group. They needed help painting some of the set so I gave up a morning to help. I’d genuinely forgotten how calming I find it when I am absorbed my something creative for a few hours. I drew and painted this board of cogs, and felt so much happier because of it.

I went to Henley Regatta and got to wear a hat (I didn’t actually wear it with that checked shirt). I fitted in much more than I thought I would, which will teach me for being such a reverse snob.

At Cowley Road Carnival we chose mask making in the family craft area rather than daytime drinking in front of the stages. Had much more fun.

I moved rooms in my house. I now have a sofa! And room to spread out all the blankets I crochet.

My bike wheels were stolen. Bastards. But now that it’s my main method of transport, I was toying with the idea of using the money I made my selling my car to invest in a good bike. I guess that decision has now been made for me.

Everything is beautiful

This year I made a resolution to use up my existing stash of wool before buying any more. I wasn’t holding out much hope of making anything spectacular. I was left with a lot of what I considered to be really dull colours, many of which had been passed down from my Grandma, remaining unused since they had been bought in the seventies. Beiges, browns, pale greens and yellow – I thought the only thing to do would be to pair them with brighter colours left over from my granny square blanket and hope for the best.

So I am surprised at how much I like the resulting blankets. Which goes to show that anything can be beautiful when presented in the right way.

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Is social media making us less creative?

Often on Sunday afternoons, in order to glean a bit of productivity from the weekend, I like to organise my stuff, think about why I’m holding onto things and get rid of them if they’re not serving any purpose. Yesterday I was going through the apps on my phone.

“Why do I need Instagram?” I asked myself. My immediate feeling was that it’s a creative outlet. It lets me capture images (usually of something that I’m making), apply a pretty filter, and share them with the world. So actually, it doesn’t allow me to be that creative: Instagram determines the dimensions of the image, the filters and borders I can apply to it, and the way in which it’s presented on the site. It’s not an expression of individual creativity; it’s only being creative to a prescribed format. You also cease capturing things for yourself, and start posting for wider social approval. The value of your image increases with each “like” it gets from an often anonymous pseudonym.

I’m currently reading You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier. In it, he talks about how the database nature of social media sites reduce the human experience. Instead of describing or categorising ourselves as we naturally would, we’re forced to choose from a list of prescribed options.

“Personal reductionism has always been present in information systems. You have to declare your status in reductive ways when you file a tax return. Your real life is represented by a silly, phoney set of database entries in order for you to make use of a service in an approximate way. Most people are aware of the difference between reality and database entries when they file taxes.

But the order is reversed when you perform the kind of self-reduction in order to create a profile on a social networking site. You fill in the data: profession, marital status, and residence. But in this case digital reductionism becomes a causal element, mediating contact between new friends. That is new… The fancy web 2.0 designs of the early twenty-first century start off by classifying people into bubbles,so you meet your own kind. Facebook tops up dating pools, LinkedIn corrals careerists, and so on.”

I’m not sure if this is changing our view of what it is to be a person, but it does change how we express ourselves. Doing so from a status update, choosing from a list of how we could be feeling, limits our choices and reduces individual creativity. Presumably this will only have long term impacts on how we think about ourselves if we only communicate in this way. While too much time on twitter results in my internal monologue performing a narrative in 140 character sound-bites, a conversation with an actual human being snaps me out of this. Still, it’s probably worth thinking about, and making sure we seek creative pursuits offline and well as online.

How not to crochet a rug

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I started this project so long ago I had look back through the blog archives to find out when it was. 10 July 2012, as it turns out.

Momentum inevitably slowed after I moved from the home I was creating it for and stopped speaking to the man I was creating the home with. I wondered if I would always associate the rug with a period in my life that merely turned out to be a classic example of trying to settle down too young with someone inappropriate.

But actually I’ve fallen in love with the rug again: it’s random colour combinations, untidy joins and decidedly un-straight edges. It’s a mess, but it’s my mess and is an appropriate enough symbol for my twenties as anything else.

Even so, there are things I would do differently next time. So I’ve created a how-to-not guide, based on everything I’ve done. If you want to crochet a nice looking rug, ignore every single one of these.

  1. Have a flash of inspiration and start working right away, without experimenting with thickness of fabric strips.
  2. Have a wholly unrealistic idea of how much fabric you will need.
  3. Accept any kind of scrap fabric from friends and family – pay no attention to colour or weight.
  4. Don’t stitch the fabric together – tie in large messy knots that are uncomfortable under foot.
  5. Go over your internet data allowance by 700% because you’ve decided you need to watch every series on Netflix while crocheting.
  6. Spend time cutting fabric strips before work, so you have bits of pink fabric all over your tights.
  7. Start and stop, often leaving for months at a time.
  8. Show everyone who comes to your house the rug you’ve started making. They will keep asking how it’s coming along and you’ll have to admit how lazy you are.
  9. Don’t count the number of stitches in each row, and keep forgetting which stitch to start in on a new row. The result, uneven edges as the rug get’s wider and narrower over time, means you have to hide the side under your bed and wardrobe (see image above).
  10. Keep going until you have cramp in your hands, an aching back, and a deep dread of the amount of work it will take to be as big as you wanted.

Paper ball decorations

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Is there any better way to spend dark rainy days than with paper, glue, scissors and numerous cups of tea? I think not.

Lately I’ve been making these paper decorations. The first two were trial runs for a friend’s wedding. They’re made from tissue paper so are slightly more delicate than the third, for which I cut up a junk mail magazine that came unwanted through my letter box. I quite like the magazine version, especially as it’s re-using material that would otherwise we going straight into the recycle bin, and might be making a lot more for Christmas.

I used the instructions on Mr P’s blog, which you can find here: http://blog.mrprintables.com/how-to-make-honeycomb-pom-poms/

Fun with beads

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It was great to have good enough weather this summer to spend most of it outside: gardening, running, cycling, at music festivals and in pub gardens. But now it’s getting darker and colder it’s been great to spend cosy evenings indoors with a mug of tea and my latest craft project. Last night I pushed some blue and silver beads around, trying different combinations until I became inspired enough to thread some on a piece of nylon and tie them to some hooks to make earrings.

After months of working on the crochet blanket, it was nice to just play around without an end product in mind. This is my favourite method of being creative: setting out on a journey and just seeing where I end up. Actually, that’s my preferred approach to anything: travel, shopping, cooking and life. I like to try things out, to explore, to not worry if things turn out badly but learn from it when they do.

Yesterday I learnt that tying bits of nylon together was not an adequate way of finishing earrings when one of them came undone while I was queuing for the cinema. The beads all disappeared down the neck of my sweater and I spend the film picking bits out of my bra. I’ll re-do them with wire once I’ve been to the shop and replenished my supplies.