A Room of My Own: Why Creative Space Matters

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Sometimes it feels like my kids simply cannot keep their hands to themselves. They can’t help it, I know this. Powerful curiosity paired with a lack of impulse control means small children touch EVERYTHING. They want to feel the surface of a book. Tap the hard glass on a picture frame. Stroke the glossy leaves of a houseplant. Tap tap tap on the keys of the laptop.  Sift through the detritus in my nightstand drawer. You get the picture.

Much of this exploring is delightful to watch, and mostly harmless. But some of it grates on me, makes me feel violated in a way. Like each poke of a little finger into my brand new blush compact is a poke in my eye.

As a parent I try not to take my kids’ behavior too personally. I know and respect that they are their own people trying to make sense of the world just like the rest of us. Our children are given room to roam within the boundaries of our family rules, and it mostly goes okay.

Where I’m still struggling to find flexibility and ease is in claiming some personal physical space.


When we first moved into our house, my vision of each living space was so clear. We have a two-story home, and and the first floor has our living and dining rooms, kitchen, and a half-bath.

We also have a lovely extra room at the front of the house with double doors, a transom window above, and tons of natural light thanks to a large east-facing window. My daughter was a toddler when we moved in, and making this space a playroom was ideal. She could have a space to play and create and be messy. It was close to the main living areas, and having this space meant no toys in those living areas. I took great pleasure in designing the room. We shopped at Ikea and put together a desk and cubbies and hung picture wires to display her creations. It was perfect.

We have spent countless hours together over the years in this sweet room working with play dough, painting at the easel, building train tracks, stacking blocks, reading books. It was exactly what we needed for that phase of life.

Somewhere along the way, she started spending less time in the playroom and more time in her bedroom. She was getting older and wanted her own space. Then along came baby brother, and soon this room with its paint and markers and tiny lego pieces wasn’t as appealing a place to hang out. We slowly started moving things in and out of the room to make it work.

Soon we were spending less and less time in the playroom.

Meanwhile, I had started a podcast. I had started offering coaching to other creatives and was working from home more.  Our desk was tucked into a living space, and would naturally invite lots of curious little hands to its surfaces. A computer screen was damaged. Papers were crumpled. Nerves (mine) started to get frayed.

And then one day it dawned on me: What if we turned the playroom into an office?

It felt daring and exciting; the perfect solution. It also felt SELFISH as hell.

Who was I to take this sweet kid space away from the family in order to have space for me and my brain to think and create?  

And yet I couldn’t shake the dream.

At the beginning of the year I had made a vision board. It wasn’t until the piece was complete that I noticed a pattern. Desks. Modern chairs. Lots of invitations to write. My heart knew what I desired before my mind knew.  And once I realized that, I had to get my brain – and family – on board.

It was tough. There was resistance to this new arrangement from every side. My daughter cried. My wife bemoaned the loss of the kids’ artwork display.  I still felt guilty.

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In the end we compromised, and the room is now a shared creative space.

The original creative workspace has moved to one corner and holds our household art supplies. A rotating display of original creations hangs above. The toys are (mostly) gone, replaced by an adult desk and computer. A bookshelf relocated from another area of the house holds books, family photo albums, and a shelf of puzzles and quiet work for the kids. I hung my vision board and slowly added my treasures.

Creating this space was important both for my actual creative process but also in owning the importance of my work.  Having a physical space brings my ambitions out of my head and into the real world. Ultimately, this area represents the creative potential in all of us, from little hands to big hands.

Some of my favorite moments are when the kids and I are all in here quietly working. My daughter will be drawing or writing a story at her desk. I will be editing a podcast, writing a blog post, or daydreaming. My son will most likely be driving a car back and forth on the windowsill. There’s often a cat or dog asleep somewhere.

It’s these moments that I could choose to be annoyed that they’ve invaded “my space” or I could choose to be content with the arrangement. Full disclosure: there are days where I have to kick them out and close the door!  It’s okay. 

These years are short, and soon enough I will miss these busy little hands. In the meantime, I am so glad I staked my claim in one corner of a room to help my creative spirit. And, even though I thought I needed the room all to myself, it’s been a delight to do this work alongside my kids.

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The playroom before.

Fairy Party Favors

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PB’s birthday falls just a few days into the new year, an inevitably busy, post-holiday blitzed out time of year.  And each year, I’ve felt like a celebration was an afterthought, something thrown together at the last-minute, just as the Christmas tree was starting to get crispy.  Oh yes, it’s birthday time.

This has resulted in over-inviting, over indulging, and generally overdoing it.  I would usually feel like the point of the day was being overlooked in a rush to make things just-so, and the day would end with any number of babies or adults in tears.  This year we chose to keep it small and simple (thank you, Trader Joe’s), and it was a relaxing day.  With the exception of the party favors…

I had so much fun going over the top with these!

We had a very loosely themed Fairy Party where guests were encouraged to dress up. Then at the end of the party, each kiddo got to choose a wand and a vial of glittery pixie dust. Not to worry: I glued the lids on!

I spent a lot more time on these than I thought I would, but once you start it’s hard to stop. And I have to admit: it was fun to get so immersed in a creative project that wasn’t knitting. It’s good to mix things up once in a while.

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Flower Fairy Wand Materials:

  • 1/4 inch wooden dowel, cut to 18 inches long
  • green glitter paint
  • styrofoam ball
  • bouquets of silk flowers, leaves, butterflies
  • ribbons
  • hot glue
  1. Paint the dowels with green glitter paint and let dry.
  2. Separate flower heads and leaves from bouquets.  I had a pile of larger flowers, one of smaller flowers, and a pile of leaves and add ons like butterflies and more elongated pieces.
  3. Put a dab of hot glue on each flower before pressing it into the styrofoam ball until it is covered (there was some styrofoam showing if you looked closely).
  4. When the dowels are dry, put a dab of glue on one end and attach a 6-10 inch length of ribbon.  I put 3 ribbons of varying lengths on each wand.
  5. Press the dowel about halfway into the ball, remove it, and fill the hole with hot glue. Then put the dowel back in and press firmly until glue sets.
  6. Put in a pretty jar or vase to let dry and display!

We also had a craft area for the little ones to decorate cardboard crowns.  I put out some glitter glue, foam stickers, markers and crayons and they were entertained for quite some time.  It’s pretty exciting to be out of the imminent choking-hazard age and into the age of semi-independent crafting!

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PB loved it, and charged herself with decorating all of the extra crowns, and now we’re all royalty.

All in all it was a very fun little celebration. I’m thankful I was able to make time to create something interactive that I knew PB would enjoy.  In a busy season, and a busy life, taking time to create with PB is one of the things that truly helps fill my bliss-cup.

My only problem now: what to do with all those naked bouquets of flowers.

Block Party

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Oh, the needles have been very busy lately. Sometime in late October I decided to knit a certain amount of holiday gifts. My goal was to use existing stash yarn + patterns for all the projects. I ended up having a lot of fun searching patterns in my Ravelry and real libraries.  A few of them had been in my queue for a very long time; casting them on was almost as satisfying as using vintage stash!

I celebrated over the weekend by hosting a block party. We indulged in some bubbly Soak, took a long bath in the washing machine, and then laid out on the table in my crafty room. It was a pretty wild night.

The last gift knit is on the needles now, and it’s only the 10th.  Hubris has me contemplating another gift…surely 2 weeks is enough time for what I’ve got planned!

How about you? Are you working on any gifts?

We had a really fun yarn craft over on the Stash blog last week.  Check it out if you’re looking for a little holiday crafting cheer!

Yarn Along:: Getting Settled

From Ginny: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.

We’ve lived in our new home for just over a week now.  It was a relatively low-key move within our same community, so that has really helped ease the transition.  In some ways it feels as if we’ve lived here a lot longer than a week; we are all very comfortable here and have settled in to somewhat of a new daily routine.  Of course, we’ve had houseguests already, and Sweetie started a new job on Monday, so there’s definitely more settling to be done.  For now I’m choosing to ignore the boxes in the garage and guest room closet, or the fact that we’re sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and focus instead on organizing the art supplies in our new craft room (!!!) and daydreaming about next summer’s garden.

In times of change and stress, I turn to simple knits in cheerful colors and books rich with their own characters’ drama.  This is the Show-Off Stranded sock, a free pattern that I’ve knit once before.  It does wonders for a variegated yarn, letting the colors play and comingle.  I remember the pattern having some interesting heel options, so I’m looking forward to that bit of juicy knitting in another couple of inches or so.  In the meantime, my other knitting is in a time out and I have been working on seaming up my Tidal cardigan.  Then it’s time to knit a button band and pick out buttons, something simple I can handle while gazing out the window of my new living room.  There’s mountains out those windows, I say, mountains!

So what is on your nightstand and in your project basket this week?

Stash, Abridged

Over the weekend I had the inspiration and opportunity to engage in a little airing of the stash.  I rearrange my yarn from time to time, but I have never gotten it all out at once and admired it wholly.

With a 50% reduction goal in mind, I quickly pulled all of the yarn out and decided if it would stay or go.  The pile behind Peaceful Baby is the “Go” pile. It mainly contains gift, trade, and what-was-I-thinking yarn, along with a heap of leftovers.  It was crucial to make these decisions quickly and not examine each skein too closely.  It’s far too easy to talk yourself into keeping the yarn when you hold it for too long, thinking about all of its potential.  If I haven’t used it within a year or two of purchase, chances are I won’t.

I tend to knit with more recent acquisitions, when the thrill of New is strong.  Of course, I also enjoy the thrill of being able to use a yarn from my stash when the urge to knit a particular pattern smacks me over the head.  There’s nothing like seeing something on Ravelry or in a new knitting magazine and being able to get started knitting right away.  Of course, as PDX Knitterati noted in a recent comment, it’s also fun to buy the yarn as you go and not keep a stash.

Seeing all of that yarn out in the open was so much fun!  I remembered the plans I had for some skeins, or the doomed projects I had attempted with others.  My preference for bright or heavily saturated colors was glaringly obvious, as was a tendency toward merino.  I sorted, arranged by color, took photos, and managed my stash online.  This stash toss unearthed 12 skeins purchased in the last few months that were not even in my Ravelry stash yet.

Peaceful Baby was very helpful throughout the process.  She insisted I keep this merino, even though I’ve had it for two years.  There is a hat I’ve been meaning to make with it, after all.  I think I may have a budding yarn enthusiast on my hands!

Things are tidy and packed up for the move now.  This culling of the stash was a valuable process, one that I think I will be able to apply to other areas of my home: books, clothes, kitchen items, DVDs, etc.  In the end, I’m not sure I reduced my yarn collection by an exact 50%, but I was able to fit my entire stash in a Boppy bag.  Except for the sock yarn, of course.  We all know that doesn’t really count as stash.

The Hour

Last night I locked myself in my craft room for an hour.  One glorious hour to finish one project, start another, organize supplies, put away new stash, catch up on knitting podcasts and indulge in some crafting daydreams.  It was a full hour!  But when it was over, I emerged refreshed and satisfied with myself.  I was able to sew on some buttons and a pocket to an item, finishing it off (more another time), cast on a new project, and match yarn and pattern for a new sock venture.

I cast on for Pembroke, a charming cabled vest by Kirsten Kapur for Petit Purls.  I am using the scrumptious yet practical Mission Falls superwash merino, and so far I am loving it.  The yarn is smooth and lofty, perfect for showing off cables. I’m going to try to have it finished in May as a birthday gift for my nephew who is turning one.

Next, I’ve settled on the Wasabi Peas pattern from the Spring 2010 Interweave Knits.  I’m always adding these new patterns to the bottom of my queue, and by the time I get around to knitting them it’s most likely been two years and the thrill is gone.  Not this time.  As soon as I saw this pattern, I knew I wanted to make it; and I almoast have to as I already had the yarn (Shi Bui) stashed.  But first, the vest.

Day 1

This week I have been sorting through the various storage containers in my craft room.  My stash has gotten to the point where it has spilled out of my charming yarn cabinet and is now inhabiting the dreaded plastic tote box.  This is where I have decided to put larger quantities of yarn for long term storage.  I also have a box filled with hibernating works-in-progress.  This is where I found my Hemlock Ring Blanket, a granny square crochet blanket, Show-Off Stranded socks, Coraline, and  Lace Ribbon Scarf.

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My first thought was to rip the acrylic yarn out of the crochet blanket and donate it.  But then as I held it up I realized that it was pretty far along.  So far along, in fact, that it is practically a baby blanket already.  For the past several days I have been a crochet-machine, hooking and looping my way to a (nearly) finished blanket.  More on that later…

For now I want to concentrate on the Frog It or Finish It attitude with which I attacked my works in progress.  Here everything is laid out for inspection.  Big Martha was positively bored by the entire process.

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In the end, I decided to frog Coraline.  She and I just never really hit it off.  When I looked at our relationship realistically, I realized we would never be together as knitter and finished object.  2 1/2 balls of yarn (and knitting) riiiiipped straight from the sweater onto the ball winder.  Very satisfying.

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Then came the Lace Ribbon scarf.  I started this last winter, and while I was enjoying the way the yarn and pattern were working together, I just don’t feel like picking it up any time soon.  Besides, it had already been pillaged for the needles and was on a  stitch holder.  So easy to riiiiiip out!

My Show-Off Stranded socks are still in the waiting room.  Yesterday I wasn’t able to take the plunge and rip them out, thinking that I would somehow feel motivated to finish them this month as part of Socktoberfest.  Of course, I’ve been thinking they’d magically get finished since June and that hasn’t happened.  I give them another week or so before deciding their fate.

And then there’s my Hemlock Ring blanket.  The two of us got off to a really good start last spring and flew through the center and first 46 rows of feather and fan.  Then at some point, the stitch count got off and things weren’t lining up correctly.  I’ve been reassured that feather and fan doesn’t always look like it’s lining up with the previous rows until later, but still something is off.  The two of us need to sit down, do some counting and stitch marker arranging, and see if we can work things out.  This is another project that  will likely become a baby blanket in the interest of clearing the decks quickly.  I think a knitter’s babe is truly worthy of a Malabrigo blanket, don’t you?

All this ripping, finishing, and rearranging has me feeling like I have refreshed my knitting somewhat.  Which leads me to believing I need to cast on more projects!  It’s a cycle I have come to accept, one that I enjoy very much.  So while I’m trying to finish up some crochet today, my mind is really daydreaming about knitting this shawl and these socks.  What projects are you dreaming about while you work on something else?

Of Mice and Frogs

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This recommendation from the Yarn Harlot could not have come at a better time.  Actually it could have come a few days sooner, I suppose.  Like last Wednesday, the day before I discovered my craft drawers had been seeing some mouse activity.

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I am fortunate enough to have a craft room to call my own.  It is a sweet room, with a dormer window that allows for a built in window seat.  This is where I have my swift and ball winder set up on permanent display.  Cut out of the wall next to the yarn winding station is a charming set of 4 drawers that slide right out of the wall. When setting up the room, I had fun putting away my knitting notions, button tins, and finished objects that had no home in these drawers.

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Over the weekend I was attempting to tidy this room up a bit when, upon opening the knitting needle drawer, I discovered this:

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That’s my gorgeous silk Lantern Moon needle case, home to all of my straight knitting needles.  And Someone decided it looked like a good snack, or building material, or stuffing for a tiny bed in the attic.  Someone was very sneaky and didn’t even arouse the suspicion of either feline in residence.  I need to have a talk with those cats.

Further inspection of the drawers revealed a few minuscule mouse turds, and a hole from the attic space into the framing of the drawers.  Sigh.  I immediately tossed my stash of FOs onto the floor, as well as anything else I thought the mice might find delicious or comfortable as bedding.

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Fortunately, I had kept these items in sealed plastic bags and there does not appear to be any damage.  But seeing it there, all piled up on the floor, made me sort of sad.  I did not knit these things so they could languish in a dark, mouse-infested drawer!

So I set about doing something I have never done: I picked out the items I knew  a) would never find a home because they were ill-fitting or poorly finished, or b) I loved the yarn and could re-use it in a new project.

In all, I have frogged 3 projects so far:

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  • Pattern:  Shrug This, original details here

  • Yarn: Araucania Pomaire Multy in color 4

This was just a bit too small around the arms, and after wearing it a couple of times the stitches in the underarm were stretched out and looking a little shabby.  Since I had about 3/4 a skein of the yarn leftover, I think I could remake the same pattern a little larger.

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I loved this yarn and pattern together.  The dropped stitch “lace” was fun to create, and the payoff looked more complicated than it actually was.  And even though I originally cast on fewer stitches than the pattern called for, it was always a little to short to be a satisfying scarf.  Now I have a skein of beautiful sock yarn back in my stash that could become anything!

The final project was a neckwarmer in a fantastic hot pink shade of Malabrigo.  It seems I was dissatisfied enough with it from the beginning, because I have no photo of the finished object to reference!  But you can imagine it now looks more like this:

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The one on the left, or course.

If you have any FOs or works in progress that have been languishing in knitting purgatory, I urge you to set them (and yourself) free!

This frogging of finished objects exercise was surprisingly satisfying.  I no longer have to convince myself that I will wear something or find someone to gift it to.  I have yarn I love back in my stash, ready for me when I have the urge to knit with it again.  Now I think I’ll go see what else I can frog.  I know there’s some perfectly good Malabrigo going to waste…

A Room to Call My Own

In all the craziness of the past few weeks, I neglected to mention that we bought a house! We looked at over 40 houses, seeing some strange and wonderful things: a bedroom converted into a sauna with a sunken hot tub; a blue bathtub with mystery poop in it; a great room with a huge stone fireplace; many houses with neglected fish-tanks (if you have one, please go clean it–those fish need to breathe!); and finally, a cute Cape Cod house with a light-filled room perfect for pursuing ones creative pursuits.

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Life is good.

The property is wooded in the back, perfect for bird-watching and letting the dog run around. There’s also plenty of room for friends and family to come and stay over, which is a necessity since most of my family is in Idaho. Consider this your invitation, friends and family; there’s plenty of room!

Back to the glory that is my craft room…I’ve never had a room devoted to creativity. What a luxury! As soon as I get the bridal wallpaper scraped off, I plan to paint it something really stimulating like red or fuscia. Really. I have a couple of tapestries from a trip to India that I plan to hang in the space, and they are filled with vibrant reds and pinks that I find beautiful. Much more inspiring that this beige and white:

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I also plan on investing in a sewing machine and a comfortable chair to sit in while knitting or reading. Maybe I should get a bed too, since I’m starting to think I’ll never want to leave this room!
The house has a lot of great windows, and not a single set of blinds or curtains. So I have it in my head that I could sew some, or buy store-bought panels and dress them up a bit. I’ve done this before in my first house, and really enjoyed it. But I need a sewing machine first! Does anyone have suggestions for a good home sewing machines for beginners?
Since I’m basically starting from scratch I have the opportunity to set myself up for success in the organizational department. I’d like to be able to store my yarn in an artistic way, out in the open where I can see it. What about great storage ideas for yarn and notions?
Alright, I suppose it’s time to tear myself away from the computer and get over there. I have a lot of painting and scraping to do before this dream of a craft room can become a reality!