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.

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…

Finished Object Report

Let me just tell you right off the bat that there will be little (if any) knitting content in this post.  Instead, I am taking some time today to write about a couple of other creative projects that have been works in progress around my house for months.  And they are finally finished!

When we bought our house back in March, there were 5 rooms covered in at least 2 layers of wallpaper.  Floral wallpaper from the 80s.  It was in good repair for the most part, but the patterns just weren’t our style.  So with determination and good dose of naivete, I started scraping.  And spraying, scoring, steaming, hacking, crying, and eventually abandoning.  The first rooms to be rid of wallpaper were the main bathroom and kitchen, followed by the dining room.  But my craft room and the guest bath languished in half finished states for months.

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Before: endless white wallpaper

With the impending arrival of house guests for Thanksgiving, I was suddenly motivated to get my craft room looking nice and actually being functional as a guest room and creative space.

Ta Da!

Ta Da!

Sweetie built me a Princess and the Pea day bed that I can store tons of supplies beneath and sit on top of and knit or write.  I finished up the wall recovery project and painted the room a fresh white.  This was a first for me; I usually go for more saturated colors, but I wanted this room to stay bright.  In a matter of hours, this long hibernating work in progress was transformed into one of my favorite rooms in the house.

It’s a pretty small room with lost of angles and little wall space.  Despite this, I was able to carve out both a desk area and a yarn winding station.

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This room was finished before our guests arrived for Thanksgiving and served as a lovely guest room.  I had to knock on the door a couple of times to access The Stash, but my mom was very understanding.

The final wallpaper removal project was our guest bathroom on the main level of the house.  It had two layers: the most recent layer was a marbleized beige with multi-color floral border near the ceiling.  beneath that lurked yellow flowers… We started scraping it off back in August, but quickly got distracted by more other projects.  This weekend Sweetie and I took care of all the details.

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Before: the scars of bad wallpaper

I scraped the rest of the wallpaper, sealed the drywall, applied texture paint, and finally painted the room a rich chocolate brown.  Sweetie is super handy and was therefore in charge of installing the bead board, a new faucet and mirror, and a new light fixture.  Which she picked out on her own, earning her major style points.

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After

It feels just as good to have these rooms off the To Do list as it does finishing up a long term knitting project.  There is not a scrap of wallpaper left to peel in this entire house, and that is liberating and satisfying beyond explanation.  We have put so much work into this place that it feels like we can relax now, even for just a moment.

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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!