Crafting on the Road


I’m not exactly a homebody, and I’m certainly no artist. However, my hands have this annoying tendency of becoming idle and my mind is constantly restless.

I didn’t grow up a crafty kid and I’ve never had a Pinterest account. However, there’s an odd, misshapen void in my life when I’m not creating something…even if that something is hideously ugly and hopelessly unrecognizable.

As I began traveling more this past year, I found myself sitting in campgrounds wishing I’d squeezed my sewing machine, my piano keyboard, or maybe my sculpting set into the Jeep. Here’s how I found a compromise:

Sketching on the Road

My trusty sketch book was my original form of artistic expression when I traveled. I wrote a post awhile, Art from the Road, back highlighting a few of my memorable (but artistically awful) sketches in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

Mt. Gnomemore

Colored pencil sketch of Mt. Gnomemore

Any trace of drawing/coloring skill can be traced back to Free Crappy Portraits, a public art experiment that my buddy Rj and I came up with in 2008. Whenever you’re feeling a little low and could use a self-esteem boost, head over to my FCP portfolio and have a few laughs!

FCP banner

Painting on the Road

Thanks to the burdensome 3-ounce rule, I’ve never been brave enough to bring paint on board a a plane. However, I love packing small canvases and acrylic paints or watercolors for short road trips. I discovered the hard way that oil paints take too long to dry and test my patience unnecessarily.

The Maine Coast

Acrylic painting along the coast of Maine (an attempt at “abstract landscape”)

I recently selected “abstract landscape” as my ideal painting technique because I can stare at outdoor scenery longer than anything else, and because nothing I paint really looks like what it is. That means it’s abstract, right?

Knitting on the Road

Just before setting out on my Texas adventure in September, I signed up for a one-time knitting class through Dabble. Hat and glove season was soon approaching and I figured knitting could be a portable substitute for sewing when I got a fabric craving.

Oddly shaped knit scarf

Oddly shaped knit scarf, n.k.a. a shawl

I started making my mom this “scarf” for Christmas, but somehow it’s gotten wider and wider as I’ve knitted along. I’m thinking of just calling it a “shawl,”  and then calling it a day. I prefer to work with dark yarns while I’m living outdoors in case my hands are less than spotless when craft motivation strikes.

Crocheting on the Road

After partially-mastering a single knitting technique, I decided to teach myself to crochet with The Crochet Dude‘s book and a few YouTube video. My Grandma Ruth used to be a master crocheter back in the day, and I have the afghans to prove it. She just turned 90 last week, and her arthritic hands haven’t been able to hold needles for a long time. Afghans sounded a little too ambitious, so I set out to make Grandma a dish cloth.

Trapezoidal Crochet Dishcloth

Trapezoidal Crochet Dishcloth

While my first knitting project got wider as I went along, my first crochet project got narrower. No, I have no explanation for either phenomenon. Then again, trapezoids are cool, right? Who says that I need to wash my dishes with squares?

Cross stitching on the Road

Cross stitching was actually the first yarn craft that I ever picked up. And I have Julie Jackson of Subversive Cross Stitch to thank. I connected with Julie through Free Crappy Portraits a few years ago and have since cross stitched a few of her clever patterns to give as amusing gifts.

Candy is Dandy

Suggestive (and true) cross stitch gift I made my boyfriend

While browsing the visitor’s center gift shop at Death Valley National Park last year, I picked up a cross stitch pattern of Zabriskie Point. Every time I pick it up, I put it right back down again. It’s large, it’s complex, and it’s awfully intimidating. But as my current needlework projects are wrapping up, I think this will be a great project to take on my next big trip…wherever that may be.

Zabrinskie Point

One of my favorite views and next cross stitch project

To me, crafts represent tangible progress. When I can’t see progress in my own life, I can look down and see a few more stitches sewn and a few more rows done.

The objective is clear: keep moving forward. And the reward is clear: a finished product awaits you. If only life were spelled out so clearly as a scarf, a dishcloth, or a framed piece of fabric.

Crafting keeps my mind steady, whether I’m sitting on the couch dreaming of my next big adventure or smack dab in the middle of it. It’s a little piece of home that I can take with me wherever I go. Regardless if I’m full of hope, or lost without any, crafts keep me on track, moving forward, and laughing at myself along the way.