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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.