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Meditative vs. Analytical Crafting


I do a lot of crafting.  More importantly for the current topic, I do a lot of different kinds of crafting.  I sew and knit, I sculpt and bead, I draw and embroider and paint and bookbind and cook and good lord, I’ve even tried bladesmithing and crochet (both of which are a bit terrifying for me).

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I tend to go in spurts. One month it’ll be all knitting, the next all sewing.  I have a hypothesis about that: I think that most of my crafty endeavours can be divided into two categories, and which catagory they’re in plays a major role in if I’ll want to do them in any given situation.  I divide them by into meditative crafts and analytical crafts.

Meditative crafts are crafts that leave you lots and lots of mental space while you’re working.  Knitting and embroidery, while they may require some heavy-duty thinking in the planning stages, and to fix errors, qualify as meditative crafts because they likely have very large stretches of time in which you’re repeating the same rote action over and over and over again, and your brain is not required.  While I’m embroidering, my brain wanders free.  It has to amuse itself.

Sometimes this is fantastic.  After a long, stressful day allowing your brain off the leash is not only pleasant but utterly necessary, to recover and recharge.

My meditative craft of the moment is, of course, my Wonder Woman shirt.  Alas, I’m progressing slowly because I don’t really want to do meditative crafts right now.  I’m unemployed, and spend most of my time job hunting or puttering around the farm.  My current struggle is not so much finding a moment to let my brain off the leash, but instead, finding a leash.  My brain is not lacking in recharging time, it’s lacking challenge, lacking something to recharge from.

Still, I am progressing (running on willpower alone, because I know I’ll love this shirt that much when it’s done even if I’m not in the mood for the process)- I’ve finished the outlines on the chest emblem, and am halfway through the second line of split stitch on the top part of the belt.  It’s slow, though.

That’s where analytical crafts come in.

Sewing, for me, counts as an analytical craft.  With my machine even long hems are finished quickly, and so the vast majority of my time sewing is spent on construction, on figuring out how to fit this to that, how to make it all fit me, and how to fix my many errors.  I suspect this might change as I get better at sewing- as these skills become second nature, they won’t occupy so much mental space- but right now I’m at that odd stage where I’m moving beyond beginner projects but don’t quite know how to hadle expert techniques, and so I’m thinking and trying and seam ripping and thinking and trying again, CONSTANTLY.  While I’m sewing, my brain is sewing.  It eats up my mental resources.

And, right now, that’s a good thing for me.  If my mind is left to wander, it tends to worry: about being unemployed for so long, about my poor dead computer.  I’ve got a lot of excess time in my life right now, and so my focus is on keeping busy as versus winding down.  So I sew.  And I abandon my knitting halfway through a project.  And I embroider with the TV on and Google Reader open, because I want to finish that shirt but my brain doesn’t need more empty time.

I’ve got enough of that right now.  Right now, I’m on an analytical kick.  That is to say, I must sew!

Of course, it turns out that this dress is KILLING ME.  I’ve never had so many problems with a project, and I find myself dreaming about my next project more than actually working on this project.  Thing is, I don’t want to start another project until I finish this one.  One project per craft at a time.  I’m kind of neurotic that way.

I’m kind of neurotic a lot of ways.

First it was the straps.  Finally I got frustrated with tearing out and re-sewing them, and left them for a bit while moving on to other parts of the dress.  I’ve mostly finished the bodice, except I’ve suddenly decided it’d look much better with extra darts.

Yes, darts.  Right there, where I’ve pinned them?  The problem? That “mostly finished bodice” part of the equation.  The bust on the bra is lined, and the edge of the waist fabric enclosed in that lining.  I’ll have to tear out the bust to put darts in the waist… meanwhile, to sew the bust together correctly, the straps should not be attached.  It’s going to be quite the challenge to get those darts in without tearing the entire thing apart.

But right now, challenge is just what I need.

Anyway, that’s my craft-related hypothesis of the hour.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Then again, I could probably ramble along just as reasonably about “instant gratification vs long-term investment” projects, or even the ever-controversial “craft vs art”.  It’s all just mental gymnastics anyway.

Something to think about, y’know.

What concepts define your craft, and how do you choose what you want to work on?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 08/17/2010 1:57 AM

    I think I’m pretty similar, embroidery for me to is definitely meditative and it’s something I can do to keep my hands busy without necessarily thinking too much about it (I embroider a lot in front of the TV or when listening to music or an audiobook), I also like to take my embroidery projects out and about with me, as I do a lot of sitting outside dance classrooms and drama clubs waiting for my oldest and I would go insane with boredom if I didn’t have anything to do, so consequently I always have to have an embroidery project on the go, as I literally hate that feeling of not having something waiting for me in a hoop somewhere that I can go and pick up when needed. Embroidery is also something I can do and look after my kids at the same time, as it’s easy to put down in a second and not really loose my place or my concentration about what I’m doing, it also offers a little bit of quiet headspace when my kids are being, well typical 4 and 6 year olds.

    Sewing on the other hand, well I can’t take my machine to sit outside dance class or in front of the TV (my husband would kill me) and I can’t really listen to audiobooks as I concentrate more on the sewing than the story and miss chunks of the plot. Sewing is not really something I can do when I’m in sole charge of the kids either, unless it’s something really simple and quick and I can handle constant interruptions, I certainly wouldn’t tackle anything complicated!

    Consequently I do far more embroidery than sewing and as much as I love all the embroidery I do, I wish I had more sewing time.

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