Knitting, Storytime, What Knitting Adds to My Life

What Making Adds to My Life: Thoughts from the Calou Shop

I’ve been a creative person for as far back as I can remember. I’ve never shied away from trying my hand at a new craft either. As of late, I’ve grown to love the flexibility and exploration that comes with fiber arts. Over my lifetime, I’ve used my creativity to center myself and reconnect with my core. Creating is a way for me to remember who I am and how I connect to the world. I’ve found that I delve deeper in to that creativity whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed. Enter motherhood stage left: the most overwhelming and confusing adventure ever.

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The little boys that made me a mama.

When my first son was born, my husband and I agreed that becoming a single income family made the most sense for our family. It has always been a dream of mine to stay at home with my children, just as my mother had done for me, and it’s an opportunity that I’m relishing for as long as our family is able to swing it. For all the joy and precious moments being a stay at home mom brings, it is also isolating and hard. When you’re absorbed in your children and their needs it becomes very easy to lose your self. My identity quickly shifted from Cassandra to Mama and I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with my new responsibilities and the fear and intense love that came along with raising a child. They say having children is like having a piece of your heart outside of your body and I feel the weight of that love and responsibility intensely.

I needed a respite and way to center myself from all the overwhelming feelings that came along with my newborn son. I think I picked up my first ball of yarn within his first week of life. After some YouTube tutorials on learning crochet, I was well on my way to a budding romance with yarn. After a few months into mommyhood, the routine got easier and my crochet skills grew and grew. Soon the question that every other stay at home mom seems to start to think about floated across my mind too: how can I stay at home and contribute to my family’s income? Enter Calou Shop stage right.

making with my second son in my lap

Crocheting while my littlest guy takes a rest.

Family and friends supported my shop in the beginning and I had fun making things, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthralled with my newfound hobby of part-time Etsy shop owner. Making was relaxing but it wasn’t exactly engaging for me anymore. And then the game changer happened. My cousin asked for a stuffed animal to go with her blanket order. A stuffed animal!? I said, “Do you care what it looks like?” I’d never made a stuffed animal or a pattern or anything remotely three-dimensional like that with yarn or on a sewing machine before. I wasn’t making any promises, but she had faith in me and I was willing to give it a try. That’s when a spark… no, more like a flame… illuminated my brain.

My first bear ever on the left and what my bears look like today on the right.

When I make a stuffed animal for my shop, I design it from scratch. Everything starts out as an idea doodled out on some scrap of paper. Crochet animals come together through trial and error and my experience with shaping yarn. Sewn creations are a little more involved both in design and time. The paper and cardboard comes out and I scale out the pattern pieces and how it all is going to come together. I pick fabrics, do some test sewing, rip out seams, stuff some things, sew it again and eventually I’ve got a 3D thing sitting in front of me that a few weeks ago was just an idea in my head.

pattern designing

Stages of stuffed animal design.

The process of making something entirely from an idea in your mind is an absolute creative rush; it’s an engineering problem that must be solved and way for me to engage my brain meaningfully. Juxtaposed against the calm and reflection that comes along with making the design that I created from scratch over and over, I feel like I’ve found the ultimate creative loop. But sewing is a challenge to do with little ones under foot. It takes some planning to be able to sit down at my machine for any length of time to get some actual creating done. So in this season of life, I don’t get much of it done.

work in progress

Designing a crochet toy.

Which is why I love both crochet and knitting because of how easy it is to pick up and put down a project when you are needed throughout the day. Baby asleep? I’ll knit a few rows. Oh! Baby is up, set down the project. Whenever I’m making something, even a few rows are like a little retreat in to myself. A moment to step inside and just be quiet even when the world is not. Sometimes I’m crocheting and relishing the silent brisk morning while my babies sleep in, and other times I have a sea of Legos at my feet and I’m huddled in an armchair with my ball of yarn as my little one imagines and chaos ensues all around me. And when I feel the din of boredom sneaking up on me, I bring out the pen and paper and start engineering a new design and start the whole process over again.

pattern writing with my first son in my lap

Caffeinating, crocheting and cuddling all at once!

My hope is that my story leaves you with a sense of optimism, hope and a spark to reconnect with your creativity; that you find the motivation to pick up a creative project you’ve wanted to try; that I can inspire you t discover the joy of making something for yourself and of creating with your own two hands; that you feel the rush of figuring it out along the way; that you know the happiness of seeing your work in the hands of others. Life can be overwhelming, but if you take that leap, you may connect with something new and find a part of yourself along the way.

buried under squatches

Handmade happiness.

Cassandra

@caloushop

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