Busy Happy Hands

While this is going to sound contrary to my strong feminist persuasions, I have been known to admit that the two most useful skills I ever learned are typing and sewing. I can type as fast as I think. That’s why I blog so much. I am fleet fingered, and, in my previous career as a writer faced with constant deadlines, I have found the typing skills I learned in high school to be invaluable.

In my role as mother, in my interests in costume construction, in my obsession with wearing clothes that fit well, in my years of gaining and losing a few pounds here and there, knowing how to sew has come in very handy as well.

I like to make something out of nothing, to take an old idea and give it a new spin. I like to work with color and texture, form and function.

That’s why I also knit and crochet. When I retired, I officially registered as a small business so that I could sell what I make. I thought I would do a few craft fairs every year, and the first year I did. But I learned that what I really like is designing and making stuff. What I hate is the record keeping and the hard physical work of setting up and taking down a craft booth and all of the tedium that goes along with standing around all day waiting for someone to buy something. This October, I’ll be doing my last big craft fair. At least I think that will be my last.

So, what exactly to I make and sell, you wonder.

One night several years ago, while I was still employed full-time, I saw Ally McBeal wearing a kind of short, snug-fitting lacey poncho. It looked like a circular shawl that you could slip over your head and it wouldn’t fall off your shoulders. After a few false starts, I designed and made one of my own and wore it to work. That very day, two people asked me to make one for them. And so I did, and the next thing I knew I was getting more and more orders. So, I made a whole bunch of them and started a little craft business to sell my “spiral shawls.” This is an example of one.


Last winter, in an effort to use up leftover yarn, I made a washable rolled brim hat that is adjustable. Then I made several and gave them away to my friends — who wore them to work. Yup. People asked them where they got them etc. etc. Over the past several months, I’ve completed two dozen of my Indestructible Adjustable Hat, which I also will sell at the October craft fair.

I’m one of those people who can’t just sit and watch the world go by. I have to keep my hands busy. If I don’t, I eat.

Now I’m crocheting a Winnie the Pooh bear for my grandson and a sweater vest for my mother. I suppose I could clean the bathroom or weed out my books or organize my pantry. But those things don’t make my hands happy.

7 thoughts on “Busy Happy Hands

  1. Lovely, Elaine! Could you find it in your heart to send me a pattern for one of those shawls? I think that’d make a great present for my mom. I’ve been crocheting since 7, so wouldn’t need any handholding through it likely. I need something to do besides play video games.

  2. Well, as my apprentice crone, I definitely think you should know how to make what I have begun to call the “Wise Woman Shawl.” But it’s my secret recipe, so I have to swear you to secrecy. I will email you the directions — which, btw, I’ve never written down until now.

  3. Your posts sparked me to think of so many things. Thank you. My two would be typing and cooking. My mother and several of my aunts and other female relatives knit, crochet, sew, and are adept at many other “old time” crafts. I don’t really think of such skills as being necessarily counter to feminism, but more a celebration of it. Sort of reminds me of the connection Sandra Dallas always makes to quilting in her wonderful novels. Those gifts are superior to anything picked up at the mall. Years later, I still prize a special sweater from my dear late aunt. And isn’t it something that typing – which I think was often emphasized as a secretarial skill – wound up being such a professional advantage in the computer age? Finally, I think using crocheting (etc.) to keep your hands busy can be a productive way to (a) combat arthritis and (b) quit smoking for those so inclined.

  4. Yes, those old fashioned “home arts” can be very creative outlets. But I don’t mean those kits you can buy with everything designed and prepared for you. I have a friend who makes the most marvelous quilts — all her own non-traditional designs, very Mexican-influenced. In a couple of weekends I’m going to a workshop with her on how to construct a jacket pattern that will lend itself to quilting. She and I are thinking of collaborating. And cooking! I love to invent new recipes. Of course, they never come out the same way twice, but that’s the fun of it.
    And yes, isn’t it ironic that those of us who took those “secretarial” typing courses have a real kepboard advantage these days.

  5. That’s it really, what makes my hands happy and puts my brain at creative ease. There is clutter all around me, but sitting at my sewing maching making quilt tops (I let another happy hander do the quilting) makes me deeply, peacefully creatively happy at hand and heart. Something in me is satisfied in a way that is difficult to explain but wonderful to experience.

  6. Hi, It is very nice to “hear or see in the Internet” that there are a lot of people trying to make a living with their crafts. I’m 31 years old and a High School Teacher in a very well known School in Mexico City, but I’m not happy with what I’m doing. My passion is to work with my hands, making dolls and painting. I’ve started selling some of my dolls to some friends and family but I really want to do it formaly.
    Can you give me ideas ?
    Thank you and I hope my English is ok.

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