Get crafty!

Get crafty!

By G. S. Norwood

When the isolation hit, did you get crafty?

This is the way it happened for me.

When the coronavirus shut down Dallas, I was allowed to work from home. That freed up about three hours each week day that I didn’t have to spend on the road, commuting to and from work.

Did I use my free time to clean my admittedly messy house?

Did I join one of the amazing collective baking challenges, like the Coronabake Challenge started by my friend, Abby Goldstein?

Did I take lots of naps?

G.'s cat, Gift, yawns and stretches after a good nap.
What would the cat do? Take a nap, of course! G.’s cat Gift is either just settling down for one or just waking up. (Photo by G. S. Norwood).

No. I knitted. Because when the going gets tough, the tough get crafty.

Learning my craft

This is a photo of Ethel B. Sherrell, the author's grandmother, probably in her mid-60s.
Grandma Sherrell (family archive)

I learned to knit when I was about eleven. My grandmother taught me. She had a steady side gig knitting bed slippers for elderly friends who were homebound or hospitalized. But she couldn’t knit fast enough to keep up with demand. I got $1 for every pair I made, which was enough incentive for me to learn how to knit and purl.

Somewhere in there I branched out into knitting scarves that made dandy Christmas presents for all my friends and relations. By the time I was in high school, I had added crochet to my fiber arts skills, and I made my first quilt about the time I graduated from college.

As an adult, I started taking small, portable craft projects into rehearsal with me. The mindless repetition of piecing a quilt block or crocheting a baby blanket keeps my hands busy while my ears and brain focus on the music my band is preparing.

A gorgeously-pieced and quilted Log Cabin pattern quilt hangs on a clothesline.
I like to take quilt pieces to work on when I go places. This Log Cabin Quilt is NOT my first quilt! (quilt and photo by G. S. Norwood).

The Afghan Thing

The author's dog Kata gives the viewer "puppy eyes."
The very picture of innocence. (photo of Kata by G. S. Norwood).

The last project I took into rehearsal was a no-brainer headband I knitted to replace one I’d made for myself when I was in junior high. I used the original for decades to hold my hair out of my face in the morning while I primped for work, but it died in the jaws of one my dogs. I guess she was lonely, and it smelled like me. (Naming no names, but it was Kata.)

So I bought bright variegated acrylic yarn, and knitted a new headband in rehearsal. That didn’t take long, but it gave me an idea.

I like to make afghans, because I like to take naps under them, but I don’t like to use patterns. Because I am a quilter, the afghans I make are generally in some kind of improvised block form. The first one I made like this was my Learning Project, and Jan claimed it even though it was kind of weird and misshapen.

The Learning Project was a "sampler" collection of different stitches.
The Learning Project, by G. S. Norwood, with Anika the terrier (Photo by Jan S. Gephardt, who loves it).

The second one I made was perfect—until a dog chewed off the corner. (I think this time it was a foster dog named Talley.)

Talley is a classic black-and-white border collie with a sweet face.
Could this possibly be the face of an afghan-chewer? Bet on it. (photo of Talley by G. S. Norwood).

It was no surprise, then, that as the headband began to reel off my knitting needles, I started to think about a new afghan, with lots of bright bands, knitted in different patterns. I got the yarn I needed, but I didn’t have the time. Until the isolation hit.

Time to Get Crafty!

This piece of cable stitching transitions from green at the top through turquoise and blue to violet at the bottom.
Cable stitching (needlework and photo by G. S. Norwood).

I don’t exactly mind being alone. I’m actually sort of an introvert. I like reading, and writing, and keeping up with the news. But when the constantly changing landscape of coronavirus shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and reports on new cases, recoveries, and deaths began to dominate the news, it became overwhelming. Like so many people, I had to process all that upheaval while navigating the new worlds of virtual grocery shopping, social distancing, and toilet paper shortages.

How to escape to sanity? I picked up my knitting needles and got crafty. Over past three months I have knitted 15 strips and blocks for my new afghan project. I made up my own knit/purl patterns. I ordered a book on knitting patterns, because of course I needed a new book. I even learned how to do cable stitches! I’m now trying to figure out how to join all the strips together.

We Are Not Alone

And I discovered I wasn’t the only one to get crafty as a means of escaping reality. Friends are knitting. Friends are quilting. Friends are deadheading roses and learning to grow vegetables in buckets.

A white "Snow Witch" rose from G.'s garden.
How does your garden grow? G.’s is doing quite well. Here’s a recent bloom from one of the Snow Witches. (Photo by G. S. Norwood)

One friend has taken to her woodshop to turn pens on her lathe and make wonderful wall hangings with her table saw. Some guy in Australia built a giant, laughing kookaburra.

Just last week the Dallas Winds’ co-principal trumpet, Brian Shaw, told me he hadn’t been too motivated to practice his trumpet lately, but he had taken up painting again, and showed me a watercolor he had done.

"The Boys at Washington Park Beach" is a painting by the Dallas Winds trumpeter Brian Shaw.
“The Boys at Washington Park Beach,” by Brian Shaw (used with artist’s permission).

Art, whether it’s done with a brush, a knitting needle, or a table saw, is a great escape in times of turmoil. We can forget about the looming issues of the day for a little while when we get crafty, and immerse ourselves in something that requires our hands and our eyes, as well as our brains. Whether we’re kneading bread or knitting cables, we’re taking a few moments away from worry about the bills, the bacon shortage, or the ever-mounting death toll.

So, go on, everybody. Get crafty! And wish me luck with this afghan thing.


All photos are by G. S. Norwood except for three: The photo of Grandma Sherrell is by an unknown studio photographer, and comes from the family archive. Jan S. Gephardt photographed the afghan, “The Learning Project,” by G. S. Norwood. The painting, The Boys at Washington Park Beach, by Brian Shaw, is used with permission of the artist.
is used with the artist’s permission.

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