Sunday, February 18, 2007

Private Swaps and the Therapy of Creating

At craftster, people do swaps of different sorts. The swaps of the organized variety are typically around a theme -- zombies, maybe, or the color blue. Last summer I participated in my first swap, the Unconditional Wish List swap. The concept for this is that each participant creates a list of things she likes or wants, from which any other participant chooses something to make or simply send. What makes it "unconditional" is that it is not a one-for-one swap. If Blorah chooses to make something for me from my list, I do not have to make something for Blorah -- I just pick any of the participants who has something interesting to me on her list.

I chose to make a skirt and a bag for a sweet girl in Britain. These are the pictures she sent me, as I hadn't yet trained myself to take pictures of things I made.

Because of the design of this swap, me making something doesn't mean I'll get something, if I'm not chosen. And I wasn't. So they listed me again in October and again in November... and I still wasn't getting chosen. Eventually, two people actually did send me things from that swap, but before that happened, I got email from a young woman in Canada. She said that she dug some of the "likes" I'd listed and said that "A Clockwork Orange" is also her favorite movie, so she proposed we do a personal/private swap based on that movie. Apparently this is also something crafster people do fairly often, but I never had. I said cool, let's do it, even though I have no idea what sorts of things she crafts, or really much of anything else about her.

She and I carried on some email correspondence for a couple of months, talking about progress without giving anything away. (We gave ourselves a long deadline because it was the "holiday season.") I learned a little more about what she likes, and more importantly that she wouldn't creep out easily. I initially thought I'd make her a little printed bag with images from the movie (she loved the Zipperhead bag), until I got the idea of making some sort of eyeball shirtcuffs like Alex wears. I thought maybe some taxidermy eyes attached to cuffs removed from a Salvation Army shirt... Which would be cool, but seems so hard -- not difficult, I mean, but physically hard. Wouldn't it be cute to do something like that but in yarn? I thought. Yes, yarn! There's gotta be a way to knit or crochet an eyeball.

I hadn't crocheted anything in years and was probably never very good at it, but it came back pretty easily, and after one failed prototype (big mutant eyeball!), I quickly whipped up two nice blue eyeballs. Now... what? They have to go ON something... something appropriately soft/fuzzy, and variable enough to fit someone whose dimensions I don't even know... Oh, I know just the thing!

Who would have guessed that finding plain white sweatbands would be so difficult?

All the ones I found had logos on them, and after spending $6 on a pair of (pretty nice) Under Armor wristbands, I discovered that getting those logos off is nearly impossible. I couldn't bring myself to go to WalMart, which I just knew would have them, so I did the next best thing -- asked a friend to look at one of his Meijer stores while he was at work. At about 3.45 am a couple of nights later, I got the following text message: "If I do find those plain white sweatbands, what do I get in exchange?" My gratitude, of course. And I'd have repaid him as well, except it turns out he lifted them. My hero.

Plain wristbands in hand, I started plotting the attachments and details. Alex's cuffs are never very clearly shown in the movie, but they seem to have red viscera of some sort next to the eyballs. So I'd have to do that, of course. With a tiny crochet hook and painfully small red floss, I started making stitches, just trying to make some sort of shape.

And this, my friends, is why crafting is such good therapy for me.

My "real" personality sometimes suffers under delusions of perfectionism. But when I'm doing something like this, I'm aware that I don't know what I'm doing. I know the stitches are uneven, the piece is wobbly, and there wasn't really any plan before I got started. I know there is a danger that knots will pop out, or the whole thing may simply unravel through wear, since I've never done anything like this before and can't possibly fully test it before I give it to her. I also know that the person who gets these is absolutely going to love them, in part, I would bet, for the wobbliness, not in spite of it. I also know that if I made a pair for myself, people would want to know where I got them. (Well, except people who know me, who would probably assume I made 'em.)

Still not entirely knowing the plan, or even feasibility, I stitched two "optic nerves" (I know there's only one per eye) to one of the white cuffs with the fluffy blue eyeball in the middle, making stitches that are impossible to hide (though I did my best). I stretched it out, put it on my own wrist, and I gotta say, I was totally tickled with how the first one turned out. It's great not only to make something, and from scratch, but to do it strictly from imagination. I mean, yeah, the movie was the inspiration, but it's been a long time since I did a concept that was totally my own.

Some time during the next week, I finished the other cuff, then took a good handful of pictures. I was sure to get close-ups because I had every intention of making another pair for myself, but... I probably never will.

And whatever my swap partner sends me, I know I'll totally love it.


  1. I just realized I don't at all like the word "crafting."

  2. Anonymous17:53

    Well wow! What a cool eyeball cuff and what a groovy story to go along with it.

  3. Thanks, Felicia! Your little fuzzies/softies are super-cute and I'm going to scurry over to your blog to let you know that right now. (Go, go look!)


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