Thursday, November 18, 2010

There are some things I never want to do again.

After much introspection, I have come to the conclusion that I'm not a crafty person. I told my husband the grave news and he folded his arms, leaned against the wall, and gave me that "B.S., you are so a crafty person!" look. But the inner me knows better. Even though I've been known to produce craftish items in the past, it's not in my blood.

My husband and I debated the point for a good twenty minutes. After a heated discussion of what defines "crafty" and a few tense moments, we came up with a graph using the banister to represent the progression from completely inept to craft obsessed.

What? You don't spend the afternoon delineating craftiness with your spouse? (We need help, people.)

Anyway, here's what we came up with:


This chart applies to any sort of creative assemblage, from the making of birthday cards, to the making of couches. We'll go with couches for discussion purposes.

Level 1 - design oblivious. Completely unaware of the way things look, this guy just wants to sit down on the couch. Any couch. He doesn't care about how it works in the space, as long as it's not pink and is comfortable.

Level 2 - design appreciative. Knows when she walks into a living room that she likes it, but wouldn't be able to define what, specifically, about the room she likes. She would be somewhat discouraged and confused if placed on the showroom floor at the furniture store and asked to pick the best couch for her living room, lamenting that she just wants something that will look nice.

Level 3 - design connoisseur. This girl knows what couch she likes, and which ones would work in her space. She would be able to find a sofa she wants within 10 minutes at the furniture store. She would prefer to just buy something that fits perfectly. But if no such couch were available, for financial or other reasons, out of desperation she might try to do it herself for the sake of the end result.

Level 4 - design crafty. This guy not only knows what he likes, but he also has the expertise to make it. He enjoys the process of building. He creates couches because he likes to make furniture; he needs no further reason to immerse himself in the creative process. His wife wishes he had a different hobby so that he will stop making so much stuff that has nowhere to go.

I don't think someone is truly crafty until they enjoy the art of crafting; the process of assembling.

I'm a level 3 on the crafty scale. Almost there, but not quite. I know what I like, but if it were available and I had the money, I'd prefer to just buy the thing I want. Truly crafty people seem to enjoy the process of creating the object as much as they like the finished product. I just want to skip to the end result and be done with it.

Usually, with the few exceptions I've documented here on my blog, I don't get the same sense of fulfillment and enjoyment during the process of creating that the true brilliantly crafty people get. I make things out of a strong desire to have the end product. I'm compelled to make it because either I can't afford the real deal, or I can't find it. I persevere through the constructive process until I achieve something similar to what I am visualizing. Then I say close enough, flomp on the couch, eat a bowl of ice cream, and never do such a project again.

This couch is a perfect example.


We received this couch, as is the norm for us, as a hand-me-down from a grandma. I sort of liked the clean lines, but the color wasn't what I wanted. I had re-covered a small couch before — a skill I learned from my very talented fairy mother — and felt up to the task.

First, I drew out the dimensions of each surface, to calculate how much material I would need. Then I went down to the fabric district and haggled for 40 yards of microfiber cloth. The 40 yards should have been a big neon sign shouting at me that this might be one of those projects that I look back on with a healthy dose of horror for a decade.

Then, I laid out the material in 3 yard sections across my living room floor, and meticulously crawled all over it as I measured and drew the lines from my schematic. That's a lot of crawling and hunching, drawing out perfectly square shapes on 40 yards of fabric. It took a few days to recover.

My strong desire to have a gray couch pushed me on, and I then hunched and crawled over those 40 yards again, to cut the fabric. After that tremendous undertaking was over, I never wanted to see that fabric again; let alone sit on it, on a daily basis. But I was in too deep. It would have been a painful misuse of time to stop at that point.

So, I meticulously pinned the edges of each piece and sewed them together. I sighed in relief. The monstrous project was over.


It was in that moment of glee, as I sat on the first cushion to be covered, that I realized the fabric was too silky and prone to separating at the seams. I closed my eyes, frowned, and shook my head as I accepted that I would need to sew down both sides of each and every seam to secure the loose edges and prevent it from separating. Off the cover came, and out came the sewing machine. Again.


The project took me weeks to complete. Finally, one day, I declared it to be done. I put the cover on, stapled it to the bottom of the couch, and rejoiced that the project was over for real this time. Until I realized that I wanted the couch to be raised a little taller. And came up with a way to make wood legs for the couch. And stained the wood legs.


THEN I declared the couch done, laid down, and cried.

That was over 7 years ago, the making of that couch cover. I still haven't healed from the wounds. Yes, my back and knees forgave me (until I had children — sorry back and knees, I hope you'll forgive me again someday), but the emotional scars are still there.

It is with great sadness that I look at that old gray couch, used and abused by the little ones in the family,


and realize that it needs to go. Either I have to re-do the cover, or I have to buy a new one.

Thankfully, I think I have reached the point in my life where I can stand on a showroom floor and pick a shiny new model to bring home to my family room. My first brand new couch. I made a vow after that project, to never re-cover another couch. And I take my vows seriously.

See, there you go — proof that I am not a truly, enjoy the journey, craft for the sake of crafting, person.

At least, not when it comes to couch covers!


SarahB said...

I am so impressed with you Katie! I hope you find new couches that you love!

Cristina said...

Just please, please, please promise me you won't ever go to Sofa Mart? It's the worst place on earth. Even if they promise you the best deal in town, don't believe them. Don't be seduced. It's all lies! All lies!

PS Teach me how to sew?

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

You aren't crafty?! my God woman... you actually, honestly recovered a couch? That is the epitome of crafty.

a prairie girl in california said...

aaah. well I tell ya what. I think you are crafty!!! hello? anyone who can SHOP at a dollar store is crafty!! :D I love it!!! thanks for the grin! I love to create.but honestly. I seriously doubt I will EVER try to recover a whole couch! WOW & WOW!!! :D Krafty Katie ;) lol.

Fire Wife Katie said...

Lol, you guys sound like my husband!! Refer to the diagram! The diagram clearly shows that the truly crafty people enjoy the process. I'm just a desperate poser, with the ability to measure correctly (which is 9/10ths the battle) and push down the sewing machine pedal. ;)

Rachel said...

See, I already thought you were crafty because of your jewelry... but holy smokes - I would never attempt to recover a couch... just WOW.

I am in awe!

Enjoy your new couch!

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

Thank you for proving my are crafty.

Rach said...

Ya, who would ever recover a couch if they are not crafty??? And who would make neat jewelry if they are not crafty?? I try to make my own things for decorating but-- sewing?? Not for me, thank-you! Good luck finding the perfect couch!

Jenn Erickson said...

Katie, I absolutely loved this post. Your writing was fabulous -- great storytelling! I love the way you described the conversation with your husband, and the way you graphed out the levels of craftiness! Brilliant! My husband has been trying to convince me to make a slipcover for our sectional, and despite my craftiness, I know that my seamstressing skills are not up to snuff.

So, it sounds like you're a level 3 crafter -- not for lack of talent, but lack of desire. However, after having undertaken such an Everest of a craft project like your couch (even if it was many years ago), I believe you've earned a spot in the DIY Hall of Fame. After that project, you could never pick up a pair of scissors or a gluestick again and you would still be entitled to the crown!

mom said...

Ah yes! I can't count the number of things I've tried to retrieve partially from ugly but I can't say I enjoyed any of the labor! So we are co-threes, and I'm happy to be that. I love coming upon something that already has a great finish or cover or is already the right size. My signature look is one that has at least part of the work still to do, unlike your couch project, but then I stare at the undone part habitually wishing it were finished by the shoemaker's elves. Have fun couch-hunting!!

Kathryn said...

Wow... I mean, WOW. I think you and I are on the same page. The only time I get "crafty" is when I want something that doesn't exist in a store. Like the time I made slip covers for my old ugly kitchen chairs, or when I re-finished a new wood rocking chair because the wood didn't come in a color that matched my living room. But, sewing the cover for an entire couch?? You have some guts, woman!

FireMom said...

Insanity. We lived with our hand-me-down couch for years -- with a purchased couch cover because I'm not insane. ;)

We bought our first new couch (and recliner) last winter. Love love love!

Best of luck choosing yours!

Kristy said...

Wow, honestly I've never seen a re-covered couch look so good.

flyrish said...

I'm very impressed with your craftiness. I think I hover between Level 2 and Level 3, and I'm being generous to myself. There is no way I would tackle a couch. I am a very good shopper, though!

Great post.

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