Making It: Beginners
Raise your hand if you have seen a stunning project in a new-to-you craft and purchased all of the materials … only to decide after trying it for an hour or so that you aren’t good at that craft.
If you didn’t raise your hand I would like to hire you to be my life coach because you have reached a level of self-confidence that I am striving to achieve. I, for one, am looking at five to ten unfinished projects that are scattered around my home.
When I was a child and tackled something I had never done before, there was a level of acceptance that I would be “bad” at it until I would be okay and eventually, I might become good. But for some reason, I have trouble extending that same level of grace to myself now.
On the occasions when I decide not to give up (and drown out negativity by watching a Keanu Reeves movie), I’m often able to finish and feel surprised by the results. Eight times out of ten the result is not terrible. Six times out of ten it’s pretty good. And ten times out of ten I’m extremely proud of my FO.
This month I thought we could all use a reminder that everyone begins as a beginner even as an adult. The craft you love but “could never make” is doable for you. You just have to practice.
To help illustrate this point, I reached out to a few of the most talented makers I know—each of whom I consider to be the best of the best at what they do—and asked them to share one of their first FOs along with one of their current FOs. Even the best began somewhere!
First up, Toni Lipsey! Since turning her crochet passion into a career nearly a decade ago, Toni has built a catalog of crafty knowledge that includes hundreds of beginner-friendly patterns and easy-to-follow tutorials. Her current obsessions are temperature blankets, Tunisian crochet, and anything granny squares.
From Toni’s early crochet days
Find Toni’s patterns and new Tunisian crochet book at tlyarncrafts.com
“My best advice for beginners—don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on your own progress, keep practicing, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Niki Dionne, the creative behind Actual Footage of Me, is an illustrator and fiber artist rooted in Dallas, TX. With a unique blend of illustration and needle felting techniques, Niki brings to life faceless representations of black women. Her art delves into the intricate interplay between self-perceived identity and how it influences the self-perception of black women. Having grappled with her own identity, each creation bears a part of Niki, extending an open invitation to viewers to discover echoes of themselves within these enigmatic figures.
Recent work: IJEOMA, Felted wool on Stretched canvas, Dimensions 36 x 24 inches
“Don’t be afraid of making things that look ugly. No matter how long you’ve been working on your craft, you’ll still make ugly things at some point. Keep making and enjoy it!”
Elena Kanagy-Loux descends from the Amish and grew up between the US and Japan, where she was immersed in both traditional Mennonite craft and the DIY fashion scene in Tokyo. After earning her BFA in textile design from FIT, she won a grant to study lacemaking across a dozen European countries for four months in 2015. Upon returning to NYC, she co-founded Brooklyn Lace Guild, began teaching bobbin lace classes, and completed her MA in costume studies at NYU in 2018. After spending five years as the Collections Specialist at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she is embarking on a PhD focused on the history of lacemaking at Bard Graduate Center starting in the fall of 2023.
Her very first bobbin lace sampler, made in Idrija, Slovenia in 2012, using 6 pairs of bobbins
an in-progress sample from Elena’s most recent bobbin lace class in a technique called Polychrome de Courseulles, using about 50 pairs of bobbins
“For the uninitiated, watching an experienced lacemaker effortlessly maneuvering dozens of thread-wrapped bobbins so rapidly that their hands become a blur can be an intimidating experience, regardless of their prior textile skills. I certainly felt intimidated the first time I laid eyes on bobbin lace–but even more so, I was mesmerized, and determined to try it for myself. Although as a beginner I sometimes looked at my narrow, crooked samplers and worried that I would never be able to manage hundreds of bobbins on my own, with tiny baby steps and lots of patience, I am blown away by how far I have come, and grateful that I dedicated myself to this incredibly gratifying craft.”
Stephanie, the crafter behind All About Ami (as in amigurumi) has been crocheting ever since she was a little girl. She loves designing everything from stuffed animals and blankets.
One of the first amigurumi she made when she was a child!
Stephanie’s Fleece Teddy and Bunny Pattern
“My advice would be to find a motivating project to work on! You will be so inspired to learn the stitches and to persevere through the project to finish it. Beginners have actually completed my “Fleece Teddy” and “Cozy Days Daisy Blanket” and are incredibly proud of their accomplishment. We all need to start somewhere, so don’t worry if your beginning projects aren’t “perfect” or don’t look how you expected them to. As you keep practicing and building up your skills, you will gain more confidence and can tackle a variety of different projects!”
Pushing past the feeling of being a beginner isn’t easy and transformations don’t happen overnight. (Ahem, that’s one of my first knitted FOs at the top along with my recently published crochet pattern for the Rhinebeck Tote!) But if you focus on the joy of making rather than judging the end result, you might just find your new favorite craft in an unexpected place!
What projects will you begin next?