Last week, I started paper cutting for the first time. I’d bought a very pretty starter kit from Etsy, a site I’ve been visiting with increasing regularity over the past few months, and unpacked it during a lull in my Saturday afternoon. After following a vet technician’s YouTube guide on how to attach the scalpel blade — a process I don’t recommend doing bare-handed or without equipment — I sat at my desk and slowly began slicing away at the starter sheet. I spent most of the next couple of hours trying to follow the lines and make them much smoother than my jagged attempts at neatness, all while some good old-fashioned lo-fi hip-hop anime beats to study to played on my TV in the background. I eventually managed to form some semi-decent shapes, a process that made me feel far more accomplished than it probably would have if I’d tried it during any other period in time. Mid-lockdown, my brain’s bar for achievements has fallen a lot lower than my usual self-loathing standards.
Picking up yet another crafting hobby in lockdown. pic.twitter.com/EvNmuf4SoG— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) May 23, 2020
I previously wrote about how much I resented and worried about the prevailing sense of wisdom that told us to ‘use our pandemic time wisely’ and get all our side-hustles sorted out. There was something sort of twisted about pressuring scared and lonely people into productivity, a concept that is seemingly fuelling many a world government’s pandemic policies. I haven’t changed my stance on this issue, and I still believe that the willingly ignorant stance of turning lemons into lemonade right now is absurd and borderline dangerous. What I didn’t expect, however, as the weeks have worn on, is how much I have needed to feel busy, to be productive, and to have something to show for it.
I already work full-time from home and keeping track of my output is a key part of my day, albeit one that can make me feel pretty lousy during moments where I’m not at my A-Game 100% of the time. I’m fortunate to still be working during this lockdown and to have plenty of it to do. My workaholic tendencies have been in overdrive over these past nightmare weeks, and yet it still doesn’t feel like enough. So, how do I plug that gap without overstretching myself or descending into anxiety-inducing levels of self-hatred?
A simple new project. pic.twitter.com/JqZZG5m3P5— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) May 23, 2020
I wrote previously about taking up crocheting and embroidery, but since the lockdown started, my repertoire has greatly expanded. I made some wicker wreaths that have a serious Midsommar vibe. With a tiny loom, I made some wonderfully wonky wall decorations that are currently adorning the wall next to my desk. I bought some scrapbook flowers and went wild with the ModPodge in decorating my bookshelves. I have a lampshade making kit waiting to be cracked open alongside a candle making one. My other wall currently has nine embroidery pieces on it, with the tenth about halfway done. I’m currently about 10% into paper cutting another floral wreath. Just throw a bear-suit crochet pattern at me and I’ll have the full Florence Pugh set ready for a sacrificial burning.
I’m not an especially skilled crafter. I’m clumsy and not particularly creative without a set of instructions to follow. I still have trouble crocheting anything that isn’t a square or rectangle. The first attempt at loom weaving I can see from where I type is a rather pathetic effort. Fortunately, though, I have found that these things bother me less right now. The end result is less important to me, and overall less worthwhile, than the work itself. I’m not selling any of these pieces or making them for anyone aside from myself. They are merely distractions that have provided me with a way to feel less-than-useless, and these days, that’s a feeling I crave more and more with each passing week where I’m not able to engage in my usual hobbies or social life.
My first attempt at weaving is now on my wall next to my desk! pic.twitter.com/oCrNcKopbY— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) May 12, 2020
What crafting also forces me to do is slow down. I’m a naturally impatient person who works at quicksilver speed and has no time or energy for all this waiting around crap. Time has lost all meaning since lockdown went into effect here. I find myself constantly looking at my phone not for a reminder of the time but the day itself. Sometimes, it feels like years have passed since I was allowed to do mundane things like see my parents or go on a spontaneous shopping trip. There are moments when I look at the clock and see that hours of my day have disappeared and I don’t know how it happened. Given the opportunity, my brain would freely descend into an endless cycle of anxiety with no end in sight, a disheartening but inevitable side-effect of our current era of extreme precarity. That’s why it matters so much to me when I have a task to focus on, one that comes with no deadlines or outside expectations. Crafting requires focus and intricacy, two qualities I’ve never experienced in abundance. It’s not something you can do while focusing on a bunch of other things. As a chronic multi-tasker, often to my own detriment, it’s taken some serious willpower to turn everything off and do just one thing with all my heart and mind. For a few hours, I can let panic disappear.
None of this is a substitute for mental healthcare or any of the other things I use to work on my anxiety issues. Rather, stress crafting has provided me with some stillness during a period of uncontrollable chaos. It’s not a perfect swap for my ‘normal life’ but it was never intended to be so. Embroidering patterns of house-plants and melting wax for cotton-fresh candles is never going to solve my problems. They are simply trinkets of pleasure, tokens of brief bliss for nobody but me. if you like them too then that’s great but none of this is for you, and that matters so much to me right now.
Header Image Source: Pixabay