Holiday Crafts Bizarre

For weeks there have been signs along the roads and banners over the main streets announcing various holiday bazaars where we can take advantage of local artisans and crafters putting out their wares for the gift-giving season. There are some talented people in our midst who possess remarkable skills.

On the other hand, there are crafters who bring to mind an argument on an old episode of Frasier where brother Niles snaps at the title character for not buying tickets from him for a folk art benefit. “Frasier, I’m surprised at you. You’ve always supported the arts” to which Frasier retorts, “The arts, but not the crafts!”

There was the sweetest lady one Saturday morning who proudly demonstrated her yard sculpture. After decades of taking up space in her limited cabinets, she’d pulled out some lovely dessert plates and cups and saucers. Rather than handing them down to some unappreciative grandchild, she’d taken up some sort of hobby working with equipment hot enough to melt glass. She’d globbed a lump of it here and there, and had adhered porcelain pieces together to form “Giant flowers you can poke in the ground amongst your real flowers for a year-round bloom.”

I hate seeing perfectly good serving pieces misused like wind chimes made from old silver flatware and mobiles of spoons. Instead of yard sculpture, all I could think of was wresting these dishes away from her so I might return them to their utilitarian forms without breaking them in the process.

I’m good at a number of things, but I have definite limitations when it comes to crafts. Sewing would be nice, if only to figure out how to reupholster furniture and save myself a ton of money. My mother and sister make extremely beautiful baskets, but while I can braid challah and marble rye, I cannot weave a basket. I once purchased yarn and a startup knitting kit to find after four nights that I have no ability to create anything more than a very uneven scarf four inches wide by six inches long. My hands ached and I could never relax to let the creativity flow. For those who would encourage me to give it another try, forget it. You knit while I type.

My sister used to produce some amazing cross-stitch pieces, and I still have the ones she gave me. One is a framed set of nutcrackers she made for me decades ago. I still put it out at Christmas, but this year, after attending these bizarre bazaars, I’m reminded of third grade when our teacher had us embroidering cup towels for our mothers.

As with all things I have no intention of doing, I found many reasons to avoid spending time on this project. We were sent home with notes to have our moms purchase muslin, and then the women had to provide the embroidery hoops and threads, iron on the patterns we chose and pretend to be surprised when they opened up these obscenities at Christmas. Where I should’ve stuck with a simple pattern like a single initial, I selected an ambitious teapot, which would’ve stymied a 40-year embroidery veteran with a closet full of county fair ribbons.

These are the cross-stitched nutcrackers my sister Karen made for me over 25 years ago. I could never achieve this level of intricacy.
These are the cross-stitched nutcrackers my sister Karen made for me over 25 years ago. I could never achieve this level of intricacy.

The school generously provided our group of eight year-olds with needles, and we got to work. On the first day, I managed to get about a half inch of small, if not erratic, stitches before discovering I’d sewn the gathered tea towel to itself on the underside of the hoop. Mrs. C. had to cut out the best stitching I’ve ever sewn before sending me back to my desk for five minutes before the bell rang.

We were instructed to take some time each afternoon when our classroom work was complete to go to the back shelves and collect our sewing and make some progress. I never seemed to find the time, as I imagined my sister taking me shopping for something decent, but that didn’t silence the nagging voice inside. Christmas was coming, yet I’d not gotten very far along. After reviewing our progress one afternoon when we’d all gone home, Mrs. C. called me up the next day along with N_____ and D_____ and firmly insisted we get to work. Multiplication tables be damned! There was an urgency to finish these cup towels as though our mothers were languishing in domestic hell, drying dishes with gunnysacks.

I shall never know what it’s like to make a series of artful stitches, earning a stellar reputation for a “fine hand” at needlework for I embroidered then as I darn socks now. I tie off the thread at the end and jab it through the material. My needle pops randomly through the surface of the fabric like the gopher holes dotting my yard, and I make wide stitches to get the job done as quickly as possible. (In case you wonder why I darn socks when I’m terrible with a needle, it’s because they are so cheaply made these days. However, I’m too frugal to replace them before I decide their time has come, and no one sees my sewing when it’s stuck in a shoe all day.)

As for the kitchen towel, I finished in time. I can’t say I was proud of that sorry schmatta, and I’ve never asked my mother what she thought was worse: the tea towel or the wrapping paper made from old newspaper, tempera paint and stenciled with asymmetric Christmas trees that I carved from a potato.

© 2015 by Patrick Brown

Visit my author page at to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”


2 Replies to “Holiday Crafts Bizarre”

  1. I would have to agree, Paddy. Keep your fingers free for other pursuits. Let me rephrase that. Keep your fingers free for “writing pursuits.” There — they are artistry in motion.

    Liked by 1 person

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