"Necessity is the mother of invention"
When my children were small I stayed at home to look after them and we managed on one income; this meant that we operated on a very limited budget. Any surplus was quickly absorbed by the needs of a growing family - and by our small flock of sheep - and so at Christmas, birthdays and other celebrations I would make presents for family and friends. I couldn't be flash with my cash but I learned to make truffles, cross-stitch samplers, knit jumpers for small people and put together baby quilts out of fabric scraps. Each Christmas I would design a Christmas card on a different sheep-based theme and set up a mini production line on our big gate-legged table. One year, in particular, I washed and carded some of our own wool to create a sheep card with a fleecy coat complete with black felt for their (Suffolk) faces.
At the back of my mind, though, I always felt a bit like the poor relation (which, in financial terms, I was) and when we moved and I took up full-time work I wasted no time lavishing the best I could afford on my nearest and dearest, often with the significant help of a purse full of plastic. However, while I've been off work over the last year, I've had more time to chat with my family and friends and have discovered, quite inadvertently, just how much they had enjoyed and valued the things I used to make. This became most apparent at Christmas when we announced that we would not be indulging in the traditional yuletide spendfest and would be making our own gifts and cards again. My mother-in-law declared how much they used to look forward to the different sheep card each year and a cousin confided that he had always wondered who had stitched the anniversary sampler he admired for his grandparents (my great-aunt and uncle). After my sister moved house recently I found that she had hung one of my baby quilts, stencilled with sheep, on the wall of her sitting room.
Far from considering me a tightwad they had relished the care, time and individuality that had gone into the making of these gifts. Much of my creative knowledge was acquired on a need to know basis as the situation required from friends, who have been patient enough to teach me, but mostly from teaching myself from books. I have found that enthusiasm and a desire to learn new skills (along with a healthy dose of bloody mindedness) have got me a lot further, creatively, than any innate talent I might possess. I am really looking forward to acquiring new skills and sharing the results of my endeavours on this blog. For anyone tempted to try making things for the first time I would say have a go, persevere to get the hang of it and be prepared to surprise yourself with what you can achieve with very little time and money.