Who has time these days? The knitting project languishes in its basket. That gorgeous fabric I bought last spring never got sewed into cushion covers. Some evenings I’m too tired to read yet too restless for TV. I want to make something but can’t bear the thought of a pattern or a YouTube tutorial or anything at all involving logistics.

Luckily there exists a category of craft for times like this. Elementary school teachers already know about it (and I was raised by one!). Remember the paper-bag puppet? The paper-plate Thanksgiving turkey? It’s the fast craft: two or three materials, a single tool (or none), no instructions.

Pompons are nice; I’ve posted before about making yarn pompons. Paper snowflakes Snowflakework well (if you use Japanese paper you can stick them to the window with just a damp cloth).

Last weekend I found out a lovely self-striping mohair in my yarn stash. The softest shades of cream, robin’s-egg blue and spring-leaf green. I crossed two sticks and wound the wool round and round. The activity produced the same meditative state of absorption I look for in knitting–hands busy, thoughts rambling–and resulted in a lovely, cobwebby, handmade object to hang and enjoy.  In the days that followed, whenever I got too tired for lecture-prep or grading or answering emails, I made a few more to give to friends. (God’s eyes, they’re called, and they actually have quite the spiritual legacy. See an older post about gods’ eyes here.)

DeskNext I took out that forlorn bolt of fabric, laid it across the dining table, hacked a square off, and draped it over my desk. A temporary measure, but who cares? Springtime has arrived in my office!

Next I might cover my bulletin board with similarly pretty fabric, securing it on the back with duct tape.


god’s eyes!

Our latest rainy-Saturday activity is stringing god’s eyes.  The technique is even easier than for pom-poms and the aesthetic is endlessly customizable.  Your average seven-year-old will dive right in and innovate with “scary” ones and ones featuring “super-patterns.”  Your average eleven-year-old may start a god’s eye and then abandon it when his classmate Skypes his iPod.  But he will certainly have enjoyed wielding the secateurs to cut the sticks.

Curious about the superstitious-sounding name, I discovered that the 1970s craft I was taught as a precursor to macrame is actually a Mexican art/ritual symbolizing the holy and unknowable.  Golly, but we handicraft enthusiasts are parasites, aren’t we?

Still, I can appreciate the vestiges of the sacred in this.  Turning the four points, winding and wrapping the wool, watching the strands stack foursquare around themselves.  Earth, air, water, fire: with such homely materials as twigs and string we create meaning.

Whatever that meaning may be.