Getting Creative

April 8, 2011

When the group of us did this experiment for three months in 2009, one of the participants shared a story about how she avoided buying a new personal calendar for the year. She created her own—using a spiral notebook she had on hand, some printed calendar templates, and a gluestick.

At the time, I didn’t have any similar stories to share—expanding one’s wardrobe by hemming pants and reaffixing buttons isn’t particularly creative. But in the last month or so, I’ve encountered a couple obstacles that required improvisation.

First was that knit-in-the-round project I mentioned in an earlier post. Like I said, it was my first knit-in-the-round—a handbag—and so I didn’t have any stitch markers (for those who don’t knit, these are little plastic rings that mark the beginning of rounds or where a stitch change is needed in a row). I put off the project for several weeks—it was supposed to be a Christmas present and was already well overdue. I thought I would eventually ask a knitting friend to borrow a handful of markers (I needed four). But when I kept forgetting to ask, I realized I had to just dive in and figure it out as I went. I considered using safety pins, but the needles I was using were too big, and the pins wouldn’t fit around them. At the end of my first row in the round and desperate for a solution, I reread the description of stitch markers in my copy of The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting: “…they basically serve the same purpose as tying a string around your finger to remind you to do something.” Hello, lightbulb! I could tie scraps of yarn in contrasting colors around my needles to mark the corners of the bag pattern. This simple solution worked just fine, and the bag came out beautifully.

I encountered another obstacle when I visited my fabric pile to find material for an apron I wanted to make for a friend for her birthday. I discovered that, although I have a ton of fabric in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns, I don’t have much of any one thing. I thumbed through my pattern books until I found what was basically the smallest possible apron (that wasn’t for kids, anyway). The pattern called for one yard of fabric, but after examining the pattern pieces I decided I could do it with less. I dug up two coordinating fat quarters that screamed “birthday girl” to me and (as Tim Gunn might say) made it work—by eliminating a couple frivolous aspects of the design. Oh, I also had to make do with the thread I had on hand, which didn’t quite match (but brought an extra touch of whimsy to the thing). In my unbiased opinion, the finished apron was perfect, and the great thing about it is, although it’s small, it has one huge pocket, which should come in handy for my friend, mother of a small kiddo and pie baker extraordinaire.

With only three (or maybe nine—who’s with me?) months to go, I’m starting to think about life after the experiment. I’m hoping to make a habit of looking for these kinds of simple solutions before I go out on a whim and purchase what seems like a necessity. Becoming a more conscientious consumer is what the No Stuff Experiment is about, after all. Why buy something new when I already have what I need at my fingertips? Finding purpose (or re-purpose) for the scraps, the trash, and the clutter has so far been the most fulfilling aspect of this endeavor for me.