Posted by: Kate | October 17, 2008

Crafty or Creative?

Wednesday night, the four of us spent a few hours preparing our Christmas cards.

Yes, in October.

No, no, NO, I am not usually that organized.

But for the past few years, I’ve tried to include a little assembly-line sort of handmade ornament or decoration to include in our Christmas cards, because that’s part of how I judge whether I’m too busy with work and other things.  If I can’t find time to make the kids’ Halloween costumes, put something together for Christmas, and create Valentines, then I’m too busy and need to cut back somewhere.  It hasn’t been much of an issue now that I’m only working the one job and home a lot, but when I was working three part-time jobs and going to grad school full time, it was a stretch, some years.

Anyway, usually I wait until December to even think about Christmas cards, and they get mailed on the 22nd, give or take.  Last year, I had the idea of making faux stained glass decorations with fall leaves to send out… but it was long, long past leaf season.  So I shelved the idea, and by the grace of sheer dumb luck I remembered it in time to implement this year.  (There’s a how-to here that is close to what we did… though I did the ironing directly on the kitchen table and then used bleach spray to get the melted wax [mostly] off.)


It’s a cute little project, combining a hot iron, family time, and recycled crayons, and the results are entirely unremarkable just sitting on the floor…


…but look pretty held up to the light.


And it got me thinking, because I do a fair number of craft projects like this, with the kids and occasionally on my own.  I’m less into the idea of crafting just for its own sake than I used to be, but if I can come up with a functional project, I’ll happily lug out the sewing machine or papier-mâché to create cloth napkins or a Halloween mask.  Of course, there’s the knitting, too, which I find tactilely soothing and happily functional.  It comes from being a fairly quiet and contained kid with good manual dexterity, and a slew of grandmothers and great-grandmothers with endless skills to pass on, I think.

I don’t, however, consider myself to be especially creative.  I can come up with independent designs once in a while (a la the “Knit This” tab, up at the top there) but they’re always building off some preexisting pattern or stitch design.  I can copy or adapt ideas comfortably enough, but I don’t freehand draw or independently create artwork.  I don’t have visions that I transform into objects, I just follow directions and understand the mechanics behind things fairly adeptly.

To me, this makes me crafty and somewhat skilled, but not creative.  Mine is the ability to figure out how to bring something from concept to reality, but not the ability to come up with that original concept in the first place.

It’s an oddity, and perhaps not worth the pixels that it took to express the thought, but it matters to me.  My sisters each have an ability to draw and sculpt that I don’t have (genetics are so unfair sometimes) and Willem can conceptualize things numerically (not to mention, play chess) in ways that I simply can’t wrap my head around.  It’s not that I’m trying to downplay my own abilities; for someone who’s only been knitting shapes beyond rectangles for three years, I think I do damn well, and I’m almost always pleased with our homemade efforts when it comes to Christmas cards and gifts.  It’s just a case of trying to accurately describe my own abilities.

What do you think?  Are you crafty, or creative, or something else entirely?  Or, neither?  Am I just way overthinking this?



  1. I’d like to say I’m crafty, but I don’t really think I am. I went through a long card-making phase, but I always copied other peoples’ ideas. Same with knitting: without a pattern, I’m lost.

  2. A little of both I think. My side of the family always has some kind of get together for cookie making around the holidays and egg coloring for Easter. I am usually late and they talk about how hard they tried to make something spectacular before I show because my attempts become intricate (I should be first to arrive because I spend lots of time eyeing it up and getting the exact results that I have in my head.)
    BTW since you are so good at cooking I would think you are more creative than you give yourself credit-that does take creativity and an artistic ability.

  3. I’m more creative than crafty. For a long time I thought I was just a lazy thinker, because I’d get this AWESOME! AMAZING! IDEA! on some item I could make, but then I’d get bogged down in the mechanics of how to make it come to fruition, and I’d give up halfway through the planning process. I’d never even put my hands on the materials to try to make my thing, whatever it might be.

    Now I realize that it really is, sadly, that I’m an “ideas guy” and not a “nuts and bolts” thinker at all. Of the two choices, I’d rather have the nuts and bolts. But then, the grass is always greener, etc.

    (Oh, and: I would KILL to be able to knit like you. That is more than skill, that is talent and instinct and aesthetic sense you have there, Kate.)

  4. I am fairly certain that I am more creative than crafty and I actually think about it a lot because it frustrates me in some ways. I can think up great ideas and I will know in my head how to get from point a to point b, but I often lack the crafty drive it takes to actually complete the project. I am not a good finisher; I burn through my bright ideas too quickly, such that when I can see the end in sight and I know it is clearly attainable I think to myself, “See, I could totally do that. Now I know and can move onto something bigger and better.” Sometimes I wish for more of the craft drive so my house would not be studded with projects 3/4 complete.

    I would also kill to be ablt to knit like you. 🙂

  5. I prefer to make the kids’ Halloween costumes, but the last few years I’ve been too lazy and with Buddy getting older, he usually wants something off the rack. I need to start my Christmas card assembly line too. Thanks for motivating me. 🙂

  6. Hmmm…I’m neither crafty nor creative. I usually describe myself as “book-smart”. However I have NO common sense whatsoever. This drives Hubby crazy.

    And our 7 year old? Is EXACTLY like me.

  7. I’m not very crafty now, though I was as a child. However, I do consider myself creative, at least a little. My right brain often gets in the way of my left brain being able to express that creativity, as I have this need for precision that is often distracting. That’s why knitting is so perfect for me – I can be creative in the yarns and the colors I choose. And the precision of following an already written pattern satisfies my right brain. Occasionally tweaking a pattern allows a little more of creativity to flow without all the headaches I get from trying to completely write my own.

  8. I have moments of craftiness, but would have to say I’m more creative. I love to create good meals, a party, ambiance, kids… 😉

  9. I’m tired. Does that get me any points at all? Crafty, uh, no. Wish I were.

  10. I could have written the discription you use of yourself for me. I don’t come up with myself, but I like to make things…I am just not creative…Sad as I truely wish I was.

  11. […] to make Jacob’s costume.  It had always been my task before, because I consider myself fairly crafty and I also use Halloween and Valentine’s Day as yardsticks by which I measure my own […]

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