The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2016 Results

Living With A Craftaholic

Copyright © Natalie Barlow 2016

My motherís name is Joan and she is a craftaholic. She wonít accept she has a problem, but I know the truth and, shamefully, I have become an enabler. During the button necklace phase I would slink through the checkout at Spotlight for the third time in a week, head lowered, not making eye contact, as I purchase yet another packet of buttons. Why? Because that pile of buttons in the bottom of the sewing box were no good. No, they werenít bright enough. She needed new buttons, specially packaged for the crafter. And buttons spread. Theyíre worse than Tupperware and Tribbles combined. At home I would find buttons in the bathroom, wedged under the dining room chairs and even in bed, where they would become wedged somewhere else entirely. Rogue buttons escaped and made it out into the garden where they turned into high speed projectiles under the blades of the mower. Yes, itís all good fun until someone loses an eye. Eventually the buttons were corralled together but they have their own room now. It used to be the spare room, but now itís the button room.

Then there was the decoupage phase. I have never decoupaged anything in my life, and never want to, but I would find myself buying wrapping paper when I had nothing to wrap. I would search for books on Renaissance art at the second hand bookshop and try not to watch as these beautifully illustrated works were reduced down to a pile of angels and flower cut-outs. But you canít take your eye off the dedicated decoupager or the next time you carelessly pick up an envelope you will find yourself playing picking up with a million teeny tiny cut out flowers.

Crafts can come and go, but they rarely go permanently. The crafter always has plans Ďto get back to that one dayí. Perhaps the hiatus is seasonal. A tentative enquiry about the progress of a cardigan promised for Christmas is met with a blank stare. Nobody knits in summer. So I look with dismay at the overflowing basket of wool, destined to remain untouched until the weather cools.

The beading hiatus is longer and has no discernible pattern. But new beads periodically appear, consigned automatically to the beading box which lives in the lounge room. I guess they are waiting for some cosmic alignment before their time comes.

Quilting is another thing I donít get. Yet there I was, Ďhelpingí lay out a quilt. I could understand if it was a way to utilise leftover scraps, but these things are made out of brand new (and really expensive) pieces of material. This stuff is so expensive it is measured out in tiny portions called fat quarters. The only thing fat about them is the price. Then there is the cost of edging, backing, batting and finally the actual quilting. A blanket would be cheaper.

If you are looking for cheaper and safer options, then steer your crafter away from leadlight if you can. Just like quilting, they take perfectly good pieces of glass, cut them up into tiny fragments and then reattach them together again. Even mum found this one too much to master, becoming so distracted by the task she accidently took a swig of the flux rather than the VB she was drinking at the time. Luckily she didnít swallow.

It isnít only quilting and leadlight where the crafter takes delight in cutting up functional pieces into fragments so they can have the pleasure of reassembling them. We now have a section of the garage dedicated to tiles. Mum has a fad to mosaic something. She doesnít quite have enough tiles yet, but the time is coming and soon we will have a new mosaic encrusted chair, or cabinet, or possibly both. Yes, I thought I had misheard as well. But really, where is the challenge in mosaicing a flat surface.

Then there was the dichroic jewellery. We picked up a second hand microwave for that one but it didnít last long. The temperature was too hard to regulate properly. What she really needed was a kiln, but donít worry, itís only a little one and it can be used for enamelling as well. What a bargain.

If the craftaholic in your family is looking for a bargain, she need go no further than one of the craft shows that pop up with regrettable regularity. Mum has picked up some real gems (or a crafty facsimile) thanks to a craft show special. The Bedazzler, with sample rhinestones, was a real steal. She hasnít actually bedazzled anything yet, but it is only a matter of time before weíre all wearing sparkle arsed jeans.

And who could forget the kits for making Japanese fabric flower hair ornaments. Mum turned them out in quantity before she moved on. Oh well, at least they each used a button in the middle. Thirty down, five thousand to go.

So why do I (and all the other craftersí daughters) nod and smile and stop by Spotlight on the way home for supplies when mum mentions she thinking of trying out that silk screen printing kit she picked up at a garage sale? I ask myself the same question each morning as I throw my one of a kind quilt over my bed, look in my decoupage edged mirror to adjust my button necklace and put on my enamel earrings. Perhaps it is because I could do with a silk scarf or two.