The Greta Garbo Effect



I was in a funny mood the other evening. Too tired to sew, even knitting seemed a chore. Some part of me craved embroidery, so I took my threads out and settled down on the sofa. As far as I was concerned, this was sending out a message pure and clear: I Want To Be Quiet and Insular.

Almost immediately, my loved one started asking questions. What are you making? What’s it going to be? I gave him what’s called an Old Fashioned Look. You’re trying to talk to me? Now?

I realised that I use my crafting as emotional language.

Sewing? Watch out, I have an excess of energy and it needs to be used up!

Knitting? I’m feeling vulnerable and in need of comforting routine.

Crocheting on a train? I am unashamedly eccentric and it’s best that you leave me to occupy these seats on my own. Thank you.

Crocheting on a plane? I’m feeling rebellious.

Embroidery on the sofa? I’m close to brain dead and this is all I can do. Engage with me at your peril.

My only problem now, is getting the rest of the world to understand these messages.

What about you? Does your craft of choice reflect your frame of mind?

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38 Responses to The Greta Garbo Effect

  1. Jacq C says:

    It’s a combination for me of emotional state and environment. I definitely see crochet as the most portable craft so it’s my default setting for car, train and plane journies. Crochet is also my most social craft – everyone knows they can talk to me without fear (and if its complicated I count under my breath – if the family can see my mouth moving they don’t get offended if I ignore them!). Knitting is a challenge for me so it indicates 2 things – that I’m feeling brave and the recipient is much loved for me to put myself through the trauma! Knitting means avoid at all costs unless you’re bringing cake and tea! Card making is my comfort zone but due to the equipment (and, to be honest, mess I make) I work in my craft room (yep, I have my own small, much loved dedicated craft space). But I’m happy to have visitors, my door is open so I guess this means it’s my ‘come and join me, I’m not stressed’ craft! Embroidery is absolutely a ‘curl up in a chair’ craft – I’m with you. And sewing is new so I take over the dining table, ironing board, floor etc and fluctuate between despair (zips and fit issues) and joy (when I make the family sit through fashion shows involving a dance, the odd skip and a Sorbetto song – oh yes indeed, 5 verses so far!). I think this says far more about the tolerance of my family than anything else – I’m very lucky! 🙂

  2. I can totally relate to that. A part from the embroidery which is nothing I could do when brain dead. When I am brain dear I knit a sock.

  3. Roobeedoo says:

    Oh absolutely. Sewing requires the willingness to engage in a marathon. Knitting is what happens when I am too tired for all that hoovering / crawling around the floor with scissors / swinging sewing machines onto the table with one arm while holding a cup of tea in the other. Embroidery is what I do when my knitting has gone wrong. Crochet is what I do if I think my brain needs a kick-start. Cleaning is what I do if the sky is falling down around my ears (somebody call for the king!)

  4. Interesting! I only sew so I don’t have that versatility. I’m curious about crocheting on the train though. Does it work or do people enquire what it is you’re making?

    • I suspect it draws attention rather than repels it! I’ve had people start conversations with me over the crocheting and there can be lots of curious stares. I’ve become largely immune.

    • Jacq C says:

      And ‘what are you knitting?’ is a common question. I’ve had lots of lovely conversations with people who remember their mum or gran crocheting years before. I carry spare hooks and some oddments of yarn, have taught 7 people to crochet since Christmas – 5 in pubs! If you don’t mind odd looks its fine.

  5. Indeed, they do.. Great post

  6. Joanne says:

    Funnily enough I have been yearning to do embroidery recently, and I haven’t sewn a tap all week. I’m flying tonight and I have my crochet burrowed away in my hand baggage – do you think they’ll take my hook away from me if I get it out??!

  7. Joanne says:

    I have also crocheted on a narrow boat up the Mekong 🙂

  8. Sam says:

    My crafting definitely reflects my frame of mind! I can knit almost any time, but whether its a simple stocking stitch only project, or a complex lace one will depend on how much thinking I feel like doing. Sewing I definitely have to be in a positive mood for, and for baking I need to be feeling relaxed.

  9. Sandy P says:

    Oh most definitely. Trouble is, I confuse my family as to when they can speak to me while knitting…some stitches I’m quite happy to chat, others usually result in a glare and increasing loudness of number counting.

    Sewing is for when feeling chirpy and I don’t embroider but I do needlepoint, (some people call it tapestry.) Needlepoint is definitely the “I feel so sorry for myself, lookit my sad faaaace” moment.

    What I don’t “get” is people who don’t do any craft. What DO they do?!?! LOL!

    • Susan says:

      They have to actually pay attention to the TV!! I count louder when my DH tries to talk when I’m doing a tricky bit. Needlepoint gets done in bursts, but not usually when I’m feeling sorry for myself. I shut the door into the sewing room if I want to be alone.

  10. Knitting is so ubiquitous in my life now it’s pretty much game on knitting at any mood apart from exhausted. Watching TV, chatting, trains, buses, waiting rooms, drunk? you betcha? I’m not even really aware I’m knitting which is slightly worrying. In fact something feels wrong if I get to the end of the day and there has been no knitting! Sewing – its the mess, I have to be able to cope with the mess.

  11. kristine says:

    OMGosh!!..Yes! this is exactly what I do! I sew on wkends, but after being lulled into a coma at work all day…couching(hee.hee) is all I can manage.. current project ..I’m embroidering my homemade bra :)…

  12. For me it’s plainish knitting when I’m feeling sociable, because I can do it without fear of making a botch of it and still talk to/be with my family. Sewing? It depends what I’m making as to whether I can deal with company around me; or, if it’s mending, whether I can sit about and chat while I wrestle the latest rucksack to the floor for repairs. Generally if I’m sewing, I’m doing it away from the rest of the family and late at night, so that’s probably my “Don’t talk to me!” craft but more by default than any particular desire.

    Crochet is for when I need something yesterday (usually another scarf or cowl or something quick for a gift) and it’s possible to do it on public transport. Of course, phases of knitting socks and mittens come into this category, too. Actual embroidery I would see as something I could do while holding a conversation with my family but probably not with interested strangers. I suspect that I don’t really use craft as an escape. I’m far more likely to sit down at the piano to do that.

  13. Helen says:

    It’s so interesting to hear everyone elses frame or mind/craft mix! For me, card making / sewing are both relatively social activities as I can easily do either one whilst having a conversation, but knitting??? Now knitting is my nemesis and takes all my concentration not to make a mistake. Like you with your crochet I need to be left completely alone when I’m knitting, although this is more because i’d make mistake after mistake if I tried to be socialble at the same time rather than because I am already brain dead!

  14. CGCouture says:

    I can’t say that I do that. However, I’ve noticed that my style changes depending on my mood. When I’m pissy I tend to manhandle things; hit nails harder than I need to, force things a bit too roughly through the sewing machine, sew too fast, that sort of thing. Otherwise I’m pretty careful and relaxed. And I’m always extremely careful with the power tools, regardless of my mood….serger with sharp knives included.

  15. Reethi says:

    I used to cross-stitch when I worked at a job that required a ton of travel – it was easy and portable, and I could take it on a plane. However, I really didn’t like the job, so I’m afraid some of that has transferred on to the cross-stitching – once I left the job, I haven’t embroidered at all. Sewing though, that’s a lovely, happy craft for me – no bad associations at all!

  16. leahfranqui says:

    I completely understand and agree with your crafting-emotional balance. I think that sewing is a puzzle and knitting is like a long slow maze, and sometimes I just need to sit down and not solve any puzzles and just knit. Embroidery makes me feel like I’m some sort of Regency heroine so it makes me crave herbal tea and period dramas.

  17. sewforward says:

    Sewing is my primary craft – so if I am too anxious to sew I usually read. I know the feeling when I just can’t concentrate on the garment I am making and rather than push myself – I calm my nerves with a good book.

  18. prttynpnk says:

    I would add sitting in the sewingroom sorting the buttons to the ‘unapproachable mood’ category….

  19. gingermakes says:

    I find knitting so completely comforting– it’s my go-to when I want to zone out and relax while the man is watching TV or something. Sewing requires much more focus and energy (and stuff spread out all over my apartment– ack!!), and I can’t divide my attention very well between my project and the boy, so I tend to sew when he’s occupied or away more.

  20. Yes! I totally agree. If I don’t have the energy for sewing I can knit, there’s something so calming and mindless about the repetitve nature of knitting.

  21. Portia says:

    I’d never thought of it before but yes, absolutely!
    Dressmaking = good calm head space with time to approach a longer project
    Refashioning = NEEEEED to make something FAST or I’ll scream
    Pattern Drafting = Uber calm, clear minded, confident, having had plenty of actual “making” fixes
    Knitting = Calm down/zone out in front of the telly and not fridge pick
    DIY/Crafting = Don’t trust myself with fabric and scissors right now, but still need a creative fix
    Thanks for helping me work through this Karen!

  22. Sandy P says:

    I’ve just thought of something else…anyone done sleep knitting or stitching (neeedlepoint/crosstitch/embroidery)?? It can be the middle of the day yet if I’m even slightly tired I’ll end up dropping off while knitting. And I know I’ve sleep needlepointed before. Not perfected sleep sewing yet. Note I said “yet”. LOL!!

  23. Tia Dia says:

    Y’know, I’ve never thought about this before, but yes, I do try to send messages with whatever I’m crafting at the time. I just had a repeat of your “talk to me at your peril” episode the other day. It was really annoying.

  24. akismet-21b053fec805c8711a1f608da8cdd26a says:

    OMG, hilarious post. You are too funny.

  25. elizabeth says:

    You are too funny. This was hilarious

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