By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
One of my favorite parts of my job is covering the crafts at the Medfield Library. For an hour or two, I attempt to follow directions and put together a project of some sort. I zone into a stage of calm I can't find anywhere else. In the weeks I’ve joined in, I’ve left with felt daffodils, hand warmers, and a stained glass pendant. While the end result is satisfying, the journey to get there has let me connect with strangers, made me laugh, and challenged me in ways I never considered.
But in the last few months, a whole new challenge has arisen: crafting over Zoom.
Since March I have missed going to these crafting sessions, and I’m excited to go back. They’re all run by Adult Services and Program Librarian Bri Ozanne. Ozanne has most of these sessions down to a science, seamlessly teaching everyone how to do glass etching, sew hand warmers, or do whatever the day's craft requires. It is, in some ways, a god-level talent to me, who has absolutely no crafting or artistic ability. Since converting these sessions to fit a Zoom format, Ozanne has organized a month-by-month schedule containing each craft that she plans to teach during the time period. The list is sent out to everyone who signs up and itemizes all of the materials crafters will need for each project.
For this particular craft, Ozanne outlines two weeks. The first requires one to three shirts and scissors. Next week's class includes tee-shirt yarn (the product we're creating in the first class), safety pins, a needle, and thread. At the time that I got the list, it didn't seem so bad - just cutting a shirt up so it can be used to make a yarn-like material, then sewing it together into a coaster or basket. It's not too complicated, right?
I log on to Zoom and already, there are a number of participants. Everyone is armed with a tee-shirt. I have picked out one from a pile in my basement where clothes go to die. It's an old tie-dye shirt I bought from Old Navy years ago, and it's been at least a year since I've worn it. It's a worthy sacrifice.
As people enter the Zoom session, Bri starts to explain the craft and warns that it may be difficult. She has cut out a number of paper tee-shirts to explain where we need to cut our shirts. While this does make the process immensely easier, some crafters still get frustrated as they cut the wrong side or corner, or have their shirt turn out completely differently than those of their fellow crafters. "Ok, I'm going to leave," announces one participant before disappearing from the Zoom session.
"I'm going to stress doodle!" says another, before picking up a piece of paper and some colored pencils they have on hand. At this point, my dad calls everyone for dinner. I'm sitting at our counter, trying to follow this tutorial with my family watching as I hack a shirt apart. They are entirely confused. After a few more steps and the realization that my shirt yarn does not consist of long strands, but rather 8 to 15 inch pieces, I too find myself throwing in the towel (or rather, the shirt).
Towards the end of the project, one participant asks if she is doing the project correctly.
"You cut it like this so you have the weird underwear," says Ozanne, holding up her shirt. To be fair, it does look like weird underwear, albeit with a bunch of holes - the kind Kendall Jenner would wear during a bizarre couture fashion show.
"My husband just walked in and is very confused," laughs one participant
"Understandable," says Ozanne nodding.
The project continues, with only a few making it to the end. Those who have made it marvel over their new shirt yarn. You can do so much with it: knit, crochet, and make tiny coasters and baskets. You can use it as a modified tissue as you cry into it, because you feel like you can’t follow simple directions over Zoom. There are just so many uses. By the end, every crafter seems to question if they can actually finish the project.
“Next week, we’re going to do the second part of the craft,” announces Ozanne. Everyone seems to have a hesitant look on their face, unsure if they even want to attempt part two of this project. But I know I’ll be back next week, even if it is just to watch as other people struggle while I join the stress doodling efforts.
For some, it’s about the finished product. But these crafting sessions give me the chance to destress. So while my shirt yarn is sitting in a heap, I still feel like a weight is off my shoulders for the time being. I get to meet some of the people I regularly talk to at the library, see the usual crafters who brighten up my days with their wisecracks, and make something I would never make on my own. It’s a great feeling to have when it has been weeks of the same thing, over and over again, during quarantine.
I’m not going to let my failure of shirt yarn change that.