connecting beyond the casual
In the way of social circles linking each other into classes and kids growing up, as I find my myself running my small (and not so small!) folk around their activities each week, I’m generally hanging out with the same people at teenage sports, that I was hanging out with at toddler music. After almost sixteen years on the mummy circuit, pretty much everyone is well aware of my propensity to rock up with a project in hand, crafting away as we all chat and catch up.
As the children get older and their interests change though, I’m meeting some awesome new friends along the way. Friends of friends, so I don’t revert back into that completely awkward, never-take-the-project-out, what-if-they-think-I’m-weird stage of overthinking, but new enough I don’t know much about them beyond their kids name and the various chain of mutual friends that saw us meet.
In fact, it turns out, not only do they (seemingly) not think I’m weird for knocking out a few rounds of a sock at touch, or blogging/podcasting at a wine bar, or doodling on my iPad at church, but it’s a great conversation starter. Being the permanently crafting weirdo offers a gateway to skip the kid-based small talk, and start to learn more about folks and the fun things that light them up when they get to take off the mummy hat and do something for themselves.
In one case, we vaguely knew each other from the preschool days, but were very superficially at the “hi how you are *keep walking*” stage. We mage basic chit chat for a week or two, then I cracked out the knitting, because if there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s empty hands and a stretch of time that could be better used with them full! And just like that, we were chatting about sewing and projects and fitting it in around mum life.
Another mum I met was a newer acquaintance, a friend of a friend. In a similar way, we exchanged the usual sidelines pleasantries, until the project came out. While they weren’t a knitter, it opened the conversation of creativity and hobbies we picked up over lockdowns and the joy of exploring all the things we wanted to try. It was really cool to learn all these interesting things about this person, just thanks to pulling out my current project.
Back when I first started doing it, it was hard. I felt completely out of place. As a rule I’m a socially awkward turtle who hates to stand out. Turns out, however, I hate wasted time more than I hate standing out, and the risk of being seen as a weirdo for bringing my project felt like one worth taking. It didn’t take long though for it to just be accepted that this is what I do. At large group events, I’m often greeting with “how are you? What are you working on today?”. It does amuse me though, when I’m sitting there, stealing those multitasking moments, when someone new has a look at my project and their go-to response is “I don’t know how you find the time” – you’re looking at it, friend. I find the time by stealing the time.
When the kids were tiny, I read a book called The Fringe Hours** and it was a game changer in how I looked at these little moments of time throughout the day. Waiting in the car for pickup? Couple of pages of my book in IndyReads. Going for a bushwalk? Photo time. Supervising maths review to start the homeschool day? Might catch up on my cross stitch. Sitting on the sidelines for 30 minutes, or two hours? You bet I’m bringing a handwork something or other with me. Getting over my fear of what other people might think has bought be a whole lot of extra time.
I’d never really considered though, how it could bless me from a connection perspective, especially as our circle expands. It’s an easy conversation starter, for me anyway, who often struggles with small talk, and it’s an easy way to find out what other people enjoy in their downtime, without feeling like I’m prying or being overly familiar. When you have a whole season of sport ahead of you, having an easy point of commonality beyond the kids makes it so much more fun to chat to my new friends! If feeling a bit awkward pulling out my knitting in front of someone new for the first time makes it easier for us to connect and chat, well then I consider that awkwardness well spent.
Bonus craft time PLUS bonus friend-making-fuel? Heck yeah I’ll be in that! If you haven’t tried taking your projects out for an adventure, can I recommend you try it this week? And come back and let me know the fun conversations you end up having!
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