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listen while you craft – headphones, podcasts and music

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I’ve been meaning to talk a bit more about some of my favourite crafting tools, as well as the actual crafts. I could (and probably will, eventually) write a whole post about scissors, which are my number one if-I-could-only-have-one-crafting-implement-for-the-rest-of-forever choice of tool, and of course at this point life without my sewing machine is basically unthinkable.

But today I’m going to tell you about a perhaps less obvious crafting tool, but one I’ve found invaluable of late: wireless headphones.

Crafting is fun, yes, but parts of it can be quite tedious, especially when you’re making 50 of something. And a day of crafting is a day of just me, with myself and I for company. Ok and Twitter and Facebook, but if I start paying too much attention to them I’ll never get anything done.

This means I listen to a lot of music, podcasts and audiobooks while I craft. A lot

There are two obstacles to this. One: sharing the space. I don’t stop working at 5, or 6, or even 7pm, though I hope one day that might be feasible. For now though, I’m usually crafting up until bedtime and through the weekends, so when my husband is also at home and we’re sharing the space sound-wise. We live in an apartment (well, we will when we’re done house sitting in a month), meaning a smallish space where sounds carry throughout fairly easily. And because of the noise of my sewing machine, or my moving around, I need to have the sound up pretty high.

Which also relates to the second obstacle: other noises. Primarily my sewing machine. It’s not super loud really, but it’s the kind of sound where even if my phone or computer is right beside me, it’s hard to hear the precise words of a podcast or audiobook over the machine. Also I sometimes need to duck into the other room and back to grab another tool, or water, or a photo prop, etc.

So Jeremy and I don’t always want to be listening to the same thing, and I can’t hear my own stuff over the sound of the sewing machine or my not-infrequent 20-second trips out of the room.

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Knowing all this, Jeremy got me a pair of really nice wireless headphones for my birthday back in March. Unlike my old headphones, which were wired, these don’t keep me tied to within 3 feet of my computer on the desk, or tangle in whatever I’m working on. Also they don’t have crummy pads that hurt my ears after 30 minutes. The wireless headphones allow me to move freely about the room and even from room to room (to an extent – the house we’re sitting right now has a big stone fireplace in the middle that tends to block the signal, and some of my craft stuff has had to be stored all the way down the hall, but that’s all temporary).

The other brilliant thing is that now I can sew and keep listening to my audiobook or podcast without missing details. This is great in part because I sew a lot, but also in part because I sew and stop, sew and stop a lot, like if I’m pinning then sewing then pinning etc., or sewing a little piece that I then need to hand stitch to something else, or whatever. The turning the podcasts on and off, on and off again to accommodate that got very annoying.

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They charge via usb cable, and have a little control on one side so that – when you’re using iTunes, anyway – you can pause, play, and move back or forwards a track without having to go over to your computer.

All this is why the gift of fancy headphones, which I thought would be a nice luxury item that I’d enjoy, has become an absolutely wonderful, integral crafting tool, far more cherished that I’d initially imagined. And why I recommend them to any and all frequent crafters out there who don’t wish to do their creating in constant silence.

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Listening Material

Now that I’ve discussed my headphones at great length, I thought I’d tell you some of the things I most enjoy listening to while I craft.

What I listen to varies depending on my mood and what I’m working on – when blogging it needs to be music so I can still thinkmakewordshappenonpagewriteIcan. Same thing when pattern drafting, usually, or at least it has to be a book I’ve listened to previously so I can miss bits and still know what’s going on. Certain kinds of tasks require the kind of mental concentration that doesn’t allow for focusing on another narrative simultaneously.

When I’m cutting/pinning/sewing, though, then having something else to focus my mental faculties on is not only manageable, it’s needed.

Music

For music, I have my iTunes library of course, but for about a year now Jeremy and I have also been signed up for Rdio, which is a wonderful service. It’s essentially the Netflix of music. You pay for it (about $10 a month), which in a way is actually nice b/c you know the artists on there are getting something from all your listening. And while Rdio doesn’t have everything in their library, they’ve got pretty darn close to everything.

If you finish an album or playlist, it will continue on playing other music that it thinks you might like based on that previous listening you were doing. Sometimes its more right than others, but I’ve found some good new songs and artists that way.

I don’t often list musical favourites because I enjoy a wide variety of stuff and tend to cycle through different seasons of tastes, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot a lot a lot of Pentatonix, Walk Off the Earth, Lana Del Rey, Nickel Creek and Kate Nash.

Podcasts

Podcasts are one of the greatest things to appear in the world in the last number of years, if you ask me. Sure, plenty of them suck or are just boring or badly edited. But many of them are wonderful, too. And there are SO MANY podcasts!

Some of my regular listening includes:

Sawbones: “a marital tour of misguided medicine.” In which Sydnee and Justin McElroy tell us about all the totally crazy shit doctors and just plain normal nutjobs have tried out in the name of medicine throughout history. It’s very entertaining and sometimes horrifying, and quite educational to boot. A definite favourite of mine.

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Related to that, Justin and his two brothers do a podcast that most of you probably already know of, called My Brother, My Brother and Me. It’s sometimes dumb, but usually funny and always somewhat surreal. It’s good easy, goofy, light listening.

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Risk is one of my favourite podcasts, with the tagline “stories you never thought you’d dare to share.” It’s a podcast where people talk about things that have happened to them, some of them normal people and some of them professional performers. There are a lot of sex-related stories, but there are also stories about work, travel, family, illness, death, violence, childhood and coming-of-age… anything and everything really. Some stories are funny, some sad or terrifying, some both. It’s a really interesting panoply of people and lives and adventures.

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All the podcasts I’ve mentioned so far are part of the Maximum Fun podcast network, which includes a lot of other shows that are worth checking out. I’ve spent some time listening to Judge John Hodgman and One Bad Mother, as well.

Welcome to Night Vale is a very strange but fun podcast that I just started listening to recently, after multiple recommendations from friends. It’s… well you kind of just have to listen to it to find out what it is.

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I haven’t visited these other ones for a while, but for a long time I listened through the History of Rome podcast, which is exactly what it sounds like, and very interesting if you’re a history lover.

Years ago when I first discovered podcasts, I started by listening to episodes of Podcastle, which shared short fantasy stories from various authors, known and unknown. It has two sibling podcasts as well, Pseudopod (for horror stories) and Escape Pod (for sci-fi).

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In addition to all these, both NPR and CBC have a wealth of great podcasts, and I imagine the BBC does as well, I simply haven’t gotten to checking them out yet. Some that spring to mind are This American Life, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, The Vinyl Cafe and Hidden Kitchens.

Audiobooks

I started listening to a lot of audiobooks after watching season 1 of Game of Thrones. I really wanted to know what happened next, but I simply did not have time at that point to read 3 or 4 more books of that length. And I needed something to listen to while I crafted. So I signed up for audible.com.

Audible.com is owned by Amazon, and you pay a monthly subscription fee. For that you get steep discounts on their audiobooks as well as one free credit (which will usually buy one book) per month. They have a pretty good library of stuff, and I’ve crafted my way through Game of Thrones, The Kingkiller Chronicles, The Poisonwood Bible and The Red Tent (both books I’d read in book form multiple times and adored), The Help, some Doctor Who specials, The Blind Side, The Seamstress, World War Z, one of the Dresden Files books, and more.

I really should find out if I can get mp3 audiobooks from the local library, too…

My main piece of advice with audiobooks is to make sure not only that the book looks good and will hold your interest, but also to be sure you like the narrator. Audible allows you to hear a few minutes-long sample of the audiobook, and I recommend listening to that before buying. I’ve had at least one audiobook ruined for me because something about the reader’s voice just grated, even though the book itself seemed good.

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 Well there you have it, my novella on the listening aspect of crafting. What are your favourite things to listen to while being creative? Do you have any music, audiobook or podcast recommendations of your own? Please share them in the comments!

 

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3 Comments

  1. Geez Tally, you’ve already covered most of my favourites. I think I may have discovered the Escape Pod family of podcasts through a member of LRR several years ago, actually. I’m still working my way through those archives.

    Alton Brown started a podcast not long ago, which is sometimes but not always about food and people in the food and TV businesses. I enjoy it. If you like listening to rpg podcasts, These Warriors are Terrible can be pretty entertaining (and they’re Canadian). And of course there’s Limited Resources if you want a good podcast about Magic.

    I haven’t listened to that many audiobooks, but I may need to give in and sign up for Audible. I do love anything Neil Gaiman narrates, though.

    Reply
  2. Akri

     /  June 6, 2014

    Another great podcast is the Thrilling Adventure Hour, which is a collection of different shows styled after old-timey radio plays. They’re all pretty entertaining, but Beyond Belief is particularly worth checking out.

    Reply
  3. Jupiter

     /  June 7, 2014

    I’ve enjoyed all of David Sedaris’s works that I’ve tried and he narrates them himself which is fun. I’ve also liked Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose (again narrated by author) and I listen to Mark Rosewater’s Drive to Work every week. I like that Drive to Work has such variable content; you really never know what you’re going to get.

    Reply

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