For Sutton Foster, crochet is a survival tactic
Sutton Foster completes a 15-week run at the Barbican as Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” a role for which she won a Tony a decade ago, and she is preparing to return to Broadway later this year to co -star with Hugh Jackman in “The Music Man”.
But before I got into all of that, she wanted to show off a washcloth.
“They didn’t have washcloths here in the apartment,” Foster said in a video interview in London last month, “so I was like, ‘Well, I’ll do it! “” She plans to give them as Christmas gifts.
When she’s not performing on stage or on screen (recently as one of the stars of the TV series “Younger”), there’s a good chance Foster will be crocheting, cross-stitching, cross-stitching, baking, drawing or gardening, hobbies that she explores within herself. new collection of essays, “Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life,” which Grand Central will release on Tuesday.
The chapters are all about crafting, but this book isn’t just about Mod Podge and Jo-Ann Fabrics. Foster, 46, talks about how keeping her hands busy has helped her cope with the stress and pressure of her career and the ups and downs of a life she hasn’t always gotten to. that she needed from her family, relatives or colleagues. .
“Anxiety reigns in my family – in me,” she writes. “I am the daughter of an agoraphobic mother. I earn my living as a performer. It is complicated. And yet, if I feel anxious or overwhelmed, I crochet, glue, or cross stitch. These hobbies literally preserved my sanity during some of the darkest times of my life.
There are light moments, like when we learn that Foster crocheted an octopus-shaped toilet paper roll blanket as a wedding present for his “Younger” co-star Hilary Duff. But these are offset by heavier revelations, like when Foster writes about the baskets she embroidered in cross stitch for her mother in order to escape the toxic distribution dynamic early in her career.
She talks about the holiday snowman cookies she made with the family of her first husband, Christian Borle, and the floral blanket she put together, one “granny square” at a time , at the end of this marriage. She describes drawing interconnected circles with paint pens while undergoing fertility treatments, and the striped baby blanket she crocheted while waiting for her daughter’s biological mother to start labor.
Foster learned to crochet herself at the age of 19 and estimates that she has eight to ten projects underway at a time. She has a yarn merchant who shipped three boxes of Lion Brand supplies to London, then flew off to see “Anything Goes”. (You know how important this is if you’ve ever been a newbie to some type of yarn store, where customers tend to be sorted by college, junior college, and invisible.) Sometimes Foster works from there. ‘a book or consult YouTube. for help, but she also creates her own creations.
Growing up in Georgia and, later, Michigan, Foster made his debut, like many comedians of his generation, in a community production of “Annie”. After appearing on national tours of “Grease” and “Les Miserables”, she appeared in Broadway productions of both shows, as well as “Annie” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. In 2002, she won her first Tony for “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.
Like her ever-cheerful “Younger” character, Liza Miller, Foster was packed with energy and enthusiasm, until our conversation turned to his mother. Then she spoke slowly, eyes closed, carefully choosing each word.
Helen Foster’s health began to decline when Sutton and her brother, Hunter, were teenagers. She had a strained relationship with Sutton and stopped talking to Hunter for almost a decade; the siblings’ bond with their father suffered as a result. Since Helen Foster’s death in 2013, Sutton and Hunter have been on a new chapter with the man known as Papa Bob, and “Hooked” includes his tips for growing the perfect tomato. (# 9: “Pick the tomatoes when they are almost ripe but not quite ripe, so that others can grow.”)
“Crafts were the way I could tell my mother’s story that felt most authentic to me,” Foster said. “A way of weaving, pun intended, all facets of my life together in a way that felt true to me today.”
In the book, she takes readers to the sleazy Florida home where her mother spent her final years. “I turned on the light and gasped,” she writes. “All of her windows had been blackened with black trash bags, taped to the walls.” Her mother had been bedridden for months, refusing to seek treatment: “That explained the basin and the pee pads on the floor next to her bed.”
“It was a mental illness that was never treated, never treated,” Hunter Foster said in a telephone interview. After mentioning that he spent as much time outdoors as possible, he added, “I don’t allow myself to sleep after a certain time because my mom was in bed half the day.”
Her sister and mother’s relationship with their mother is likely to surprise some readers, Sutton Foster said. “It’s a part of our history that people don’t know. It’s that belly: my mother’s illness and protect her and be afraid of her. No one has talked about it, and there is that freedom now.
Behind her on the wall was a framed poster that said “Breathe”.
Foster wrote “Hooked” with Liz Welch, who has collaborated on bestsellers by Malala Yousafzai, Elaine Welteroth and Shaun King. “Sutton is a Broadway musical actress, my mother was a Broadway musical actress. Sutton is an adoptive mother, I am an adoptive mother. Honestly, I think we would be friends anyway, ”Welch said. “Hook was the perfect metaphor for hanging out together, picking up all these different threads of her incredibly interesting life, not what you would expect.”
Suzanne O’Neill, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Grand Central, said: “One thing that’s very difficult for people who write memoirs to do is dig into their stories, and Sutton was ready for it, even s ‘There were times when were hard. She wanted the book to be excellent. She plunged into it. It was a work of art for her, and she worked really hard to make it the book that it is.
In “Hooked”, Foster remembers being 16, mesmerized by her idol, Patti LuPone, singing “Being Alive” on television. “There was something terrifying and exciting about his self-confidence,” she wrote. Her mother, who had recently stopped driving and shopping, said, “You can do it. “
She then met LuPone, who also played Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” and LuPone inspired one of Foster’s favorite collages: a colorful crafting of kraft paper on plywood, spelling BADASS.
“She’s a beautiful creature,” LuPone said of Foster. “She gives off a very positive light. We are drawn to tortured souls, just to find out why they are tortured. And we are also drawn to the light, and the light is much more nourishing. You see someone on stage doing you to feel better. It’s Sutton.
Foster is set to open “The Music Man” in December, playing Marian Paroo alongside Jackman as Harold Hill. But before embarking on more calming craft projects behind the scenes at the Winter Garden Theater, she will have time to settle into the Orange County farmhouse she moved to last spring with her husband, Ted. Griffin, screenwriter, and their 4 years old. old maid, Emily.
She plans to bring at least one piece of her past into this next phase of her life: a cross stitch scene depicting baskets of different shapes and sizes that she made for her mother. For years, the piece hung in the front hallway of her parents’ house and was a stabilizing presence on difficult visits.
Foster recently retrieved the baskets from his father’s basement. “I have them now,” she said. “They will go to the new house.