Resurfacing

Accountability

Have you ever slept so long and so deeply that, when you awoke, you felt as if you were resurfacing from a long swim underwater? You strain towards the surface, finally breaking through, and gasp for breath. Rubbing saltwater from your eyes, you tip your head to drain the water from your ears. Treading water, you spin slowly in a circle to regain your bearings. At first, the light is overwhelming. You feel small, and alone, and utterly lost.

Disoriented.

That’s how I feel, here at the dawn of a new year. Like I am struggling to break through the surface, to reawaken. That’s sometimes how depression feels: like living life underwater. Light and color is muted, sounds fade away, movement and maybe even time slows until it stands still. It’s like living underwater. Nothing feels real.

And then you wake up.

Sometimes, very slowly, the pieces of your world, the light and sounds and sensation of living, fall back into place. Things become sharper, clearer, more full and fulfilling. Sometimes. And, sometimes, they don’t.

For me, the challenge lies in the awakening, in finding the willingness and resilience to resurface, to pick up where I left off so many months ago. Things do keep going, after all. My craft, my writing, my relationships, my life – all are still here, waiting for me to reawaken.

Waiting for me to be more present.

So, this year’s crafting has started with a good, long, hard look at my WIPs. At least one – a partially completed shawl in handpainted single ply – is destined to be frogged. Another – a lovely red lace-edged cashmere shawl – was finished, blocked, and photographed today.

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But what of the rest? I’m not sure, but I’m anxious and excited to find out.

2017: watch out. I’m going to stay woke.

Things Keep Going.

Memories & Inspiration

Today is the first anniversary of my 30th birthday.

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Don’t get your hopes up; there are no plans for a party or any other shenanigans here. I won’t be yarn-bombing public works of art like I did a few years ago, or abandoning tiny knitted and crocheted objects at the bus stop like I did last summer. No, it’s simply Monday, and I’ll take out the garbage just like last week, think about what to make for dinner, and daydream about going to hang out with my knitting group on Saturday.

Now, I know the popular opinion is that the thirties are the new twenties… and I’m just going to come on out and say, no thank you to that! I lived my twenties once, and there is no way that I want to do that again. It’s not that I was particularly wild and crazy when I was a twenty-something. You definitely won’t see any questionable pictures of me plastered across the internet (except, of course, the photos I post here). It’s just that, now that I am officially “in my thirties,” I can honestly say that I have a different perspective on life.

Twenty-something-year-old-me had a pretty decent set of values; she knew who she was, and she knew (more or less) what she wanted in life. But she was stuck in a soul-sucking corporate job, she had very few artisitic outlets, and she was still searching for her voice. In other words, twenty-something me was certain she’d go somewhere, and she had a message to give, she just wasn’t exactly sure where or what that was.

I’d love to be able to whisper back through time, or write a little letter for Past Me to find, on a day she really needed it. I’d tell Past Me, You got this. You’re stronger than this. You don’t need that as much as you think you do. You are much more than what they say you are. You are beautiful. Shelter your heart, but remember that great love sometimes demands great risk. Above all, ALWAYS THINK IT THROUGH. Things always keep going. And never doubt yourself.

Today, at thirty-one, I am more self-aware. Assured. Confident. Driven. Creative. Passionate. I have my fair share of sadness and anger and anxiety – but even through that darkness, my heart overflows with love and light. So, friends and readers, thanks for allowing me to share my story, and share my light with you. It’s a perfect birthday gift!

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PS – if any of you has spare knitting mojo, that’d be a great gift to send, too! I’m on the last three rows of the never-ending beaded shawl, and it’s taking forever!

Excuse the Mess.

WIPs

Oh, hey there, end of March! Where did you come from? I’ve been absent from blogging for the last five weeks or so, and as usual many changes are afoot. (I am beginning to suspect that “Change” might be the overarching theme of my life for the foreseeable future.) The past month has been very full – what with Rose City Yarn Crawl, Mr’s promotion and subsequent transfer to help manage an office in another city, Easter… I’ve had little time made little time for knitting, beyond completing a cute little test-knit baby cardigan. Mostly the absence has been due to a slight detour into selfish knitting: the edges of my knitterly map, Uncharted Territory. There be dragons here.

Take, for example, my current work-in-progress. The latest shipment of my KnitCircus yarn club subscription, a fingering weight blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon in a colorway appropriately called “Spring Fever,” just called to be knit up into a lacey, drapey, beaded shawl. In high spirits, I cast on, hoping to have it done in time for Easter Sunday. Naturally, that didn’t happen. I think I’m caught in a knitting loop. I keep casting on, knitting a bit, then frogging all that work; only to start again with the same intended outcome.

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I’ve tried three different patterns, and I have very little to show for my efforts. No finished object. No light and lacy wrap for my shoulders, twinkling with exquisite little beads. Nope, I have a hastily-rewound yarn ball leaking little tendrils of fingering weight cashmere in every direction, and a giant blob on the needles that may or may not soon start to fuzz and pill from all the action. 

So, friends you might find yourself wondering, “What’s the hangup?” I think I’ve finally figured it out: I have issues with “selfish knitting.”

Truth be told, I don’t always enjoy knitting for myself. It’s that label, the S word.

“Selfish.” 

That word is full of negative connotations. Full of guilt. Knitting for myself is tantamount to confronting my feelings (and devaluation) of self-worth. It feels almost like a waste of time. Why spend that precious knitting time and mojo on myself, when I have others for whom I do enjoy knitting? My work is improving – but it’s still far from perfect. Other people probably won’t notice (or, will be too polite to mention) small mistakes that I would notice and be bothered by. Not to mention, knitting The Precious might break it; therefore I feel obligated to find the Perfect Pattern™ so as to use my very best yarns completely, to use them to best advantage.

To combat this, I’ve been signing up to help other designers test their kniting patterns. Following someone else’s directions and offering technical suggestions or critique helps to dispel the nagging of my inner critic. There is an innate sense of trust and adventure, without the looming risk of failure or feelings of self-doubt. After all, the whole purpose of testing a pattern is to see if it works. If it doesn’t, you simply rewrite the instructions, recalculte the math, and try again.

Selfish knitting is so much more difficult, in part, because I typically have a very specific artistic vision for the type of Thing I want to end up with, but my practical knitting and design skills are not yet proficient enough to produce it. And so I knit, and frog, and knit, and frog. Eventually, all that time and effort results in a Knitted Thing that stays knit. Sometimes, I keep the Thing, though more often I don’t.

It’s going to take some time to come to peace with knitting for myself, and overcoming the unnecessary feelings of obligation to The Precious. There will always be good yarn in the world. And I am also worthwhile, and worth knitting for.

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In the meantime, I have successfully completed 67 rows of shawl, and that’s a good start.

 

Community Helpers

Mom Fails

Last week, while picking up my oldest son from preschool, something on a bulletin board caught my eye. I leaned over to look closer – it was a nondescript clipboard with a blank sign up sheet, neatly labelled “Community Helpers.” The teacher noticed me inspecting the paper, and explained that for the remainder of the month, the kids are getting to know some of the helpers in their community – they’d be visited by doctors, policemen, a US Marshall, and even an employee from the electric company! Then she asked a question that froze me: 

 

“Would you like to sign up?”

 

Would I like to sign up? Me? A stay-at-home-mom of three small kids? I have no professional career, no current volunteering commitments, and no independent income. Let’s face it, most days I feel lucky to have the housework done and everyone showered and wearing clean clothes before noon, let alone do any special help within the larger community. Any spare time I have I spend with my husband; I save my alone time to blog. I knit to stay sane, to keep depression at bay. I am utterly, utterly boring. Why would she ask me?

Eventually, after I regained the ability to speak (but before I could really think about it), I declined.

Here’s the thing: I should have said yes.

I should have said, “Yes, I’d love to talk to these kids about my job as an ouchie-kisser, hat-and-mitten-knitter, and perpetual-laundry-folder!”

And really, why not? I should have jumped at the chance to show them that I am a strong woman, a capable partner, and a loving mother, and I’m not too bad at the fiber arts, either. To me, household and family management are challenging and rewarding. I love being able to participate in my childrens’ lives. I love that I can develop my voice through a medium as expressive as a knitting blog. Why would I not accept any opportunity, any chance to say, “My life choices are valid. I have not chosen to be a doctor, police officer, or lawyer. I have chosen to take THIS vocational path, and I’m fulfilling my particular calling.”

Even if this blog only reaches three people (hi, Carroll!). Even if I never sell a single knitting pattern. Even if I never hold another job outside the home, ever again (although I hope that isn’t actually the case).

Why? Because my calling is not necessarily service outside my home – it is service to those within it. I knit for them. I write this blog. I teach others in my knitting groups. I listen with an open mind, and when necessary, I offer sympathy, advice, humor to lighten the mood, long-distance-hugs. I strive to uplift their hearts. I give everything I have in service to those I love: my husband, my kids, my next-door neighbors. My knittaz. My community.

I guess that makes me a community helper, after all.

Form Vs. Function

Travels And Such

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There it is, friends. Knitwear in action. That wet little sand-covered doodlebug is wearing a hood and mitts that I made, with my very own two hands. Moving past that feeling of disbelief (“I made it! And it stayed made! And it looks like it should, like A Thing That Was Knitted!”), we now enter the next phase of knitwear design: Critique After Use.

Since half the battle of knitting, for me, is tuning out that little voice pointing out all the flaws in my work, the voice telling me to rip everything back and start over (or, just stop knitting altogether), it can seem a bit threatening to receive criticsm. I spend a lot of time shutting out that voice. So, to ask for its opinion can seem scary, counterintuitive. There is always that niggling worry: what if I can’t stop listening to my inner critic?

All self-doubt aside, it’s important to acknowledge that accepting constructive criticsm helps us learn from our mistakes, and hopefully grow into better knitters. Those mitts seemed like a swell idea, but now that they have been thoroughly tested, I can say with certainty that they have some obvious flaws in both design and execution. Take a look:

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1. Single ply super-wash merino was not a great idea. It stretched and sagged terribly when it got wet (because toddlers simply MUST reach for stones at the bottom of every tidepool). After washing, the yarn pilled and got as fuzzy as a new baby kitten. Next time, I’ll use something more durable. Maybe Shetland?

2. The cuff needs to be about an inch longer. Possibly, they will have some sort of i-cord or crocheted tie between them, to help keep them in place.

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All in all, I’m fairly pleased. My kid clambered all over the rocks and sand, and fell into the waves, and stuck his hands and feet into every puddle and tidepool, and brandished approximately one bazillion sticks all up and down that stretch of beach. Through it all, his head and hands were warm and protected by the knitwear I had made. And he didn’t lose a single thing.