Knitting from the Hem

knittingthehem

Ofttimes when I close my eyes

this is what I see –

Genevieve knitting with a string

from the Hem of His garment.

The throng of living is pressing

in on all sides.

Yet He has stopped, turned

and bending over

He lifts my face

to gaze into His own.

In this way

I shall knit on.

***

‘Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.  She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.’

Matthew 9:20-22

*****

“Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your dis-eases.”

Psalm 103:2-3 (hyphen added)

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The Camaraderie of Stitches

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They come in to the shop or home with at least one bulging bag. It is not only bulging with yarns, needles, hooks and patterns, but also the events of their day. As we greet each other and settle into our “pews” (somehow we adopt a chair that becomes “ours” each time we meet:), the bags are set on the floor and the contents are slowly pulled out and offered on the table.

The contents of each person’s bag are as varied as the individual. The projects, chosen colors, ways of working with the yarn are all unique to each woman. As they begin knitting or crocheting, our conversation is woven just as the stitches are. Laughter, kindness, the occasional tease, and-oh yes-the jokes and funny stories flow through our group as fibers flow through our hands. Beauty is in the making.

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What each woman brings to the table can be staggeringly different from the gal next to her. Some are single, others married, and many are mothers. Some are teachers who have spent their day (and their energy) with students. Some are nurses who have been on their feet tending the sick for 10 hours. Some are postal workers who have driven miles and miles delivering post. Others are computer tech workers, paralegals, law professors. Some hold positions in human relations, animal hospitals, and banks. Some are retired yet equally as busy as those working full time. These women are all different ages, backgrounds, and have differing political and religious beliefs. Yet we are all there for the love of making things with string. And that string binds us all together.

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I have the privilege of being among them with the title of “teacher”. I don’t actually think of myself as “the expert who has great knowledge to impart”. I view what I do as a facilitator, a guide, an inspirer and encourager to women in their fiber journeys. As we gather around the table, the real teacher is the yarn. Whether it is knitted or crocheted, the stitches teach all of us. I am there to offer new stitches, to give guidance for getting out of tangles, to provide inspiration, and to marvel at the beautiful lives being knitted together.

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The camaraderie of stitches is one of the most amazing and wonderful things I know. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I am transformed into an extrovert by the common love of yarn and all things stitching, whether knitted, crocheted, embroidered or other. It’s as if each woman’s yarn is attached somehow to my heart and a love for them flows through my hands to theirs as we stitch together. I am grateful for the privilege and honor to have so many comrades in yarn.

As they pack up their bags, I imagine that their load is a bit lighter for having been together, sharing our lives through the vehicle of our stitches. I know my bag is lighter and more colorful for having been with them.

To all my students, who are also my friends…thank you.

And to Knit One Smock Too, thank you for being a beautiful hub for women to gather, to find all the yummy yarns and tools they could need.

***

“When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands.” -Shakespeare

The Silence of Stitches

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It isn’t often that I am alone in our house. On top of that, to be alone and sitting down with feet propped up, knitting in hand. I know you may think I get to do this a lot. But the thing that is so very delicious right now is the

SILENCE.

Oh how I crave silence. That deep, rich silence, punctuated only by the tick of a mantel clock and the click of knitting needles. I marvel at it. I revel in the silence as one who slowly twirls in falling snow reaching out the tongue to taste it. It’s that kind of silence…snow silence…albeit with an air-conditioner running in the house.

This silence seems to seep into my body…shoulders relax, brow unfurls, weary thoughts abed, breathing slows. Only the automatic movement of hand and fingers belie the stillness infusing my mind and body. I drink in the restorative properties of silence.

Silence with reading is not true silence for me. My mind is still taking in words and words are not quiet. Silence with someone else in the room is not true silence for me either. My energy is still tied to them. Silence with my eyes closed is good for a few minutes, but if it’s late in the day, like it is now, I’m asleep in the span of 2 minutes, head lolling about as I sit on the couch.

But silence and knitting is perfection. The no-thought activity of my hands keeps me awake to the silence, alert in its presence, and almost seems to allow the silence to be knitted into the fabric of my mind and heart.

Knitting and crocheting is wonderful with friends. It’s terrific while waiting at soccer practices, the pick-up line at school and while riding in the car. But knitting or crocheting in absolute silence is a delectable treat you must allow yourself from time to time.

No. Check that. It needs to be quite often!

The Goodness of Stitches

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I do believe, I might be content to just make stitches. Random stitches, crocheted or knitted, or embroidered. Any kind. Any way. With any fiber.

I love making them. I love looking at them. Garter stitch. Stockinette. Cables. Singles. Doubles. Triples. V-stitch. Shell stitch. Bullions. Clusters. Yarn overs. On and on…stitches are a delight.

But when I translate that to life, the minute, small, insignificant stitches of everyday living, I don’t know that I appreciate them as much. Knitting and crocheting reminds me to revel in the ordinary stitches of living just as I do in stitching with yarn.

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If, in addition to ‘just making stitches’, I can work them into something, anything…well, that’s even more fun. Shawls. Socks. Sweaters. Washcloths. Booties. Hats. Wraps. Vests. Bowls. Baskets. It seems a little silly to be so fond of making things with just stitches.

But when they can be wrangled into a picture, an image, a something to hang on the wall or sew into a pillow, well, that’s just the cherry on top! Icing on the cake. I recently made six little freeform crochet “paintings” and was reminded how good and wonderful stitches are.

In life, the key is to trust that all the stitches are adding up to something! I may not be able to see what it is in the moment, nor in a month or year from now, but I can be confident that the slow everyday making of stitches will produce something worthwhile. Perhaps my life will be a basket to hold beautiful things. Maybe it will be a shawl to comfort others. I’m hoping it will be a lovely picture of the grace of God.

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I’m not sure that anyone else, other than fiber folk, can understand this love for stitches. Stitches are comforting, rhythmic, soothing, soft. They are also bold, daring, confident and reassuring. How does all this get into stitches you say? Well…you just have to try it. And for those of you who know what I mean, here’s to a day full of stitch making! Or even a few minutes of your day!

May the goodness of stitches carry you through your day!

*******

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*****

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I post more on Instagram than on FB, but you can choose which appeals to you most. 🙂

The Fault in our Counting

SockStart

I haven’t been aware that I count stuff, but lately the realization that counting is a regular and frequent activity of mine, has been cause for pause. Why do I count and what does it all add up to?

As a knitter/crocheter, counting offers a sense of safety, confidence, security and well-being. You may feel this is overstated a bit. But it is true that when my stitch count matches that of the pattern, a sense that all must surely be well is won. Take socks: 64 stitches for an average adult size sock is the magic number to cast on, to knit for round after round, and even return to after a crazy jaunt around the heel. Even the half and quarter numbers, 32 and 16, provide that feel of security and confidence when you’ve slipped and knitted your way up the heel flap. Count…count…count again and if your numbers are right, you’re safe in moving forward, shoulders can be lowered, and that sense of ease and well-being returns. I’m totally serious when I say that this is precisely what I do in life as well as in knitting. I count. And if the counting adds up, I feel that same sense of well-being and safety.

I probably count many of the same things others count – dollars in my bank account, hours/minutes on the clock, speed on the odometer, number of snacks in the pantry, how much food is in the fridge, miles I walked for exercise, servings of veggies and fruit in a day, hours of sleep, etc.

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But I also count things that many might not – carbs for my T1D daughter as well as how many blood sugar highs and lows she has in a day, how many ostomy bags I have left before I need to order more, number of students in my classes, number of paintings/drawings of any worth or value for an art show, and how many fiber projects I have begun and are still in a state of incompletion.

The thing about all this counting is not so much that I count, or that I keep a running tally. The issue at hand is what meaning I’m attaching to the numbers once I’ve counted.

Every now and then, a knitting/crochet student will declare something about their personality, character, or mental ability when their stitch count has gone awry. “I’ll never get this right!” “I’m just not creative!” “I don’t have what it takes for this!” “I’m just not cut out for this kind of detail!” “I’m an old dog who can’t learn new tricks!” I gently remind them that the wayward stitch (or stitches) has absolutely no bearing on their character or abilities. Finding 63 stitches on your needles instead of 64 doesn’t mean you’re a dumb person nor that you are incapable of knitting. It simply means that a stitch has been lost somehow and it can be found fairly easily and fixed in a few different ways. Would that I’d listen to my own instruction as I’m counting the rest of my life. 

Maybe its being 51, that strange crossroads of life where counting and taking stock seems to be a turnstile we all march through on the way to our mature years. Maybe it’s watching my children grow up, go to college, get married and begin their adult lives that has me assessing the many years of parenting, looking for and trying to count something I might have to show for all those years. Same with years of making art, writing, knitting and crocheting. Is there anything in my life quantifiable? Countable? Verifiable? It certainly isn’t in the bank account. And it isn’t in medals or awards on the mantel (not that I would even display them there if I had them).

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What we choose to count AND the meaning we attach to it can drive us crazy, hurl us into sadness or even depression. I’m learning that there’s something flawed with my counting. I need to take care not to stitch up meaning in the counting. I need to focus more on process, not on product. Yes. Helpful. But I woke up this morning with these words, more helpful words, running through my mind:

“The only thing that counts is faith

expressing itself in love.”

Ahhhh…..yes, this is solid. Even though I’m sure I could twist and mar the meaning of this verse by trying to count the times I’ve had “a faith that expressed itself in love”, I do recognize that this is NOT what the verse is saying here. Faith is the point. Being certain of things we cannot see or count. Living full and rich lives without counting our wallets as the determiner of that richness. Faith to believe that even if whatever we’re counting doesn’t add up, that we are loved just for who we are and not because we’ve got 64 stitches on our sock needles or for any other of our quantifiable assets. And to express the love we have received to others in whatever ways we can find, whether they are countable or not.

Faith and love…unquantifiable, uncountable… that’s where I’d like to live today and tomorrow and the rest of my days.

Even in my knitting. 🙂

The Calm…

InterludeShawl

…before the Wedding!

It’s here!

The quiet lull before everything unfolds.

The space between all the flurry of preparation and the next two days of wedding-filled activities.

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To be sure, there are many, many details to walk through in the next 48 hours. The details are all mapped out. Every actor and stage-hand knows their part. Well, mostly. The mother-of-the-bride still isn’t certain how it will all go, whether she has thought of everything, or if she will remember all her lines duties. But I have a lot of help. A lot!!

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I am often skeptical of the phrase “God will not give you more than you can handle.” I’m not skeptical of the Scriptures, but rather of my ability to understand its meaning. I’m not certain that this is even the correct wording to I Corinthians 10:13. Nevertheless, I am still learning, with alarming freshness, that God does indeed give me more than I can handle so that I will implore Him for aid, and invite/allow others to help me. Putting together a large wedding with an outdoor reception is a feat of making beyond my capabilities and talents. I sit here in this quiet space full of gratitude for ALL the help, both divine and human, that I have received and will marvel at all weekend long.

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There truly has been a ton of making! Oh my…so very much! Catherine and I have been little cyclones of creativity for months now, but especially in these last four weeks since she graduated from college. A monogrammed handkerchief for the bride, bouquets & boutonnieres, a mother-of-the-bride dress, a dance-floor chandelier, a knitted shawl for the rehearsal, and a lovely beaded wire headpiece the bride has made for her hair. All of this and more has been lovingly crafted in the weeks leading up to this calm space. I haven’t been able to process all that has transpired and I’m sure the next two days will provide even more for me to contemplate and sort through once the dust settles from this lovely storm called A Wedding.

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But for now, just let me sit here.

A few moments longer.

In the quiet.

Breathing. Marveling.

Gathering myself for the Grand Festivities. 🙂

A Secret Society

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Pssst….

I am now a member of a Secret Society. Yep. Never done anything like this before. But the enticements were just too good to pass up, the membership dues oh so affordable. I can’t wait until June 9th! I’m gathering my wool for the first mystery pattern and in anticipation, I have begun knitting this designer’s Spindrift Shawl. Simple elegance. Easy on the brain. Cotton yarn I had in my stash. Perfect for a frazzled mother-of-the-bride who is STILL working on her dress for the upcoming wedding of her first born.

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But as I crochet, knit, and embroider, I’ve been thinking about the broader secret society of knitters. When I use the word “knitter”, I often mean anyone who makes things with their hands and string: knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, embroidery. I categorize all this under that word “knitter”. I should perhaps use a different word, like Stitcher, Handwork Artist, Maker, or some such to be more inclusive. Within each of these categories is a delightful following of avid creative folks who, when they meet someone else who stitches as they do, feels an immediate camaraderie. “You too?” is whispered inside us as we share current projects.  A connection is formed, as if the yarn (thread, or embroidery floss) has k2togged the two people together. That’s what it’s like to be part of this not so secret society of stitchers. Our lives, work, and background may be oh so different, but we are bound together by our common love of making things with a bit of string.

I often have strange occurrences when I run errands and especially as I grocery shop. I will pass by someone shopping and something about their air, manner, or vibe makes me think…”I wonder if she is a knitter?” Or, “I wonder if she is wanting to learn to knit or crochet?” Do they have a number on their forehead? A letter on their chest? A secret handshake or something? No, I don’t think so. I’ve even had  crazy urges to outright ask a total stranger if they knit or crochet and then if the answer is no, to ask if they’d like to learn and to offer to teach them! On other occasions, I’ll think to myself…she really needs to knit! It would help her so much. :O Perhaps this isn’t a sign of a secret society so much as a yarn enthusiast turned evangelist! Anyway…

If you’re wondering about the Secret Society I referred to in the first paragraph, here’s the Secret Link to more information about it. It is definitely for Knitters, the kind who use two needles. And the early-bird membership sign-up goes until June 9th I believe. Whatever brand of stitchwork you enjoy, I hope you are able to find others of like mind. Start or join a “secret” group who stitches together! If you are local to where I live, there’s one in Kernersville that meets at Eclection on Mondays from 6-8 pm. In Winston-Salem, there’s one that meets on Friday afternoons at my favorite LYS, Knit One Smock Too.

Join the Secret Society of Stitchers and…

Shhhh…..

Tell everyone about it!!! 🙂