Trying to Find the Words

I’ve been trying to find the words, but they just won’t come. I sit with knitting in my lap, needles clicking on socks, a sweater, and I swoon. No, maybe “swoon” isn’t the word. It’s a feeling like that though…of love and adoration, for the color, the texture, the yarn, the process of hands moving, producing a fabric.

But there’s something else too, that the word “swoon” doesn’t touch. There’s memory, of past times when I sat making the very same stitches but for my children, or when I was healing, or for gifts for friends, or knitting with my mom or my daughters.

And then there’s focus. A settling down and into a rhythm I would prefer to spend my days. A pace that isn’t frenzied. A repetition of hands that allows my mind to muse and sort out the days events. An anchoring activity that no matter what else is going on, this, these stitches remain the same. And I can do these simple stitches, one after the other, and eventually accomplish something, SOMETHING at least!

All this you say? In the stitches of knit and purl? Well, yes. And yet, so much more. Can the love of knitting be put into words? Perhaps not. Perhaps that is why knitting is wordless, soundless, except for the clicking of needles, the faint swishing of hands.

Perhaps not every knitter swoons. I imagine sometimes the women of past generations who knitted out of necessity, may have just knitted to be knitting and “swooning”, or whatever that feeling is, wasn’t a part of the process for them. But I’m sure some of them did. And perhaps they too couldn’t find the words to describe it.

I’m seeing now that there are a few words here. As little as they may make sense, I have found some words to begin to describe the swelling of my heart, that fullness of contentment, as I knit. Sometimes I even have to put my knitting down just to revel in it without moving the needles, to try to pin down exactly what is going on there as I knit. But then it shyly scoots away and only revisits again when I’m lost in knitting…

…no words, just the clicking of needles and colorful yarn running through my hands.

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Everyday Stitching

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If I could climb into each knitted stitch…there would be something there to learn.

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If I could freeze a moment in the warp & weft of everyday living…I might be able to find what it feels like I am missing.

I want to be able to experience the same wonder and marvel at ordinary knit stitches, made over and over again, in my everyday tasks. Is it possible to approach laundry, meal prep, cleaning, errands, and all the myriad of things we do every single day, day in and day out, over and over, with the same stillness, calm, and enjoyment as the over/under of weaving?

I don’t know. I haven’t been able to master that. At all.

I’m reading a wondrous book. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren, is a beautifully honest, life affirming litany of the mundane tasks we engage in every day. Her writing encourages me to remember that these same tasks, boring and never-ending as they are, have the opportunity to be oases from which to drink of the goodness God has for us.

Yes! Yes..this is what I long for. For many months now, I’ve been craving a more contemplative life. I long for this in my creative life as well…to make things slowly, carefully, with presence in body and purpose of mind and heart. I even daydream of living a type of monastic life filled with daily prayer, meditation, knitting, spinning, weaving.

It sounds idyllic. Well, to me it does. The thing is…I would still have meals to prepare. Cleanup afterwards. Laundry to do. Lightbulbs to replace. Repairing broken things. Upkeep and maintenance of everyday appliances. Etc. I’m actually quite spoiled in those latter few…my husband does most of the upkeep and maintenance around our home. And yet I still grumble about all the other stuff that seems to fill much of my days.

I’m in sore need, here at the beginning of a New Year, of reorienting my mind and heart to this truth:

“The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines.” -Tish Warren

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Like knitting the same stitch over and over and over again. Like running a thread over and under and over again. This is where beauty is wrought. I know this. I believe this.

Lord, help my unbelief.

The thing is, I’m a dreamer. I dream of grand things, of accomplishments, of revolutionary beauty being brought into the world. Tish Warren does too:

“I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes.” 

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I won’t get to wear the sweater or give the knitted gift, until I’ve slogged through countless knit stitches. I won’t see a lovely tapestry until I’ve worked the over-under over and over again.

Yes. Today. Tomorrow. And on through 2017.

Knit my stitch. Weave my thread. Do my dishes.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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.

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

The Calm…

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…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. 🙂

Hard & Soft

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It’s all here in my lap. A picture of life. A metaphor for living in this world. Of how it all works. Of what is needed to knit a life.

You need hard AND soft. Hook and yarn. Needles and fiber.

In early adult years I have lived hard – highly disciplined, rigid, independent, aloof, unbending. In my middle years I’ve grown soft – less confident, more scattered, empathic, slower, more prone to watery eyes.

I describe these two as polar opposites and as if they are both negative in certain ways. They certainly can be if not held together with its seemingly opposite twin. What I’m realizing is that both hard and soft are necessary for knitting a beautiful life. One needs to be firm and focused on the present moment with a razor sharp determination to plow through. While also being open-hearted, receptive, pliable and bendable. Watching what happens as I knit or crochet teaches me the delicate and intricate dance between hard and soft. The end result is one of beauty.

Hardness in one’s life doesn’t have to be rigid and unbending even though knitting needles and crochet hooks are. There is goodness in determination, in holding to truth in the uncertainty of life, in an ability to tilt up or down, lift or loop, drop, transfer, pick up and above all, an ability to stay strong while wrapped in numerous kinds of fibers situations.

Being soft doesn’t have to mean limp, loose, or lazy in life. It means being pliable, bendable, loopy, willing to drape, curl, cross-over and be bound off and together with others. Being soft also means there are times when you feel fuzzy and frayed, slick and shiny, bumpy and lumpy, just like the various fibers we love.

  Wisdom is required to understand when to be firm and when to be fluid. How to be focused while also open. How to lovingly hold our ground and maintain boundaries. And how to be unswerving and unbending in our desire to love and be kind to others.

Hard and soft, held together, working together, dancing together in this knitted life.

I’m still learning.

Knitterly Benefits of Chocolate

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Chocolate is surely a grace to knitters and crocheters the world over! These pretty little shiny purple kisses are becoming a mainstay as I crochet my skin-to-be-comfortable-in for the Big Day. One is usually enough. (For about 10 minutes.)  No more than three of them! (Or so I tell myself.) Chocolate. Dark chocolate that is. Well, if you count Hershey Kisses’ version as Dark Chocolate. 🙂

The top ten reasons/benefits to nibbling consuming dark chocolate as you knit or crochet are:

#10. yummy taste

#9. helps you knit/crochet faster.

#8. gives you your daily dose of anti-oxidants.

#7. keeps you awake during row after row of stockinette or mesh stitch.

#6. pairs nicely with a hot cup of tea.

#5. adds a bit of sparkle to your Instagram photo.

#4. Pavlovian training that when I knit I can eat chocolate. (Not that I needed any incentives to knit/crochet OR to consume chocolate.)

#3. Opposite effect of this being that when I eat chocolate I have an increased desire to knit!

#2. chases away the effects of any knitting dementors who may have visited you, sucking the life enthusiasm out of your yarn project.

#1. Keeps you from nibbling the yummy/delicious looking yarn!

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There are some things to keep in mind if you partake of chocolate whilst knitting or crocheting:

*you must lick and/or wipe your fingers clean after handling chocolate. Otherwise your yarn will turn into the speckled kind. (I have first hand experience of this!)

*you may need to only knit with brown yarns.

*watch out for your speed to increase at a rate that keeps you from remembering the pattern.

*be sure to limit yourself on number of kisses per project or time period. If you consume an entire bag of dark chocolate pieces in the span of time it takes to knit/crochet a project, you either need to enroll in a Chocoholics Anonymous group or choose simpler patterns. 🙂

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Feel free to add your thoughts here in the comments:

What other reasons and benefits do you have when you eat chocolate while you knit or crochet?

What other edible treats go well with yarn work?

Any suggestions on how to keep the consumption within reasonable bounds? I’m just asking’… no problem here. Hehe.

 

Tension

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“I wish there wasn’t this constant feeling of tension in my life,” I said to my husband as he did the dishes after dinner one evening.

I sat at the table explaining: I’m pulled in opposite directions – the necessity of getting everyday things done, over and against the desire to work on creative projects, paintings, knit/crochet creations. The longing to be present and available for dear friends who are hurting versus the reality of  family events and commitments at home. The need to check things off the to-do list for our daughter’s wedding and the desire to spend as much time with her as possible before she marries and moves away. These and many more seemingly opposite tensions that pull and tug at my heart and my calendar, can pile on top of me and threaten to bury me. I was venting as he listened patiently.

“Sounds to me like a knitting issue,” he said after a thoughtful pause. I gaped at the unexpected comment. I mean how does HE know about tension in knitting? And doesn’t he hear that this is a much more serious problem than just “a knitting issue”?

“What would you tell your students about the tension in their knitting?” he asked.  I decided to play along with his query.

“I tell them, especially the beginners, not to worry about the tension in their knitted stitches. Some will be loose, some will be tight. Over time and practice their tension will even out on its own. Their job is just to keep knitting, one stitch after another, row after row. Once they settle into a more consistent stitch tension they can alter the tightness or looseness in various ways. And even after they’ve been knitting for many years they will notice their tension changes slightly from one kind of needle to another, one type of yarn to another, and definitely in and through various circumstances in their life. Their knitting, especially the tension in the stitches, is often a reflection of what’s going on in their life. Their job is to breathe, relax, and knit on!”

I looked up at my husband with watery eyes. He smiled and put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher.