But I Can Knit!

My husband stood there gawking at me, unsure how to proceed. It was an awkward moment but there was a slight smile on his face. You see, I had made the coffee early that morning, as I always do when I come downstairs. He had gotten me a new coffee maker, as the old one (really really REALLY old) had fallen apart. Literally. It had been the kind that needed a paper cone-shaped filter. This new one required a paper basket-shaped filter to be placed down into a removable plastic basket.

I had made coffee in this shiny new red coffee maker for several days now. Delicious hot coffee to wake me in the morning. This particular morning it seemed to gargle and spurt a wee bit more than usual. There was some kind of water or brownish stuff leaking out the bottom, but oh that could be explained by a little spillage as I poured the water into the reservoir. I wiped it up. No biggie. Poured myself a cuppa. Good stuff.

But when my husband came downstairs, he stood there asking – Honey…what happened here?

What became evident to everyone standing around by this time (son and daughter too!) was that, whoever made the coffee that morning had forgotten to put the plastic basket into the gizmo. With only a thin paper holding the coffee as it brewed…well…you can imagine.

My son just grinned, got a cup of coffee, and went somewhere else to laugh. Hubby cleaned up the mess. I grabbed my knitting and sat down. Yeesh.

The thing is…things like this are happening more often as I get older. I know, I know…51 is not old. But I seem to be having little glitches of memory, temporary spots of insanity every now and then. For now, they are cute, funny, laugh-off-able.

Later that afternoon, sitting in the living room with my son as he did college homework (he was home on break that week), I was knitting the lace pattern on the yoke of a new sweater. Well, actually I was realizing that as I had stayed up late the night before in a lace-knitting frenzy, I had made a mistake. One little mistake that led to the last four rounds of knitting being off and therefore wrong in one section. When I realize things like this, I put my knitting down and get up and do something. I chose to fold laundry, to put dishes in the dishwasher, pick up stuff and put it away. As I do all this, I ruminate…shall I tink back four whole rows? Shall I just frog it and hope that the cotton/linen yarn will hold their stitches enough for me to get all two hundred and ninety some-odd stitches back on the needles? Should I put in a life-line? Or could I just unknit each stitch down to the fourth row below and re-knit it back up as I do for a dropped stitch? And then could I do this for about twenty stitches AND keep it in the lace pattern, complete with yarn overs, k2togs and ssks?? Hmmm.

I returned to my knitting, with a plan sorted out in my head. I would try the latter idea picking out each stitch with a crochet hook and if that went awry, I would frog it all back to before the offending lace errors. Carefully, ever so carefully, reading each stitch up and down the four vertical lines of rows and following the lace pattern, I unknitted and reknitted, repurled, and made all the stitches, one by one, as called for. I surveyed the resulting fabric and blurted out without thinking –

“D#%n, I’m good!”

Now I’m not one typically taken to such flowery language so you can understand my son’s surprise at this exclamation! I stood up, did a little dance (something to the tune of “I fixed my knitting, I fixed my knitting!” and sat back down to utter these words with some volume:

“I may not be able to make coffee properly, but I CAN FREAKIN’ KNIT!!!”

There is hope, when I am actually old, and can’t remember where I put my teeth, that I will still be able to knit, purl, k2tog, psso, yo, ssk and all the rest!

***

“A life in knitting is a life worth living.”

I just thought of that.

You can quote me on it. 🙂

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.

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.

***

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

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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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. 🙂

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!!! 🙂