Monday, April 7, 2014

Grateful for the Ability to Bind-Off Knitwise

Sometimes when I'm knitting a sweater, I will change a pattern, ever so slightly.  I may choose to adapt a different technique (for casting on, by way of example) than what is called for in the pattern instructions, or I may adjust something for size or design. Sometimes, just a small detail is enough to really personalize an already-great piece.  My son stopped in to Looped Yarn Works, one of my favorite LYSes, to purchase some yarn as a gift for me.  He chose 2 color ways of Opalescent by Wandering Wool, as it was a locally-dyed yarn.  Loving that, I wanted to make more than a scarf with these two colors, so I chose to knit the Garance sweater.

I loved the feel of the baby alpaca and silk blend as I worked with the fiber through the pattern.  Blending into the darker tone from the lighter, I found the transition to be very complimentary... especially when the effect of the hand-dying made each of the colors naturally gradient.  The sleeves are knitted very long, and then folded at the cuff, and I decided on a whim at the last minute not to stitch down the collar...  leaving it the rolled reverse stockinette.

What I love most about the garment is that I know the yarns were specially selected for me by someone I love.  Each time I wear the sweater, I'll remember that the yarns were hand-dyed by someone in the D.C. area, and I will think about how sweet it was for my son to actually go into a local yarn shop to personally select yarn for his mom.

I began knitting several years ago now, as a way to take my mind off the pain of losing a child.  It is no small understatement to say that knitting never freed me from the agonizing grief, but the process of focusing on the rhythmic tying of knots with yarn and sticks to create garments gave me a little space of reprieve.  Having moved from one project to the next over the years, I can look back upon each of these now and remember where I was in that journey... where I purchased the yarn, who helped me stumble through my beginning moments... the tears that I shed as I was tying my little knots in even rows of knit and purl stitches.

There are still times when the grief will catch me off guard, like last week when The George Washington University notified the parent association that two students had passed away on campus. I feel the pain in my heart for the loss they are experiencing. But most of the time, I have found a way to be me again... deeper for the brokenness, and grateful for the ability to "BO K-wise." (Bind off knit-wise).  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Memories Hold Us Together

I'm a mother.... and I can go about ninety-days before my heart starts aching to touch and smell my baby.  Two of our boys live quite a distance from our home, and while they both make an impressive effort to stay in touch with me every week, I still need my face to face time. That time when I can see my guys, without the obstacle of technology between us, just one on one in a room talking like old times.  This last week, I travelled to the DC area to surprise my son with a weekend visit for his birthday.

I contacted two of his friends through the modern miracle of FaceBook to set the plan in motion. They put together a dinner, and then I popped in at the restaurant after he had arrived.  As it turned out, he wasn't surprised, but it didn't matter.  All that was important to me, really, was spending a little time with him, getting to know his friends, and breathing in the essence of my son.

He has done a great job putting together his new apartment, and I loved being able just to sit with him in his own place, being in his day-to-day life.  The weather took a drastic turn on our last evening together, showering us with chunks of fluffy snowflakes as we made our way out for dinner.

We have been through much together over the twenty-three years that make up his lifetime. I wouldn't trade a moment of it for anything, for all that we have experienced, endured and celebrated has forged our hearts together in the richness of our relationship today.

On Monday morning, after packing my luggage for my travels home, I headed downstairs to the hotel bistro for a solitary breakfast. I thought about our weekend together... capturing the memories on my heart. I pondered the idea that this was his home now, and acknowledged to myself that I'm happy for him even though he is so far away.  He's doing what he loves... fulfilling his dream. I want that for him.

As I stepped out of my cab and turned to look back over the Capitol, I marveled at how the landscape had changed overnight. Our lives, like the weather, are forever changing.  So, as I step up to the curb and turn to make my way back home, I hold tight to the memory of our weekend, and I look forward with glad expectation for our memories yet to come.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Taking a Closer Look at Why I'm Looking Ahead

I have been working my Girl in the World sweater for much longer than I originally anticipated. I began it last winter, then set it aside to finish a couple of projects I had been working on as a gift for someone else. Then the season changed, and it was too warm to wear it, so I reasoned that I could finish the sweater this winter, since I wouldn't be able to wear it until colder weather anyway... (right?)

Recently, I cast-on the Garance sweater by Churchmouse Yarns & Teas.  My son had given me some local wool from the District of Columbia for Christmas this year, and I decided that I could blend the two tones to knit up this classic sweater.

The pattern is knit in the round, with the sleeves being worked separately, but knitted directly onto the body upon completion of each one.  I find knitting with double pointed needles tedious, so I found myself bored with the 2x2 rib, and decided to dig out my Girl in the World Sweater.  I was (frankly) shocked to see how close it was to completion!  The second sleeve was already on a tiny circular needle, so I redirected my divided attentions to finishing these 2 sweaters.  

Yet, all the while I am knitting these sleeves in the round (I ordered a small circular for the current project to relieve myself of the double points), I am looking ahead to the next project that's whispering to me from my knitting office.  I can't help but wonder how often I am looking to what's next... am I missing part of what's right here worrying about or anticipating what is next to come?

There is excitement in looking forward to the next accomplishment in life, but I need to remember to soak in the experiences of the here and now.  There is much to do... and tomorrow will hold whatever it brings, but for today, I can enjoy the soft fluid movement of the knit one, purl one rib.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Change is Hard

Life seems to be teaching me much about Change lately.  I'd love to say I'm progressively confident enough to embrace change like Steve Jobs or C.S. Lewis, but the truth is that, for me, change feels unstable and I am resistant.  Today, I gathered a box of assorted cupcakes and some champagne to bid goodbye on my day off to a friend at my office.  She has taken a new position, and although I don't work on Fridays, it was her last day.  It was a bit chilly, so I decided to wear a sweater I knitted a few years ago, not long after I first learned to knit.

I don't wear the sweater often.. even though I really do like it. Leaning on a desk in her office with a bit of champagne, my friend asked if I had knitted my sweater.  I smiled and admitted I did. I couldn't help but think with amusement how a question that used to make me feel insecure, I now embrace as complimentary.

When it was time to go, I gave her a hug and told her I love her.  Feeling a sense of melancholy upon my heart, I thought about all the changes my life has experienced over the passing several months. Friends have moved away, others experienced divorce and the change that comes with breaking, our office relocated, and today, the moving on of a friend who will no longer be working with me. With each change, I have felt a sense of personal loss and adjustment. 

And yet, not without a heart full of blessing for that which deserves celebration for my friend. Change is hard... it's a process of letting go of what is sure and opening our hands to the unknown. It evolves us into who we become, as we grow and learn to adapt.

In the winter, the cold and chill cover the ground and blanket the Earth. The leaves fall, and the skies turn grey... yet in just a few months, the sun will warm the ground, breathing life into what seemed lost and lifeless... turning again all things green

I don't think I will ever embrace Change with enthusiasm... I'm not sure I will ever welcome it at my doorstep. I'm a loyalist and it's hard for me to let go. Yet, I know that at some point down my path, I will turn and realize with amazement, that I made it through... and for that I can be thankful.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Resolving to Be all the Designer Intended

I've heard it said that time heals all wounds, and I'm not sure I entirely agree.  I think there are points of wounded-ness in our lives that we "get over" with a little passage of time.  But most times, I believe, we need a proper balance of time and meaningful resolve to truly restore that which has deeply wounded us. Other times, a wound may heal, yet leave a little scar to remind us of what transpired... a way to teach us and keep us, perhaps, from experiencing that same injury again.

This past week, I used a bit of yarn a friend had given me as a thank-you gift, to create a Knoxes Reef Snood.  Having resolved the errata of the patterns included in my December KnitCrate, I have been thoroughly enjoying my Megstone, and wanted to knit the Knoxes Reef for my mother's impending birthday.

The entire exercise of hand-knitting my mother the Knoxes Reef Snood for her birthday was symbolic in many ways. The pattern was impossible as originally published, and after a few thwarted attempts to work it out on my own, I needed to seek counsel from someone who had already worked it. In the end, my persistence in working through the difficulty, yielded a beautiful garment.

Likewise, my mother and I had been estranged for nearly 20 years...  yet the estrangement, for me, was not about bitterness, but rather accepting the resolve that she couldn't be the mother I needed, and deciding to free us both from the unmet expectations and never-ending disappointment and conflict.

Over the last 16 months or so, new beginnings have begun to blossom. My mom has softened, and I have begun to open myself to the possibility of meaningful reconciliation. Last week, for the first time in 20 years, my sisters and I all took her to brunch for her birthday.  We enjoyed some time together with champagne to toast the landmark occasion, and I offered her the Knoxes Reef... and a bit of my heart.

When faced with the impossibilities in the Knoxes Reef, I could have forced the pattern to work out my own way, but the fabric would never have looked the way the designer intended. So it is true with the relationship with my mother.  Perhaps now, we can be all the Designer desired.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Grateful for the Blessing of Assistance

Isn't life funny?  Surely enough, just about the time I write about longing for simple things, life ushers in a few moments of frustration and difficulty.  What're you gonna do?

In December, my KnitCrate subscription contained a pattern for a Farne Snood and a custom wool yarn.  Energized and excited about the autographed book by Ann Hood accompanying the wool, I couldn't wait to finish my Simple Skirt and get started.

I cast on, tinked out, and ripped back 4 painfully-frustrating times before resorting to a desperate online search for errata to set right this frustrating pattern. More than anything, I was irritated about the (precious knitting) hours wasted in this two-steps-forward-three-steps-back dance with the pattern.  I calculated the number of stitches in each row of the 4-row pattern, finding that the pattern was mathematically impossible as written.

I am an advanced knitter, squeezing in my knitting hours between time juggled as a wife, mother and employee in the outside world... and the wasted hours tearing back a pattern that didn't work was an exercise of exasperation and heart-break. I wanted to trust the designer... trust the pattern, as I have written about before. It's representative of a spiritual concept that is core to the foundation of my being.

And as often happens in life,  I could not rely upon my own ability to shape and form what was designed by someone else without looking further for complete and accurate instructions, and consulting those who had already successfully negotiated the road ahead of me.  The human spirit is stubborn, thinking we can handle it on our own.  We can see things aren't working, and often even after starting over, we keep arriving at the same dead-ends before we concede that in order to change our destination, we may need to take a different path.

There are times for me to create... and innovate... but in those moments when I am following another's lead, I am grateful for the ability to reach out to others.  I don't need to do it on my own, and I am never alone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Craving Something Simple

Life is complicated... and sometimes hard.  Every once in awhile, I think all of us just craves something simple.  So when Churchmouse Yarns launched its Knitalong for their Simple Straight Skirt... well, they had me at "Simple".

And simple it was, much to my delight.  The featured Rowan Felted Tweed Aran knits up quickly and  was great for keeping my hands and mind busy without requiring too much thought.

The pattern instructions yield a nice fit, and I chose the alternative method of starting with the hip measurement for the skirt to be worn lower on the waist.  It pairs great with a blazer, but today I'm wearing it instead with a long-sleeved navy tee and some tall riding boots.  

Everything about this adorable skirt was easy to do.  It was a refreshing reprieve from when life gets complicated, busy and hard.

In this modern life we lead, we put all sorts of pressure on ourselves. We make apologies and excuses for when life is much less so demanding.  Even mothers who stay home to nurture, teach and grow their children feel tempted to disguise what they do under a title they believe sounds "more important" to the world around them.

It's crazy, I know--  I've been on that wild ride myself... and it's hard to get off.  I cherish the times I can just do what's important to me now... simple as those things may be.

Because those are the things that make me who I really am at heart.