Monday, October 20, 2014

Inside Out But Right Side Up

Sometimes, things are right-side-up when they are inside-out. We've all done it.... mistakenly come up with something that is awesome in this mess that we call life. We screw up a recipe that comes out fabulous, or stumble across great outfits because the individual wardrobe pieces fell together in the closet, quite by happenstance, in a way we never would have dreamed to assemble.

This weekend, I bound-off my Flore sweater by Julie Hoover. It's a seamless pull-over sweater knitted in the round, requiring a color change every alternating 20 and 13 rows.  It knits as a simple stockinette stitch, and while I was working the sweater, I considered leaving those clean, perfectly knitted, stockinette rows exposed. But the Flore sweater gets its carefree style when you turn the entire thing inside out, making the wrong side, the finished right side.

Knitted with two colors of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend, it's unimaginably soft and cozy.

I love it when something comes together well, and you feel great about putting your name to it.

When my kids where young, I had a story recording I loved to play at night called, "Ride Side Up Stories for Upside Down People". They were quirky little stories read in a soothing tone by a professional storyteller... stories about imperfect things turning out perfectly.

As I turned the Flore wrong side out to be right side up, I couldn't help but think about that collection of quirky children's stories. I remember all the times in my life I was just sure things were disastrous, only to look back in the end and see that things worked out well after all.

Things don't always turn out the way we plan, but one thing we can know for certain... if we're open to possibilities, it can all turn out for good.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Time for What I Want

Lately, I'm all over the place. For some reason, beyond my own awareness, my mind is on spin cycle. Exhausted, I lie down (over the weekend) to "take a nap", and my husband looks me over, cross-eyed, and suggests I take my temperature. He knows. There is no way a nap is going to happen.

You see, the moment I make my feeble attempt to lie down for an afternoon rest, my mind whirs with my never-ending list of "what else's." I think about things I could be enjoying (other than the simplicity of an hour or two of extra rest). What if one of the kids calls to chat? I think about household projects I need to finish (or start), and what I could be (or should be) accomplishing.... and of course, I could be knitting.

Our treehouse in Utah is my favorite place to "chill". Yet even on the mountain, it's impossible for me to nap. As soon as our little guy and my husband are individually settled in for an afternoon snooze, my mind is swimming with the possibilities available to me. I could sit on the deck with an afternoon glass of wine, enjoy the beautiful weather, take in the sight of wildlife feeding, settle in with my Kindle, strum my guitar.... or I could be knitting.

Life is crowded with a hefty list of have-to's, and truth be told, when presented with the opportunity for extra "me time"... I don't want to miss a minute.

What did you do with your "me" time this week?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bracing for the Embracement of Change

Things change. If there is one constant that we can depend upon, it will be that no matter what, no matter how careful, things change. We grow and mature, our experiences shaping us into the self we are tomorrow. We anticipate change around us throughout the year, marking each one with celebration and looking forward to decorating the next season to come. We barely have our stockings and tinsel tucked neatly away in boxes, when we're adorning our front doors with red wreaths of hearts... all the while dreaming of egg hunts and planning for tulips and baskets tied with gingham.

I realize, as I reach toward my own "what's next", that I too have changed in many ways. Of course, there are core characteristics of myself that remain true and constant, but my experiences... my realities... soften the edges of opinion and I grow to be a better version of what I may have been before.

Our 4-year old little guy, with whom I spend much of my days, recently has begun to say, "I'm right... You're wrong." (Whether or not he actually is.) With my head cocked to the side and a wry smile, I gaze into his eyes and say, "Mason, we can be right, or we can be happy. Which one do you want to be?"  "I want to be happy!" he replies without a moment's consideration. It's a large concept for a little one to absorb, but in my own way, I'm letting him know that sometimes in life, the details are less important than the experiences and our relationships.

Last weekend, my son was attacked on the streets of D.C. for no other reason than for who he is. It was a hate crime, and the assault left us all reeling. He, with a sense of surreal disbelief for the hatefulness in a world that is seemingly modern, and us, with a sense of helplessness for being unable to shield, comfort, and protect him from our considerable distance away. We were blindsided by the sheer senselessness of it all.

It occurs to me that as my life's experiences expand, my mind and ability to extend grace in the world increases exponentially. Things change. We change. Life changes. And with it, the variation of color enriches our world view, even as we stay true to who we are at our core.

Change can be hard, for it marks for us the end of what we knew before as it embarks us upon a new direction. Yet each season holds a beauty and grace of its very own... opening its hand to offer us blessings we would never have known, had the course of our lives never changed.

In knitting, a change of color occurs in one of two ways. Either the thread has inherent shade variation resultant from the "hand-painted" dye process, or it results more decisively by cutting the string and beginning the next row with an entirely different ball of yarn. So it is with my life... some changes occur naturally, and others by the resolve of my own heart and my mind.  And while one is more gradual than the other, they both lead to a thing of beauty.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's OK to be a "Snob"

A "Yarn Snob", that's what they called me... and I guess to some extent, it is true. The first project I ever made, (the first time I even cast-on) was with a hand-painted baby alpaca on a set of Brittany bamboo needles. I had simply walked into my LYS, told them my story, and asked "How do I select what to use?" The shopkeeper suggested the tool she liked best, and I trusted that she would know.

Since then, I have moved to Addi Clicks as my own choice for needles, and I still, without waiver, choose natural fibers and high-quality yarns. I have found that if I try to knit with a synthetic yarn, the yarn doesn't yield the quality of fabric and stitch I desire for my project.  The truth of the matter is that cheap yarns don't knit well... the twist splits and the fiber doesn't feel great in your hands.

The same philosophy is true with most things in life. You never find a celebrity chef recommending you purchase the cheapest processed foods for a dish they demonstrate, for if you want an excellent result, you need excellent ingredients. Likewise, a skilled musician will always look for a fine instrument with which to create beautiful sound.

It's funny, but when you think about it, you'll also never win someone over with a cheap version of the Gospel either, for what the human spirit craves... what we're drawn to... is greatness. We want to seek justice, love mercy... walk humbly.

To do something well, requires that we commit to the best of it and the best of ourselves. Sure there are times we fall short, and that's what grace is all about.

So while some may tease me and say I'm a yarn snob... the truth is that I'm just setting myself up for the best possible result.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Wonky Log Cabin Blanket and a Wonky New Discovery

I hate knitting baby blankets. (There... I've said it.) Truth is, part of the knitting addiction for me is the little stages of gratification that come from finishing components within a garment... those little bursts of "completion" within the overall project. Knitting a baby blanket, however, is seemingly endless row after row of the same thing, while praying (fervently) for enough length to be finished. It's an sacrifice of love, therefore, when I decide to knit a baby blanket for some precious little one who is waiting to meet the world... and... well... me.

One of the online sellers I follow showcased a collection of Big Bad Wool patterns and yarns. I couldn't decide between the patterns, so I ordered up them all.  Sitting "criss-cross-applesauce" on my living room floor with the patterns splayed out before me, I surprised myself by choosing the Wonky Log Cabin pattern for our Avery Grace.

Casting on, I was intrigued by the discovery that each of the "logs" in the pattern were an individual component of the blanket. I can do this, I thought, and began the repeated process of finishing an individual "log" each night, then proudly tacked my signature knitting label and a note for my daughter-in-law to "wear it out".

It's funny how sometimes we discover renewed enjoyment in something we thought would be drudgery.  I decided to knit the blanket out of my profound love for my daughter-in-law and our little Avery Grace who had yet to arrive, yet in this decision to do something out of love, I found the gift of satisfaction and joy was waiting in store for me.

There was about a half-ball left over when I cast off the last of the Wonky Log Cabin Baby Blanket, so I decided to knit a face-cloth for my sister with this little bit of left over fiber.  Selecting one of my favorite logs, and adding a garter-stitch border (so it would lay flat), I cast on and set about making a hand-knit wash cloth.

Wrapping the cloth around a hand-made soap, I had a gift for my sister's birthday.

And while it was by no stretch of the imagination as time-consuming and involved as Avery's little blanket, it occurred to me that sometimes, it's the small things we do for people that really matter.

For at the end of the day, most of us already have what we really need...  and all we really want is just a little love.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Where Else Does it Show Up That You....

I admit it.... I knit in church.  Shhh.... whaaat? I know it probably looks like I'm not paying attention, but exactly the opposite is true. If I could knit in departmental meetings at work, I'm sure it would keep me focused and my attitude in check.

Recently, I cast on a my latest project. I joined to work in the round, knitting the first row. Then I realized I was supposed to be knitting a rib stitch.  Switching to a "knit two, purl two" rib stitch, I reasoned with myself that no one would ever notice that first knit row.  In fact, I could just do the same thing at the sleeves, and if someone did notice, it would just look like part of the design.

But I couldn't shake the knowledge that I had made a mistake in my garment. What's worse... I was decidedly covering it up, and conspiring to lie to myself about it at the sleeves!

That old saying popped into my head: "Where else does it show up in your life that you ____". How often we consider a "small" mistake as something we don't need to set right. It'll blow over. He'll forget about it. No one will know.

I knew.

With a laugh at myself, I began the process of TINKing back the two rows of rib, until I reached the knit row. Then I TINKed the knit row out too, until beginning again, I had methodically re-worked the rows in the intended rib stitch.  Once enough time (and rows) had passed, I was thankful I re-worked my garment without the "scar" of my mistake.  Sure it was small, but I knew it was there.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The "Magic" of Commitment

I can't help but notice that most everything I really cherish has come to me through hard-work and sacrifice. Hours or even years of relentless and passionate tenacity nearly always yield a prize of incomparable value and joy. It's the stuff that parenting is made of...  the "magic" of a great marriage or career.  It's behind every great invention, accomplishment and talent the world has ever seen.

This week, my son gave me the gift of a visit, although because of the demands and dynamic of his career, I was prepared not to see him for another 3 months.  I had a gift of my own ready for him, and stepped forth in the morning with the box extended in my arms.  He looked up from his work and, with a nod said, "Thanks, I need to finish this."  "No worries", I teased, "It only took me four months to complete."

We have grown to understand each other, and neither of us was offended in the exchange.  The years of tender attention to the shaping of our relationship, and guiding the character and spirit of my child, has led us to a special knowing of each other.

And while it may seem trivial in comparison, it's a tender commitment and hard work also with my knitting that yields a result of which I can be proud.  The gentle shaping of each section of a garment and careful attention to gauge, seaming and fiber are what makes all the difference.

There are times with my knitting when I need to tear back a row or two to correct something because I forged ahead through distraction... or perhaps when the technique I needed required council or more practice. It is no different with life.

Knitting my son's Brooklyn Tweed Slade Cardigan presented me with the challenge of learning a new technique for button holes... and as I knitted the sweater, there were times when I worried about the fit... or simply whether he would like it.

I admit, I worried, too, as I fumbled through this thing called motherhood, whether I was doing a good job.  In the end, it's of no good use for worry.  Both the sweater, and my son, turned out better than I could have imagined.