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.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Exhilaration of Finishing

Finishing is hard... and exhilarating at the same time.  I know a lot of people who are great at starting, and I suppose sometimes I have been a great starter as well.  You know how it goes... we get this big idea in a moment of inspiration and we make a loud start about it.

But life gets in the way... we are filled with distraction... and the next thing you know, we've stopped without finishing.

One of the things I love about knitting is finishing.  I relish the adrenaline surge of putting together a hand-knit piece and admiring the finished garment.  Finishing each individual part of a garment... a sleeve, the right side, the left and back... gives me a sense of gratification and fuels me to start the next component.  Until at last, I can seam together all the parts for the final reward of a well-knitted garment.

And at the same time, that process of finishing a hand-knit garment... that seaming together of the sleeves and sides, and tucking loose yarn ends... is an arduous prospect.  Once I've cast off the last piece and I feel like I'm done, it will still take me a few hours to hand-seam each of these parts into an entity of its own.  No one is the wiser to the hours of painstaking steps it took to create the wonderfully knitted piece once the remnant pieces of yarn strewn across the floor have been cleaned up and put away.

It's the sticking with something that leads to a beautiful completion. Oh, I know there are things we clearly should abandon mid-way... choices we make that were not healthy for us from the beginning, but it's the staying with something that is worthwhile that yields us a prize worthy of our pain and attention.

That commitment to the fine details and preparation shows the world we cared enough to stay with it simply because it mattered to us.

The trick is knowing when to TINK back (just enough) to make the adjustment you need to finish well.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Soaking Up Life without Saturation

Sometimes, life feels like a rush of water, gushing over the rocks and saturating the colors.  Once it's wet, it all starts to look the same.  We have dry "beds" of river rock at our home in the city, and the rocks are a vast collection of hues when they're dry.  Yet once they become saturated with rain or sprinkler water, they all begin to look the same muddied tone.

I just need to sit in my favorite spot (or in any spot for that matter), and listen to the sound of my heart... letting the movement of life settle down and the colors return to the things and people around me.

Most of the time, I'll chose to knit... or strum on my guitar... just letting my heart return to that shape that makes me who I am.  I may take in the wild-life at our home on the mountain, watching the birds share seed with chipmunks and squirrels.

Or enjoy a rare sighting of a wild brown bear.

I look out over the meadow, breathe in the cool fresh air, and I feel restoration of my body and soul.  As I take in the wonder of it all, it never fails to amaze me what our creator can grow out of the hardest of things.

For surely, if he can do that...  the seemingly scattered and troublesome details of my life must be a breeze in comparison. Feeling refreshed, I fully receive a heart-full of gratitude in my soul for the blessings of my life.

And send off a breath of wishes about tomorrow.

Monday, June 30, 2014

All Roads Lead to Who You Are

Our little mountain home is where we retreat... we call it the treehouse because it is nestled along the ridge of the pines.  It's a place where we find relief from the Summer heat and the everyday busy-ness of life.  During the long months of Vegas Summer, I plan my whole life around our weekends at the cabin.

It is here where we can let the whole world fade away with all its concerns, challenges and demands for attention and time. I love to just sit in our favorite spot by the window or out on the deck, watching the wildlife who come for a little oats or seeds.

The weather was especially beautiful on our most recent trip.  We love to ride the quads... taking in the sites and enjoying the trails.

Exploring a few places we hadn't been before, we came upon a spot that reminded me of poetry by Robert Frost.

His poem is often mistaken as a proclamation that choosing the one path over the other has made all the difference, but the poet had intended instead to jab a bit at our tendency for indecision and to attribute more meaning to things than they may deserve.  No matter the poet's intent, his work has inspired many to consider taking responsibility for their journey in life, and the outcomes that they create.  Sometimes, what we intended matters less than the result. For clearly, Frost's poem continues to inspire others in decision making.

Yesterday, I was tackling a new technique with knitting buttonholes. The pattern instructions didn't make sense to me, and I had to tink back the work once having misunderstood the directions. After a short break to consider the pattern, I decided to move forward with my knitting to see what would happen. In my day to day life, I want to live intentionally... purposefully. Sure, I will make mistakes, but along the way, I know that I'm living my personal best and that everything I've done up until now, has brought me to the person I am today.

And I can live with that.