Sending out warm wishes and glad tidings.
Over the summer I began dyeing and spinning a collection of yarn. The intent was to have a ‘countdown to Christmas’ collection of squishy packages for my children. When I began the challenge, there was speculation that my daughter would be returning to her Peace Corps assignment before Christmas. I thought it would be wonderful for her and her brother to both have something they could do together as they counted down to Christmas.
About midway through this goal of mine, it became clear that my daughter would not be returning to the Peace Corps this year. My desire to get the fiber spun was even greater as it became clear 2020 was going to throw more hurdles into our lives.
As the deadline to get my son’s packages in the mail approached, I wondered at the sanity of dyeing so many different hanks of fiber. With only days to spare, I wrapped the little 50 gram yarn balls and enclosed them into the box that would take them across an ocean.
On Thanksgiving Day, the yarn was indeed in the same country as my son, but as with most things military, there was confusion. So the day after Thanksgiving my son retrieved the big box of mini packages and began the countdown with two squishy bundles to unwrap.
Each day (or every other day as schedules permit) my two kiddos unwrap and share photos with each other. They are counting down the days, not just to Christmas, but to the end of 2020.
I think many of us are counting down the days until 2020 ends and we can enter a new year with hope for less strife than 2020 has presented. For many, 2020 began with hopes, dreams, and goals that would be disrupted – even shattered. For many, as 2020 marched along the only goal was to see it come to an end.
For me, my goal for 2020 – for any year – is to find as much joy as I can, and to find ways to share that joy with others. Tears, disappointments, strife, and hardship may make me stressed and filled with sorrow, but despite the stress and sorrow, I still find joy. Long ago I learned that joy shines a light into even the darkest corners of our lives and minds. We must seek that joy, open our eyes to that light. At times this may be hard, sometimes very hard, but it is a goal for which the hard work is worth it.
The goal of finding joy in our lives each day is one worth accomplishing. It is one of the many goals I have accomplished this year, and one that I hope I can accomplish in the year to come.
For those who have been following my Christmas Countdown Collection journey, this week’s video shows some of the finished Granny Squares. I have also put together (with the help of my daughter) a pattern for download for any who wish to join the Granny fun.
Pattern to download.
Confessions of a Crafter
During the holiday season, my world seems to be inundated by inspiring social media posts and videos. So many wonderful new things to try, hidden among some crazy crafting fodder. I enjoy watching videos of projects coming to life, even ones that show crafts that I know I will never take on. Every so often though, I will decide to join the crazy train of a popular craft. Yet, I prefer when my new crafty undertakings are able to overlap with my current arsenal of creative techniques. Finding an overlap is not always easy. Clay work, for instance, is still rather a stand alone. Although, I have made my own polymer clay buttons, so there is some overlap with my sewing projects.
Good organization skills and proper storage techniques come in handy when there are multiple crafty people living under one roof. The joke about the entire house being called a craft room is not much of a joke when so many rooms hold craft supplies. With the constraints of limited space and a need to actually live in the house rather than just craft in the house, I am hesitant when I feel the urge to take on a new type of crafting endeavor. However in the days since I last contributed to this blog, I have finally succumbed to the ever popular world of blinging up a project with gems.
In the past, I have made embraced glass beads for my blinging needs. This was a frugal way to use materials I had on hand, as well as a permanent way to attach bling, but glass beads have their limits. Working with freestanding lace embroidery turned out to be one of the limits. I knew that hiding the attachment stitches on delicate lace ornaments would be difficult. So after many years of resisting the urge, I took the plunge and purchased a hot-fix gem tool and an assortment of gems. When the supplies arrived, down that rabbit hole I dove into a magical world of sparkling light. What was I thinking by resisting this craze for so long?
Fortunately over the years I have learned restraint. So I don’t think my home will be blinged up, nor will my husband worry that his clothing will start to twinkle in the sunlight, but the ornaments I make each year may very well sparkle when the lights of the Christmas tree are turned on.
After taking a couple weeks to rest/play/craft, I sat down and tried something new – a vlog rather than an inspirational mini tutorial. It was not my intent to ramble along for such an amount of time, but I now understand why my favorite knitting vloggers vlog for nearly an hour each episode. It was quite to my surprise that I realized how very long I had been rambling about inspiration, projects completed, memories, and lessons learned. I do not know how many people will ever watch the video in its entirety, but at the end of the day I am so very pleased that this vlog has been created. It is a glimpse into my world, my head, my life, and it has brought me joy. I hope that it will bring others joy too.
A spirit of gratitude can lift us out of the mire. It may not always remove the mire, but it lifts us so that the mire is less likely to suck us under.
We live in a world were we no longer seem to celebrate the concept of mastering a craft or in celebrating the beginning of that journey.
There is nothing wrong with intermediate, but that is not a place where we get to sit while putting down the beginners or scoffing at the journey of further improvement.
I will likely never be a master, but I will never stop improving, nor will I ever forget the joy of beginning. The process of self-improvement, even when it is diminutive improvement, is where the joy truly begins. For in that small, simple advancement of the skill, we are rewakening the memories of our first glorious attempts at something that inspired us to try something new.
The Autumn and Winter holiday seasons inspire me to be creative, and flood me with memories of times gone by. So many of my memories include the practice of creating something that can be given to or shared with others.
I awoke this morning from a troubled dream. It was nonsense, but the crazy chaotic scenes were all too familiar. It was a reflection of the many times I overdid my efforts to make the holidays special for others, and in the process, overwhelmed myself. The overwhelmed me is not a person I like to recollect.
With age and greater understanding of my limitations, wisdom has emerged. This year, a year of stressful uncertainties and worries, I have made a commitment to myself (and my family) to maintain balance – or at least try my best to do so.
I have focused my creativity on projects that not only bring me joy, but represent all the things I didn’t do because I was busy doing too much for those I love. I am still giving and sharing, but now I am focused on sharing inspiration and joy rather than physical things.
I have long lived by two adages. The first relates to eating an elephant one bite at a time, and the second that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him one.
This year it my goal to share these truths rather than cookies, quilts, or hand-knitted hats. Hopefully by doing so, I can feel the joy of sharing, and not the chaos of overdoing.
November heralds in the winter holiday season, and what can be the beginning of an emotionally stressful time of the year. With so many major holidays arriving back-to-back, the joy of the holiday season can often become overshadowed by obligation or loneliness. We can feel pressured or misunderstood. Sometimes, even as we are surrounded by family and friends, we can feel isolated and alone. With Covid-19 forcing many to change traditional plans, the emotional stress may be even harder to combat this year.
I suspect many people will feel conflicting emotions of guilt and relief as they find that extended family get-togethers are cancelled. Attempts to replicate them virtually may cause distress rather than solace, and may cause one to question if there really is a way to still have connectivity while social distancing.
One of the lessons 2020 should be teaching all of us is that when faced with a major roadblock, we are better off looking for a new road forward rather than simply trying to adapt our old traveling patterns to get us where we want to go.
Patching over a problem is never as effective as creating something new that eliminates the problem all-together. Certainly there is value in a patch or in making the old work for a new day, but when we have the opportunity to create something new, it is good for us to give it a try.
As we embark on creating new 2020-inspired activities, success will be more likely if we evaluate what made the old activities so important to us. By understanding what the old provided, we are better set to include key attributes into our new endeavors. Most importantly as we experiment with a new way of celebrating the holiday season, it is vital that we remember the old ways didn’t become successful traditions without growing pains.
Creative thinking and collaboration can lead us through this difficult time. The process, in itself, can be a celebrated moment in our life if we allow it to be. If we focus on what made us love the things of our past, and then seek to find ways to replicate that joy in our present circumstances, we may very well find that the 2020 Holiday Season is one of joy rather than toxicity. It just requires creative thinking and a willingness to embrace the future rather than simply long for the past.
Tips for Emotional Detoxification
- Go for a walk and get some fresh air. If you can’t get outside, watch YouTube videos of other going for nature hikes. It really can help.
- Color outside the lines – whether it is something new, or something you are already proficient at, try letting go of the constraints of perfection.
- Finger paint – allow yourself to make a mess. The greatest work of art is the laughter-filled journey and not the finished object.
- Share a video/audio message with a friend. A video or audio recording of a message is easily done with most cell phones. Rather than simply sending a text, emoji, or meme, try sending a short recording.
- Virtual Creative Play-dates – virtual creative play-dates, (not just for the kiddos) can be a fun way to socialize, work on projects, or simply try something new with companionship.
- Be kind to yourself – if circumstances prevent the above, you can still find a way to be kind to yourself. This should not be a last resort, but it is the foundation of all the above. Kindness to others must begins with kindness to ourself. If this is something you struggle with, then please seek assistance from a medical professional or a local or national hotline for mental/emotional health. You are worth it and are not alone.
I took my own advice – here is the video showing how I played with making natural dyes. There is also some footage of me getting some fresh air – it really can clear away life’s stresses, if even for just a moment or two.
Fear is never an easy thing to overcome. Whether great or small, fear can prevent us from fully benefiting from the joys of life.
One of the great fears in knitting is cutting open a finished sweater so that it can become a cardigan. This fear is made even greater when the sweater is knit from handpsun wool, loving carded and spun for the purpose.
Overcoming the fear allows the knitter to have the ease and benefits of knitting in the round, while also having the benefits and comfort of a cardigan sweater.
I enjoy making the top-down raglan sweater for ease of construction, accuracy of fitting, and management of yarn use. When making this latest sweater for my son, I was able to spin the yarn as I was also knitting on the sweater. This ensured that I had little unused yarn when the project was complete. Since the yarn I used was a blend of Mohair, Alpaca, and CVM sheep’s wool, I was glad to avoid making any more yarn than was necessary.
I have steeked sweaters before but the nervousness of cutting open a sweater remains.
While it is never easy overcoming any fear, great or small, it is always worth the effort, and it does become a bit easier as our confidence in ourselves grows.
Working around my grandmother’s quilting frame offered the opportunity for reflection. The frame was designed for comfort sitting in an office chair, and was made many decades ago. I inherited it when Grandma passed away. My father had made it during the 70s when Grandma took up the challenge of making quilts out of polyester double-knit. My husband is now making new legs for it so that I can more comfortably baste quilts while standing. Unlike Grandma, my quilting is done in my lap.
Grandma had a large basement where the quilt frame could easily be set up. She worked at the frame regularly during the 70s and 80s but then health issues ended her time as a quilter. The last quilting stitches she made went into a baby quilt she and I worked on in the 90s. I remember watching her as she struggled to get her hands to work – stitches, uneven, and not very tiny – those few inches of quilting are the ones I cherish most of all.
I have many of her quilts, even those made from the double-knit, and each remind me of some aspect of Grandma’s life. She was a practical woman and it showed in her quilting.
Grandma would have loved all the Autumn color I have been introducing into my home these past few years. She loved the colors of this season. It was her palette of choice.
As I edited this week’s video, I thought a great deal about Grandma. I move like her, even though I look more like my mom these days. Parkinson’s Disease dominated Grandma’s last years. It robbed her of the activities she loved. Those last quilting stitches she made came from a deep determination to push against the crippling effects of the condition. I recall the concentration etched on her face – a look I recognize since I seem to have inherited her frown.
I wonder how many people believed Grandma to be a stern woman when in reality she was anything but that. She simply had a resting face that included a turned down mouth rather than one that turned upward.
Frustration, pain, and worry were often etched in Grandma’s face. I see her in my own face as I work on editing my little videos. I have come to understand frustration, pain, and worry.
Growing old does not bother me, but I do worry about the judgements and criticisms of the world. Making videos is helping me overcome these concerns.
Grandma was a strong woman who faced the hardships of being a farmer’s wife with grace. She complained about the trivial things – the things that did not matter – but she often kept her own counsel when it came to the big worries. I suspect that she complained about the little things as a way to let off pressure. She shared this trait with her mother; a trait that I have inherited it seems.
Grandma was a courageous woman. She pushed against the confines of society but in ways that never interrupted the work she did at home. I often wonder if people who did not know her questioned whether she was happy.
Grandma knew joy. With a determination and fortitude that I greatly admire, she thrived from the joys she gained through service as a mother, wife, sister, and friend. She loved and was loved in return.
Reflections have helped me realize that I have become much like my grandmother. I therefore should not worry too much about how the world sees me, but instead consider how she would see me. I think she would be pleased. She would certainly understand that we must learn to accept the challenges we are given, even if it does make our down-turned smiles look more like frowns.
This week I travel down memory lane and reflect back on how much I have learned since making my first holiday placemats.
My sewing and quilting skills have certainly improved, although my hands won’t hold quite as tiny of needles as they did a quarter of a century ago.
Life has taught me many lessons during these 25 years. There was a time when I thought I would lose my ability to hand quilt. Perseverance, medical advancement, and a better understanding of how vital balance-in-life is to one’s health have all played a role in my continued ability to use a quilting needle.
Quilting delightful and useful items for my family fills me with joy. I learned the skills of a quilter before I could afford the gadgets and gizmos of the modern quilter. Even after accumulating stacks of rulers, and cutting mats of various sizes, I still occasionally like to return to the simplicity of the old ways of piecing a block.
It is with simplicity and the budget-minded quilter that I have put together some basic blocks. I have also included instructions to turn the basic block used in my placemats into a rectangular placemat for those who wish for that shape.
I hope you enjoy my latest video and project. If you do, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel so that you won’t miss a single one.