Thankful for Memories

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.

Better Late than Never?

Creativity is a marvelous thing, but sometimes creativity can lead one to an avalanche of unfinished projects. The positive flow of energy that can come from beginning a new creative endeavor, may in-turn, devolve into a negative sea of stress. The question then gets asked, “Must I finish what I have started?”

In the world of fiber arts, there are many UFOs cluttering up closets and spare rooms. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, UFO stands for Unfinished Fiber Object. After many months, even years of living in dusty corners, these UFOs may resemble those other objects bearing the moniker of UFO. For after awhile, Unfinished may very well be replaced by Unidentifiable, and may lead the project to be tossed through the air and into the rubbish bin – flying, you might say into the trash.

While I doggedly try to avoid ever throwing away a project, I readily admit that there are times when one simply must toss out a UFO. Certainly recycling is the best option in these cases, however it is not always feasible. What is feasible, and is a must, is not allowing negative thoughts to beat unceasingly down upon us. Recognizing that while “better late then never” is a catchy phrase, sometimes it is not anywhere near the truth. When our health is in question, it is best to let go of the thing that once gave us joy but now causes us distress.

I began dyeing over 10 pounds of fiber a few months ago, and began spinning it up shortly after. It gave me joy and I have now completed it, but in these last weeks, it has been a bit stressful. The time constraints rather than the project itself was making this project less joy-filled. There were many days when I had to have a serious chat with myself over whether I should halt the project and call it “good enough”. Fortunately, I did have just enough time allotted to stretch the project out and give myself some rejuvenation and healing time. This factor, in-the-end, was the key to success. Even still, I paid a physical price for my determination to finish.

Sometime our bodies and our minds just need a break. Sometimes they require more than rest, they require a bit of a fresh start. During these times, there is nothing wrong with dusty UFOs taking flight. Of course the relief of de-cluttering the closet will never equal the joy of completing a project, but sometimes the peace it can bring is a joy in itself.

Reflections at the Frame

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.

Challenges of YouTubing

Each week presents new challenges, and with the challenges, new things to learn.

This week, after becoming fatigued during the many attempts to sound coherent on camera, I realized that the chair I purchased so that I could more comfortably work at my sewing-room worktable, would work really well at my quilt display wall. Sitting rather than standing reduced the fatigue and reduced my anxiety.

It is amazing how much more productive one can be when fatigue and anxiety are scaled back.

The second challenge I faced in getting this video posted was one of an emotional nature. I have become hyper-aware of how fatigue affects my speech and speech pattern. I sometimes struggle with words. Even when the thoughts are there, the words can remain just out of reach. This is one of the reasons I have always preferred writing over speaking – much easier to edit or to find the right word when there the pressure of an audience is absent.

When I went back to school back in 2012, I had to overcome a good deal of foggy brain. I was quite relieved to see that I could regain what I had worried might have been lost. I regained, and I improved my ability to communicate through writing. Now I am attempting to do something similar through the use of vlogging. Of course my confidence with writing was always greater than with speaking, so this challenge already causes a bit more anxiety for me.

Yet with this challenge there is even a greater reward than the degree I earned when I returned to the classroom. This challenge is helping me better accept the person I am – and that is something which has often proven to be an elusive prize.

Self-awareness is very good. Self-acceptance is even better.

Knitting a Hug

There is nothing quite as wonderful as wrapping oneself up in a blanket, but most of us can’t drag a blanket around with us like Charlie Brown’s friend Linus does. However a big, squishy shawl is permissible in most situations.

A few years ago, I decided I needed one of these big, squishy shawls. I knew there were two simple types of triangular shawls that would work well for my needs, but I really wanted the top-down version as I suspected it would highlight my handspun yarn.

Basic knitting patterns are often the hardest to find since they are based on simple skills and calculations that many knitters can work out for themselves without the aid of a pattern. This meant my adventure in knitting a triangular shawl started with a bit of trial and error. Eventually I figured out a pattern that suited my needs. Then it was just a matter of spinning the yarn for the project.

The fiber I chose for the shawl was from a number of fleeces I had just purchased earlier that year. I was interested in seeing how each behaved when spun. The sheep were all of the same breed, and all from the same breeder, but that didn’t mean that they would all behave the same way. I began by choosing 3 ounces from each fleece, and then I started spinning. Once I began knitting, I simply knit until a skein ran out, and then I started knitting the next skein. In all, I used approximately 2 pounds of wool for this big, squishy shawl.

In the years since I finished that first shawl, I have made a couple more for my children. I wouldn’t say I am a slow knitter, but I am certainly a distracted one. With so many fiber and fabric items begging to be created, I often only knit on a shawl when I am in-between other projects. So a big, squishy shawl doesn’t really fit into a video blog format – at least not for me.

That is how the Triangular Shawl for Dolls idea came into being. The pattern for a big shawl and for a doll shawl is pretty much the same when it is this simple, triangular, top-down shawl. The only difference is the number of rows you knit.

I hope this video and this free pattern will inspire you to knit up a shawl for someone in your life. It truly is a hug in knitted form.

Milestones – Big and Small

For many years, I have wanted to set aside time, and more importantly energy, for making doll clothing. Since 2020 seems to be a year of change, I thought I would add positive change to the sea of crazy changes this year has brought.

Inspired by a group of costumers on YouTube and Instagram (#historicalhalloween2020) but not wanting to make a costume for myself, I decided to use this inspiration to make a doll costume.

All of this was well and good, but then I decided to take the big plunge and actually talk on video.

Anyone who understands how anxiety complicates regular daily life will understand what a huge challenge I undertook. A keyboard is my friend, but a camera causes all kinds of stress.

Years ago, actually two decades ago this year, I began to understand why I shied away from the idea of being photographed. I had not had issues with the process while in my youth, but things began to change for me as I neared my 30th birthday. Aging was not what concerned me – pain, or more to the point, the photographic record of my pain, concerned me. Despite reassurances from my family, by the time I reached my 40th birthday, I really struggled with sharing any photographs taken of me.

Now as I move past the mid-century mark of my life, I want to do more than just hide the pain. I want to push back against what pain can steal away. I have been doing much better managing life and pain these last 10 years. Management is the important concept since I can manage my health, but I cannot regain the health of my youth (a youth where I was unaware that my pain was not a common thing).

So with my goal of regaining what can be regained, I took the plunge and made a video with me speaking to the camera.

Anxiety was a thick cloud as I filmed myself and then worked with the footage. Even as I regained steady ground, the underlying energy that anxiety causes me would not dissipate. Fortunately the learning curve of video editing with voice-over commentary was steep and I had many, many, hours of work to keep my mind busy. When I was able to finally take to my bed, I was able to sleep.

With fresh eyes, and a bit of rest, I have now uploaded my first “talkie”*

As I was reviewing this before posting it, I was rendered speechless when I comprehended that September is now upon us. In just a few days time, I will pass the 20 year mark on the spine injury that derailed me from the life I thought I would have, and set me on the course to the life I would come to appreciate as being the better one. I did not set out to mark this milestone with a video about making doll clothing, but as I reflect on the last 20 years, it seems rather fitting.

Life gives us challenges, it is up to use to make them into milestones rather than barriers.

……….

*In the days when silent films reigned supreme, the first talking films were known as talkies.

Unwinding with Fiber and Fabric

Enjoyment from sharing bits and pieces of one’s life can be the very salve needed for the wounds daily life can inflict.

I enjoyed sharing my Tour de Fleece 2020 journey though film, but making daily videos was more insane than spinning four pounds of wool during TdF.

Spinning yarn is a tremendous therapy for me, but it is something I often do in spurts. Many types fiber and fabric projects beckon to me, and my wheels can gather dust as I pursue other textile art.

With this undeniable truth in mind, I came up with the idea of sharing snips of creativity under the general umbrella of Fiber and Fabric. It will likely be a winding path rather than a direct course that I will follow, but hopefully it will be one that provides enjoyment or amusement… or maybe just a bit of respite.

Saith Me… Okay to not be okay

I am learning how to not be okay all the time.

Others do not get to dictate how long or how much a person feels sad, lonely, hurt, or frail. They do not get to silence one’s feelings.

Learning to shed the criticisms and the expectations of others is not easy. Learning that feeling and expressing life’s sadness as well as life’s joys does not make one weak.

It is okay to be something other than okay.

Life is tough, even a good life, even a blessed life. It not weakness to feel frail, tired, and hurt. It is not weakness to get frustrated and angry. It is only weakness when those emotions dominate one’s life.