Overcoming Fear

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.

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.

Vintage Sewing: Festive Placemats

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.

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.

Daily Creativity Challenge

After spinning and vlogging every day for nearly a month, I was fairly worn out. However, I also felt mentally energized. It seems the daily challenge of getting at least one creative task in before slumber helped me combat the fatigue the state of world affairs seems to generate.

I have long known this to be a truth – creativity combats mental fatigue. Finding the way to fit creative pursuits in daily is not always an easy thing. Demands of life can disrupt even the fiercest determination. Setting a goal or focusing on a gift for someone else can help keep one on course. With this in mind, I have embarked on another creative challenge.

The Christmas Countdown Collection. It would be more aptly be called the Holiday or New Year’s Day Countdown Collection, but I liked all the Cs. To be completely honest here, I was only going to do a Christmas Countdown Collection but I had too much fun dyeing fiber. Yes, I admit, I just couldn’t stop until the rainbow was well covered.

So what is the Christmas Countdown Collection? Well it is nearly 10 pounds of dyed wool roving that I now must spin into nearly 40 skeins of yarn. Each skein will be divided into two sections. Each section will be wrapped in festive paper. Each package will be unwrapped one at a time beginning on Thanksgiving Eve and going through until New Year’s Day.  Due to the need to send one set of squishy packages overseas, all of this must be done as quickly as possible. Yes, it occurs to me that I should have stuck to 25 braids of roving, but the joy of dyeing overcame rational thought.

As my daughter pointed out to me, if I spin one braid a day, and ply multiple skeins every few days, I should have plenty of time to finish this spinning challenge by the end of Tour de Fleece 2.0 (or in non-spinning terms – the end of September).

So let the challenge begin (okay, so it actually already began, but I am just now getting a video posted).

 

Oh, and for inquiring minds – the yarn is going to be used by my kiddos to crochet Granny Square afghans.

Not Expendable

While a person can sign up for hazardous service in the military, police force, or other the other various service professions where life may be placed at risk, they cannot sign up to be the ones to die during a pandemic. The very notion that people could sacrifice themselves in such a way is ridiculous. Statements of this nature* promote the appalling belief that the vulnerable are expendable.

The vulnerable are not expendable. They are the ones we fight for, risk our lives for, and go to great lengths to defend from all harm.

 

Vunerable not Expendable

 

*Texas Lt. Governor voices what many may feel, but what goes against the advice of experts.

https://www.businessinsider.com/texas-dan-patrick-coronavirus-restrictions-worse-than-dying-2020-3

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/texas-lieutenant-governor-us-back-work-69764597

Creating the ‘Other’ is Never Charitable or Kind

A person must choose how they will deal with those who offend. They should do all they can to avoid letting the offensive, intended or unintended, control their lives. With this being said, the person who offends, intended or unintended, should be held accountable for their behavior.

Society expects its members to conform to certain patterns and behaviors. Members of society who offend, and even those who work hard to avoid offending, can fall into the misbelief that those who have distanced themselves from the heart of the society, or who have left all together, are individuals who have chosen to be offended by the society or a member of the society. By embracing this belief, those who have distanced or removed themselves become the other*.

There are people who offend regularly, some with intent and some through ignorance of their own actions. Rather than modifying their own behavior in order to be less offensive, they condemn the other as being victims of poor choices.

Personal agency requires personal accountability, but to assume that someone outside the center of the community is there because of wrong-doing or because they are angry for having been the recipient of offense lacks charity and undermines the success of the community; unless, of course, the objective of the community is to weed out all but those who seek power over others.

A community or society built upon charity and benevolence will find itself woefully weakened if it loses sight of the understanding that all who are distant are those in most need of charity, kindness, and acceptance. This acceptance may be simply in the form of respecting the choices the individual has made rather than condemning the individual. Creating the other is never charitable or kind-spirited.

 

 

* the other defined –  a group or member of a group that is perceived as different, foreign, strange, etc

* the other (sociological)

* the other (philosophical)

 

The Toddler Years Part Two

When our children are little, wearing well-padded diapers and toddling around exploring their world, we worry. We want them to expand their understanding of their world, but we are often consumed with worry of potential falls and injuries.

While the toddler years are rough on parents, society warns us to be prepared for the really challenging teen years ahead. What we fail to realize as we worry our way through each new phase is that in all the years of our children’s youth we are there to catch them when they fall. They live in our homes, drive our cars, eat our food, spend our money, and are protected by our insurance. Just like the toddler in the thick diaper, our youth are buffered. Their inevitable stumbles and falls will occur while we are nearby to care for their injuries and sooth their fears.

Society fails to warn of the level worry we will feel when our child exits our home as a legal adult. So much like the toddler years, early adulthood is filled with challenges and adventures that will most certainly result in falls and injuries. There certainly will be near misses and startled emotions, and there will be periods of great frustration. Regardless of how well we prepare them for the world, they will toddle once again as they develop a surety in their own balance. Only this time around, we will not be on the spot to reassure them or sooth them.

While we parents are warned of many things as we work our way through the stages of our children’s growth, we seem to seldom hear the sage warning that those toddler years were preparatory for the day when we would hug the adult child and then watch them toddle away from our home.