Saith Me… Master and Beginner

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rainy Day Diversion

I decided to shift gears a bit this week and try something new. After posting my video updating the progress made on my Christmas Countdown Collection spin, I decided to finally try making my own stitch/row markers for my knitting/crochet projects.

A rainy day project, followed by a backyard stroll was just what I needed to refresh my emotional state of being.

When plans get derailed, it is good to find a replacement, and video blogging has really helped 2020 seem less glum. Every week I learn new things with the video editing. It has been a wonderful way to beat back feelings of stagnation.

If you haven’t kept up with my current spinning project, this is the latest video.

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.