Ugh, already making adjustments to the 2018 goals. Making time to write every day is tough when there are errands to do and, let’s be honest, fun to be had with friends and family. How about this, instead of vowing to write every day, I vow to write at least once a week and guarantee that what I write will be at least somewhat entertaining and/or informative? I think that beats struggling to write every day and often having nothing interesting to say, right? I know I’m rationalizing, but it’s my only recourse at this point.
Late this afternoon I spied this book review on the New York Times website. It’s a fantastic writeup of the book Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meanings of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands. The last paragraph made my heart sing:
Langlands, surprisingly unsentimental for someone who made his fame doing historical re-enactments, resists the pull of nostalgia. Yet he makes a persuasive case that the surrender of our lives to machines represents a regression. “Factory manufacture,” he writes, “robs us of a special something: contemplation.” He’s not talking about the big questions of human existence, but of the hundreds of small ones that go into something as simple — or as complex — as building a stone wall: “Which to use? How to work it? Where to strike it?” In the end, this is the case he makes for craeft. At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.
The thought and consideration that goes into both the preparation and execution of creating something with one’s own hands are what make crafting so much fun for me–the excitement of finding some gorgeous wool, bringing it home and then researching the perfect project for it. I even love making the gauge swatch and feeling the satisfaction when I know the size and shape are likely to suit me or the piece’s future owner just right. And like most knitters, I feel an almost rapturous joy in casting on that new project.
I’m in the market for some new books to load onto the Kindle before a trip to California next month, and this may fit the bill. I love that the author not only investigates the activities themselves, but also words associated with these activities (such as pleaching, retting and marling) that have fallen out of use as these activities were set aside for more industrialized practices. I also like that the tone is described as being not over nostalgic. Though I love my hand crafts, I do appreciate the modernizations of strong wool spun in easily manageable gauges and dyed gorgeous hues–all available to me in my local yarn shop or online. What I do hope comes through in the book though, as hinted by the paragraph quoted above, is that these activities bring a value beyond the final product, and recapturing that value and making it a regular part of our lives can be positively rejuvenating.
The yarn diet is over. I had hoped to use up a lot more of my stash before buying anything new (I haven’t bought any yarn since Rhinebeck in October!), but I knew I was lost when Loop of London posted the photo below to its Facebook feed a few days ago:
The yarn in the photo is by Lichen and Lace, an outfit in New Brunswick, Canada. To me it’s the epitome of warmth–I can practically feel how soft the yarn is, and the color speaks so strongly of spring and rosy outlooks that it probably has the power melt the snow outside, even as the mercury dips below zero.
I didn’t buy this yarn, though I will certainly be looking out for this producer’s product in the near future. Instead I stopped into my local yarn store to say Happy New Year and came out with these:
I don’t have a lot of purple and rose in my life, so it was time for Louisa Harding and Manos del Uruguay to inject some of these joyful colors into my winter. Don’t know what I’ll do with them, but I’m sure excited to explore the possibilities.
And if that weren’t enough, I also picked up a real impulse buy, and a luxurious one at that:
This 100% cashmere fun-size bundle from Lux Adorna Knits comes with a chevron cowl pattern as well as more cowl pattern options on the website. Having made a nice warm cowl for a friend’s birthday recently, I thought I’d treat myself to something similar. I love the colors–I hadn’t realized the colorway was called “Big Apple” until I got home, but I found it apt.
Today was also the final delivery of my 12-month yarn of the month club subscription from The Perfect Blend. The only reason I didn’t renew is that I’ve only made four of the 12 projects from the 2017 series so far:
And I know I’ll miss those monthly deliveries–January’s yarn and project are spectacularly gorgeous–but that will be more incentive for me to work through these small pieces throughout the warmer weather months so I can jump back into the club starting in 2019.
Happy knitting everyone!
Yesterday I wrote about crafting for a cause, and how the generally supportive, generous nature of crafting communities lends itself so well to charitable efforts. That idea was spurred by the New York Times article I cited that discussed the needs of wildlife rescue organizations for warm coverings for both its animals and care-givers. The other article I read yesterday that really got me thinking was this one about using paper planners or calendars versus digital tools (it’s currently the #9 “most emailed” article on the New York Times website).
I’m very much a proponent of paper planners. I have a beautiful calendar book from Peter Pauper Press (the one with the kitties on the cover, of course) that I always have either next to me on my desk, or in my bag when I’m away from home. I’ve never warmed to digital calendars, like the Google or Outlook tools. I use Outlook for work, as that’s how we plan meetings with colleagues, but every appointment, dinner, movie, vacation, class or concert I plan in my personal life gets logged in the paper calendar. I can easily see my whole week (so I know when I’m overbooking myself), make lots of notes and stay on top of things I need to remember. I even like scratching out things I decide not to do or that need to be rescheduled. The digital calendars have always struck me as cold and judgmental. Moving appointments around is a hassle on my little iPhone screen, and those tiny slots on the calendar don’t tell me all I need to know without tapping the screen numerous time (which often leads to my deleting important entries by accident). I’m sure that judgmental thing is just my neuroses talking, but I’m wondering if there’s more to it than that, and if there’s some correlation to being a crafter.
In other areas of my life, I really don’t mind that technology has infiltrated. I’m writing this blog online on my MacBook Pro. I use Scrivener software for my longer-form writing. It would never occur to me to write on a typewriter or by hand when drafting a novel. I even self-published my first novel as an ebook, and have only fleetingly considered putting out a paper edition. But when it comes to crafting, with very few exceptions, I greatly prefer analog to digital.
Yes, of course, there is Ravelry, which is a wonderful tool for finding patterns, reviewing projects and connecting with other fiber enthusiasts. But, I think it’s the very tactile nature of knitting and crochet, and sewing and quilting for that matter, that makes so many of us a bit technology-averse. I love all the wonderful knitting gadgets, like interchangeable circular needles, Norwegian knitting thimbles, fanciful stitch markers and the like. But when it comes to any sort of digital gadget or tool, like battery-operated row counters, online color work chart tools or sweater pattern generators, I really want no part. And for that matter, I’ve never known anyone to use such things. Quite the opposite really–I find that, the more experienced the craft person, the more he or she is interested in getting into more of the low-tech aspects of the craft, such as the avid knitter taking up spinning, dying or even deciding to raise sheep or alpacas.
So, along with our compassionate side, I find crafters are also much more comfortable with things and activities that may be considered by some to be old-fashioned, outdated or even a bit Luddite in nature. But that’s just another aspect of the community that I find so very appealing.
The crafting community is known for providing an open and welcoming environment to all who are interested in joining. I’ve found knitters to be some of the most hospitable and warm people you could ever meet. It wasn’t surprising then when I ran across this New York Times article from Christmas Eve about the need for blankets for orphaned baby elephants in Myanmar and what one particular group is doing to help. The region has been experiencing uncharacteristically cold temperatures. As many of these animals come to the rescue organizations in already compromised conditions due to neglect, abuse or having to fend for themselves without their mothers (most of whom have fallen victim to poachers), the colder temperatures have put them at even greater health risks.
Enter Blankets for Baby Rhinos, founded in 2016 by Sue Brown. The organization coordinates the delivery of hand-knit and hand-crocheted items to wildlife rescue organizations for both the animals and their caretakers. Becoming a donor is easy–simply search for the group on Facebook, request to join the group and, once you’ve been accepted, view their guidelines for crafting and shipping your hand-crafted items.
Many knitters I know are also animal lovers. I’ve tried in the past to carve out weekend time to volunteer at a farm animal rescue organization in the next county, but the 45-minute drive each way and four-hour shift was more than I could could manage with the demands of my household chores and errands and the like. But, as is the case with many of knitting friends, I want to spend a fair chunk of my free time in activities that add meaning to my life (which, let’s be honest, my job does not provide) while somehow also improving the lives of others. This group is ideal in that my efforts will help animals in need while also feeding my desire to knit during every spare moment of every day. If you are an animal lover and a yarn crafter, I highly recommend joining this group and lending your skills to comfort these animals.
The east coast of the United States is anxiously waiting to see what this newest winter storm will actually bring–if it’s just hype, or the real deal this time. I’m ready for any eventuality (except loss of power–that would be a real drag), whether it’s a bomb cyclone, polar vortex or just some run-of-the-mill bombogenesis. I love a good winter storm. I work at home, so though I don’t get the childlike rush of a snow day, I do get to stay safe and sound in my house, off the slippery streets and out of the bone-chilling cold.
And just in time, my newest cozy spot in the house is just about finished.
What had once was a closet is now a very functional and comfortable office/guest room/lounge. It’s also got the benefit of being on the second floor, so even when the downstairs is chilly due to our negative temperatures (that’s on the Fahrenheit scale–crazy negative on the Celsius scale), this room is warm and inviting. It just needs some art on the walls and more yarn on the shelves.
Happy snowstorm knitting to everyone on the U.S. east coast!
Did any of you feel like this when rushing to finish up your holiday gift knitting? I managed to get all of mine done on time, though the Christmas 2016 project list was not that ambitious. I completed this Pittsburgh Steelers-style hat for my brother based on the shape of this Stephen West pattern and the color pattern of this aptly named “Go Steelers” hat. It came out pretty good, though I did end up with some visible ladders at the intersection of the double-pointed needles. I was careful to give a good firm tug as I passed from needle to needle, but I’m thinking I may have tugged too hard, leaving the stitches before and after that joining stitch a bit too lax. But, the hat was well-received, so I’m pleased overall.
The other gifts were four scarves in different colors for friends from Wales who were visiting over the holidays and had rarely encountered temperatures as cold as the ones we’ve been having in the Hudson Valley. The pattern was the simple yet very satisfying Easy Mistake Rib Scarf, which knitted up incredibly quickly using Cascade Yarns Pacific Chunky–I was able to finish one of them in a weekend when on the train to and from New York City. Unfortunately, there are no photos of them (and I’m hoping they’re firmly around their recipients’ necks now that these folks are traipsing around Niagara Falls!), but I will be using the leftovers of each color to make myself a scarf, which will always remind me of the lovely time spent with dear friends. I can highly recommend the pattern and the yarn, which knitted up well and provides some nice warmth due to the wool content, while still being easy to care for (wash and dry in the machine) because of the acrylic content.
Once the gift knitting was done, I dove into a long-awaited project for myself–the Bare Branches sweater.
I bought the yarn at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival back in 2015 and am thrilled to finally be getting around to working with it. It’s Sonoma by Briar Rose Fibers, a booth many who’ve visited Rhinebeck may be familiar with, as it’s always packed to the rafters with eager knitters. Though I’m not usually a fan of sweaters that need to be seamed in multiple spots (the back, two front panels, and sleeves are all done separately, while the hood is knit off the back and shoulders), this project looked too beautiful to pass up. It’s from Botanical Knits 2: Twelve More Inspired Designs To Knit And Love, which is well worth adding to your pattern book collection (along with the first book in the series, both by Alana Dakos, the talented woman behind the Never Not Knitting blog and podcast).
Started on Christmas Eve, the leafless tree motif seemed the perfect fit for the beginning of what promises to be a long, cold winter.