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.
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 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!
… that is the question a lot of us are asking ourselves today. This year I’m choosing to set only those goals I feel I can really achieve. I weighed the various options, checked them all for gauge (couldn’t resist the knitting analogy), and found only a couple really fit the bill. These were the goals I rejected:
- Walk the equivalent of a marathon every week
- Do yoga every morning
- Hit the activity goal set on my fitness tracker every single day
- Do online French lessons at least three times a week (an hour each session)
- Meditate every day
- Read at least 30 books this year
Why did I reject them? They’re all too ambitious, they’re all linked somehow to the broader goal of self-improvement and they all carry with them an abundance of guilt should I fall short of the goal. And I would fall short of these goals. I believe that, when making resolutions and setting goals, we all beat ourselves up way too much when we don’t live up to our own expectations. We’re our own worst critics. I don’t want goals that are going to make me feel more on edge, rushed or frazzled. I want goals that make me feel happy, content and fulfilled. So, these are the ones I came up with:
- Write something at least once a day (blog post, an entry on 100words.com, a letter to a friend, make progress on my second novel)
- More often than not, when faced with a choice between healthy and unhealthy, choose healthy
That second goal covers the whole self-improvement/self-care spectrum. In restaurants or when eating at home, I’ll try my best to choose something with nutritional value over something easy or comforting, if easy and comforting are unhealthy. In the evening, I’ll either do something creative or active, rather than spending endless hours in front of the TV watching “Big Bang Theory” reruns on TBS. But it also means saying no when that’s what I truly want to do–no to invitations when I’d rather be at home reading or writing, no to changing plans to accommodate others, thereby inconveniencing myself. It also means speaking my mind, rather than keeping feelings bottled up, being myself and not trying to change who I am to impress others. It means being smart about money. The word “mindful” is overused, but it pretty well summarizes that second goal–I’ll think more about my words, actions and behavior and do the right thing, the healthy thing, the compassionate thing and the thing that will bring me contentment more often than the thing that brings momentary (and most often fleeting) satisfaction.
Happy New Year to you all. May you discover what makes you truly happy this year and have it in abundance.
The knitting is finished on both the projects I wanted to have completed by today, but neither are done, done and done. The Om Shawl above needs to have ends woven in, blocking, and 19 buttons sewn on, so still a good amount of work before I can wear it. And I ran out of grey yarn at the very end, hence the blue edge on the final two rows and bind off. That’s the button hole edge, so I think the extra strip of color will actually look kinda cool.
The Swirl has been languishing for almost a week. Still much seaming to be done, and then the braided tassels for the left front lapel. I think it will look great when it’s done, and I will be keeping my eye out for a nice shawl pin, which it needs if I want to wear it closed. All in all, I’m pleased with what I accomplished this month, even if I didn’t bring either project to the finish line by today.
This setting of deadlines for my knitting is not something I want to make a habit of. I love knitting, I love how relaxing it is. I have deadlines at my job, I have chores that tug at me and can’t be ignored, and I have other obligations that demand my time. I don’t want to subject things I otherwise enjoy to deadlines, and I don’t want to turn them into chores, so I doubt I would ever do another one of these challenges again. I may actually be more productive when I’m not racing against the clock.
And the same goes for blogging. I don’t want it to ever feel like a assignment or another task I have to check off my list. The knowledge that I had to post every day sort of robbed it of its fun. I like challenging myself, but I’d rather the challenge here be quality instead of just quantity.
Happy weekend to everyone!
On this day last year, the high temperature in Albany, NY, hit 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it’s a somewhat more seasonable 48 degrees. The overnight low on Saturday is supposed to dip down to the single digits. March, you are a fickle one.
I celebrated my birthday this week. Having a birthday in early March means being at the mercy of March at its ficklest. Inviting friends to come out and raise and glass with me is greeted with varying levels of enthusiasm, from the highest levels when March gives us an early hint of spring, as it did last year, to the lowest levels, when bitter cold, persistent rain, driving winds, or any combination of the three plague us for days on end.
This year, I have no complaints. The week so far has been filled with family and friends, good food and, or course, vacation from work. I love that I’ve reached the point in my life when I can take my entire birthday week off and really give myself time to relax and play, as well as get the house in order somewhat.
Last night a very talented friend presented me with a painting she did of my cat Nilly.
Nilly is 17 years old this year, and even though she’s in very good health now, I know she won’t be around forever, so having this depiction of her while she’s still with me is so special.
My friend works almost solely in the medium of recycled materials, painting on everything from used tea bags (as with the piece above), to pistachio and egg shells, to ginkgo leaves. She also does origami and a variety of other art forms (including a kimono made of tea bags!). Check out her website. Her book, showcasing over 365 tea bag works, is a wonderful gift idea for the art and/or tea lover in your life.