Trying my hand at something different

I decided to see if I’m able to crochet with a splinted broken hand and it turns out I am! It’s not graceful or smooth or fast – which is to say, it’s not much different from how I crochet when I’m not injured!

First I tried an idea I’ve had for awhile, to crochet a cowl out of this handspun:

  
Turns out the stitch I have in mind for this project is just too fiddly for managing with a splint. So instead, I started a project I’ve had my eye on for more than a year:

  
Sunday Shawl by The Little Bee. I’m pretty excited about this project, and it’s always amazing to me to see how fast crochet grows.

I miss knitting terribly,  but I’ll admit that it’s good to be forced out of one’s natural preferences from time to time. How about you? Have you ever been forced, compelled, or inspired to work outside your crafty comfort zone?

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Once in a Blue Moon (Handspun Rosa Sweater)

Once in a blue moon, I write a post exactly when I intended to write it. This is not that time. I’ve been trying to write this post for three months.

I’ve written a little about the difficult summer my family went through this year, which culminated devastatingly in the sudden, unexpected death of my mother 10 weeks ago. As horrible as losing her has been, things actually could have been even worse. Because a little more than a month before my mom died, my father almost died.

It’s a long and unusual story that I don’t have the emotional energy (or hand dexterity) to tell now. But the upshot is that, on the evening of July 29, I found myself speeding up the road from the panhandle of Florida (where I had been vacationing with my husband, kids, and husband’s kids) to Atlanta, where my dad was being rushed (from a hospital two hours away) for emergency surgery for an aortic dissection that had gone undetected for 10 days. I made it to his bedside literally five minutes before he was wheeled away (at 12:45am), and my brother and I spent a fretful night alone in the waiting room, calling our mom with updates (my mom, a paraplegic, was unable to travel to be there herself). At 6:30 the next morning, the surgeon came to tell us that not only had the surgery been successful, but it looked like my dad might regain kidney function (he had been in kidney failure for several days at that point and, going into the surgery, we thought the best outcome was that they would save his life and he would be on life-long dialysis). To get to see my dad awake, alert, and okay following the harrowing events of the previous several days was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

After spending several more relief-filled hours in Atlanta, I drove back to my parents’ house to spend an unexpected evening with my mom. It was a wonderful evening together, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival. We went to bed with such relief. The next day, I drove back to the beach to spend a final night with my family there before packing up to leave there the next morning. When I had left them two nights earlier to head to Atlanta, we had never expected that I would make it back to the beach. But I did, and that night, we had a picnic down by the water, and we saw this:

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A blue moon, that happened to be orange.

It felt to me like a harbinger of hope. My heart felt exactly like that moon – big and luminous. We went back to the beach house and, later that night, I cast on for something out of some handspun I had finished a week earlier. It was the first I’d been able to knit in days, and I did it out of such a sense of joy and relief.

I started with this:

Into the Whirled, "Death," on Superwash Merino

Into the Whirled, “Death,” on Superwash Merino

And though it was only four ounces, I decided to attempt something I thought might be impossible – an adult-sized top. I just cast on and went for it. We went from the beach back to Georgia, where I enjoyed more time with my mom (while my dad continued to recover in the hospital). There is so much conversation with my mom knit into these stitches. And the knitting just breezed by – I finished in three days. It was my last completed project that my mom got to see.

Once in a blue moon, fiber goes from bag to wheel to needles to body in a flash.

And then, the day after I took the modeled shots, I got to drive back to Atlanta and pick my father up. He was discharged and sent home, not only having survived the aortic dissection and emergency surgery, but having unexpectedly recovered full kidney function.

Once in a blue moon, the impossible thing becomes possible, and life happens where death was meant to be, and celebration and relief take the place of fear and grief.

When I tried on this piece, I was disappointed, as I often am. I had to finish knitting before i wanted it to be done, because I only had so much yarn. So it’s shorter than I’d prefer. And the stress of this summer took its toll on me. so I’m also heavier than I’d prefer. Even so, I put the thing on and went out in the Georgia heat to take pictures.

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The pattern is called the Rosa Cardi (I don’t know why, because there’s no cardiganized version). As originally written, it has points on both sides of the hem, but many people have knit it with just one point, which is obviously what I did, too.

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I really like this fast and easy pattern a lot, even though it may not currently be the most flattering piece I own. It is really fun to knit, and I think it’s cute in handspun.

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But I’m very unlikely to wear it without something underneath it (and in fact, I think it’s intended as a layering piece).

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So after these photos, I put it away for awhile. Then my life slid sideways and I kind of forgot about it altogether. Then a few weeks ago, I saw it in my closet, and I felt a lot of pain, remembering how happy my mom and I were during the time I made this sweater, and how hopeful. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel like wearing it.

But this week, I did. The day I had to go to the orthopedist about my hand, I suddenly felt an unexpected and very strong desire to wear the sweater. So I put it on, over a long-sleeved t-shirt, and I wore it to the doctor’s office.

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taking a picture in the doctor’s office bathroom, as one does

And despite the look on my face, I was really pleased to be wearing it, and actually got multiple compliments.

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I like it a lot better as a layering piece, and I already have plans for making another.

When I got out of the doctor’s office with my new splint, my very first impulse was to call my mom. Which is not much different from every other day, honestly. So that was hard. But there’s something about wearing this sweater – and I know this sounds woo-woo or mystical or maudlin or whatever – but … I mean, there’s a piece of her in it. Her happiness, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival; her companionship, as we watched baseball and true crime; her encouragement, as she saw me model it; her love, which stills wraps me up, and covers me.

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Once in a blue moon, something that was too painful to do (like wearing this sweater) becomes an unexpected door to some kind of solace (like feeling her love when I wear it), and the difficult becomes good, and the stitches become some kind of healing.

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A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

The Best Part

In your opinion, what is the best part of knitting? Is it the planning – considering patterns, comparing yarn options, making purchases, making a decision? Is it the start? Is it the soothing nature of picking up something you’ve been working on for awhile? Is it the renewed energy and commitment that come from picking up an old project out of hibernation? Is it the ability to fix almost any mistake you’ve made (unlike real life)? Is it the finish? The blocking? The wearing? The gifting?

I love them all. But today I think the best part might be casting on.

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Handspun Southern Cross Fibre South African Superfine, “Nobby”

This will become a hat, and it’s long overdue for its recipient, but now I have cast on, and the new beginning has been begun. And it feels good.

Lying and Plying

I accidentally lied to you yesterday. I said that when I spun that Hello Yarn Polwarth/Silk “Slumber” that it was one of those cases when I knew exactly what I wanted the fiber to eventually become and then I spun it that way. Later yesterday, I reread my original notes (i.e., looked back at my blog posts from a year ago), and discovered that no, it was exactly the opposite of that. I spun the fiber the way I felt like spinning it, and then as soon as it came off the wheel, I was like, This has got to be a Pi Shawl! And then I became obsessed with knitting it. So yeah, sorry about the lying.

But THANK YOU for the nice comments here and elsewhere about my Pi Shawl. And to answer a question in the comments: I spun the yarn into light fingering-to-laceweightish singles. I ended up with close to 800 yards. Even so, that was only 4 ounces, and that meant a slightly smaller shawl than the shawls my friends brought to Rhinebeck. I am already plotting my next Pi Shawl, and am thinking towards something bigger.

In the meantime, I did another kind of lying yesterday – and that was lying all the way down to ply. That’s right, I am exactly that lazy. To wit:

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(I made a gif, y’all! I’ve never done that before. I’m playing with the Live Photos on my new phone and used a new app to convert this one into a gif. I hope it comes through right).

That’s me, lying all the way down on the couch to watch Jon Oliver and ply some yarn (that’s my sweet puppy hanging out on the floor). I’ve certainly put my feet up before while plying with my new Hansen e-spinner, but I’ve never gone into a full on lie-down – I didn’t realize I was that lazy and/or tired. But apparently I am. And I’ll be honest, I actually did snooze a little while plying – crazy but true.

And when I woke up, I’d made this:

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It’s still drying from its bath, but I’ll be back tomorrow with better shots and more details. I’m excited to think I might be really back to spinning at last.

Making My Pi and Wearing It Too (Handspun Pi Shawl)

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This post has been far too long in the making, but at last, I shall show you this thing that I made that I love.

Last November, I spun up this yarn:

"Slumber" on Polwarth/Silk

“Slumber” on Polwarth/Silk

It’s 4 ounces Hello Yarn “Slumber” on Polwarth/Silk, spun up as low-twist singles. It was one of those cases where I was suddenly struck by an idea of what I wanted to knit with the fiber and so immediately spun it for that particular project. And then as soon as the yarn was dry, I cast on for a Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Ravelry tells me I cast on almost exactly a year ago (November 7, 2014). It was such a delicious and entrancing knitting experience. Just round and round I went, throwing in the occasional yarnover row. It went with me everywhere and grew quickly.

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

I set it aside as needed to finish up holiday knits and such, and then picked it back up every time I could. Sometime mid-January I got to the end:

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I did a little picot bind-off all the way around, and then still had a little bit left and threw in some extra picots in about four or five places.

And then the shawl sat around till April waiting to be photographed. And then those pictures sat around waiting to be blogged, until now. So without further ado, here they are. (Get ready for picture overload)

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Despite all these action shots, how I usually wear it is like this:

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I want to spin and knit more of these. I want to make bigger ones and maybe smaller ones. I want to make more that are just like this one (plain stockinette) and some that have more yarnover rows and some that have lace designs in them. It is one of the most soothing knits imaginable, and highly wearable, not to mention a fantastic pattern for showing off handspun. Perhaps it will take me less than a year to show you my next effort.

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But knowing me, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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A Bird in the Hand…

… touches the soul.

  
Having learned of my mother’s passing, Tara sent me the sweetest little care package, which included this sweetest little bird. It’s handspun and handknit and I adore it. 

These have been hard days for me, but this wee birdy truly does cheer me. I hold it in my hands and feel that earthy, handspun yarn and feel the love and support in the stitches. There’s power in stitches, y’all! 

Thank you so much, Tara. 

(You can see the details of the project on her Ravelry page)

Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

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and this:

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And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

All the Spinning followed by All the Not Spinning

When Tour de Fleece happened last month, I was ALL IN. For three weeks, I spent all my crafting time spinning, and it was glorious. I finished my Tour on the first day of my vacation. First, I spun up a pile of Hello Yarn:

Hello Yarn

Hello Yarn

The top yarn is 4 skeins of “Gobbler” on Cheviot – 17oz., 814 yards heavy worsted 2-ply. The bottom left yarn is 4oz., 296 yards DK 2-ply “Light as Feathers” on Romney Lambswool (a spin I loved so much I went back and bought a pile more of the fiber). The bottom right is 4oz., 192yds light worsted 2-ply “Crivens” on BFL/Silk (I somehow managed to spin this as 2 skeins of the exact same yardage).

After spinning all that Hello Yarn, I branched out a tiny bit to spin some more Discworld MegaSAL fibers.

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Bottom middle is Nest Fibers “Magrat” on Mixed BFL, spun as 218 yards bulky thick-n-thin singles. Bottom right is Into the Whirled “Death” on Superwash Merino, spun as 380 yards fingering(isn) 2-ply (which I’ve already knit up).

This was by far my best Tour ever, with slightly more than 2 pounds spun up, for a total of 8 skeins. It was a delight from beginning to end.

I had imagined I would be spinning throughout my vacation, but it turns out I haven’t spun one bit in more than three weeks now. I’ve gotten back to knitting instead – and with my newly-made handspun, that’s been total delight. Soon I hope to show you something I knit up in just a few days on vacation, but for now, I’ll just show you what I cast on this morning:
Handspun beginnings, potential #rhinebecksweater - #helloyarn "Gobbler" on Cheviot. #spinnersofinstagram

This is possibly my Rhinebeck sweater, the Laurie pullover. Love, love, love those fall colors. Only I realized after a few inches that I made a huge and stupid mistake – at the end of the cast-on, I ended up joining in a round, when it actually doesn’t say to do that in the instructions. So I joined and then just kept knitting for a few inches before realizing that the beginning is to be knit flat. Oops! So I’m ripping back and starting over. I hope to have something more to show you soon!

Again with the Spinning (and a winner – or winners actually)

(And again with the technical difficulties, too – sorry for my delay in posting about the giveaway winner! I tried to post yesterday but failed).

We are deep into Tour de Fleece now, and I have been spending all my crafting time making yarn. My pile of knitting keeps staring at me sulkily, but I’m committed to doing as much spinning as possible during this three-week tour. I’ll be picking up th knitting needles again soon.

The Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot was a delicious spin. I finished the final skein on Saturday:

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Which meant that, in one weeks’ time, I had completed an entire sweater spin:

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This was a feat I’d never have been able to accomplish without my new miniSpinner. So, thank you, miniSpinner!

There’s obvious variance from skein-to-skein with this spin, but I plan to alternate the skeins while knitting, so I think it will all even out. I have one more 4oz. bump of the fiber to spin up, in case this isn’t enough for the sweater I have in mind, but I think it will be. I can’t wait to cast on for this!!

But instead of casting on, I put more fiber on the spinner, and away I went:

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This was the dreamiest of dreamy spins:

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This is Hello Yarn “Light as Feathers” on Romney Lambswool and it is AH-MA-ZING.

In almost no time, I had this:

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I have very special plans for this skein, but once I finished it I began dreaming of an entire sweater of this lusciousness. I’m very, very tempted to try to get my hands on more of it.

But for now, I put more Hello Yarn on the wheel, this time part of the MegaSAL I’ve been a part of this spring and summer:

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This is “Crivens!” on BFL/Silk – aren’t those colors just divine? I’ve finished chain-plying the first half and am now spinning up the second half, for a pair of yummy socks.

Okay, okay, I know you’re not really here to see the spinning – you want to know who won the giveaway, right? First, let me say, thank you, THANK YOU, for spreading the word about this. The best way I know to express my joy and gratitude for our son’s safe rescue is to do my best to prevent this kind of accident from happening to anyone else’s child. Thank you for helping me do that!

Secondly, I decided to pick two winners. There were lots of people who shared and posted on Facebook who didn’t comment on the blog post, and I wanted to include them all in the drawing, but I didn’t want to be unfair to those who had also taken the time to comment on the post. So I did one drawing just for the people who commented on the post, and that person will receive the original skein I posted:

Southern Cross Fibre "Nobby" South African Superfine

Southern Cross Fibre “Nobby” South African Superfine

The winner of that skein (or of something made from that skein if she isn’t a knitter) is Molly Gee – Molly, thank you for spreading the word. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address and ship this off to you (or something made from it)!

I did a second drawing that included everyone who had commented on the original blog post and also those who only commented on Facebook, and that person will receive another handspun skein (something I’ll pick from my stash) or something made from it. The winner of that gift is Jessica Pressley – Jessica, thank you for spreading the word. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address!

Thanks, y’all, for your very kind words, your ongoing help in raising awareness of this kind of accident and how to prevent it, and for your continued willingness to share in my joy!