Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Ahhh, Satisfaction! 

Yesterday evening I took a piece off my rigid heddle loom I’d started weeks ago. September 1st, I think. 


I used a yummy mohair yarn and what I’m fairly certain is a kind of thick cotton thread. I love autumn-esque colors. I was going for a shawl that both looks warm and delicate, airy and solid. I also wanted to practice a weaving technique called Leno as described in the book, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, by Syne Mitchell. 

The cotton thread behaved so much differently than the wool yarn. It is much less forgiving and had almost no elasticity. Sometimes the selveges were a catastrophe. I thought about bailing on the project about halfway through because I was worried it was just a hot mess and I should start over. Then I got stubborn and opted to carry on ~ best case scenario, I reasoned, was that I’d love the shawl and want to show it to the world, imperfections and all. Worst case? That once off the loom I’d lament wasting hours of my life weaving cloth not fit for mouse bedding. 

I tried out some things in an effort to minimize loose ends. Oh loose ends! They are part of things, aren’t they? 

When I had to switch colors (according to my own pattern; I’d arrange the color changes much differently if I were to make this again) I tried securing the loose threads in the loop of the weft as it was going back through the warp. That worked out pretty well. Wish I’d have figured that out sooner! 




Taking the shawl off the loom was nerve wracking! Not sure why. It feels both sturdy and fragile at the same time, and all of the loose ends made me wonder how the hell I’d get them all sewn in without ruining the fabric. 


There it is all laid out. 


I stayed up until the wee hours last night sewing all the strands in, those that couldn’t be trimmed as they were. It was so worth it. 

The shawl isn’t blocked yet but here it is. I’m so happy I kept at it. I learned so much about how different threads behave, selveges, the utter importance of a proper tension in all warp threads (obvious I know, but I thought I’d done that and still there were problems throughout. I think I need to make smaller groups of weft threads in the beginning stages). 


Here’s an up-close view of the general pattern. 


Here’s some unfortunate selvege proof. 


And there’s me, still proud as hell of this piece! 


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My Very Green Sweater Is Finished and I Am Proud

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you! It is the perfect to day share with you the results of my first attempt at knitting a sweater. I’ve written about it a bit here, and here. Knitting this sweater was a journey for me. When I cast-on that first round of a 100+ stitches, I had the energy and hope that one has before going on a long run, starting a garden, beginning a new course of study… It’s powerful energy. Anything is possible. There’s pride there in those early rounds. “Look at what I’m doing. I’m knitting a sweater, dude. That’s right. Whatch’you got?” I can be very immature at times.

That early burst of energy got me into the first big chunk of knitting the body from the bottom up. Then I had to moderate my rhythm and engage for a long haul. Miles 6, 7 and 8 on a 12-something mile run (I did run a half marathon back in the day. It completely kicked my ass.). I just found my rhythm and re-committed myself to the process. Repetitive, long, measuring tape nearby… was I making any gains? Getting any farther?

Then my grandmother died and I felt like crap and really wicked sad. I was using her needles to make my sweater and had put it down just prior to her death because we’d all been sick with the winter crud. In order to knit the sleeves I had to learn how to use double-pointed needles. I found renewed focus and asked my Mema who had just died for help and guidance as I tried this new skill again after years of doing all I could to avoid those dastardly things. And it worked. My sleeves came out beautifully.

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Then, I had to attach them to the body, which I did. But I am quite sure it was during this phase of reading the pattern that I made several mistakes. Yarn-overs and short-rows and picking up yarn over stitches from previous rows confused the hell out of me. At one point, I pulled out an entire round, and then in the process of trying to get the stitches back on the circular needles, I dropped stitches, twisted stitches, made up new stitches and sweat a gallon of pure-stress sweat. When I saw the mangled mess, I cried. I thought about quitting the sweater. I questioned my whole purpose in knitting a sweater to begin with. I was using all of the green yarn I had, all different shades because I didn’t have all of one color. I questioned my judgement, my discipline and my ability, and I even thought about sweaters that I could buy for 20-bucks at Kohl’s. The deep-end met my attitude and it was not pretty.

And then I got a  grip and reached out to some wonderful ladies who are in my knitting group. Thank God for them. They responded to me with offers of help and kindness. I answered the first email that came through, and wonderful Genevieve understood that for me, it was an emergency. We were leaving in few days to go away for the weekend and she offered to help me the day before we left, because how could I leave it like that all weekend? I tried to play it cool but inside I was so relieved because I wasn’t sure I’d make it through gracefully if I couldn’t get the sweater back on track. I took my children to her house on a day of their winter break and they were amazing and wonderful as they waited for Genevieve to show me how to fix it. And really, she fixed that botched-up row like a knitting angel. Oh, my relief and amazement cannot be quantified.

By the end of the following week, I’d finished it. It was a sprint. I stayed up late, had the lovely PBS series Victoria on in the background and powered through the end, stopping a bit short because I wanted the neck to hang differently than the pattern called for. And I was so, so happy. I blocked it, and then shrunk it just a little bit, on purpose. That’s some nerve-wracking business, watching a brand new, hand-knitted sweater bop around in the dryer. I watched it like a hawk and now it fits better and hangs more solidly. I took it out just in time. That was freaking risky.

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So here it is. It’s a little weird. I know. Because it was my first sweater, I opted to not go out and buy a bunch of new yarn, or spin my own, because I have so much yarn! Originally it was going to be a slew of different colors, a sort of rebellion sweater. Rebellion against all that is such incredible crap in our government and country right now. I imagined a big colorful freak-out sweater as a sort of high-kick to the status quo. But, then I decided to stick with my greens. Green is my favorite color. Many shades fit into the favorite green category. Green is alive. It can be fresh, soggy, crisp and moist, dull and sharp and sometimes surprising. It is the color I miss the most in the dead of winter. It’s the color of the burst of life that comes with spring every year. I think it’s the color of the feminine. I decided I wanted to wrap myself in that. So I did.

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I think it’s crazy that my sweater looks almost like a bikini top! Totally unintentional. I just ran out of that shade of green! I think it’s funny that it started out with purple, when I was still going to do my rebellion sweater. It’s like one can see my thinking.

Knitting this sweater, I: learned how to use double pointed needles, actively sought out knitting to grieve the loss of my grandmother, went on an emotional safari, reached out for help when I needed it, and received so much more than that as a result.

Maybe at some point knitting a sweater will be just what I do. I’ll just knit a sweater and be like, “yeah, I’m knitting a sweater, no biggie.” But for now, I’m like, “LOOK AT THIS, BRO!” And, of course, it being done by St. Patrick’s Day was a special bonus! I’ve been researching my family’s ancestry like mad lately, and have finally made one discovery that places an ancestor in a specific spot in Ireland. Limerick, to be exact. It’s delightful to know such things.

I hope whatever you are doing today, it’s fun, at least tinged with color, and that you might be starting a journey of some sort that results in pride in your efforts, new learning and joy.

~ Bradie

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We Can’t Get Away from Learnin’

If you read my last post, you already know that I have started knitting a sweater for my daughter. I mentioned that I made a mistake but chose not to fix it because it wasn’t that bad, and maybe it would cause a negligible change in look, and that really, tearing out a bunch of knitted stitches causes me a lot of anxiety. Well…

This morning, I was up before everyone else and got to my project, sipping my coffee and feeling a little worn down. I’ve been ruminating, for sure. But I’ll get to that. As I started knitting, I realized about 20 stitches in that something was wrong. And it was wrong not just in the row I was working on, but also throughout the previous three rows. I kept looking at it, counting rows, looking at the pattern, and truly disbelieving the fact that I had been really rather careless in a simple instruction. Knit one row, Purl the other (other than a few stitches on either side). What had I done? I don’t quite know because unlike crochet, I can’t entirely read the story of the the knitted fabric. Experts can look at a piece and see where and what went wrong. Not this gal. Either I messed up the Knit/Purl rows, or knit too many rows. I don’t know. I considered letting it go and pretending that I meant to add a fancy different looking section, but then remembered my last post. And I thought about other times in my life I opted to skate through a problem without facing it head-on, and I considered my belief that stuff keeps coming back for us to deal with and learn from until we’ve dealt with and learned from the…stuff.

So, I tore it out. Three and a half rows, I tore out. While I tore them out, I wondered if I was going to have to start over from scratch. My yarn also got snagged and it broke. My heart pounded and I felt a whole bunch of things, mostly in the category of self-attack and frustration. How could I have been so mindless to make such an unnecessary mistake?

 

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All of that self-talk, all of that rumbling in the mind that likely is going on most of the time but sometimes becomes impossible to ignore, it really shows up at times like this for me. Mistakes. Just mistakes. Nothing life-threatening. Nothing dangerous or ultimately undoing for myself or for others. Just mistakes that seem “unnecessary” or as a result of “carelessness”, “thoughtlessness”, etc., etc.

I successfully got all of the loops back on to my needles, and I started again. I paid attention to what was happening in my mind. I didn’t do anything magical or come to any awe-inspiring conclusion. I just saw how beautifully knitting can be one of many ways to learn about oneself. Myself. I tuned in to how much ruminating I do when I’m stressed or sad or anxious. And I became very aware of what I do to myself when I make a mistake. No wonder I get so worked up when I have to tear out knitting! Good lord! Lighten up, girl!

I couldn’t get much more done before my day with my kids started, but I did manage to go outside and capture the smells of summer, the sounds of songbirds and the beautiful sun lightening more of the sky.

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Today is Just One Day

Today I picked up my knitting needles to begin a sweater for my daughter for when the temperatures change. I am looking ahead. I wanted to start a project now that will keep her warm and comforted in the future. I don’t know why. Maybe for many reasons. Maybe because she has strep throat and is in pain. Maybe because I love her more than I can explain. This is the sweater. I learned how to do a cable cast on so far and feel rather impressed with myself. I also know I made a mistake, but I don’t know how to fix mistakes in knitting. So different than crochet. Pulling out already knitted stitches fills me with dread and makes me anxious. So for now I’m going to keep knitting and hope my mistake isn’t too grave. Kind of like parenting. I make mistakes daily. I hope none will be too grave, too difficult to repair. 

this mystical dog statue was in our home growing up in florida. my mom gave him to me a few years ago and he guards our house through all weather.

our humble garden

every night a robin sits atop our open shed and sings its goodnight song