Stress and Inspiration

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This was one of those projects both conceived and executed over the course of 48 hours.  While I try very hard not to stress about crafting projects, there is an element of necessity if I commit to not purchasing a needed thing ready made.  In this case it came down to my dislike for most sorts of shopping (all except food and crafting supplies really) and especially any sort of shopping that will almost certainly involve buying some sort of synthetic material that I’ve more or less sworn off if at all possible.  So instead I made a soft, lightweight, lovely little bag for Adi to take to her new school and it only cost me brownie points for James to keep Adi out from under foot and half a night of sleep.

Fumbling with bound buttonholes at one in the morning, I start to question the wisdom of taking on these, perhaps unnecessary, tasks.  Without fail they are pushed to the last minute, as though the perfect alternative will fall into my lap if I just wait long enough.  But there’s also an excitement in being stressed about something other than work, to be pushed to the limits of speed and care when top-stitching, and to put together a complete and final creation in such a short period of time, design and all.  It reassures me that this crazy idea we have of retiring early and living on less won’t bore me without the incessant hoop-jumping of an academic life.

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And Adi?  She loves the way her new backpack turned out just as much as I do.  I used a linen blend fabric and some ribbon from my stash.  The pattern is made up, but heavily inspired by the look of the Colette Cooper backpack.  I even used the instructions to square the bottom of the bag from their sewalong.

Kathryn

Focus

IMG_9823Summer is here in force, and with it an unrelenting heat and humidity that only starts to let up after dinner.  Other than the early morning cool, it’s almost more confining than winter.  So we go out early to the park and play in the shade until we can bare it no longer.  A quick walk through the sprinklers and then we hide inside until the sun goes down.  I forgot what this was like, the East Coast summer, and without a garden to tend and distract me with the glorious allure of ripening fruit, a little part of me is ready for it to be fall already.

Part of my frustration with the heat is that knitted things seem incredibly inappropriate right about now.  Give me some linen for a sun dress, but keep warm hats and mittens far away!  And yet, if last fall was any indication, the chill will come on quick and fierce, and this time I intend to be ready.

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Progress has been slow, but I finally broke down and started a separate journal for knitting with pages that stay open and flat to easily read a pattern.  My sewing journal is too large to be portable to the park and has an annoying habit of closing itself at the slightest breeze. Ever the diligent planner, there is now a list of all the yarn in my stash, including weights and yardage and yarn thickness, as well as a list of my needle collection, which is still woefully incomplete.  More important, and slightly terrifying, is the list of all the knits we need for when the weather grows cold.  Hats, cowls, mittens, and a toddler sweater.  And that’s just all the stuff I could think of before rushing off to take a cold shower and sit motionless in front of a fan.

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Despite my inability to focus for long in this heat, I have had spurts of productivity, mostly motivated by deadlines, such as a visit with friends on the West Coast.  That was the inspiration behind my very first knitted baby sweater, a gift for a wee little thing much smaller than Adi.  Remembering how quickly Adi grew out of her smallest baby clothes, however, I made the sweater for a 12-18 month old, with the added bonus that Adi could model it while cruising around our California rental.  The sweater pattern is from Baby Knits for Beginners, by Debbie Bliss, but with seed stitch on the cuffs, hem, and neckline because I rather dislike knits that roll up at the edges.  It involved knitting four rectangles, only two of which had any shaping, and a laborious sewing up at the end.  If nothing else, this sweater taught me that I would rather learn how to knit a seamless sweater than enjoy the ease of rectangles.

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For the next knitting project I am learning to make mittens.  I bought my first yarn of 2016 while visiting my parents earlier this summer.  It is 60 g of 70% angora rabbit and 30% merino from a farm in Maine and too expensive to waste on anything short of fabulous.

Kathryn

A New Cardboard Loom

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Many of my crafting decisions over the last year have been motivated by either a lack of space or a lack of time.  Nowhere is this more true than in my flirtation with weaving, where a dearth of proper training, enough space to store a loom that inhabits more than two dimensions, or time to finish weaving something larger than a place mat have conspired to make it one of the least realistic crafting choices in my current situation.

Unfortunately I remain undeterred.

The first compromise was the loom.  Both due to impatience and a shortage of funds to risk on highly improbable ventures, I decided that the path of least resistance was to make a loom myself.  Without much wood working experience, tools, or – the real show-stopper – wood, I contented myself with cardboard.  After all, you can cut it with scissors and attach it with tape.  Oh, and it’s free!

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The first loom was made from a tiny box in which we received a baby spoon and construction took all of ten minutes.  I was so delighted by both the instantaneous nature of making a loom and the glorious amount of trial and error required to turn small strings of yarn into cloth that at first I ignored the tiny loom’s many shortcomings.

After tying off my first woven piece with the tiny loom, I knew there must be a better way to finish the ends than trying to deal with short and stubby yarn tails.  I started dreaming of a larger cardboard loom where the warp would be spaced farther apart and the weft (from the actual weaving) would be compressed against a solid surface, such as a knitting needle, to prevent the ends from being rounded.  Since this new cardboard loom would be both longer and wider, a tapestry needle (from my knitting kit) would no longer suffice to thread the yarn between the warp threads and the scale-up would also require longer pieces of yarn wound around a shuttle.

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And then the perfect cardboard box arrived as the packaging for a baby book gifted to Adi for her first birthday.  Cutting out the sides of the box to make weaving easier even provided the perfect size cardboard pieces to make a shuttle or two.  Fifteen minutes later (there was some taping to do this time) I had a new cardboard loom and shuttle all ready to use and five minutes after that it was warped and weaving had commenced.

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The first finished piece from my new loom is now a doll cape for Adi.  It uses alpaca yarn for the warp and muted colors of naturally dyed cotton for the weft.  I’m still not completely happy with the way the ends turned out; probably longer ends for the warp that could be tied and braided afterwards would be better.  One end is finished by encasing the warp tails in stitches and the other end with longer warp tails is finished by tying the tails together and then sewing them down as a fringe for the top of the cape.

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While this new loom is far from perfect, it has already taught me a lot about what parts of weaving I most enjoy and what parts I still find frustrating.  There is no chance of finding room for a larger loom in our apartment any time soon, but I have started dreaming of dusting off one of my mother’s looms long forgotten in their barn.  She made all sorts of beautiful woven pieces back before I was born, including the most lovely cotton baby blanket for her first grandbaby.  I’m not sure I’m prepared to plan ahead quite that far, but the thought of finally weaving my own cloth for a dress is a good start!

Kathryn

Mend

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When I decided to start sewing all my own clothes a few years ago, the task seemed daunting.  True, I could whip up a tank top in a single weekend using my sewing machine, but surely I didn’t want to spend all my free time sewing.  I envisioned a whole new wardrobe with color-coordinated pieces that I could wear both to work and to the beach, because (don’t hate me) my work and the beach were almost the same place.  I made a list.  I purchased fabric.  And then I waited for some of my clothes to wear out so that I could replace them.  For the most part I’m still waiting.

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What has happened in the intervening time is a gradual falling apart.  Tiny holes appear in my favorite shirts.  Jeans grow threadbare between the legs.  A cotton jacket becomes worn at permanent creases in the cloth.  Sometimes it takes me a while to notice.  Sometimes the hole or distressed area becomes so large that I consider declaring the item officially worn out, but then I think about having to sew a whole new piece to replace it and the patching or darning or reinforcing seems like a much easier task.

So there’s the secret to getting your mending done: the alternative must involve even more effort.

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Of course the flaw in this secret mending motivational strategy is my overabundance of clothes.  They fill up more than half of my shared bedroom closet.  They spill onto the floor from the laundry basket.  They are piled on shelves and in luggage.  They are certainly not all needed.  Not by a long shot.

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But my oh my the mending pile has grown.  And by this point it holds not only some of my favorite clothes, but some of my husband’s favorite clothes.  The procrastination period must end, and to help it along, here are some of my favorite sources of mending inspiration:

  • Examples of both visible and invisible mending.
  • How to fix store-bought socks with little patches over the holes from Tasha.
  • Karina Rodabaugh‘s blog and instagram with pictures of mended pants, sashiko, and boro.
  • Tomofholland‘s blog with pictures of mending, including mending knitted clothes in interesting ways.

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The above images are only a small sampling of the mended articles littered around my apartment, including (top to bottom) handkerchiefs, baby clothes my mom saved from when I was a baby, my husband James’ jeans, a pillow case my mom made for me when I was young, and even more handkerchiefs.  In addition, I have mended my own pants (both stretch and non-stretch), undies, cloth diapers that were starting to fray, shirts, a dress or two, and my husband’s winter jacket that had developed holes in awkward places (like every single pocket).  For adult clothes, at least for James, I usually try for invisible mending, but for many household items (such as the pillow case), I enjoy visible mending using a large box of fabric scraps.  Now that I have a couple t-shirts with tiny holes in them, I’m thinking about using applique methods a la Alabama Chanin to cover them up in a way that only makes the shirts more beautiful over time.

Do you mend your clothes?

Kathryn

Color from Yellow Onion Skins

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I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t bright orange.  Yellow, maybe.  Or even light brown.  Looking back at a beautiful spread of fiber dyed using yellow onion skins on the Folk Fibers blog, I see that orange was definitely within the realm of possibility, but I was secretly hoping for more of a golden hue.  Mostly though, I’m in awe that something as simple as yellow onion skins without any mordants or after-baths or other tinkering could yield such a vibrant color on wool.  The effect on cotton is more subdued and much less orange, but I love the warmth.

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My mom is finally taking notice of my natural dyeing tendencies and recently knit Adi a wool bag for her toys out of a creamy wool so that I could dye it if I wished.  As an added bonus, my mom left a very large skein of the same wool with me to use for dye experiments.  Previously I had only been dyeing cotton and alpaca yarn, but the alpaca was mostly a light brown color to begin with (which is what created the very dark orange-brown color in the top photo).  Now I can finally dye white wool to my heart’s content and will even start experimenting with the difference between dyeing yarn before and after knitting.

IMG_8366Top: white wool used for dyeing and a square of knitting (seed stitch) for dyeing in progress.  Middle: (left to right) white cotton yarn, light brown alpaca yarn, and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (first through the dye bath), and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (second through the dye bath). 

It still amazes me how much natural dyeing and knitting have been perfect for life with a baby and toddler.  Without the distraction of taking care of Adi I would never have the patience to wait for yarn to sit in the dye bath for a day or two, or for it to dry without rinsing so that it really has to dry twice.  I also wouldn’t be as interested in knitting if it weren’t something I could do while watching Adi or waiting for her to finish eating at the table.  She has grabbed my knitting needles more times than I can count and never once hurt herself.  While I could be frustrated that I no longer have as much time to sew or (especially) use my loud sewing machine in our small apartment, instead I’m trying to focus on the wonderful way that I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone, starting at the very beginning again on so many things (knitting, weaving, natural dyeing).  Parenthood has been so full of these unexpected gifts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there!

Kathryn

Giving New Life to Handmade Clothes

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I have been sewing my own clothes for over three years.  In that time I have tackled shirts, skirts, dresses, leggings, underwear, bags, slips, and scarves.  My plan was to sew new pieces slowly and carefully, filling holes in my wardrobe left by my ready-to-wear clothes falling apart.  I considered fabric type (cotton, soft and breathable), color (mostly neutrals), print (mostly solids because they go with everything), and style (flattering while remaining work-appropriate).

But I did not consider whether my clothes would grow with me as my body changed, whether they would provide nursing access for breastfeeding my baby, and whether they would double as maternity wear.   As a result, when my husband and I decided to start a family, some of my favorite tops and dresses were packed away.

At first I thought the situation would be temporary, that within a year I would be back to my pre-pregnancy size, reveling in some of my favorite handmade pieces.  A year later, I have finally accepted that my body is simply a different shape.  My hips are wider, my chest is still larger.  In response to these changes my style has shifted from fitted wovens to drapey knits.  I revel in the comfort of clothes that gently hug my body without drawing attention to the bumps and wiggles motherhood brought.

So what do we do with our favorite handmade clothes when they no longer fit our bodies or our style?

The nuclear option is to turn them into something else entirely.  Perhaps a tank top becomes a toddler dress or part of a quilt.  This way the fabric doesn’t go to waste, but time and additional resources (thread, for instance) are needed.  Frankly, I have an entire box of old clothes waiting to be transformed into something more useful, so I’m hesitant to add to the pile.

A less dramatic approach is to alter the clothes to fit a new shape and style.  This way a shirt stays a shirt, but its sides are taken in or let out.  A collar is added or the hem is shortened.  The time and resources required scale with the level of alterations, but there’s the chance that a quick fix will bring the piece back into the fold.

Perhaps the easiest and kindest path is to find a new home for our clothes with someone who will love them as they are.  No more time spent crafting.  No more resources spent making. Another person gets to enjoy a piece of clothing made with care under fair conditions (a mug of hot tea handy, tunes in the background, a comfy seat on the couch).

What do you do with your handmade clothes that are no longer worn?

Kathryn

Signs of Spring

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They are everywhere now.  Hints of color or bold dashes.  Lush green.  Deep yellow, blue, purple, and orange.  After watching the gardens I pass on my way to work unfold, I finally remembered to tuck my camera in my pocket so I could remember this joy next winter when we are once again smothered in snow and ice.

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I was so hesitant to photograph other people’s flowers that I waited until I reached more quiet back streets to finally take out my camera, passing by some of my favorite gardens in the process.  How silly when I stop to think of it: passing cars wouldn’t care a bit.  And yet the feeling of intruding on another person’s private space is palpable and I expect any moment for them to come out and tell me off.

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But on my walk home I was too distracted by the new emergence of flowering trees – I would swear they weren’t blooming when I passed them in the morning – to care what anyone thought.  Midway through photographing the second flowering tree, a woman my age pushing a stroller stopped walking to give me time to finish a photograph.  As soon as I realized she was there I leaped out of the way, but instead of passing me by she stopped to tell me of the bloodroot flowers growing a few houses down.

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Indeed, the white flowers I had photographed in the morning were bloodroot, or Sanguinaria canadensis, and they are apparently toxic.  They can also be used as a red dye, but since one of the (questionable) alternative uses of bloodroot is to kill skin cancer cells, it wouldn’t be my first choice to use on something I will have next to my skin.

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Now that I’ve overcome whatever disinclination I first had about photographing other people’s flowers, the camera comes with me everywhere.  I’m hoping that by taking pictures of plants I pass in gardens, in the park, in the cracks of the sidewalk, or wherever they find a foothold, I will slowly start learning to identify what grows in our urban environment.  This is all part of a master plan to forage for both food and dye stuffs, since my ability to garden is currently contained to pots and whatever I can convince my parents to grow in their garden in Maine.  And who knows, maybe I’ll meet some kindred spirits; there’s nothing that invites conversation with strangers like doing something out of the ordinary in a public space.  I still remember the person foraging for crab apples from a tree on the main street of a small Maine town who was more than happy to tell me what she was up to – those crab apples make excellent pickles, apparently!

Kathryn

After Work

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At ten to five I realize I should have left already.  Stuffing the assorted mason jars that carry lunch and the obligatory breast milk in my bag, I grab the laptop, pumping supplies, and my coat.  Sometimes, when I leave earlier, I like to think of walking out the door as a small act of resistance against a career designed to leave little room for anything else.  Me, leaving early, bag in hand, a smile on my face, not sneaking away as though anyone is keeping track.

Spring is starting to emerge and entertains me on the walk home.  Little gardens are tucked in the front yards and side yards and in-between yards, some only showing hints of life with brown grass and twiggy hedges.  Others have come utterly alive in the last few weeks with a  parade of early spring flowers; snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth, and other delicate white and purple flowers whose names I cannot remember now.  Tulip leaves are everywhere, the excitement mounting as I wait for a new symphony of color.

Sometimes on the walk home I call my parents or grandmother to chat for a few minutes about the little things Adi is learning or how she is sleeping.  Other times I prefer to think about all the plans I can’t help but tidy away in the back of my mind, waiting for a yard of my own, a house of my own, more time of my own.

Fumbling with the keys, check the mail, open the door, and it’s the squeal of a baby as she sees her mama’s home.  Her daddy is lounging on the sofa trying to contain her glee and waving arms without losing his glasses.  Someone’s hungry!  Boots off, mason jars unloaded, milk in the fridge.  I change into house clothes that are already covered with a layer of drool and snot.  I try not to think about that.  Adi and her daddy have followed me into the bedroom and as soon as I’m done changing she reaches out for a huge baby hug.  Home-coming is my favorite part of the day.

While James works on dinner, Adi and I snuggle in bed for nursing and reading.  After weeks of waiting for it to arrive via inter-library loan, I have six delicious issues of Taproot Magazine to pore over with a baby in my arms; there is no greater bliss.  Finally satiated, Adi chirps and squirms and reaches out to grab the colorful pages.  I’m hoping Taproot makes it back to the library in one piece.

Dinner is ready, baby is stripped down to her diaper, and the table is set.  We’re all eating split-pea soup with sourdough bread so fresh that it’s still slightly warm.  James has been experimenting with some of the whole-grain bread recipes in Tartine Book No. 3 and this new bread recipe he started making a couple weeks ago with oatmeal is fast becoming my favorite.  Even Adi, who is only slowly coming onto bread, would rather put buttered pieces in her mouth than on the floor.

Long after the adults have finished eating and in the middle of a conversation about how James doesn’t like gardening or want to have a hoard of farm animals someday and how that is fine because that way he will have energy to do the things I don’t want to do, like taxes or setting up computers or making tons of money by sitting at a desk all day solving other people’s problems, which apparently I’m fine doing as long as I don’t get paid a lot of money for it; Adi starts flinging split-pea soup across the kitchen while trying to wiggle out of her highchair seat.

Dinner is over and it’s time to wipe up the baby and clean up the spray of food that has collected on all nearby surfaces.  After James does the dishes and I put Adi in her PJs, we cuddle up in bed once more for a snuggle, some bedtime stories, and a final nurse.  On a good night, Adi falls asleep in my arms and settles down in the fetal position in her crib without a peep.  Lately, we haven’t had a lot of good nights.  Teething and ear infections have meant a lot of rocking and singing, extra nursing, and finally, when nothing else works, quiet playing in the dark while an exhausted parent lies on a futon in her room.

But tonight is a good night, and soon I’m tip-toeing away back to the living room that is also our kitchen and dining room to make myself a cup of tea and sit on the sofa to watch the sky turn dark.  From the sofa I can see four different kinds of trees with their bare branches outlined against the intensely dark blue sky.  Each tree’s branches have a different character, some branching smoothly, others with a series of crooked turns, one with large spine-covered nuts.  Looking up, I can almost imagine that we don’t live in the city surrounded by pavement and cars and not enough gardens or fields of wild flowers.

For the next couple of hours I have my time to dream and create, to read and write about all that is and all that I hope will come.  There is still the laundry to hang up, dry diapers to put away, and perhaps a bit of cooking to do for dinner tomorrow, but otherwise this time is my own.  Tonight I am reading Taproot issue 10::seed and thinking about my lost garden in California and about the pots and grow lights that provide a dispiriting replacement in our new home.

Despite my frustrations, I can’t help but be hopeful.  Nature is stirring around me with an intensity I haven’t felt in years.  The transformation from barren wasteland of snow to verdant jungle is underway and soon I will be enjoying the first asparagus and spring greens, even if I am no longer able to grow them myself.  In my container garden new life is also stirring, with pea and fava bean sprouts breaking out of the soil to stretch ever upwards.  Spring is here and it is time to rejoice.

Kathryn

 

Apartment Gardening

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Despite living in a tiny apartment with no south-facing windows, I am determined to grow and forage as much of our food as possible. Unfortunately, the most straightforward approach – having a garden plot of my own – will have to wait for an open spot in our local community gardens or for me to get up the nerve to ask my neighbors about borrowing a section of their yard.

In the mean time I have been tinkering with container gardening with varying degrees of success.  The first lesson learned was that even our southeast-facing window does not provide enough sunlight in late fall to keep sprouts alive.  Much hee-hawing later and I finally decided to supplement using a metal reflecting lampshade and a warm-spectrum CFL.  This allowed the basil, cilantro, and spinach to grow more than an inch tall, but has resulted in strangely crisp and dry leaves and the tallest basil plants I’ve ever seen (now more than two feet tall).  Part of the problem may be my lackadaisical approach to watering or possibly my insistence on not buying any special fertilizers for potted plants.  The watering I can work on, but I feel quite strongly that the whole point of growing my own food is to be self-sufficient, so I won’t be buying any soil supplement any time soon.

Now that spring is on the horizon and I have garden on the brain, I’ve finally decided to try a rather extreme approach that should solve a number of issues simultaneously.  The motivation comes from the fact that we still don’t have a good composting system worked out.  As much as I would like to have a dedicated worm bin, there just isn’t room for it in our tiny kitchen-living-dining room.  Pouring over some permaculture books from the library last week, I saw a reference to composting in place by adding veggie scraps directly to potted plants.  This is something I had tried in my California garden plot in various ways, either by putting veggie scraps on top of the soil as a sort of mulch or burying them a couple inches deep to speed up the process.  But I had never thought to try it in container gardens, mostly because one doesn’t usually have worms or much life of any kind when starting from bags of potting soil.  What I had forgotten, however, was that I had planted a bit of chives from my parents’ garden into my otherwise lifeless soil and somehow at least one worm has survived!  After burying some sweet potato peels a few days ago, a quick peak under the surface shows a couple baby worms wriggling around; I couldn’t be more excited!

IMG_7416Veggie scraps have been hidden under the soil with a light mulch layer of fallen basil leaves and (unsalted) pistachio shells.

I’m still not sure how this system will work in the long term.  Will the soil be too dense for container gardening?  Will it start to smell or provide a home for an (unwanted) ant colony?  How many containers will I need to use up all my compost as worm food?  How will it work with small seedlings compared to my basil monstrosities?  My hope is that this system will allow me to buy less potting soil to begin with and require no additional fertilizers in the future.  A tall order to be sure, but the only way to have a truly sustainable apartment garden.

Kathryn

 

Practical Knitting

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I started knitting again with the thought of making myself a pair of socks.  They would be simple, durable, soft and cozy for chilly winter hardwood floors, and when they started to get holes in the soles then I would finally explore the last frontier of mending and learn how to darn them.

It was perhaps a selfish knitting goal.  I don’t need more socks – in fact I was gifted a dozen assorted pairs at Christmas that my mom found in a drawer somewhere, barely worn.  I really don’t need more socks.

Apparently I talked so passionately about my excitement for starting on my first pair that my sister started knitting again just to make a pair of her own.  When she finally realized that I had been continually side-tracked by other knitting projects she seemed truthfully disappointed, although whether that was due to the realization that her sister was all talk or because she wanted my help figuring out how to finish the toe is anyone’s guess.

No, instead I’ve been swamped with practical knitting.  In fact, the longer I’ve been knitting again the farther I get from starting a pair of socks.

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First were the fingerless gloves, my way of easing back into knitting while learning how to read a proper pattern.  Then autumn came on in force and my ears were cold so I made a hat.  Then the baby was cold so I made her a cape.  And some leg warmers.  Then my husband’s ears were cold (he made it quite a bit longer than I did apparently), and since he walks the baby into daycare I’m sort of indebted.  By this point my excuses start getting suspicious, because next came a totally unnecessary cowl that I intended as a project to pick up quickly in spare minutes here or there, perhaps while watching the baby.  But as long as that cowl remained unfinished I just couldn’t commit to starting another more involved knitting project.  Last week I finally finished the cowl, but proceeded to cast-on a pair of speckled grey wool mittens.  Never mind that a very early spring is just around the corner, with snowdrops and crocuses peeking out all over the place.

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The more I think about my inability to knit a pair of socks, the more I see the same thing play out in other aspects of my handmade life.  Knitting requires liberating (mostly) small bits of time in the face of busy schedules, unexpected distractions, and a continual tug towards more mindless pastimes.  As such, it requires unwavering commitment if a project is to be completed in any reasonable amount of time.  The necessary will always win against the superfluous.  Generally I don’t have a problem with this and use it to my advantage on a regular basis; it keeps us in fresh sourdough bread, ensures that my one silk slip that I’ve been wearing all winter under dresses and skirts gets mended immediately, and means I always take a few minutes to water the potted plants, no matter how late at night.  Unfortunately, in this light even next year’s mittens are more crucial than a pair of socks.

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The downside to an emphasis on practicality is a preoccupation with craft as utility instead of as a way to love ourselves.  The artist in me wants nothing more than to create for the sake of creating alone.  This is what I love.  I try to inject as much artistry in the practical projects as I can, but the goal is simply not the same.  A project done for love of the process can be ripped out, changed, edited, or even dropped completely with no hard feelings because the final product was completely beside the point.

The best compromise I have found between the practical and artistic perspectives is to take away time pressure whenever possible.  I have all summer to finish knitting a pair of (practical) mittens, so starting over with a new type of yarn or with a smaller needle size in order to get the right look and feel is not a problem.

As for my hypothetical socks, once I looked at them as a way to experiment with new knitting skills instead of as yet another garment to add to my wardrobe, I finally started to get excited about them again.

Kathryn