Today I was so closed to finishing up a hat I was knitting for my son. He had chosen the colors and was very excited about the combination. And yet, it just wasn’t right – it was uncomfortably tight, and the pattern didn’t work out the way we had expected. I had a quick (silent) convo with myself about whether it was about perfectionism, or just being honest with myself. And he was trying to be really aware of my feelings and he didn’t want to tell me he didn’t like it… but after we both danced around it for a while, I declared that if he didn’t love it, then what was the point. And we pulled out the stitches together, and I cast on again.
I haven’t knit in ages, but I had some car time this weekend so it was fun to get back into knitting (and road trip knitting is the best kind of knitting), but I feel happy to make something he loves. And I feel happy to make something I love. I have spent so much time knitting and sewing things to justify impulse purchases – “I need to make a hat out of this yellow yarn,” because I liked the way it looked on the shelf.
And then in ended up wearing things I hated to justify the knitting that I had done to justify the impulse purchase. So, in the last few years I have made big shifts – stopped buying yarn unless it had a very specific plan, and buy good yarn that I couldn’t wait to start knitting. I often cast in for my gauge swatch within hours of my yarn purchase. Now I spend way less on yarn now, and I only have materials i love.
I have been stitching stars while we are home for isolation. They are an easy formula for me — I have a mental map of the star in my head, and I can chose a variable or two, but they don’t take a surge of mental energy to begin. I can gather a few squares, chose a color or two, and then begin, usually without a plan for the full color arrangement. I check in about half way to see what it needs, or there is a nagging thought while I work, and usually it takes a day for me to accept this idea — rainbows, black and white tiling… I reject and tell the star “That is too hard. Please don’t make me do that.” But soon it feels necessary and I release myself to the time it will take to stitch.
For the last month I have been only able to stitch stars because they are my comfort. Some nights, after the kids are asleep, I sit in my stitching chair and I just hold my star-in-progress, and I can’t seem to focus enough to actually stitch anything. I usually end up twitching and touching my phone and losing my scissors endlessly. Some days I drag my brain through reading lessons with the kids while I try to stitch a starpoint without them noticing (not likely). I have lost some stars on my desk or in my paper piles (I usually lose them in my purse, but that isn’t happening these days), so this isn’t the full collection. I’ll find them as I look for other things that I have lost, and maybe then I will hang them on my wall so I can look at them and feel their steadiness.
For over 6 months, every knitting project I started fizzled out into a mess. Some were frogged (pulled out), some are still in a bag, pretending like they might behave someday. I just needed something lovely and easy and being spoon-fed was a bonus. I needed success. This kit caught my eye and I was smitten.
And once I started this cowl, I couldn’t stop! I listened to Red, White, & Royal Blue on audiobook and knit until it was done – it only took about 3 days of stolen moments, a very successful play date, and some late nights. I have already cast on for a second!
I started a knitting project yesterday, and I have had such a knitting slump this past year that every time I start a successful project I feel this deep relief to have knitting in my hands again (there have been many unsuccessful projects – wrong yarn, fabric didn’t feel right…). It’s like it releases my brain from duty and it is free to wander the hills and dales.
My thoughts wander a lot – I have always been a daydreamer, but now that is joined by reflection – and this is the way I can keep my hands busy but let my thoughts go. In truth, my thoughts wander all the time, but that means it takes me longer to accomplish household tasks or whatever it is on my list today. So, knitting feels like a relief because it is complete permission for my mind to wander and my body to be still.
I have been staring out the window, seeing nothing but brown, brown, brown. Its winter and there is no snow. The sky can be a soaring blue, but it can all be a dismal gray that sits right on top of the trees and pushes down slightly.
I am embarrassed how long it took me to really see that cardinals. I mean, we greet them every day, and it’s so fun to spot the cardinal in the spruce tree — a plugged-in, glowing red hidden in a mass of droopy matte green. It always makes the heart beat a little faster.
But how long did I stare at photos of tropical birds, or sketch birds at the zoo? How did I miss the bird on my feeder, sorting through the seeds until it found the right ones?
Once I stitched him onto the cloth, my needle slowed to a stop. I couldn’t think of anything to stitch next — I could only see the cardinal. I will let him sit and get comfortable for a while, and see if anything else comes wandering by.
Jim came home from a conference in Seville, Spain, and his stories & pictures got me thinking about historic urban spaces. The way that buildings were built first, and the space that was left over became the public space — the buildings defined the pathways between them. Cities that established a grid grew by defining the streets first — where the carriages, and then cars, would belong. The roadways defined the buildings between them.
I started stitching these little maps — a variation on my treasure maps — and also a throwback to my architecture classes in college. I got lost once I stitched some building footprints… what happens outside those buildings? What happens in the public space? These pieces are only asking questions right now, no answers yet.
I am thinking especially of a visit to Venice with my friend Julia in 2000. The pathways are so fascinating to wander – I could turn left and find a dead end, and I could turn right and find a tiny piazza with a cafe and a fountain.
And I had to revisit a favorite book: Courtyards by John S. Reynolds, because I had some of his drawings on my mind. And now I am left to wonder…