Finding Peace

Today I want to revisit just why I call my blog Knitting in the Apocalypse.  In my very first ever post Knitting In the Apocalypse I discussed this in detail.  But I want to touch on it again briefly.  I find knitting and other artistic and creative expressions to be not only satisfying for their own sakes, but they are also very important to me as acts of self-care and healthy outlets when I am facing stresses or challenges.  The things that we all face personally are challenging to us.  These are the “small a” apocalypses, only because they impact fewer people.

But there are the larger events, the “big A” apocalypses. These are the ones that happen on a larger, sometimes global scale.

In spite of the name of this blog, I like to keep this a safe space, it is more about what I do to stay in a good, happy, and centered place and less about what issues are causing me concern.  Yes, there are large issues at play.  Yes, I feel strongly about them.  Yes, I do take action as I’m able that reflect my convictions and values.  But in the current climate I feel there is enough screaming going on, so on this blog, I just want to talk about yarn, knitting, chickens and all the good and happy things.  I want there be a place, however briefly, of calm in this spot on the web.

flower

I cannot, however, fail to acknowledge the big A events without seeming apathetic. This is not a word that describes me.

This week, like most people, I have been following the developments related to North Korea.  No matter where you fall on the Left-Right political spectrum the potential for dangerous, even disastrous outcomes here is something that will concern most reasonable people.  Hard on its heels were the events in Charlottetown ,VA.

Before I continue on about the things I am doing, the projects I have finished or begun, and share with you the pictures of my newest hand-dyed yarns I would like to say this:

Every now and then turn off the news and spend time on the things that keep you in that good place.  There are few things most of us can do that will impact the unfolding events.  However, we can build into ourselves strength and resiliency so that we can face and affect how our circle of friends and family, our communities, and cultures continue to grow and move forward.

As for me, I will make more time for making, even if the housework waits another day.  I will sit by the campfire and leave my phone inside.  I will go out and laugh at the antics of my chickens. I will read stories to my grandson.  I will discuss storyline scenarios with my son. I will talk to my daughter and share her excitement about her upcoming wedding.

I encourage you to do the same.  Need some alone time to meditate?  Need to just go out with friends and just have fun?  Need to plant something? Make something? Get lost in a book or entertaining movie?  Do it.  You will come back better able to face whatever things you still need to face.  Build your own peace and strength. It will serve you well to have it in good supply.

banner.jpg

Ok, now, enough with Apocalypse portion of this blog, on to the Knitting portion.

This week I have an FO!  For those unfamiliar with knitting (and other crafty) lingo that stands for Finished Object.  I have completed the Hitchhiker Shawl I have been making for a friend.  I still have have to weave in the ends, but there are only two, so not too painful.  I was able to use  some lovely Malabrigo Rios that I picked up at a recent sale.  It is a tonal green with subtle touches of light browns and yellows and it is just beautiful.  I had originally started it as a Christmas gift but there are a couple of problems.

One, I am not good at all about waiting to give a gift once it is completed.  I get so excited to give it I rarely wait for the event it for which it was intended.

Two, I like Christmas just fine, but Autumn (!) is my favorite time of year and since most of the things I make are hand knitted items made of wool, well, they make great Celebrate Autumn gifts.  In this way the recipient can enjoy them as soon as the weather reaches appropriate temperatures.

I have a good amount of leftover yarn and I am most likely going to knit some fingerless gloves from it.

I am still working on the pair of  Hermione’s Everyday Socks that I began this past week, but I had to pull them out and begin again.  As I was working on the cuff of the first sock it seemed a bit too big for me.  I had cast on the required number according to the pattern, but I felt they needed to be smaller.  As I looked through the pattern I didn’t see what number of stitches I could decrease and still maintain the pattern.  But serendipitously I was watching an older episode of Inside Number 23, “Orange on the Brain (39) to be exact, and she mentioned she was working on this same pattern.  Just like me she mentioned she needed to decrease the size and as she discussed how she was adjusting it I learned that sets of 4 were how I could decrease on this pattern.  So I am going to reduce my cast on stitches and begin again.

The bright side is not only do I now know this information and have added it to the printed pattern for future reference, but I’m getting quite good at the German Twisted Cast on method since I’ve had to practice is quite a bit during this process.

It seems very fitting that I am currently reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time (I know, I know. lame!).  So it seems especially enjoyable to work on a pattern related to the characters I’m reading about.

As I have made a habit of in the last few posts I will leave you with these shots of my most recent skeins of yarn coming out of my kitchen.

and my first attempt at repeating a colorway and the only one posted today with a name:

darkandtwisty
Dark and Twisty Road

Peace,

Jamye

The Need for Knit

When I started this blog last February my first post was a fairly detailed explanation of just why I call this blog  Knitting In the Apocalypse.  Please feel free to go back and read that first post.  But, put briefly, the premise is this:  We all face crises in our lifetime.  Those that are capital Apocalypse, the things that affect many people on a large scale and the lowercase apocalypse, the things that are mainly our own personal wrestlings.  I, like many people, find solace and therapeutic value in working with my hands.

In my recent interview with Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer she mentioned this very thing.  She said that she was often most productive in her knitting during times of great stress, that the very act of picking up her needles caused her heart rate to slow and her tensions begin to ease. There’s even a podcast on YouTube called Stress Knits for the same reason.  It’s a common theme.

There have been a lot of changes for me in recent years.  Moving from Asia back to America, working in fairly stressful jobs, and simply the ups and downs and frustrations of normal life.  Like Maggie, I find myself reaching my needles more often during those times of high stress.  Each and every time I do, especially during those times, it is as if I discover its benefits all over again.  I will reach the end of a day, I will find a comfortable spot, pick up one of my projects and as soon as yarn flows over my fingers and the fabric grows and moves across the needles I think to myself,  as if for the first time, “I really LOVE this!”.  It’s like magic.

Right now, there’s a feeling of lowercase apocalypse happening.  There’s nothing dire happening.  Everyone’s healthy and projects and goals I have are inching forward, often more slowly than I’d like, but forward is forward.  In fact, if there was something even smaller than a lowercase version of this, that’s where I’d be.  The only things I have to stress me are that my garden needs weeding very badly,  my chicken coop is still not built, and some unexpected car repairs came up.  Annoying to be sure, but really, really small in the grand scheme of things.

So I was a little taken aback with how stressed I was feeling.  My logic and intellect recognized the “ordinariness” of these things, but my nerves just plain didn’t care.  But then it slowly dawned on me, in dealing with all these things the amount of time I was actually spending with my knitting had decreased pretty drastically.  I am rarely without a project bag close to hand to be sure, but I just hadn’t been able to reach for it as often.

The epiphany happened during one of the times I actually did get to sit for a bit with the Taina shawl I Tainahave been working on.  As I began knitting and I had that “I REALLY love this!!” moment, as I always do, I suddenly realized just how little time I had been spending doing this.   Like anyone who requires medication to manage mental or physical health issues, I saw at once that I had gone off my meds.  I’m thinking my family realized it before I did :).  But once I did catch sight of it, I knew I needed to get back on track.

This was really good news.  It meant I had an easy, tried and true solution AND it meant some of my languishing projects were going to get the love they needed.

I currently have 3 projects on the needles.  Besides the Taina shawl I am working on my Vanilla Latte socks and a double knit square for a blanket I am making.

I would have to say that currently Taina is my favorite.  Other than having to watch carefully on the rows that create the eyelet patterns it is simple garter stitch and very relaxing to knit.  It is definitely a good go-to when you want something to help you just recenter yourself and breathe.

As I mentioned in One for the Road I like to have things that challenge me in my knitting skills.  While knitting the Vanilla Latte’ sock I have been learning to Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  This has definitely been a challenge, but I think that once I get the hang of it, it will be one of my favorite heels.  In fact, once this pair is completed I plan to make several more pairs using it to become confident in it before learning a new heel technique.  Perhaps I will try the Strong Heel since Maggie was such a fan of it.

In terms of progress I am about to close the toe on the first sock and preparing to start the heel on the second.  Since I am very close to finishing my shawl, I think this pair will get the attention it’s been lacking and will be completed very soon.

Finally, I’m working on a double knit square.  Here is where I have to be mysterious and covert.  This is for a blanket I am intending to give as a gift for someone who may or may secretnot read this post.  So I must deprive you of the details for today.  But once this blanket is finished, which will be quite awhile I’m afraid, I will post pictures and tell you about the fun and trials and travails of creating it.  I am so, so close to the end of this particular square, but I made some mistakes in the last row I completed and had to put it down and take a break before I went back to it with fresh energy to see if I can deal with them.  Because there is a knit stitch and a purl stitch for each stitch it takes a good long time to do make things in this style.  I am literally 3 rows away from completion of this square so I am dreading the thought of not being able to repair it.  I may have to call in extra help on this one.  But I have every reason to hope it can be rescued and I can look forward to beginning the next one.

Breathing and Knitting.  Knitting and Breathing.

My apocalypses shrink in size if I remember to make time for these things.

I REALLY love that.

Peace,

Jamye

P.S. Finished Object!!

tainaclosetaina

 

 

 

Just Start

You can learn a lot from chickens.

The first Saturday in April I bought my first ever flock of chickens.  We have been on a learning journey together.  In those cool early days I was a bit of a “helicopter mom”, always hovering over them, making sure they were all alive and well.

In a few weeks some friends came over and helped us build an inside pen in our Well House just a few feet from our back door.  It is large and roomy, definitely a good amount of space for my small flock of 9 growing chicks.

As much as I enjoy watching them and taking care of them, for them it was definitely NOT love at first sight.  For the most part I was the “scary monster”.  I would speak in soothing tones, handle them gently, bring them food and water.  But they all huddled as far as away from me as they could when I entered the coop.  Slowly (so it seemed to me) I evolved from the “scary monster” to the “scary monster that brings the food”.

Twice a day our routine consisted of me coming in to freshen the water and refill the food dish.  Whenever I had time I would crouch down near the food and wait quietly.  I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence and be less skittish around me.  At first they would give me the side eye (because that’s the only look a chicken can give) no doubt wishing I would go away so they could eat.  Gradually, cautiously, they would inch forward and start eating.  Any shifting movement or slight sound on my part would send them skittering away.

It wasn’t long before I began realizing their therapeutic value.  While I cannot yet enjoy the higher quality and taste of freshly laid eggs from my own backyard chickens, for me, they are already paying for themselves.  In ways I can’t explain, watching them, talking to them (yes, every time I go out 🙂 ) somehow helps to reduce the various stresses I feel.  I have begun calling them my therapy animals.

Somewhere, somehow, at some moment I didn’t recognize our relationship shifted from “scary monster/bringer of food” to “move over, human, I’m eating”.  I chuckled when I realized it.

They are of an age now where I can begin introducing them to the outside yard.  I would be willing let them simply be free range.  But we live not far from a very busy highway, on a fairly busy street, with neighborhood dogs that sometimes find their way over here.  So, an enclosure that allows them both safety and liberty was necessary.

Most people who read this blog will understand the all-too-common issues of not enough time and not enough money to do all the things we want to do.  In the the case of our chickens, that translates into our not yet having a good outdoor structure for them, although the plans are in the works.  We will be building it ourselves,  once we figure out how…we are new at this remember.

But lately they have been rushing to the coop door every time I came into the Well House.  It was as if they were saying “Can we go out today?! Pleeeeaasse!!” We knew it would be a while before we could build a proper outside coop, but I still had to find away to give them at least a taste.

To be honest, I overthink.  A lot.  I like to have EVERYthing figured out and situated before I do something.  Preparedness and excellence are fine.  But sometimes, I let it keep me from doing something, because I fear “doing it wrong”.

But in a desire to allow my flock to experience the outdoors I had to do something.  So this past weekend DH and I took the chicken wire leftover from building the inside coop, picked up a few supplies and hunted around for odds and ends in the garage, and hobbled together a small but adequate outdoor pen.  It is not ideal.  I cannot open their pen and have them walk right to it, like the permanent structure I envision will.  It is draped at one end with a tarp to provide some shade and bird netting at the other end to keep them from flying out or the hawk that sometimes frequents our back yard from making an attempt.  Because it is built on a slope we couldn’t get the chicken wire exactly flush with the ground.  This meant finding whatever materials we had at hand; cinderblocks, pieces of wood and board, to place around the spots that had gaps so they couldn’t make a break for it.  So believe me when I say, this will win no awards for design or beauty.

hobbledpen

We carried each one to the pen and placed them in.  They didn’t like this part at all, but once they were in the pen and could forage and scratch and begin to experience a life of air and sun, they seemed to think this was a big improvement.

As I sat in my chair watching them to see how they adjusted to this, they didn’t squawk indignantly at the patchwork design, or shake their heads disapprovingly.  They stretched their wings and explored and found, I know not what, as they pecked at the chickengrass.  The scene was a lovely, quiet rural scene.  In my own back yard.

My lesson from the therapy animals for that day is this:  You don’t have to have all your ducks in a  row (or a perfect chicken pen) to start.  Again with the overthinking, I can do all kinds of preparation and research to start a project or learn something new, but when it comes to the point of beginning, I hesitate.

I need to get comfortable with the idea that I WILL do things wrong!  I will also learn new and better ways as I go.  The joy of it is the learning and growing.

So, to myself and to you, dear reader, I say this:  By all means, do your due diligence as you lead up to something new, but in the end there comes a time to stop prepping and

Just Start.

Jamye

Updated shots of my studio.  Still a work in progress.  Just like me.

Knitting In the Apocalypse

Newsflash!  Knitting is a therapeutic activity.  Ok, so maybe not a newsflash, but nevertheless it is true as this article (and many others) bears out:

Health Benefits of Knitting

But the truth is, many of us instinctively knew this was true before we ever read any article or watched any report on it.  I cannot tell you the number of times that during a very stressful period of my life simply taking a break to knit just about saved my sanity.  Sometimes, because of the frustration and chaos of those times,  remembering to take those breaks would fall off the radar as I struggled to keep up with multiple things coming at me.  But the moment I picked up the needles again the tension level started subsiding.  I still had to go back and deal with the hot mess I was facing, but when I did, it was from a better, more grounded place.

Continue reading “Knitting In the Apocalypse”