A Tangled Life

A Tangled Life

child-562297__180 When I was a little girl I loved reading the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think that is where it actually began. She described the rag doll that Ma made her for Christmas in The Little House in the Big Woods. I’m pretty sure she had knitted garters and stockings.

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Sewing, cooking and knitting occurred in various degrees in all the books. My mother taught me to sew and cook. I wanted to learn to knit and crochet like a well-rounded Victorian little girl. My mother didn’t know how to work with yarn. She tried to get me in a class at the local yarn purveyor, but they didn’t want to teach a child. I eventually got in a class at the local creative arts center.

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You wouldn’t expect it to become that important, but in a way my life has been a steady stream of yarn knitted into a whole.

I’m not sure I remember everything that I have knit. I was taught to knit a rectangle that was made into a simple slipper. One was so badly done as to be unwearable.

Somewhere in that second slipper my fingers learned the process. It quickly worked it’s was into muscle memory and my hands know how to knit and pearl without looking, or even much thinking about what I am doing.

Knitting has become ingrained into me.

I find knitting very relaxing. Some people talk about running and reaching a state of peace and pleasure from the experience. I think they call it a, “runners high.” For me that is the feel of the yarn flowing through my hand and the twists and turns of my hands.

The extra blessing of knitting is that useful garments ooze out of the process. I bore easily, so I always knit something new each time. One year I made all my friends mufflers for Christmas. I began in June. The interesting part is that each scarf was different. A different pattern and new type of yarn. It was a fun way to experiment with novelty yarns.

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When I don’t have a project on my needles I feel like something is missing. Honestly, I find myself looking at my knitting basket, then remembering I don’t have anything to knit, and feeling empty.

I knit continental. The fact that I always have the working yarn running toward the needles makes me a fast knitter. My fingers start to fly as soon as I start to learn the pattern. Being a fast knitter means that I run out of projects ready too quickly.

I just knit a new fall hat last month. I bought two balls of a merino-silk worsted weight blend. I knew I probably needed only one ball, but it would be close and I buy most of my yarn mail-order. Now I have a finished hat and a second untouched ball. I thought about mitts and looked through my patterns, but nothing really spoke to me. I already have a matching caplet I knit a few years ago.

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The merino-silk blend has a wonderful feel as it slide through my fingers. I think it is the feel of the yarn that I find most pleasurable in knitting. I don’t like knitting rough or synthetic yarn. Wool is my favorite due to it’s stretch. Fighting my yarn is not enjoyable.

The absolute most important feature of yarn is the idea of one long continuous piece of fiber. The concept represented in knitting is the best characteristic. If there were no other reason to knit I would knit to remind myself that it can all be unraveled.

No matter how tangled, confused, unworkable the piece becomes it can always be fixed.

Because it is one long, uncut piece of yarn it can be “unknit.” If it tangles it can be untangled.

Life can feel too much like a messy piece of knitted work.

There are moments when you think that you cannot go on. It can never be made right. Life leaves scars. Knitting does not. Knitting can be undone and remade exactly right.

As a recovering perfectionist I do not remove all my mistakes.

Unless it will alter the usability of the item, or leave a hole, I leave my mistakes in and simply correct the row in which I found the error.

In quilting there is a concept of the “humility block” where if the piece would otherwise be prefect they add a mistake to remember that we are only human. I regard the slight imperfections in my work as signs of the fact that while I am flawed I am made and loved by a perfect God.

Nothing can happen to me that God cannot help me to redeem. In Romans 8:28, St. Paul reminds us that, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” In my tangles I feel confident in my ability as a knitter of many years experience that I can repair the problem and move on.

Both the repair and the moving on are important parts of the crisis redemption. In life the same process must be undertaken.

Sometimes I must unknit in order to create something new. Always I need to undertake the process of remaking in light of the pattern. What was the purpose in the first place? Look at the big picture. What does the finished garment look like? How can you get back to the appropriate pattern?

I have never had anyone else able to find my corrections when the garment is finished. Even the worst mistakes can be worked out with a ball of yarn. It can be twisted and pulled into an amazing array of items. The longer you work at it the easier it becomes to unravel mistakes.

The more time we spend in Bible study and prayer the better we understand how to unravel life. It is one, long story. We are just a strand in a magnificent whole. Sometimes what looks like a mistake turns out to be a new stitch. Those of us who think ourselves particularly flawed are just the ones adding “texture” to the fabric of life. It all come out in the end. Fix the problem and move on. And On…

What should I knit next? Do any of you readers have suggestions for something that could be made with one skein and might be of some use with a hat?

Today I am linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Soul. What encourages you to keep going when things are rough? How can you use that experience to encourage others to hold on to Jesus when life unravels? Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250

<a href=”http://holleygerth.com&#8221; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://holleygerth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Holley-Gerth-Button-250×250.jpg”></a&gt;

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather

imageSweaters, Merriam-Webster lists them as knitted or crochets garments.

The first use of the term comes from the 15th century. That is about the time that knitting first began. Prior to this if you needed some extra warmth you were dependent upon a cape or shawl.

With the development of knitting it first became possible to have a garment that had some stretch. Trying to move your arms and shoulders freely was difficult unless you wore a loose-fitting garment. Conversely, loose-fitting clothing for warmth, like a cape, allows quite a bit of air flow up into the garment decreasing its ability to keep you warm.

In the 21st century we have threads that have stretch and we love materials that have fibers like Lycra and spandex woven into them.

We have the advantage of being able to keep warm and comfortable without considering how for centuries those were mutually exclusive objectives.

When they first came on the scene a sweater was a marvel of new technology.

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Today a sweater is a symbol of coziness. It resonates as comforting.

Sweaters can be works of art or works of love when they are hand knit. Or they may be called, “ugly” when they are mass-produced gaudy.

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The sweater depends upon who made or purchased it and how they fit the wearer. It is easy to take a sweater for granted. Most of us have drawers full of cardigans and pull-overs with which we keep ourselves warm and comfortable.

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If you are a knitter you know they extent of the labor involved in making a sweater. It does not consist simply in the sheer quantity of the thousands of stitches, but also in the complications involved in shaping the piece to fit the body.

Let it be sufficient for me to say that if you ever happen to be the recipient of a hand-knit sweater you are extraordinarily loved.

imageA completed sweater no matter how poorly made is a masterpiece of hope, plan, labor and hopefully skill.

To knitters who wish to attempt this Everest of knitting, tell the recipient, make sure they like the design and take repeated measurements and fittings throughout the process.

To attempt a surprise is tempting fate and will like result in a complete waste of your time and considerable money.
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A well-made hand-knit sweater will fit the recipient exactly. Unlike ready to wear it is a personal  garment.

Treasure the sweater for the love that it represents, even if you hide the offending item when the maker is not around.

Rest

Rest

This is post number eleven On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.

One of the discussion questions for this chapter is, “Do you have trouble with rest?” I have perhaps misquoted this slightly in my perennial flurry. I would go back and double-check to ensure that I have the quote verbatim, but I am deliberately leaving it as is since I think it speaks to my underlying difficulty with the concept of rest. If this is not the precise wording of the question, this is the question that I need to find the answer for.

Yes, I have a problem with rest.

I am not referring to my insomnia. I have trouble taking restorative rest because I become sick and am unable to work so often. The truth is supposed to release you, but it looks ugly to me. All my life I have battled chronic illness, so I am always playing catch up. In theory I take breaks. I take plenty of breaks. Being too weak to hold your head up or in extreme pain is not restful, however. As I studied this chapter and read the other posts I was convicted in the strongest possible way. I rarely have time for restorative rest. Honestly, I don’t imagine that any significant change can be made to this scenario. The demands of family alone leave me depleted. I imagine that many moms of young children experience the same challenges no matter how robust their health. Doubtless many others find the same difficulties for a variety of reasons.

  • What comes between you and restorative breaks?
  • What techniques do you employ to keep your creative energy flowing?

What I can change is my attitude and my planning. I had not thought of allowing restorative respite of non-verbal periods in the writing schedule. This I shall attempt in the future. Even brief stops may be useful, and brief stops I can allow myself.

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I love to knit. I find it very relaxing and I can knit when I am too sick to do anything else. Unless I am knitting a complex pattern I find plenty of parts in knitting that I can do while lying down, with my eyes closed. I frequently reserve it for when I am unable to accomplish something more productive. Knitting sometimes contains parts where I do need to check a pattern periodically. My knitting basket happens to hang just beside the chaise where I do my writing. Inspiration is leading me to think that 15 minutes of knitting scheduled every 2 hours of writing might be a good idea. Tiny knitting breaks might give my brain useful reflect periods.

  • Does this sound silly?
  • Would it be wasteful to use precious fully functioning writing time on something as frivolous as knitting?
Knitting Your Life

Knitting Your Life

I was on an emotional “high” after the If:Gathering. I feel as though I fell off a cliff. Someone important in my life pushed me off when I wasn’t prepared. I have always been a “Miss fix-it.” Not that I am that good with power tools, although I am learning. No, I have always tried to fix other people’s’ problems. That sounds foolish. When I write it down I feel foolish, but it is the truth. I think I learned to be a person who fixes problems for the people I care about because my mother taught me. She was an amazing mother. She loved so deeply and cared about everyone. She modeled Christian discipleship so beautifully. She was human, though, and in hindsight I realize she tended to fix problems that were brought to her. If you couldn’t fix your problem yourself, you took it to my mother and she did her best to fix it for you. Some problems must be fixed or borne by the bearer. Some people in my life never learned to do this.

After my mother died her “responsibilities” were unconsciously divided up by the family. I become the “fixer.” I love to knit. It releases endorphins and makes me feel good to knit. I work out my problems on yarn. I untangle and rewind if the yarn has a tendency knot. I make center-pull balls to knit with. I learned to use a wooden spoon in place of a nostepinne and if you are a yarn person and want to know more just look it up on YouTube and you can make them also.

Some skeins make many tangles
Some skeins make many tangles

To work out the insensitive remarks that knocked me off the cliff I bought a skein of yarn and decided to take time for spiritual whitespace to knit. As I faced tangle after tangle my frustration grew and after cutting knots out of the yarn (something I never do, I patiently untangle) I recognized that I need to cut the thoughts of the hurtful remarks out of my life. This person has told me in the past that they cannot filter their words and simply say everything they think. I was instructed to let the hurtful words, “Go in one ear and out the other.”

The difficulty is that my thoughts are like a skein of yarn. I don’t have a setting for ignoring some of what someone says to me. I don’t know what statements reflect their real intentions and when they are just venting. I feel like I am trying to knit with a lot of loose ends. How do I weave this person into my life if I must keep cutting out the statements that cut me deeply? I am dealing with an important person who is hurting. They are begging me to fix problems for them. They are desperate for help,but other than to demand that I drop everything to help them, they don’t know what to do. My suggestions of ways to work on the problems themselves falls on deaf ears. How do you stop acting like the “fixer” when adults are trained to come to you with all their challenges?

In a recent post Amber Haines wrote for (in)Courage about being in her words a “burden bearer.” This resonated deeply for me. This morning fighting with my skein of yarn, with time I do not have to spare, I recognized this in myself. Life really is like yarn. We do not know exactly what the finished project will look like at the end, but we usually have a pattern and an idea. We can change our mind, unknit, unravel, and alter our fiber, but the fun is in the journey. We are creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art. We need Gods’ help to do our best and we never quit learning, but the feel of the fiber through our fingers both soothes and invigorates. We are incomplete, but beautiful. We are knitting with our lives, His handiwork. God is the spinner who put just the right amount of twist in our yarn to create what He wants from us. No one has the same tension, we don’t even use the same technique,but all of us are works of art spun by His loving hand.

I cannot knit anther persons’ life for them. I can sometimes help them unravel, but usually an extra pair of hands is in the way. I need to learn to get my hand off others yarn and work on my own. I am in a period of winding an uncooperative skein into a useful ball of yarn. If I continually drop my own nostepinne and try to unravel others’ work none of us will make progress. Wind, Amy, just wind your own yarn!