Tag Archives: knitting


images-43“The problem,” says Elizabeth Gilbert, “…is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.”



But then, Neil Gaiman (a person I gush over regularly, unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, who, though okay, is given to bromides) says: “Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”

See, I like that philosophy! One of my email names is Dabble, after all. And I DO dabble – trying this, attempting that, fooling about the edges, usually bailing when I start to get good. The last part is where I get cross with myself. It’s like I doom myself to endlessly dabbling without ever seriously contending.


Sometimes it isn’t my fault (except if you believe in the psychogenic source of disease). I really HAVE developed an allergy to wool and it annoys me terribly. How’s a wool sculptor supposed to work if I’m sneezing all the time and scratching my hands? Sheesh.

But then there are all the other things I’ve tried. Like my books. Or solo road trips. Or …

Well, there are lots, and I suspect you, gentle reader, have a bundle of UFOs (Unfinished objects) as well. I have a cowl I started knitting some years ago until the numbers of mistakes I was making made me give up and put the yarn in solitary until it learned to IMG_5678behave. I’m sure by now it has developed a psychosis from too much solitary confinement and will simply tangle itself as soon as I look at it. I have three embroidery tasks on the go. I have a couple of felted animal commissions I should finish or say I can’t. And I have at least two books in the burner, waiting for some love.

Unfortunately, Gilbert is right about there not being time to do everything. Unless I become a complete hermit and stop gaily gadabouting with friends (which I enjoy tremendously) and allow my cat to pine away, I can’t possibly do everything. Plus, where do I fit the pleasures of reading, the joys of a kiss, the enlightenment of a walk on a fall morning?


As my lived life gets longer and my expected left life correspondingly shortens, I wonder, what will I leave behind? In a way, a pile of UFOs would be appropriate, as I’m sure I’ll leave before I am finished with this planet and the people it holds. But I feel I need to pick a horse and ride it.

Then the lazy one on my shoulder whispers, “You’re retired! You should just be having fun!” Alas, for me, fun involves accomplishment.

So I think I shall decide to aggressively schedule myself. Not that that has ever worked, but let’s pretend, shall we? Writing in the morning, when my brain is perky and happy to be in front of the computer, coffee to the right side for thoughtful pauses. Bendicks, my cat, has a long morning nap after breakfast, so that lets me off cat duty. Friends, crafty stuff in the afternoon and evening. With breaks for general foolishness and walkies.

And deadlines…I always do my best work with a deadline. Especially if it is a short one. Otherwise, the following might happen…deadlines-are-approaching-i-am-therefore-leaving-immediately-for-nepal-13331918

(graphics from the incomparable Ashleigh Brilliant and the genius Blackadder)

On knitting

BritGirlCatBoyDogknitI’m a terrible knitter. I’m dead slow. I regularly drop stitches  – in fact, so regularly, one could argue they could be part of the pattern, if they weren’t so varied in size.

I lose track of patterns, I forget where I am. I once knitted a hat that was shaped like a Mobius Strip and thus could never ever be worn. Or taken off the needles.

And god help me, with tremendous hubris, I made some poor soul an afghan for her wedding present – one with great holes and a distinct non-rectangularishness. Frightening. Warm, and it took me weeks and weeks to make, but…no.


my cat never plays with my yarn, so I can’t blame him for tangles…

If I were more patient, I’d learn how to fix dropped stitches, but I always lose the threads when I pull out a few to get at the missed one and so I end up pulling out the whole project and rolling it into a ball. One ball of yarn spent several months in the back of my closet, being punished for not behaving. I think there are a few half knit projects in there, too, all thinking about their respective badnesses.

So, I’ve got to ask myself, why in tarnation do I persist? How many simple scarves does one person need?

Well, there’s a few reasons I still tie bits of yarn in knots, and I think there’s something to be learned from them, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Knitting is like meditation. The repetitive actions soothe the mind, allow it to play elsewhere. You are DOING something, ergo you are not wasting time, but you are also thinking, putting your subconscious chicks in a row.
  2. It keeps me humble. Everyone CAN knit. Not everyone can knit well. (and let’s not even mention….gasp…crochet!). Every time I start a project I am reminded of how little I know compared to so many others, about how much I have to learn.
  3. It’s a survival craft. Like baking bread or tying knots or sewing, it is one of thodress06se things that I (or rather, you) can do from first principles, from spinning the raw wool to making clothing. Come the armageddon, I shall at least be able to drape myself in large squares of knitted grasses. I find this vaguely comforting, tho god knows why.
  4. It’s a sensory delight. From the cheapest acrylic to the most dainty cashmere, wools and cottons and silks and bamboos slip through my fingers, providing sensory stimulation and the inevitable need to squeeze. My knitting pals pass skeins of yarn around our communal table and we ALL SQUEEZE EVERY SKEIN. It’s always  topic of comment, from the gritty linens to the softest baby yarn. And the colours!! Such fun to play with and imagine.
  5. And that brings up the best reason to keep knitting – my knitting pals. Knitting is a terrifically democratic hobby –  you can be a yarn snob (as I confess I am – I take so long to knit things I resent spending days on a cheap yarn) or a bargain hunter. You can insist on wool, or wander into the trendy yarns. You can be bad at it, as I am, or stupendous at it, like many of my pals, and you are welcome. No one is turned away. You knit and talk and knit little relationship groups together, form friends, link to new friends, develop a community just as you knit together your scarves or sweaters or socks. It’s amazing to watch and I treasure my knitting friends, who tolerate my descent into needle felting. (You can stab things and there’s no stitches to drop!

As with most important things, it’s the people that make the hobby. And the hobby that makes the friendships. Stories are shared over knitting that wouldn’t otherwise make it to air. I am so grateful for the friendships this seemingly simple task has brought into my life.

As for the rest of you, you non-knitting types, what’s stopping you? It keeps fingers nimble, it’s good for men, women and children. Come, join in. You’ll be welcome.



Hooking my way through the year…

I’ve recently started rug-hooking. It’s the thing these days, post crewel embroidery…
I sit in my living room, decorated by the crewel panels my mother did, copying her activity, only I pull little loops through the linen with a tiny hook instead of passing a needle through.
It’s part of my fibre education – sewing, embroidery, needle felting, wet felting, knitting, now hooking. In some future time, I’ll combine all I’ve learned and make large lumpy installations to give to unsuspecting friends…mwah hah hah
In the meantime, I’m taking baby steps. Learning each skill in turn, sort of. Sampling the feeling of the different techniques, getting fingers poked and soaped and covered with bits of wool. Now I’ve entered a contest through Encompassing Designs, a corner of rug hooking paradise in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.. Every month, the shop owner and designer sends out a pattern. We hook it as we like, send in a photo. As you can see, the resulting rug will be huge. The thought terrifies me.
But the square for this month? Not so big. I can do it.
So, month by month, I’ll bite off a little chunk of the rug and work it through.
Now, if only I could take this approach to the rest of my life. Instead of looking at the whole picture and either leaping or panicking, maybe I could take it one square at a time?
Nah. Where’s the fun in that?

Knitting stories together

I’m a terrible knitter. I struggle through easy patterns, drop stitches with gay abandon, restart projects after unpicking them all the way back, and eventually end up with something approximating what I started out to do. Almost.

One of the first scarves I knit was for my son. I was knitting while I was distracted by the television and the centre part of the scarf ended up widening and widening. I eventually caught myself and started dropping stitches and shrinking it back. My son graciously says that it’s perfect as it is because he can put the wide bit up over his nose if he needs it in the cold.

The point of all this knitting talk is that knitting is a lot like writing. You start out with a pattern, it may or may not work out the first few times, you have to unpick and start over, rerolling the yarn into a ball, trying not to tangle the threads. Then you start bravely again, maybe with new needles or a simpler approach, gradually working toward the ending of the piece, which may or may not look like what you wanted it to be.

My mother-in-law knitted wonderful things for my kids, but she’d send them to me wrapped up with a note that the yarn she’d used was made of “100% unknown fibres” and she didn’t know what would happen when I washed the items. I remember thinking that if I was going to spend time knitting, I’d want to knit with good yarn, so that it would feel nice on the needles, and so that the final product had half a chance of looking pleasant.

Now, when writing, I try to use the right words, struggle to get the metaphors bright and meaningful, use phrases carefully to try to create beauty. As with knitting, I’m not good at following a pattern – I prefer to make things up as I go.

Sometimes, it’s all a mess and I have to give it up and start over. Sometimes I tuck it away and pretend it never happened. But gradually, with practice, I am creating things that are worth showing to other people, giving away, even if imperfect.IMG_3911