Monday Musings

Zen and the art of crafting

I flagrantly paraphrased the title of a wonderful book.  But I love the title of this post, and think I may unpack this over several posts.  (holla back to my yarn wall!!)
Today was a Monday.  Let me tell you, it was MONDAY.  It started off literally with me having to send an “All the best” email.  For those of you who don’t work with me, that’s how I say “FU” in a professional email.  Everyone I know in any sort of customer service gig has a phrase like that, like “Have a nice weekend”, or “Enjoy your day”.  How are we to deal with these days? Well, I craft.
“Zen is the “spirit of the valley,” not the mountaintop.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
…And so it is with me.  Crafting has been there for me in my valleys.  My very first yoga instructor explained how yoga/meditation can create some space around ourselves.  A mental moat, if you will.  That moat gives you space to respond to, rather than react to people and situations.  Many articles have been written about the difference between the two, and how important that difference is.  Reacting is sending the email that says “had you read the previous email, jerkwad…”  Responding is “all the best”.  Actually, responding is probably “I’m sorry you feel that way”.  “All the best” lives somewhere in the middle.  This is a journey, Dear Reader, I’m not there yet.
Even before I understood what meditation was about, I think I was meditating while crafting.  As I form a stitch, or spin a length, or any of the myriad tasks I complete on my way to my finished project, it is almost as if I enter an altered state.  While I engage one part of my brain to do my craft, another part is processing complex thoughts and feelings.  More articles talk about what meditation can be.  I have taken from my research* that anything done mindfully can be a form of meditation.
I find it difficult to do traditional meditation.  I know I’m supposed to let the thoughts pass through, but I seem to pick at them.  When all I’m tasked with is paying attention to my breathing, I get bored.  It’s not good to admit.  But, Dear Reader, if I don’t admit to the two (ha!) shortcomings I have, you’ll never think I can relate to you.  When I am crafting, though, I don’t seem to need to to pick at the thoughts.  They can come and go.  I can pay attention to them, or not.  That little bit of attention to what my hands are doing is all it takes for me to enter into the appropriate head space.
Not every project is a good Zen candidate, though.  You need something that you can “zone out” doing.  That thing depends on your familiarity with the craft in question.  It also depends on what you need out of the project. Something that is technical for you may not give the “Zen” experience. In fact, there have been many times in my crafting where I’ve needed to meditate to deal with what I’m trying to craft!  Crafting to solve my crafting problems! It’s crazy!!!!  (We’ll talk later about what those more complicated projects can do for you mentally)
Granted, crafts don’t start out as being calming or soothing.  I remember directly after teaching DeAnna to knit, her telling me I was crazy for thinking she’d ever find knitting relaxing.  Well, no, not while you are learning.  But it wasn’t even a couple of months later that she related a story about being irritated with her 70 kids (there are actually *only* five), and one of them brought her her knitting bag because he thought she needed the stress release.  She has many stories of using knitting as a stress relief (which is what meditation is supposed to do, right?).  The point is not to take up crafting in the hopes that you will suddenly find Nirvana.  Unless you hid “Nevermind” in the bottom of your craft basket.
If, however, you have already taken up a craft, see if maybe you can use it as meditation.  Is there something repetitive that you do in this craft that needs you to pay just a little attention? I, personally, have many projects going at the same time.  Each has a purpose, and one purpose could be meditation.  Even if you don’t have an entire project for this purpose, you may find that within a project, there is a step you dread because it’s mind numbingly boring.  Instead of looking at it as boring, does it help to use it to see if you can turn it into meditation? (I’m looking at you miles and miles of stockinette stitch in the body of a sweater–and don’t think I don’t see you quilt binding that needs to be hand stitched…)
Crafting has the added benefit of being “useful”.  It gives us an “excuse”.  While we can discuss the reasons why it’s BS that we need excuses, the fact remains that excuses make things easier.  You don’t have to explain you don’t want to talk to anyone today because you sent five “all the best” emails.  You are crafting.  You don’t have to react to your family member’s questionable political view, because look, that stitch just dropped. Hunh, where did that go?  And those days you just can’t even? For literally no reason other than it’s Thursday? Well, you’re being productive.  And you didn’t have time to shower because you had this project you needed to finish.  It’s not depression (unless it is, and if it is, get help for that shit, you are neither Superman, nor Wonder Woman)
That’s not to say that those who are close to you won’t know.  But just as it’s easier for you not to have that argument, it’s easier for them as well to not have that argument.  You don’t have to explain you need to decompress.  You don’t have to explain that yes, you are just sitting there doing nothing, but that in itself is doing something.  You are making Things.  And if secretly, you are building a moat so that you don’t scoop out their eyeballs with a spoon to feed to feral dogs, well, we can let that be our secret (that was oddly specific–unless you live in my head–in which case, it was just specific).
The featured photo is a gift for Barb.  It was Zen crafting at its finest!!  I spun the yarn, and was able to be soothed by that.  And then, the pattern was simple enough and repetitive enough that I was able to be soothed by the making of the scarf as well!
*there are no sources cited.  This is a blog, not a dissertation.  Use Google, like I had to!
Monday Musings

The life of a Hat

I craft in public. Lately, it’s been knitting…so this story is another knitting story.  I promise I do other crafts, it’s just knitting is uber portable for me.

Often, I’ve been told by strangers some variation of “I don’t have the patience to knit”.  My response is always the same…I don’t have the patience NOT to knit.

I DO NOT have patience.  I can’t stand waiting.  My time is valuable, dammit!!  However, since beginning crafting, and taking my crafting with me, I’ve been much more chill about having to wait in lines, or waiting rooms.  I just make sure I have something portable with me.  Take this hat, for example.

The life of the hat often begins on the yarn walls.  I’m going to re-use some photos from before to show you.  20180108_083103Here you see where it all begins…the Yarn Wall.  In the corner, is the Fun Fur.  If you look really closely at the photo of the Yarn Wall in the previous post, you will see the yarn in the very lower left hand corner.

The body of the hat actually was in the music room, but was hidden underneath a failed weaving project. See, underneath that cloth is the yarn I used.

20180113_142814 I know I can do hats pretty much anywhere, so I had decided to make a new hat be my new carry along project.  I wanted to try something different.  And I was inspired not only by my yarn wall, but also by talking about my yarn wall.  I wondered if maybe I could use the Fun Fur to make the hat look like it had a fur trim??

20180111_203205.jpgI tried a couple times to cast on.  Oh, yeah, this is why I don’t care for Fun Fur.  It’s not really all that fun to work with. So here I am at a bored board meeting.  I’m being unnecessarily snarky.  Strangers may think I craft because I’m not paying attention.  The opposite is true.  I actually am better able to focus when crafting.  I will discuss that in another post.  This is actually the second attempt at casting on.  I didn’t like the look and feel of the first time.  20180112_212808.jpg

Here I am knitting in a bar.  Poopie and I were at a friend’s birthday party last weekend.  Those ladies in the background were not part of the group.  Hat knitting is wonderful for bars.  It is small, and I can knit the hat in the dark.  Thank all that is holy, because the stupid Fun Fur makes it impossible to see your stitches anyway.

20180113_212025.jpgAnd here it is the next night at a concert at local venue. I have, apparently, a reputation for knitting at concerts.  There will often be chairs set aside for me at house shows so I can sit in my corner and knit while listening to live music.

I actually took several more pictures over the week, but my phone ate them before I uploaded them to WordPress…so, my lesson for this post is…save your pictures right away.  This hat came with me to stand in line outside of the Old Church in Portland  for a general admission show on Tuesday.  It also came with me to a City Committee meeting on Thursday.  My knitting is also commented upon (I’ll assume positively) as I perform my civic duties. 20180120_111958.jpg

Remember folks, you need to be involved.  If you don’t like how things are going, get involved and change them.  If you like how things are going, get involved to keep them going that way.

OK, off my soapbox, and back to my hat.  The final trip the hat made with me was to the mountains for a snow weekend.

Here we see me close to getting it off my needles.  You will see that while on a snow weekend in a cabin, and playing a tabletop game, I am finding time for knitting.

Turns out, the hat ended up very much as I had hoped.  The Faux Fur look worked out, and it adds a stylish touch to an otherwise “boring” beanie.  I’m not at all certain it was worth it,  but I had the yarn, and was able to experiment.  I, personally, wouldn’t buy Fun Fur, even for this, but since I had it, I’m glad I found a use for it.

While I have mentioned lessons and have jumped on my soapbox, the true lesson of this hat and post is that you can find time for crafting.  I’ll be talking a lot about how crafting benefits me, and what I get out of it (besides the things I make).  But, this is how I do it.  Just one stitch at a time.  Wherever and whenever I can, I make just one stitch.  And then, the next time, I make another stitch.  Each stitch is so tiny, it seems inconsequential, but put them all together, and you have a nice, warm, hat.

 

 

 

Monday Musings

Yarn Wall

I’ve shared with you, Dear Reader, the beginning steps of my crafting journey. Being a journey, there are many steps along the way.  There are also supplies needed.  While I do not limit myself to yarn.  I have a passing acquaintance with yarn *snigger*

Speaking of yarn, do you see the header? That’s a slice of my original yarn wall. The above photo is a larger view of the wall.   I don’t honestly remember where I stole the idea from, but when Thing 1 moved out, I got my craft room back.  WooHoo!! I took large pieces of pegboard, had O spray paint them, and hung them on the wall.  While the local big box hardware stores had the pegs in stock, the costs were pretty high for something I wasn’t going to see anyway.  I was able to find them much more cost effectively online.  Since I am a six year old at heart, I am all about the instant gratification.  I did buy a package locally to get started and tide me over.  But, since I’m disgustingly responsible, most of the pegs were computer generated.  I opened up bins, and spent a weekend putting yarn on my wall.  It’s adorable–Poopie tells people I have 10% of my yarn up on that wall.  Sure, 10%, that’s a number.

However, my craft room was overrun by *dun dun duuuuuuuun* guitars.   And pedals.  Lots and lots of pedals.

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LOTS AND LOTS OF PEDALS

While I may have been pulling yarn out of secret stashes, Poopie was pulling out guitars…dafuq?  And my craft room was less *my* room, and back to not my room.  But, Poopie loved how the yarn wall made the acoustics in that room work for playing and recording. So when Thing 2 moved out, and he moved all his crap out of *my* crap craft room, he said I could have a yarn wall in there, as well.  He even hung it himself. So now, I have two yarn walls!! I think Poopie may still be telling people it’s 10% of my yarn.  I’m still letting him.

 

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Acoustically useful yarn wall.

What my yarn wall has done has been to give new life to my yarn. Before, it was in tubs.  I really didn’t know what I had. Plus, I’m basically lazy, and trying to find something, even if I know I have it, just sounds like a lot of work when all I want to do is craft!!!  Now, the yarn is up on the wall, visible.  So, it’s pretty before I’ve even turned into something.  Even yarn I will never use, that I bought “on sale”, or was given to me is pretty.  I also have less of a tendency to only know about 5 of my 6 balls of yarn, so I can better plan my projects.  I have been doing a much better job of using what I already have, and choosing projects to match my yarn rather than the other way around.  Which means I have been purchasing a lot less yarn.  And yarn that no longer speaks to me gets to find new homes which will be better at loving it.

Granted, I still buy sock yarn every time it goes on sale, but that’s for another blog.  “Staples” yarn (cotton, sock, and baby yarn) live in the music room since I don’t generally get to go in there to get inspiration.  Other yarns live in my craft room, where I can make plans for it. (insert diabolical laughter here)

Notice what you don’t see up on these walls? My Red Heart.  I haven’t taken my Red Heart out to breath.  It’s still languishing away in obscurity.

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neglected Red Heart

Yes, you do see a motorcycle wheel to the left.  My Red Heart is still in the garage.  I used to have tubs of yarn I got from an estate sale on my back porch in addition to what lives in the garage (and other secret locations).  The porch yarn moved to the craft room wall when I got the music room yarn wall.  But not my poor Red Heart.  The porch yarn was pretty obviously not where it should be, and the tubs were getting brittle because of the elements, so that took precedence. 

I want to be clear, I’m not ashamed of my Red Heart.  I just know that it is sturdy and can handle being in it’s vacuum sealed bag (see, I am protecting it).  The other stuff, though, it needed to be unpacked.  I needed to go through it and see what I could use, and what I no longer had a use for. I *know* my Red Heart.

All in all, I am very happy I’ve unpacked my yarn.  Don’t tell Poopie, but there is still a lot left to unpack.

So, the lesson of the yarn wall is to unpack your shit.  You don’t know what you’ve got if you don’t examine it.  Find out what you’ve been overlooking.  Find out what no longer works for you.  And remember, just because it’s not for you, doesn’t mean that someone else can’t love it. Unpacking your shit can be painful and time consuming, but it is worth it.  And don’t beat yourself up if you can only take it in small doses.

Monday Musings

And so it begins…

OK…I’m starting my first blog post.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  When have I ever let that stop me? OK…often.  I’m human.  But, I’ve been inspired.

There have been a lot of little and not so little things that have prompted me to make this (for me) giant leap.  I miss writing.  I used to write short stories, poems, and who knows what else.  However, one of the “drawbacks” with being surrounded by incredibly talented people is that I end up comparing myself to them, and find myself coming up short.  So, I let it slip by the wayside.  Now, I *could* journal.  But I am so weird about that, I get to thinking that I must do it daily, or I must do it a certain way, or…. Yeah, like I said, weird.  Somehow, I never got into letter writing.  Plus, many of these posts would be super weird to be received as a letter.  I can imagine Margot’s phone call now.  She would be all worried that I’d suffered a stroke, or something.  That’s not actually true.  She would be super happy to receive even the most rambling of correspondence.

Some good friends have a project starting, and they asked for some help.  But, for reasons unimportant to this endeavor, I need to have a blog, or a podcast.  Since I sound weird recorded, and DO NOT need the TV 10 lbs (not to mention my technical skills, time, and capacity for terror are not sufficient), I am blogging.  I was already kind of kicking around the idea of a blog, but wasn’t really sure if I’d have anything to say.  It probably would have stayed just an idea except I was asked for help.  I’m still working on saying no to people.  I’m getting better.  According to the people I’ve said no to, I’m too good.  I still think I have some ways to go on that, though.

I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning.  At nine, I learned to crochet from my Aunt Char.  My first project was a potholder.  It’s a super simple pattern, and great for beginners.  However, my tension was all over the place.  I’m not sure where you, Dear Reader, are in the crafting spectrum, so if I over-explain, I apologize.  Tension is how tight or loose you work the yarn.  Uneven tension creates uneven fabric. In my case, the potholder was not the flat, double-layer fabric it was intended to be.  Rather, it laid flat on one side, and the other side had a mound…like a bubble rising from inside.  My dad made fun of it. I cried.  My mom said (not for the first, nor last time)  “Don’t worry, honey.  We’ll take it to Grandma Bonnie.”

The next time we went to visit my grandma, we took my deformed, red variegated Red Heart monstrosity to her.  I reluctantly passed over the potholder, and she was so excited. She told me how the bubble actually made the potholder fit better in her hand.  Even at nine, I knew she was lying to me to make me feel better.  It was hideous, and should be burned–except it was Red Heart, it would just melt.  Except….

Except, she kept that stupid potholder until literally the day she died.  And she used that potholder.  She didn’t keep it to pacify her distraught granddaughter, she kept it to use it.  And use it she did.  When she died, that thing was frankly gross…and not from my handiwork.  It was like the Velveteen Rabbit.  Nothing had worn off of it–did I mention it was Red Heart? and not the cool stuff we have now.  The nasty stuff from 30 years ago.  It was stained and melted, and just really unusable for anything.  My grandma wasn’t lying to me.  She wasn’t trying to make the best of a bad situation.  She just really thought it was cool that the potholder conformed to her hand.

I’d love to say I learned from that something profound, like “even in flaws, perfection can be found”.  I was nine.  I learned nothing.  But, clearly, the experience stayed with me.  And I built upon it.  Just like anything else.

I know this post doesn’t have pictures.  I’m learning as I go, and I wanted to get a post out so I could see how it works.  Also, I have no pictures of the potholder.  Who takes pictures of potholders? Remember, when I was nine, digital cameras were not even thought of.  And if my dad laughed at the potholder, he would have been furious over wasting film and processing on it.  Even by the time grandma passed, digital photography was just beginning.  We ended up throwing out the potholder.  I’ll try to do better on future posts.

Huh, WordPress says this is over 700 words already.  See, I do have lots to say!  Not sure how much is interesting to you, Dear Reader, but this felt cathartic to me.