Thanks for joining me! (You can also find me on Instagram as waterwomanknits for mostly nature and knitting).
The products of science and technology may be new, and some of them are quite horrid, but knitting? In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep. — Elizabeth Zimmerman
My intention is to explore where the practice of knitting daily intersects with healing and have a space to share the endless learning curve of the craft. My aim is to focus on a single work in progress, finished object or knitting topic query per post.
Random topic list for exploration:
process vs. product
sheep breed exploration
choosing patterns to make
knitting as meditation
beneficial properties of wool
sustainable wool sources
climate change and sheep
a maker’s life
knitting and mental health
knitting books, resources
gifted and charity knitting
creating as a life force
why wear handmade when you can go to Target/Walmart/mass production store and buy ten machine made for the price of one?
knitting and worldwide community
knitting cultural heritage
knitting as precursor to computer technology
women shepherds (desses)
cleaning, spinning, dying wool
teaching knitting to beginners
Temporarily, I have transferred posts from a prior 7-year blog that contains anything about knitting into this space, but I will be streamlining and editing those over time.
Knitting is code. It’s a thousands years old human craft transforming fiber into fabric. Some of my earliest childhood memories are dreaming in code and texture…I know, I’m an odd duck. A while back, I learned textile mills used punch cards to determine shapes of fabric by 1800, long before our first computers used punch cards. Check out the Jacquard loom.
Observing loom punch cards was essential for Ada Lovelace‘s understanding to create the first computer program, solving for Bernoulli numbers and having a programming language named after her, I believe used by air-traffic control even today.
It all comes down to three factors: the “bendiness” of the yarn, the length of the yarn, and how many crossing points are in each stitch.
But I can see more elements to add to the equation. How many times and how tightly any fiber is plied when spun impacts how the yarn will behave. Whether a knitter throws the yarn or picks the yarn (English versus Continental) will shift the twist in the fiber. Even whether the yarn is pulled from the center of a cake/ball or from outside the ball can impact tension in the fabric, something beautifully described in this Mason Dixon Knitting post, a go-to source to learn about anything and everything knitting.
I hope I am not overstepping bounds by posting this photo from their March newsletter, but I had a lot of fun test knitting this beautiful linen garment for Fidalgo Artisan Yarns last summer, and this is my first time seeing it blocked and worn. Thought I’d pass along that the designer is hosting a two-Saturday class (today, right now!) 10:30-12:30, on this Everyday Fancy pattern. Even if you live nowhere near Anacortes, Washington, I highly recommend Fran’s gorgeous and well-written patterns that can be purchased online.
Satisfying to finish a project in my own time, a “Fall KAL” in Winter. The moment I saw the Drums of Autumn pattern, I envisioned a giant sunflower medallion on fall leaves.
I had no idea the twists and turns it would take me on though.
First, I had trouble with achieving the lace medallion from the pinhole cast-on, so I constructed it flat and joined in round after a few inches.
Then, as often happens when you set down a project for too long to remember how you started it, I created a slightly different lace for each side of the gold side sections. In the center double decrease where you wave your magic wand and turn 3 stitches into 2 (slip 2, knit 1, pass 2 over), on one half I slipped 2 knitwise, the other slipped 2 purlwise. Very different appearance (above images).
As I was blocking the wrap, one of my blocking pins slightly grazed a ply of the center lace medallion enough that I woke the next morning to find a large hole had emerged in the center from one strand breaking. If left to its own devices, it would have unraveled all that lace. So it’s sewn together in the best way I could.
Moral of story: As long as you don’t look too closely, this wrap is a glorious sunburst of learning to overcome.
“A pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process .”
Other than accepting commissions, I am putting myself on a knitting diet as I work to create a different future for myself. Just wanted to give a heads up, in case anyone who follows this blog wonders if I have withered away after a certain gap. Should anything fascinating in the knitting world cross my path that I’m compelled to share, I will.
I have taken on extra freelance work in order to create an ounce of freedom of choice when my current housing is no longer available, anticipating move by year’s end. To meet my financial goal, I transcribe 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week. When not typing, understandably, it becomes imperative to move my body rather than knit … though from time to time I do knit and walk. I will, however, continue sketching design ideas and playing with yarn whenever my arms can handle it.
Part of my financial survival plan begins a month from now when I’ll be working alongside apprentices 10 hours a week in the Food Bank Garden through growing season, and receive most of my food there.
I’m bypassing anything that is not aligned with my financial goal, including spending no money on my craft. I have quite a bit of stash to work from yet. One of the most amazing features of my character is ability to focus, so I intend to use it. After looking at all my options for financial gain, holding a fundraiser, crowdfunding, I decided the one that fits me best is to use my super power to work more intensively than I ever have to carry me to a next phase in life closer to where I’d like to be, in a tiny space of my own ideally without housemates, as my daughter transitions to college life.
I’ll leave you with one designer’s just released pattern I absolutely love, and a little slide show of some past knits I forgot I’d made two years ago.
I love snow. And when a weather forecast is for greatest snow dump in Washington in decades, I am both super grateful I can work from home to pay for heat AND get myself out in it as much as possible. “Sidewalk” becomes a relative term.
And trees look extra amazing.
Then there’s lichen ornaments, a sign of healthy air.
And a bench for snow lovers to sit and knit.
In gaps I carve in my usual 7-day work week, I will be picking up stitches on this square and hope it turns into the baby blanket I’m envisioning. If we get a power outage with 60-70 mph winds predicted, I will be unable to work (Yay) and I’ll wrap up in blankets and knit to my heart’s content by candlelight. I’m close to completing several projects, just need more time…and a break from icing my overworked typing arms.
Happy Lunar Year of the female Earth pig. May you be blessed by grounded abundance…I’m working toward that for sure, but it’s all around us to see.
Our abundant elements.
Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All 11 are necessary for life.
During our rare West Coast snow while most of the US is buried in it, I took myself away from work for two hours to walk to woods and make a snow angel I haven’t done since I was five. More knitting later when I have something to share.
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
Abundance can be simply had by consciously receiving what has already been given.
Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time.
Root yourself in this Earth, and it will root itself in you.
The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.
Ernest Woods, Zen Dictionary (misattributed to Buddha)
You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just weather.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart.
Margaret J. Wheatley
Because I am white and carry all the systemic privileges (and community isolation) of being white, I am systematically attempting to teach myself about knitters and designers who are not white, in order to break out of my bubble of awareness. Currently I am of limited purchasing power so plans are on hold, but it is my intention to broaden the scope of my future pattern and yarn choices and support folks whose work has up to now escaped my white gaze.
To this end, I want to be yet another blog to share this eye-opening dissertation by Lorna Hamilton-Brown titled, “Myth: Black People Don’t Knit”. What I especially love, along with all the visuals she compiles, is the oral history obtained from elders and colleagues suggesting people in many non-white cultures of the world have been knitting resourcefully using whatever materials available for much longer than is widely appreciated.
Lorna’s contribution to historical understanding inspires me to offer my services as a professional transcriptionist accustomed to listening to a wide range of dialects, should anyone need assistance in capturing recorded oral histories for further work on the topic of piecing (knitting) together the history of knitting from a much broader perspective than white European-American. Just hit me up if you are a historian or researcher or just plain passionate knitter interested in interviewing people, and I will happily transcribe the interviews for you.
I am grateful to Jeanette Sloan in compiling her list of POC designers and crafters. No one single person could make an exhaustive list, but her dedication to offering this to others while living a very full life inspires me.
CarpeYarn.com is a wonderful treasure trove of interviews with Craftivists and ways to support “makers, stores and people worldwide who inspire us.”
All these resources expand my view of intentional use of any craft and give me lots to incubate in contemplating how to best use my own future designs and participate in lifting others alongside myself in some way.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT WITH MY OWN FORM OF DIVERSITY
As a woman only beginning to accept my place in the neurodiverse community with self-diagnosis, I am also interested in using my craft to support organizations specifically researching how autism spectrum presents in women and breaking down barriers to informed diagnosis and support for women.
Part of my knitting obsession and skill I feel is directly related to autism, because for me, it has paralleled periods of heightened anxiety. Since shifts in America since November 2016, for example, my knitting has reached new heights because I have spent more and more time with it. While all humans have some form of self-soothing or stimming and many knitters say they knit to soothe, the need to stim is apparently more exaggerated in autistic people and absolutely essential to mental health. If I can’t move my hands, I notice tension and anxiety slowly rising. Knitting fits the bill perfectly because it allows socially acceptable stimming and even social interaction without eye contact. Food for thought.
It is still not fully clear to me whether fitting my life’s experiences into a convenient self-diagnosis based on strong “yes” on three online autism quizzes (in no way diagnostic) and lots of life review is valid to anyone but myself, but regardless, I hold vision of a day when it is safe for all people to be authentically who they are and make it in this world.
Sharing a favorite e-book by two talented women who translated shawl patterns from the past into present day usage. I have long wanted to make “A Shawl For Aunt Harriet,” a modernized version of the shawl gifted to Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria in 1897.
Donna Druchunas’ jaw-dropping work and the entire Stories in Stitches set can be ordered on Ravelry. When I try the link to her website it appears no longer available, but I did order my copy of Stories in Stitches in e-book form there.
If you would like to see a photo of the original shawl preserved by descendants and then donated to the museum in 2009, look here. And to see photos of a younger Ms. Tubman, here.
Over the next weeks, I will highlight on this blog patterns by designers of color whose work I admire. I will be taking a pause from my own knitting in February to preserve and ice my arms and continue as I did in January transcribing 70 hours/week in order to attempt to move in 2019 to a less restricted financial space. The next step in my knitting evolution will be obtaining coaching, software and accountability around design process, so that requires investment. But this year is also about getting by and working toward finding a place to live. Starting March, I’m excited to work regular shifts in my food bank garden to get my hands in Earth, work for glorious veggies, and have better activity counterpoint to all my sedentary work.