Day 21 – Hedgewitch

Compassion is knowing our darkness well enough that we can sit in the dark with others. It never is a relationship between the wounded and the healed. It is a relationship between equals.

– Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

On this Solstice, I have been gifted no electricity for 48 hours (projected), which has forced a much needed break from my paid work and the hum of appliances. It made me reflect on how I mostly live valuing all the things that came before…candles, knitting, wool and walks in the natural world for warmth. Even my daily French press doesn’t rely on electricity as long as I can boil water.

Electricity is great for many things, mostly earning money. Not having it got me out to my local library to charge my phone to complete this post. And I met folks I wouldn’t normally meet, all sitting around the modern firepit of phone chargers. But really all the things that bring me joy are not brought to me by electricity. And sleeping a night without Wi-Fi and having a day of walking around instead of typing at the desk seems to have reset my natural energy, like going to a spa.

Join in, if you’re interested for the Hedgewitch Shawl that’s being knit as a KAL from full moon tomorrow to full moon January. Due to holidays, this is a no pressure KAL for deadline. I figured I would join in using all the natural wool of my stash: Undyed Abundant Earth Fiber wool, a local alpaca named Billie, dark Peruvian alpaca, in addition to a deep red Merino for accent.

I intended to post daily for December, but the Darkest Month Project feels fitting to end today. I surprised myself by having enough knits to highlight from 2018 for all these days (except the 19th when I was too busy).

I wish everyone a blessed turning toward the light and entry into 2019.

Day 20 – Gnoming

As we head into the longest night tonight, with Winter Solstice officially in my region at 2:22 p.m. tomorrow, and the wind whipping up a wet storm outside, I can think of nothing more delightful than to knit up some gnomes.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never have, and now that I’ve made one, many more will come into being. What a wonderful way to bring joy to people using small bits of yarn I already have. This guy is stuffed with fiberfill and after having difficulty getting him to stand on his own, I can see why stuffing them with something of more weight in their center of gravity is important. Rather than buy plastic pellets (dear God, save us from plastic), I am going to try rice or barley and assume critters won’t get to them if they are stored well.

You can find this pattern thanks to Sarah Schira’s Never Not Gnoming genius. I feel an addiction coming on.

Gnomes originated it is believed in 1800s Germanic folklore, and are found in writings going farther back in the 1600s. Similar figures are found in many cultures often living underground or guarding Earth’s treasures and aiding farmers and tenders of Earth.  There seems to be a shapeshifting element to some of the traditions, where despite being only a few inches tall can have astounding strength to either help or harm humans, depending on how well the humans are working with the Earth elements. Nisse of Denmark and Norway are one such figure, which this delightful podcaster I follow describes well in this episode.

 

Day 18 – Kyler

Opposition between good and bad is often compared to light and dark, but if we look at it in a different way, we will see that when light shines, darkness does not disappear. It doesn’t leave; it merges with the light. It becomes the light. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Kyler Shawl by Isabell Kraemer is the perfect example of how creating something can have a life force all its own. As if the item being made knows where it wants to go before the maker knows.

A visitor to my weekly knit group fell in love with the shawl as I worked it, so this is how something intended for my project for moms of critically ill children ended up instead on its way to Malawi to an inspirational elder. And in the generous spirit of fiber artists, karma looped back around and I was gifted this gorgeous natural dyed, woolen spun Cormo.

Day 17 – Bounce

Whenever I got depressed, I always drove out to the Ocean Beach. Just to sit. And, I don’t know, something about looking at water, how it just goes and goes and goes, something about that I found very soothing. As if somehow I were connected to every ripple that was sending itself out and out until it reached another shore.

~ Sandra Cisneros

Short on time today and needing to get to holiday knits, sharing a baby blanket I made this fall called Bounce. So many color variations could be used. I used KnitPicks Mighty Stitch superwash wool. With two cousins giving birth a few weeks apart, one of the adorables got the blanket.

I confess I learned I am good at deadline knitting about 50% of the time, and babies are deadlines. The other one will get his blanket eventually, when I figure out what the heck I’m doing. I made two false starts with these blankets where patterns just weren’t working out the way I’d hoped, and I decided from now on where babies are involved, it will be bonnets (here’s a nice one from Petite Knits). Because no matter how small, a blanket is still a big endeavor that puts everything else on hold for a long time.

I wish I could convert myself into a one project at a time knitter, but that’s just not how I roll. Part of this I have come to believe is because doing multiple projects with different techniques changes up repetitive motion and therefore prevents injury and pain. In fact, it is a near miracle my life seems to be made up of repetitive motions (typing for a living, knitting for gifting and mental health), and I am not a walking injury. Probably if we break it down, most of our lives are such. . .habits and breathing are nothing but mostly unconscious, repetitive motions.

Tin Can Knits is a wonderful resource for many reasons, not the least of which they make their patterns customizable for sizes birth to triple XL, and they have offered quite a few free patterns over the years.

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Day 16 – Tree Seeker

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. ~ T.S. Eliot

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. ~ Hermann Hesse

Tree Seeker by Joji Locatelli has been a slow project I’ve worked over a year whenever I can concentrate on the charts. 15 inches left to go. It is my birthday present to myself.

Magically, as if on cue, the only break in rain I saw today happened while on a birthday hike. Enjoy the magic.

 

 

Day 15 – Make Nine

I have been on Instagram just over one full year and have found it a valuable network for like-minded makers and nature freaks, who ironically are out in the woods to soak in solitude, take a breather from human society, and use technology to post on social media about the woods for other humans to see. Guilty as charged.

Last year before New Year’s, I kept seeing makers post this Make Nine Challenge thing, and I just let it pass me by since I’m not much of a follower of trends. Until I decide to be and then I stick like glue. So this year, I decided what the heck, I’ll choose nine projects I’d like to make in 2019 and share them for all the world to see.

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Make Nine 2019 List

From left to right, top to bottom:

1. VinterPan by Marte Nilssen.
2. Sirius Socks by Maria Muscarella, Ninja Chickens.
3. The Sky at Night, Lisa Hannes, Maliha Designs.
4. Peaceable Mitts, Erica Heusser Designs.
5. You all know Kate Davies, all the hats.
6. Shard, Romi Hill.
7. Audrey Cardigan, Isabell Kraemer
8. Forest Grove, Mara Catherine Bryner.
9. Appalachian, Laura Aylor.

A little voice asked myself, “Where did this Make Nine thing start?” Apparently I found the answer. This lovely person’s blog at end of 2015:  Lucky Lucille. If in fact true, this is precisely how social media trends start. A random person has a random flash of an idea, “Hey, I’ll try this.” And it strikes the fancy of many people, and then poof! You have a trend.

I can’t resist sharing Rochelle’s maker’s Manifesto, in the hopes that if I link to her page to the image, I am not overstepping copyright, but I will be happy to take it down if I am. If you want a lovely print, you can buy it directly from her. I think it beautifully sums it up, as I have been contemplating why I feel so driven to make and how it feels like a lifeline.   HomeRowManifesto_ArtPrint01

* * *

As an exercise, I am inspired to write my own not copyrighted manifesto.

Knitting with sticks and gifts of sheep and plants is my happy place. I knit because I am always learning. Because time passes without my knowing. I knit because I am pulling an ancient lineage of knitters with me in each loop, women and men whose expert hands made fabric before looms and mills existed. I knit because it centers and calms me, it teaches me about failure, trying, satisfaction, completion. It gives me something to keep people warm, it gives me something to teach others. So they too can be calm in the middle of chaos and carry on the chain of centuries of human hands.

If you want your mind blown, check out nalbinding, a precursor to knitting, still practiced today, remnants of which are found as far back as 6,500 BCE (BC). More on history of knitting in a future post after I research more and gather thoughts.

Day 13 – Teroldego Shawl

Darkness is to space what silence is to sound; i.e., the interval.  ~ Marshall McLuhan

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Another WIP (work in progress).  Teroldego Shawl by Caitlin Hunter is a splurge knit for me with yarn I’ve collected over two years. Gorgeous speckled hand-dyed skein from Potion Yarns and a green called Deep Forest I believe (nailed the color) from Mint Rain Yarns. The pink is from Fidalgo Artisan Yarns, a 65% Merino, 35% bamboo, which will make the largest lace portion once I’m done with the stripes. Thankfully if I run out, I should be able to get another skein in exchange for my test knits.

Apologies for forgetting which way to hold my phone yet again and also forgetting to stabilize video before uploading and then running out of time to do much about it.

On the positive side, I show you a few of nature’s textiles of the forest (bryophytes/moss), and leave a mandala in the woods.

Day 12 – Maytham Shawl & Gift Ideas

“Let me light my lamp”, says the star, “And never debate if it will help to remove the darkness.” ~  Rabindranath Tagore

Maytham Shawl – Helen Stewart Shawl Society

Knitting is the best way I have found to light my lamp. To that end, I thought I’d share a few small gift ideas for knitters, should you be lucky enough to know one. Ha.

  • A wonder ball, or wunderknolle (translates as wonderful tuber). * Choose a number of small items to wrap inside a wound ball of any yarn and you have a fun gift for any knitter. If you’re unsure what yarn they want, you might request to “borrow” a skein they intend to use. Or buy some yarn you like, and they may just possibly knit you up something with it in gratitude. If the mood strikes. Some knitters can be moody….
  • Knitting Notions – Anyone can use or give away if they already have some in a kit. I’m linking Etsy here because I support buying from independent makers.
  • Point Protectors – Because every point needs protection. Not really. They just keep stitches from falling off needles. I have never had them and can attest to the pain of dropping an entire row of stitches when digging around my backpack.
  • Katrinkles – I love everything on this site. But what I find especially helpful and don’t have yet are portable instructions in the Mix and Match Mini Tools.
  • Stitch Markers – In knitting, there are repeated instruction “codes” like M1L, M1R  across many patterns that seem more difficult than others to memorize, and it saves a ton of time to have a tool that reminds you as you knit.
  • Patterns – Ask a knitter for their user name on Ravelry (most not all knitters have an account on the “Facebook of knitting”), and you can usually find patterns they have placed in their queue to make someday. It’s possible for a third party (gifter) to purchase and download a pattern for them.
  • Books and Collections – If you want to avoid Amazon (I try but mostly fail), some great sources for sale books are LYS (your Local Yarn Store), KnitPicks.com, Interweave.com, directly from favorite designers like Kate Davies Designs, Ysolda Ltd, magazine collection books like Making Magazine, PomPom Quarterly, By Hand.
  • Project Bags – If you are a poly-knitter like me, then you have multiple projects going on always, and may need help organizing them in a clean, portable, efficient way. I’ve always used free totes and plastic bags from various sources but it’s ideal to have something you can zip up and carry anywhere.

*This German tradition was introduced to me on my 11th birthday by my German-born grandmother.  I’m unsure of how far back this tradition goes, but I was able to find this clipping below. So if you carry it on, you can time travel too! (I looked up court-plaster; apparently it is fabric with adhesive on one side, so a Band-Aid precursor. Also note, the word midget is derogatory in today’s parlance and I don’t recommend referring to children as such).

A “Wonder Ball” for Young and Old Knitters: 
The idea comes from Germany, but it “takes” in every locality. Especially is it an inspiration to the little folks to keep the needles clicking, knowing the surprises will appear as the yarn unwinds itself. My little girl had one given her by a friend who asked her to knit a pair of reins to send to the Children’s Hospital. She also asked the seven-year-old midget to keep a list of the presents and write a letter about them to send with the reins. The first thing Daisy found was a Christmas poem.

This she learned and recited Christmas morning. Then she found a basket, a string of beads, a ring, a new ten cent piece, a package of court-plaster, a pair of boots for her doll…a glove-buttoner, a thimble, and a tiny book of verses….So the Wonder Ball taught the little maiden industry, patience, perseverance, to restrain curiosity, and the pleasure of making some other child happy. — Letter to the Editor, Good Housekeeping, 1889

Day 10&11 – Moon Shadows Shawl

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. ~ Mary Oliver

I loved Romi Hill’s Moon Shadows shawl so much I made both the Regular and Tall versions of the pattern over the past year. The brilliance of the pattern is the narrative I interpret of full moonbeams reaching down through a canopy of leaves, filtering shadows into the darker layer of leaves.

For cost effective yardage, I use Cascade Heritage (75% superwash Merino, 25% nylon) for a lot of lacework. But someday in the mythical land of cash flow, I’d like to experiment with more variegated and subtle dyed yarns for this kind of pattern.

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Romi Hill, Moon Shadows Shawl

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Yesterday I was too emotional to maintain my post-a-day December challenge. It’s been me and my daughter for 17 years, and she turned 18 yesterday. Such a journey we/she’s had and plenty of new becomings on the horizon for this person who’s been my best teacher. Many days I’m in awe of her. As any parent, I wish for her protection from the same universal sources that have protected me this far in life.

I wish for young people who have inherited the Earth during these roiling times this word: Pause. Some learning to listen to and contribute their inner guidance of how best to honor Earth and a bit less blowing in the distracting winds. But maybe I’m projecting my own path’s lesson that took me until my 50s to learn. I can’t imagine being under 20 in a time when countless scientists are saying humanity has 12 years to act fast to prevent complete climate catastrophe. That’s a lot of pressure. Maybe I wish for them courage to live their lives honoring themselves and others and contributing whatever they can to this fabric of the mother ship we are all on.

Day 9 – Cable Hat Free Pattern

The Chunky Cable Hat is a free pattern from Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits. Perfect find in time for holiday.

Dove into my yarn stash to find a kit of extra bulky yarn I had bought a few years back to make a project I never did. I am seeing a theme here. So to solve two problems with one stone (I know, wrong metaphor but I can’t kill birds), I am both using up my stash and making things for holiday gifting.

Now because the pattern calls for bulky/chunky yarn using Size US 10/10.5 needles, and I have extra bulky yarn meant for Size US 13 needles, I modified the pattern to start with 60 stitches (six cable repeats) rather than 70. The fit works for my rather large melon head just fine. These have not been washed yet to relax the stitches, but I was able to make two in a single evening which is attractive the closer it gets to gift giving time and is the positive to my dislike of working with chunky yarn and needles.

Advent candles of sorts. I prefer to think of them as intentions to peace in the four directions. Each color represents an aspect of nature to me.

My spirituality tends to only make sense to me, which is 100% fine. No judgments towards anyone’s spiritual understanding. For me, this month is all about going toward the darkest point of the solar year, and the return of the light, and that is fairly universal across many beliefs.