Restringing: My Mental Relationship with Stash

The below is an essay that is part of the Wool n’ Spinning book club. The club was initiated by Rachel Smith of Wool n’ Spinning, who you can find here: website, Patreon, YouTube, Ravelry. This essay was also posted in the Wool n’ Spinning book club thread here

Reading A Stash of One’s Own edited by Clara Parkes was a bit of an experience. I had not realized until I read this book how confined, stuffy, and limited my ideas were about my own stash. The sheer variety of perspectives in these essays was like opening windows on a musty old house, getting different flavored drafts of fresh air each time.

I’ve been thinking about stash a good bit this year, slowly realizing that my thoughts about my stash are largely limited by guilt. This is my own doing.

I am a recovering perfectionist and materialist, and from childhood have made all kinds of unrealistic lists of the things I would accomplish and/or buy. I don’t keep lists like that anymore, and I only rarely make irrelevant spreadsheets. But old habits die hard, and this one has found one hiding place: the amazing tool that is Ravelry. In “rav,” as we yarnies call it for short, I can keep all my stash entries, queue all the projects I like from my book and magazine stash, and imagine ticking through them one by one.

My stash seemed to happen all at once when I fell hard for knitting in 2009. Back when this blog started, the knitting world seemed like a cornucopia of potential experiences, and I wanted them all. Whenever my husband and I traveled, we’d find multiple yarn shops and buy yarn. Later we got adventurous and even sought out a few farms. Whenever one of us had a brilliant idea inspired by a book, we’d buy yarn. Soon I was a beginning spinner as well, and with the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival spitting distance away, buying fibre at that show of shows was an easy thing too. My stash grew with frightening speed, and though I often knit for eight hours a day, I realized after a couple of years that I might have a practical problem.

So I slowed down. I implemented a new policy sometime in 2010-11: I would only buy yarn when I had a specific project lined up for it. Our budget was drastically reduced with the start of seminary, so that helped. But here’s the trouble: I am still capable of planning, with fabulous specificity, far more projects than I have time to knit.

In theory, this policy was supposed to slow down yarn and fibre acquisition. In reality, it left me with a stash that was almost un-knittable. I still deceived myself: I would knit it all one day. I queued all those projects on Ravelry. But I didn’t knit them. And despite buying next to no yarn at all since 2013, my stash still shrinks at what seems like a very slow speed. (Insert previously rehearsed whinging about having kids.)

What I have been left with is a stash that feels like a burden. I open my cedar chest, or the boxes in my mom’s basement, and get a sinking feeling. I have pruned this stash down to stuff that I really love, and whenever am I going to get to it? The more I reflect on it, the more this seems obviously unhealthy. My relationship with my stash is out of tune. But how do I restring it? And once I have new strings, what key do I tune it to?

Ms. Parkes anthology gave me new perspectives to reflect on at three main points: the reconciling of the theory of perfection with the reality of inspiration, the ethics of stashing, and my shifting reasons for doing all of this crafting in the first place.

I was first struck by two essays: “Without a Stash” by Amy Herzog  (pp. 37-44), representing my ideal of stash-free perfection, and “Spinning Stash” by Jillian Moreno (pp. 115-122), a riotous celebration of shameless stash-supported inspiration. I felt caught between what seemed like two opposites, but actually, they revealed two paradoxically connected ways in which I have been lying to myself.

Amy’s essay is a perfect representation of where I ideally want to be with my stash. Amy had a stash once, and decided to knit through it. She got to a point where she decided to stop buying and knit through it, and here’s the incredible thing: she succeeded. I thought actually knitting through one’s stash was an impossible dream, but she did it. “It felt so amazing,” she says (p. 39), just like I always thought it would. I have wanted that for years now: to have fresh ideas, and be able to buy fresh yarn and fiber to produce them within the year.

In particular, it’s the stashing for specific projects that has failed me. Amy articulated the reason in words I could have written myself. “I don’t want to shackle tomorrow’s creativity to the place I’m in today” (44). She describes how her yarn “bound me to previous versions of myself” (40), and this is a literally accurate description of much of my stash. There are patterns I bought for that I simply do not have the type of time to produce, and only the most sentimental, obsessive desire to complete. I can’t knit ten intricate lace shawls, and in ten years when my kids are big I can again, why would I want to be knitting in my 40s from ideas I had in my 20s?

These are the best years of my life, right now. When I turn 40, what do I want to I want to look back when I see my crafting time, in particular? Do I want to see myself enslaved to the impulses of past? I think not.

It’s the patterns I’m talking about letting go of, really, not the yarn per se. I could knit through that sweater-quantity of green handspun a lot faster if I let go of the idea of knitting it up into a 6 x 2″ cabled stole which I will never wear, and instead knit it up into a cozy housecoat in a brainless stitch.

On the other hand was Jillian Moreno’s essay, which was the only essay specifically about a spinner’s stash. She has no shame about her abundant stash. I don’t mean “shameless” in that flaunting, wanton way that is fighting a secret shame, but genuinely joyful. Her stash is obviously an inspiration to her as an experimenter. She understands play, and the re-learning of play, which she describes in a scene that repeats in her classes when she dumps a giant fibre pile in the middle of the room and instructs her students to take one or two:

“Then there are those who gaze at the pile. They take just enough, maybe a little less. But they keep staring, and I know they need more. They don’t play enough, they don’t give enough to themselves. Sometimes I give them extra, and when I do, their whole self smiles and I hear, faintly, a sort of click. Something has unlocked. It’s a visceral and amazing process. As we work, my students keep diving into the stash. I see them change; they are free and joyous.” (p. 122)

It was clear, in reading this essay, that she couldn’t be wrong. Play is a weak area for me that I am still learning about. I am one of those students who needs that click.

She had to be right, but I didn’t know why, so I sifted through the possibilities. Spinning stash, I surmised, might be genuinely different. Fibre, unlike the committed yarn in my stash, can be anything. One braid of fiber can be spun in more ways than I could list. As a learning, experimenting spinner, having a stash of random braids makes one free to learn and play. Those big quantities of fibre for big projects are great too, but the sheer quantity makes me feel more pressure that the decision on how to use them be considered and practical. So really, I can stash small quantities of fibre so they are ready for inspiration and learning, but the yarn should be buy-and-use. Right?

Except that’s not really true either. This was demonstrated to me through a category of my stash that I acquired accidentally, and is a big part of why my stash doesn’t seem to shrink: inherited stash. I got a big pile of yarn from one friend who died, and one friend who moved away. I find myself using that stash a lot. Not only because I care about those people (I do), but because that yarn has no plans. I was given it en masse, but I only kept what I liked. I liked it, but I didn’t choose it, so I didn’t feel the need to make a plan for it. So when I want to knit something that fits in my life right now, I often slide past the bulk of my stash, married to its unusable plans, and grab a skein or ten of that inherited stash, which has no claim on it.

Obviously, yarn can become anything too. It’s me who decided it can’t be anything but the idea I bought it for a decade ago. Many of the essays describe how their stash is an inspiration to them, and I didn’t really understand that feeling. Rather, I thought I didn’t understand it. I’d stifled the creativity with my rigid plans, but I was accidentally inspired by the stash that evaded my control. The plans were fun to make, but I’m holding onto them so tightly that they are doing me no good.

So, conceptually, my ideas have shifted. There’s a reality to inspiration in the present that my stash needs to serve differently, and it can if I let it.

How about practically? What does this mean for stash acquisition? Should I spend more freely as I am inspired, singing “Que sera, sera! What will be, will be”? Should I continue to stash down, but with more liberated ideas for projects? How do I find moderation? Two more essays provided some guidance here.

Anna Maltz’s essay, “Morning Stash / Portable Stories” (pp. 79-88), gave me a good slap in the face. She says on p. 84, “An obsession with minimalism has always smacked to me of a romanticism of poverty … from a wealthy perspective.” Oh dear. Every copy of Real Simple magazine, and every spread curated around Martha Stewart, immediately leaped to mind. I don’t have much romance about poverty personally, having lived in it and currently living around a lot of it. But it struck me what a silly, privileged fantasy it is to be focused on having the perfect amount of not-too-much stuff. And what’s more, in my stashing down, I am absolutely thinking about getting through / getting rid of what I have for the promise of the enjoyment of more and different stuff. “The onus,” says Anna, “should be on not acquiring, rather than on throwing away or ‘letting go’ to make way for more new things (85).

Anna had positive things to say too, which pointed toward more balance in having a reasonable stash more driven by people than by consumption. But it was “Mark of the Hand, Mark of the Heart” by Kim McBrien Evans (pp. 165-170) that painted a positive vision that helped me see my habits more clearly. Kim has a house overflowing with yarn and fibre, a practical reality as a hand-dyer, but she talks about a special stash that is about more than that. It’s about people: primarily artists she’s patronized and students she’s taught.

Other essayists mentioned similar sentiments about stash and memory, but I connected with Kim particularly because of the childhood she described, growing up in a household of artists. Of her family trips, she says, “Summers were spent traveling from one artist’s studio to another, watching them create in their own unique environment. Every time I use one of the pieces gathered during that time, it’s a visit with that person” (166).

My mom seems to understand this. She comes from a long line of artists, and thinks like one. I was reminded of a crawl Mom and I took through western Maryland, patronizing various kinds of potters and fibre artists. Mom collects pottery, and over many years collected a place setting from each one of her favorite artists until she now has a collection that will set the whole table, each setting different. There’s no unity except that it’s all pottery, it’s all beautiful, and it’s loads of fun to use.

She shops for yarn like that too, I think. She buys beautiful things often without a firm grasp on what they will become, and most of it hangs on her wall, carefully arranged for maximum inspiration. My dad, too, decorates the walls of his impressive man-cave with trains that will one day live on his garden railroad track, and various train- or mine-related historical paraphernalia.

Me, I can’t hang yarn on walls in ways that seem at all tasteful. Actually, I am too full of self-doubt to hang much of anything on a wall that doesn’t serve an obvious practical purpose. To me, the colorful wall-stash seems like an impractical mess. How will this lead to practical, inoffensive wardrobe staples? But she isn’t making wardrobe staples. She’s making wearable art, and she does it for herself, exactly how she likes. And along the way, she has collaborated with the inspiration of countless others. (She’s going to comment on this post, eventually, too, so hopefully we’ll find out what she’s actually thinking, and not just what I guess.)

When I visited yarn producers in my yarn-crawling past, I have had those conversations. I have heard those stories. But when I reflect on those visits, I was distracted with how that store can serve me. I wasn’t really focused on the person I was conversing with. I was going through my mental catalogue of patterns, so I could come up with the practical plan that will be the excuse for that acquisition. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the intervening years, and how to break through the haze of my own insecurity and really connect with someone. What I haven’t practiced yet is how to let that connection become an inspiration, served by patronizing that artist. I’ve had a taste of it, shopping a little bit from Katrina and her mum at CraftyJaks. She’s such an open-hearted open book about her inspiration that it seems impossible not to be inspired by her work. But this is the first time for me that a personal connection has led naturally for me into buying a product, without worrying overmuch about the expenditure or the plan. Not coincidentally, hers is the first fibre club I am seriously considering signing up for.

So, where does that leave me? It leaves me feeling freed. I don’t need to acquire more; with a baby coming, large acquisitions at this point are probably just about something else. But if I can just enjoy the people who make, during those few and special occasions when I get to connect with them, I can patronize them freely without worrying about the future. I am also ready to free my stash: it’s time to burn my queue, rip out the truncated start to Argonath, and just cast on a plain sweater I know I will knit and love now.

The one overriding theme? The stash is not about the stash. It’s about people, listening, and love. It’s about play, creativity, and learning. It’s about the craft.

I can’t take any of it with me when I die. But it can be a part of the mark I leave behind: a way to remember the connections I made. The tone was set by Meg Swansen’s opening essay about her mother, “Inheriting from Elizabeth Zimmerman” (pp. 11-16) which included a report of the shocking quantity of tidbits and detritus left in the wake of her furiously active crafting mind. Those tidbits were saved and passed on because they reminded many dozens of knitters of how she touched their lives, empowered them, even loved them, through and in and alongside her work. The stuff can’t be about the stuff. There’s no shame in leaving things behind. It won’t matter to us either way, will it? But it will all end up in the dustbin of my offspring unless they have a reason to keep it: because it’s an artifact of love. A way to reach back and touch someone who meant much more to them than stuff.

Tie Off and Tune Out

The Olympics have been very fun to watch this year. Whether early in the morning or late at night, with a few catch-up sessions in the afternoon, I caught a little bit of every sport, all the figure skating, and a whole lot of Canadian happiness. I also, incidentally, finished N’s duffel socks.

So happy for the Shibutanis! They made me squee with delight every time they skated as well. Oh dear me, Ice Dancing is the best!

I did decide to cut new legs to go with the new feet, and so made two pairs of aliqsiik in the time allotted to one. But they will be warm, they are constructed properly, and they should last a nice long time. Easy does it.

N was the one who decided she wanted grey, when we had to return to the store for more duffel wool. I had my doubts about the color, but the final result was gorgeous. She picked all the yarn colors as well.

I doubled the embroidery around the hem to make sure it stood out enough, blue-on-grey. And after playing with several types of flowers to give N a choice of style, she said “I want the same kind as Martha’s.” Well fine. I made a different leaf at least.

I stayed up way too late on the last night of Olympic coverage to embroider all the flowers from start to finish. This is why I wanted to do these aliqsiik right after M’s; it was still familiar enough that I could do it almost on autopilot, drifting to sleep during those last french knots and bobsled runs.

This is all the sewing I completed during the 2018 Olympics. Layer 1 complete, Layer 2 assembled but not embroidered (I will have to resize the openings). The blue slippers are an additional unplanned inner layer that N can use this spring so these duffel socks are not too big, and she should be able to take them out and still wear them next winter. See? Strategy! I cut out Jared’s layer 2 and started sewing it together, but didn’t get far. I didn’t start on anyone’s layer 3.

But this is close enough that I am content. It’s a good stopping point. I can come back to layer 3 later. (Who knows; it might not fit!) If I go get myself the right help in time, I can go ahead and start on the layer 4 next – the most difficult, outside layer – for myself and N. That’s what I really want to get done in the next 6-7 weeks.

Speaking of the next 6-7 weeks, that’s how long I have to wait for baby #3 to arrive. (Though if her temperament is anything like her sisters’, it’ll be closer to 8 weeks.) Before she comes, I wanted her to have something of her very own.

#3’s Tomten jacket, an Elizabeth Zimmerman classic pattern, was made entirely from scraps from my ample worsted-weight scrap bin. I had lots of fun playing with simple slip stitch patterning in garter stitch, watching how the dots of color interacted together when I did different things in the color changes.

In The Opinionated Knitter, the inset page – you know, the paper that attaches the pages to the book cover; I used to know what that was called – pictures a pile of Tomten sweaters. The one that inspired me from p. 44 is conveniently central, and gave me a really good view of the sleeve. This was important, because the sleeve shaping starts right away on this infant version, to fit stubby infant arms, and to prevent me running out of yarn at the shoulder. It was worth the annoyance of ripping out half a sleeve to make these proper, smaller ones.

Inspired by this sweater, every time I started a new color, I did either sl 1, k 1, or sl 1, k 3, then knit all the way back. Sometimes I threw in an extra stripe of the previous color. I didn’t run out of permutations before the sweater was finished, though I did run out of yarn. But my scrap bin didn’t fail me, and I rather like the big eggplant-colored cuffs.

After staying up too late on the last night of the Olympics, I got up too early on the last morning of the Olympics. The finish line was at 9:59 a.m. our time, so I got up early, watched the closing ceremonies, and powered through the last couple inches of sleeves. The above is what the sweater looked like as the torch was extinguished: a mess of ends, sleeve seams yet to sew, but bound off. I neatened it up a good bit after church (below), though I still haven’t even purchased a zipper yet.

I earned my gold medal from Bobicus Maximus, and had such a nice time that I cast on a new Tomten sweater the same day. This one is for N, and the main color will be this fractal handspun that I don’t think I ever got around to blogging about. N has gotten very attached to these colors, and I shall not complain, because I do not think there is any way I could get them to suit me.

I did enjoy watching the Olympics, though as usual it involved watching a lot more TV than is normal or healthy for our family. There was one massive standout moment, though. I watched over a hundred ice skating programs, and though the competition was excellent, most of the actual skating went in my eyeballs and fell out my ears. But skate one stuck with me.

Image source: Getty / Maddie Meyer. Click for link to article from which this was borrowed.

If you haven’t seen Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s gold medal ice dance skate, go watch it. Their skate was everything that I have ever loved about figure skating. It was every bit of passion and expression in the music (the way they landed their twizzles on that gutteral “Roxanne…” I squee every time). When I watched it live, I cried when it was over. I cried the next day when I watched the replay.

It’s so much more than beautiful figure skating. It’s performance art. The absolute best of it. And the way Tessa and Scott make it possible is the incredible intimacy they obviously share, after 21 years of working together, and express to the edge of the audience – even around the world to lil’ old me. Other nights that I watched figure skating, I went to bed dreaming about what-ifs of my past: what if I had had the emotional maturity to pursue more figure skating excellence when I was a tween? When I watch Tessa and Scott, it makes me want to go work on my marriage in the present. I’ve been married to my husband for nearly ten years, and if it takes another eleven years of hard work to be an image of love that shows the world what is possible in a committed relationship, it will be completely worth it. They reminded me of that in a way that nothing has in a while.

The Olympics were fun, and I’m pleased with what I accomplished with my hands. But that was a lot of TV, during a time of transition for our family. I had fun, but I will be happy to hand back the cable receiver, turn off the screens, and devote myself not so much to crafting, but more to love. That’s what I want to do with these years. That is worth disciplining my flesh like an Olympic athlete disciplines their body.

This Olympiad

The 2018 Winter Olympics is halfway over, and you haven’t heard a peep from me! Well, here that is. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you also follow me on Instagram or Facebook, where I have been anything but silent. It’s time for a proper update, now that I’m deep into my Olympic projects. Apologies that this is mostly a longer narrative version of my Instagram feed, but it helps me process, so thanks in advance for reading!

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I love the Olympics. I’m not a sports-watcher habitually, but two and a half weeks is just the right slice of time to capture my obsessive attention, and the promise of a massive sampling of different sports at their peak means I am hooked. I get particularly into the figure skating, since that was a big part of my past.

Since 2010, I’ve also participated in the Knitting Olympics/Ravelympics/Ravellenic Games. It’s a perfect opportunity to knock out something big that is important to me, to give my devoted attention to a project that seems unreachable or overwhelming at other times.

This time around, I’m having to dial down my expectations more than ever. I can’t afford to get as obsessed as I usually do, and I honestly wouldn’t want to. The theme in my crafting these days is that I have to be thoughtful and selective to choose a project that fits into my life, rather than picking a project on impulse and then shoehorning my life around it. Small children do not like being shoehorned. Especially shoehorned around things, because that’s a completely incorrect use of that metaphor, and my intelligent children do not approve.

After finishing Martha’s kamiik*, I realized that I didn’t want to start another big knitting project. My life in the north has led to me purchasing the materials to make kamiit for my whole family, and some of those materials are time sensitive. More

I did pick a knitting project to work on in the background. I haven’t knit anything for baby #3, and now that we’re really sure she’s a girl, it’s time to remedy that. I’m making her a Tomten, a classic Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern from her 7th leaflet, published in 1961 (when my mum was two years old!) I was especially inspired by the colorful one pictured on page 44 of The Opinionated Knitter.

I’m not trying to replicate it, but I’m throwing a lot of slipped stitch patterns into the transition areas between garter stitch stripes, just to see what they do.

With one week to go, I’m about halfway up the hood. Pretty much on pace. Made from pretty bits of coordinating Cascade 220 unearthed from my leftovers stash.

As far as the kamiit go, here’s my plan. Making the outside layer is not something that I can control the timing of, because I stop and start depending on when I can get to the help I need for each step of the process. I have almost all the pattern pieces I need to cut skins, but not quite all. And I’m going to have to get together with someone to learn how to stretch a dried out skin before I’m ready to cut it.

But as you probably noticed from Martha’s kamiik, there’s more layers to a pair than just the sealskin part. Different folks have different techniques, for sure, but the fairly consistent practice that I’ve heard from my local friends is that you have four layers:
1) Duffel socks, or aliqsiik (same word for other kinds of socks). These are the innermost layer and go from the foot all the way up to the knee or past the knee. This is the layer that gets embroidered with flowers sometimes. They’re usually made from wool duffel, which is a very thick wool felt with an internal woven structure to it. I love this stuff; it almost makes me fantasize about weaving and felting it myself. (almost.)
2) Duffel slippers (I know I’ve been told the word for slippers but I’ve forgotten/lost it; I’m hoping someone will jump in and remind me?). This is a layer of just the foot, shaped only a little different from the foot of the sock, and it’s usually also made from wool duffel.
3) Sealskin slippers – similar to the duffel slippers in shape (maybe a little taller over the ankle?), they slide over the wool duffel. I’ve heard different opinions about whether this should be tanned sealskin or natural home-tanned, but the natural is generally agreed to be more water resistant.
4) On the outside is the sealskin layer, the most difficult and interesting to make. The legs are made out of different materials depending on the style, but the sole is usually made from the skin of a bearded seal or ugjuk. These are the biggest kind of seal in this region, with tough black hides.

For M, I only made layers 1 and 4. After I finished layer 1, I realized they only just fit inside layer 4, and I wouldn’t be able to fit the other layers, even though I’d already put together a layer 2. File that under “don’t worry about it, she’s 2.”

Layer 1 with Layer 2, right after I sewed them up. From these I learned, (a) you don’t use regular thread for this, but a stronger waxed thread, and (b) check your sizes in advance. Not only could I not fit both layers in M’s layer 4, but I had to take layer 1 apart and resize it just to fit in.

My limiting factors are two: the impending baby turning up in April, and the white sealskin I purchased in November, which I should really use ASAP. I particularly love the style of kamiik with white legs, usually worn by women. I hadn’t known where to find the white skin, so I snapped one up when I found it at a trade show. But what I didn’t quite realize is that it will turn yellow with time, and you want to sew with it as soon as possible.

This has resulted in my overall goal, which is to finish kamiit for myself and N before baby comes. They are the two that will use that one white skin. This is a seriously tall order and I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but of all the things I could get distracted by in these last two months before baby comes, this one is definitely worth it. So I’m going to try as best as I can.

My goal for this Olympic games is to finish layers 1-3 for N, and layer 3 for myself. (Bonus points to make layers 2-3 for Jared.) These inner layers are much more manageable to work on by myself, and if I get them done, then I can focus all my attention on the more difficult layer 4.

I had a promising start to the games, as within a couple of days I had N’s duffel socks cut and sewn together. But in my rush, I hadn’t waited for a pattern for her actual size; I adapted the patterns I had for M’s size. I also had not learned best practices with cutting a fabric as thick as duffel. To get all the pieces even, I had to trim and fuss until they only just fit her. The top of the feet were also slightly too short for the bottoms, with the architectural result of turned-up toes. And the legs were not too too short, but they only came up to her mid-knees.

It was livable. But they’d only fit her for this spring, and I’d have to make her new ones if I wanted her to keep wearing them in the fall. Disheartening. I didn’t think I was rushing when I actually did it, but it was a bit rush-y to not wait two more days ’till I could get patterns.

And boy, did I get patterns.

Monday night, Siipa brought all her patterns to the women’s group. I plunked myself on the floor next to her, and we went through them all ’till we found most of the pieces for the right sizes for me and N. Actually, she and Elisapee kept passing me sizes ’till I have enough to keep me sewing ’till they’re twelve.

I wish I’d taken a picture, but I’m always leery of photographing and sharing other people’s business. These patterns were traced on all kinds of things, from old cereal boxes to homework, and had obviously been used to make countless pairs of sealskin boots, duffel socks, and slippers. I felt like I was inside some kind of vault in the Library of Congress. I traced them all on a large sheet of nice brown paper and brought them home to cut out.

The next day, I went over to Elisapee’s house, where she had a special treat for me: a beautiful brown sheepskin that she found at a rummage sale. She had me use the whole thing to make new duffel sock bottoms for N. It was very helpful to cut out pieces with her. The way I learned to sew, you pin the patterns to the pieces, often multiple layers, and cut around the paper. This just isn’t practical when your fabric is this thick. One layer at a time, you trace the pattern onto the fabric, cut, fold it in half and trim to make sure it’s perfectly symmetrical, then use that piece as a guide to trace the other pieces. Yet another piece of wisdom I could only pick up by spending time crafting with others.

The sheepskin is really wonderful. I sewed it up and tried it on N, and she didn’t want to take them off. Here’s the problem: the duffel bottoms I made were too small; these duffel bottoms are too big! Like, a couple inches too big. And I couldn’t just adapt them into slippers, because they have a slightly different shape.

I puzzled and puzzled over what to do next. Jane, my facebook sewing angel, had some good advice on how I could fix my too-short, too-small duffel sock tops, and I was all set to follow it, when I had the two tops on top of each other, and noticed something: one sock was nearly an inch shorter than the other!

Still not unfixable, but I was a little fed up. I have the blessing of a fabric store in town, so I’ll go back there on Monday to get more duffel wool to cut new sock tops. I’m going to run with the too-big sock bottoms, and attach them to proportionally sized legs, embroidery and all. I’m hoping they fit her like that next winter. For now, enter M’s redundant layer 2: the little slippers I made for M and couldn’t use fit just right on N’s feet now. I trimmed them a bit so they fit just right in the sealskin sock bottoms, and went a little crazy on the decorative embroidery.

At present, on day 10 of the Olympics, the goal of finishing all those layers is not looking very realistic. But I have made progress, even though it’s two steps forward and one step back. I have learned a lot. I have learned, again, that I can’t push or rush a process like this, when I am still such a beginner. I have that problem of not knowing what I don’t know. I know a lot of sewing basics, but they just don’t all apply to this case. And the nature of sewing all these pieces by hand is just different, and is forcing me to thick about the architecture of how these pieces go together. So, easy does it. Stay alert, but take my time, and accept that some things will have to be redone.

Stopping before I hurt myself: N’s actual layer 2, with the brown sheepskin foot tucked into it. I’ll embroider it too… after I have someone look at it to make sure the shape of the top edge is correct.

And tomorrow, it’s back to the fabric store.

*If you’re wondering about the vocabulary, plurals in Inuktitut work differently than in English. The singular is kamik, but if you’re talking about two of something, it ends in -iik, and for three or more, -iit. So I talk about kamiik when referring to a specific pair of kamiik, and kamiit when I’m referring to more than one pair (four or more actual boots). There’s you’re Inuktitut grammar insight for the day.

Important Little Kamiik

This week, I finished my first pair of kamiik: Inuit sealskin boots, made for two-and-a-half-year-old M. Today I’d like to share with you a few slices of that journey.

But I want to preface with this: I say I made these. And I did most of the actual stitches. But as I tell you how these little boots came to be,  you’ll see just how many hands touched these boots.

If you take that to its logical conclusion, that started long before I even got the materials. Hunters harvested three different seals whose skins contributed to these boots. Then three different women prepared the skins. The skin with hair was home-tanned and stretched on a frame; the black skin from a bearded seal had to also be dehaired; the white skin had also to be dehaired and bleached perfectly in the sun for months.

Of course, this is always the case in our crafts. Knitting doesn’t start at the yarn store. It starts with sheep and farmers and goes through mills and any other number of hands before it arrives in our hands. In some ways the industry is becoming more transparent as knitters and spinners become more interested in those processes. But here, it’s so much more immediate. With some of these materials, you can’t just go to a store and buy them. You have to at least make contact with someone who worked on that skin when it was still fresh off a living animal. Suddenly, sustainable harvesting and fair wages become very important; you’re talking to someone who gave their time or risked their lives to prepare this materials. Thankfully, in Nunavut we can be confident that good practices are the norm.

During the first stages of preparing the skins, I had my hand held very closely. An elder, Seepa, at the Monday night women’s group, contributed her time to make the patterns I would need, to lend me a large tool for softening the skins, and to show me how to cut the pieces with an ulu.

An ulu is a traditional Inuit women’s knife. Thanks entirely to the generosity of others, my collection is getting out of hand. These are also all handmade, by the way.

Seepa even gave me the white pieces I would need for the boots from her own collection of skins, cut them out for me, and sewed the first seam, down the legs. When she returned them to me, she’d made me a little kit with sinew, two kinds of needles, a wee handmade needle keeper, and other little useful goodies.

As for me, the first seam I did, I messed up. I was running off my assumption that you can pretty much whipstitch everything, so I just sewed the front piece to the legs. You can just see it on the left below, and the stitches are quite visible, so it wasn’t even good whipstitch! Mercifully, one chorus of this project was, “Well, it’s ok. It’s for a little kid.” Turns out I was supposed to use a special waterproof stitch I hadn’t even learned yet.

I got as far as softening the soles before the Christmas crazies hit. This was a laborious process involving a lot of chewing, and a tool made from pieces of metal stair and two-by-fours. I didn’t take any pictures of this; who knows why. You know I’m always very careful about publicizing traditional Inuit techniques, and I have also learned to be careful about sharing things without explanation that might be perceived by outsiders as strange or unpleasant. I have so much respect for the people who invented and preserve these skills, and I want to engender that in my sharing about it. So I’ll save talking about that process for another time.

Then Christmas happened, I had to give the pieces back to Seepa for fine cutting, and totally failed to reconnect with her over the holidays. By the time she gave me the pieces back, softened in salt water and ready to be sewn on, I got the distinct impression she was a little bit frustrated with me. Quite frankly, I’m glad she expressed that, because I realized I was not taking this project seriously enough. At this point, I had invested a lot of time into the process already, and so had Seepa. To say nothing of the money I’d spent on the materials, which was very significant. If I wanted to finish this ever, I had to get serious, and I had to get more help.

It was then that I took advantage of an offer I’d received, which was to come to the drop-in sewing class at Tukisigiarvik Centre. At one level, this place is a drop-in center for many of the poor and homeless in Iqaluit. But they’re so much more than that, as they share traditional foods whenever available, and teach a host of cultural skills to anyone who wants to learn. M and I got to taste polar bear meat there for the first time one afternoon!

I had wanted to go for a long time, but just couldn’t figure out how afternoons were going to work for me. But suddenly, in January, the timing was right for me to cut my office hours down and then out. M wasn’t taking naps anymore, and they didn’t mind if I brought her along. (One of my favorite things about Inuit culture is how normal the presence is of babies and small children.) Suddenly I was there for a couple hours every day that N was in school. That was where I met my second teacher, Maggie, who walked me through the rest of this process and was so encouraging. There were other ladies in and out through the few weeks I was there, working on their own projects, and they all pitched in with their trips and tips as I needed help. Sarah, Elisapee, Eva – they could all spare a moment to show me something.

After a few days of attaching smaller pieces, I was ready to learn that special waterproof stitch. I had been so intimidated by this stage, but when the time came around, Maggie said, “this is the fun part!” Then when I was going at it, Eva walked in and said, “ooh, that’s the fun part!” They were right.

This was around the time that I remembered to start taking pictures.

I was so excited that first Saturday night to have a quiet evening of sewing. I had attached the first sole at Tukisigiarvik, and I was determined to do the other myself. Jared was out, I put the kids to bed, set myself up with a comfortable pillow on the dining room table and Rachel’s podcast to watch, lit the qulliq, and had a lovely time. I was so pleased with the above picture: such a typical combination of the super-modern and super-ancient! Until I looked at the second sole, and something wasn’t quite right.

The kamik on the left I sewed the sole on with help; the kamik on the right by myself. Does the toe look a little funny? That’s because I managed to sew the entire sole on, very carefully, backwards. Yup. Back to front. 

It was Saturday night, and if I have internalized one thing from hanging around a lot of older Inuit Christians, it’s that you don’t sew on Sunday. Okay, no one would really die on that hill anymore, but that’s certainly how everyone grew up! So even though I’m not sewing to survive, I take Sundays off too. Besides, I knew it’d be a lot easier to redo this seam if I did it right away. So I pulled out my handy Inuit seam ripper, a finely crafted tiny ulu that was a special gift from a dear elder friend Uliipika, who did not live to see me finish this process. I took out my previous work, and redid it. A little faster the second time, thankfully. By 11:30 when I tied off, the qulliq was burning pretty low.

The next week back at Tukisigiarvik, it was time to turn these puppies inside out. Maggie and Sarah gave the soles their final shape, and then showed me the inside part of that special waterproof stitch.

Seeing the inside of these skins gives me another chance to talk about these amazing materials. It makes sense, when you think about it, that if you’re going to survive in a harsh environment, the materials to do so will come from animals who have their skin as protection. The black sole comes from a bearded seal, and when we purchased it, it was about as hard as a thin piece of wood, and would bend only reluctantly, like a thick piece of plastic. It took a lot of force just to cut it. The reason all that chewing and sewing had to happen was to soften it enough that it could be sewn by hand. By the time it was finally soaked with salt water and a healthy quantity of spit, it was as supple as a shirt. Sewing with it was incredible. I couldn’t believe it, but it was actually in the sort of shape that I could make it into tiny gathers, and shape the inside edge of the thick skin into a smooth slanting ridge, and sew right through the middle of it to guide the shaping. In order to keep it that soft, I had to keep it in the freezer when I wasn’t working on it, and take it out exactly enough time in advance that it’d be thawed enough to work on again. As it went through subsequent stages, it had to get a little dryer every time. When they are finished and fully dried, they will be back to that incredibly sturdy state, which is only necessary for being a long-lasting outdoor boot. I cannot imagine how any of these techniques were discovered or invented, literally before recorded history, while surviving on the land. You may not want to try this yourself, but you have to respect it.

There were some more final steps, to flatten the gathers around the toe and make the heel stand up straight. There’s a large tool used for stretching the still-damp soles into their final shape, and I’ll have to go on using it to continue stretching and shaping them when they get damp. This is a living material, and it will go on being so while it’s being used.

The moment of completion, at Tukisigiarvik one Thursday afternoon.

But I wasn’t done. This isn’t the only layer of traditional kamiik, and I hadn’t made any of the inner layers yet.

Thankfully, wool duffel is much simpler to work with. Seepa had already given me most of the pattern, and my neighbor Meena taught me how to measure to make a pattern for the leg. I sewed them with the wrong thread to start; I found out from Facebook friends Jane and Annie that you should use at least waxed thread instead of regular sewing thread. But this whole project has been a story of me just trying something, and then being corrected, because I know that if I just wait for every step until I can ask a question, I’ll never get around to it. I’ve learned that if I try something on my own, then show up and say “what did I do wrong?” then I’ll actually make progress, and I’ll really learn that skill when I do it right.

The duffel socks above had to be almost entirely re-sewn – not just because I used the wrong thread, but because they were too big to fit inside the kamiik. And I changed my mind about turning the tops down. It turns out that, in the four months since I asked for the patterns, M’s feet have grown enough that they only just fit in them. Normally there would be two additional layers, two pairs of slippers just on the feet, but I’ll only be able to fit this one layer in now. At this point, I’m glad to save a few steps, have more to learn next time, and after all, she’s just two. Strategically, I’m having another baby girl, so at least I know these will get used again if she doesn’t fit them in the fall! Yep, that’s definitely why we’re having another kid…

You can pay someone else to do the embroidery on your duffel socks, but I have spent months now staring at the tops of everyone’s boots, and I very much wanted to give it a go. Jane is generously letting me use her remarkable collection of Patons Silk Bamboo. Another Monday night friend, Annie, walked me through the different kinds of decorative stitch I could use over the seams (the red part above), and gave me some ideas for petals I could achieve. That night turned into one of the most lovely Monday nights yet, with us all huddled around watching Meena demonstrate how to embroider roses, trading stories. The next day, the practice piece above saw me refine the petals to a pattern I could repeat. And I finally figured out the french knot, after watching Maggie do like twenty of them. I’ve seriously always wanted to know how to do a french knot!

One more Monday saw Ruth and others teaching me how to make the round cord used for tying the kamiik on. Youtube tutorials were not cutting it for me, but a few quick tricks and a demonstration from Ruth had me set. I then made the cord so humorously long that, as Seepa’s daughter Elisapee pointed out on Facebook, it was long enough to make both cords. That just about made my day. Inuit from pre-recorded history to present-day Facebook, helping me out.

They were finally officially finished yesterday.

The eye is drawn to the color at the top, with which I am genuinely pleased. But by now you know that the real action is down here.

Material sturdy enough to be an outdoor boot, in 1 mm gathers. You could not make this up.

I was pretty careful about how I introduced these to M – I’m no idiot, and I know that getting super emotionally invested in an heirloom handcraft for a two-year-old is not a great idea. With some coaching from my friend Andrea, I said, “Martha, do you want to try on your kamiik, or should we save them for the baby?” She wore them for a whole hour.

Maatakulu. She was named for someone we loved very much, with no thought to how unusual a name it is in America. We had no idea that we’d move to a place where it’s one of the most popular names. Seriously, there is enough personality in this tiny package to power a small town.

When it was time to pick up her sister from school today, she said “I want my kamiik!” Oh, what music to Mama’s ears!

I make things for a lot of reasons, though it gets more meaningful and intentional and less compulsive as time goes by. Still, it’s pretty rare that I make something that feels important. It was important to me to complete these kamiik and pick up the skills I would need to keep going. I’ve purchased the materials I’ll need to make kamit for N, Jared, and myself, and my goal is to make the pairs for N and me before this baby is born.

The Olympics start tomorrow at 6 a.m. EST. Usually I have a major knitting project I try to complete during the two and a half weeks of the Olympics. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But for the first time, my main project for the Olympics is not going to be knitting. I’m going to sew.

Another friend, Mary, mentioned how her mom used to do them all at once, doing the same stages of several pairs at once. I’ll follow Mary’s mom’s example and make N’s duffel socks while I’m on a roll. My goal will be to make all the inner layers of N’s kamiik: duffel socks, slippers, and embroidery. Another friend, Karen, quite a while ago gave me duffel socks and one pair of slippers for myself; I’ll do the second pair of my slippers (made of sealskin) when I do N’s second pair. If I can get through those, and get the pieces cut out for the outer boots of both of our boots, by the end of the Olympics, hopefully I’ll be well positioned to make both of our pairs before the looming ides of April.

N picked her colors yesterday, and I did the first braid today.

When you make something, you take a certain pride in it. But it’s funny: even though so many people helped me, and I made so many mistakes, I’m more proud of these than of most things I’ve made by myself. And thankful even more than proud. I say “I made these,” and it’s true enough. But I made them, and lots of other friends made them, and hunters made them, and precious beautiful animals made them, and a unique, ancient, living culture made them. It’s a gift to be a part of that. That’s why it feels important: I’m not just making something. When I do, I’m trying to honor that gift.

One Way to Say I Love You

It’s no secret that we’re big Daniel Tiger fans in our house. Recently, N has glommed on to an episode on the holiday DVD whose key song says, “Making something is one way to say ‘I love you’!”

For N, this means cards. This is easily the most rewarding result of our hobbyist homeschooling. She’s a nice clear hint-dropper too. “You know, Mom,” she said one day, “making something is one way to say I love you.” I agreed, and started talking about how I liked to knit things for the people I love most. She listened for a while, then said, “Actually, you should make me a card.”

Her idea was quicker.

When I started Jared’s Noro coat back in October, it was largely a matter of convenience. I needed a knitting project that was brainless, long, and monochromatic. This is back when certain colors were making me sick, and I was honestly too sick to spin. Jared had bought this yarn back when we were first married, when he bought yarn to make pretty much every item in Michael de Veccio’s Knitting with Balls. Since he knits through an average of half a skein a year at this point, I had talked him into letting me make it for him sometime.

It quickly became a labor of love. Not because it was laborious – indeed, it was so easy that the pieces seemed to fall off the needles of their own accord. Gotta love a bulky sweater. But I put a lot of thought into every stage.

I didn’t mean to knit it on the sly; it just seemed to happen by itself once I got going. This is the only picture I took of the thing while it was in progress.

See, I’ve knit my husband a goodly number of sweaters over the years. The first was given to him on the day he gave me a diamond ring. I’ve made him at least half a dozen pullovers and cardigans, and every one of them has ended up too big. The arms would be too long, or the shoulders would fit funny, or the arms would look like bat wings. Bat wing sweaters never having made it over to the male side of the fashion show, he has never worn any of my handknit sweaters for him more than a couple times after they were finished.

So I quizzed him thoroughly about this pattern, even as I went along. He had picked the yarn and the pattern, with a knitter’s knowledge, and was quite sure he wanted this sweater in this yarn. But I kept quizzing. “What sweater do you have whose sleeves you like? How do you feel about shawl collars? Are you really sure you want it to be this long?”

He insisted that he did.

Mercifully, careful swatching resulted in a sturdy enough fabric and a gauge match, so I could just follow the pattern for most of the sweater. But I made plenty of adjustments:

  • I could not handle the way the bottom of the sweater and the sleeves ended abruptly in cable pattern, giving it a ruffly sort of raw edge. And I could not believe that it wouldn’t roll. I replaced the last two inches of sleeves and body with honest, trustworthy 2×2 ribbing.

No rolling here.

  • I have perennially weird row gauge, which mattered most of all at the sleeve caps. I rejiggered the decreases so that my actual knitting resulted in the actual correct shape. And lo, set-in sleeves that fit my husband perfectly!
  • I made him try it on a few of times. This meant I had to reknit a sleeve cap when the first sleeve was too long, and had to knit four or five button bands between pattern and user errors.

  • The last major change I made was the collar. I’m not quite sure with the designer was going for, but there were some strange goings-on with three separate pieces only partially joined. As far as I can tell, that would mean sticky upper corners at the back of the neck. There are no pictures in the book or on ravelry that show what the sides of the collar actually look like. I decided to scrap it and just make a shawl collar that continued the button bands as written all the way across the back. As there’s no way to disguise the off-set join in grafting 1×1 rib, I did a garter stitch graft so it just looks like a neat seam.

I’m going to give you a clear view of the collar. And oh, that beautiful sleeve cap!

Overall, this design (“Knee-Length Coat” by Michael del Veccio) is very metropolitan, but the details make for a more casual, trendy look. For the more conservative dresser, those little details might make a big difference in the maturity of the design and its wearability for someone like my spouse. The yarn, a sadly discontinued bulky called “Big Kureyon” by Noro, will be judged over time. It’s lovely, and that colorway lives on in many other yarn lines. But I am worried about wear. Thankfully the local sewing/craft/hardware store always has elbow patches on hand, and I have plenty of leftover yarn.

We’re going through some transitions in our family. For a long time, we were sharing one position, assistant priests together at our parish. That worked well for a lot of reasons, for quite a long time. Now I’m staying at home full time, and Jared is in charge of the cathedral as an interim for a while. Suddenly we are much more focused on our respective areas, which are in the process of becoming much more intense for both of us.

Very sportingly spent a few minutes hatless in -30 C for a few pictures. In the winter, it’s hard to find a few quiet minutes together when it’s also light outside. 

Even though our tasks are much different now, I think that because we spent the last two and a half years part time in each others’ spheres, so to speak, we have a much better understanding of the demands we each face. Having worked as a priest, I understand much more what he’s carrying, and I’m much more invested in what he deals with every day. I’m also much more thankful for the opportunity to stay at home, while he’s thankful for the freedom to focus on work.

We’ve been married for almost ten years now, and we’re still learning how to say “I love you” in everyday meaningful ways. The details mean so much: coming home a few minutes early, asking thoughtful questions. Attending. I was so pleased this morning when I found his new sweater rumpled up in a pile at the foot of the bed. Why did this make me glad? Because that’s where all of our most-used garments live. Rumpled where we dump them, ready to pick up in the morning. I hope that more attention to detail, and to understanding his needs, have resulted in an “I love you” that isn’t just a thing, an idea, or a sentiment, but something that he reaches for that reminds him. It’s one thing to hear that you are loved. It’s another thing to know that you are heard and feel that you are understood.

A Priest Crafts Episode 6: Longdraw and Limits

It’s been a few months, but I have some progress to share on my spinning (big progress!) and lots of rambling to do about it.

The fiber I am spinning in this show is a hand-carded blend of Shetland wool – Natural White top from Jamieson & Smith which I dyed with pokeberries umpteen years ago – blended with some black alpaca local to my mom. Total of 23-24 oz of fiber. The Ravelry page for this spin is here.

I mentioned a Wool N’ Spinning video in which different wheels were discussed, as well as the concept of “outgrowing” a wheel. That was a super-helpful discussion and it was in Rachel’s most recent episode, number 88. Watch here. Of course the first thing I did after watching that video was check out the specs on the Majacraft Susie Pro, which is pretty much the opposite of what she was saying! I hope I do not come across as complaining. I think what you see in this video is me struggling with the process of accepting my tools. I will have to decide whether to continue making the most of what I have and being content, or to invest in something different.

There are a LOT of videos on youtube about long draw. The most helpful videos I found (actually, which I was directed to by a fellow Wool n’ Spinning member), which led to a real “aha” moment for me, were two videos of Stephanie Gaustad: first and second. The audio is quiet, but it’s worth turning it up to hear what she’s saying as well. I can see now that she’s definitely doing more double drafting – drafting out and then drafting it thinner while the twist is going into it. I’m only starting to do that more as I get a feel for it, now toward the end of this spin!

I realize this video doesn’t have much of a reflection piece in it. I thought about adding one, but it was already getting pretty long, and the things I have to reflect about – being at home full time, how my crafting life is changing with that – those thoughts are still in process and not ready to be shared. This is more part of a larger conversation that seems to be going on in the fiber/yarn community (and in my corner of it) about stashing, tools, and materialism, and how we handle it.

Thanks very much for watching, and I’m looking forward to showing you a big pile of finished yarn very soon!

Fifteen Minutes

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I am enough of a perfectionist, with enough experience of my own failure and unnecessary self-criticism, to recognize when I’m setting myself up for failure. But I have signed myself up for a sort of daily thing, sort of starting at the New Year, and I am determined to make it as helpful as it can be. It’s a hashtaggy thing, and it’s called #spin15aday.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. You commit to yourself to spin for fifteen minutes every day. The idea is, fifteen minutes isn’t that hard to carve out, and you’ll see more progress on your spinning if you work on it a little every day than if you wait and only spin when you have larger chunks of time.

I saw this idea at the same time I was reading Teaching Godly Play by Jerome Berryman. It’s a book about a Montessori-style religious education curriculum; I had been slightly exposed to it in seminary and was reading the book to see if it was something I could do at home with my kids. I did learn some things that will help me with at-home religious education, but I learned a lot more about interacting respectfully with children, entering and encouraging the creative cycle, and contemplating the presence of God.

Berryman recommends that the teachers spend some time after the class quietly cleaning up and setting things in order, then contemplating what happened in the class. This struck me as incredibly sensible, and something I could apply immediately. When I am at home with the kids, I usually get a short break in the afternoon when N is at preschool and M is playing quietly by herself. It’s often not more than an hour, and it’s been increasingly difficult for me to give up part of that time for quiet reflection. So often there’s chores to do, or I just want to escape and read a book or cruise Facebook for an hour. But I need that quiet reflection like I need oxygen.

How can I get myself to do it? By giving it fifteen minutes.

I still can’t believe how fast this stuff got carded once I got motivated.

This has evolved over the turning of the year into a daily practice that has been very centering. I clean up the living room and dining room from any major mess with the kids, reflecting on the activities we did that morning. I take fifteen minutes to spin, setting a timer once my wheel is oiled and new fiber attached. Then I spin. No other stimulation: no sounds, no sights. When the timer goes off, I finish my rolag and put the wheel away, the pull out the Bible and the commentary I’m reading. If I don’t have any time constraints, I’ll just read a large section, knitting away,* or I’ll take a break to journal any insights. If I have other pressing matters – bathrooms to clean, dinner to start – I’ll set another fifteen minute timer.

It usually happens in that afternoon space, though sometimes I wake up early and have it in the morning, and sometimes days explode or I’m working in the afternoons, and I do it in the evenings instead.

I started before the actual turning of the year, so it’s been almost two weeks now. And it’s been really nice.

I imagine I’ll reflect on this more as the year continues, but in the interest of completing the creative circle, I want to record my observations so far. Blasting out my thoughts on IG every day is cathartic, and scratches the social itch, but it doesn’t give me any closure on the ideas. So here we are. In no particular order:

  1. It makes me prep for myself. I’ve been doing a lot of prep lately,** but it’s mostly having activities ready for the kids. But when I only have fifteen minutes a day that I know I can spin or knit, I want to make sure those fifteen minutes are not wasted or delayed in winding off a bobbin, fussing around with a complicated part of a pattern, or something like that. I’ve become very conscious of when I’m at those transition points, and I find time the day before to set myself up for the next day’s time.
  2. The spinning time is not really reflective time. After sampling a good bit, the number of treadles I give each length of woollen spinning is 11. Meaning I am counting to 11 over and over again for fifteen minutes. This doesn’t leave room for a lot of reflection, or even prayer. It’s just counting. This is actually quite good, as other times that I am by myself without watching or listening to something, I tend to talk to myself, which helps me process, but doesn’t quiet my mind. Just counting helps by brain stop spinning (as it were), and the motion of supported long-draw feels a lot like slow breathing.
  3. This is the obvious thing that everyone in #spin15aday notices, but fifteen minutes a day is really enough to see progress. In fifteen minutes I can spin three rolags, and I’ve worked out that I can fit 30 rolags on a bobbin. That’s ten days to a bobbin! Normally I might go ten days in between spinning just because it takes that long to find a bigger chunk of time. That little bit of daily progress then further motivates me to find other times to spin, because I know how productive a whole half hour or hour really is.
  4. It’s the same thing in the scripture. I’m reading a commentary I really like, but I have to read a little bit of God’s Word every day. There’s something different about it, even in the weirder bits of the Old Testament. I spent the last year reading up to four chapters a day, and I got the big picture again that way. Now I’m reading maybe a chapter over two days, taking my time and really chewing on it. There really is grace in every story, though maybe you have to read it with eyes of faith to see it. (Some solid historical perspective helps too.)

I also got glitter gel pens for Christmas. Glitter gel pens were pretty much the best thing about being 14.

I’ve done everything I can to make this a positive, affirming practice, rather than a perfectionistic one. I made a habit tracker in my bullet journal, but I fill the squares with patterns instead of solid color, so that the inevitable blank skipped days don’t feel lonely. Failure should hold no threat in something like this. And perhaps because of that, I haven’t missed a day yet.

How about you? Have you found any ways to make a discipline more positive instead of threatening (if you struggle with that at all? Some people just don’t.)

First two bobbins complete. As of this writing, my total is at 3.5 bobbins, meaning I have crossed the halfway point for the singles on this project. I am very happy about that.

*Oh have I ever been knitting! I have a big project to show you, and hopefully I’ll get to that soon…

** Yeah so my new obsession is homeschooling. Not really homeschooling as my kids are 2 and 4 and the 4 yo is in half-day preschool, but more organized homeschool-type activities to give us something to do. I’ve been putting a LOT of time and effort into this, and I should really write about that too…