Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 16: Begin again (again)

It seems like everyone is talking about colouring books. They are vaunted as a way to slow down, a way to refocus, a way to be more mindful, whatever. I was never good at colouring, even as a child; I wasn't great at colouring inside the lines and I was completely unable to see the utility of the process. A book of coloured-in pictures is still just a book of pictures. Why bother colouring-in when you could read? I wanted words. I still do.

But sometimes it is good to slow down, to play with colour, to immerse yourself in another realm. Much beleaguered by a week of non-stop editing (file under: be careful what you wish for) and bitterly cold, snowy weather, I turned my thoughts to the rug-hooking project that I started last fall.

The process is basic: use a tiny hook to pull loops through gaps in the linen – heaven forbid you should call it burlap – until you've drawn the outlines, then repeat the process to fill in the spaces with blobs of colour. As you can see, I got tired of the lines. It's cold and grey outside; I needed some red. 

It's a simple process, using simple materials; one of those crafts that obviously had its origins in necessity and thrift. (I wouldn't want to explain to a local grandmother how much I spent on the class, or the materials.) These days, of course, the rugs are more likely to be made from new materials, some quite expensive; rather than workaday floor coverings, they're works of art. 

Sitting on the couch after dinner last week, tensioning the wool strips with one hand while the other hand guided the hook through the linen, trying and failing to catch the strip, trying again, and again, I thought about that cold fall day that we sat in the rug-hooking class. There was a fire in the wood stove; the trees were just past peak colour, but bright reds and oranges were still visible through windows rimmed with the first of the year's frost. We ate trail mix and drank tea in mugs with the bag still in, and we worked mostly in silence, except when the teacher regaled us with tales of her former life as a fabric buyer for fashion houses in England, and during the short pauses we took to look up, flex our fingers and stretch our necks, and trade some gentle gossip. 

It's challenging to learn something new as an adult; mentally and physically exhausting. Sitting at that table, I was so frustrated: I can knit and crochet and sew and embroider, I kept thinking, why can't I do this? I kept shaking out my hands, as though that would help get the knowledge from my brain down into my fingertips. 

Thinking back on it now, it occurs to me that the tiring part of learning something new, at least for me, might not be in the assimilation of new information, but in quieting the critical voice and replacing it with the voice that I try to use around new knitters, the one that is patient and encouraging, that says, When's the last time you learned a brand-new physical skill? Driving a car, right? Be easy on yourself. Don't give up yet. 

(That, of course, is one of the secrets of life. Find the balance between being easy on yourself and not giving up: it works for more than learning rug-hooking.)

So here we are. I've got the basics down now, and it's getting easier, but it still requires me to sit, head down, brow furrowed, in concentration for half an hour at a time. As I do, the cares of the day fall away; by the time I'm on my third or fourth strip of wool I've mostly forgotten the emails that didn't arrive; the meetings that took too long; that errant semi-colon and the perfidy of spell-check. That doesn't happen for me with knitting any more; one day it won't happen with rug-hooking, either. Maybe then I'll have to take up tatting...

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015, which disappeared

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. I certainly had a busy year in 2015, and I'm happy to say that it was one of the most satisfyingly creative years I've ever had. It didn't always feel that way when I was *in* it, but looking back, I'm actually super satisfied with what I accomplished – I learned some new skills, further developed some old skills, and started some long-term projects with good results:
  • Tried weaving, on both a rigid heddle loom and a floor loom (liked the former more than the latter; need to order a 12-dent heddle to make my scarf dreams come true)
  • Took a rug-hooking class
  • Took part in the Block of the Month classes at Patch (thank goodness for Patch, which has become a real creative touchstone for me over the past twelve months), with the happy result that my sampler quilt is almost ready to put together
  • Thought hard about my handmade wardrobe, and started sewing clothes in earnest (three tank tops, two woven tees, three long-sleeved knit tees, two skirts; thank you, Grainline Studio!)
  • Started a long-term granny square afghan project
  • Knitted four pairs of Christmas socks for my family, six pairs of baby booties and several baby hats
  • Knitted a hap shawl, plus various other accessories for myself
  • Established a small (but lovely) knit night with some new friends from my sewing classes
There were a few things that I missed: I didn't do much travel this year, and couldn't make it to the spring session of Squam, which I was so looking forward to. Missing that took the wind out of my sails in a few ways – suddenly, I didn't feel like blogging, for one thing – but it's back on the calendar for this year, and I'll be there come hell or high water.

I also really missed having a local yarn store with a strong community, but I did get a chance to explore some of the not-so-local shops and they've got a lot to offer (and the fact that they're an hour away in four different directions means I don't do quite as much impulse shopping!).

In 2016, I'm planning to focus on making things for myself, following the William Morris philosophy that things should be beautiful or useful (ideally, both). The goal: to have at least three completely "me-made" outfits – outfits that represent the clothes I want and like to wear, from inner- to outerwear – in my closet by the end of the year.
  • Sewing-wise, I'm planning to tackle slightly more challenging projects: blue jeans, for one, and lingerie, for another. I've also got my eye on this coat.
  • I'd like to add a few sweaters to my wardrobe; I've got two in the works, and the yarn for another already set aside.  
  • Socks! I need to replenish my sock stash a little bit, as my old favourites are starting to show their age.
  • A new quilt. I still have the first quilt I ever made on my bed. I'm still proud of it, but I'm ready for something new – bigger, bolder and more modern. Maybe this one. Or this.
I've also got a few writing projects in mind – a return to blogging regularly and a silly-but-fun creative writing project that should keep me busy. I'm looking forward to seeing you here more often.

(I keep encountering the phrase "If not now, when?" and that might be my word(s) for the year. A call to action! I like it.)