Knitting for Sanity

But, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I know that I can sit down for a few minutes, or a few hours, and return to the routine of knitting.

There are so many times when knitting has made my life more comfortable – handspun socks hugging my feet, or a double layer of shawls keeping my face warm when I work in the barn…the sweater customized to fit just how I like it.

Mostly, though, knitting has kept me comfortable by giving me a productive way to chill out. I take small projects with me whenever I go out and know that “waiting” will be a task expected of me – appointments, restaurants, Bill wandering through the hardware store pondering shelves and shelves and aisles and aisle of pipe fittings.

Knitting has been a key part of my sanity for the last few weeks, especially. I am comfortable with routine and predictability. Spontaneity tends to make me anxious. My library, for example, is only a few miles from my house, but I need at least three days of lead time before I’m comfortable planning a trip. To return books. It takes me three days to get ready to drive five minutes – in a totally straight line – and jump out of the car to plop books through a slot in a door. An event which involves actually interacting with people requires at least of week of mental psych up.

The last four weeks have been anything but routine. We’ve experienced disruption on top of disruption. Some were permanent (my husband was laid off as part of a merger at work – we’ve had nearly two years to plan for the possibility, so we’re ok), and some were temporary (I got the flu! And this extreme cold weather, which changes the farm routine significantly – and broke our pipes…and our furnace). But, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I know that I can sit down for a few minutes, or a few hours, and return to the routine of knitting.

Except when I had the flu. That was four days of sleeping and whining with a small amount of banana eating.

The repetitive motion of knitting is very calming for my brain and my body. The feel of wool soothes my soul. Beautiful yarn colors and lacy stitch patterns delight my eyes. And most importantly, knitting is a show of optimism for the future. Adding a few rounds to a sock, or finishing a sleeve on a sweater is a profession of faith that sometime soon, this knitted item will be used – hopefully during a happy time. I may be struggling with two weeks of single degree temperatures, but a lacy sock means that summer will come and there will be a time when 18 layers of clothing are not required. Perhaps, at this moment, I have the unwashed hair, and body odor of someone who hasn’t crawled off the couch in a week, but knitting on a sweater proves that I know some day I will be germ-free, take a shower, brush my hair, and (with at least seven days’ notice) leave the house to meet up with friends.

The last few weeks of 2017 were disruptive, worrying, and difficult. Knitting helped me remember that the trying events were temporary, and helped me stay sane(ish) as we were getting past them.

I’ve got delightful projects to share with you soon! In the meantime, please enjoy some scenes from the farm, which is firmly in the grip of winter.

November WIPs and Digital Detox

Settling in for the coziest week of the year.

The past few days on the farm have been very cozy. Temperatures have dropped and daily fires have been keeping us warm. The path to the barn is littered with still-colorful leaves and the sheep are burying their woolly heads in the hay feeders, searching for the best morsels of clover and grass.

It is finally time to revel in wool!! During small breaks throughout my day, I’m working on the Windsor Warmer by Cecily Glowik MacDonald from the Interweave book New England Knits.

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It’s a scarf. A rectangle-shaped scarf.

I usually have strong feelings about knitting rectangles. As in, I don’t do it. Because rectangles are so. boring. They’re depressingly the same from beginning to end and they are so rectangular. Ugh. I’m bored just thinking about it.

This pattern, however, is knit from side to side. It’s still a rectangle, but I’ll be knitting less than 50 rows, start to finish and that seems somehow more achievable. I can say this confidently now because the 240+ stitch cast-on happened a few days ago (with the help of some rum) and has been wiped from my memory.

The scarf is all lace, and the thought of 240+ stitch rows of lace did cause mild panic. I mentally gathered all of my most functional stitch markers and prepared for some fiddly knitting. However – Madam Glowik MacDonald is a benevolent genius, and the pattern includes columns of ribbing in between each lace repeat. Built in stitch markers!

IMGP3011It has been a good long while since I’ve knit any serious lace and I am already looking forward to blocking the finished scarf. The anticipated satisfaction is enough to keep my motivation high! Also, the yarn is glorious…far more complex than you can see in the photos (hey, Red, what you gotta be like that??). This is my second project using Flock Fibre, which is dyed in Canada by lovely women, and I am looking forward to having an excuse to purchase more. The colorway is Geranium Kisser, which I am told is a reference to another lovely Canadian, Anne of Green Gables.

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My second project is quite a bit more local. Though Bill has sheared our sheep for the past four years, I haven’t yet made him anything with our own wool. His favorite pair of socks are handspun from a down wool roving, so I promised him another pair before winter really took hold. He was noncommittal when I asked what color he’d like…he’s really so agreeable on sock colors. I asked him to close his eyes, clear his head, and tell me about some of his favorite things. Immediately, he decided his socks should be orange and brown like our bedroom.

I dyed 6 ounces of Southdown roving from our sheep, and spun it into a traditional three-ply a few months ago. I’m knitting a toe-up sock with the standard Bizarro Bill Feet Modifications, and have just finished the heel on the second sock (which is four stitches smaller than the first sock, and yet still a bigger sock…spinning consistency? meh).

They are going quite quickly as the yarn is pretty thick. My standard Bill sock is 68-72 stitches, but these are 52. Also, handspun. Also, orange and brown. Also, MY OWN SHEEP!

My last knitting WIP is a raglan sweater for coziness. The pattern is Clarke Pullover by Jane Richmond, and I’ve knit it before. I enjoy the construction and clear directions. The gray yarn has been reclaimed from a wonky sweater I never wore, and I think it’s Dream in Color…worsted weight?? The accent stripes are three Muppet colorways from Another Crafty Girl on her Merino Worsted base – #1 Fan, BWACK!, and Boomerang Fish. I love Sarah’s yarn and I race through the gray so I can knit another stripe with her gorgeous colors.

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Finally, I have delightful spinning on the wheel. I finished this 2 oz of Tuesdays at Three on Finn from Three Waters Farm a few weeks ago, and I’m nearly done with the last 2 oz. The fiber really wants to be spun thinly, but I don’t mind. I’ll chain-ply this second half as well, and hopefully have matching socks.

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I should make a ton of progress on all these projects over the next week, as it is our annual Digital Detox week. Each year, during the week of Thanksgiving, Bill and I turn off all our electronic devices and disconnect from media, social networks, and advertising. The quiet and slow-pace that results really complements a holiday focused on gratitude, and encourages us to be mindful about all the gifts and good things in our lives. It also serves as a vacation of sorts. The farm severely limits our ability to travel, so disconnecting from the noise of daily life provides needed respite. I always feel restored and energized after our unplugged week.

I am preparing a blog post to self-publish while we’re offline though, because technology can be pretty cool. I find, though, that I often need to remind myself that all these digital wonders are tools to help me accomplish goals, they are not a force to guide or control my life. Giving them up for a week helps me keep technology from asserting undue influence over my daily routine.

So, for the next week I’ll be quietly manipulating wool, cooking cozy meals, and staring pensively into the wood stove. It’s my favorite way to usher in winter.