It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything is a common first-line for most blog entries these days. Life is busy and blogging has definitely waned in popularity in the last couple of years, but I do always plan to come back here every now and again (just like the rest of the writing world). Life has been busy and I do have some news. Also, who really cares what anyone thinks these days? I don’t. I do, however, care what people are crocheting and knitting. That’s infinitely more interesting that what people think.
I’ve been so busy teaching crochet, knitting and English classes online at TakeLessons, and in-person at my local community college, that I haven’t had a chance to show you what I’ve been doing. I am pretty sure that 2018 is going to be The Year of the Sweater. Wherein, I crochet and knit enough sweaters to dress a small European country or an average-sized city in the United States. Now that my “frozen shoulder” has melted, I’m off and running with literary and needle works. I’m hooking hard, pals (crochet hooking, pervs).
I’ve also got some movies to review for your. You remember that unimportant weekly event (or monthly one) when I would tell you what movie my friend, Lenya Papciackova, and I were watching on our weekly Chocolate Cake Friday? Well, those days are back. So, weird, obscure movies are about to become part of your weekly, monthly or completely random routine again. Calm down! I know you’re all thrilled. Sometimes the movies will even be popular with non-nerds.
Reviews coming soon for these beauts…
I am making this for a student, because she has other projects going right now and I’m addicted to making stuff. No, my student is not an infant…
and making this other thing with a student. Two very different actions.
Combined with teaching English to newly arrived immigrants–keeping the American spirit strong and diverse despite what all the bigots want–I’m pretty busy doing what I love. I will be posting videos soon, little tips on how to crochet this or knit that. For now, I am not taking any new students, unless we’ve discussed it otherwise. But I will share skills. Hopefully, they’re ones you need. Blessings, all! Thanks for reading
It’s been a painful few days for me, the worst continuous pain I’ve ever had, in fact. And I have been hit by a car, had two punctured lungs (each a different occasion) given birth, been paralyzed and taught myself to walk again, and had a ton of horrendous kidney stones. Still, this nasty present experience takes the cake. I am recovering from adhesive capsulitis, or “frozen shoulder”. I thought it hurt before my surgery, but it’s far worse after, during the physical therapy stage. It’s slowed down my crochet work quite a bit. In fact, it’s probably a bad idea for me to be crocheting at all, but it’s the only thing that can keep my mind off the pain. The pain killers certainly can’t. I can’t eat. I forget to drink. I don’t sleep. But I can crochet.
I believe God uses our talents to heal us and heal the world around us. So, even as I suffer, I have this crazy idea that in my artwork, I will find God and there will be a purpose for all of this. I know that, at the end of this dark tunnel, there will be peace and I will have fresh patterns and lessons to share with others who might also need a distraction from their version of pain. So, when my pain is at it’s worst, I pick up hook and skein and get to work.
I started this recovery with this pattern, a pattern I created last year. I’ve used in several different garments and blankets, and I thought it would work well with a beautiful cornflower silk I had in my studio stash. I will have a whole series of patterns with this stitch–hopefully–by winter.
It is so beautiful, it uses one of those stitches and one of those yarns that make you excited to wear the end product. You can picture it warming you in all seasons. I can imagine other people wanting to download the pattern. I see myself assisting others in making this stunning project at home, just for the joy of it. I work as quickly as my body will allow, to finish this wrap and share it with you all.
And then I realized that the yarn I never measured for size (because I’m not as organized when my brain is fuzzy) has been discontinued. I know better than to try and measure it. High quality yarns have fickle, particular, dye lots. What’s done is done. So, I took it apart and tried combining it with a cheap navy yarn. If you knit or crochet, I don’t have to tell you why this is a stupid idea. The end product looked like the kind of bulky, old granny crochet that makes 8th graders everywhere swear never to pick up needle arts. So, I looked through my studio for another complimentary color, that would add just enough challenge to this dreamy blue. Ever the writer, I believe in a good conflict, even in yarn colors. I believe strongly in making something of scraps, too. Yarn is not cheap, and I don’t like to waste things. So, I came up with this, a mixture of what’s left of the cornflower and a sea green color.
We’ll see where this goes. It’s the same patter, and it doesn’t, at this point, seem to have the same elegance as the straight blue version. But I have great plans, and I can’t wait to share them with you all. I believe consistency and faith are the main ingredients of success. Cheers to the best laid patterns. May you have a rich week of blessings, my friends.
Have you put off learning to crochet, because it looks too complicated? Or do you think you don’t have time for it? Crochet is the most versatile and quickest of the needle arts. Knitting can be quick and easy, too, but you only need one hook (and not two needles) and a few quick lessons to learn how to crochet. Anyone can do it. I will have a video up soon to if you’re interested in learning how to crochet, but if you already know, at least, a single stitch, here are some patterns that will take you no more than one skein and only a few minutes a day.
#1) Single Stitch Crochet Scarf from WikiHow
This is a simple starter project for anyone looking to practice what they have just learned in a beginning crochet class. Even if you’re new to crochet, this is a nice quick pattern to remind you that you crochet doesn’t have to always be complicated to be beautiful. Click on the picture to access this free pattern.
#2 Caron One Skein Baby Blanket
This pattern is a little more complicated than the single crochet pattern above, but it’s still an extremely simple pattern. If you don’t like the pink, use another color. You don’t have to use the suggested yarn, either. It’s just important that you’re able to match the gauge. This elegant pattern makes a wonderful baby shower gift. Click on the photo to get the pattern and instructions.
#3 One Skein Wrap
Using quality yarn will make just about any project look stunning. Make sure that you don’t just buy the cheapest yarn you can find. Use something that won’t pill and wear quickly. If you’re only using one skein, you can afford a quality yarn from your local yarn store. This wrap looks best in lightweight, hand-died, cottons. Click on the photo to get the pattern.
#4 Zeens and Roger Crochet Mesh Bag
Zeens and Roger has a wonderful, simple crochet mesh bag pattern on their website. You can make this in just one afternoon. Use it as they have in their photo, as a yarn holder. Sew a quick lining that you can insert and take out easily, and store smaller items in it. You’ll have fun with this pattern. Click on the photo to get the instructions. They’re well laid out and easy to follow. If you need a confidence booster, this one will do it for you.
#5 Crocheted Travel Mug Cozy
It seems like everywhere I turn these days, I see one of these crocheted or knitted travel mug cozies. They always catch my eye. They’re great, because you don’t have to use them on just reusable mugs. You can put a sleeve on one of the paper cups you get from your favorite coffee house as well. Leave the cardboard sleeve and save the planet from one more landfill item. Consider it support for your favorite tree. Click on the picture to get this quick, chic pattern. My personal tip–don’t use wool even though it sounds like a good idea for keeping something hot. Use cotton. It also holds in heat and cleans well.
Crochet should never be stressful. If a pattern is too hard for you to understand, take a break and try something different. Search out YouTube, sites for large yarn distributors, like Red Heart and Lion Brand, and Ravelry (if you’re a member) for assistance. Check out the lesson roster at your local yarn store as well. Give back locally as often as you can. Finding a local source that can help you is indelible. Check back here often! I’ll have tutorials, patterns and lessons coming soon. Happy crocheting!
Some of you have sent me emails and messages over the past couple of months, asking me where I’ve been. I injured my rotator cuff, so the work with hooks and needles is very slow-going these days. I’ll be having surgery in the near future, and that will halt progress altogether for a time. But, hopefully, after that, I’ll have stuff to share with you all.
It’s sometimes hard to think of this as work (it’s the same with writing) but I have orders and a place at a craft fair, so it’s real. I just don’t lose weight doing it.
I have this issue with consistensy in art sometimes. I write the great ideas for a novel, the pattern for a beautiful sweater, but halfway through I get tired and start binging on Netflix. Not that I haven’t finished projects. I finish most things, and I’ve written three successful novels, thousands of articles, created all kinds of crocheted and knitted items and sold them through three different online stores since 2001, but it’s not always a systematic endeavor. I tend to weave in and out of production.
For Lent this year, I came up with the idea of remaining consistent even if that consistentcy depressed me. And even when I was tired, or when I was bored with sitting in the same spot, working on a project that was nearly done (but not quite), I worked until completion.
Two things happen when you remain consistent: 1) You get a finished product that you can edit and refine and 2) You train your brain and body to become more resilient and go further.
Since I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, I’ve found that I’ve started completing other projects as well. No more cleaning half the living room before sitting down for a cup of coffee. Now I start the same way each time, same time of day, the same way I approach writing something on a deadline. When you create a healthy pattern, life gets better, and you start to wonder if this is work or something far more enjoyable. It’s a true story.
A couple of months ago, I announced that I was going to quit writing for a time, that I was going to concentrate my career efforts on serving the autistic community, a community that I have worked with for many years. A community that inspired my education and my graduate school, even the heavy writing parts.
This felt so good, this letting go of the stress of publishing, and it still feels good. Yes, I’m still writing, but not with any sort of deadline in mind (except, where my blog is concerned). I’m not writing with a particular audience in mind. I’m just writing the rest of the Embers of War series slowly and I’m making lengthy notes every day in my journal about the people and places that inspire me.
But recently, as you can obviously see by visiting this website, I have offered most of my outward passion to my needle arts, knitting and crocheting and a little embroidery work–the kind my Southern grandmothers used to employ. My wonderful priest said to me, after I announced my desire to work with the autistic community, my son’s community, and many of my family members’ community, to “Go with God on this.” And I have stood by that command whenever my hopes have become deferred by the realities of the neuromuscular disease that I live with.
I moved forward and joined two social service agencies, signing on with them professionally. Absolutely nothing panned out there, even though I was assigned cases. For one, I had a client but was assigned too few starting hours to fulfill the clients’ needs, and with the other, I was working at a school, but the agency required that I sign on to their health insurance which could cause me to lose my much-needed primary health insurance. Long story short, I had to say goodbye to both agencies. I was devastated by the loss of this seeming “new turn” in life, but I pressed on, because “Go with God” and what else can you do and still keep your faith?
So, I re-enlisted with an online school where I have taught English, Reading, Writing, ESL, and all manner of Language Arts to regular and special education students for years. I had taken a brief hiatus from them while I was reorganizing my profile there and sharpening my class offerings. Because I can’t control the outcome of too many things, really, I just decided to do what I love and what I can do from the comfort of my own home. Here again, I had to learn the lesson of living within the means that God has given me. He has not given me the ability to work outside of the home. I can’t physically tolerate it due to Myasthenia Gravis, but I can continue to write and teach and crochet. But how to serve the autistic community with this?
And the answer came like that, while I was working on something. The image is still fuzzy, and the details are being worked out, but I take my crochet work and knitting with me everywhere. I mean, everywhere. While sitting in the waiting room of one of my children’s doctor’s offices the other day, a doctor came out into the room where I was and became immediately interested in what I was doing. This has happened to me more times than I can count, where people of all walks of life stop and watch me working and begin to ask me details about what I’m making, how I’m making it, whether or not the process is difficult or easy, how therapeutic it looks…It has stopped heated arguments between strangers, caused crying toddlers to become distracted…”You could use this as a form of Art Therapy,” the doctor said to me. “You don’t happen to have a degree in Psychology do you?”
I stopped crocheting and looked up at him. “As a matter of fact..”
“Do you teach lessons?” he asked, shoving his hands into his pockets, his eyes watching my fingers as they began to work the hook again.
I nodded. “Yes. I’ve been a certified teacher and tutor for several years, and I work with special needs students and I’ve actually had accidental success in the past working with adults who had dementia and Alzheimer’s. As part of their cognitive therapy, I integrated crochet and knitting into a regular part of their exercises.”
“How did it work?” He was very curious.
“Quite well.” I was excited now, but my voice trailed off for a bit, because I was remembering how the woman in the Alzheimer’s unit where I worked years ago, quit sobbing and banging her head against the wall the minute I handed her a red skein of cotton yarn and green titanium crochet hook. She took the items from my hand, walked over to a bench, and quietly began working away, the tears drying on her face, whatever had been torturing her long forgotten. “Yes, I have had success with it as a therapy. I’d love to work with autistic children in this manner. I think it would work well.”
“Of course!” said a play therapist who shares an office in the same building. She saw me working earlier on the same handbag and dipped into the conversation as she passed by us. “That’s a great idea! I say, go with it!” she said. “Do what you love and help others love find something to love, too.”
And that’s how I went from feeling listless and confused without a life full of writing and flailing about with my experience in autism support and education, while also needing some serious knitting-for-sanity time. Like I said, the images here are still kind of fuzzy, but things are getting more clear and opportunities are presenting themselves. I will fill you all in along the way, and if you’re thinking the same thing for your gift and the people you long to serve, go for it. Go with God.
“I never knew anyone who found happiness by seeking it. It always comes as a result of giving oneself to the service of something greater than oneself.” Bishop Edmond Lee Browning