General knitting spirituality

Developing New Skills

Last week, I finally began to learn something I’d been wanting to try for a while: spinning. I don’t mean a cardio workout, but rather, spinning yarn.

All of you fiber people probably know this next bit, for those not of Fibrish persuasian, allow me to explain a little. Spinning fleece into yarn (or more properly, rovings into yarn) can either be done on a spinning wheel or  a drop spindle. Through most of human history, the drop spindle has been the tool of choice, since it was basically the only tool. Recently (meaning the last few hundred years, maybe?) the spinning wheel was invented and is now the predominant image we have for transforming fiber to yarn. But many hand spinners continue to use drop spindles, because they are cheaper and more portable. So I am learning on a drop spindle, it being both cheaper and more portable.

Stacy taught me the rudiments: how to attatch the fiber to the spindle, how to spin it, how to draw the fiber. Once I’d created some “yarn” (and I use the term loosely), she taught me how to ply it, creating a yarn from single strands. And she kept telling me how well I was doing. Which was odd, because I felt like I was making a complete mess of the roving and the product of the spinning, which might, very generously, have been called yarn.

Unsurprisingly, spinning is difficult. It is a skill which is built, traditionally, through years of practice, each generation teaching the next. And I want to be able to do it, first time round, starting at age 37. And yet, I’m surprised it didn’t turn out well.

I know that what I need is more time, and practice (and Stacy did say the roving I was working with might have been a little tougher to work with than some). Just like knitting, when I first tried it, it felt very, very wrong (I still have a washcloth I made where I didn’t understand moving the yarn from back to front and vice versa when doing ribbing, and therefore yarned over every stitch….creating a very odd shape). And I know that if I keep at it, it will get better, and I probably will enjoy it, and learn to produce yarn that I love. Yet at the moment, I am discouraged.

I’m not giving up, but I’m not entirely sure I’m going to give up my knitting time this evening in order to spin, either.

General knitting

The Purple/Pink Shawl

I’ve finally gotten around to taking photos of the shawl, and am ready to show it in it’s finished, blocked, glory:

As I said previously, I’m really quite pleased. More pictures? If you insist:

You will note the nice, pointy little edges. I’m very pleased those worked out as well as they did. Please also note the expanse: nearly 6 feet, which is the result of a bit of agressive blocking, but it really made the whole shawl work.

For slightly less expansive occasions, it can be worn folded in half:

I’ve written so much about this shawl, I don’t feel like there’s a huge amount left to say, so I’ll leave you with a final picture:


My Pink Jacket

I’ve started a new project for myself. It’s a pink outerwear jacket. It’s the Danbury Knitted Sweater Jacket. You can find out more about on ravelry here. I’ve now knit up the first foot of the back about 4 times, and frogged it each time trying to get both gauge and a good texture. The most recent version, just before I frogged it, looked like this:

The stockinette gauge was ok, but the ribbing was too large. So out it came, and I’m starting the ribbing now with size 5 needles to go with the size 7 needles on the stockinette. The pattern actually calls for 10.5 needles for the stockinette and 9 for the ribbing, but I’m using a much heavier yarn, I think.

I’m really loving this yarn (bought it at a destashing sale (yarn equivalent of a garage sale). It means I have to describe the yarn, rather than simply tell you the brand, etc. So they yarn is wool, fairly variable in weight, without much twist to it. At times, it almost seems like it wasn’t so much spun as drawn. Very soft, in light pink with streaks of purple running through it. The weight is varying widely from very thin (almost a fingering weight, to extremely chunky. It’s a pleasure to knit with.

I just finished casting on for my next go round. We’ll see whether I can actually keep what I knit this time.

Jewish Spirituality knitting spirituality

Mindfulness Through Pain

Back when I was meditating regularly, when I was experiencing pain, even fairly intense pain, I found that if I concentrated upon the pain I was able to better tolerate it. When I really tried to focus upon the pain itself, to really feel where it was located and how it felt, it turned out that in any given moment, the pain itself wasn’t so bad. It was the ongoing nature of the pain, the sense that the pain was present and was going to continue to be present for who knows how long, that made bearing the pain difficult. I don’t know if this is a common experience for those who meditate or not (or if I’m the only one strange enough to look at pain as a potential focus for mindfulness meditation), but it was certainly my experience.

This came to mind recently, as I’ve been thinking about mindfulness and pain in a somewhat different context. Yesterday morning, getting out of the shower, I reached for my towel. Somehow in the process of grabbing my towel, I managed to do something unpleasant to the muscles around my neck. As long as I keep my neck vertical and still, everything is good. Bend my neck down or up, or twist my neck side to side, and it hurts. The pain can be anything from a gentle stretching ache to a sharp shooting pain. The obvious answer is to keep my neck fairly still. Which is where my musings on mindfulness and pain come in.

I am being forced to be mindful about how I hold my neck because otherwise I experience pain. Overall, I am not necessarily finding this a particularly spiritually satisfying form of mindfulness, but it is pushing me to think back to other forms. When it first happened, I had high hopes. After all, I’d profitably combined mindfulness and pain before, perhaps it would work well, this way also.

Not so much. Part of the issue, I suspect, is that mindfulness is largely about being mindful for it’s own sake, rather than for the sake of avoiding pain. There seems to be something a little odd about seeking mindfulness in order to limit pain. The other part of the issue is that I haven’t been meditating consistently recently. I think knitting has largely taken the place of the meditation in my life, and while it fulfills many of the same functions (relaxation, clarity of mind, peace of spirit), it does not provide the sharpness of mental focus that mindfulness meditation provided me.

I’m beginning to think (continuing to think) that I need to make time in my life for meditation again. The trick, as with all of life, is doing it.

General knitting

The Shawl is Done!

After about 6 months, my pink pinwheel shawl is done. I am very excited.

It’s not blocked yet, so you can’t really see the pointy edging I put on, but I’ll definitely post more pictures once I block it.

I was concerned as I was working on this that it wouldn’t work out. I was concerned in all sorts of ways. For the last 5 days, since I started the edging, I’ve been convinced I would run out of yarn (though some time yesterday I relaxed when I realized I was okay). I’ve been concerned that it wouldn’t lie flat (it mainly does, and I think it really will once I block it). I was concerned that I wouldn’t like it (I do…a lot).

I think I’m planning to offer it for sale, to try to offset my yarn habit…though if I wind up keeping it as a wrap, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.

For more details about the construction, you can take a look at the ravelry page for the project: I’ve included the pattern for the edging there.

Have I mentioned I’m excited to have finished this?


Eva's Socks Are Done

I’ve finished Eva’s socks. I don’t have pictures, yet. I know I should, but somehow haven’t gotten around to it. I finished them Saturday afternoon, and they look pretty good…until they actually get worn much.

The problem is one I foresaw, but sort of ignored. They slouch. They don’t stay up adequately well. I know why this is (the spiral pattern of ribbing doesn’t provide the stretchiness that vertical ribbing does), but I’m still somewhat frustrated by it. I’m wondering if it’s too late to add some elastic (I rather suspect it is). Eva says she likes them as slouch socks, but I’m not as satisfied with them as I’d like to be. So it goes. There will be more socks moving forward.

In fact, I’ve just started another sock (this one for me). It’s the second sock of a pair I started back before I started Eva’s. It’s a very similar pattern, but with far more ribbing at the top, and less of the swirling pattern up the leg. We’ll see if that helps it stay up better.

This is the first time I’ve been disappointed with how a big project turned out. I’m not deeply upset by it, but I am aware of a number of things I would do differently if I were doing it over. I’m not going to rip back and re-do it…in large part because the socks took so long to do the first time, I can’t quite face spending that much more time with them again. Instead, I’m trying to focus on this as a learning experience. As disappointments go, this one is fairly minor. It’s something that if it mattered enough to me, I could fix (I think).

What this means, among other things, is that I am now done with one project, and down to 3 active projects on the needles. One of these (a bedspread) is my “in front of the TV” project, and getting some attention. Another, a shawl, is largely languishing at the moment, but I’ll come back to it. Regardless of how I feel about how the socks came out, it feels really good to have finished something. Eva’s socks are the first project I’ve finished since January, which, for me, is a really long time. Just finishing them is an accomplishment, and I’m feeling good about moving forward again.


Moving Forward on Socks!

I’m finally making progress on Eva’s socks again.

You will note, a completed sock and another sock with the foot finished and me working my way up the leg. I’m finally feeling like I’m making real progress on a knitting project again, which is great after months of not feeling like I was getting anywhere.

I’m on the leg, and the leg is the longest part of this sock (this is sort of a three-quarter calf length). But still. . .I think I finished the foot in about a week, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish up the leg in a week or two more.

I’ve been working on this pair of socks since February, and it was the last project I started. I have 3 other projects that have been getting some attention also, but the bottom line is that nothing has been moving very quickly. So for the last week or so I’ve been concentrating on these socks, and making nice progress on them. I’m not a knitter who needs constant gratification, but it turns out I need to finish something more often than once every 4 months.

I didn’t think this would be a problem. I thought it would be great for me to have a variety of projects going simultaneously. You know, some that were more complex and took more attention, some that were very simple. Some that were very portable, some that needed me to be sitting unmoving because they were too big to tote around. And while that has been nice, it means that nothing has gotten finished. And that has been more discouraging than I expected.

But now, I am making progress, and feeling good about it. Yes, I have 3 other projects languishing, but I prefer to think of them as “waiting for attention.” And I know that when I dedicated my undivided knitting attention to them, they will begin to proceed more quickly as well.

Want to see my progress over the last week again? Ok:


Starting the Second Sock

After over a week of searching for the cone of yarn for Eva’s second sock, I gave up and went back to Yarnia. Astonishingly enough, she still had the same yarns that I’d used to make the original yarn, and we were able to reconstruct it. Barely. I completely finished her second to last cone of the green, and she had to split the remaining cone of green between two cones to give me my two strands of the green. But she did it, and I have enough of this yarn, now, to make Eva’s second sock.

I’m really excited to be back to working on these socks. I felt a little stalled for the last week or so. I was making progress on the bedspread, and the shawl, but what I really wanted to be blasting forward on was Eva’s socks. And now I can.

So I’ve been magic looping my way around the toe. And I’m almost done with my increases. And I am finding it very satisfying to be able to work on this sock at last.

Jewish Spirituality knitting Rabbinic shabbat

The Week Improved

After my lament of earlier in the week, I thought I should let you all know that, 1, I’m still alive; and, 2, the week has gotten better.

I may be a touch bleary-eyed at the moment, but overall, the remainder of the week has been a massive improvement. The vet prescribed a course of antibiotics of colitis for Diana, and she seems to be feeling significantly better. The new tires, while expensive, do make the car much quieter, and somewhat more fuel efficient. And I had a good afternoon of learning with my bar and bat mitzvah students yesterday, so I’m looking forward to having more group lessons (it helps that a number of them are looking forward to the continuing group lessons).

My only remaining complaint is that I still can’t find the cone of yarn for Eva’s second sock. This is beginning to drive me crazy, but I’ve looked everywhere I can think of. And I really want to begin this sock. And it’s a custom constructed yarn at Yarnia, so it’s not like I can just wander out to the store and buy more. I am getting to the point of going over to Yarnia and seeing whether Lindsey and I can reconstruct the yarn, so the second sock will match the first.

I’m looking forward to Shabbat, though it is very much a working shabbat. Tonight, though I’m not leading services, I’ll be present for the Jew Crew (our youth group) service. They’re leading it entirely on their own, and I’m pretty excited to see what they do. Tomorrow morning I lead services, and then tomorrow night, I’m performing a wedding.

Meanwhile, CubeSpace will be mobbed with people for BarCamp. Eva will be working incredibly long hours this weekend, since BarCamp runs until 11PM tonight, from 9AM – 11PM tomorrow, and from 9 – 3 Sunday. She takes off Monday, but I’ll be back at CubeSpace. I am sorry I’ll be working throughout BarCamp, because it was a lot of fun last year (if exhausting), but there’s only so much one can squeeze into life.

Oh, and Eva is going to be on a local public radio show this morning, Think Out Loud, talking about the economic slowdown and how it is affecting microbusinesses. All in all, life is about as busy as it gets.

General Rabbinic

One of Those Weeks

Some weeks, it seems like it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Starting Sunday, this week has been going a bit sideways (it’s only Tuesday? Really?).

Sunday morning I got up, brushed my teeth, showered, put in my contacts, dressed, ate some matzah and cheese for breakfast, made tea, got in the car and started driving to Salem for the last day of Sunday school. Fifteen minutes into the drive, I realized I’d forgotten to shave. Which isn’t a huge deal, since I have most of a beard, but it does show when I forget to shave around the edges. Especially if I didn’t shave the previous day because I had the day off.

Driving down the highway to Salem, about two-thirds of the way to Salem, all of a sudden I realize that that the roadbed has gotten much worse than I recall it being. It’s really loud, and the car is shaking. In fact, now that I think about it, this is about as loud as I have ever heard the car be. . .and it gets this loud when. . .I have a flat tire. I pull off to the side of the road, and sure enough, my passenger side rear tire is flat. Completely flat. Gone through the sidewall flat. The spare tire in under the floor of the trunk. Which would be less of a big deal if the trunk weren’t filled with junk to go to SCRAP, a tarp, and miscellaneous other crap. So I throw some of that into the backseat, pull the box to go to scrap out and put it on the ground, pull up the trunk liner, and pull up the floor of the trunk. I unscrew the spare tire, and then spend 4 minutes trying to figure out how to release the jack from it’s niche (you have to screw the jack down to get it to release). Changing the tire goes fine, but is a little dirty. 20 minutes later, I’m back on the road to Salem, and pull into the Temple at 9:20, with 10 minutes to spare before Sunday school begins.

Of course, I arrive unshaven, with tire marks on my clothing.

The day goes okay, especially given that it’s the last class, which means the kids are a bit on the rambunctious side. But as everyone is leaving, following the end of year certificate ceremony, I am approached about the fact that it is traditional for the kids who are becoming bar or bat mitzvah over the summer to continue in Hebrew School through their bar or bat mitzvah. Which does make sense, and isn’t a big deal, but would have been nice to know about previously. So it turns out I’m not done with Sunday school quite yet. Which is sort of a shame, because I was looking forward to having my Sundays back. So it goes.

I come home, and having finished knitting the first of Eva’s two socks the previous day, I’m ready to start on the next one. But I can’t find the yarn. I look everywhere I can think of, but can’t turn up the cone of yarn. Which is really frustrating, because I’ve got some momentum going on these socks, and I’m ready to finish this project, once I can get to work on the second sock.

The rest of the day goes mainly okay, largely because I don’t leave the couch and spend the time watching Season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a great show. I don’t care about the medical parts of the show, but I love the relationships. And I love that most of the relationship problems on the show are not caused by misunderstandings (as seems to be the case in most shows) but by people understanding each other exactly.

And we go to sleep around 10. And wake up around 1, when the alarm company calls to tell us there is an alarm at CubeSpace.

Eva open CubeSpace Monday at 6:45, I wander in around 9, and have a wedding meeting around 10. So far so good. Then I go to Les Schwab to fix replace the tire. I go to Les Schwab because the customer service is great, and they’ll repair tires for free. The customer service is great. I’m quickly informed that I need 4 new tires, not one. It appears that the edges of all the tires are bald. Which means that the cost just went up to $470, which wasn’t really what I was expecting.

But then I head home (because Monday is my day off), and get home about 2. I sit down on the couch, and start reading. This is nice. The cats come wandering by. Artemis cuddles a little. Diana comes by. She smells awful. . .like acrid feces. . . because she has feces goo stuck to her tail, and the feces doesn’t smell healthy. So I chase her around with a damp rag, clean her up a little, and confer with Eva about getting her to the vet (which is where she is right now).

But frankly, I really want a do-over on this week.