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Friday, April 28, 2006

Sadie's Place continued...

I'm in a dreamy, reflective mood tonight, not so "turbo-charged" as I usually am! So I thought I'd share one of my favorite spots with you...A special place in my sunny kitchen, the colors of Nana Sadie Rose are the soft jadite greens and pinks from the Depression Era. Since it's hard for you to just drop in and visit, this way you can get a sense of what it's like! (Do you think those vintage pink aluminum needles are better suited to this spot than the Addi Turbos? lolol)
Collections abound here, especially anything with roses, flowers, or cats (ok, I know, that's a chicken...a gift from dear SIL many years ago, but floral still! The pinks and browns are right in fashion now! I love my chicken! And she does fit in my kitchen, dontcha think?)
When you visit Nana Sadie's Place, tea is at the ready...from vintage rose teacups we'll sip Earl Gray and learn what fabrics and styles of bag you'd like for your very own! Or perhaps just sip, listen to Mozart and knit?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Turbo-charged ? Me ?

You are "turbo" charged.
Fast moving and classy, you get things done with power and grace. Your expensive tastes can be deceiving, since what you really value is quality and efficiency. As you're careening around those corners in life, finishing a dozen knitted objects each month, stop and smell the roses. Don't miss the beauty of process!
QuizillaWhat Kind of Knitting Needle Are You?

Well, ok. True, I move fast, I value quality and efficiency, and I need to stop and smell the roses (!) far more often than I do. But while I own a Bernina for my sewing (and it's not a top of the line machine, but it's a very, very good one), I don't own a single pair of Addi Turbos for knitting! Addi Naturas, yes. Love them. Maybe I should make the Turbos my next purchase? But I just ordered 3 new SB Quicksilvers, so maybe not. With my SLE, keeping the yarn on the needles is more important than speed! And I'm far more likely to have sewn a dozen or more items in a month than knit them! Nana Sadie Rose keeps me very busy on that Bernina, which leaves my Addi Naturas sitting much of the time.

For me it's really all about the best quality for the lowest cost...especially these days...So what do you do to ensure quality but do it in a frugal way? Or do you care about frugality? Is it the best or nothing? Or, quantity over quality, because the compulsion to craft is the whole point? I challenge you to think this one over as it relates to your crafting life.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yarn Meditation

“So I’m forced to suspend time. To work outside of time. To forget that time exists. On a subconscious level I have to believe that I have all the time in the world, or I wouldn’t be able to begin. And something happens when I entertain that fallacy. Time, which is fractal, stretches out, and I begin to experience eternity. There is something about that spacious expansion into endless time that promotes the growth of large-scale thinking, that enables one to rise above the petty stresses of everyday life. Viewed from a certain perspective, time is the only real luxury we have.”

Dear Susan Gordon Lydon. How I shall miss her. This quote from her The Knitting Sutra’s introduction perfectly expresses what I feel when I knit lace, puts poetry to the claim I’ve made that knitting lace is my meditation.

When you can finally sit down, quietly, with perhaps only Mozart on the CD player and a cup of Earl Gray tea nearby, a not-so-patient Siamese watching the strand of yarn emerging from the ball, when you can finally focus on the lace, time does indeed “stretch out” or in my mind, time shifts. It’s as though I’ve entered another dimension, where time slows to the barest crawl. Time becomes the K2tog’s, the yo’s, the ssk’s, the sl1k1psso’s. As the lace emerges from my fingers, frenetic motion within and without disappears. Calm descends. In such a space, complex problems can be seen clearly, decisions reached unemotionally. Large-scale thinking is indeed promoted. The deep breathing of peace begins.

Blessed be.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Why Craft?

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I can create something lovely with my hands, whether it’s through counted cross-stitch, sewing or knitting. Many people do not have the ability, interest, or inclination to use their hands to create. I come from a long line of women who knew how to use their hands to make beautiful things as they had little beauty in their lives courtesy of economic challenges beyond their control. They might not have always enjoyed crafting (my mom hated to sew, for example) but they knew how, and they used those skills to make their lives better.

I take great pride in the hand-sewn products I create, but I make sure that they are of the highest quality possible in order to justify that pride.

I struggled for a long time to find my purpose in life, and finally realized that while I do honorable work for a just cause as an accountant for a nonprofit organization, my purpose in life is to create beautiful and useful objects. The two descriptors are key – the objects I make must serve both criteria. You’ll seldom see frou-frou in my work.

When I receive the compliments from Nana Sadie Rose’s customers telling me how impressed they are with the quality of my workmanship and with the practicality of the designs, I know a kind of pride that I could never have imagined before. My sense of purpose is fulfilled.

I don’t usually knit as a part of Nana Sadie Rose. But when I knit in public, I usually end up laughing out loud when someone comes up to me saying..."I wish I could must be a very patient person." Well, no, I’m not. When you learn to knit you need persistence more than patience. When you have a big project (whether it is repetitive or challenging) you need persistence - the sheer determination to understand, master, and muddle through. Persistence.

Patience isn't the most important part of knitting, except that knitting certainly helps me learn to be patient, or at least helps me get through times that demand patience. I knit garter stitch dishcloths and scarves to get through long wait times – at doctors’ offices, craft shows, in airports, on commuter trains (ok, not the last two for some time now, but I have done so in my lifetime). I knit challenging things to get me past periods when I want to move the world around to my way of thinking or doing, and the world lets me know it’s just going to move at its own sweet pace no matter what I want. Those challenging projects make my mind stop obsessing over what I cannot by the sheer force of will make happen. They force me to focus on something else, even if it’s tinking back to correct my mistakes because I’ve let my mind wander. Knitting makes me appear patient to the rest of the world, when I want to grab the world by the scruff of the neck and shake it around to my way of thinking. Knitting makes me slow down and breathe. Knitting brings me peace.

Sewing does much the same, though not by the rhythm of the needles clicking together. Making my Nana Sadie Rose creations brings my design capabilities into play with the color and pattern of quilting fabrics. Sewing is more visual. Knitting is textural.

Years ago, studying ethics in education and business, I came upon a book that in a very simple, straightforward manner, just blew me away. Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale co-wrote The Power of Ethical Management in which the authors created the concept of the Five P’s of Ethical Power: Pride, purpose, patience, persistence, and perspective. While I can’t draw it here, the first four on that list rotate around the last. Perspective is the hub of the wheel around which the other four turn…perspective enables you to practice the others – they all work together in our lives, as a wheel works to move an object forward.

I am constantly impressed by how often these 5 P’s crop up in my thinking since that book first dropped into my life. I was reminded of it, again, when I read Ruinwen’s two recent discussions of turning her life towards her desire to become a knitting designer. Ruinwen was talking about not having patience and not being good at knowing how to wait. She hates to wait. In one post she says: “Last week I talked about paring down my life and finding out what is real and authentic to my personal self. I’ve decided that trying to do that in a season of growth and renewal is probably not good timing.” And in the very next post she says she’s going to go with the longing in her soul to become a knitting designer. What she may not realize yet is that by focusing on her dream, the extraneous in her life will fall's a natural by-product of the process of reaching for the thing that matters most to us!

Who’s waiting? Not Ruinwen. She’s honoring the voice inside her that tells her that her authentic self must craft. She is drawn to it as nothing else. It will become her purpose, her pride, she will be persistent in her endeavors, they will help her develop patience and perspective. (And, by the way, she’s going to be a terrific designer you mark my words!)

So why do I craft? To develop perspective on an often insane world; to create something of lasting beauty and function; to watch pattern, texture, and color develop from a ball (or balls) of yarn and from pieces of fabric; and to move through the day, the week, the months with a modicum of sanity. But it’s certainly not because I’m an inherently patient person! Though I’m learning!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yarn Focus Challenge - Voluntary Simplicity...

I’ve just committed to something called the Yarn Focus Challenge. It’s a simple idea. The button for participating is in the sidebar over there. ---> It’s not the same thing as a yarn diet. As diets don’t usually work, the Yarn Focus Challenge attempts to increase awareness of the activity of indiscriminately purchasing yarn (I could add fabric in here, too!). It’s related to the philosophy of voluntary simplicity, which is not about poverty, but instead about bringing balance into our lives. Living intentionally. Being aware of what you do that works in your life and those things that don’t. Living lightly on the earth, living ecologically.

Earlier this month, I wrote about living an authentic life, in response to my dear “sis” Birdsong’s query on her blog. This post attempts to further define my idea of authenticity in my own life.

Duane Elgin is the “father” of the voluntary simplicity movement, and his book Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich is one that has graced my bookshelf and gotten much use over the years.

Early in the book, he states: “To live more voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully – in short, it is to live more consciously…To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. The particular expression of simplicity is a personal matter. We each know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated. We are all painfully aware of the clutter and pretense that weigh upon us and make our passage through the world more cumbersome and awkward. To live more simply is to unburden ourselves…to establish a more direct, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: the things we consume, the work that we do, our relationships with others, our connections with nature and the cosmos, and more (pp. 24-25).”

My world routinely spins out of control…I can almost predict it, but not quite. Once I’ve been reeling for a couple of weeks, I suddenly think – OH! I’m doing it again…I’m losing focus, forgetting the things that work to make me feel more peaceful, more in control. And I can guarantee that it’s at these times that I buy things I do not need – yarn, fabric, magazines, books. It’s always a jolt when I bring myself up short and think “Knee-jerk reactions, not thinking, not focusing!”

This is what the Yarn Focus Challenge is about for me. This activity isn’t about NOT BUYING YARN. I can buy it if I really want it, if I feel there’s a project worth spending my time on for the use of it. But the Focus aspect of the Challenge is about the intellectual activity of not buying willy-nilly (I see it-it’s pretty-I want it-I buy it). It’s about living with intentionality. On the Yarn Focus Challenge, we step back and say…I can only buy yarn on ONE day this month. Is THIS the day? Do I really need THIS yarn, or do I have other yarn I want to buy, what are my plans for this yarn, is it really something I want or need? Will my planned purchase have to wait because I made this purchase (because the goal IS planned purchasing)?

There are a couple of concepts that seem, in my mind, to blend with this philosophy, too: the idea of delayed gratification. We tend to be a society to think that we deserve to have things right now. So with any purchase, if we want it, we get it. Credit makes that easy, but it’s not always the healthy thing to do, financially. And often, it’s a “quick fix” for our emotional ups and downs, I feel better when I buy, but then I’m back buying again because I’m not feeling up to snuff!

The other idea has to do with the sheer volume of STUFF we have: I get worked up whenever I drive by the storage facilities that have cropped up all over…thinking "that's just what we need – a place, out of sight, out of mind, for us to store all our stuff." How can anyone remember what they have when it's out of sight? Why would I rent space to store stuff if it isn’t necessary enough for me to keep under the same roof with me? Needless to say, storing excess stuff at a remote location redefines the concept of living lightly on the land, of keeping our “ecological footprints” small.

It’s a case of knowing when you have “enough.” Do you know what your personal definition of “enough” is? Because we're each individuals, the definition is different for each of us.

When I think about voluntary simplicity, and especially since I have a pretty good idea of what my personal “enough” is, I usually think of “things” – the “stuff” that I have too much of: yarn, fabric, magazines, clothes. But voluntary simplicity can have a lot to do with your relationships, with the manner in which you spend your time (do you spend your time as frivolously as you do your cash?), with the work you chose to do. Those areas are too broad for me to address here. But if you’re interested in the subject just spend a few minutes googling on Voluntary Simplicity. You’ll find a lot out there.

It’s spring, and spring cleaning thoughts abound right now. For me, the Yarn Focus Challenge is a time of spring cleaning, an opportunity to redefine how much is “enough” for me, and yet another occasion for me to step back and say, “breathe deeply, and think…does this work with my personal philosophy?”

Friday, April 07, 2006

Reprise - An Authentic Life?

I keep re-reading the post below and thinking that not only is my depression from last week very obvious (tho' Jane assures me it's not) but that perhaps a cynicism that I really don't feel is apparent there.

So I thought, perhaps I should revisit this post and try to convey a bit more of my thinking on what is now my authentic life? (You be sure and leave me a comment - even if it's, wish you'd left well-enough alone and would move ON!)

Since this is a slightly more sane moment for me, let me tell you that I'm usually not afraid for myself economically. I can support myself (of course, I may be doing this into my 90s if someone will let me work for them, or will pay for my crafts, and I'm still alive and kicking by then!) and have for many years. If I'm living more paycheck-to-paycheck than I would prefer, I suppose I could consider giving up some of my "luxuries" but yarn and fabric, kitty food and vet bills, not to mention cable internet connection and cell phone are pretty necessary to how I live my life, and these are about the only places I can see to cut corners...since health care and rising fuel costs take an ever-increasing bite out of our paychecks these days.

My health is generally pretty good, tho' I do have that tachycardia when upset. But I know how to deal with it, as unpleasant as it is. However, it does cost quite a bit to maintain my health, now that I'm approaching my 50th birthday, with heart disease and SLE in my medical records. I'm grateful I can manage that most of the time.

I'm the idealist I've always been, believing that we are the caretakers of our society, and we have to voice concern when we see something happening (politically, socially) that goes against our beliefs. I take issue with people assuming they know where I stand (few do, and I'll not discuss it on my blogs). I'm more conservative than many, more liberal than a few. I come from strong Socialist stock (turn of the century grandparents - the 1900s, not the 2000s!) and have a strong Business Management background, but see flaws in the thinking on both sides there, so don't use that information to classify me, either! ;)

I have a long list of "shoulds" that will never be seen where our political environment is concerned (at least not in my lifetime). I'm not a fence-sitter ideologically. My representatives know whether or not they can count on my vote at re-election time.

But I put my energies in very specific places these days. Which I guess is why I wanted to address the issue of an authentic life once again.

You see, I think I do live a truly authentic life. I think the above tells you that, stating that my politics is personal - period. I don't like to publically air it, unlike what you find on a lot of blogs today...

What matters to me most are pretty simple things: ensuring the success of my business in an attempt to secure my financial future, being a nana to two boys with a third grandchild on the way, caring for the pets I adopted till the end of their natural days (two of whom are nearing the time to cross the Rainbow Bridge), nurturing a long-term relationship with a man I've loved for many, many years, being a good friend and family member, and being a good employee in an organization with values I support.

If my apartment is a tad untidy, my yarn and fabric stash a bit over-the-top, my bank account smaller than I'd like, so be it. In my authentic life it is the term "relationships" that is key.