Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Knitters

Detail from sweater shown below.

Steven R. Covey’s work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has become a ubiquitous manual for life and business, one teaches that change must occur from within, that there must be a “paradigm shift” rather than just a change in behavior in order for an individual to reach his or her full potential.  Knitters, too, can learn a great deal from Covey’s work.   

Habit 1:  Be Proactive

Take initiative.  Be accountable for your choices and their consequences.

Will that novelty yarn that looks adorable on a gamine 18-year-old model live up to its “fun fur” name when you attempt to knit and wear it?  If you’re petite (and consequently always striving to create the illusion of height), will you really appear artsy and chic with voluminous fluff around your neck, or will you resemble a Pomeranian?

Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind

Look within.  Self-discover.  Clarify your goals.

Those orange mohair balls and rust-colored chenille skeins in the clearance bins were such bargains!  You knew you could find some clever way to use them.  Now they insulate your closet.  (In other words, it’s not a bad idea to have a plan in mind when making a foray to the yarn shop.) 

Habit 3:  Put First Things First

Plan, prioritize, and carry out your week's tasks based on the importance they play to your values and goals rather than urgency.

Working with that glorious pink mohair to create lacy Downton Abbey evening mitts is uber rewarding (and challenging, too).  But maybe your kids are getting the wrong message if they think that flannel pajama pants (adorned with winsome cats holding Christmas balls) are proper attire for mom to wear when entertaining friends.  The whole cheese curls for a quick dinner is questionable, too.   

Habit 4:  Think Win/Win

Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial agreements in your relationships.

Your husband wears holey socks and sports dress shirts with yellow crescents under the armpits, while you’re puffed up, basking in praise for the cashmere shawl draped  around your shoulders.  Learn to compromise.  Get rid of cable TV and its exorbitant costs.  Get an antenna for the roof and with the savings your husband can go to Big Lots and get some clothes. 

Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand/Then to be Understood

Use listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which will compel her to have a mind receptive to being influenced by you.

You’ve just mastered pearling and your knitting blog is up and running.  You’ve ignored admonitions from the yarn shop owner about swatching, seaming, and shaping.  Who cares?  Skip habit number five.  You’ve had fun and indulged in your passion.  Plus you have a sweater that’s just the thing if your daughter brings home a behemoth linebacker boyfriend.  (Pink's no longer just for women nowadays, right?)

Habit 6:  Synergize

Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork. 

This one is a no brainer.  Check off the next item on your to-do list (call the dentist, maybe, or get the car inspected) or organize a yarn bombing?  You decide. 

Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw (Renewal and Continual Improvement)

To be effective, one must find the proper balance between producing and improving one’s capacity to produce.    

If you’re as busy as Odysseus’s wife, Penelope (whose weaving filled her days), maybe you should rethink things a bit.  Rather than continuing to maniacally knit garter stitch afghans for unwitting friends and family members, step outside of the box.  There are scores of YouTube videos, books, and magazines to help.  Just think of all of the previously empty, dull hours you can fill with expanding your knowledge and skills.  Imagine all the possibilities?  Heirloom knitting!  Knitting on straight pins.  Knitting your own wedding gown?  Bikini? 

I have my priorities straight.  I finished this
sweater this past weekend, along with the
vest shown below. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Free Pattern: Saint Patrick's Day Shamrock

I set out to make a small shamrock to wear as a pin, but, using materials at hand, ended up with one that is 5" x 5", perfect to use as a coaster for a St. Patty's Day beverage.  Click here for the PDF.

Using smaller needles and a lighter weight yarn, I'm certain that this pattern should work to make a shamrock that's just the right size for wearing as a pin.  Adding some beads or sequins would dress up this item.  

(I set out for Cottage Yarn on Saturday to purchase green yarn to use with size 4 needles (to make a smaller shamrock), but became distracted and came home with the items shown below instead.  Oh, well.  Maybe my error was consciously made.  I now have another reason for a trip to the yarn shop.)

I plan to make the capelet show on the
cover of the book. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Decreasing Lace for the Slow Learner

Think Vertically!

When I knit a vest last year, I was faced with the formidable task of decreasing lace to shape various parts of the garment, including arm and neck openings.  As this project was one of the first items I had created using a lace pattern, I had some difficulty.  I had attacked my few lace projects by merely following instructions or charts and working across each row.  Unfortunately, using this approach was tricky.  I ended up with a thick and fuzzy inch-long stretch of a shawl I’d made using Debbie Bliss Angel yarn, because I’d had to tear out row after row and reknit—again and again.  I’d had to so because I kept coming to the end of a row and realizing that I had too few or too many stitches remaining. 

It took me some time and practice to realize that when it comes to decreasing lace, the instructions or chart for each row are important, but aren’t exactly road maps to be followed.  What is important is the ultimate number of stitches on the needle at the end of the row, or, in other words, the fact that the knitter has decreased the requisite number of stitches.  And equally important is the fact that the lace pattern lines up correctly.  In other words, the knitter must think vertically—something I’d never conceived of doing as a novice knitter.  So here are some tips I learned:

Do the Following before You Get to a Row Where You Must Reduce:

1.    Pay attention to how each row of stitches lines up above the row beneath it.  Ask the following questions:  Where is the center of the lace pattern?  Which stitches go to either side of the center?  How many are there?

2.     Remember that each yarn over in a lace pattern adds an extra stitch to your row.  For each yarn over, there is a corresponding decrease to make the stitches the correct number at the end. 

Notice that the middle of the yarn pattern is stitch 11.  Note how the
pattern stitches line up vertically.  The circles are yarn overs and the
slashes are decreases.  (This is a pattern for a pretty lace scarf found
at A Pair of NeedlesClick Here for the pattern. 

When you reduce:

1.    Do the stitches and decreases in the instructions (typically at the edge of each row), but then make your lace pattern in the middle match up vertically. The row you are knitting should line up with the row below in the same way it did in the rest of your project. 

2.    Pay attention to yarn overs and decreases that are a part of the core lace pattern near the edges of your project (not the decreases that are used for shaping the sides).  If there isn’t room to have a corresponding decrease to match each yarn over (to make the number of stitches stay in the lace pattern in the middle) eliminate the yarn over or decrease stitch and simply knit it.

3.    Ultimately, you have to “play” with the edges of your project, to insure that you are reducing the correct number of stitches and keeping a consistent number of “middle stitches” (or those with a count that should stay the same). 

This is a picture that accompanies instructions on how to knit feather and fan lace
 from  Note how four holes are stacked up and  how there is a center
to the stack.  Paying attention to the vertical pattern while knitting, will make the
 decreases  much easier to do.  

Again, don’t forget the very basic principle that it took me awhile to absorb: 

Yarn overs make increases, while ssk or k2tog or k1psso (or similar variations of these stitches) reduce stitches.  I know this statement is simple, but when caught up in following a complicated lace pattern (or when working with fine lace-weight yarn) it’s easy to forget the basics.

You will alter the number of stitches in your row when you don’t want to do if do not have yarn overs for every stitch that is reduced within the yarn pattern (and vice-versa).    

In other words, keep your lace pattern consistent in the middle of your work, but pay attention to where you have to add or reduce stitches near the edges so you don’t change the number of constant stitches in your row.  You only want to decrease (or, increase for that matter) along the edges when you are intentionally doing so to shape your garment. 

I know I’ve repeated myself a bit, but I wrote these instructions for novice lace knitters, who (like me) might need a little repetition until they have that “aha” moment. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Alpaca Dreamin' on a Sunday Afternoon

These scarves (and vest) were created with felted alpaca fiber and rayon and are sold by Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm. 
This company also sells kits to make them

Determined to procrastinate no longer, I was sitting at my kitchen table on Sunday morning, working my way through a stack of papers from students in my English classes.  Grades were due early Monday morning, and the scores for these Beowulf and Gilgamesh essays were the final items I needed to enter into my electronic grade book.  Some uncontrollable editorial urge within in makes it impossible for me to refrain from correcting each grammatical or syntactical error or writing notes about faulty organization or lack of focus.  Consequently, I always have essays left to grade at the end of the marking period, but I have learned through some unpleasant experiences years ago to not put off tasks until the absolute last minute.  (I shudder at one particularly memory of shaking with chills while I frantically and feverishly graded essays on The Great Gatsby minutes before grades were due.)  

Older and wiser now, I only had a stack of about five essays to tackle Sunday morning and a whole day to complete them.  It was rainy and cold outside, and I’d already decided that I would stay in, wear pajamas, and work on some knitting projects after I’d finished correcting essays, but then the phone rang around 11:00.  A friend on the other end of the line told me about a Carolina Alpaca Celebration roughly thirty miles from my home, one that had gone on all weekend and was ending that day, at 3:00 p.m.  I looked at the event website , and learned that the Carolina Alpaca Breeders and Owners were sponsoring this show, where there were exhibits, competitions, vendors, and classes. 

This incident highlights the very real problem I have.  The thought of hundreds of alpacas in a big arena, along with fiber and other alpaca products for sale, lured me with a siren call the way the news of a new neighboring casino beckons a gambling addict.  I couldn’t resist.  After rousing my two boys from their beds, I told my eleven-year-old son to hurry up and eat, so that he could get dressed to go to the Cabarrus Arena with me.  He wasn’t too pleased with this turn of events, but he’d been in the house almost the entire weekend, and I didn’t want to leave him glued to the TV screen while I went out. 

Ruth Mogrovejo sells wonderful Latin American alpaca products. 
Click here to go to her website. 

After driving through a gray and wet country landscape, we made our way into the arena, where we were greeted with an excess of cuteness.  Wide-eyed, living, breathing teddy bears curiously gaped at us, and sometimes hummed in unison.  Others seemed to knowingly pose for the photographs I took. 

I was amazed to see how many of the alpaca owners and vendors had traveled relatively long distances to attend this event—from places such as Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia.  Several of the vendors had machine-made or hand-made alpaca scarves, socks, fingerless gloves, and other items for sale, along with skeins of silky soft yarn and bags of processed fiber for purchase.  As attending this gathering was an unplanned decision, and as I have already exceeded my yarn budget several times over this month (wait, I don’t think “budget” and "yarn have ever been juxtaposed in my thinking or writing before), I decided to forgo purchasing any expensive yarn to add to my stash, but I couldn’t resist a six dollar two-ounce braid of red merino roving.  (Evidently, some alpaca farmers also raise sheep.) 

I bought the red braid of roving
pictured here. 

Click here to go to Happy Hills Alpaca

Luckily, I found a local fiber source (for when I have more purchasing power) in Valerie Hietala of Happy Hills Alpaca Farm.  Valerie was busy spinning some alpaca fiber, and I stopped for a moment to ask her some questions about a fleece I’d bought at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) last October.  She was very helpful and gave me some insight into the easiest alpaca fiber to spin.  Apparently, spinning Suri (the type of fiber I’d bought at SAFF) can be challenging.  Valerie also showed me some baby-soft yarn from one of her male alpacas.  Once the weather gets warmer, and I work my way through a bit more of my stash, I plan to visit her farm store, which is located only a few minutes from my home.

I also learned at this event that many yarn stores do not stock local alpaca fiber, because the cost of shipping it from the farm to a processing plant and then back again makes the yarn prohibitively expensive for many shop owners to sell and make much of a profit.   There is a wealth of online alpaca yarns, sources, however, and events such as the one in Cabarrus do much to promote the appeal of alpaca fiber to fiber artists.  Many alpaca owners love their hobby and their animals so much, that the financial rewards of their enterprises are secondary concerns.  I understand their sentiments, as I'd love to have a few of these furry creatures someday

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Shameful Confession

Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet.
                               -Jean Jacques Rousseau

Some ancestral inheritance of a maudlin Puritan sensibility must linger in me, as I frequently experience bouts of guilt—or maybe I’m just like so many other working mothers who feel inadequate for not fulfilling all of their various roles to the exacting standards we set for ourselves.  Either way, I have a confession to make that has been weighing heavy on my spirit, highlighting my inferiority as a human being and as a knitter.  In the three years since I first learned to knit, until early this morning, I had not made a swatch. 

This isn't my swatch.  It's from

My Noro Aya swatch (not washed or blocked yet).
Surprisingly enough, I haven’t many gauge disasters, as in general, my knitting tends to match the gauge printed in the instructions.  I did have one problem in the past with sizing, but I’m beginning to think that, in that case, the pattern was more to blame than my failure to swatch.  I had carefully selected yarns with identical gauges to the one listed on the pattern and used the suggested needle size, yet the results, using the same pattern, and two different yarns, yielded hats of enormous proportions.  But even if those two large hats are the only unfortunate experiences with sizing, I know that I can’t use this fact to rationalize my impatience to delve into projects before laying the groundwork.

Also, if I ever intend to progress enough to eventually create more than the most simplistic designs of my own, I have to swatch—an activity which for me until today seemed akin, in its appeal, to waiting for my nails to dry.  (On the rare occasions I give myself a manicure, I always end up with an ugly gash in the polish on at least one nail as the result of starting to do dishes, knit, or get dressed before the polish is dry.)    
Beulah Cardigan from Knitscene Spring 2012.
I made a swatch using Noro Aya this morning, in anticipation of knitting the Beulah cardigan that is in a special issue of Knitscene magazine I recently purchased. I love the cardigan that is shown knit up in a solid color with embroidery on the front, but I have some Noro yarn I received as a Christmas present, and I’ve been longing to handle it. 

Swatching with the Noro yarn this morning was actually quite painless, and the finished square I created measures 4 x 4 inches.  Now, I’m inspired to test out some lace patterns, gaining not only practice in various techniques but also acquiring a preview of how certain yarns will knit up into a garment. 
As an English teacher, in the classroom I’m always quick to harp about perseverance, patience, and completing all of the tedious steps to creating a piece of writing (even though I understand because I was young once, that most students write one draft, usually at the last minute, to turn in for a grade).  I can’t say that I’ve been any more mature or precise as a knitter (at least as a swatcher) than many of my students as writers, but, even though I’m no longer a teenager, like them, I am maturing and learning new things every day.    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Contest

Filet Knitted Heart courtesy of
I was looking at some of my favorite knitting blogs and came across a contest at Knitgrrl, where the winner can receive a great Jordana Paige messenger knitting bag.   Click here for information.  I wrote a poem for my entry in the contest.  (Although I didn't exactly follow the directions when I decided on its subject matter, I think that I express clearly my desire to have a nice, functional knitting bag.  Note:  this poem is meant to be humourous.  I'm an obssessed knitter, but not crazy . .  yet.)  In honor of Valentine's Day and Christopher Marlowe, here is the entry I submitted: 

 The Passionate Knitter to Her Bag

COME live with me and be my bag;
With angora, alpaca, all that swag,
I will fill you, my sweet love,  
To create rich shawls, mittens, gloves. 
You will sit beside my comfy chair,
With the rhythm of needles in the air,
And see my creations come to shape;
Our life together a splendid escape. 
There will I make thee a loving friend;
All cares will instantly suspend;
A partner, a sidekick, my grandest tool,
You’ll be treasured as my rarest jewel. 

A sweater made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
Gorgeous knitwear to behold. 
Needles made from gleaming wood,
Used to make a charming hood: 
Inside you, you’ll find, in this life of grace,
If you come live with me and be my case. 
Afar we’ll voyage together, to arrive
In style at Vogue Knitting Live,
Or fiber festivals off the beaten path,
Like lovers on holiday, we’ll cut our swath. 
The knitting cherubs shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
Grab these delights—and do not lag: 
Come live with me and be my bag.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back to Basics: Knitting and Education

Teachers in my school district are in a bit of a funk this year.  We’ve had four years of frozen salaries as well as pay cuts for individuals with master’s degrees or National Board Certification.  We’ve lost five teacher work days (time we used in the past to plan, grade, and organize), and the new federal Race to the Top initiative (a program in which 48 states now participate) requires more professional development training and paperwork on our part.  A new national curriculum (called the Common Core) also means that teachers must require all students to engage in reading complex texts and in using higher-order thinking skills to analyze and solve problems. 

For most of my career I have taught honors and Advanced Placement levels and have attempted to challenge even the most gifted students.  I’ve eschewed water-down, sanitized textbook excerpts of literature in favor of original works in their entirety.  My students have always been required to read difficult novels, plays, poetry, and epics, archaic language and all.  I have always understood that for some students, reading at the level such works require has been a daunting, if not an impossible task, because they lack the context of experience, vocabulary, and reading strategies to be successful.  For these individuals, reading Spark’s Notes and listening to class discussions typically gives them enough superficial information to pass a test or write an essay on a piece of literature.  After I lost the glistening idealism of a new teacher, I also relinquished my frustration with these struggling young people and came to understand their limitations a bit.  I try to encourage them by sharing reading strategies and providing information about the social and historical context of a work of literature. I am always filled with hope that they will become competent readers of difficult texts—one day.   

Early yesterday morning, as I lay in bed reading an article entitled “Beyond the Basics:  Swatching the Lace Universe” by Deborah Newton in the spring issue of Interweave Knits,  I was suddenly struck by a central problem of this whole Brave New World of education and how it relates to my own experiences learning to knit.  Three years ago I would have looked at the pretty pictures that accompanied the article on lace and turned the page.  I might have skimmed the text a little bit, but the words would have been intimidating and confusing.  I was not ready to attack lace, either knitting it or reading about its complexities, until I had the muscle memory and rote experience of hours and hours (probably more like weeks and weeks) of simply knitting.  My brain, in the past, could not process the structure of knitting, how knitting two stitches together makes the stitch lean one direction and slip, knit, pass over makes it lean the other.  For nearly three years I have created all sorts of garments, some of them in quite complex patterns, but it was only about a  month ago that I began to understand the “why” or garment construction, the notion of gauge, decreasing, increasing, etc., rather than just the “how.”  For years, I’d just followed instructions, making little connection between the symbols on the page and how they related to the garment itself.  Sometimes I’d find that I’d knitted ten rows and would look at my work only to find that there was a huge, glaring mistake eight rows down that I’d ignored because my connection had been with the written instructions or pattern, not the yarn itself. 
This article from Interweave Knits spring 2012 issue is very helpful in understanding
exactly how lace "works" (or the whys of lace).
Click here for link to website. 

Many students are no more ready for the higher-order analytical thinking, the “why” that will be the focus of this new instruction than I was three years ago to knit a lacy mohair shawl. In fact, in testament to this idea, I can relate how I tried again and again a few years ago to attempt a simple faggot lace scarf in Knitting for Dummies and just couldn’t do it. Every row ended up being a different and incorrect number of stitches. Now I can knit lace, not like a champ—but I’m getting there. I simply needed practice, practice which builds confidence. I wasn’t ready to knit lace a few years ago, nor was I ready to understand the individual elements that go into garment construction—the whys of how a piece of knitwear is shaped and designed. 

Before I learned to knit, this trunk was filled with odds and ends.

Now, I am armed with hours of practice and this trunk is filled with an expanding stash. 

I can remember when my younger son was eight and was still struggling with his times tables.  He had been given all the “whys” of multiplication at school, and was required to draw boxes illustrating the concept of multiplication every time he solved an equation.  These boxes were nice, I suppose, but did nothing to mitigate his anger and tears when faced with multiplication problems.  Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the very fact that he had not memorized his times tables affected his performance and confidence. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to come to my conclusion, but in our modern educational system, we give short shrift to inculcating basic skills, so I have students in my classroom who are asked to analyze the nuances of a text and to connect the themes of literature with life, but who have no clue what most of the words mean in a text and who cannot identify a verb in a sentence. 

Like my son who struggled through a year of Kumon worksheets (Kumon is a tutoring program that emphasizes rote repetition to build knowledge and confidence), I required training and practice before I could dig deep into the theory part of knitting.  Maybe I’m a slow learner, because not everyone requires this type of preparation.  My sister-in-law became visually impaired a year ago and took up knitting soon after.    She had worked for years and years as a computer engineer, so her mathematical and special abilities have to be superior to my own.  I was talking with her the other day about knitting and she said, “I really have a problem with my eyes following the patterns, but I can calculate gauge and make up my own patterns really easily.”  This statement is from the same woman who, with limited vision, was knitting socks a couple of weeks after she first learned to knit.  Socks! 

Anyway, my story and hers illustrate to me the mantra that I hear from teachers all the time.  Students are different.  A one-sized-fits-all curriculum is doomed for failure, unless we recognize that teachers, schools, and students are not failing if everyone doesn’t excel using the new standards.  Not all knitters are ready to create an Alice Starmore Mary Tudor sweater or a vintage lace shawl, nor are all high school students able to read Moby Dick independently.  Teachers are idealists at heart, though, and most of us believe that anything is possible . . . with time.  The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” makes sense.  But in this world of teacher accountability, concentrated time building basic skills and motivation on the part of the student to practice those skills are elements of this equation for student success that aren’t addressed in the policy that’s handed down from Washington.    
Practice is dismissed by dime-a-dozen educational Ph.D.’s as “Kill and drill,” but, ironically, students from around the globe who are inculcated in basic skills in a traditional manner seem to be exceeding students in the U.S. in academic achievement at higher levels.  Maybe teachers, students, and parents would all be happier if we looked at education as we do knitting—parts of the process will be tedious, frustrating, and downright boring, but we have to work through these aspects (tearing out ten rows, for instance) in order to understand how to create something intricate and beautiful.  The creation of this item and its subsequent rewards (both personal and professional) enrich our experience and build self-assurance that translates into success however we define this term.    

Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Sweater Day

This image wasn't taken by me (but, frighteningly enough, it inspires me a bit
with all the possibilities for cat knitting).  Click here to go to

Yesterday I was sick.  Once again, for the fourth time this winter, I was congested and exhausted, and, for the second time, I experienced laryngitis.  I stayed home, where I sat on the couch near the warmth of the flames of the gas logs.  (I had to revise my original sentence here, which read, "I stayed home sick, where I sat with the gas logs burning on the couch." I must still be a bit woozy from my illness, to have misplaced my modifier in such a negligent manner.  Anyway, the English teacher in me has to laugh.) 

Between shifting loads of laundry from the washer to the dryer to baskets, I worked on a sweater. I was surprised to learn today, that yesterday was "National Sweater Day," so in my own way I celebrated that obscure holiday, even if my celebration was solitary and the only feasting I did was to drink hot soup and tea. I've been madly knitting a sweater, a stylish one I talked about several blog posts back. I'd had to put the sweater aside, so that I could complete some baby gifts, but am determined to get it done by the end of February, in the hopes that I can wear it before the arrival of the sometimes early North Carolina spring. 

Of course, in my cold-medicine fog, I knit rows and rows of a lace yoke on the front, only to find I'd skipped part of the armhole shaping. Oddly enough, ripping out the rows, in the quiet of a peaceful day wasn't terribly disheartening, though. I don't regard the work of knitting as a pressure that weighs me down, but, rather, as connecting points on a sometimes tricky dot-to-dot drawing that will come together, making a work of art, in the end.  

I love cartoons from The New Yorker. 

Front and back of sweater in progress. 

This is a detail from the lace. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tying up Loose Ends

Last week I frantically finished a hat, sweater, and booties, items which I needed ready for a baby shower yesterday.  The booties were from Debbie Bliss’s Essential Baby book, and were not terribly challenging to knit up, although the instructions for casting off were a bit tricky, and I did have a bit of difficulty with the inner ears.  I made these out of a wonderful soft angora from Plymouth yarns, but they were tiny and I kept knitting them, losing them, knitting more, later finding the originals scattered around the house.  The angora must have a static charge or something, and I’m certain I must have walked around with these small fuzzy pieces stuck to my clothing until they dislodged in various places (one of them is still unaccounted for, though—I wonder if I walked around the grocery store with a fluffy ear stuck to my pants).  Aside from ears gone missing, the other part of this project that was a bit taxing was the weaving in of loose ends of yarn. 

Outer and inner ear. 

Each inner ear—and there were four of these—had two strands of yarn hanging from it.  The outer ears had the same number, and, the booties, which required completing some rows and then reattaching yarn in places, had quite a few ends to work in, too.  Had I not been in such a rush to finish these booties, wash them, and get them gift wrapped, I might not have paid much attention to how much sewing they required, but, with a deadline looming, I experienced a sense that the work with the darning needle would never end.  I finished weaving in the loose strands over several days’ time, though, and had a pair of adorable booties to show for my efforts.

Completed booties. 

As I maneuvered the needle in and out, I was struck by the symbolic value of my actions.  These booties were a present for someone with whom I hadn’t spoken in months.  Last year, we’d found ourselves embroiled in an ugly conflict, and I’d wondered, until I received the invitation to her shower, if we’d ever see each other again.   As I finished the booties, I was thankful that I’d been offered an opportunity to heal wounds that were, like the loose strings of yarn, reminders of unfinished business. 

I’ve had other opportunities recently to regain contact with individuals who share a sometimes troubling history with me.  I wondered aloud recently to my husband if I might by dying, as my past seems to be mysteriously rearing its head.  Recently I shared a dinner with an old boyfriend I hadn’t seen in 25 years (see “Lost Love and Vogue Knitting Live”), where we were able to discuss the loose threads—the questions and hurts that had extended from our relationship like the yarn I hurriedly sewed into my booties. 
Completed hat.  Pattern is from Loops.  Click here.

Finished sweater.  Pattern is from Essential Baby. 

In Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, the main character Amir is given a chance, 26 years after he’d inflicted enormous hurt on a person who’d love him, to atone for his wrongdoing.  An old family friend tells him, “You have the chance to be good again.”  Initially, Amir is hesitant to seize this opportunity.  He is afraid to confront his own inadequacies and sins.  But, ultimately, he chooses to be brave and revisit the past.  I, too, had hesitated to reconnect with my friend and my old boyfriend, because I hadn’t always been “best self” when I’d shared relationships with them.  Ultimately, though, all of the people I’ve known in my life have in some ways been like yarn that is worked together to shape a final project (me, in this case), and I know that I shouldn’t be apprehensive about approaching any of them.  Facing unfinished emotional business is a daunting task, but it can be liberating. 
I saw this play recently in Charlotte.  Its authors,
too, make connections between apparel and life. 

Of course, I know that I do not need to track down every ex on Facebook—some individuals leave no questions in my mind—for good or ill, my work with them is done, neatly tucked in, and cut off.  But for others, the act of reconnecting—whether to forgive, forget, and part or to forge into a renewed future relationship—can, like the completed bunny booties, represent hope for the future and a chance to gain new perspectives.