Bag Ladies

Bag lady you goin' hurt your back
Draggin' all 'em bags like that
I guess nobody every told you
All you must hold on to is you, is you, is you

Erykah Badu - "Bag Lady"

Fabric swatches from homemade curtains. Halloween costumes in varying stages of completion. Hand-smocked dresses. Cards of paint samples. These are some of the items a former co-worker used to bring school, where she would proudly extract them from bags--to display to anyone who chanced upon her in the hallway or teacher's lounge. She was the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher and her speech—peppered with “Bless her heart!”--flowed out in a thick drawl. Her upbringing and culture were vastly different from those of my own northeastern childhood, but we shared an interest in creating, color, and design, and I enjoyed hearing about and seeing her projects.  

During those years of diaper changes and potty training, I was too frazzled to do much sewing, except during summer breaks, and I hadn’t yet learned to knit.  I did enjoy taking LOTS of pictures of my children, though, and I have to confess that I, in a manner similar to that of the aforementioned co-worker, typically had a stack of photos at the ready, for whatever unfortunate victim passed by my classroom door, where I stood ready to pounce on my prey during class changes.

Here's a recently finished felted project I haven't
dragged to school to show off. The
pattern is "Kiss a Hundred Frogs" by
Interweave Press. I changed the eyes,
though, and felted round balls with
black centers (using white and
black roving). I also knit little hoods
for the eyes.

I’m a little older now, and my interests have shifted somewhat, but the desire to say, “Look at what I made,” seems to be just as strong. I don’t knit at work, but I carry a large project bag with me every day.   I am certain that most of my fellow teachers do not care about knitting and, in fact, don’t seem particularly interested in handicrafts of any kind, so I’ve learned (after my initial enthusiastic project parades) to limit my sharing to those who I know appreciate crafting, sewing, or art. While some faculty members do admire my knitted garments when I don them for school, I have a niggling sense that those same people might view me as immature if I pull out works in progress to show them. 

I'm determined to work on this now, a cardigan from Louisa Harding's Little Cake book.  I loooove this Louisa
Harding Willow Tweed yarn.  I haven't brought this particular work to school, though, as there isn't much to see yet.

This is a capelet that will have an over-sized turtle neck.  Unfortunately, I have run out of yarn, and this Debbie Bliss
Como yarn (it's her pattern, too) has been discontinued and is virtually impossible to find in the US.  Luckily, however,
I found some Como from the same dye lot on sale at an online  shop in England. 

I am also perplexed by the conundrum:  Does my desire to show off my creations reflect a kind or arrogant boasting or is it a manifestation of a need for constant praise and affirmation, due to a deficiency of self-esteem?  I’m not certain.  Maybe neither.  Perhaps proudly blazoning my knitwear is a product of a simple need for others to recognize my competence.  Like a child who screams, “Watch, Mom,” before he jumps into the pool, and is rewarded by a  sense of mastery and a parental smile, displaying my wares is a way of saying, “I may be forgetful sometimes, I might lose my cool with difficult students, and I occasionally lack the self-control to squelch a cranky complaint at a faculty meeting, but I can knit lace—with mohair! 
I love this yarn.  It's made of wool and cashmere, and is
perfect for cold weather.  I hope something similar goes into production again.

Or maybe I am altruistic—I want others to share the pleasure I gain from handling and working with colorful fibers, and the excitement I experience as I delve into creating new garments.   
I need to finish my May Queen Mouse.

Thankfully, I don’t have to flourish knitwear in front of unwitting co-workers any longer to fulfill some sort of enigmatic inner need, as I’ve discovered the world of blogging, Facebook, and Pinterest, as well as a flesh-and-blood knitting group.  Of course, sometimes I just can’t control my urges and have to waylay some poor soul between classes at my high school.  To him or her I might seem like juvenile behavior, akin to a child shouting, “Look at me!  Look at me!”  But maybe, just maybe, I’m not so unusual.  This need for affirmation, or maybe  shared joy at appreciating the same object, is perhaps in all of us—just not always visible when it is not manifested in a big knitting bag filled with yarn. 

This baby cardigan from Debbie Bliss's Essential Baby Knits is a pleasure to work.  Watching the tiny neat rows--knit with size two and three needles--grow is very rewarding. 
The solid-colored yarn is from Cascade, and the variegated is from Berrocco.  I plan to made a garment that is a bit of a cross between a shrug and a shawl.  The pattern is worked holding two strands together, so the finished product will be quite


  1. I think everyone likes for their creations/work to be appreciated whatever it may be. I know I do. Even when I don't think it is all that great, whatever I have made, I get a sort of rush from the praise of others and it does help you keep going and striving to be better. I tend to view it more as encouragement. I would still knit and make things even if no one appreciated my stuff, but it just feels better when they do. :) Great post!

  2. I think creativity is a bit like water and needs to find its own level and when it does it spreads not because we just like affirmation for what we've made but because to other like-minded souls it offers the germ of inspiration or possibility and anything created with love and attentiveness and care actually I believe has a value independent of its creator's estimate. Of course it may not be easy to find a forum of appreciative souls but this is where the whole blogging thing is so wonderful. And I have to say I absolutely LOVE your froggy knit! I have lost my heart to him! Do you do commissions ever?! If so I may just have to ask for one of these. Dare I ask what would he cost including materials and labour?
    You keep your project bag to hand! I've taken my crochet all sorts of places and found completely unexpected enthusiasts in hospitals and hospices, homes and trains when i've got it out not to show what I am making but to carry on with it in a window of waiting. E x


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