What is Mindful Knitting

I have been using the phrase mindful knitting  a lot in the last few years.  I have believed in and used the concept my whole knitting life, but in 2013 I started using it specifically when I taught classes.  It has really blossomed in my teaching of both knitting and spinning since then.

Perhaps it’s time to take a moment and define exactly what I mean by Mindful Knitting.

Mindful Knitting – The Concept

Mindful knittingThe concept of being a mindful knitter isn’t difficult to understand.  It’s just about being aware, paying attention, focusing and yet relaxing at the same time. The idea of being mindful about anything is not to take stuff for granted, to appreciate and celebrate as well as fix and adjust.  Paying attention is hard to do though, especially in something that is supposed to be enjoyable.

Design

You need to be a mindful knitter – BY DESIGN. It won’t just happen on it’s own.  As you knit this row, you casually review the row before.  It’s not casual at first, of course, it’s something you have to train yourself to do.  But it’s not difficult to make it a habit and then it becomes casual.You have to make the CHOICE and perform the initial moves that will create in you a mindful knitter. Why make the choice?

Motivation

Everyone knits for different reasons. Everyone knits different things, for different people and in different ways.  But one thing that all knitters have in common, to some extent, is the wish to do it right.  You don’t start a project hoping to make lots of mistakes – you start it with visions in your head of perfection!

This, then, becomes your motivation.  I can spend a little time creating a great habit that will bring my knitting closer to perfection. Or I can choose not to improve and then spend minutes, or hours undoing, or redoing to get my knitting closer to perfection.

Habit

480 1372652869 469px Vasily Tropinin 75“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle

Researchers at Duke University have determined that about 40% of what we do comes from habits.  Learning to knit has, we hope, created in us the habit of knowing how to create and use knitting and purling to form fabric.  But how can being mindful become a habit?

Actions that are small and easy to do will become habits much sooner than big, huge earth-shaking actions – so start small.

At the end of each row, take a breath, and as you turn your work (in straight knitting or magic loop) take a look at your work. Does anything stand out as wrong or uneven? If it does then explore that. If it looks great, smile, and keep going.

Focus

What do you often screw up in your knitting?  Is it reading a pattern? Is it getting the right number of stitches? Is it splitting your yarn, dropping stitches, or knowing where you are in the pattern?

All of these issues are a matter of focus.  If you created small mindful habits around the places you make mistakes it might help prevent the mistakes from happening!  If reading a pattern is tricky read it twice, review it with a friend, write all over it to remind yourself of areas of concern.  And don’t just do this ONCE on ONE pattern. Create a habit of always doing this.

Focus on the pieces you want to be mindful of and create small habits to help you improve or expand the areas of your knitting where mindfulness will be most helpful.

Common Sense

I get frustrated with myself, and others sometimes because what I call mindfulness seems to be to be mostly common sense.  When I read the “AND AT THE SAME TIME” piece in the pattern and then don’t mark it and, of course, forget.  When I read through a pattern quickly and don’t go back to check, assuming that I know what I am doing. And then have to frog three inches. (that would have been last night in a nutshell)

There is a difference between common sense and being mindful, I think.  We all make mistakes – no matter how much common sense we have or how mindful we are.  Common sense is knowing that that I have to read a new pattern through completely before I start knitting. Being mindful is choosing to be aware that the piece should be square – but is starting to look rectangular.

Common sense is knowing that if I use a different sized yarn I have to manipulate the pattern a bit. Being mindful is noticing that the fabric is puckering in one place and taking the time to find out why.

Common sense is knowing that you can’t bind off 100 stitches with one yard of yarn.  Being mindful is watching the amount of yarn and making some smart decisions about bind off options when I still have enough yarn.

Experience

Some of being mindful is being experienced.  Once you are comfortable knitting then you can take the time and spend the energy to become a mindful knitter. But there are an enormous number of things in knitting – and in any part of our lives, really – that can benefit from making a simple deep breath, a pause, and a bit of focus into a constant habit.

I wish you all mindfulness!

What’s in your knitting bag?

If you knit the way I knit, then you have at least one (and possibly 45) projects going all at the same time.  And you have probably also found that with that many projects you end up moving them around a lot.  Which means that what you carry your knitting in is important.  And of course what you carry IN your knitting bag is even MORE vital. So today I start a sometime series on “What is in your knitting bag.”

When you first learned to knit you probably started off carrying those projects around in the bag you got from the yarn store!  But you soon found that they left a bit to be desired aesthetically.

What you carry your knitting around in not only says a lot about you, but also can make a big difference to what you carry IN the knitting bag.  The really exciting thing is that there is a whole world of opportunities!

I think it’s important for me to come clean right now and admit that we are stepping into some dangerous territory for me. As a normal human I have many faults (MANY!), some personality quirks, and a few obsessions. Or maybe more than a few. One of my particular personality quirks is an obsession that could be construed as a fault. I LOVE to containerize things.

Give me a small item and I will find a bag or box to put it in.  If  you give me a few different items I will find bags for some, boxes for others, and a bin to put the bags and boxes in.  And if you are kind enough to give me many items I will find bags, boxes and bins for each type of item – divided perhaps by shape, color, size, use, material….yes, yes, I know.. The word you are looking for is obsession.

So it’s no wonder that one of the little joys I get from knitting, that doesn’t have anything to do with actually KNITTING, is containerizing my knitting and my knitting toys.  And boy, oh boy, do we have options.

Canvas, cotton, linen, clear plastic, wicker baskets – oh the list is endless!  Everyone has their favorite style, their favorite bag material, their favorite shape or size.

Every knitting project has specific needs and there is always a bag to fit every project.  Remembering that even a brown paper sack will work in a pinch, here are some ideas I have been playing around with over the years.

SIZE

Knitting BagsIf you are looking for a holder for a very small project, you need a very small bag.  If you are looking for something to put a whole sweater project in obviously the bag must be bigger. So size matters.  Size also affects how a bag will react with gravity.  If it’s big and has a thin bottom it won’t’ stand up. Is that OK?  Or do you want it to stand alone?  My Durham bag is HUGE. I can fit more than one project bag in there. It stands up, so it’s great for trips, but not so useful day to day.  The Galapagos bag is a more normal size for projects.

knitting bagThe Terra Cotta bag won’t stand up with that narrow bottom, but it’s big. Because the opening at the top is narrower than the bottom stuff is less likely to fall out of this bag.

The zoo bag is another favorite, the handle makes it easy to go over my shoulder so if I know there is a lot of walking I grab that one. It’s great in an airport.

CLOSURE

Bags that don’t close presents the problem of having things fall out of a knitting bag. One way to prevent this is to find one with a nice solid bottom. knitting bagNow this purple bag sits very firmly on the floor and won’t tip.  It has space for 6 projects, side pockets for notions but because there is no top things can still fall out. OR worse, things can fall into it and get lost.  This is a good bag for a trip when I know I will be sitting – maybe a car trip, or knit night – where I know I will be relatively stationary but want more than one project to play with.

But personally, I really, really like a knitting bag that closes. Buttons work, ties work, zippers are better, velcro is a serious no-no!knitting bag

COLOR

This is where my opinions get a little divided.  I dearly love a little black (knitting) bag.  Let’s face it, we know it’s going to be sitting on the floor, so black is great because you can’t see the dirt.  But black is awful if you drop a stitch marker or other small something- it’s like the black hole of Calcutta in there! Trying to find something small in the bottom of a dark bag in a room with sub-“knitting-normal” light is really, really hard. (And the Knitting Gods help you if the stitch marker is dark, too!)

I really prefer light colored linings when given an option!  A lighter color makes it easier to find stuff, and frankly I find it more cheerful!  I have a CRAZY large assortments of bags – I pick them up when traveling, friends pick them up for me when they travel, and it’s always a good birthday gift (hint, hint!!) – and the majority of my bags have light linings.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have any with dark insides,  I just use them less.

knitting bagFor smaller projects a light colored drawstring bag like this one is perfect, or some people prefer the clear plastic bags. You can certainly see what’s going on in there!

MATERIAL

Your knitting bag doesn’t have to be made of canvas or cloth!  There are baskets of all kinds that are very useful. These African bags are just the right size! It can sit easily at my feet and hold five or six projects easily.  It stands up well, and has a relatively light interior. I am fond of this bag, but only for times when I don’t move a lot.

If I know I am going to be carrying this bag for any length of time then I leave it at home because the handle is JUST a bit too big for my hands and I don’t find it comfortable over long distances. Car to chair is perfect – car to distant picnic spot, not so much. knitting bag

BEWARE: with baskets you have to be careful. If they are lined, then you are good to go, but be careful of the unlined wicker basket – snags are a serious concern. Wicker is lightweight, and very attractive, but if you are working with a fine yarn or something that snags easily I recommend serious avoidance. This is never a problem for me because I generally use this bag to hold multiple smaller project bags.

BOX BAGS

The really popular and most common “go to” bag for smaller project’s is the box bag.  You can buy them everywhere and the choice in fabric (inside and out) is astounding!knitting bag

They come in all sizes, from itty-bitty for socks to quite large for whole sweaters. They are commonly made of fabric with a cloth lining, but can be made out of plastic, leather or other materials.

I like box bags.  A lot. These are all the ones that are currently full of projects.  I have more.  Yes, it might be a problem. (Even worse: I just started making my own!)
knitting bag

My Favorite Box Bag

This is my favorite box bag, currently. It was made by a wonderful seamstress, Dani Miller at KSC Designs.  (She doesn’t make box bags anymore, she’s into leather now! Needles and Hide)  I chose it for the fabric, but it encompasses all the characteristics of a perfect box bag. Here is why it is my favorite knitting bag right now, and things to look for when you buy or make your own box bag:Knitting bag

  1. It has a handle. A nice strong handle that is large enough to put over my wrist if I need it to.
  2. The handle is located at the end of the bag where you find the zipper pull when the bag is closed.  If the handle is at this end, when I put it on my wrist if it’s not completely closed things don’t fall out. AND I can open the zipper to get things from it when it’s on my arm without things falling out. Brilliant.
  3. The fabric is strong and doesn’t pick up dirt or lint.  It looks as fresh as the day I bought it.
  4. The lining is a light color.
  5. It has a tab “pull” on either end to give me an easy thing to grab and pull against when I want to open or close the zipper.
  6. It’s big enough to hold a small to medium project, my cell phone and my wallet so it works great as a purse as well.

Zippers

A word about zippers.  A good knitting bag uses a zipper to keep everything safe. However, zippers can be a problem on project bags.  It’s very easy to snag your yarn if you aren’t paying attention.  knitting bagI have developed a habit with my zippered bags (both large bags as well as box bags).  First I grab the zipper pull with my thumb and my index finger. Then I stick the rest of my fingers IN the bag and under the zipper. Then I pull it closed.  This way my yarn never (OK, almost never) gets caught in the zipper.

OTHER OPTIONS

There are lots of other options, everyone has their favorite knitting bags, here are a few more I wanted to share.knitting bag

The purple suede bag is lovely because it opens up like a book.  There are lots of places for tools and it travels well.  My only problem with this one is the handle. It’s way too short!

My Mum made me the blue bag ages ago and it closes with a drawstring.  I love the fabric and it’s a great size for socks or hats. It travels well, too. It doesn’t show the dirt and I can get my wallet and my cell phone in there no problem.

knitting bagThe Latest!

This is my latest project bag purchase.  This bag is specifically made for sock projects.  And even more specifically for two socks knitted at the same time from two balls.

The bag uses a built in zippered pocket for tools that acts as a divider, so each ball can have it’s own space.  There is also a handy-dandy snap-shut-able guide on each side of the bag. You can see that the guide near my thumb is closed.  These little tabs work as guides to help contain the yarn coming from each ball, which helps to keep tangles to a minimum.

The color of the interior is light.  The grosgrain ribbon is a great drawstring. Both things help make this bag very comfortable to me.

Show me Yours!

What is your favorite knitting bag? Share you pictures in comments or jump over to the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your favorite project bag!

Community Weaving at Sedalia

 

Community Weaving

I got myself into some deep kimchi recently with a community weaving project.

I was preparing to attend an event called Christmas in Sedalia, an artisan market put on by The Sedalia Center.  I was bemoaning the lovely loom they had – not only was it taking up a lot of room, it was sad to see it unused. They totally agreed.

The Sedalia Center is a nonprofit “cultural and educational institution whose mission is to promote, preserve, and enhance the arts and cultural heritage for everyone in our region.” Which means that they provide classrooms for teachers to share their knowledge, and produce events that are a great deal of fun.

This is where it gets a little hazy. I mean, I was there, so I should know what happened. I am just not sure HOW it happened.  Somehow my innocent little comment about the loom turned, 30 minutes later, into me creating a Community Weaving Project.

This was my idea: I would dress the loom with a simple tabby shawl in a pretty blue. During the Christmas in Sedalia event anyone who came by and expressed an interest would be shown how and helped to do some weaving on the shawl themselves.  Then by the end of the day we would have a completed shawl!  We could sell raffle tickets and give the shawl away and, hopefully earn a little money for the Center.

I need help

Great idea, right? Well, yes, in THEORY it’s a great idea, except I wasn’t completely familiar with that type of loom, I am crap at choosing colors, I have never woven a project that big – frankly my confidence started to plummet at the mere thought!

I am not averse to offering my help or working on volunteer projects – I was in the Peace Corps and ran a non-profit for heaven’s sake! But this type of project was a little above my pay-grade!

So, I did what any sensible middle aged woman does when approaching something scary and outside of her depth. I completely ignored it. Oh, I worried about it. And fretted. But I didn’t DO anything. This is very unlike me.

I get help

The whole thing came to a head when I was sitting in my Weaving Guild meeting. I vaguely heard our esteemed president say “Does anyone else have anything else they need to talk about?” and before I knew it I was on my feet, as if I had been planning it for weeks.

I explained my dilemma and asked, rather plaintively I expect,  if there was anyone who would help me with this, since I felt so out of my depth. Immediately two hands went up and I have to say I was immensely relieved, and when I saw who it was I almost cheered!

Friends are good.

MeridithCommunity Weaving weaves for a living, and her stuff is amazing!  Carol is a good friend as well as my first weaving mentor! They were the perfect duo to pull me out of the pit I had dug.

They were really super, and gave so willingly and graciously of their time that the project went without a hitch!  We took a trip out to the center (at least an hour from each of our homes!) and cleaned up the loom and made sure it was ready for prime time.

Community WeavingThen we chose the colors to use – I let them get on with this on their own, as the only color sense I have is “what colors do I like?” – which has nothing to do with whether they look good on me or anyone else, or even go together.

When the yarn arrived Carol created the warping lengths and we all met at Meridith’s house to thread the reed. Then on another day we met at the center and dressed the loom.

Success

The day of the event I was busy,  I had a booth and so I was trying to sell stuff as well as watch the loom, but the guild really had my back and there were, in addition to Meridith and Carol who gave their whole day to the event, three other guild members there to support the community weaving.

Community WeavingWe didn’t have much success with most of the adults at the event. They took one look at the loom and threw their hands up, and backed away. They all seemed completely convinced that they would “ruin” the project.

The children were not so squeamish. They got right in there and seemed to have a ball!  A fellow guild member, Christopher, was so gentle and supportive of them, and so busy weaving when there were no children around, that we did indeed finish the shawl by the end of the day.

The shawl was auctioned off, and won by a lovely local woman and we cut it off the loom!  I took it home and hemstitched the end, then spend a few hours at Meridith’s studio twisting the fringe.  Then into the washing machine. It really is a thing of beauty!

WOW.

I really can’t tell you how thrilled I am with how this turned out!  It was more work that I had expected as well as more fun, more educational, and more satisfying than I had imagined it would be!

I will never forget the relief, and the JOY I felt when they both offered to help!  The unwavering support of the guild throughout the whole event was a lovely bonus and much appreciated.

It is to be devoutly hoped that a lesson has been learned as well. No more volunteering to do what I am not sure I know how to do. And more volunteering to help with weaving projects, there is so much to learn!

Community WeavingWhat about you?

Have you ever had your neck saved in a fiber project? Have you ever been involved in a community weaving project, or some other community fiber adventure?  I would love to hear about it!