SLUBS, NUBS, AND OTHER BEAUTIFUL MISTAKES

By Lisa Huddleston

Beautiful hand-thrown mugs!

Beautiful hand-thrown mugs!

This Christmas was the year of the handmade gift. My mother gave homemade chocolates. My mother-in-law gave homegrown fruit preserves and cucumber, green bean, and okra pickles. My daughter-in-law gave delicious homemade Russian tea cookies. I gave hand-knit wooly hats and scarves. We gave beautiful wooden bowls Chuck’s uncle made. And my daughter and her husband gave hand-thrown mugs. It was simple and unique and special.

Knitting a cowl for Christmas.

Knitting a cowl for Christmas.

And each day as I ate those goodies or every morning as I cup a comfortably off kilter mug in my hands, I think of their makers and celebrate their gifts and their talents and their love.

Homemade gifts are special. They aren’t quite as perfect as those you buy in stores. They have little flaws and quirks–we call them “design elements” to celebrate their specialness. They may not sit exactly flat on the table or they may not be the latest style, but you know that they say “love” with the raspy sometimes irritating voice of truth. And their nubs and imbalances and missed stitches remind us that while we’re not there yet, we are striving to make good things. There is beauty in the trying.

Midway into knitting a cap.

Midway into knitting a cap.

As this New Year begins, I find myself trying. I’m trying to get rid of the extra pounds I’ve collected over the past few weeks. I’m trying to get back into a consistent reading of the Word. I’m trying to spend time with old friends and to even make new ones. And I’m trying to lift my head up from my usual navel gazing in order to focus more on the grace of each moment. Yes, I am trying.

And, of course, my trying is not perfect. Already I see nubs and flaws and design elements weaving themselves into and around my perfect goals. But that is okay. And that is real. And that is good.

Happy New Year to you. May you set your hands to the good works God has placed before you–and may I. And may we all keep on trying to make good things full of design elements we never dreamed of, but that seem to make the whole experience just a little more interesting and lovely.

 

 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS ADJUSTED

Ahhhhh ... alpaca!

Ahhhhh … alpaca!

By Lisa Huddleston

Last Saturday, I made plans to meet my husband after the Vandy football game and do a little Christmas shopping. After he left, I started thinking about making a quick run to my favorite yarn store, Haus of Yarn, before meeting him. I had an idea for a birthday present for my daughter that required a yarn purchase, and it just made good sense to make the most of the long drive into town.

I arrived at Haus with only about 30 minutes to shop so I felt pushed, but I could do it. I knew I wanted something gray and chunky and soft so I gave those specifics to a kind lady working there, and she led me right to something perfect: baby alpaca, soft and squishy and in several (no, not 50) shades of gray. Great! I paid for the yarn, jumped in the car, and headed to Vandy to meet Chuck just in time.

The afternoon was very enjoyable: a late lunch at Ted’s, shopping in Green Hills, and people watching over a cup of Starbucks. Lots of fun, but that soft yarn was calling my name the whole time, and I couldn’t wait to get it on my needles when I got home.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

That evening I cast on the required number of stitches that the pattern called for and got right down to business. The yarn looked beautiful, and the diagonal ribbing was working out just right. I was feeling pretty proud of the great, hand-made gift I’d be giving my daughter. And, hey, I was really getting good at this knitting stuff! (Insert a lot of back patting here.)

The following day was pretty full so I didn’t get to knit until late in the evening, and I was too tired to work on it then for fear of making a mistake. After knitting just a few rows, I put it down for the next day. It was nearly finished so it took very little time to wrap it up on Monday. I carefully measured the length–yep, exactly nine inches as specified. I couldn’t see any mistakes, and I proudly began binding off the cowl. I was excited to see how it looked on so I immediately pulled it over my head. Wait! It was really tight. Not what I’d hoped for at all. More of a rogue turtleneck without the turtle than a true cowl. What the heck??

I went back to the picture I’d seen on Ravelry.com … hmmm, my friend had adjusted the pattern by casting on 80 stitches instead of the specified 60. And I looked at the last cowl I had made–I had cast on 100 stitches for that. Man! I wanted to give up and cry, “Everything I do just turns out terribly! Waaaaaa! I really suck!” So that’s just what I did.

But after my short pity-party, I dried my tears and moved on. And lo and behold, some good lessons were learned:

1. I loved the yarn I used and will give it another try for a cowl.

2. A little more research will help me to avoid future disasters like this one. Yes, I will spend more time reading the notes other knitters have added to their projects on Rav.

3. Experience is the best teacher. I love my 100 stitches-diameter cowl so that may become my go-to number.

4. You don’t always get what you expect, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole thing out. The soft, gray, turtleneck-sans-turtle will still be great on a very cold day, and it is still very pretty.

5. The next one will be better because of my time spent learning on this project. Not perfect–but better!

Good life lessons, good knitting lessons, and all in all, a good yarn to tell.

THANKFUL FOR THE QUIET LIFE

Learning to spin.

Learning to spin.

By Lisa Huddleston

For many years I’ve had a special attachment to some words in a letter sent by the Apostle Paul to the Christ-followers living and worshiping in Thessalonica:   “… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (I Thess. 4:11-12).

These words have meant different things to me over the years as I worked to raise my children, take care of my family, home school, serve at church, and live a purposeful life. Sometimes I didn’t want my quiet life. Where was the glory? Where was the glamour? Surely not in the laundry room or the kitchen or the schoolroom. And most surely not in the empty nest that was left behind when my chicks flew off. Sometimes I mourned the careers I could have had if I had not stayed at home.

My first handspun skein. Lumpy and luscious!

My first handspun skein. Lumpy and luscious!

But at other times, I just felt blessed. And that is the feeling that lingers today and keeps me pushing on in the path of my Quiet Life–blessing. My work has changed but my calling has not, and it makes me smile to find myself more and more drawn into literal hand work in the world of fiber arts. From knitting to weaving to spinning, I have discovered a deep satisfaction and sense of quiet purpose that is pulling me deeper into this woollen world of peace.

Surely, we (Chuck) can do this!

Surely, we (Chuck) can do this!

 

 

I’ve already written about the vision that is growing in me, about a studio full of creative work, about raising animals, and shearing, spinning, weaving, and knitting their wool, and about the ways my husband and I will be able to work together in these creative new endeavors. I am excited to think about our future, but I am also thankful for the work I have today and blessed by this Quiet Life I’m leading right this very minute. Even if none of my vision actually comes to pass, I know I will have business to mind, work to do, and a Quiet Life to live.

And today I am thankful for the words Paul wrote, thankful for the many different ways of living them out that are weaving themselves into my life, and thankful for the new works my hands are discovering.

Baruch haShem.

SIMPLE THINGS ON A LOVELY DAY

By Lisa Huddleston

It’s a blustery fall day, and through my windowpanes I see a steady snowfall of golden leaves. Days like this make me think of Winnie the Pooh and other cozy, childlike pleasures. Even the intermittent sound of the wind chimes seems to remember days gone by and sing a lazy lullaby. Today is a lovely day to rejoice in simple things.

Pulling a dragon's tail from a ball of yarn.

Pulling a dragon’s tail from a ball of yarn.

It is still mid-morning, but I have already been knitting on a new project, my first Hitchhiker scarf (pattern by Martina Behm, http://www.strickmich.de). It is a delight to watch the beautiful yarn I bought on “I Love Yarn Day” take shape and become a dragon’s tail. Each new color I pull from the middle of the Crazy Zauerball reminds me of the sweet day I spent on an adventure with my friend and causes me to smile. Blessings pulled from a softly woven ball of wool.

I hope you have a simple, blessed day, too. Look for beauty. Listen for music. Touch the soft texture of this gorgeous fall day. And give thanks.

HAPPY ‘I LOVE YARN DAY!’

Road trip!

Road trip!

By Lisa Huddleston

It is only 6:30 a.m. and my dear friend Lisa and I have already planned an adventure for the day. We are taking a mini-yarn run eastward. She has already explored most if not all of the yarn shops to our west toward, in, and around Nashville–so eastward it is.

Why the abrupt spontaneity? No, neither of us has had a mental breakdown, although those who know our usually stodgy selves best may disagree. Not at all–it’s “I Love Yarn Day!” and we just feel like celebrating color and texture and the promise of creativity. Yay!

YARN!

YARN!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know my daughter is already calling me “bipolar” so I need to be careful before she sends me off to the funny farm–but this random day may be just what the doctor ordered. After all, who can knock a good celebration of life?

One more thought before I guzzle down my coffee, jump in the shower, dress and head east. Tomorrow is the Ride for Refuge and sweet Chuck and I have captained a team for The Village Chapel. We only have one more day to meet our goal to help finance the efforts of End Slavery Tennessee.

Join The Village Chapel team in the Ride for Refuge.

Join The Village Chapel team in the Ride for Refuge.

If you feel even an inkling of a desire to help, please go to this link http://my.e2rm.com/teamPage.aspx?teamID=473038&langPref=en-CA and give to help those dear people help others.  Thanks in advance! Hope to see our $$ grow all the way to our goal of $1000 (we really don’t have far to go!)

Blessings on your day. Hope it’s an adventure. And Happy I Love Yarn Day to you all!

FLOUNDERING

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By Lisa Huddleston

The least bit of change in my routine can really throw me. For two weeks I have been fighting bursitis (can you say, “OLD?”) so I have been out of my regular exercise pattern, and now it is Fall Break–no volunteering at the Adult Learning Center. I’m sad to say I’m floundering. What a great word–yes, I’m flopping like a big, flat fish gasping on the shore! Flop flop gasp gasp. Who will rescue me from this body of death? How can I kick myself in the pants and get moving?

But there are times when you can’t help slowing down a little. I didn’t ask for bursitis, but I sure am not doing much to fight against it other than complaining a lot and taking way too much ibuprofen. I really could be taking advantage of my extra hours by washing my filthy windows or even vacuuming the rugs. But what have I been doing? Reading, knitting coffee cup cozies (really cute!), and generally wasting time. (Have I mentioned my shoulder is also hurting?) I can feel the pounds packing on my “muffin top cozy” just in time for a long winter’s nap. Flop flop.

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Even my reading hasn’t done me much good although the books themselves have been wonderful (Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans.) Both caused my natural melancholy to well up over years I may or may not have wasted in misguided although well-meaning directions. Gasp gasp.

Thank goodness for afternoon plans with some new and old friends and a home group gathering tonight–ironically to finish a discussion of Timothy Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. Hilarious! Not the book but … yeah.

Oh my, just maybe my daughter was right when she compared me this morning to another writer I’ve enjoyed but with whom she is not relating as well. When I said I didn’t remember anything about her (this author) being bipolar, Sarah said, “No, but she did mention having a lot of mood swings and crying about being a writer.”

Well. Flop flop gasp gasp.