I’m the type of person who loves to reward herself for “successful adulting.”
Those rare days when the dishwasher is empty, the laundry is folded, the toilet bowl doesn’t look like a petri dish, we’ve all had three meals, and I’m wearing a bra--I pat myself on the back for achieving that fleeting feeling of, “yeah, I’ve got this adulting sh*t."
Donning my plush slippers, oversized sweatshirt, and the yoga-pants-I-never-do-yoga-in, I snuggled in on the couch with knitting and green tea, feeling pretty smug that I folded all the laundry on the couch so I could sit on it.
Craving some precious knitting time in plush peace, I made my favorite relaxing tea to accompany me: Twinings Decaffeinated Green Tea (I know … I’m a persnickety tea enthusiast). To avoid any spillage of my prized beverage, I locked that sucker down in a vacuum-sealed Starbucks travel mug—my usual beverage barge for craft time.
Absorbed in the rhythm of my knitting, I didn’t notice my one-year-old dapple dachshund hop up on the couch with me. Used to her sniffing all sides of me, it didn’t alarm me that she was perched on the arm of the couch sniffing my vacuum-sealed tea.
I had FINALLY reached the last lace repeat of the shawl pattern, when I heard a stout “pooft” sound. Then, I heard the green tea waterfall splashing into the cream carpet.
My dog just Boston-Tea-Party’d my living room.
“HAZEL! NOOO!” I shouted as I threw my knitting off my lap and tried to right myself like an upside-down turtle thrashing around in the deep cushions of the couch. As soon as I was upright, Hazel leapt from the end table with my mug lid in her mouth and sprinted with her prized possession.
After half a can of Resolve carpet cleaner, I now have a beautiful new coloring in my carpet. After prying the lid from her mouth, I also need a new vacuum-sealed mug. No, I need a puppy-proof mug (Amazon has to have it, right?).
Reasons I Love My Dog:
(P.S.) Does anyone know how to remove green tea stains from carpet? My husband told me
I’m not allowed to dump anymore Resolve on that area of the carpet because it’s clearly not helping ...
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
I wish I could describe the moment I knew to you.
From my love of reading coming of age novels, most often in those plots there is moment when the main character has her or his realization. Their parent has a health scare; they get fired from their job; they discover they’re adopted; they discover they have magic and descend from a prestigious wizarding family.
There wasn’t a realization at the traffic light during my commute or the feeling of life-changing awareness spark within me from reading an article.
In fact, there wasn’t a moment at all.
Like watching grass grow or looking for the telltale sign of aging when your hair turns gray, a monumental change in my life was taking root in my soul. Slowly …
A few unproductive days here and there turned into weeks. Unexplainable dread would seep into my bones when I had to accept that my evening was over, and that I would wake to the start of a new weekday. Lack of passion and motivation ebbed and flowed uncontrollably in my life.
What a first-world problem, I would think and berate myself for feeling unfulfilled when I was so blessed. I had the greatest life anyone could wish for: a loving and supportive spouse, a roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back, a loving family, employment that offered a comfortable life, the most adorable puppy imaginable, and countless first-world securities that many desire to have.
I am so blessed. I am truly grateful and appreciative to the Lord for the numerous advantages I had and have received.
Yet, there was a yearning. A bit of emptiness somewhere I couldn’t put my finger on. It demanded to be acknowledged, then it prickled in my soul this way and then that way, until I had no choice but to hear it out. I had to recognize that God was calling me for something more.
Decoding that calling metamorphosed into a 15-month long journey of prayer, faith, aptitude tests, trust, career counseling, personal therapy, self-reflection, and waiting to try to surrender my desire for control to God.
I’ve learned immense lessons and insights about myself, my own happiness, and what it means to hand it all over to the Lord. In fact, I am still in this journey with God, and I always will be.
So no, there wasn’t a moment. The seas did not part before me to create a clear, straightforward path. And that’s okay, because I’ve realized that’s not in God’s plan for me right now. It is a test of faith and trust, of which I hope I am passing.
Because of this intimate and evolutionary stage of my life, I had taken a hiatus from most of my social media, blogging, and pattern writing. I apologize to you for the disappearance, but know that I am healthier mentally, physically, and spiritually than I’ve been in … well, possibly ever.
Although I would love to know the answers to my questions and to see the plan laid out before me so I can relax, that’s not what is truly best for me. That is not how I grow closer to my faith and walk alongside Jesus. This reality was something I had wrestled with for years, and some days I still do.
I am not perfect. I will make mistakes, and that is okay. I have a lot of growing left to do, and for that I am thankful.
So, the big questions you (probably) want to know:
1. Are you still going to be writing patterns? And blogging?
2. Will you return to your social media communities?
3. What are you doing with your career?
The answers as I know them to be so far:
1. Yes! Absolutely! Making, blogging, designing, and writing patterns fills my bucket and allows me to share the crafty goodness with everyone. I have quite a few patterns I’ve been playing with … I’m anxious to make them official soon!
2. Yes, but I might not post as often as usual. I love social media because it allows me to connect with your beautiful self. I am shifting my focus from having a “perfect” profile to connecting with the people. You’ll still see my projects, cute puppy, and pattern releases, but I am going to be keeping it real with everyone. It makes me happiest that way.
3. As badly as I wish I could tell you how I figured it out and jumped into my new career like a girl boss ninja, this girl boss still doesn’t know. I’m following Jesus and God’s plan for me right now. Every day I have to make the conscious decision to put my full faith into His hands. It is a journey, and although some days I feel like I’m losing my mind, I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity for growth.
Thank you for hanging in there with me through the blogging and designing hiatus. Thank you for reading this lengthy post. And thank you for giving me this platform and space to share it all with you.
I am not perfect, and I don’t want to try to be. Thank you for your kindness and for allowing me to “keep it real” as the kids say. I hope this helps give you some answers and gives you a place to breathe too. Whether it’s knitting, quilting, or life, we aren’t alone. Thank you for never letting me feel alone in it all.
1. Do always keep a crochet hook in your notions pouch
When those gorgeous stitches accidentally slip off the needles your heart drops and your stomach flip flops. We have all been there.
Use a crochet hook to safely rescue those free falling stitches without having to unknit (or even worse restart) your knitting. Hook the loop, and feed it back up your work either knitting or purling (depending on the way you feed it through the exposed yarn ladders).
It sounds more difficult than it actually is; however, once you watch Knit Purl Hunter’s video tutorial for how to save your dropped stitches, you will be keeping a handy hook near you always.
2. Do a gauge swatch for sweaters
Your beautiful plush yarn in sitting in its merino bamboo blend glory waiting for you to cast on—a whole 1,600 yards for your perfect sweater awaits.
I am so guilty of skipping the crucial gauge swatch because I’m just too excited to cast on and begin my ideal sweater. But more often than not, your ideal sweater will turn out less than ideal if you did not do a gauge swatch.
From sizing to shaping, it could all be wrong for your body or for your recipient if you knit looser or tighter than the pattern designer. As annoying as it is to pump the brakes a bit on your sweater knitting train, it’s even more annoying wasting hours and yarn on a project that does not fit.
Don’t know what a gauge swatch is? Or maybe you’d just like a refresher. Watch Cheryl Brunette’s video tutorial on gauge swatching here for help.
I will openly admit that I do not gauge swatch for any knitting that does not have to be fitted to a specific body, such as shawls, socks, hats, dishcloths, mittens, toys, blankets, cowls, and more. Although, I will ALWAYS gauge swatch for a sweater or a dress, and you should too.
3. Do alternate hand-dyed skeins every few rows when knitting a large project
My stash is home for many gorgeous color drenched skeins of hand-dyed goodness that make my heart sing. Each skein is unique and a piece of art. How these talented dyers generate these stunning colorways are beyond me. Use these yarns with pure delight, but be careful to avoid unintentional pooling of those colors.
Since hand-dyed skeins are of course, not dyed by machine, each skein—even from the same colorway and dye lot—are different. This is what makes the yarn so extraordinary, but you have to be cautious when knitting a large yardage project with hand-dyed hands.
Since each skein is wonderfully unique, you need to alternate yarn from each skein you are using every few rows to ensure you create a consistent colorway throughout your project.
If you don’t alternate skeins, some color pooling could occur. If this does not bother you, then don’t stress about alternating skeins. But if you want the colorway to show consistently throughout the project, I recommend alternating your skeins every two to four rows.
4. Do remember to stretch your hands properly and take periodic breaks when knitting
When I’m on a knitting roll, the last thing I want to do is take a break from knitting (Are you crazy?! I just made it to the last lace section!). However, taking breaks and knitting in an ergonomic way with good posture is critical to keep us knitting for years to come.
Doing a repeated motion without rest can lead to muscle fatigue—even injury—if rest is never achieved. The process of knitting is performing certain motions repeated, and for many knitters, this can go on for hours (especially if Netflix is involved).
Although I never want to slow down my knitting, we must take breaks and make sure we are knitting with good posture and healthy hands if we always want to knit. I can’t even speak the nightmare of all crafters (*whispers *carpal tunnel), but please take the time to listen to Fruity Knitting’s podcast about ergonomic knitting and make sure you are keeping your hands in prime knitting condition.
5. Do keep stitch markers handy
So many brave stitch markers have counted my row repeats, alerted me when it’s time to change colors, reminded me of stitch repeats, gotten lost in the depths of the couch, or eaten by the dog.
I’m convinced that I couldn’t knit a simple eyelet pattern without my trusty little army of stitch markers. Listing their uses could go on and on for hours. Available in various sizes, a plethora of colors, and a gamut of designs, there is a perfect stitch marker out there for every knitter.
I use numerous types, sizes, colors, brands, and designs of them in all of my projects, but my favorite go-to stitch markers are the Clover Stitch markers that look like adorable baby diaper pins (this type of stitch marker also doubles as a progress keeper for knitters AND crocheters).
6. Do stay consistent with the same needles during a project
Gauge and tension can be tricky little nuances in a knitting project. Although everyone knits differently with their own style of tension and gauge, the choose needles for your project can impact your finished fabric quite a bit.
For example, my tension and gauge varies drastically on the different material types of needles I use. I tend to knit more consistently on nickel-plated needles, and I tend to knit tighter on bamboo needles. I also tend to knit loosest on plastic needles. It is different for everyone, and your tension and gauge of knitting can even change over time.
Thus, it is very important not to change needles during your project (unless the pattern explicitly asks you to change needles) to achieve a consistent finished fabric.
Blocking can help smooth out some unevenness in a finished piece, but it relieves a lot of headache to stay consistent with the needles you started your project with.
7. Do add lifelines to your complex projects
Lace is so elegant and smooth. When you have the right lace weight yarn on the right needles, the lace seems to guide gracefully from one needle to the other until you realize ten stitches just glided themselves right off the needles.
If it isn’t too complicated of a lace pattern, you can probably use your handy crochet hook to rescue the jumpers.
However, if you accidently dropped too many stitches to be saved and you have no other choice but to tink (to “tink” is to unknit, see how “tink” is knit spelled backwards? Us knitters are so clever!), and redo the pattern*. (*Collective groan)
A lifeline in a knitting project is quite literally, your stitches’ lifeline. Before you begin to knit an intense cable section or a lace pattern filled with yarn overs, thread a tapestry needle with waste yarn (a smooth, cotton-based yarn that’s a different color than your project works best) and thread it through all of your live stitches right on your needles.
If you even have to tink or full-on rip out your knitting, you don’t have to undo the entire project. You can just rip back to the stitches on the lifeline, put them back on your needles, and begin again.
A helpful tip is to mark where in your pattern you added a lifeline, so if you ever have to rip back to it, you know where in the pattern you need to start at without skipping any rows.
You can add as many lifelines as you want, and a typical lace project for me has about three lifelines. Just in case the absolute worst happens, I don’t have to start my project over.
8. Do know that alpaca fibers can grrooooowwwww when blocking
Ask me how I know this.
One of my favorite fibers: alpaca (especially baby alpaca*, *squee!), is unbelievably soft, warm, and has the ability to stretch when wet.
I was blocking a cowl I made for myself out of the most amazing baby alpaca blend, and when I was stretching the wet fabric out, it just kept stretching and stretching. In my confusion, I unintentionally stretch out my cowl soooooo far that it warped my pattern design.
Thankfully, I was able to re-block the piece and return it to its proper form, but I always have to be careful when blocking alpaca yarns. Check out Tara Miller’s video for amazing tips for blocking with various yarns for the perfect finish.
9. Do read through the ENTIRE pattern before casting on
I’m sure it’s no longer a surprise that I love to cast on all of the things as soon as possible (my excitement is a persuasive encourager). However, if I want to avoid any pattern confusion, knitting snafus, or encountering any unknown stitches, I have to read through the ENTIRE pattern.
Doing this helps you grasp the overall construction of the pattern so you can spot errors or knitting accidents in your project sooner than later. It helps you decide if you want to alter the pattern in any way before you are halfway through the pattern and you realized you are about 150 yards short of the discontinued yarn you chose.
This also helps you knit through the more challenging parts of the pattern with more ease because you can better understand how it fits into the project as a whole.
10. Do keep your projects out of reach of pets and children
My sweetheart little Hazel is so intrigued by my knitting.
My ornery miniature dachshund will watch me knit and turn her head from side to side trying to understand why her mommy loves to play with sticks and string so much, and why her mommy won’t share this game with her.
If I ever left my knitting on the couch or somewhere she could reach, it would be a complete goner.
Be sure to keep your precious projects out of reach for little sweethearts who don’t mean to ruin, but may unintentionally do so to your knitting.
11. Do push yourself to try new techniques
As a knitter who always has a pair of vanilla socks on the needles for relaxing knitting, I am also a knitter who loves to have a new technique on the needles as well.
Yes, I have always loved school and learning, but by challenging yourself as a knitter, crafter, and artist, you continue to grow and foster your creative juices.
You discover what you like and don’t like, and you continue to refine your talent of knitting along the way.
12. Do make sure you always have a project going for yourself
One of the most amazing qualities crafters possess is how truly generous and giving they are with their beloved projects. This is a wonderful attribute many crafters share; however, it is critical not to overlook yourself when you are so generous.
Make sure you always care for yourself with your knitting too. If you don’t like knitting brioche, then don’t knit any brioche projects for anyone. If you realized you’ve knitted over 20 shawls but you don’t own a single one, and then start a special shawl project just for you.
Knitting should give back to you in enjoyment as much as you give to your knitting.
We live in a time where most of us don’t knit because we have no other way of clothing ourselves; we knit because we enjoy it.
If knitting everyone’s Christmas gift is not providing you enjoyment, then it’s not worth it.
Knitting is meant to create and share joy and community, please don’t lose sight of that as a crafter.
13. Do your best, not your “perfect”
As a recovering perfectionist, this is the most significant aspect of knitting for me. Humans are not perfect, and neither will be what we create, and that’s phenomenal.
Striving for perfection in something that is meant to bring joy will only lead to disappointment and frustration.
Knitting isn’t meant to be perfect; it’s meant to be enjoyed and shared with yourself and others.
Embrace the little mistakes, because you are usually the only one who can see them. Others cannot see knitting mishaps like you fear they can.
Love your knitting, because your knitting loves you.
Knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, dyers, and fiber-enthusiasts: it is the most wonderful time of the year.
Wearing and displaying our amazing fiber projects in the autumn air, we embrace the cold so we can showcase our fibers and talent in the public. The stash has thinned from the previous winter, spring, and summer projects, and it’s time to plump up our collections of wool and cashmere for the cozy days of crafting ahead.
Fiber folks … it is fiber festival season.
Grab your brioche cowl, Fair Isle sweater, cabled mitts, and bobbled cap, now is the time to …
Attending a fiber festival is so much more than buying yarn. It’s experiencing your crafting community in person. You can meet the dyer of your favorite colorway and ask her for her favorite pattern recommendation. You can pet the adorable cria (a baby alpaca, seriously, MY HEART, a BABY ALPACA) whose first fleece made your favorite pair of mittens. You can witness the spinner forge the most delicate lace weight single right in front of your eyes.
So, what do you bring? What do you wear? How much yarn is too much to buy? (The last one was a trick question; there is no such thing as “too much yarn.”)
What to Bring:
What to Wear:
And most importantly, enjoy it! Take your time to browse the yarns and fibers. Relish in the atmosphere of a crafting community and let yourself become inspired by new patterns, colors, and more.
I wish you all the best for the upcoming fiber festivals, and I hope you will stumble upon homemade apple cider or a warm pumpkin donut while you are there.
“What can I help you with?” A woman with kind eyes asked me as I wandered the fabric and sewing aisles of JoAnn Fabrics with sheer adoration.
“I’m looking for a big pizza cutter for fabric,” I replied with a smile.
Polite confusion washed over her face.
“What now?” She said sweetly with a bit of concern.
“It’s like a circular blade that cuts fabric like a pizza,” as I proceeded to create the motion of cutting an imaginary pizza. Suddenly, recollection developed on her face.
“Oh, honey you mean a rotary cutter.” She grinned and led me to an aisle plastered with cutting mats, massive rulers, and rotary cutters of all shapes and sizes.
“Yes! This is perfect, thank you!” I respond.
“Well you made my day, I’ve never heard anyone refer to a rotary cutter as a pizza cutter before,” she laughed. “That’s a first.”
Without a formal education in sewing, everything about my quilting journey has been a “first.” I emerged into the quilting world rather unconventionally compared to most. Although my great grandmother was a brilliant hand quilter, I am a self-taught machine quilter (emphasis on self-taught).
Words such as appliqué (pronounced ap-li-KAY) and batiks (pronounced buh-TEEK) were so foreign, fancy, and fun to me. It felt adventurous to try these styles of quilting (and to say them). Like most of my knitting career, I just jumped into the new techniques head first.
Because of my immense curiosity and passion for creating with my hands, it never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t ready to try something new. I didn’t know the proper name for a beloved quilting tool, but that didn’t keep me from trying (and loving) a rotary cutter.
Did I accidentally mis-cut fabric with it? Absolutely. Did I care? Not a bit. Because I was enjoying the pure fun it all. Of course, I broke sewing machine needles, and of course, I’ve accidentally sewed the wrong sides together numerous times (hence why I love my seam ripper).
Without the freedom to make mistakes, I wouldn’t have enjoyed quilting or learned so much in this craft without the mishaps and “firsts” of learning how to quilt.
Three months into my quilting journey, and I requested to join a quilting guild (a club that sounds like it’s from the medieval times, cool right?) to gain a community of creatives who also loved this craft. I wanted to be around others who could talk quilting with me, and have a place where I could have guidance fixing my quilting flubs.
Honored and elated to receive a membership invitation, I drove over an hour to the closest guild branch for a monthly meeting. Walking into the conference room beaming like five-year-old in Toys R Us, I was met with suspicion instead of support.
A handful of older women evaluated me up and down, and I felt like I had walked onto a catwalk in a Vogue fashion show naked with the glances I received. Despite my immediate discomfort, I smiled and introduced myself.
I was expecting replies along the lines of “Nice to meet you Abby, I’m …” or “Welcome Abby, my name is …” instead, the immediate response that was shoved at me was: “Are you even a quilter?”
Although I couldn’t see my reaction, I imagine I appeared as though she had physically slapped me across my face.
“Umm, yes, yes I am …” I said, still stunned with the interrogation I was exposed to within the first twenty seconds of my arrival.
“How long have you been quilting seriously?” Another woman asked on my right.
“I have been quilting for three months.” Laughter erupted, and my heart plunged into my shoes. Shame gripped my breathing, and I stood there, motionless and flushed from embarrassed.
“Oh, honey, you aren’t a quilter, you don’t know what you are doing yet.” The first woman stated.
Shaken from being bullied by women who resembled grandmother-ly figures, I moved to the back of the room, as far away from them as I could. I spend the rest of the meeting in disappointment and residual hurt.
During the fussy cutting lesson, women took my quilting supplies away from me without asking or returning my things. At the end of the meeting, I had to scour the room to collect my fabric scissors, hand needles, and thimbles again.
Scurrying to the safety of my car, I couldn’t help but cry. My experience was anything but what I imagined this group to be. Of course I know not all quilters are like that, but the intrusiveness I was shown threatened to break my quilting spirit.
Once I was home and sitting in front of Matilda (my sewing machine), I realized I had two options:
1. I could believe what those women said about me.
I could become timid to admit that I had made those quilts. I could stop sharing my passion for quilting on social media and learn my craft in private, careful never to reveal my mistakes. I could wait until I had been practicing this craft in secret for years before I would venture to call myself … a “quilter” … again.
2. I could give myself permission to call myself a quilter.
No matter what you do, or how old you are, there are going to be people who want to convince you that you do not have permission to be or do something. Whether it’s crafts, athletics, photography, woodworking, advocacy, cooking, or parenting, there will be people who will threaten to harm your self-confidence and identity.
That is why you must give yourself permission to be who you want to be.
Yes, those women have been quilting longer than I have, but does that make me any less of a quilter? No. Is someone being a parent to a newborn less of a parent than someone who has twelve kids? Absolutely not.
By definition, a quilter is someone who makes quilts or quilted work. I make quilts; hence, I am a quilter, regardless of how long I’ve been making quilts.
You cannot give others the power of labels over you. By taking back the power those women took from me that day, I am a stronger individual and artist because of it. I am a woman, knitter, quilter, spinner, crocheter, Etsy seller, writer, wife, and Christian, and no one can take those things away from me.
Dear reader, are YOU giving yourself permission to be who you want to be? Are you empowering yourself, and not letting others rob your joy?
I urge you to give yourself permission to be a runner, poet, artist, baker, photographer, seamstress, painter, business owner, advocate … YOU. Whatever ignites your soul, give yourself permission to pursue and be that identity.
I’m thankful I didn’t let those women define me. The sewing machine has not ceased, and neither will my passion for my craft. You are beautiful and unique; there is only one of you, so please don’t keep those talents and gifts to yourself.
Share your passions and identity with the world, because there is no one else like you. You are your own original beauty, and I implore you to embrace yourself.
You must give yourself permission to be who you want to be.
(P.S.) Even if that means you want to call a rotary cutter a pizza cutter for fabric. ;)
Quilts were something magical and rare to me. I thought that only grandmas possessed the magic to turn stiff fabric into snuggly blankets. It's like when you become a grandmother you inherently gain magical powers over fabric and needles to create amazing gifts for everyone in your family. (That DOES happen, right?)
When I was a baby, toddler, and child, my favorite blanket was a blue and pink Noah’s Ark quilt. It had blue striped ruffle edging that was piped with a soft pink fabric. The main body of the quilt showed an adorable Noah’s Ark scene with the quilting outlining each person and animal.
Just thinking about my childhood blanket invokes an almost muscle memory of touch. I can remember how the fabric felt between my fingers and thumb as I rubbed it before falling asleep. The faint scent of Dreft and Snuggle still lingers in my baby quilt from its numerous washes throughout my life.
The batting has thinned significantly from the years of cuddles. There is a crudely sewn line on the left side of the quilt where it had ripped from rough play and my Grandpa Tony had mended it for me, and I love it. I would pretend that my blankie had surgery to remove its appendix like my favorite literary character Madeline had in one of my books.
This prized quilt is still with me today, resting on a quilt rack in our bedroom for me to see right before I go to sleep. This little bundle of worn fabric stitched together planted the seed of quilting in my soul.
First, it was a fondness. I loved the look of them, and how they differed from any other blanket I had ever seen or felt. Since my blankie was a quilt, I liked quilts!
Second, it was a preference. I wanted all of my bed spreads in my room, and yes even in my dorm room, to be a quilt. Nothing comforted me like a quilt. Every morning I would awake to a heap of sheets that appeared to have wrestled each other to the floor, and I would be clutching my bed spread--a quilt--as my lifeline to sweet sleep.
Third, it was a curiosity. At this time, I had been knitting and starting to crochet. My mind was beginning to learn how stitches wove together created a fabric. Inspecting my beloved quilts, I could see how they had been stitched and pieced together. It fascinated me, but I never thought, “hey, I could do this!” (remember at this time my subconscious was still convinced only grandmothers possessed quilty magic).
It wasn’t until I opened a gorgeous, new Singer Confidence sewing machine for the Christmas of 2016 from my thoughtful parents-in-law, that me … ME using a scary needle-equipped mechanical machine occurred to me. Honestly … it terrified me at first.
After our amazing Christmas Day filled to the brim with family, love, and food, my husband and I carried the gifts we had received into the house and collapsed into (a quilt-covered) bed happily exhausted. And the new Singer sat in that same spot … for two weeks.
A few days after the new year, my loving husband suggested I should put the laundry down and open my sewing machine. As much as I wanted to stop folding laundry, I was frightened.
Knitting needles, crochet hooks, cross-stitch needles--I loved all of them, but a machine-controlled needle with the power to pierce through my thumb … I knew with my clumsiness that it could be a real possibility here.
“I don’t know …” I began making excuses, and naturally he saw right through them.
“Why don’t you at least take it out the box? You don’t have to plug it in today.”
Giving in, I abandoned the laundry and cut into the box. Then, I literally and figuratively opened the Pandora’s box to what would become my sewing soul.
The machine FASCINATED me. Of course I had witnessed a sewing machine before, but this was different. This was MY sewing machine, mine to explore. Before I could help it, I had thread the machine. Then I had to plug the machine in and turn it on to wind the bobbin, and without hesitation … I did.
Hearing that purr of the motor winding the bobbin, something sparked in my heart through my hands, I HAD to sew. Using an old shirt (sorry sweet husband, I’ll make it up to you I promise!), I loaded the bobbin in the machine, set the presser foot down, selected straight stitch, and placed my foot on the pedal.
From spool to machine to needle to fabric, a seam started in my soul.
After a quick visit to the JoAnn Fabrics remnant bins that day, I sewed a little blue stuffed star, a pocket, and super elementary quilt block within four hours of taking the machine out of the box.
An excitement itched and poked me relentlessly that night laying in bed under the quilt bed spread. I must make a quilt. More than I wanted to make a project bag for my knitting … I wanted to make a quilt.
January 31, 2017 at 8:19 p.m. - My first quilt was finished.
A baby-sized quilt with a pink, green, white, and gray color palette with sheep and polka dot patterns and a gray minky backing, it was both soft and spunky. It was far from perfect, but it embodied every fear I had about sewing. It is evidence that I overcame those fears.
Five quilts, five bags, a new iron, twelve spools of thread, a seam ripper, numerous needles, two rotary cutters, handfuls of Clover Wonder Clips, and three works-in-progress later, I walk into my sewing studio beaming.
Surrounded by gorgeous fabric, vivid thread, massive rulers, and pure potential enthralls me. Before me is a blank canvas. Not even a physical canvas, but an entire platform I can create. Endless opportunities lay ahead. I can shape, cut, color, sew, bind, and add whatever I desire. The only limit is my imagination.
The canvas of a quilt ends when I decide. I can add, remove, or change anything. This ignites my voice. The fabric accommodates to my story. I have no character limits or edges of frame.
Using as much or little space and color as I chose, I create comfort from scraps. From scraps you can create a quilt, and from brokenness you can always create beauty.
No matter what mood or season of life I am in, that is why I always quilt. Although I still happily knit, quilting has become a more freeing experience for me. I don’t have to shape fabric to become a hat, mittens, or sweater; I move the fabric however my heart sees fit at the time. Without worrying about bust measurements or shoe size, I am free to create without restraint, and it’s glorious.
As a self-taught quilter, I will be the first to tell you how scared I was of a sewing machine, and how I never dreamt I could create what I am creating now. Fear is a powerful bully to keep you in your place, but you will never grow if you never face your fear.
What if I never opened that box? What if I had let fear win, and I returned the sewing machine? I would have missed out on immense happiness and creative potential. I would not have discovered one of my life’s callings.
It might not be as dramatic a change as I had experience with my sewing machine (lovingly named Matilda), but it is always worth it to try. You may still be fearful, and that’s okay, but don’t let that fear keep you from opening the box.
Today, I have invested in another sewing machine for some heavy-duty quilting, and I LOVE this machine! However, I will still sew with Matilda to always remind me to open the next box whatever it may be.
Fingers itch with impatience from palms to fingertips. Yearning for fibers to flow once again from a pile into art. Needles click as stitches stretch from needle to needle then drape across my lap. Creating has always been my lifeblood; a hook, needles, and a ball of yarn are my medium.
Living in a digital world is thrilling to be sure, but exhausting as well. I know the little “zing” of an email on my iPhone all too well. Those wiser than me have always advised (and scolded) me to recharge my batteries. Not my MacBook or tablet no, but my internal batteries. When checking my Instagram becomes more natural to me than remembering to drink water, it is a telltale sign that I am at less than 20% power mentally.
At first my go-to recharges were any millennials' usual: YouTube, Netflix, or whatever blogger I was interested in at the moment. The digital and intangible world of creation was the only one I was familiar with for quite sometime. Honestly, I still may not have known what a seed stitch is or what “blocking” meant until I met my mother-in-law.
One of the most genuine, beautiful, and creative women I know, my mother-in-law dazzled my mind and left my mouth ajar as she showed me her extraordinary knitting talent. She welcomed me to the fiber world with open arms, and when I returned to my dorm room that evening, I pulled out my old knitting needles holding miles and miles of simple garter stitch knitting, and started to dabble and play in this needlework wonder.
Once I became familiar and comfortable with the movements again, I found myself wanting to knit instead of playing on the Internet. I wanted to watch new stitch videos instead of Buzzfeed videos on YouTube. My favorite social media platform became Ravelry, which was the gateway drug to my fiber addiction.
Fair isle, cables, and intarsia, I drank all the knitting magnificence like a deprived artist. When I found myself sitting in a waiting room my hands went for my knitting project in my bag surpassing my iPhone. I started having more authentic conversations with people, whether friends or strangers, over my knitting.
I loved the questions I would be asked: “What are you making?” “Is that crochet?” “Who taught you how to knit?” “How do you do that?” “Why don’t you just buy a scarf?” and “Why are you knitting?” I truly enjoyed every question that I was presented with because that meant I was bringing a craft and artful out of the stereotypes and into the public sector.
I have received many peculiar looks as a 23-year-old woman never seen without a project on her. So many of the fiber arts have been written off as a “woman’s craft” not present in public or for anyone other than an older, heterosexual, cis-gender female. I love that I can challenge that stereotype and force a notable craft and art form into the public sector.
Van Gogh’s soul resided in paints and brushes and mine resides in yarns and needles. No one art form is better than another. Just as we are all individual and unique so are the media of expression and beauty.
I encourage you all to put down the Internet for a few moments and lose yourself in something tangible: a nature hike, woodcarving, coloring, writing, crochet, reading a book for pleasure, and many more activities that do not require a screen or Wi-Fi. Unplugging from the overwhelmingness of the world is mentally and physically healthy.
Who would have guessed that a communication studies major would have found one of her passions in a ball of yarn? When I knit, the world softens and slows down. Breathing more easily I can subconsciously break down all of my worries, problems, and concerns into simple stitches. I weave the fiber from the back around to the front, and glide it through the window, and suddenly I have finished another row, and I’ve figured out how to write that industry solution article at work.
Knitting embodies so much more to me than fabricating garments. Knitting and crochet calms my soul and mind wherever I am. The tangibleness of the knitted fabric serves as a mental reminder that all my hard work is not worthless or going unnoticed. As a young professional, I have to be reminded of that.
So please, if you see me knitting or crocheting in public, please come over and ask me any question you’d like about my craft—I will be delighted to speak with you with my passion and enthusiasm for knitting laced through my voice—right after I finish this row!
Look at her. LOOK. AT. HER. FACE. I might be biased (quite, actually), but our little Hazel is the cutest puppy I have ever seen. After waiting over a year for a puppy, I’ve cried big, ugly tears for a dog on countless occasions. I wanted a compassionate dog, and I’m so blessed to say that I have just that.
Big eyes, little paws, and a wiggly tail—I turn into an embarrassing puddle of love as soon as my little fluff nugget walks into a room with her little nubbin’ legs. NUBBIN’ LEGS. My heart. She has it.
However, behind my (numerous) Instagram pictures of my sweet puppy, is the reality of a being new parents to an 8-week old dapple long-haired miniature dachshund puppy. Folks, words cannot accurately express my love and sheer adoration for my 3-pound-3-ounce angel, but let me share with you the side of a raising puppy without the social media filters …
So. Much. Poop.
If you’ve never witnessed the pure magic that is puppy poop, you are in for a real surprise. I don’t understand how she is physically capable of producing the volume of excrement our little fluff nugget does. It’s astounding, and frankly, I’m disgusted and in awe of this unexpected phenomenon unfolding on our carpet and yard.
Then if this surprise wasn’t enough, our little Hazel has a true gift, if not a calling, to walk through said excrement. Repeatedly. I’m convinced the cashier at Giant Eagle believes me to have a potty-training toddler at home for the amount of baby wipes I purchase.
Although I’ve never had a human child, I’ve babysat many children who turn into escape artists on the changing table. Hazel’s tactics put them all to shame. Trying to pin a squirming, whining, biting puppy down to pick and pull poop out of four hairy paws without getting poop on you or the floor is the most effective cardio routine I’ve ever experienced.
Maintaining a calm and soothing voice while you’re being bitten and growled at requires the next level of patience. Some days I have that patience, but most times I don’t. My neighbors then hear, “Then STOP walking through your POOP; don’t you back sass me, YOU did this to yourself!” (And yes, our angel has learned to be sassy before learning not to step in her own poop.)
This song-and-dance routine happens almost every time we take her outside, which is appropriately once every hour, ten minutes after feeding, as soon as you come home, as soon as she wakes up, and right before bed. Needless to say we all spend a LOT of time going outside and cleaning puppy paws. (Thank goodness she only has four. If she had more paws every one of them would still walk through poop I can guarantee you.)
Another fun feature my husband and I were unaware of before we became puppy parents is the true amount of nipping that can (and does) happen. Every single puppy is different. And it is critical to note that puppies nip as part of play and environment exploration. Every sweet pup has a unique personality, but goodness, if our little fluff nugget was a human toddler, she would be banned from every daycare, supermarket, and toy store in the tri-county area.
With a kind heart and innocently-curious intentions, she’s absolutely ruthless with her puppy fangs. The moment you walk into a room barefoot, the Jaws theme song begins, and it is already too late for you. Despite never eating chicken nuggets, Hazel perceives toes as just that, and she will attempt to devour them just like I do when I’m at Chick-Fil-A.
But our little over-achiever doesn’t stop there, and she doesn’t let her small stature limit her. Soon she brings you down before you have a chance to yell “TIMBER!” when she attacks the ankles and shins. Once you are down, goodness gracious, COVER YOUR EARS! I had never realized how fragile and delicate ear lobes are.
Eventually the initial shock will subside, and it will occur to you to enforce some discipline to curb this callous behavior. Scolding, yelling, ignoring, redirecting, disengaging, crating … all methods we have tried in vain. Sometimes these techniques are successful, and sometimes our little Hazel just doesn’t give a poop-filled paw about our training efforts.
Consulting training experts and reading puppy training books, we fooled ourselves into thinking we were totally prepared for the immense stubbornness of our 8-inches tall fluff nugget. Scolding sometimes works if she’s not too busy to listen. Ignoring only means she’ll go back to eating your toes. Redirecting is only effective if you already have a toy to distract her with; Lord help you if you are attacked sans dog toy in your pocket. And crating is effective (thank goodness), but if she had to pee, well now you have another load of laundry to do this evening.
When we were desperate, we tried using a spray bottle to curb the excessive nipping. I know, this practice has been labeled as cruel by some dog trainers, but I can assure you to our little Hazel, it was anything but that. We quickly discovered her love for water. The spray bottle became a game and an enjoyable one at that. The spray bottle tactic didn’t last for two hours in our household.
Despite our frustration and feelings of defeat, we continue to curb her excessive nipping the way many experts suggest: to disengage, walk away from her, and then put her in the crate for a “time out” if the first two steps don’t affect her. Needless to say, she’s in time out quite a bit.
I feel embarrassed to admit this openly, but I will: it’s a lot more difficult to train a puppy than I thought it would be. While I will NEVER regret adopting my precious pup, and I love her so immensely, I naively thought: I grew up around dogs, and everyone in my family has a dog, I know what I’m doing.
I did NOT know what I was doing, and I’m still not sure I’m raising our little puppy right. I have worried about it more than I should, and I have made myself feel guilty for not being as strong with training as I think I should be with her.
When Chris and I have both had difficult days at work, it’s exhausting to always go that extra mile to train her the right way every time. But we always try to do so. Even if we messed up a teachable moment (and trust me, I have), I take solace in that we will always TRY to train her effectively.
Patience is a beautiful and imperative virtue to develop, and I am so grateful to my sweet and kind-hearted pup for training me to become a more patient, gentle, and compassionate human. She forces me to slow down my busy mind and to play wholeheartedly now and then. Although I tend to sleep less these days, my quality of life has become enriched.
Amazingly, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more patient at work. Little issues don’t seem to affect me like they did before Hazel came into our lives. I’ve never noticed how adorably shaped acorns are until I’ve had to pry them out of her curious mouth. Or the considerable amount of sticks we have in our back yard, or how joyous and novel a simple maple leaf can be.
Experiencing life with Hazel is a miraculous adventure we never want to miss. Everything is fun and new to her, so it becomes just as enthralling to Chris and I as well. Keeping perspective and patience while I’m cleaning up puppy poop and putting another Band-Aid on my foot during her puppyhood is vital. These days when she’s bouncing around discovering what a cabinet is will flash before my eyes.
So despite our backyard being covered in poop, tripping over dog toys, baby wipes coming out of our ears, and toes that are not sandal ready, we are ecstatic with our baby, our sweet little Hazel. Through all the poop, nipping, and training, we wouldn’t change anything about her curious, determined spirit. Hazel makes us better humans, and for that we will never be able to thank her enough for gracing our lives with her adorable little self.
And if you’ll excuse me, little Hazel just walked through her poop again, and I have four paws to clean.
This blog is my open diary to anyone and everyone about my life and my crafts. Life can be difficult, but it's always beautiful, and I want to share that love of life and making.