Saturday, December 19, 2015

The maker movement is simply rediscovery

I was listening to the Woolful podcast recently and the interviewee said something that really got me thinking.

We used to make, to mend, because it was a necessity to life, Now, I'm seeing more and more, people are making to mend their bodies and their minds. It's a therapy....
-Tif Fussel

I re-started crocheting and knitting in 2008, when my husband was in the hospital for six weeks following surgery. I learned to knit and crochet in childhood, but hadn't touched it in years. However, I was starting to go a bit stir-crazy sitting by his hospital bed, and I suddenly thought, "I could be crocheting!" I made time to pick up a pattern book with instructions to refresh my memory, and some yarn, and it's been a constant ever since.

I think it's historically been common for women to work on their handwork when sitting at the bedside of a sick person. Of course, historically, women always had sewing, mending, etc. needing done; I've seen an old photograph taken somewhere in Scandinavia showing young women knitting as they walked across the fields. Because it's not that long ago that if anyone were going to have warm socks or sweaters in the winter, someone had to knit them. If you were going to have clothes, someone had to sew them by hand. You had to take every opportunity to work on clothing items, when you weren't churning butter or washing your pots & pans & dishes by hand.

Most of us wouldn't want to go back to the days when all but the very wealthy HAD to be makers to survive. We like that our knitting, crocheting, spinning, etc. is a leisure activity. But more than that, like Tif Fussel I'm hearing many makers say that it's benefiting them in certain ways.

Evidence is growing that needle arts are good for the brain. It may even delay the onset of dementia. Simple knitting can serve to help you pay attention in meetings and such---see Cognitive Anchoring by Heather Ordover. There's even a book called Crochet Saved My Life. People are crediting handcrafts with emotional healing.

And yet, I doubt the old hand-knitters of the Yorkshire Dales considered knitting therapeutic. They churned out socks, gloves, and fisherman's sweaters day and night for pennies per item to supplement their meager incomes (until the industrial revolution put them out of business) .

So how did knitting go from drudgery to the magic cure-all?

I think the transformation of western economies to where so many of us are knowledge workers of one stripe or another, where all of our work is done with a keyboard and a mouse, is no more good for us than any kind of excess. Staring at a screen all day starves a fundamental aspect of how we were created. 

We were created to do and make things with our hands. Our brains as well as our bodies were wired for it. So when you've been neglecting this aspect of your inborn nature and then you start using it---it just feels good!

There's something about doing things with our hands that keeps us in tune. And we still need to think as well. We don't need to chuck everything else and just knit all day... what we need is balance. 

Some people do have a calling to knit a lot, to design knitwear, and so forth. And those people should also spend some time doing other things that aren't knitting. Like baking, balancing their budgets, bicycling. You can get a repetitive stress injury from knitting as surely as from keyboarding. Those Yorkshire knitters could have used a break from knitting; alas, they were in survival mode.

We modern denizens of Ravelry, and other makers, occupy a unique position in the history of humanity. Yes, we have to specialize to earn a living--but we don't usually have to work day and night at that specialty. We can earn enough in 40 hours a week to give our leisure time over to something that exercises other capacities. It is actually possible for us to have some balance.

So actually, becoming a maker isn't some kind of salvation. It's just a way to wake up a part of your brain that might have been atrophying. Be grateful for it, sure. But don't elevate it overmuch.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What not to tell people not to say

I started to write one of those "what not to say" blog posts. 

Of course there are scads of those on every sensitive topic imaginable. There were scads of them on MY topic. I Googled the phrase "what not to say" and got over two BILLION results. Some are tongue in cheek, but far more are serious and earnest.

Now, let's be clear: these kind of articles and posts aren't aimed at people who deliberately say mean, unkind, cutting or abusive things. Those people wouldn't read a "what not to say" article anyway. "What not to say" articles are mostly aimed at the well-meaning but clueless.

It seems there's no shortage of people who have gotten bent out of shape over what someone's said to them. Including me, yes.

One of the items I had intended to list was a single sentence spoken kindly, but in ignorance, which led to me sobbing right through a whole song at church. Was that sentence intended to make me cry? Of course not. It was intended to make me feel better. Not their fault it backfired.

Implicit in the whole concept of a "what not to say" article is the idea that I have some kind of right to expect everyone else in the universe to never say anything that makes me feel bad in any way--even accidentally. Is that even possible? It's a bit embarrassing to realize I got caught up in that kind of thinking 

Also implicit is the notion is that if we all just get educated enough, we could all say just the right thing to everyone in whatever trial they may be going through. This is the hope of those who read such articles, those who desire to never wound anyone with their words. An admirable hope, but again, I think it's too much to ask. How can one person ever know all of it? Two billion articles....

Here's the thing. It's inevitable that now and then someone will pop off and say something that just doesn't work. Maybe a stupid platitude; maybe an ill-timed and ill-considered joke. I'm not saying we shouldn't even try to say the right things at the right times. But we all fail. We're none of us perfect.

"And I will show you a still more excellent way.... Love is patient and kind.... It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 12:31b, 13:4, 5, 7 (ESV)

Hm. Nothing in that chapter that even implies that love never says the wrong thing. In fact, it looks like it's on ME to stop expecting that no one will ever say the wrong thing to me. To give some grace. To be patient, to bear it, to endure. To cut the other person some slack, especially when I can tell they were just trying to be helpful.

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them..." (Matthew 7:12, ESV)

If I want other people to take what I say in the spirit in which I intended it, then maybe I should do the same for them.

Photos in this post are free stock photos courtesy of

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What I learned in July

1. The X-Files is coming back! (albeit temporarily)
     (too bad I don't have cable anymore)

2. I learned the other spinning technique.
     There's worsted spinning, then there's woolen spinning. This isn't a spinning blog, so I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say I started with worsted-style (as everyone does), but this month I taught myself woolen-style. I won't say I've mastered it, but I'm getting pretty comfortable with it.

3. I realized I kinda wanna dress boho.
     This is a big change for someone whose high school uniform was jeans and T-shirts. And much of the wardrobe I've amassed over the last {cough, cough} years has been more tailored than anything, because business casual. But now I work at a tech company that's far more casual; the programmers/developers routinely wear knee-length shorts and flip-flops. And I'm not in a client-facing position, so I could revert to t-shirts and jeans--and actually that's what I'm wearing a couple days a week, not least because they've shoveled several employee t-shirts at me since I started last December. Still, I'm resisting the latest t-shirt design, even though the company is subsidizing it. Before I started this job I'd been saying for years, "The last thing in the universe I need is another t-shirt."
     However. I don't have the kind of clothing budget that would allow me to revamp my whole wardrobe overnight (or even in a year). So we'll see.

4. I have a disturbing streak of greed, or entitlement, or something.
     In July I participated in "Tour de Fleece," which is about spinning during the Tour de France. I was in several online groups sharing pictures of our progress. Some of them had prize drawings for those who shared their progress... most waiting until the end, but one or two had weekly drawings.
     I got a tiny bit angry when I didn't win.
     This disturbs me. It wasn't supposed to be about winning things--it was supposed to be about focusing on spinning for three weeks and improving. (See #2 above.) And cheering one another on. But I wasn't really cheering anyone on. Apparently I just wanted prizes.
     I realized this during the Tour. As the month-end drawings approached, I told myself to forget about the prizes, let them go. I wasn't 100% successful, but I guess it was progress...
     And then yesterday I won the BEST prize of all that I had tried for. Possibly the best prize in the whole shebang. A spindle and a matching pen made from rare wood, so rare that the woodworker only made one other spindle out of it, for his own private collection.
     Ironic? Humbling? OK, woohoo!! But still.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Multipotentialite—are you one?

This is a sequel to my previous post. Emilie Wapnick, who coined the word "multipotentialite," has given a TEDx talk. I'd like to share the video with you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spun to spinning

I have a new obsession: hand spinning.

No, not with a spinning wheel. With drop spindles

I'm spinning 15 minutes a day, because people say that's the way to learn--frequent sessions to build muscle memory, but short so as not to overtax yourself.

Yes, it seems a bit crazy--even to me. I have a full-time job and a disabled husband; I don't even have time to knit everything I want to knit, now I want to make the yarn myself?

There are other words besides "crazy" for people like me. Scannermultipotentialite; etc. These words describe someone who has many interests and often has talent in many of these interests.

I've always been that way. I always wanted to DO everything that interested me, not just admire those who were doing it. I've often wondered what librarians would think if they analyzed the topics I check out books on.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a multipotentialite (the term I prefer). I think it keeps my mind lively and active and always learning. On the other hand, there's the occasional flurry of spending on materials for yet another hobby, and then having to store them. Sometimes the new interest wanes, and those materials become clutter--like my little cache of art supplies for Zentangles. I also clutter up my schedule and have to weed out activities.

This is why my blog doesn't have a focus, by the way. How could I possibly write about ONLY ONE THING?

I do see some common threads (pun intended) in my interests that do stick. They're often creative, and they have to do with my curiosity about how things work and are made and what's behind the scenes. (Behind the scenes! maybe that's why my favorite musical adventure was playing in a pit orchestra for musicals!)

I have a strong leaning toward what's most natural, traditional, or ancient, but I'm also interested in science and technology. (Proof: I have a drop spindle created on a 3D printer. Two extreme ends of the geek spectrum embodied in a single object.)

The Lord made me this way. The trick I'm still working on is how to harness it rather than letting it drag me around.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Scotland the Brave

My husband found a YouTube video of "Scotland the Brave"* with lyrics.

Now he's obsessed.

This is a very, er, hawkish song.

*If you aren't familiar with that title, you must not be into bagpipe music. But I'll bet you've heard the tune.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The spiritual side of decluttering

This post will be more about questions than answers. Thinking "out loud"... maybe starting a conversation? Because I sure don't have this all sorted.

I have plenty of my own trash that needs to go out.

I've read a couple of the latest books on decluttering. They come from very different standpoints, but I'm intrigued by what they have in common... which is something I haven't really seen addressed before. They both bring in the spiritual.

The books:
Amazon link 
Amazon link

Who hasn't heard of Marie Kondo's book? Her prose and her method are simple, and the book is short. I'm seeing Instagram photos of people's closets and drawers hashtagged #konmari. I've even heard it discussed on podcasts. However, the discussions always get to the exceptions people are making for themselves from Kondo's method; for instance, "I don't greet my house when I come home." More about that later.

The coauthors of Breathing Room are a "spiritual intuitive" and a psychiatrist. It's a much denser, more complicated book than Kondo's. I had to force myself to keep reading, to the point where I wasn't finished when it came due at the library, and I turned it in with a sense of relief. This isn't a review of the book; I just want to point out that their method has far more to do with the emotional and spiritual causes of clutter than any physical method of clearing it. A reviewer on Amazon says the spiritual principles in it are Buddhist.

And, the spiritual principles in Kondo's book are Shinto. I've heard people try to dismiss her approach to objects as merely cultural, but they must be ignoring Kondo's statement that she starts each decluttering project in her business by kneeling in the center of the house and praying to it.

Now, I'm not about to go off on a rant. I'm just establishing that these authors have found, in practical experience with their clients, that decluttering success involves spirituality.

Could there be a lesson here for me, as a Christian, in my struggle with clutter?

I think so.

If there's a spiritual component to clutter and decluttering, we ought to be able to come at it from a Christian point of view. Maybe that would help?

Basic tenet from Jesus: "'s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15, ESV)

Forgetting that is one cause of clutter. Forgetting it can also make it hard to declutter, if part of the problem is a difficulty in letting go of things. These aren't the only issues, for sure. I have a complicated mix of motivations and hangups that go into my clutter problem, and I'm sure it'll be different mixes for different people.

Here's ALL of Luke 12:15:
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Being covetous can be a root of clutter. It's a sad fact that I often buy yarn faster than I can knit it up, books faster than I can read them. Just yesterday I almost bought a new journal even though I'm only four pages into the current one.

Does covetousness also make it hard to let go?

Let's brainstorm: spiritual issues that make it hard to declutter.

  • Fear (of needing something after it's discarded, etc.)
  • People-pleasing (I can't get rid of that--Mom/Grandma/Aunt Betty gave it to me)
  • Clinging to the dream or fantasy that caused you to acquire the item in the first place

Let's see more ideas in the comments.

Of course there are non-spiritual roadblocks too. Time, energy, all that. Getting around to it.

Here's an idea though: I'm thinking it might be good to start a decluttering project by kneeling in the middle of the house and praying not to the house, but to our Lord, for His aid in overcoming whatever it is we need to overcome within ourselves to succeed at decluttering.

I'd love to see comments... what are your thoughts?