Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You Can Never Have Enough Hand Knitted Yoga Bags

My new yoga mat bag (L) chilling with my old yoga mat bag (R) on the rocking chair.

I can't believe it's been three years since Lisa posted her yoga bag pattern. I used it as the basis for a mat bag I whipped up using some lovely Noro (Lisa opted for recycled silk for hers). Well, that first mat bag I made turned out so well that my son absconded with it. Yes, that's right, my boy made off with my mat bag. 

This actually pleased me. It's not that Henry isn't into my knitting in general. But he's grown up watching me knit constantly, so receiving knitted gifts is pretty commonplace, nothing to get overly excited about. He always gives a sincere thanks, but other than that rarely if ever engages me in conversations about this passion of mine. (Though more than once, for my birthday and Christmas, he's gotten me a gift certificate from my LYS-- such a good boy!)

So when he admired the yoga bag, well what could I do? I let him take it. Then, I got a new yoga mat, a really super thick eco-friendly one from Kulae, so even if I had that old bag, it wouldn't fit. I also happened to have a basketful of Noro I'd been gifted, yarn I spent a year thinking about, imagining all the possibilities. Then it struck me-- duh-- make another mat bag.

And so that is just what I did. It is the envy of my fellow yogis. And it makes me so happy just to lay my eyes on it. Heck, if I spent 1/4th of the time doing yoga that I do admiring my handiwork, I'd have my own yoga studio. So, okay, I need to bump up the yoga practice-- I will, I will. For now, it is so hot here in Austin that the best I can do is sit in a half-lotus position as I knit very slowly (so as to keep as still as possible) using very small needles and fingering weight yarn.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tasty Little Wooly Bites for Summer

I probably don't need to defend or rationalize this statement to you, my fellow hardcore knitters: No, I will not let triple-digits slow down my wooly endeavors! Down here where I live in Texas, we've got the triple digit season about to head into fully sweaty swing. Sometimes, when I'm in Maine and talk about being a Texas knitter, I get questions along the lines of why would anyone knit in a warm climate?

Well, besides the fun of it, and the meditation of it, I have a couple of answers to that. Along with triple digits come icy A/C temperatures inside of buildings, so sweaters are wearable year round. (And then, in winter, we rarely need big coats, so sweaters get great workouts.) So there's that. The other answer is this-- there are so many fun SMALL things to knit. Right now I'm working a pair of absolutely delicious socks in hand-dyed yarn that makes my eyes happy every time I pick up the needles.

I did put those socks down recently, just for a few days, to indulge in knitting that's both small and silly. Doughnuts. Yes, I love knitting doughnuts. I found a great, easy pattern in a book called Knitted Cakes, and I can knock out these sweet treats in an hour or so. Sewing on the bugle beads can be a little tedious, but even that doesn't take long and, if you want to, you can skip this step entirely.

I've given out lots of these knitted confections and they are always, always a huge hit. I'm so inspired by the last pair I made that I am contemplating attempting to come up with a pattern for knitted whoopie pies. Stay tuned and let's see how I fare.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Day I WILL Knit You, Project X!

In my experience, there are two sides to the One-Day-I-Will-Knit-Project-X coin. On the one side, there is the joy of perpetual potential. You can sit and imagine a million projects, fantasize working them from the moment of getting going (buying yarn, selecting a pattern, getting the right needles) to the moment of completion (you’re onstage, accepting some Lifetime Knitting Achievement Award, decked out in this amazing Project X). Even if you never knit half of them, or one-tenth of them, this frame of mind provides lots of happy fantasies.

On the other side of the coin… If I imagine Project X and all of the many projects I want to do vs. how many I can actually manage in a lifetime, and then factor in all the patterns that are yet to be designed, the ones I will also want to knit… well that train of thought isn’t exactly conducive to relaxing now, is it? And a big reason I took up knitting was to help me relax.

Fortunately, I don’t spend a whole lot of time contemplating either side of the coin. Mostly, I just happily focus on the project at hand—Zen and the Art of Knitting in the Moment. Once in awhile though, an opportunity arises that allows me to let my knitting mind whip around in a million different directions, and get deliriously giddy as I imagine, to my heart’s content, all things knitting. My annual treks to Monhegan Island for the Knitting and Yoga Adventures retreat is one such opportunity.

I make other opportunities during the year, too. For instance… I am typing this report in a small hunter’s cabin on the remote side of a bison ranch in Texas. Really. As in give me a home, where the buffalo roam... What actually brought me here is a two-week writing residency—the ranch owners are kind enough to provide quiet, delicious isolation for artists to spend time purely focused on their work. But after several hours of writing, it’s time to knock-off for the day.

By knock-off, of course I mean set down the manuscript I’m revising and immerse myself in all things knitting. I brought along a bunch of knitting books, a half-finished sock, a reasonable amount of yarn and all of my needles. I alternate between my keyboard, my DPs, my circulars, and my anniversary edition of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s KNITTER’S ALMANAC, eyeing the Pi Shawl, which she suggests for a July project. (Just July, I think? Hahaha. I’m pretty sure a Pi Shawl would take me four years.)

I am so lucky that my writing and teaching have taken me to amazing places, designed for retreating and relaxing: Monhegan Island, Lake Austin Spa, and now this buffalo ranch. Sometimes, as I set off to one place or another, I worry that I can’t really afford to break away—the dogs will miss me, my business will suffer, I’ll return to a massive pile of work. But I am reminded, again and again, that not only is the break worth it, in and of itself, the break has the added bonus of recharging my batteries, and leaving me much happier. That’s due partly to going someplace where my phone doesn’t work and the Internet is spotty. But it’s also due to taking time to fully indulge my passion, the way I can only fantasize about doing the rest of the year when I am up to my ears in the happy chaos of my regular life.

So take it from me—schedule a retreat every year. Heck, schedule three. But if you really can’t get away for a long stretch, then at least pick a few weekends and dedicate them to pure knit indulgence—phone off, computer off, non-knitters sent away. Just you, your projects, your knitting friends, a ton of good food, and a few days to relax into it. I promise, these breaks make the rest of life that much more sparkling and delightful.