Saturday, July 2, 2011

Find Your Zone

I ride my own.

I find myself saying this a lot.

I smile when I say it.

It's a standard response to questions like: 
"You have a motorcycle?"...
"You don't ride on the back of your husband's bike?"...
"That's yours?"

Yep, I am a motorcycle mama...a biker chick...a knitting biker or a riding knitter. 

I smile because of the labels and the images this brings to people's minds!  I can just see the wheels turning as they try and piece it together...as they size me up and try to make sense of it.

It's the same when I am in social settings and the standard question that everyone feels compelled to ask is "So, what do you do for a living?"

"I knit.  I teach knitting and I am working at creating and publishing my own designs."  That alone always garners a mixture of curiosity and condescension.  When someone sees me getting off my bike wearing leathers and a bandana and watches as I take out my knitting...well...let's just say I get some unwanted, but no doubt understandable, attention.

For many, in their minds, there couldn't be two worlds further apart than motorcycles and knitting, but I am here to tell you they are as much a part of me as breathing these days. 

I am one happy girl when I get to do both.  Knitting in my saddle bags seems the perfect juxtaposition and represents me in such a satisfying way.

I ride a Kawasaki Vulcan 900.  It's silver.  The pipes are loud and the chrome is shiny.  It's low to the ground and wide.  The seat is cushy and comfy.  It fits me like a glove.  It rides smooth and handles like a dream.  My arms and the handle bars move together, pressing and straightening as the road demands.  My legs hug the bike on turns and I can feel the wheels rolling on the pavement.  It has become an extension of my body. 


 This is the perfect bike for me.  I know this because my first bike turned out to be not so perfect.  In fact, I felt uneasy and unsure of myself to the point I thought maybe this riding thing really wasn't for me.

Well, that all changed when I changed bikes.



Finding a motorcycle that I could become 'one' with was definitely similar to finding needles and yarn I could become 'one' with.  (hang in there with me...I'll get ya there)

Think about it.  Ever held a pair of needles in your hand that felt clunky, uncomfortable, and downright foreign to you?  Ever picked out a yarn that you ended up hating because it felt sticky or rough or too smooth for that matter...just something you wouldn't want to feel through your fingers for an entire project?  Ever found a pattern that you thought was going to be so enjoyable to knit but you ended up ready to poke your eyes out with the knitting needles because it was so poorly written, so frustrating, or so boring of a knit that you couldn't bring yourself to keep going?

I know you've been there. 

So have I.

I am also going to guess that you probably continued to work with those needles and that icky feeling yarn and that awful pattern because you were determined to get your money's worth, but you couldn't wait until that project was done.  In fact, you found that you had to force yourself to pick it up and keep going.

Granted, the needles and yarn I choose to work with aren't a matter of life and limb, like being comfortable on my motorcycle is, but if you take the safety factor out of the equation, in my mind they are very closely related.  

I can't imagine going through life on a bike that I hated to get on.  I can't imagine going through life with needles and yarn and patterns that weren't 100% pure enjoyment. 

No really.  Why would I?

My needles come in all shapes and sizes and I have accumulated many over the years...single points, double points, and my favorite, circulars, in metal, plastic, and wood.  Some I spent next to nothing on.  Some were a serious investment.  I choose which ones I use according to the yarn I am working with, my mood, and of course the project.

I don't use the straight, single points much anymore, but a lot of these are from my Grandma Betty's stash and I cherish them and display them in my studio.
For example, if I am working with wool (which I am almost always working with wool these days) I want a needle in my hands that matches the warmth of the wool fiber.  I tell my beginning students that the yarn and needles should feel good together.  There should be a flow.  Natural fibers tend to go well with natural material needles.  Synthetic fibers tend to work better on synthetic material needles.  These are my guidelines.  You need to find what works for you. 


Bamboo is my go to needle for almost any yarn however.  It comes in many shades ranging from very blonde to a dark caramel.  It is smooth, but has a little bit of grab to help control tension.  It warms to my body temperature and just keeps getting smoother the longer I work with it.  I love projects on size 7, 8, or 9 especially.  They fit me like a glove.  They become an extension of my hands and arms.  

You see how I make the connection between needles and motorcycles?  Why does it matter so much? 

Because a great ride begins with knowing your bike and your abilities, being prepared and comfortable, and having the proper gear.  Starting a knitting project is similar...know your knitting and your skill level, be prepared (read that pattern over and over to be SURE you understand and really want to make it), and choose materials that are right for you.

What I am really doing, in either case though,  is trying to find my zone. That's the goal.  That's the goal for my riding, my knitting, and my life actually.

Let me describe for you what it's like when I hit my zone:

The sound of the engine, the wind, the vibrations, the sights and even the smells all become one moment...all become effortless and connected.  Even though I am concentrating and focused on the road and the ride, my mind lets go, my body relaxes, and I am soaring.  My posture is easy and solid.  I lean back and feel the stretch in my arms.  It feels like flying even though I am on the ground.  And for a little while nothing matters but that moment, that ride, that feeling.   

Freedom.

The familiar feel of the needles in my hand, the very slight sound they make when they connect to form a stitch, the beautiful, soft yarn...all become one moment...all become effortless.  The stitch pattern is memorized and I don't have to look down.  The textures, the colors, seem just right.  Somehow my hands know what to do.  My mind lets go, my body relaxes, and I am soaring.  The work is flying through my hands.  I feel like an artist.  I see the work growing from the needles and I don't want to stop until it's done.  For a little while nothing matters but that moment, that process, that feeling.

Freedom.

The sound of my own voice is familiar and comforting.  I feel loved and wanted and needed.  I trust my instincts.  I speak only when I really have something to share.  I am totally comfortable with the silence and the task at hand.  Minutes flow effortlessly into hours and my place in the world seems confirmed.  Somehow there is a point to it all.  I know my purpose, I know myself.  Compassion, respect for others and their journey...even conflict and pain, do not seem a match for the calmness I feel inside in those moments.

Freedom.

That's what it feels like to be in my zone when riding, knitting, and living. 

The zone isn't always easy to find.  It by no means comes over me every time I ride, every time I knit, or every day of my life.  Not at all.  But it is what keeps me going, keeps me moving forward. 

The pursuit of that feeling is a huge part of my journey. 

The knitting and the riding help me to evolve spiritually.  Truly. 

Why?  Because they make me feel passionate and alive. 

Tapping into your passions is tapping into your spirit.  You open it up and begin to explore who you are and who you are becoming.  Without passion and creativity we would be stagnant beings just taking up space on this planet, going no where, contributing nothing, learning nothing.

It seems the more often I can find the zone on my bike and with needles and yarn in my hands, the more often I find the zone in my life.

Challenge is the other word that comes to mind.  Riding, knitting, living...all require me to challenge myself, if I really want to evolve.




Last weekend my husband and I rode to the Black Hills with 4 other friends.  600 miles and over 20 hours on the bikes in just 2 days was my most challenging ride to date.  Beyond the challenge of the miles and the time was the terrain. 


 We went through Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Deadwood, and Sturgis the first day.  (For those of you who have not been there, Needles is a winding, twisting road with curves and switch backs that seem to go on forever.)  Throw in several one lane tunnels and narrow bridges and you have the makings of a wild ride.  I have heard other bikers talk about it for years and wondered if I ever got the chance, would I be able to do it? 

I didn't think it would be this soon into my riding that I would be presented with that choice.  I have always had a fear of heights.  Curves haven't been my favorite thing either.  Tunnels?  Bridges? 



Needles and the Black Hills in general was all of that and more. 

Here's where riding and spiritual lessons come together for me. 

I am a firm believer that our deepest fears, worries, and anxieties show us where we need to be most gentle with ourselves and at the same time come face to face with, if we want to move past them.  It is in understanding and conquering those fears that we have the most to gain.  In other words, my fears are my greatest teachers about myself.  I can choose to ignore them, hide from them, or meet them head on. 

This is all the more reason why I NEEDED to do this run.  Combining curves and heights and long distances with much more experienced riders all in one ride seemed the ultimate 'walk your talk' challenge for me. 

It left me feeling spent, exhausted, fatigued, proud, empowered, and grinning from ear to ear!!  It was exhilarating and freeing.  I wanted to do it again! 

The next day we headed back home by way of  Keystone, Iron Mountain Road and the Wildlife Loop.    


These guys were really close during the Wildlife Loop...right on the road sometimes

Taking a corner, loving life

Phil and I on the Wildlife Loop


Did I find my zone the entire time?  Nope.  Not even close.  I was thinking about too many things (as I should have been:)  But in order to get there I knew I needed to just ride.  Being on the right bike (for me), being selective of how I spend my time, my money, my moments, all made a difference that weekend and every time I ride. 

My knitting is the same.  In order to get there, I just need to knit. 

Finding my zone in knitting and finding my zone in life seem to walk hand in hand these days.  I will do it on my own terms, my business and my life.  Everyday I get a little more comfortable in my knitter/biker 'skin'...everyday I find that I can talk with ease about who I am and what I do. 

I do not let those thoughts in nearly as often, as I have the past few months, that say I am not making a difference in the world. 

The process of putting my own designs down on paper, working through all of the things that I don't know yet, don't understand, and some days don't want to, is definitely my challenge.  Teaching others, sharing what I love in hopes they will find something they love and bring moments to their life, make me feel like I am making a difference.

I have set my sights on designing patterns that help other knitters find their zone.  I seem to have a vision now.  I have been able to start putting it down.  Sometimes being on my bike I can plan out a whole design or project in my mind.  Again, these things just seem to be working together for me. 

I want you to work with materials you love.  I want you to spend time making patterns you can't wait to start...and to finish.  I want you to find your passions and challenge yourself.  Some things we don't have the luxury of choosing,  This is not one of those things.  You choose.  You enjoy the process.  You find your zone.

  Donna

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Words...Your Story

In an interview I recently watched, Maya Angelou said, "Words are things."

She was speaking of the power of words to hurt, help, inspire, heal, soothe, aggravate, incite, disrespect, and liberate ourselves and others.  Words are not just something spoken and floating around in the air. 

They take hold in your head and your heart.  They become a part of us. 

They are powerful indeed.

Encouraging words to another can move them towards a path of self-confidence and contribute to their self-worth.  Critical words spoken even just one time can leave a scar that lasts a lifetime.

I've given much thought to Ms. Angelou's statement of late.  I've given much thought to this blog as a vehicle or a platform for my words.

I simply am not able to sit down every single day and put down words here that don't come from the deepest part of me in some way.  It takes time for a post to build in my mind.   But, when it finally comes to me, it 's like a compulsion until I get it all typed out.


What a strange thing blogs really are to me.

The longer I continue to publish one as a means of sharing my life, my work, and my creative endeavors, the more I realize I am simply putting out my personal diary for the entire world to read (that seems to be MY writing style).  When I think of it that way, it leaves me feeling very vulnerable, but that's a good thing.  Years ago I could have never imagined sharing my journals with whomever chose to read them.

Times have most definitely changed, for me and for the world.

It seems everyone has words to share and the means to do so these days.  I read blogs, newsletters, and articles online everyday.  The internet is an amazing thing.  I am always struck by the amount of content out there that is not so much informative or educational as it is negative and even hateful.

Purposeful hate?  Yes, it's out there.  Freedom of speech?  Absolutely.  I believe in it with everything that's in me and therefore cannot do anything but make my observations, but I don't have to read it.

I don't have to let those words into my head and heart. 

I have the same opportunity here as anyone else.  What I do with it is entirely up to me.

My intention, or what my intention has evolved to in writing this blog, is putting out words that are constructive, not destructive.

If I am telling you something about myself, my family, my knitting, I am ultimately hoping  that my words will be a reflection of something in YOUR story, so that we might find a common ground and learn from each other.  Isn't that why we share information in the first place?

A knitter's journey is about more than knitting, just like a mother's journey is about more than her children, an accomplished athlete is about more than her sport, a beauty queen is about more than the pageant, and a doctor is about more than the patients she sees.

Each person has their story.  The words they choose to tell that story are up to them.

My words, your story.  Is there a connection?  I certainly hope so.  Otherwise I'm quite sure I would have no reason to write.

Choose your words carefully, to YOURSELF first, and then to others.  Words are things.  They are powerful indeed.

Knit on,

Donna

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Soft music fills my little studio right now as I sit back and type from my big, black office chair.  There are sounds of the ocean coming from the speakers and the melody is, honestly, very soothing to my somewhat frazzled soul.  But as I take a breath and look around, I realize that I am slowly carving out space and time in which to do some hard work of the heart.

Slowly.

It has been two months (this Saturday) since I first turned my days, my work, my family, and my fairly predictable schedule up side down.  Eight weeks doesn't seem that long, but to me it has felt like a lifetime already.  I am measuring that by the amount of thought, joy, anxiety, fear, worry, change, and general confusion and self-loathing that has consumed me over the last 60 days.

It has always been helpful for me to look back and take inventory in order to get an accurate assessment of where I am at this moment in time, so I am taking a much needed break from the above laundry list of emotions.

I am coming up for air.  I need to get some perspective. 

Since March 21st I have knit and organized, moved and grown, dreamed, procrastinated and planned in some combination.  I have to confess that there have also been plenty of times over the last few weeks where I have sat still and silent staring at a blank computer screen or an empty pair of knitting needles and a brand new, untouched skein of yarn.  My design notebook has often been laying open in front of me telling me that I am supposed to be accomplishing something, but I don't seem to get past that point.

Many sleepless nights have been a constant reminder as well that my brain is working over time.  Everything has felt overwhelming and even the smallest tasks seem monumental at times.

That's the truth of it...the truth and the downside of my decisions.  The consequences of change. 

But there is another truth on the flip side.

There always is.

That truth is that I have been moving along every day in the direction I need to grow my business and my self and that I have been pretty hard on myself.

This is a journey of a different kind; unlike any other in my life.

"It's an invitation to do the real work.  The kind that doesn't pay a dime,  but leaves you with a sturdy shelter by the end.  It's your own sweet self with whom you must rendezvous."

It's like trying to combine two worlds.

Does that resonate with anyone else?  It sure did with me when I read it.  It was advice for someone, from a columnist that I read religiously, and it hit me in all the right places.

The real work? 

I thought I had been doing that much of my life because I absolutely put myself into whatever I was doing 100%, no matter what.  I owned the job, the tasks at hand, the purpose and the positions I have been in.  I felt a part of the work and the work came from a part of me. 

But I think I know one of the reasons now why it is so important that I get this one right, and that reason occurred to me during one of those sleepless nights.

She is 19, tall, brunette, talented, intelligent, and gorgeous inside and out.

My sweet and amazing daughter is just finishing up her first year of college.  She is an art/photography major.  She has been wrestling with the decision of what she wanted to go to college for since she was in 8th grade (no really-they, the school, started pushing her for those answers way back then).

Kendall is an academic and soulful combination of left and right brain thinking.  She has been equally interested in math and science as much as painting and taking pictures.  That's just who she is; always has been.

Is there a way to combine the two?  Well of course there is.  What would that job or career look like?  I have no idea.  It's really hers to own and decipher and plan.  I simply know that she did not come to her decision lightly about her course of study and ultimately about following the work of her heart and soul. 


I recently asked her to take some 'artful' pictures (well, my business is The Art of Yarn after all) of some finished knit items that I might use for patterns, business cards, a website, and logo.  I carefully explained my vision to her and how these pictures would be used.  I handed over a dozen finished projects in a variety of colors to get her started.  I needed to see if this was what I wanted my business image to look like.  Pretty important stuff actually.  I completely trusted her and I was not disappointed.



In what seemed like no time, she was sending me a sampling of the photographs she created based on what I had asked her to do.


It was simply amazing to me.  I could stand over my knitting with a camera all day and not even come close to the beauty and quality of the images that she produced.  It's not just that she has a great camera and is learning all of the technical foundations that make a great photographer, but she has the passion to match.



Kendall has watched and listened to her dad and I over the course of her lifetime.  In fact personality-wise, she is very much like her dad.  However, whether she realizes it or not, there is no doubt she has internalized much of what she has seen in me and the work I have done and the examples I have set, both good and not-so-good.

This most recent venture of mine is no exception.  In fact, it may just be the most meaningful one yet because it seems we are walking parallel paths right now in so many ways...at least from where I sit.


 She believes in me.  She believes in who I am.  I do not for one second take that lightly or without regard.  Oh how grateful I am for her love and acceptance.  I want to continue to show her that her self-awareness and courage will take her where she needs to go.  Life will rise up and meet her if she is willing to put in the time and do the hard work.

It's not just about making the decision.  That really was the easy part.  It's living it that will be the real test. 

She is preparing to go out in the world and do things on her own terms.  Living a creative life is not necessarily at the top of the easy to do list, but this is what she has chosen.  Why?  Because, like I said about myself in this post, no one told me I couldn't, and the same is true for Kendall.  Her dad and I never told her she couldn't.

The self-doubt and frustration that I am dealing with right now comes from living almost 43 years to her 19.  I have had more disappointments and heartache.  Life has left more of an impression on my soul.  But as always, she has more to teach me in any given moment than I do for her.

All I have to do is look at her art and I am reminded that a beginning is a beginning, no matter what age, no matter what the circumstances.

Buck up!  Take heart.  Show courage, even when you aren't feeling it.  Be sincere.  Own your truth.

All lessons I hope that my daughter has learned from me.  She is now reflecting them back to me and I absolutely have to take the challenge, for both of us.  The details are sorting themselves out, even as I type this...we will both get there, wherever 'there' is for each of us.

All I know is that seeing my knitting and her photography combined made me feel like all was right with world, at least for the moment.  And that's saying a lot these days. 

Knit on,

Donna

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

While not entirely wordless and not entirely my original idea, sharing something other than my OWN thoughts and words that will convey a message nonetheless...a picture, a video...struck me as a great concept.  
 
I offer this wise, gentle voice today:
 
 
Simply exquisite.

Knit on,

Donna

Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Growing' a Garden

From left to right:  Esther Warren, Cyndi Johnson, Debbie Sulzbach, Jan Johnson, Lori Karpen, Karrie Gillam
The Knitted Flowers and Embellishments Workshop was a ton of fun yesterday!  Sadly I waited until the last few minutes of class before I started snapping pictures, but there are a few to share.   

I loved Cyndi's laugh (on the right) and Lori's expression (on the left) in this one!

Esther Warren's embroidered flower on a stockinette background.  So cute!

Lori Karpen's purple flower with the orange center is awesome.  She added her own flair to the pattern by crocheting a border around the petals. Karrie Gillam did a great job with the chain stitch and lazy daisy stitch!

Cyndi Johnson and Debbie Sulzbach concentrating!


Lacy Leaves pattern that can be made in different sizes and with or without an i-cord stem

Pretty little 5-petal flower.  We all agreed that the rolled edges give it character and make it seem more like a real flower.

Felted and un-felted version of the basic stockinette stitch flower.

3-petal flower made from variegated ribbon yarn.

Makes a cute coaster, don't you think?  This was just a class sample I knit, but will write it up and include the very simple pattern with my next post.

The 'Petite Flower' pattern on the left makes a great bookmark and I love the button center on this garter stitch bloom.  Wouldn't that be cute pinned on the side of a hat?



And of course I had to have some real flowers on the table for a little inspiration.

 I have such spring fever and this class was just what we all needed, I think, to inspire a little gardening of a different kind. 

Knit on,

Donna

Friday, April 1, 2011

Drive-by Postings

I began blogging in November of 2009 and my first post was about the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair.  It has been interesting to go back over the archives (found in the right-hand column about half way down) and to see how my personal 'style' of writing and posting has developed.  (and is still evolving, of course...I really have many things to work on!) 

No doubt I like to write.  No doubt I love to knit.  No doubt I have a few things to say!  And no doubt my style is to try and tell a story.  That is the kind of writing I love to read, and so it's not surprising I choose to write in the same manner.

I have potential blog posts running through my brain day in and day out.  Thoughts and ideas hit me when I am driving, eating, laying in bed at night, showering, and of course, knitting!  I compose things over and over in my mind until I believe I have something worth writing down.  And then I can't get to my laptop fast enough to get those phrases out of my head and saved on the computer before I completely lose them.

In fact, one of the reasons I have only been posting once a month on average is because I do work at those posts, tweaking, adding, editing, for a few weeks.  It's time consuming and a labor of love.  Every time I click the button "Publish Post", I get a little thrill and also a pang in my stomach. 

It's the combination of the excitement and the vulnerability of putting my thoughts out there for everyone to read and critique that keeps me coming back for more.  

Recently I realized that not all of my ideas are based on a detailed adventure or profound epiphany though. 


A little snippet of information, an interesting thought or quote, something beautiful, something inspiring, something silly, a quick tip or technique that just might make your life easier, a noteworthy piece of news...

Knitting related or otherwise... these are all things I would term perfect for a drive-by posting!  Drive-by posting? Yep!  Just a little something I want to drop in your lap and then run away and leave you to it.

Last June I shared this post with you about art and knitting.  As I look back over those pictures I am reminded of the amazingly diverse world of fiber art and I fall in love with it all over again.  

And this morning  I came across an article that reminded me of of that topic. 

Masterpieces reimagined.  How lovely.  How inspiring. 

Take a look.  It's worth it! 

A happy Friday to all!  Get out there and get your hands busy.  There is a whole world of creativity just calling your name!   

Knit on,

Donna

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing Pains

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
- Helen Keller


I am about the business of building a business.  And I am going to be honest here.  I am elated...and I am struggling.  Not so surprising, is it?

For those of you I haven't communicated with recently, here it is.  I took the big leap, once again, out into the world I simply call 'on your own'.  Anyone familiar with that world?  Believe me, I am.  I have been there a few times before. 

The particular 'on your own' I am referring to is the one where you decide to muster all of your courage, pull together your best ideas, put one foot in front of the other, and bank on the notion that you can be...(insert dramatic music here)...self-employed.

If you know me at all, you will know this isn't a totally foreign concept.  It's always there, just under the surface, wanting to come out.  It's in my blood.  No, really.  This is not just another cliche.  It's part of my DNA composition, I have come to realize, and fighting it is pointless.  Eventually that's where I end up, every time. 

I come from a strong, courageous line of entrepreneurs, even though they may not have looked at it that way while they were in the process of working their own businesses.  They were guided by their desires to care for themselves and their families, but also by something stronger.

Somewhere at the core of their being they believed they could make a go of it.

My maternal great-grandfather, Austin S. Gregg, and his brother, Arthur, started, owned and ran The Public Market in North Platte, NE in the 1930's.  My grandfather, Austin K. Gregg, better known as Bud, took ownership around 1960.  It was a small grocery store that really was ahead of it's time in so many ways.  That's because my grandfather was ahead of his time in so many ways.  I wish I had the space to tell you why that is true, but this blog post would turn into a novel.  Let's just say that Grandpa was a visionary and a dreamer in my eyes and many others and he was backed with the intelligence and innate knowledge to make things happen.

The stories about the Market my mom and family have shared with me are ones I could hear over and over again.  They represent a period in my family's somewhat fractured and difficult history that give a sense of pride and belonging to us all because of what was accomplished.  You hear it in their voices when they talk about it.  Was it easy?  No.  Did they love the business and my grandfather's way of running things?  Uh, no.  They all did what they had to do to make it work.  Nonetheless,  my grandmother, my mom and her brothers and sisters were all a part of that business and those memories and experiences are a part of who they are today, and a part of me. 

My paternal grandfather, Elmer (Bud) Thompson, and his good friend, Erwin Moore, became partners in starting Economy Glass in North Platte, NE in 1954.  They grew and expanded the business, took on other partners, and at one time had 4 stores in Nebraska and 1 in Wyoming.  The business, and my grandfather's hard work, live on today through my dad, Tom, and my brothers, Dee and Greg, in what has become Thompson Glass here in Scottsbluff, NE.  Dad learned the glass business from grandpa and others, starting at age 16, by mowing the grass, sweeping the floors, and fixing screens (well, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On September 7, 1971, my dad officially became a part of the Economy Glass team.  He eventually became a manager and owner, persevering through many ups and downs over the years. 

Some of my strongest memories of my childhood are being at Economy Glass , sitting at my dad's desk, 'working' the adding machine, making my fingers go as fast as I could, or writing 'memos' and notes on scratch pads that had the Economy Glass logo printed across the top.  I wanted to work there, with my dad.  I wanted my own desk.  I wanted my own pens and pencils and adding machine and files.  It didn't matter that I hadn't a clue about how to run a glass business, I just wanted to run a business.  I wanted to do what he was doing. 

To this day it gives me such a feeling of pride to walk into my dad's office and see him sitting on the tall stool at his drafting table working up job bids from rolls and rolls of complicated blueprints.  When I seem him I think of his work ethic, the strength and conviction it took to show up every day for the last 40 years, knowing he is responsible for making it all happen.
    
And, of course, my mother has the entrepreneurial spirit flowing through her veins as well.  No matter the topic, her energy gets fired up and the conversation becomes so engaging when we 'talk shop'.  She and her partner owned a successful landscape business in Ft. Collins, CO for many years.  Her ability to handle a hundred things coming at her all at once just amazed me.  She was a force to be reckoned with behind her desk, and out in the world.  My mom always seemed at her best when there were problems to be solved.

Calm, focused, decisive...she didn't waver on the outside, even if she might have been panicking on the inside.  No one would have ever known.


She has been self-employed or in a position of management and leadership in some way most of my life.  She has worked in the real estate and housing industry since she was a single mom taking care of my brother and I.  I believe only now, at the age of almost 43, I finally have an understanding of what it must have taken her to step out into the world and make a living in a male dominated industry and society.  She was so beautiful and professional looking in her suits.  I really thought there was nothing she couldn't do.

My mom continues to inspire me today with her ideas and contributions, insight and knowledge of people and of business.  She also happens to be my biggest supporter and source of strength, along side of my husband.  Just knowing what she went through and thinking of her accomplishments makes me swell with pride and gives me the courage to take risks.

My family's stories are worth telling.  Mentioning them here is hardly what I would consider doing each of them justice, but they are so much a part of what I am feeling and doing today that not including them would have left a huge hole in my story.

It's easy to understand how I have arrived at this point of wanting to teach and design and knit for a living.  Because it's what I love to do, but most importantly because no one ever told me I couldn't.  It has never occurred to me in my entire life that having a good idea and making a business out of it wasn't, well, a good idea.

So why am I struggling, you might be wondering?  Me too.  With all of that inspiration passed on to me, what is the problem?  I have asked myself that on a daily basis for the last two weeks.  It's a bit of a mystery.  Or is it?

When I was little I regularly experienced what my mom simply called  'growing pains'; aching in my legs that seemed to come from no where.  Oh how uncomfortable I was sometimes, especially at night, lying in bed.  That seemed to be the worse time.  I did come to accept my mom's explanation of them as simply growing pains, because there was nothing else to DO but wait until the pain subsided.  I would lie there and create a vivid picture in my head of my body actually growing taller with each wave of pain.

That somehow seemed a reasonable expectation...a little pain to help me grow.  I could handle it.  I wanted to grow.

That memory came back to me recently in the middle of the night when I was lying in bed, listening to the silence and staring into the dark.  Anxiety and fear are now my growing pains when I don't feel sure of my life or what's happening.  It hits me in the wee hours when there's nothing to do but lay there and let it roll over me.  In those moments, anxiety replaces strength.  Fear replaces courage.  I don't feel like I have any control over my thoughts and fears in those moments...they just go on and on...

Fear of failure (seriously, what will I do when this doesn't work?). Fear of rejection (is anyone really interested in my ideas?). Fear of going/being broke (okay, this is a big one... just what are you going to do when you don't have a paycheck coming in?). Fear of being alone (and broke...of course I am not either of those, but I didn't say these fears were rational).

Fear of humiliation (see the first one...fear of failure). Fear of being joked about by family and friends (oh she's making another change...how long will this last). Fear of regret (should I have stayed where it was more secure...secure?  What did Helen Keller say?).  Fear of the unknown (like the ever changing and expanding technology I have to navigate every day...what else am I going to have to learn to even make this happen?).

And finally, strangely enough, this thought rolled over me:  Fear of success (what if it works...do I have the energy and passion to keep it going?).

There it is.  That's the one, the big one.  That's what's keeping me up at night.

Never mind the fact that my home studio and office is a mess.  Never mind the fact that I don't seem to have one clue how to start putting this altogether (well, I have some clue, but there are a lot of holes).  I have no set schedule.  No plan other than I want to teach and design and plan the fiber arts fair.  I need a logo and business cards and letterhead.  A website would be nice.  How can I sell patterns without a website?  More frequent blog posts are also a necessity so others can follow along on this journey.  I have so much to share and less time than ever, it seems, to share it.  The clock is ticking.

Oh, the details that clutter my mind when I lie there at night and let them take over.

Eventually I will get up out of bed because I can't stand it anymore.  I brew a pot of coffee, settle in to a comfy chair and reach for my knitting.  As my fingers and my brain begin to relax, find a rhythm, and work as one, the anxiety subsides, the fear dissipates, and I am reminded of why I want to do this.  The feel of the yarn and needles in my hands is all the reminder I need.

It's not about any of the endless details that will always need taking care of and tended to...I know what needs to be done, or, I will figure it out.  In days past, I could put things together in no time.  In fact, it has always been sheer joy seeing my name in print on a business card, and I couldn't wait to get it there.  It made everything seem so official, like this venture was really happening. 

No, those tasks and 'to dos' are not the problem.  The problem is I haven't put my intentions out there.  I haven't committed.  The little voice that keeps me up at night (in reality it is very big and loud) is trying to tell me to embrace my choice to do this...focus, simplify, and work at it every day.

It will come.

I guarantee my family members who have ventured out into that 'on your own'  world before me had some of the same thoughts and fears (or maybe they didn't?).  I also guarantee they didn't stay in that place for long if they were afraid.  They got up and moved and did and tried...and worked, worked, worked.

My biggest fear is success.  Why?  Because I have big shoes to fill.  Always have.  The expectations are high, BUT they are mostly self-imposed.  

I read somewhere recently that "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

I think I found that 'something else'.

There are so many knitters, designers,  instructors, and fiber artists out there.  Where will I rank among them?  Is that even important to ask?

Do I really have something unique to contribute?  Have I built this all up too much without the talent and drive to back it up?

I don't know...but I want to find out.   

I am on the edge of realizing some of my deepest dreams and desires, if I can stay centered and trust my gut.  No matter how dramatic this may sound, I feel like I have been moving towards this my whole life.  That's why I haven't been able to rush into it.  That's why I haven't been able to just 'throw' a plan together and go for it.  It all feels too important to rush and take for granted.

I want to be present for every moment so I can look back in 40 years and remember the day I recommitted to my choice to live my life consciously, to take another risk.

It's a reasonable expectation...a little pain to help me grow.  I can handle it.  I want to grow.

Until next time...let's all "...behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate..." 


 and

Knit On,

Donna

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gatherings

I have many friends who started off as students.  My dear friend Jan J. is among them and I can't imagine how it is we didn't meet years before.  I say this because she and I seem to have a connection that was obvious from the beginning, but not spoken of often.  It's just there. 

We share a love of reading and gardening and interest in spiritual matters.  But most obviously we share a passion for knitting...what knitting means to each of us individually...and how it feels when we get to sit down and knit together.

Sadly, like many friends these days, Jan and I do struggle to find time to get together.  It seems to be the new 'norm' for most.  Email and Facebook, Twitter, texting and phone calls have replaced coffee and brunch, lunch and dinner and happy hour cocktails. 

We have moved to a state of disconnect, don't you think?  In my view the disconnect comes from several things:  a lack of eye contact, a lack of sincere conversations catching up and dialing in, and just not experiencing the feeling we get when sitting in someone's physical space sharing our lives in real time.

And just for the record, while I do have days I feel like doing it, this is not a post or a rant about how we should all give up our modern day conveniences to go sit on a mountain top somewhere with each other and contemplate life.   In fact, it is just the opposite.  Life changes and so do we.  Instead of wishing for days gone by and simpler times, I have found I personally am much more content moving with the times and acknowledging the advantages we have at our disposal, instead of fighting it.

The challenge is to blend all of the cool things that technology does for us with activities and moments that counter balance the lack of one-on-one interaction.  For me, recognizing that it is happening is the first step.  Prioritizing is the next.

Spending time commiserating with friends is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves.  Soulful chats, quiet conversation, laughing out loud, passing the box of kleenex to dry tears, sipping something delightful that you don't normally serve just yourself...all reasons to gather with each other and share a moment.  The benefits are real and in fact quite necessary for us as humans to experience. 

Time deficit is a self-created dilemma.  Ask me how I know.

I am a strong believer in being in the moment, what it can do for you, and how it can change your perspective on yourself, on others, and the world.

I practice yoga for that reason.  I practice meditation for that reason.

I run.  Oh how I love to run.  It clears my mind and makes me feel empowered.

I want to hone that skill of being in the moment every chance I get.  I watch children play and I learn something about being totally engrossed and happy for a time.

I sit down on the floor with my dog and run my fingers through his wild, soft, white coat while he is completely still and content to be with me and enjoy the attention.  He teaches me that true companionship with another means accepting the person and the moment exactly as it is, no judgment.  Just allow things to be.

When I get on my motorcycle and head out on the road, my senses feel sharp and my mind is totally focused on the feel of the bike underneath me and the wind and the sun washing over me.  It's as close to being truly free and truly in the moment as I can get.

And that is why I love knitting so much.  No matter my mood, no matter the circumstances or the energy around me, when I put knitting in my hands I am instantly grounded, centered, and just BEING.  I know that's a contradiction, in a sense, because actually knitting is DOING, isn't it?

But mindful knitting is like meditation.  In meditation you breathe and you your body is still.  The duality of it is what makes it work. 

When I am knitting, the movements of my hands are the breathing.  My mind becomes the still. 

No matter what's wrong in my life or in the world that day, I am okay when I am knitting.  The feel of the yarn, the warmth of the needles, the rhythmic sound they make when I really get on roll...that all gets me there and keeps me there.  

Everyone needs something that gets them there.

And the only thing better than knitting by myself is knitting with others, because it allows me a double dose of being in the moment.  All the benefits of knitting and all the benefits of connecting with others.  My soul is filled to the brim in those moments, IF I truly allow myself to be there.  (That is the key.  Purposefully and intentionally choosing to place yourself in a moment and gather from it whatever you can about yourself) 

I have found it is especially good for me, as I tend to isolate myself for days or weeks at a time from real moments with others.  Why?  Well, I get overwhelmed, I suspect, and then I shut down.   And of course, alone time, quiet time, is equally important.  You have to make those choices for yourself.  Ask yourself what it is you need.  But often, I can get stuck in that alone time, and for me that's not the balance I am working towards.  Gathering with others (to knit or otherwise) brings me out of my world and into theirs.

These are the reasons then, that since I have been teaching, I have been offering what I call "Knit Aways"---small gatherings, special occasions, learning something new with friends of your choosing, in your environment, at your convenience.  Sounds lovely, doesn't it?   More than any other type of class I teach, these are my favorites.

Why?  Well, I think the biggest reason is that someone taking the time to create a moment, a pause in their lives, for themselves and those close to them, is really so very wonderful to be a part of.  It gives me an opportunity to do mindful teaching, intuitive instruction like no other setting or circumstance can.  (more on those things another day :)

I have done a few of these Knit Aways over the years, but sadly, not many.  Marketing this concept has been a challenge.  Weeknights and weekends are taken up by so many other things for families these days, it seems that we feel almost wasteful with our time if we are not checking things off of our to-do list instead of spending an afternoon with friends.

In many parts of the world, knitting, handwork, and other creative endeavors are a way of life, not just something you do when you have nothing else to do.  And there's no guilt involved.  You need not explain what you're doing or why.  Beautiful concept really.   I would venture to say individuals who live this way are more centered, content, fulfilled, and generally well-adjusted and equipped to handle the inevitable stress and pressures that come with being human on this planet.

Since I have embraced knitting and fiber art as a career and way of life myself, I have had one 'small' goal above all others:  to share my passion for knitting, but more broadly, my passion for creativity in all of its forms, and how it can enhance your life.  And the only way I know to do this is take it moment by moment, be out there, not afraid to 'do my thing', in my way, on my terms, and seize every opportunity to break down gender barriers and age stereotypes that seem to go hand in hand with knitting.  (oooh, yet another topic for another post...lovely:) 

So when Jan J. approached me at the fiber arts fair last fall about doing a class in her home based on a pattern that one of the fair vendors, Bijou Basin Ranch, had on display, I  immediately thought what a great idea, and at the same time wondered when and how I would be able to put it together for her in a way that honors all of these things I have been writing about.  That is why I do them after all. 

Jan, too, had a vision for how this class would look and feel.  Because obviously if she had simply wanted to knit the project, we could have made that happen long before now.  Her thought was to make it special...share it with others.  Create a memory.  That's who she is.  She herself works very hard every day to focus on the elements of life that bring her closest to knowing herself better and she continually amazes me at her willingness to grow and expand and experience new things. 

I respect that deeply.  I believe that is why we are here.

March 19, 2011, Jan will host a knit away in her home. (and just fyi--as of the day of this post, I still have 2 openings out of 7, if you are interested in joining the class--email or call me for more details and questions) 

But here's a sneak peak at what this Knit Away will look like:

We will be making a simple, but stylish little button up cowl that caught her eye many months ago...

 
...it is made from Bijou Basin Ranch yarn called "GOBI."  It is spun from yak and camel down!  (This is a new one for me to work with too!) 

It has a soft, silky feel that I look forward to wearing close to my skin.  I am working on the test sample now. 


The yarn comes in natural colors only and this particular one is a very beautiful taupe that can be worn with almost anything.  It will also be what I call an all-seasons accessory because of it's weight and texture.  I love to knit pieces that can be used every season of the year. 


The sweet and delicate cable/lace stitch pattern is fairly easy to memorize, but presents some challenges.  Even though it is marked at an Easy skill level, I would consider it appropriate for a Strong Advanced Beginner ready to expand their skills or an Intermediate knitter looking to practice his/her lace techniques by way of a very portable, satisfying project. 

We will sit down in the morning and learn the pattern together.  I have lots of tips for lace knitting as well as a couple of new techniques to show everyone.  Cabling without a cable needle, the perfect buttonhole, tensioning with lace stitches, blocking, and working with luxury yarns will be some of the topics we will cover.

Afterwards, Jan will be serving a delicious lunch of Southwest Chicken Chili, Blueberry Cornbread Muffins, and Spinach Salad.

Spring will be upon us by that time next month and I can't think of a more wonderful way to usher it in. 

I encourage you to to look at your day to day life and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with...accept this...but also understand that there's nothing wrong with slowing down, striving for more balance, and realizing that you are not being selfish when you take time for yourself.  You will have more to give to your family, your job, your friends, when you don't feel cheated out of the things that really tickle your toes!

The knitting is a big part of it, the company and conversation another part.  Sitting down to a meal with friends, yet another part.  These all combine to create a deliberate moment to share, to learn, to celebrate the fact that we are more than our to-do lists and our jobs and roles and titles and responsibilities.  These are the details of our lives, the specifics.  That's not who we are as a whole. 

I hope to conduct many Knit Aways this year as a part of my journey.  I wish you real moments of your own.   

Knit On,

Donna

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go after it with a club!

Over the holidays I was trying to remember the last time I knit a sweater for myself.  I dug around in my closet and found a little brown summer cardigan that was completed 2 years ago (and I wear the heck out of, by the way).  I also found the lacy, red tunic-style tank top I knit around the same time for my daughter, at her request, that ended up in my possession (another story altogether).

That's it.  2 little items 2 years ago.

My knitting bags and baskets are always full of works in progress (WIP), but evidently I do not find much time to plan and knit for myself.  In the last 2 years I have finished countless projects for the store, for gifts, for classes, and so on.  And I feel quite satisfied with that part of my knitting life.  Yes, in fact, things have been rolling along nicely.

The searching in my closet, however, was precipitated by a deep, down gnawing feeling that my knitting work has really become, well, WORK.  And I am in it up to my eyeballs. 

Knowing myself like I do, that's a dangerous place to be because when my passion, my creative outlet, doesn't feel passionate and creative, well, it isn't gonna be pretty, that much I can tell you.   It's something that I worried some about when I first made the career change.  I remember Phil asking me on more than one occasion whether I was getting tired of it or if it was feeling like work.

And always I would answer, no, absolutely not.  I love knitting for a living.

No really, I do...but, life has a way of changing directions on you before you even realize it.

Not all at once, but slowly, I have been able to feel the shift in my thinking and in every stitch I take.  I ignored the feeling for some time, but then owned up to the reality of the situation.  It happened. The needles became heavy.  The patterns all seemed to be the same.  The colors felt dull.  The yarn was lifeless.  My knitting world started turning very gray.

I was heading for knitting purgatory!  You know the place I speak of?

For some beginning knitters it may mean knitting too many scarves or dishcloths; for others it could be that you are forcing yourself to use up yarn in your stash that is full of colors you can't even imagine why you bought, or a fiber that doesn't feel good in your hands.  And still other knitters may be stuck in knitting purgatory thinking they have simply lost interest when what they really need is a challenge, an inspiration to spark the flame.

Think I am being a bit melodramatic?  Well, maybe. :) The process and condition I describe is fairly accurate though.

The trick is not to panic and don't dwell on the negatives of the situation.  Just figure out what needs to be done and do it.

So..........

What do I need?

Inspiration?  New ideas?  Time?  A vacation?  A quiet space to figure it all out?

How do I breathe new life into my hands and my needles from time to time?  How do I prevent burnout?  How do I find time for my own designs?  How do I find time to further my education and skills?  When do I get to work on projects that challenge me and in turn inspire me to want to keep teaching and pass the knowledge along?

One of my all time favorite quotes about creativity comes from Jack London:  "You can't wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club!"

And that's just what I have decided to do.

A couple of weeks ago, Phil watched me carry out of my studio at home a stack of books and magazines that I could hardly carry up the stairs.  I wanted to spread them out on the sectional in the living room and see what might happen.

I believe he said something like: "Wow...planning on doing some serious knitting, are you?"  Yes indeed, honey.  Some serious knitting.  (Like I'm not ALWAYS seriously knitting!)..but anyway...

I needed to take immediate action and this was the fastest way to do it.   

I spent the rest of the evening pouring over every pattern I had marked in every magazine and book I had bought in the last 4 or 5 years, determined to find the perfect sweater project to make for myself.

I read articles on yarn and color and new techniques.  I delighted in getting reacquainted with the simple pleasure of sitting down with a warm cup of tea (or a very cold beer ;) to sip on and a knitting magazine.

And the goal was simple.  Relax.  Enjoy the process.  Find something to knit, just for me.

I actually came away with TWO sweaters that I was very excited about.   I was not surprised, nor was my husband at the number--TWO .

I am a woman of excess, for sure.  If some is good, more is better.  If one is satisfying, two will be exhiliarating!  (This is my subconscious mind at work.  I have become very familiar with my subconscious.  We don't always agree, but we have come to an understanding:  I don't get in her way, I listen to her, and all works out fine in the end.)

Here's the first one I chose:


My knitting 'funk' seemed to be subsiding already.  I was remembering why I loved to knit in the first place.

Finding just the right project(s) that I was anxious to try....first step done.

Next step in the creative process...Selecting the color(s) and type of  yarn...Swatching and figuring out my gauge...What needles do I use?  Bamboo?  Metal? 


For the Arching Cables Jacket I went with my Addi Turbo Lace tips and this rich, pumpkin color in Brown Sheep Nature Spun N17 called French Clay.
What interested me most about this sweater was the construction of it.  The belt is knit first and then you are to pick up stitches from the top of the belt and knit the top of the sweater and then again pick up from the bottom of the belt to finish the bottom of the sweater. 
The second pattern I chose was this lovely little number:
It calls for 4 strands of lace weight in the bottom, sleeves, and collar, and two strands for the lace panel across the back.  I was especially drawn to the shaping of the garment with it's tucks in the back, the half length bell sleeves, and the crocheted edging to finish it off.
I went with Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn, fingering weight, (which is like a double strand of lace weight), just to cut down on the number of strands and possibility of tangling.  The cones are wonderful to work off of as they tension so nicely.  And a deep, shiny, blue called Navy Royale was my color choice paired with Crystal Palace bamboo needles.

This is the beginning of the bottom panel done in twisted rib.  I think it's going to be luscious to knit and to wear.
Now how did this pic of Cotton Fleece get in this post?
Oh yeah...did I mention I found a 3rd sweater that I just HAD to cast on for?  Yep, it's true.  (Told you I was a woman of excess)

I was rummaging around in our trunk shows downstairs at work and found the Chris Bylsma box.  She does a lot with cables and drop stitches in her designs and this one is very dramatic when you see it all knit up.



I tried the sample sweater on and it fit me like a glove.  The large, flowing cables are fabulous in this one.  I promise, it is unusual and interesting in it's design.

What else was I going to do but immediately run back up to the store and find the color I wanted?

I believe I will keep this one to myself though, except for a few sneak peaks every now and then, just for fun.

Maybe a little 'fashion show' will be in order when I get them all knit up.  I am not fond of publishing pictures of myself (in fact, let's be clear, I do not like my picture being taken, period.)  However, since I am working on new challenges just for me, that might be one I will tackle.

Guess I got my knitting mojo back for the moment.  What do you think?  Too much?  Are they doomed to become UFO's in my closet?

Not a chance!  I've got a knitting fire in my belly and I am going after that inspiration with a club!

How about you join me?

Until next time...

Knit on,

Donna