Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 25 April 2011


I went for a long, long walk yesterday.  A walk was perfect on a warm holiday Sunday, clear sky above and bits of green pushing against the mounds of winter debris.  I passed young women in chick-yellow dresses, dads leading boisterous children through the park, old men with canes in hand, everyone out and about, enjoying the sun and the cool breezes down by the creek:

Friday was Earth Day.  I could feel a change.  The air smelled like spring, fresh, new, almost like a sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, our long winter had come to an end.

I have always believed that Earth and everything in and on her is alive.  I assume the rocks breathe and sing, trees hold wisdom.  It makes sense to me that ancient things absorb the energy surrounding them and that energy is life.  Others believe it, too, as Robyn explains in her April 15th blog post.

Many think these ideas are foolish, political, idealistic drivel.  (Although why the belief that Earth is a living entity is any sillier than giving corporations the same rights as people is beyond me.)  Still, it's easy enough to see the harm overuse, abuse or a simple lack of care and attention to your resources can do.  All you need is a bit of fleece.

Find yourself some nice fleece, lightly washed perhaps, but otherwise unprocessed.  Find yourself some roving from a similar animal.  Compare the two.  Notice how the fleece retains more bounce, character, more life, if you will.  Wash it gently, spin it as is or with careful combing or carding and you'll have a lively yarn which retains the characteristics of the original fibres.  The roving, no matter how carefully prepared, loses life and character with each treatment it undergoes.  It's still usable; it can give you a nice yarn, but it won't retain the hand of the original wool.

Now take some of the fleece or the roving and abuse it.  Soak it in some harsh laundry detergent, drop it in a bit of bleach or just stomp on it for a while.  The wool shrivels and shrinks.  It becomes brittle.  It may even dissolve.  You might get a yarn from it, but it won't be pleasant and it likely won't last long.

If we understand the difference that care and attention makes to our yarns and fabrics, why is it difficult to connect our actions with their effects on this planet?  Well, you say, the fleece isn't alive; it doesn't feel our care or abuse.  Besides, there's always more wool.  Perhaps, but why abuse what we have in this moment?  Suppose we extend our harsh treatment to the animal itself?  If we don't take care of those animals, we will soon be without wool (and perhaps the creatures, too).  Take care of what we're given and our creatures respond in kind.  So will our planet.

We can't fix everything.  No one is asking us all to live in caves or head back to the land.  Being human means living a life full of contradictions and our actions won't always match our intentions.  But one small act a day, like a simple daily kindness, adds up.  Pick up one piece of garbage on the sidewalk, recycle one more container and there's a bit less trash blowing about. 

Personal action also means steady, mindful insistence that those with power behave responsibly.  We need to speak out when others poison the Earth and us with it.  We must do this so that we can enjoy our passions and so that we can enjoy more of this:

And this:

And these:

And even this goofy guy:

Go outside.  Take a long walk. Treasure life.  See you when I get back!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mindfully Mindless

I'm planning some vacation knitting.  It's not enough that I have a half dozen projects on the go, any one of which would do as take-along knitting.  Never mind that I have most of the house packed up, ready to face any road emergency including volcanic eruptions and potential starvation on the #1 Highway, and that one more fibre project might tip the load limit on the truck.  I must have a new string thing, one that is active enough to prevent me nodding off and dropping stitches, but not so lively that I can't watch for mountains falling down upon my head.

My default mindfully mindless project is this scarf:

The photograph above shows the scarf knitted in handspun cashgora.  I've started this one in EL's Hempathy.


I have a bag of this yarn in spring colours:

The hemp/cotton/modal combination is just right for a transitional accessory.

The pattern is simple, a one row scarf, consisting of this:

Crochet Cast On any odd number of stitches.  (25, in this case.)  You can add stitches for a garter stitch border, as I did with the cashgora scarf, but it's not necessary and I'm not adding one to the Hempathy scarf.

Knit a few rows of garter stitch.  (6 rows or 3 ridges here.)

Then, K1, *yo, K2tog* across the row.  (If you lose track of your pattern, the yo will always be in front of the knit stitch on the K2tog.)

Repeat this row until you are sick of knitting or until you are nearly out of yarn.  Knit a corresponding number of garter stitch rows to match the beginning and do a classic bind off.  (Knit 2 stitches, pull the first knit stitch on the right hand needle over the front knit stitch on the right hand needle.  *Knit one more stitch and pull that over the remaining stitch on the right hand needle.*  Repeat between the *'s until you have one stitch remaining.  Cut your yarn and pull it through the last stitch to fasten off.)  All done!

The scarf suits any fibre and makes a great gift.  When people pay tribute to your amazing lace skills, smile and say "thank you."  Only you need know how easy this scarf is to make.  I should be able to knit a few during our travel times as presents for our hosts.

I use a Crochet Cast On because it matches the classic bind off.  With your working yarn, place a slip knot on a crochet hook.  Take your working needle and position it so that the ball end of your yarn is underneath the knitting needle with your crochet hook on top of the knitting needle in a V:

Tension your yarn.  Pull up a loop from your yarn through the slip knot on the crochet hook.  Behold--one stitch on the knitting needle:

Flip the working yarn back under the knitting needle and repeat the process until you're one stitch short of your desired cast on number.  The slip knot is that last stitch.  Place it on your knitting needle, tighten things up and you're ready to knit.  (Make your cast on a bit tighter than I show it here.)

I think I have my fibre bag co-ordinated for my adventures.  Now, if this prairie girl can just use my psychic powers to keep those mountains where they belong!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rastafarian Sampling

I'm a copycat, a thief.  That's right--I admit it.  I buy skeins of yarn, take them home and attempt to clone them on my spindles or wheels.  Not only do I not try to hide this, I'll talk about it to anyone willing to listen.

Copying someone's work can be considered plagiarism or homage.  Too many similarities between your work and someone else's?  You could be on the hook for damages.  Incorporating another musician's tracks into your latest release?  That's "sampling," a tribute in the hip hop world.

I often "sample" commercial yarns.  I'm intrigued by their composition, their hand, their colours and the fabrics they become.  In the past few days, I've focused my attention on the Malabrigo Rasta yarn used in my Endless Circle cowl, spinning bulky singles in an effort to duplicate the softness and cozy bulk of these luxury yarns.

I thought it would be easy to spin my own "Falabrigo Rasta," but I ran into a few challenges.  In the first place, I decided to play copycat after finishing my cowl, after giving away the scraps left from it and after darning in my yarn ends well enough that I can't find an end to examine.  I think Rasta is spun from top, so that's where I started.  (Please correct me if necessary.)

I spun samples from years-old merino top, from a superwash Bluefaced Leicester top from fyberspates (thanks, Carole!), and a wool/alpaca sliver from Fleece Artist, using my Majacraft Pioneer on the slowest whorl with the Delta flyer.

The Rasta is thick, but not as dense as one would expect from such a bulky yarn.  It averages 30 yards per 50 grams and knits to about 2 to 2.5 stitches per inch in stockinette.  Challenge #2 was to approximate Rasta's bulk while avoiding the heaviness often found in handspun singles.  This meant drafting the fibre preparations slightly, to allow some loft into the yarn.  I hoped this would offset the density of the top.

I didn't strip or predraft the fibres, but drafted the fibres to slightly wider than my thumb and treadled as slowly as I could while using a backwards drafting technique.  I thought this would give me the best opportunity to produce a consistently thick but relatively light singles.  All yarns were finished in hot and cold baths and whacked severely, then hung to dry.

Attempt #1:

This merino top (purchased years ago in Ottawa) felt over-processed.  It was difficult to draft and maintain consistency.  There are thick and thin spots, much more than found in the Rasta.  My yarn is lighter, averaging about 41 yards/50 grams.  It's not as soft.  Many hot/cold baths and whackings barely changed this yarn.

Attempt #2:

At 36 yards per 50 grams, this yarn  spun from Fleece Artist fibres is closer to Rasta in yardage.  Consistency is still not good and the alpaca makes the yarn fuzzier than the Rasta.  My sample is soft, though, and the colours are wonderful, so I think I'm getting somewhere with this skein.

Attempt #4:

At 33 yards/50 grams, this skein from fyberspates fibre is closest in weight to the Rasta.  I preferred the Bluefaced Leicester to the Merino; felting the yarn left it soft and the gorgeous colours glowed.  Unfortunately, the fibre was a gift and there was no more to spin the final skein, which is presented here as "Copycat Falabrigo Rasta":

This Merino top came from Golden Willow Natural Fiber.  After finishing, it's not quite as soft as the Rasta, but it's suitable for next to the skin and will probably wear better than the Rasta.  The skein averaged about 35 yards per 50 grams, finer than the BFL and the Rasta, but heavier than Malabrigo Worsted.  My yarn felted nicely.  The colours are gorgeous, dyed to order by Sharon at Golden Willow.

I know I could have gone on the hunt for actual Malabrigo Rasta, but taking the time to "sample" this yarn not only helped me to understand the construction of a beautiful product, it improved my spinning skills and helped me focus my attention to details.

And that, as I see it, is copying/homage/sampling put to its best use.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Meanderings and the Endless Circle Cowl

One of the many things I love about my involvement with fibre arts is that the work will never be done.  No matter how much I study or how long I live, I will never reach an end point, a time when there is nothing more for me to learn.  I wander along this path and there is that which comes to me.  If I choose that road there, I will find a different perspective with many happy accidents along the way.  Sometimes I'll just wander around in circles.

It's a common saying that the journey is part of the process.  For me, the journey is the process.  I am suspicious of anyone who claims to be on the one true path, whether that path leads to the perfect way to knit, the best yoga practice or the one true path to glory.  The point at which you become convinced that you've found THE TRUTH is the point where you stop learning.  Keep an open mind and you grow.

Growth doesn't have to occur in leaps and bounds.  Tiny steps are just as effective in helping you to learn.  In the past few weeks, I've learned a couple of things; neither is earth-shaking, but both have added to my knitting pleasure.  One of the people in spinning class showed me a new way to wind a centre-pull ball of yarn.  Lindsay's "thumb as nostepinne" is a simple way to wind yarn without any extraneous tools.  It's a handy (yes, bad pun intended) thing to know when you're without noste or ballwinder.

Then there is Cat Bordhi's Moebius Cast On:

 This technique has been around for a very long time but I never had the urge to learn it.  It seemed complicated.  It is not.  Like most useful things, it is simple and straightforward.  Understanding this cast on will allow you to knit this cowl in a jiffy:

I designed the "Endless Circle" cowl as a pattern for Malabrigo Rasta yarns.  It's a gorgeous yarn, very bulky and fairly expensive.  Golden Willow Natural Fibers needed something to show what could be made from one skein of the yarn besides a scarf.  The cowl knits up in an hour or so and makes a great gift.  (It's much prettier when worn; unfortunately, Morris, Mick and Mr. DD were reluctant to model the piece.  Well, Morris was willing, but I'm not sure it would have been a good thing.)  You can substitute any yarn, but be sure you add more stitches to your cast on.

Endless Circle Cowl

When using the Moebius cast on method, remember that one cast on stitch equals two knitting stitches in the cowl.  You need one circular needle, at least 40 inches/100 cm long.
Gauge:  2—2.5 stitches per inch on 9 to 12.75 mm/US 13 to 17 needles.
Using a long circular needle and the Moebius cast on, loosely cast on 30 stitches.  Be sure there is only one cross in your circular needle.  Place marker and begin to work in K1 P1 ribbing pattern around your Moebius.  On the first round, you will knit or purl into the open ``V`` of each stitch so that subsequent stitches will be aligned properly. 
One full round will equal 60 stitches.  Your marker will appear on the left hand needle at the end of each round. Work each stitch as presented, i.e. knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches. 
When your cowl body is approximately 12 to 13 cm/5 inches in depth, begin the
Picot Bind Off:
Using cable or knitted cast on, cast on 2 stitches on to your left needle.  *Bind off 1 stitch.  There is one cast on stitch remaining on the right hand needle.  K2 tog, and bind off one of the cast on stitches on the right hand needle by pulling the single stitch over the k2tog stitch.  Place the remaining stitch on the left needle and use this stitch to cast on 2 stitches on to the left needle.* Repeat from * until you have one stitch remaining on your needle.  Fasten off this stitch.
Weave in all ends.  Block lightly, if desired.  

Deborah Behm
©February 2011

"I'd be a gorgeous model, Mom, and I'm so helpful when you're spinning!"

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


We all have it-that tendency for our thoughts to jump from one thing to another, to act without consideration, to go, go, go.  I'm continually caught in chasing one thing, be it thought or action, only to be distracted by the next "shiny, pretty thing."  In meditation/yoga, this scattering of thoughts and actions is known as "monkeymind."  We hope to tame it, allowing our constant restlessness to settle and calm down.  If we calm our thoughts, calm actions will follow.

My mind has been very restless these days.  I don't know if the restlessness stems from life adjustments, the excitement of an upcoming trip or the fact that spring seems to have arrived, but my levels of concentration are low and I'm constantly struggling to avoid seeking refuge in "shopping therapy," a dangerous pursuit both financially and spiritually. 

I'm capable of intense focus when I'm engaged in something of interest.  Spinning is an example; I've pursued its twists and turns for decades and am delighted to know that I will never exhaust the learning opportunities it provides.  I decided to throw my restless energy into making yarn-art yarn, to be specific.  Inspired by Erin's purchase of some gorgeous yarn at a weekend craft sale and by insubordinknit's (see the sidebar) wonderful DVD, Sit and Spin, I've spent the last few days spinning "whirlwind monkeymind" yarns.

Art yarns (or designer yarns, as I first knew them) are not easy to make.  They are not the efforts produced when first learning to spin.  Art yarns require a measure of control and understanding of fibres, drafting, yarn formation, plying techniques and yarn finishing methods, especially if you aim for a usable product.  Art yarns require concentration.  Let your attention wander and oops! your fibre drifts, your binder yarn snaps, that lump of art gets caught in your flyer guides and everything comes to a halt.

My first attempt was quite tame:

This yarn combines a black alpaca/silk singles with a multicoloured singles of BFL or Merino.  I let the coloured yarn wrap around the alpaca to form knots and then re-plied with a fine commercial silk singles.  I finished the yarn with a hot water soak and a good whacking.  (Yes, I do whack my yarns on occasion.)

I moved on to corespinning plus wrapping.  I had some lovely wool/mohair/bamboo batts from a Ravelry swap.  I corespun this around a loosely spun and plied grey  2 ply wool yarn.  Instead of spinning the batt around the core completely, I let the grey yarn show, producing a striped effect.  The yarn is slightly off-balance even after a wash and a whack, just enough that there should be some texture in the fabric it becomes.

I wanted to make a yarn that expressed (and perhaps released) my mind's restlessness, so I went for broke.  I had more batts from that Rav swap, of alpaca/wool/bamboo/mohair.  I allowed the fine silk singles to autowrap while I corespun the batts around a fine 2 ply blue-grey Swedish weaving yarn.  (It's a bit rough, but is covered by the softer fibre and it's fine enough to keep the final yarn light.)  I then plied the yarn with another strand of the silk singles.  The result, Whirlwind Monkeymind-Ordered Chaos:

Spinning these yarns was fun, a welcome departure from the basic yarns I spin by default:

More importantly, channeling my monkeymind into my yarns helped me settle down into more mindful trains of thought.

My monkeymind is not quite serenely tamed, so I'm off to see what other fibres I can throw at the wheel.  I'll calm that mischievious creature dancing in my head yet!

(It looks like someone else needs some calming-Mickey wasn't pleased that my spinning disturbed his beauty rest:)

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lessons in Impermanence

The snow is melting more each day as we flirt with near normal April temperatures.  Many of us thought the snow would never go, but it is and it will.

We live with impermanence.  No matter how we try, we can't stop change.  Our best approach to change is to embrace it.

This is a "Buddha Board."  I bought it a few years ago.  It's great fun.  Similar to the Etch-a-Sketch that some of us played with as kids, you use water and a brush to "paint" on the board:

In seconds, the painting fades and soon disappears:

You enjoy using the board more if you learn to enjoy these changes.

Some changes aren't that much fun:

These are socks I knitted from hand spun Perendale wool dyed with lichen.  (I thought it was logwood dye, but no.)  They're pretty, I think.  I made them around 1997, so they've done well.  But, they've changed:

I'm not bothered by the repairs at the heels.  Those are standard for me.  Look at the toes.  Do you see the fading?

These socks have been worn and washed dozens of times over the years.  I was impressed with my crafting skills, because umbilicaria lichen, which gives fabulous colours, is a notoriously fugitive dye.  Not the way I do it, or so I thought. 

One day, I left the socks near a sunny window.  When I retrieved them, a few hours later, the colour at the point where the sun hit the toes had faded:

There you go-changes, whether I wanted them or not.  I could overdye the socks; they're still wearable, even as they are.  Some people think the changes are deliberate and I could pretend that they were.  Instead, I'm keeping the socks as they are, as a reminder that nothing is permanent.

And to remind me to close the blinds!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Seeds of Attention: A Meditation on String

The snow is melting quickly, a welcome change from the two metre high banks we had in places a few week ago.  There are signs of grass and other foliage and, of course, the usual messes hidden under all that white stuff.  Perky sparrows are rescuing the last of the feed we left for the rabbits who visited under the front yard trees throughout this tough winter.  Seeds of spring are in the air.

Someone asked me to explain the difference between finding fibre work meditative and using fibre work as meditation practice.  I thought I'd give a bit of tutorial because it's best to explore this yourself.  You'll need approximately 30 minutes to complete the exercise, but don't worry if you can't spend that amount of time.  Do what you can.

Find yourself a comfortable place to sit, away from distractions.  You'll also need some yarn and a set of needles.  I like to use my hand spun wool yarns and wooden needles, but use what you have on hand:

Cast on an uneven number of stitches, using the cast on method of your choice.  I use knitted cast on most of the time.  You will be working in seed stitch and in order to keep each row the same (K1, P1 across the row), you need an uneven number of stitches.  I've used 15 here.

Make a mental note of your start time.  Begin to knit in pattern, paying attention to each stitch.  Focus on those stitches, the touch of the yarn, the movement and feel of the needles.  Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to the knitting and only the knitting.  Stay attentive; your mind should remain active.  Don't think or judge-simply observe.

Continue this practice for several minutes.  When you stop knitting, note the time again.  Did the time you spent focused on the knitting seem longer?  Shorter?  Did you have difficulty maintaining attention?

Notice how this meditation differs from your usual simple knitting. When we knit to relax, we are making something.  Our mind wanders to events of the day, to what's on television, to whatever is outside the knitting.  Our hands work automatically.  Our attention returns to our actions only when we sense a problem-a dropped stitch, a knot in the yarn, fatigue.  We "zone out."

This is a fine way to use knitting.  By relieving us from daily pressures, knitting helps us reduce stress, anxiety and anger so that we can relax.

But, again, "Meditation is not relaxation spelled differently."  (Jon Kabatt-Zinn)

There's the difference: when we use knitting, spinning and other fibre work to meditate, we remain active.  We zone in, bringing our attention to what we're doing right now-knitting.  We do our best to stay there.  We aren't making anything.  We are simply knitting.

We are practising action, rather than distraction.

When we focus on action and attention, we calm down and reduce our stress in the long run, not just temporarily.  We learn to live in the moment.

When you're ready, move on to the next part of the meditation.  Remove your needle from your fabric and, one by one, undo the stitches you have knitted.  Ravel the piece until you are left with-a pile of yarn?  A simple ball?  Now ask yourself:  Is this yarn different than the yarn I began using?  What has changed?  Does the fabric remain in the yarn? 

Where did the fabric go?  It is clearly not there, yet it is-you can see the image in your mind.  The yarn it came from is here. So, what is the fabric now?

This exercise may give you an idea of the difference between using fibre to relax and using it to meditate.  It's a simple practice; but it can be difficult to maintain.  It may seem frivolous, a waste of time, especially since we are not making anything.  We are simply knitting.  What we know as "thinking mind" dislikes giving up control to "experience mind."  Thinking mind objects to this practice.  Let those thoughts pass and ask yourself:  what's wrong with paying attention to the things we do and love (or hate, for that matter)?

Knit, spin, live fully aware in whatever you do.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Here Comes the Sun

Sun Salutations are cycles of specific yoga poses, exercised swiftly, gracefully, with flow.  You do them in the early morning to greet and prepare for the awakening day.  Sun Salutations are said to bring good health and good fortune; some say that a daily cycle of five salutations provides all the physical and mental discipline a yogi needs.  At the summer solstice, many enthusiasts perform cycles of 108 Salutations to welcome the new season.

Sun Salutations are my downfall.  I've never enjoyed doing them.  They're hard work.  They move more quickly than I think yoga poses should.  They demand grace and attention-if your mind wanders, you lose track of the poses.  They're the yoga equivalent of musical scales, repetitious to the point of boredom, but excellent for flexibility and discipline.  Because of these things and because I believe in facing your fears and dislikes, I do Sun Salutation cycles every morning.  Just not 108 of them.

When I began weaving, I was told that weaving twenty yards of plain cotton cloth was the best practice for learning to weave.  Weaving this cloth would even your beat, straighten your edges and provide you with the discipline to become a production weaver.  I wove those twenty yards of fabric.  They became camisoles and tea towels and other useful items.  I did not become a production weaver and I discovered that I was allergic to sewing, but I most certainly discovered discipline and focus.

I look at "plain vanilla" spinning and knitting as I did that weaving or my Sun Salutations.  Putting your best efforts into a simple 2 ply yarn or a plain garter or seed stitch scarf looks easy, but in order to maintain consistency in the yarns, to keep your stitches nicely tensioned and your fabric even, you must focus.  If you drift into other thoughts, you find your yarn drifting with them.  You drop stitches and your fabric becomes uneven.  You change all that by staying with what you are doing now.

My "plain vanilla" yarns and fabrics are far from perfect.  I still enjoy my mindless spinning and knitting, but paying attention to the simplest projects has improved my focus.  It helps me appreciate the beauty of simplicity and it disciplines me, mind and body, at times when the world seems to be getting away from me.  Simple, rhythmic spinning and knitting is akin to those Sun Salutations I practise every day.

Fortunately, there's no requirement to work on 108 projects at once.  I'm not quite there, yet.

A Basket of Simple Handspun Yarns in the Sun

Monday, 4 April 2011

Emma's Knitting Bag

Erin brought her friend, Sheila, into Golden Willow Natural Fiber on Saturday.  They were searching for husband sock yarn.  (Yarn to knit socks for husbands, not to acquire them.)  As we chatted, Erin mentioned that Sheila had been to the Corner Gas auction.  Corner Gas was/is a wildly popular Canadian sitcom which ran from 2004 until 2009 and was filmed not far from here.  When the series ended, the show props were auctioned off to the public.

Sheila bought Emma's knitting bag, complete with needles and stash.  She gave it to Erin.

Emma was Brent's mother on the show.  She knit constantly, especially at home in Dog River, while keeping husband Oscar in line.  We were never quite sure what she was knitting, just that she was.  Emma and her knitting were well-known in fibre circles.  Owning her knitting supplies isn't quite on par with, say, scoring Queen Victoria's knitting pins, but for some, it comes close.

The thing is, Sheila isn't a knitter or a fibre person.  She laughed (a bit nervously, I thought) as the knitters at drop-in gave a collective gasp of admiration when Erin told them what Sheila had done.  She gamely sat with Erin as she tried out an IST Turkish spindle.  She even spun a metre or two herself.  Erin tells me that Sheila attends Knit Night with her, but hasn't tried to knit.  (Yet.  Knitters live in hope at the prospect of a new recruit.)

Sheila does this because she's Erin's friend.  It doesn't matter if she doesn't understand Erin's fascination with fibre.  She supports it because she supports Erin. 

I have friends like this, who take an interest in what I do although they may be puzzled as to how I can spend nearly every waking moment playing with, writing about or pondering on string.  (Some days, I don't understand it myself.)  They value what I do because they value me.  The feeling is mutual. 

The treasure of a friendship doesn't rest in what those friends give one another.  The treasure comes from honouring the friend.  Sometimes that treasure shows up in a simple knitting basket, dimestore needles and skeins of acrylic yarn.

By the way, Sheila isn't available as a friend rental.  I asked.

One of my many knitting and fibre baskets

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Finding Balance

I love to walk.  Nothing calms me more than a long tromp.  Walking just to walk clears my head and has guided me through more than one emotional wrestling match.  I love to feel wind, rain, snow, sun against my skin.  I walk briskly, sure of myself, my footing.

Right now, it pays to proceed more mindfully.  I can be tearing along on dry pavement when the ground shifts from bare concrete to this:

Suddenly, dry land vanishes in a pack of ice and I move from grounded confidence to picking my way, one foot in front of the other.

In Tadasana/Mountain Pose, you ground your body, both feet planted firmly, toes spread widely, bringing strength and energy up the legs along the spine to the crown of your head.  You stand, lower body solid, upper body held lightly, lifting to the sky.  In Tadasana, you find balance and then you practise balancing, at first just standing to find stillness, then by carefully placing one foot in front of the other, seeking to remain balanced in the shift.  In a few moments, you move that forward foot behind and seek balance again.  The more you practise, the more you improve balance and focus.

I stand in Tadasana while spindle spinning and I slow my pace.  I roll my spindle along my thigh gently and release it quietly, so that energy is directed into the yarn, rather than into correcting the wobble sometimes caused by too aggressive a spin.  I spin cross-legged on the floor; I am grounded.  I sit in a firm chair at the wheel and my spine lifts, bringing energy into the body up into the crown of my head.  I am uplifted.

My spindle challenge progresses, although I'm having a tough time resisting the call of my other lonely spindles, especially this one:

It's a Bosworth Moosie, complete with a pink-tinged mouse nibble and a bloodwood shaft bought in a destash from a friend, along with another laceweight Bossie which needed a new home.  It's difficult to get a good photograph-the light bounces off the antler whorl.  Trust me, it's a beauty.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The More Things Change. . .

The last two days have been lovely:

Look!  Bare Pavement!
There are hints of coming spring-note the colours of the bare branches against the banks of snow.

On my way to work this morning, I took this photo:

 This is lichen growing on an elm tree in the park.  The lichen is neon yellow, so bright that I could feel its colour vibrate against the surrounding greys and browns.  Good weather is lurking somewhere.

At the moment, it's back to this:

Even Morris is amazed-note how he trances on the snowflakes.  That red thing is his Kong, the absolute, most favourite, beloved toy.  It's now buried in the fresh snow, waiting for the next melt.  Someone will be a very sorry dog.

I spun a few metres of my challenge fibre.  It's only two days in and I'm already thinking that I may have been overly ambitious in the amount of yarn I plan to finish.  Ah, well, goals are good and a snow day tomorrow may mean that I will have nothing but spinning time.

Friday, 1 April 2011


I woke up to the sound of birds singing.  It's been a long, long time since we heard that sound.  March was too cold, even for the hardiest of the sparrows that winter here.  Mick the cat is sitting on the front step, taking in the action.  The sparrows are safe-Mick, never much of a hunter, is an old guy now.  His ramblings are confined to a brisk walk down and up the steps to our flowerbed.  Then, it's back in the house for a feed to stave off starvation from the exercise and into his box for a snooze.  Not shy about any other thing, Mick is reluctant to have his picture posted.  Since he's amazingly gorgeous, I don't understand this.  Here is a shot from a couple of summers ago:

I've made some resolutions for April, part of which is my "one spindle' challenge.  I'm beginning my challenge with 4 ounces of qiviuq/silk, the blend I mixed in June 1991.  (No, that's not a typo.)  The scrap of paper in the bag notes the date, the cost, the weight and the supplier, but I didn't record the percentage of qiviuq to silk.  It looks and feels like 50/50.

There's a lesson in there, somewhere, I suppose.  We think we'll remember; we plan to get to things soon, straight away.  In a flash, soon is long past, straight away is gone and we're back in right now, speculating on the percentages in an exotic fibre blend.
Can you see the inconsistency of the yarn?  It's not due to the blending.  I prepared the fibres well.  The qiviuq is shorter than the silk, so that accounts for some of it, but the fact is that I'm not bothered by inconsistency, much.  I admire beautiful, evenly spun yarns, especially handspun yarns, but I'm no longer interested in spinning this way.  Inconsistency charms me.

I'm practising to be charmed by inconsistency in people, including myself.  Although I try to walk a steady path, wandering off track points the way to my connection with all people, all things.  Learning to accept inconsistency, viewing inconsistency as flow increases compassion.  It allows for change and growth.

One of the exercises I practise when I sit in spinning meditation is "Getting Into the Zone."  I focus attention on the drafting zone, the small triangle seated between the yarn just formed and the fibre which will form the yarn to follow.  The drafting zone is my "Now," so to speak.  By keeping full attention there, I remind myself to stay present.  When I stay in the Now, the yarn takes care of itself.

An Irish Buddhist blessing:

May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Happy April Fool's Day!