Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Group Practice: Heading out to Fibre Week 2011

I'm almost finished the socks I've been knitting from On Your Toes yarn. I get a kick out of adding picot edging to camouflage footwear.  They'll have their test run during my Alberta adventures:

The lovely project bag was sewn  by my friend, the multi-talented Carole A.

We hit the road tomorrow, Dora, Coleen and I, heading to Olds, Alberta for the big fibre conference at the College.  I missed last year, but have attended this event for a few years, as an instructor, a student and as one-who-just-hangs-out.  It's a lot of fun, as you'd expect from 200+ people, all obsessed with fibre, from its beginnings to its end products. 

Many of us work with our fibres quietly, at home on our own.  Although we may meet at fibre circles or guilds or chat on Ravelry about the latest in gadgets and gear, in my world, fibre arts is primarily a solitary pursuit.  Solitude allows us to be productive, to develop personal techniques and skills, to focus on our tasks. Still, the energy present at a gathering of people who share interests is exhilarating in a way working on our own is not.  If we're open to it, we find new ideas and approaches.  There's a lot of "I never thought of that!" as we sit and spin in the common areas or discuss our passion over a glass of wine or two.

The same thing occurs in meditation groups, although usually without the wine.  By definition, meditation demands solitary focus on the Now.  Unless you belong to a communal organization, you are likely parked on your meditation cushion in a quiet space by yourself.  It's a welcome change to attend a group session, as I did last night.  The calm and attentiveness produced by a studio full of people breathing and sitting in mindfulness is a wonderful thing, the perfect balance to the busy whirlwind of activity that will occur at Fibre Week.

Find a group which shares your interests or start one yourself.  (If you work at it, you can combine your passion for fibre with a meditation practice.  I hope to demonstrate this during my teaching sessions at the conference.)  Attend a conference or two.  You'll return home with renewed purpose and a new batch of friends.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I am a mass of contradictions.  I preach mindfulness, yet I can be impulsive.  I think humans should live in loving kindness, but I tend to react harshly to others with different perspectives.  I run when I should walk, procrastinate when I have a deadline.  I believe in living frugally, but I'm easily distracted by the next shiny pretty thing, especially if it involves fibres or bags!

When we behave one way while advocating another, some will call us hypocrites.  This can be true.  Government representatives are being hypocritical when they declare that citizens who engage in peaceful protests are undermining democracy.  This is especially true when those governments refuse to be accountable to their citizens. Hypocrisy is claiming that it's acceptable to practise "business ethics" which are worlds apart from "personal ethics."  It's hypocrisy to claim that those asking for equality, decent wages, living conditions, etc. are ruining the economy, while you ignore your own corporate excesses.  Attacking public grants to the arts when you work for corporations which themselves receive public funding may be a wee bit hypocritical.  (I will link this one.  I haven't recovered yet.  Watch at your peril.)  Stomping all over the rights of others while claiming the moral high ground--that's hypocrisy.  It's important to take a stand and speak up when one sees examples of true hypocrisy. 

Hypocrisy is very different from the contradictions that living brings us. We all stray from our ideal paths, sometimes far more often than we care to examine.  The contradictions between words and deeds make us human.  Ideally, they allow us to soften and acknowledge our connections with others.

I was searching for a way to explain this when I found myself declaring to a group of people that I was "a work in progress," or WIP.  The more I thought about it, the better I liked the analogy.  As fibre people, we all have WIP's on the go. We see this as a good thing, a sign of our enjoyment and commitment to our art and craft, a way to improve our skills.

WIP's are put into practice by our thoughts, efforts and the tools we have available.  WIP's are in process; by definition, a WIP is unfinished.  Sometimes our WIP's get stuck, due to boredom, distraction, difficulties or simply because life gets in the way.  Not many of us can complete a WIP without making a few mistakes and changes as we go.  We can choose to correct those mistakes or leave them.  We accept them as part of our learning process.

WIP's contain potential and excitement in ways no finished object (FO) can.  (This may be why some of us have so many WIP's.)  WIP's are ever changing and, with them, we are in constant exploration.  Sometimes those pieces don't go as planned; if we're wise, we acknowledge this, put the work aside or undo it and begin again.  A WIP may cause us annoyance and frustration and bring great joy at the same time.  If we're wise, we acknowledge those contradictions and move past judgment into acceptance.

When I see myself and others as WIP's, I can view contradictions more kindly, as lessons to learn, possibilities to explore, flaws to correct or accept as part of the fabric of our lives.

Being a WIP means I'm not done yet.  I'm grateful for that.

A Tree Practising Vrksasana

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Spindle: Yet Another Washcloth Pattern

I've been knitting washcloths for the past few days.  I needed a quick gift and I wanted a cloth to take with me to Olds.  A washcloth is a simple thing, but I wanted to put some special touches into mine.  My yarn is Ecoknit Cotton, an organic, naturally coloured yarn.  I needed a special pattern, one with a connection for me and the recipient.  The pattern would be reversible; its structure would make the cloth absorbent.  People like a range of sizes in cloths, so the repeat had to be easily adaptable.  I wanted a quick, easy knit.  I also wanted something to honour World Wide Knit in Public Day, which occurred over the weekend.

I think I found all that in this simple cloth.  The stitch is called, "The Spindle."  I adapted it from a 1972 Mon Tricot publication, 1030 Stitches, Patterns, p. 92.  I started with a knitted cast on and bound off with Elizabeth Zimmerman's cast off in outline stitch, from Knitting Without Tears.  The spindles can be either top or bottom whorl, although you'll have to use your imagination a bit to see the spindles.  Here are both sides of the fabric: (The top photo is the RS and the yarn colour is more accurate.)

So here you go-the pattern for The Spindle Washcloth:

The pattern for this washcloth is adapted from Mon Tricot: Knitting Dictionary 1030 Stitches, Patterns, l972, p. 92. 
1-50 gram/100 m skein Ecoknit Cotton, 100% organic cotton.  1 skein will make either the large or small cloth; 2 skeins will make 2 small cloths and 1 large.  Finished, unblocked sizes: small 20 cm x 20 cm or 8 inches x 8 inches; large 23 cm x 24 cm or 9 inches x 9 inches.
1 set needles to give gauge: 3—3.5 mm needles. Blunt tapestry needle
Pattern gauge: 21 stitches equal 10 cm (4 inches)
Pattern:  Multiple of 6 + 2 stitches
Rows 1 & 3:  *P2, K4,* end P2.
Rows 2 and alternate rows:  Knit the purl stitches and purl the knit stitches of the previous row.
Rows 5, 7 & 9:  P3, *K2, P4,* end K2, P3.
Row 11:  Purl.
Row 12:  Knit.
Cast on 36 stitches (42 stitches for large) using knitted cast on.  (Make a slip knot; place it on the LH needle.  *Knit into this stitch and place the new stitch on to the LH needle in front of the first stitch.*  Repeat from * to *.)
Knit 10 rows/5 ridges in garter stitch. (Knit every row.)
Begin pattern on a RS row, keeping the first 5 and last 5 stitches in garter stitch for the border.
Work 4 repeats of the pattern for the small cloth (5 for large), ending after Row 10.
Work 11 rows of garter stitch for border, ending after a RS row, so that your yarn will be coming from the left end of your knitting needle when the RS of the work is facing you.  Begin casting off in outline stitch. (Adapted from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Castoff in Outline Stitch, Knitting Without Tears, 1971, p. 24.)
Measure off about 3 times the width of your piece on the working yarn and cut the yarn.  Thread the end through the blunt tapestry needle.
*Keep your working yarn above the tapestry needle; put the needle through the second stitch on the knitting needle from the front, then through the first stitch on the knitting needle from the back.  Pull the yarn through both stitches and drop the first stitch off the needle.*  Continue across the row until you have one stitch remaining.  Go into that stitch from the front, pull the yarn through and fasten off.  The photos show the positions of yarn and needle:

Continue from * to * across the row until you have one stitch remaining.  Go into that stitch from the front, pull the yarn through and fasten off.
Darn in all ends.  Wash and dry the cloth.

©deborah behm, June 2011

Monday, 6 June 2011


One of the blogging groups on Ravelry asked people to talk about a typical day.  The day they chose was June 6, 2011, today.

The thing is, I'm always talking.  I talk at work and with friends; I talk while teaching.  I talk on paper.  Sometimes it seems that I talk so much that I can't hear my true voice.  Just for today, I'm offering something else-pictures of the park whose paths I've walked all my life, seeking beauty, seeking peace, seeking quiet.  This is what I'd see on a typical spring day as I wander through these spaces:

On this day, June 6, 1953, my parents married.  They were married for over 50 years, until Dad died on Saint Patrick's Day, 2005.

Every day is typical.  Every day is unique.  And each one of them is precious.

Friday, 3 June 2011


You remember this fellow:

Well, yesterday my darling charmer did this:

That's right-he ate my favourite, most useful footwear.  A bored bull terrier, especially a quiet one, is never a good thing.  I don't know how he managed it because I was sitting right there, absorbed in writing, while he chewed the clog to bits.  I didn't notice a thing.  Mr. DD found the chewed rubber and mentioned that he "thought" Morris might have done something to my shoe.  Sigh.  Sometimes one-pointed concentration is a double-edged sword.

There was a time when I would have been wild with anger, raging at the dog, the fates, my stupidity.  Instead, I muttered a few choice words, shook my head at my foolishness for leaving anything within jaws' reach of a dog who loves to chew, then went about my business.

It's moments like those in which I become aware of the benefits of meditation.  Meditation is not relaxation, but practising meditation regularly can help you relax and gain perspective on challenges.  You may not notice changes on a daily basis, but when a car cuts you off, or you make a mistake in that complicated cable 20 rows back or the dog eats your shoe, you may find you're not so quick to anger.  You can be annoyed but remain calm.

There are benefits to helping your spinning and knitting relax, too.  I've been working on a small version of my Prairie Sunset Shawl.  I had several hundred metres of a tightly spun superwash Merino singles waiting for a project.  One of my shawl samples is knitted in a very loosely plied yarn of 1 strand hand spun Merino/silk and 1 strand of Noro's Sekku; I wanted to see how a hand spun singles on its own would look and feel.

I used 2 mm needles, smaller than I would normally use for this yarn in a lace shawl.  That and the strong twist in the yarn made for tight knitting with a hard hand to the fabric.  When it was finished, the shawlette was a sad sight-small, shrivelled and unattractive, much like we feel when we're tight and angry:

After giving the shawlette a relaxing hot bath, I blocked it from 33 cm deep x 76 cm wide (13 inches x 30 inches) to 50 cm x107 cm (20 inches x 42 inches).  This was a severe stretch, so when the piece was almost dry, I unpinned it and let it dry back to its finished size of about 41 cm x 104 cm (16 inches x 41 inches).

The shift from tight to stretched to relaxed made a remarkable difference to the fabric.  The relaxed garter stitch shows off the yarn colours; the lace patterns opened up.  The shawlette feels soft and cozy around my shoulders.  It's a great improvement from the shawlette as it was worked to its final state.  You can click the photos for a better view:

My new clogs are on order.  They're fuchsia.  I intend to keep them far away from Morrie!

For anyone in my local area:  I will be giving a run through of the sessions I am teaching at Olds Fibre Week 2011 on Sunday, June 12, 2011, from 10 am to 4 pm, at Bodhi Tree Yoga.  The costs will be covered by donation only.  Most of you know how to reach me on Ravelry.  Anyone else who would like more information or wants to attend, please contact me here.