Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 31 December 2012

Soxual Resolution: The Yoga of Sock Knitting

The tree is packed away, the house tidied, most of the Christmas feast is finished.  We're settling in for a quiet New Year's Eve and an even quieter start to 2013.  I'll be curled up on the couch, knitting away, preparing for my upcoming classes.  Wine may be involved, although not too much: I have a button on one of my knitting bags to remind me that "My gauge was fine until the third glass of wine!"

I'm not much on setting New Year's resolutions.  They seem arbitrary and demanding, not in keeping with the gentleness and kindness I believe is the root of yoga spirit.  Resolving to begin an exercise programme when the thermometer hovers at -20C with a windchill of -30C or lower is asking for failure; planning goals for the year may trip us up if single-mindedness makes us blind to other paths. I prefer to focus on hope for a fresh start. 

I hope to achieve some degree of open-minded awareness in all that I do, rather than rush through things just to get them done.  I've been thinking about ways to combine my yoga teacher training and knitting classes.  I know perfectly well that setting a goal of "open mind and heart" is far too general, so I need to find something within my grasp which will provide opportunities for expansion.

What I've come up with is mindful sock knitting.  I love to knit socks. I have knit so many pairs over the years that I have my sock knitting formula down cold.  It's mindless knitting most of the time, pleasant and productive, but habit can also lead to problems.  (As it did in my previous post.)  So what will happen if I set sock knitting as my meditation practice? How can I use sock knitting as a lesson in mindfulness?

I have a Sock Knitting Class starting in January, so I've been working on basic sock patterns for my beginning sock knitters.  I want to be sure they can make the socks they want, using their own knitting styles and measurements.  To do that, I need to knit plain socks and socks with a bit of a twist, modifications which help me to resolve problems my fledgling foot covering enthusiasts may have. How can I combine that with yoga practice? As a start, I can knit yoga socks.

There are many pretty yoga sock patterns available, most of them based on knitting a plain sock, omitting the heel and toe of the sock so that the heel can be firmly planted and the toes spread wide.  This works, but I have several problems with hand made yoga socks. They need to be tight, tighter than regular socks, but with enough room so that circulation isn't impaired and that the foot can flex and pivot.  Since leg circumference is larger than foot circumference, the number of stitches for the foot should be smaller than the number for the leg, so extra decreases will have to occur to fit both:

The socks need to be light enough to be rolled off the foot without being too bulky:

Since the heel of the foot is wider across the back than it is near the arch of the foot, simply casting off and on the same number of heel stitches can make the fabric too tight across the back of the heel and/or leave extra fabric at the instep:

Notice how the back of the heel is wider than the beginning of the arch.

There also needs to be some accommodation for the instep, so that it is neither too bulky or so tight that the corners of the heel stitches stretch out and break, especially when the foot is active:

Simple mindfulness practice drew my attention to the complexities of a well-knit yoga sock. What do I have to show for it?  Well, there's this, the prototype:

It's a goofy looking thing, but I've been wearing it around the house and, so far, it works. The sock stays up; it's comfortable, tight, but not too much so and it does what I want it to do as I practice. It's not perfect-I'm not satisfied with the instep and, while the yarn blend is excellent (a cotton/wool/elastic blend), I don't care for the way it patterns. Still, I'm off to a good start and that's all I ask.

If I can gain awareness from such a small thing, perhaps that awareness will transfer to my life as it unfolds.  That's my hope for the New Year.  Oh, yes, I also hope to finish the second sock, preferably before midnight, so that I can start fresh.

All the best in 2013!


Thursday, 27 December 2012

More of My Favourite Things

I'm tucked warm inside my cozy house, bundled against the blistering cold we've had the past few days. Holidays are over; the tree will come down tomorrow and the house will be swept, ready for my New Year's tradition of starting afresh.

The highlight of the holiday season was, of course, family and friends. There were meals and visits. There were gifts to support our interests and hand made items filled with love and beauty. Young Mr. DD, who couldn't join us, sent books and videos; I received a book on Navajo weaving and he has pre-ordered me a copy of Sarah Anderson's, "The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs."  Young Ms. DD made me this beautiful bracelet and earring set:

Then there are these:

The scarves are my brother-in-law's work; they're just a sample of what he has been knitting for the past few years.  Scarf knitting is his thing.  He is working his way through Barbara Walker's "Treasury of Knitting Patterns,"  A while ago, he knitted what I'm sure must be a contender for the world's largest sampler, which was something like 18 inches wide and 14 feet (yes, feet!) long, all from Ms.Walker's book.  He then turned to scarves.  I'm not sure how many he has completed, but he brought these over on Christmas Day.  Young Ms. DD and I are to choose one each for ourselves.  That will be tough.  I love them all and there are several in particular which call to me, but I'm going to be a good Mom and let Ms. DD choose first.

Here are some detail shots:

All of the pieces are made with natural fibres.  The lighter one is from a skein of alpaca yarn I found for him at Fibre Week one year.  The one under it is knit from a wool sock yarn. The scarves in the background are made from (L to R): Susan Z.'s (doglover) hand dyed yarn, which BIL loves, and Zauberballe sock yarn.

After the two knit from doglover's yarns, comes a yellow one, a cotton/wool blend (to the best of my knowledge, as he doesn't keep records or yarn labels). The pale green is alpaca and the two at the right are superwash wool (Diamond Luxury Superwash Merino).

His knitting is even, beautifully worked and blocked:

Apart from their beauty and practicality, these scarves are a sign of our great good fortune in having BIL Dragondancer as a part of our family.  Thanks to him and to everyone in our lives.

P.S.:  I picked the blue alpaca diamond one, the third scarf in on the photo above Himself.


Monday, 24 December 2012

The Stockings Are Hung: Well, At Least, They're Done!

The house is clean, the laundry done, groceries gathered.  The socks-from-hell were finished last night and are now washed, blocked and drying.  Ms. DD comes home this afternoon, just in time for our family tradition of nachos, punch and "A Christmas Carol."  All is well.

I wish you all the best of the season, with joy and happiness in the coming year.  To those who are suffering, may you be well and free from harm.


Wikipedia Public Domain Image

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Nightmare Before Christmas: When Knitting Goes Bad

Every year I knit socks as a holiday gift for my daughter.  I've been doing this for about 25 years and I haven't missed the Christmas deadline yet.  I must be too smug to suit the knitting goddesses because, today, as I was working on the second sock, it occurred to me that something is not right.

It's not as though I didn't see it coming.  I decided to use someone else's pattern, rather than my own tried and true sock template.  The pattern is interesting, with a heel shaping I hadn't knit.  The instructions are clear, but they're one size and I don't understand the structure well enough yet to make adjustments.  I knew my gauge would be off, so I dropped down a needle size, although something told me I should drop down more.  Still, I've knit many, many pairs of socks and know how to make them fit, so I didn't anticipate a problem.  At worst, I'd have to do some fulling to shrink them down to match, but that would make them warmer and harder wearing.  Besides, I was on a deadline and it was better to rush through them and have socks with problems rather than no socks at all.

The toe on Sock #2 was close enough in size to Sock #1 that I wasn't too worried and I knit on confidently on the foot up to the start of the heel shaping.  That's when it hit me: I seemed to be more than a bit off gauge:

Can you see the problem?  (It's not that the socks don't match in pattern; both the knitter and the recipient like that.)  Yup-Sock #1 (under unfinished Sock #2) is a full inch narrower than the second sock.  The foot past the toe shaping is at least 1/2 inch shorter on Sock #2 because my gauge has tightened.  There's no way I can full the two socks so that they match.

This means that Sock #1 must be reknit, because Sock #2 is clearly the better sock.  It's tighter and closer to Ali's foot size than Sock #1.  Much as I'm inspired by deadlines, 4 days before Christmas with only one partial sock on the needles is way too close for comfort.  This may be the year when kiddo gets one sock with a promise to mail the other.  

Then again, I do have 4 days.  Finishing this gift is far more important than cleaning the house, or putting up the tree or anything else I can think of at the moment, including writing this blog.  So, if I don't send out another post before Christmas, you'll know what I'm doing.

Happy Holidays, Joyous Possible End of the World and Namaste.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Beautiful Day: Among Friends

The True Knit 6 Craft Sale was held today.  It was so much fun to be among like-minded people as they displayed and sold their handmade goods.  It was an eclectic show, with everything from original paintings to jewellery, spinning and lots and lots of knitting.  I sold a few things (and did a wee bit of shopping), but the best part was catching up with friends, checking out new-to-me artists and introducing at least two people to the joys of spinning their own yarns.

This is the table I shared with Sara and Maureen.  (Click on the photos to enlarge them.) Maureen's work is to the left, mine is in the middle and Sara's at right:

Lindsay supplied lunch from her restaurant.  Much to my surprise, there was cake, because the sale happened to fall on my birthday. Candace gave me a pair of her fingerless gloves:

My photograph doesn't do these gloves justice; the colour is more intense, especially the green cuffs and trim.  What you can't see at all is how soft they are.  They are also a perfect fit.

It was one of the nicest birthdays I've ever had, a perfect day, spent among talented, pleasant, kind and generous people.  Thank you.  All is right with the world.


Friday, 14 December 2012

50 Words for Snow: Finding Joy in a Bushel Full of Winter

We had more snow in November here than we had all last winter.  Since it's usual for us to have heavy snowfalls throughout the season, this is impressive.  The snow keeps falling and falling and falling, along with the temperatures, which have hovered below seasonal normals (which is -9C for a daily high).  Since our winters tend to last well into March and July is the only month in which we've never had snow, it's wise to find ways to enjoy our winters. (Some people enjoy the season from afar; "snowbirds" fly off to warmer climes for a good part of the year. These birds can be quite cruel, with a mean tendency to send taunting messages back home about basking on beaches, walking on smooth sidewalks in the rain and other summery adventures.  It's hard not to swat them with a snowshoe sometimes.)

Today is a lovely day.  The temperature is -7C and the wind isn't too wild.  I had a pleasant walk downtown and back.  I started out in ice fog, early enough that the sun was still rising, glowing orange through the clouds while the western sky hummed a dusty deep blue.  I say "hummed" because the combination of snow, ice and fog reflected sounds that made the earth sing.  It was a "you had to be there" moment that I would have missed if I'd not walked to my destination.  By the time I came home, the clouds had cleared, the sun was out and the sky is now a rich blue that I never see anywhere except on the prairies.  

In honour of this lovely day, I've decided to list a few things I love about winter.  There may not be 50 reasons here, but perhaps mine will give you a start on appreciating the season:

  • Heavy snowfalls make everything look fresh and clean and muffle the city sounds.
  • Shovelling all that snow is good exercise.
  • Snow and ice allow flatlanders to wear ice grips on their boots although we're nowhere near mountains.
  • Balancing on ice while ploughing through snowbanks burns more calories than walking in the summer.
  • Dressing for the outdoors brings back memories of that winter classic movie, "A Christmas Story."  We know what it's like not to be able to lower our arms in our winter fashions.
  • We can wear as many handmade garments as we like and no one will consider us silly.  (If they do, they're too polite to say it.  My record is six: socks, sweater, hat, scarf, mittens and gloves under the mitts.)
  • If we stay inside, working on our spinning and knitting, no one will say that we're slacking off.  Neither will they protest if we tend to do this while enjoying a glass of wine, a hot toddy or a rum-soaked eggnog.  At least, they'd better not.
  • No one is surprised when we give them hand knit gifts for the holidays.  They may even be delighted.
  • All that white stuff is a great opportunity to meditate on the meaning of "Emptiness."
  • "I'm not sleeping off winter doldrums; I'm meditating."

Hoar frost makes everything beautiful.

So there you go-ten reasons to love the snow and cold.  I'm sure you have your own reasons for appreciating the solstice season.  And, if you're planning to flap off to some place warm, no need to write.  Really. I have my snowshoe ready.

Morris keeps an eye out for snowbirds.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Fear of Music: What to Do About That Talking in Your Head

I've been getting in touch with fear this week.  Although I thought I was willing to try almost anything in practice, I discovered that even small changes can throw me off balance and bring a rush of that fear coursing through my body.  Simple things such as more intense adjustments from a new yoga instructor, challenges in my regular practice and future work possibilities remind me that I'm not as courageous as I sometimes like to believe.

Fear is a necessary component of living.  It tells us that some behaviours are reckless, some actions and people are dangerous.  Fear allows us to exercise caution so that we don't think bungee jumping without a cord might be a good idea.  The trick is to harness fear, so that we can differentiate between new ideas and actions and true danger.

When fear prevents us from taking reasonable risks or exploring new territory, it becomes an impediment to joy.  If we are afraid to experience life outside our comfort zones, we are in danger of missing the music of life.  Our options decrease; experiences narrow until we are confined in prison cells of our own making.  If I never explore the boundaries of my work, I will never know how far I can reach.

Yoga and fibre work are teaching me to explore my limits, to work with my fears.  Rather than chastising myself for experiencing fear, I approach it as an experiment: "Isn't it interesting that I was so afraid to push myself in that pose?  Why am I so reluctant to try that new knitting stitch?"  When I step back and allow fear to settle, rather than listening to the voice crying, "No!," my actions become clear.  Negative chatter grows less demanding. My true Self knows what to do, how to do it and how far to extend myself.  I expand into the universe and my enthusiasm for life grows.

Playing with fear doesn't have to involve huge changes in our lives.  We can begin by exploring our routines and by asking what we can safely change.  If I always settle into a pose in the same way, can I deepen into that posture just a wee bit more?  If I always knit garter stitch scarves in plain colours, what will I gain by knitting a hat?  If spinning smooth 2 ply yarns is "my thing," what can I learn by spinning art yarns?

Crossing boundaries using baby steps usually shows me that life is not as frightening as I sometimes find it.  My actions tell me that there is much more to explore while I'm on the planet.  Those baby steps allow me to step back when I need to do so, but sometimes, they demonstrate that a leap of faith is what is required. I can run towards the music and all is well.


Where might a new road lead us?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

No Pain, No Gain: Another Cautionary Tale

Mr. Dragondancer passed along a piece of newsworthy information to me the other day. (This is one of the joys - or irritations - of being with someone for a long time; you feel the need to keep your significant other up to speed on all things.  In most cases, I'm the one honking at Mr. DD on the informational highway.  He's probably come to dread the phrase, "Did you know. . .?" as I read aloud from the newspaper or an online site.)

To continue, Mr. DD tells me that there are people who use ibuprofen on a regular basis before they exercise.  They do this to push through aches and pains in order to exercise longer.  As it turns out, this is not a good idea.  Recent studies show that taking ibuprofen to avoid pain can cause all sorts of unpleasant and dangerous side effects, including suppression of the immune system, kidney dysfunction and the charming condition known as "endotoxemia," in which bacteria from the colon leak into the bloodstream. You can read more on this issue by clicking here.

I was astonished that people used this drug for this purpose.  (Yes, sometimes I do think I live under a rock.)  We experience pain for a reason; while a strong stretch from a pose can improve flexibility and break down scar tissue, pain is a sign to ease up on whatever you're doing or discontinue the activity until the damage has healed.  

There are all times when we've pushed through pain.  We may get caught up in "competitive yoga," when we try to keep up with others more practised or more flexible than we are.  Fibre artists spend long hours working at their wheels, needles, looms, etc., especially when there is a sales or teaching deadline to be met.  I've experienced neck and shoulder strain, leading to persistent headaches, this past week, as I finish the items for a craft sale this weekend, although I know perfectly well that working through pain is not a good idea.

"Soldiering on" is seen as an admirable trait in our culture, but we cross a line when we attempt to ignore or anticipate pain completely.  Our bodies are telling us to rest and relax, to give ourselves a chance to heal.  We can and should take medications when they become necessary to the healing process, either physical or emotional, but not as a means to ignore our natural defences.

I'm finished preparing for my craft sale. I still have two or three holiday gifts to knit, but I'm giving myself a day or two to recover before I continue.  Yesterday, Kerri gave a wonderful "Neck and Shoulders" class at Bodhi Tree in the Relax and Renew session.  The session was just what I needed to ease the headaches from all that hunching over knitting.  I may still need to take a painkiller at some point, but once again, yoga shows me the power of our bodies' natural healing mechanisms.  

The next time you are tempted to reach for that bottle of ibuprofen or whatever drug in an effort to prolong your favourite activity, consider reaching to the sky first.  Stretch that body with a few poses, take a breath in meditation and remind yourself that "Not Doing" is a good thing, too.


Public Domain Image from Google


Friday, 7 December 2012

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Look at what I've been up to!  From left to right, we have Harry Eyeball (Somebody's Watching You), Pompomsity, Rapunzel's Bad Hair Day, False Memory, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree and Global Warming:

Yes, they're silly, frivolous and serve no earthly purpose, except. . . .

I am tired of making hats, scarves and cowls.  I need to play for a while and these felted balls amuse me.  They're no quick piece of work, either; after the balls are wet felted, bringing out their inner being takes a couple of hours of trimming and needle felting.  I don't know what the balls will be until they tell me, so I have to pay attention.

I'll have them at the True Knit 6 Craft Sale on December 15.  I hope they'll bring a smile to some people or, at least, amused perplexity.

Sometimes, a girl just wants to have fun.


Monday, 3 December 2012

A Kind of Hush

I'm back on my feet, still hoarse, waiting one more day before I return to yoga, but some parts of me are running well.  (There may even be parts of me which are excellent.)  It's a good day for a walker to stay indoors; we had freezing rain again last night and the sidewalks are glazed with a layer of ice which would be best tackled with skates rather than winter boots.  I sit in my fibre room, tidying and sorting, drinking mulled apple tea, while appreciating the quiet blanket of snow which stills the neighbourhood noise outside my studio window.

My attendance at the yoga studio has been patchy this fall.  Travel, family obligations and minor ailments have limited my time there, making it feel sometimes as if my commitment to yoga/meditation practice is not all it should be.  Although practice enters my life in some form every day, somehow, I equate studio time with "real" yoga.  Studies or practice at home leaves me with a nagging feeling that I'm losing my grip on something important to me, that I'm less of a practitioner when circumstances draw me away from practice with others.

Some years ago, Colin recommended Chogyam Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" as one of the best books written on yoga. Like its author, the book is complex, but, if I understand its essential message, it is that there is no "pay off" in yoga practice. (Chogyam Trungpa phrases this much more elegantly.)  Yoga/meditation is not a self-help programme.  Degrees of practice do not guarantee results; any benefits which come to us through yoga are incidental to the practice itself.  If we become attached to practice in that we expect certain outcomes - improved health, clarity of thought, etc. - we are falling into a trap of egoism and attachment, just as we often fall into the trap of attachment to any other material good.  If we expect our practice to do something for us, we are treating yoga as if it were no more than the latest fashion statement.  Consider how easy it is for us to believe, "I devote x hours to my yoga practice; I am a serious yogi/ni."  Spiritual materialism is an obstacle and one we often don't recognize before we smack up against it.

It stands to reason that my sense that I am a failure as a yoga/meditation practitioner is as much a part of spiritual materialism as its opposite.  If I only see myself as truly practising yoga when I'm in the studio, I am attached to the belief in yoga as a pay off, where a certain degree of practice in a specified setting equals "real" yoga.  Viewing yoga this way is not an excuse for slapdash attendance at classes, but it does provide some insight into how quickly I can be caught on the slippery slope of treating yoga as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

I am a believer in cycles; like the phases of the moon, everything waxes and wanes. Cycles remind us to slow down, catch our breath and take time to reflect while we wait for the next upswing.  When I'm in a down cycle of my spinning or knitting, I don't lament that I'm not at my wheels or spindles or working with needles and yarn.  I know that I'm taking a needed break from that work, shifting my focus, so that when I am called back to spinning or knitting, I will be able to approach that activity with a fresh perspective.  

Fibre work always calls me back to what is needed at the time.  If I trust the process, yoga will do the same.

Sometimes, our path is not always clear.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Natural Woman: The Feminine Side of Yoga

I've banned myself from the yoga studio for the duration of this cold. I'm not feeling much like practising asanas at the moment, but that doesn't mean I can't engage in yoga studies. I have a stack of unread texts on yoga - it's time to tackle some of them.

Last winter, when I mentioned my annoyance at the apparent lack of female yoginis in the yoga record, Colin told me about Geeta Iyengar, B.K.S Iyengar's daughter.  Like her father, Geeta Iyengar was beset with health problems from an early age.  After a hospital stay when she was ten years old, as she faced a long list of medications and a steady decline, her father gave her an ultimatum - "embrace Yoga," or accept her life as it was until death came calling.  Geeta accepted the challenge.  At first, her practice was irregular (sound familiar?), but eventually, she devoted herself to yoga.  In 1990, she published a yoga text, "Yoga: A Gem for Women," outlining a course of study designed for aspiring yoginis.

Ms. Iyengar is convinced that yoga is ideal for women and that it is particularly suited to people over 40, a time when the body's natural healing powers tend to decline.  Ms. Iyengar combines her knowledge of Ayurveda with yoga, adapting poses for significant stages in life, including menstruation, pregnancy/childbirth and menopause.  She includes chapters on theory, anatomy and asanas, including a large section of photographs in which her sister demonstrates poses throughout her own pregnancy. 

"Yoga: A Gem for Women,"  is an excellent guide for women who are interested in pursuing a deeper practice.  The explanations are clear, concise and easy to follow.  I recommend this "gem" to any yoga practitioner.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sounds of Silence

I'm still voiceless, but I've reached the annoyance stage of my cold.  I'm frustrated because I can't go to yoga or meditation classes and irritated that every outing seems to bring on a coughing fit.  I'm tired of sleeping on the couch.  (Morris is tired of this, too.  Most dogs comfort their people in times of illness; however, Morris chooses to grumble and growl whenever my coughing spells disturb his beauty rest during the night.)  Colds tend to appear and disappear in the same fashion, so my grumpiness is a sign that I'm getting better.

Being parked on the couch is not all bad.  I can meditate and I'm well enough to knit and organize.  I've spent the past while thinking about some of the goods I'll have for sale at True Knit 6 next month.  I haven't participated in a sale for a very long time, so I'm unsure of my market, but I've decided to make things which I'd be happy keeping or giving to others.  The knitting has been a meditation of its own, because I'm mindful of my materials, my designs and my work, as I apply "best effort" to each piece.  Since I can't talk, I have to rely on my own judgement on whether a piece is working, rather than turning to others for their opinions.  (That will come later.)

Knitting alone in silence, no radio, certainly no television, no distractions other than the occasional mandatory Morris woofings and visits from Mickey, is soothing.  Nothing interrupts my focus on the yarn sliding through my fingers, the steady rhythm of stitches moving from needle to needle, the shaping of whatever garment is currently in the making. I'm reminded of why I do this, of the comfort to be found in fibre twisted on spindles, in the simplicity of yarn on sticks.


A Sneak Peek

Monday, 26 November 2012

Voiceless: On the Value of Silence

I have a cold.  It crept into my life last Tuesday evening when I noticed that I was, well, snarky during meditation class.  (Sorry, Scott!)  I spent the next morning sneezing and sputtering.  By Friday, the nasty little bug was in full control of my respiratory system. With the help of large doses of hand sanitizer, tissue and Vitamin C, I muddled my way through two knitting classes on Saturday afternoon, in which I talked non-stop for over 4 hours.

Silly me.  By the time I arrived home, my voice was gone.  Completely, totally non-existent - not a whisper of sound could I make.  I'm sure the idea of me not talking was a shock to my family and friends, who are used to having their ears soothed by my dulcet tones, but it was tougher yet for me.  The thing is, I babble.  To the dog, to the cat, to Mr. DD, to myself. (I've also been known to sing, but we'll leave that one alone.)  I run ideas through my words, as many of us do.  I speak in a stream of consciousness style, where I make great leaps from subject to subject, using my own internal logic which often baffles others.  The possibility of me, not talking, is a rare event.

In most cases, speech is automatic. We talk, not necessarily to communicate, but simply to fill the space.  Silence is referred to as "dead air," something to be avoided.  When we're talking, we often don't hear, because we're forming our next string of words in our heads. We interrupt others (a bad habit of mine), because we anticipate what they'll say or because we assume that whatever we want to express is more important.  We don't mean to be rude, but that's how we can present ourselves.  The opportunity for real communication is lost.

I decided to take advantage of my situation.  If my voice was gone, if I could not talk, then I would be mindful of not talking.  What I learned is that, when words come with difficulty or not at all, they are more precious.  Unable to speak without making my throat feel worse, I found myself weighing the value of every word.  Was this comment really necessary?  Did my initial reaction to someone's words require a response, especially if I took exception to it?  Was I paying attention to what was actually being said?  I discovered that silence made me more thoughtful, more aware of the value of other ideas, of the enjoyment to be found when two people sit together in a room sharing the quiet, one knitting, the other reading, in peace.

If you're not used to sitting in silence with others, I recommend you try it, preferably without succumbing to a virus.  When we engage in active silence, it truly does become a virtue.

As a bonus, I was reminded that extended quiet stimulates creativity; ideas for knitting are coming fast and furious.  Now where is that pencil and paper when I need it?



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Twisted Tales: About Cables, Part 3

Basic stockinette stitch cables are simple to knit, but the reverse side of the fabric is not particularly attractive.  This isn’t a problem in a sweater or a hat, where the wrong side isn’t displayed.  If you want a reversible fabric for scarves or wraps, there’s a simple solution to the right side/wrong side issue: work the cables over a reversible pattern.  Cables can be worked over any flexible reversible pattern-garter stitch, seed stitch and ribbing are all good choices for reversible cables.  In the class sampler, we transition from our basic cables into a K2, P2 rib cable.  We are still working our stitches out of sequence, but now, we are knitting two stitches or purling two stitches in the cable itself, according to the pattern directions.  The result is a fabric which is attractive (although different) on both sides.

As cables become more complex, the instructions for knitting them can be lengthy. Because you are an intelligent knitter, you will soon be thinking, “If only there was a way to work cables by following a picture.”  And, because you are a clever knitter, you are right; there is an easier way to design cables patterns, using charts drawn out on knitters’ graph paper. Theresa Sternersen discusses cable charts briefly in Part 2 of her article on cables in  Barbara Walker’s Charted Knitting Designs goes into much greater detail about working from and designing your own charted patterns.  

Giant Embossed Plait Swatch, from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting,  p. 180.  One of my cable samples  for Level II of the Master Hand Knitting Certificate (TKGA).

So there you have it-some basic ways to work cables.  Once you have knitted your sampler band, you can leave it as is, seam up the cast on and cast off edges and use it as a head band, or continue on to picking up stitches and knitting a hat.  If you leave the band as a swatch, I recommend labelling each section and keeping both the pattern and the sampler in a notebook for future reference.  Whatever you decide, calculate your gauge, wash and block the fabric, measure the swatch again, so that you will know what you liked and what you would change the next time you venture into cable knitting.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Twisted Tales: About Cables, Part 2

Blue Cable Knit Pattern Texture - Free High Resolution Photo
Public Domain Photograph of Cable Knitting

Basic cables are formed by deliberately working stitches out of sequence.  The greater the number of stitches worked in a cable, the denser the fabric.  Conventionally, basic cables are worked on a background of purl stitches (and sometimes, seed stitch).  Combined with the correct yarn choice, this flat background makes the cables pop, so that they are the focus of your knitting.

In the class sampler, we are working a band of sample cables.  The cables are made using a base of 6 stockinette stitches surrounded by P2, K2 ribbing.  Because we want purl stitches on either side of the cables, our right side row begins with P2, K2, P2.  The 6 stockinette stitches are in the middle and the band ends with P2, K2, P2.  Our pattern is worked only on those middle 6 stitches; everything else remains as ribbing.

In order to see how cables are formed, you can begin by working twisted stitches, pairs of stitches in which the second stitch on the left hand needle is knitted before the first stitch on the left hand needle.  To produce a twist to the right, you knit the second stitch on the left hand needle through the front, just as you would normally.  You then swing your right hand needle tip around to knit the first stitch from the left hand needle and slip the two knitted stitches from the left hand needle.  Be careful not to work both stitches at once and to go into each stitch as you work it, not between.

A twist to the left is made by knitting into the second stitch on the left hand needle from the back and then knitting the first stitch on the left hand needle from the front, then slipping both worked stitches from the left hand needle.

Simple, yes?  Technically, twisted stitches are not considered to be cables because they can be worked in a variety of ways to produce fabric in a class of its own.  They are an easy way to transition into true cables, which involve the same principle of working groups of stitches on the left hand needle before the first set of stitches on the left hand needle. 

Once you have tried some twisted stitches, you’re ready to begin knitting simple stockinette cables.  I’ve included two links here to help you.  Theresa Stenersen has written an excellent article on cables which was published in the Winter 2007 issue of Knitty.  You can find the article by clicking here.  

Eunny Jang, from Interweave Press, demonstrates knitting a basic cable in the YouTube clip below.  Note that Eunny recommends using a singles yarn and, while singles will work in cables (I used one for my hat), I don’t advise choosing singles for your first cables because the yarn tends to split easily.

There are other excellent articles and videos on knitting cables.  Have a look around on the ‘Net,  try things out for yourself and, most of all, have fun!


Friday, 16 November 2012

Twisted Tales: About Cables, Part 1

My Knitting 102 students are interested in learning to work cables, so I've designed a sampler which will move through twisted stitches, to basic cables and on to reversible cables.  Since I'm not fond of swatching, I've turned the sampler into an accessory. Although the cable band is the most important part of the project, this sample can also become a headband or a hat, depending upon the pace of each knitter.  Since the hat is at the test phase, I don't have a photo.  Sample Hat #1 is currently in the washing machine, to see how the fabric felts.  Sample #2 is quite nice, but a change in gauge resulted in a beanie, not an over-the-ears hat.  Sample Hat #3 will be knit in a different fibre than the first two hats (a commercial wool/soy yarn).  Eventually, I'll make a hand spun version for myself.

Do you sense a theme here?  While I'm reluctant to knit swatches, I do sample-it's just that my samples turn into "things."  Sometimes these things work, sometimes not, but I'm happy to spend the time playing with the yarns.  Knowing (or at least having a strong intuition) about how a given yarn will behave as fabric is the first part of successful sampling for a satisfying project, so let's talk about yarn for cabled fabric.

Western tastes in yarns these days run to soft and, often, softly spun and lightly plied, yarns.  We associate luxury and warmth with soft and we often want that softness in the form of fibres other than wool.  There's nothing wrong with going for touch appeal; however, sometimes a soft yarn, especially if it has a halo or is spun from fibre less durable than wool, isn't the best choice for our fabric.

Simply put, cabled fabric is knitted by deliberately moving stitches out of order.  Cables produce dense, warm knitting.  The focus is on the cables and, while we may not always want the cable stitches to be bold, using a firm, plied yarn in a solid (or nearly solid) colour helps the cables to "pop."  Wool, with its natural elasticity, can make twisting those cables easier, especially for a novice.  Wool also helps to hide some of the inconsistencies which can occur when we are moving our stitches over, back and forth, as cables require.  That elasticity, something which other natural fibres such as alpaca, silk and cotton lack, means that a wool fabric which shrinks or stretches can be wetted and returned to its original shape and size.  Wool blocks well, so that minor corrections in gauge are easy, which isn't the case with most synthetics, whose properties are set in the knitting. 

Using a strongly variegated or textured yarn tends to obscure cable stitches.  If you're going to the effort of knitting those cables, don't you want to show them off?  A smooth yarn in a solid, light colour will do that. If your yarn is too dark, it will be difficult to see the intricacy of those stitches.  If you're working cables for the first time, catching your mistakes early is more difficult if the yarn is very dark. Cables in a darker yarn can be dramatic, but if you're not sure of your pattern or your cabling skills, err on the side of using a lighter yarn.  Although I've knit a luxurious reversible cabled scarf from kid mohair and silk yarn, the experience wasn't among the most enjoyable knitting I've done, because the silk was slippery, so stitches tended to fall off the needles and the fuzzy mohair made tinking difficult.  The yarn combination felt wonderful, but I'm not sure the cabling was worth the effort-I would have been better off, in terms of time and frustration, to knit my fabric in simple ribbing. 

The sample below is from the sweater I designed for Level 3 of my Master Certificate in Hand Knitting (TKGA).  The yarn I used was a hand spun 3 ply yarn in Merino wool with a strand of commercial silk noil. Since Merino is a softer, less durable wool, I felted the yarn to make it stronger and then dyed my yarn in an indigo vat.  Imagine my surprise when the silk came out pink, rather than the lighter blue I expected.  In hindsight, I should have started over, because even that bit of pink in the yarn doesn't emphasize the cables as strongly as I had planned.  Still, the sweater is 20 years old, with nary a pill to be found.  It's also sadly out of date-think big, bulky and squarish, with saddle shoulders-so it spends most of its time in my cedar chest, dreaming of its glory days, no doubt.  Perhaps it's time I knit it a mate, a sturdy, slimmer little number, in a solid colour:


Friday, 9 November 2012

Let It Snow! How to Keep Busy in a Snow Storm

We're under a "Heavy Snowfall Warning," with accumulations of up to 20 cm of the stuff, so it's a good day to stay inside and work on cozy things.  I have some preparations to do for my knitting classes tomorrow and I'm going to play with this:

The blue disc is a clever device, given to me by Gwen Powell, who holds a Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning and whose little black dress was a highlight of the SOAR fashion show.  I didn't get a photo of the dress, but, if you're on Ravelry, you can see it by clicking here.  (Gwen looks pretty hot, herself.)

That little plastic disc is a wpi tool, a protractor for measuring angle of twist and a thickness gauge for your yarn.  Slip the dowel through the centre hole and the device becomes a top or bottom whorl spindle:

Just how smart is that?  Gwen is just one of many talented people I met at SOAR who generously donated time and tools to make SOAR a wonderful experience.  And for that, I am most grateful.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Amy: A SOAR Wrap

Amy was inspired by two people I met at SOAR: Amy Tyler, who gave a great 3 day workshop, Spin/Knit Nexus, and Amy Clarke-Moore, who worked above and beyond the call of duty to keep SOAR running smoothly.

I started the wrap using my hand spun 2 ply natural black alpaca with flecks of silk noil mixed through it, a yarn I’d brought with me to SOAR, just in case I ran out of yarn (hahahahaha!).  I spun the designer yarn in Amy’s class, using wool roving she supplied.  Although we were to spin samples for our notebook, I decided to spin the yarns (which Amy T. named, “pill bugs,” “snarls,” “wraps” and “marls”) into one unit.  I had 50 metres of the designer yarn and an unknown amount of the alpaca, for a total weight of 150 grams.  The gauge is approximately 3 stitches per inch/2.5 cm. but can be varied to suit your yarns and the amounts you have on hand.

This small wrap fits under your coat for warmth in the winter or works as a wrap for chilly evenings indoors.  You can wear it with the ends in front, the looped section at your neck with the ends hanging down the back or over one shoulder.  If you use a designer yarn, as I did here, you can wear it with the wild sections on the outside, or turn it inside out for a more sedate look.

The pattern is very simple: a long rectangle, with a finished length of approximately 50 inches/125 cm. and a width of about 8.5 inches/21-22 cm.  Main Yarn (A) alternates with Designer Yarn (B).  A is worked in various stitches, while B is worked in stockinette stitch throughout.


Using Main Yarn (A)-in this wrap, the alpaca/silk and appropriate circular needle to give gauge, cast on 151 stitches.  Knit 1 inch/2.5 cm in garter stitch, changing yarns after a wrong side row (WS).
Change to B and knit approximately .75 inches/2 cm. in stockinette stitch.

With A, knit 4 rows seed stitch. (Knit 1, Purl 1 every row.)
With B, knit .75 inches/2 cm. in stockinette.
With A, knit 1.5 inches/3.25 cm. in garter stitch.
With B, knit .5 inches/1.25 cm. in stockinette.
With A, K1, *yo, K2tog,* for 2 inches.
With B, knit 4 rows in stockinette.
With A, knit .5 inches/1.25 cm. in seed stitch.
With B, knit .5 inches/1.25 cm. in stockinette.
With A, knit 1 inch/2.5 cm. in garter stitch.

Bind off all stitches loosely in pattern.  Wash in a no rinse wool wash product and block flat to dry.

Fold this fabric lengthwise in half (to approximately 25 inches/63 cm.).  Beginning at ends opposite loop formed by the fold, and using an invisible seaming stitch (I used mattress), sew the long ends of the fabric for about 12 inches/30 cm.

Wear with pride!

©d. behm 2012

Friday, 2 November 2012

Just Came Back: SOAR Adventures, The Saga Continues

Jeannine Glaves is an enthusiastic, talented spinner, with a passion for the unusual.  (Her poetry-woven inkle band spanned a good section of the Granlibakken ballroom during the Saturday evening fashion show.)  Here she is, explaining the finer points of spinning Easter nest plastic straw on Saturday morning:

You read that correctly.  In Spinning from Jeannine's Grab Bag, we spun everything from that straw, to tinsel, silk ties, fabric, shredded US currency and FedEx bags made of Tyvex. Jeannine wants spinners to have fun.  We certainly did, although, most people graciously returned the Easter egg straw to Jeannine's stash.  Jeannine reminded  us that play and creativity with our fibres is at least as important as all that technical knowledge we collect.

My last retreat workshop was with Jacey Boggs.  I was dead-tired by Saturday afternoon, but Jacey inspired me with her technical skills and precise explanations of techniques.  She has the best method for transitioning spinners through short forward draft, short backward draft, spinning from the fold to long draw that I have ever heard.  Any spinner who came into that room thinking long draw was impossible soon discovered otherwise.

Jacey is warm and friendly, full of new ideas and very, very pleased about the first eggs from her chickens.

So there you have it, a few impressions from SOAR.  You have to be there to appreciate the wonders of it all.  There are people from everywhere, fibres of all types, from silk to alpaca, to llama to cotton to ?  Coleen N.'s "reeled silk sampler" was one of the hits at SOAR:

Other spinners and fibre artists took a more light-hearted approach.  Here is Anne, in her felted llama ears which she wore through the week:

There were the spin-ins, silent and live auctions, the hand spun gallery and the vendors to explore.  It's difficult to imagine, but I didn't buy an ounce of fibre or a skein of yarn.  I chose instead to buy special spindles, hand woven bags from Peruvian weavers and spinning equipment.  Not that I came home without fibres; the teachers supplied us well and I won an ounce of Paco-vicuna fibre as a door prize from SOAR vendors, Jefferson Farms Natural Fibers.

There was a private dinner held for SOAR Scholarship recipients and the SOAR scholarship committee members, along with the SOAR Interweave staff members.  I learned that, in addition to my scholarship, I had been selected as the 2012 Evitt Scholar.  This award is chosen by Gisela Evitt, who, along with her late husband, Bill, established the SOAR scholarship.  The Evitt Scholar is given on the basis of one's past and future contributions to teaching fibre arts.  Teaching is my passion, so I was most honoured at Gisela's choice.

Thank you to everyone who made SOAR the great experience it was.  Amy Clarke-Moore was tireless in taking care of people. Interweave staff members Liz Good, Maggie Reinhold, Anne Merrow, and a host of others whose names escape me, kept SOAR running smoothly, no easy task with that many participants.  The Granlibakken staff was always friendly and accommodating, sorting out reservations, shuttling us to classes, cleaning rooms and feeding us.  (The food was spectacular!)  I hope to attend SOAR again one day, to learn and to meet with friends, old and new.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Just Came Back: Notes from SOAR, Part One

I flew in from Reno last Sunday and boy, are my arms tired!  Although Hurricane Sandy didn't affect the Western USA, the Denver airport ran out of planes because so many were stranded in the storm.  I came home on a tiny puddle jumper, so small that my Victoria wheel didn't fit in the overhead rack and had to come home as regular baggage.  (She made it safe and sound, although TSA decided to search my other bag, dumped out my acetaminophen tablets, closed the jar and threw the pills back in the suitcase.  Everywhere. Hmmm.)

I'm safely home, unlike my sister and brother-in-law, who are stranded in the Eastern USA, trying to sort out flights after their vacation.  They are fine, although many others are not. My heart goes out to everyone affected by Sandy.

SOAR was wonderful.  I've never been at a conference with 350+ spinners and fibre artists, all passionate about their work.  I saw beautiful things and met great people, both teachers and students.

One of my SOAR goals was to study the teaching methods of people with whom I hadn't taken classes.  I took Amy Tyler's 3 day workshop, Spin/Knit Nexus as my first class. Although I suffered a bit from altitude sickness for the first few days and wasn't entirely on the ball, I enjoyed Amy's class.  Amy knows her technical skills, but she spins more intuitively, using samples to visually check her twist and grist.  One of the exercises we had to do was to duplicate a yarn which Amy had spun and dyed, using a roving she dyed to match.  Here are the results, which were displayed in the workshop show on Wednesday evening.  The small bag I made is to the right, just below Ricki's well-organized notebook.  (My notebook is not quite so complete!)

Maggie Casey was very gracious in sharing her knowledge about teaching beginning spindle spinners.  Several people came to class and announced that this was their last go-round with spindles; by the end of the 3 hour session, Maggie had everyone in love with spindles:

Michael Cook (Wormspit) knows a lot about silk.  He's a big, friendly guy who makes silk reeling look easy, although I discovered my passion is making mawata (silk hankies).  I'll leave the reeling to Michael and Coleen:

 Fifty metres of my reeled silk, twisted on a toy wheel spindle:

Making mawata:

I'll share the rest of my adventures in Part Two, but I'll close by saying that I never thought I'd be in California for my first blizzard of the season.  On Monday morning, we woke up to discover we were snowed in, with over two feet of the stuff falling during the evening and early morning and more to come.  Interstates were closed, cell phone and internet service was patchy and some people couldn't get into the resort, but for those of us who were there, it was a lovely place to be stranded, spinning, knitting, swapping fibre tales and eating (and we did eat!  Very, very well.):


Thursday, 18 October 2012

One For the Road: Heading Out to SOAR

The bags have been packed.  And unpacked.  Then packed, again.  I'm almost ready for the big event, but right now, I'd love to be travelling with a few clothes, spindles and knitting needles thrown into a backpack.  Sorting out what I need to take to the conference reminds me of how we can be encumbered by Stuff.  (I hope I remember this when the market opens next Thursday!)

I'm not taking a computer; I don't own a cellphone, so this will be the last post before I leave Saturday morning.  I will be taking my camera and sketch equipment, so I should have lots of pictures to post and tales to tell when I get home. 

The conference is being held at a mountain resort.  Mountains are one of my favourite healing spots.  Those massive rocks and ancient trees remind me that I am just a small part of the planet, that I need to give back to the Earth which provides so well for me.

So, here I go, away on what I'm sure will be a wonderful adventure, with new people to meet, fresh ideas to ponder and much beauty to behold.


Happy Birthday to my beloved Mr. DD.  I'm sorry I'm missing the big event!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Catching My Breath: Coming Back to Meditation

Everything is caught up in a whirlwind at the moment.  I'm making the rounds of appointments, getting my flu shot, packing and unpacking, deciding what I must take to SOAR and what falls into the category of "nice but not necessary."  It's difficult to stay mindful, next to impossible to remain in the moment, what with all the excitement just ahead.

So, I knit and I spin.  I breathe.  Each time I am overwhelmed by decisions, I pick up my needles or spindle.  I head to my mat, do a few rounds of simple Sun Salutations and spinal twists, all the while counting each breath.  As I do, I am pulled back to Now.  I calm down.  I can focus once more.

This is the difference between "zoning out" in an activity and using that activity as meditation practice.  Instead of spinning, knitting or moving through postures to escape life's pressures, I use them to bring my attention back to this moment, to clear my head, to still the whirling thoughts that crowd that little room that is my mind. 

I can anticipate the pleasures I expect to have at SOAR, but I don't need to build a story about it. I know that everything will unfold as it should, if not as I planned.  I can enjoy the preparation for the conference because, of course, it's part of the event, too.  All will be well.

My breath tells me that.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Somewhere Over A Rainbow: A Shawl For SOAR

For the past thirty years, Interweave Press  has been running SOAR, a conference devoted to spinners from around the world.  SOAR prides itself on its excellent teachers, great workshops and retreat sessions, all set in wonderful surroundings.  I've always wanted to attend, but time, circumstance and, yes, cost haven't allowed me to go.

Until this year.  Earlier this year, I was awarded a SOAR scholarship, which assists with workshop fees, accommodation and meals at the conference.  Thanks to the SOAR Scholarship Committee, Susan Z., Coleen N. and Otto P., the director of Olds College Fibre Week, I'll be heading to California near the end of October for eight days of fibre fun and frolic.  Coleen is going with me, so I'm doubly fortunate.  I feel as though I've won the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In honour of this once in a lifetime experience, I wanted to make something special to wear at the conference.  I understand that it's traditional to show off one's fibre work at SOAR and, really, what better place to wear hand made items than in a venue devoted to fibre? With a few years of spinning behind me, I've accumulated everything from the elegant (quit laughing, people!) to the downright quirky (that's more like it, you say). Some of these things will be going with me, but what could I make just for the occasion?

While I was poking about in the Vendors' Mall at Fibre Week, I ran across a hand painted Easy to Spin cotton sliver at Celeigh Wool.  Perfect.  The colours were rainbow bright.  I love spinning cotton and, since I have to bring supplies, including a spinning wheel, to SOAR, I have to pack thoughtfully.  I bought a 100 gram bag and spent part of the summer spinning and plying the fibre on my Louet Victoria.

Since colour was the yarn's best feature, I decided to knit something simple (surprise!).  My Prairie Sunset shawl pattern uses garter stitch, simple lace and a lace cast off border. Using this yarn, the stripes in the shawl body would narrow and become more subtle as the shawl grew, while the short, sideways border would run like a rainbow around the shawl.

I finished the shawl this week, just as I began sorting and packing for my adventure.  Here she is:  (Please excuse the poor lighting-it's just above freezing here today, too cold to work outside.)

The shawl is light, knitted on 1.5 mm needles.  Measuring 23 inches deep and 44 inches across, she weighs 70 grams.  (I was afraid I wouldn't have enough to add to the more than 350 body stitches, do another repeat of body lace and add more border repeats to accommodate the body stitches, so I quit while I was ahead.  I would have cried if I'd had to frog back the shawl and reknit the border.)  Its bright colours and simple structure make me happy.  Wearing it will remind me of my good fortune in being awarded the SOAR scholarship, the wonderful friends who helped me, and the joy I receive from fibre.

Now, where are my Ruby Slippers?

Update on October 10, 2012:  For those who care about such things, I used the iSpinKit on my iPod to measure the following:

  • tpi for 2 ply: 19
  • wpi approximately +54
  • angle of twist 28 degrees
  • 5400 metres/kilo; 2452 metres/pound 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Big Wheel Keeps on Turning: Birthday Celebrations

320px-Gandhi_spinning.jpg (320×238)
Public domain photograph from Wikipedia

Today is a significant day: my sister's birthday, her daughter's and Mohandas Gandhi's birthday anniversary.  Gandhi personified what I've instinctively known-that spinning is a healing art, soothing body and spirit. Following the long path of the spinners who preceded him, Gandhi saw the making of thread and cloth as vital to his nation and as a lifeline for personal well-being.  I spoke about this in a blog post earlier this year, We Are One: Spinning to Calm the Roaring Spirit.  On this anniversary, I'd like to give you some quotes which demonstrate the significant place spinning held in Gandhi's political thoughts and personal yoga practice.

By the time of Gandhi's social action in India, the country had lost its ties to the charkha and spinning in the home.  Mills supplied the yarns for the fabric industry; the Indian people were pressured to buy imported goods from the British citizens who ruled India.  Although Gandhi's wife's family traded in textiles, Gandhi did  not see a spinning wheel until after 1915.  When he decided to promote spinning cotton and weaving khadi as a means to unite his country, he had some difficulty finding an indigenous charkha wheel. One was eventually located by a devoted female patron.  

During a time of ill health, Gandhi hired two spinners to teach one of his widowed followers to spin:
The wheel began merrily to hum in my room and I may say without exaggeration that its hum had no small share in restoring me to health.  I am prepared to admit that its effect was more psychological than physical.  But then it only shows how powerfully the physical in man reacts to the psychological.  (Gandhi, M.K. An autobiography, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1927, pp. 507-508.)
Every spinner who has shared a class or a social group knows that spinning can unify.  Gandhi believed this on a larger scale:
. . .spinning means more.  It has purpose and it means added production.  The purpose is that it serves as a bond with the masses.   (Quoted in Mohit Chakrabarti's The Gandhian Philosophy of the Spinning-Wheel, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 2000, pp. 17-18.)
As he deepened his practice, Gandhi came to realize that, for him,
The spinning wheel is not only the very symbol of passive resistance. . .it is also means of meditation.  Spinning, therefore, is the greatest prayer.  (Gandhi, M.K. Young India, September 24, 1925.
I feel that the spinning wheel has all the virtues needed to make one's life truthful, pure and peaceful and fill it with the spirit of service.  In a plea familiar to modern spinning teachers and students, Gandhi had this to say about practice: I, therefore, beg of you all to give half an hour's labour daily in the form of spinning.  (Speech to students, Dinajpur, on May 5, 1925.)  
The Mahatma was no ideal being. Stubborn, often bad-tempered, harsh in his personal relationships, especially with his wife, Kasturba, and his children, Gandhi's 1927 autobiography tells how he came to his beliefs through experimentation and error.  Though he regretted the harm his missteps had caused, he believed that the best opportunities for truth lay in discovering that truth for himself, not through the actions of others.

Gandhi's yoga and spinning practice are reminders to me to cherish my mistakes, to be gentle with others and with myself.  Cultivating the spirit of ahimsa does not mean that I will never do harm, only that I will do my best to practice non-harming.  Cultivating my spinning practice does not mean that I will achieve perfect yarn, only that I will learn to recognize the value of my errors and all that I do not know.


(Happy Birthday, Sister and Niece DD!  I hope your lives are filled with wonder and joy.)