Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

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.)