Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 21 February 2013

She's Come Undone: Mindful Unknitting

I'm a knitter, not a frogger.  Although I will undo a project which isn't working while it's in process, once that item has been finished, it stays finished.  I may wear it or it may sit in a closet; I may use it for teaching purposes, or give it away.  Once I'm done with it, I'm done. Lesson learned.

Our yoga teacher training places great emphasis on applying yogic principles to daily life. Our practice is not isolated to the studio; we are given exercises to bring mindfulness to habitual actions.

As a result, Something is changing in my attitude towards basic things.  I am attempting to choose my words carefully, to avoid unnecessary speech (that's a tough one for me!) and to watch, rather than be pulled along by urges. Rather than react, I am making the effort to Act. The past few months find me undoing half-finished projects, rather than finishing them hastily or ignoring them.  A tapestry which has languished on the loom for several years calls to me.  (I haven't answered, yet.)  Items I have been content to deem, "Good enough!" tell me, "You can do better."

Last year, I knitted at sweater to take with me to Olds Fibre Week 2012:

It was pretty enough, warm enough, fit well enough. I never enjoyed wearing it.  At first, I assumed it was because the sweater had only an inch or two of ease; I like loose-fitting sweaters.  As time passed, I realized that this wasn't the only problem with this sweater. Somewhere along the way, "Good enough!" has become no longer enough.  A few days ago, I realized that I'd had enough.  Something had to be done.

That something was a mindful meditation on sweater ravelling.  For the first time, I decided to undo a sweater, rather than act on my usual impulse to give the thing away.  Over the past two days, I've been using the process of returning sweater to yarn as mindful meditation:

(The white rectangle at the top right of the photo is my yoga teacher training manual.  I forgot to remove it when I took the only picture of the sweater coming undone.  Mindfulness is hard!)

I discovered, or remembered, some things as I was rolling the sweater back into yarn.  I'd forgotten that I'd joined in different colours in an effort to transition colours more smoothly.  I had double stranded some yarns and added a non-descript texture pattern in the chest area above the sleeves.  These things made my efforts more difficult; as a result, I lost approximately 50 metres of the yarn and had many, many knots in my ball of yarn.  I ended with this:

Notice how kinky the yarn was after ravelling.  The usual thing would be to skein and wash the yarn; however, I could see that this yarn was underplied.  I was unhappy with all the knots.  I decided to re-ply the yarn before I washed it:

I knew this was risky because I would have no way of judging how much plying twist to add, but it was a chance I was happy to take, because the yarn was just not right as is.  I counted treadles, made sure my plying zone was consistent and away I went.  The hardest part for me was letting the yarn rest on the bobbin overnight.  Usually, I just want to get right at it, but again, I allowed the urge to flow past me and let the yarn stay where it was for 24 hours.  When I did skein the yarn, this is the result, 366 metres of  tightly plied, highly elastic BFL yarn:

This is an accurate representation of the yarn's colour.

Although I had rather hoped that the skein would retain this elasticity so that I could play with the plying twist, I suspected that the severe washing and fulling treatment I was about to give it would straighten things out.  I shocked the yarn in repeated hot and cold baths and then gave the skein a mindful whacking on the side of the bathtub, which tamed the twist. This is the finished skein, sans knots, changed in the ravelling and plying, no longer a sweater, but ready to become something else:

It will never be a really good yarn.  Many of the yarn splices have drifted, the twist, is improved but still inconsistent and the refinished yarn is not as soft as the original sweater.  Still, I think the yarn is preferable to the "Good enough!" sweater. Its value rests in its process from un-becoming a sweater and what that process taught me about mindfulness, attention to detail and the value of accepting changes.


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