Monday, June 29, 2015

The Joy in Fiber

This afternoon I made progress on a box of papers I brought home from my first semester. I was able to dwindle it down to notes and only a few sentimental pieces of paper. During this, I also went through a lot of papers from classes. One of those sets of papers was my portfolio from College Writing that we turned in at the end of class then reviewed with our professor a week later. At my review, our professor, the source of many laughs during the semester, scared me into thinking that my revision of my narrative essay was no good. However, it was the opposite: she loved it so much that she wouldn't let me keep the copy that was printed in the portfolio and I got an A- in the class for the semester! I've been meaning to share this essay for six months now, and now seems as good a time as any.

This is the picture that helped me in writing this essay. It was my ninth self portrait in the challenge of 2014, and you can find the original blog post here.

"Sunday afternoon, dinner is cooking and I’m snuggled up by the fire. It feels too good to be true that I’m able to spend the day knitting and relaxing. Knitting is the one thing that instantly calms me when I pick up the needles and slip the yarn through my fingers. Fiber and family, what more could a girl ask for?

It’s early March, still just cold enough for to wear a sweater here in north Texas. My fingers, familiar with the throwing and pulling through of the yarn, are chilly despite the fire beside me and the handmade quilt I’ve enveloped myself up in. This quilt, made of prints with desserts and food and quilted with little ants, has been my companion for the last six months. It was a gift from a woman who is a grandmother to my sisters and I, who are without a biological grandmother. I’ve learned the trick of becoming a burrito with it: standing on top of the chair I’m in and then wrapping it around me, sitting on top of most of it. The heat from the fire doesn’t quite heat my toes, so this blanket is just the right thing. The fire my father started when we got back from church is still going strong, the flames steadily licking the insides of the fireplace. I glance over at the burnt brick which surrounds the fire. All that now-black brick is significant of the 14 years my father has burned fires in there to keep us warm. He can’t see it from his seat on the couch a few feet from me, so he asks me for updates on how it’s doing, and whether or not he needs to come over to stoke it, bringing it back to life. I tell him that it’s doing just fine, especially in keeping me warm. The warmth radiating from the fire continues to warm my arms which aren’t able to stay inside my little cocoon, because my navy blue sweater doesn’t seem to be doing its job of keeping my arms warm. Mom is walking back into the living room from the kitchen, joining us all in watching TV. I can smell the dough from tonight’s bread all the way from the other side of the living room. My mouth waters just thinking about the warm bread lathered in butter which we’ll be eating soon.

I’m working on a hat for my little sister’s best friend, Emily, who is a young teenager that has more wisdom than most adults. I had agreed to make this for her a month ago, and bought the yarn soon after that. Other projects had occupied my time, but now it was her turn. This pattern has been on my needles a couple times previously, so this time I feel confident enough, with my previous experience, to make a few changes. Earlier in the day I had taken out all the work I had done - only an inch, thankfully - and tried again with a smaller needle so the fabric would be a little thicker, and therefore a lot warmer for her. Emily is definitely one who deserves a nice, handknit hat. In the five years my sister and her have been friends, Emily has been a great encouragement to both my sister and I. Even when she has a sleepover with my sister, her and I end up talking for at least half an hour. She’s an old soul who will appreciate the amount of time being spent to make this hat. As the oldest of five, I have plenty of faith she is more than responsible enough to keep track of the hat. When I knit something, I find it important to know the recipient will value the time and money put into it. I look around at my family members, and think of what I can possibly knit them for Christmas. It may be nine months away, but these things take time. I cringe at the thought of knitting something for my loved ones that won’t be a practical item in their everyday lives. I try not to worry about it now, however, because this moment, when we’re all just relaxing together, is an invaluable gift. I’ve been by this fire all day, entertained with House Hunters, a NASCAR race, and a few (knitting) podcasts, so the progress on the hat is stunning. Maybe I can finish it by the time I go to work tomorrow?

I complete another knit stitch, then move the stitches further back on the needle to prevent them from falling off. I feel the half-completed hat fall gently on my blanket-covered lap as I reach down to the ground, into my knitting bag at my side, and pull out the measuring tape again. Four inches is a lot to have completed in a matter of hours. I toss the pink measuring tape back into the bag, then admire the fabric that has come into being in a matter of hours. This pattern was the first I made two short months ago after I first got my knitting needles on Christmas day. In that short amount of time, I have made several items, my pride inflating a little more each time I bind off, marking the completion of another knit project. I take a deep breath, inhaling the familiar smell of burning wood. I didn’t enjoy math while in high school, but now I can appreciate the mechanics of it in this hobby of mine. It requires a lot more math than I first thought it would, yet that fuzzy feeling in my heart gets stronger with each passing moment. It turns out that calculating the number of stitches I need to start with is a kind of math that doesn’t bother me; not when it has such a great reward, anyway. Maybe I’m more of a numbers person than I ever thought before.

Every time I find even a few moments to knit a few stitches, I can physically feel myself relax. The simple, yet repetitive action is just the right thing to work on while watching my favorite show, waiting to clock on at work, or while enjoying some family time. I feel as though my heart will burst from the simple joy of just being with my family while also making good progress on this hat. My heart relaxes as I pick up my project again, continuing on according to the pattern."

- rl

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