Loose Ends Meet Warp

Recently I’ve been diving into the chaos of my snippet jar. So many yarn ends from past knitting projects and weavings, piled in a glass bowl, whisper possibility.

Life can feel much like this. Loose ends. Chaos. Disorganization. Bits of this and that which don’t seem to add up to a whole lot of anything. This niggling sense that very little of what we are doing will have a lasting impact, or that there is a desired end in sight, may largely be due to the resurging pandemic. Yet even before this mask-wearing, Zoomed relationships, semi-lockdown life, I am often plagued by an overwhelming sense that the end result of all my efforts is just a chaotic pile of fluff and string.

Futility is heavy. It can weigh and wear us down to where we think that letting our hands hang limp would surely be better than trying to make something of this crazy time. Here is where a warped viewpoint is helpful.

I love the look of a freshly warped frame loom! Something about those evenly spaced, straight, taut lines of cotton seine twine invite a sense that no matter what is woven over and under the warp strands, something lovely can made. A snippet of yarn here, a leftover bit of handspun there…the warp provides a structure on which to drape whatever loose ends I might have. Chaos is brought into order. Beauty is made from cast-off, insignificant bits and bobs. What might have been trash becomes something worth saving, even displaying on the wall, to remind us there is always Beauty underfoot no matter how dire or chaotic things may seem.

For now, as we weave with whatever bits we have each day, it may not appear to add up to anything. In fact, it may continue to look like a vast year of mess and uncertainty. But someday, we just might look back on all of it from a different perspective and see what has been wrought with what little we had to work with. We must continue to dive into the chaos and work with whatever bits we have at our fingertips to make this day worth living.

“Remembrance Day”, 3.25” x 3.25”, mixed fibers, cotton warp.

This week I’m thankful for the snippet jar. I want to remain grateful for all that I have, even if it feels like a crazy mess of leftover attempts to make something useful and beautiful here in 2020. Whatever we put our hands to create today, may we cast off futility and pick up a bit of fluff to weave into the strong, albeit warped structure of family, friends, and an abiding faith.

“Bloom Today”, 5.5” x 2.5”, mixed fibers, cotton warp.

The Land of Yarn Drobe

I am the happy recipient of a magical gift! My son has been working on repurposing an old gun cabinet into a yarn display case for my studio. It was to be my birthday gift this summer, but has just recently been finished. Knowing that I would not house guns in it, he and our neighbors, who are in the business of upcycling furniture, added shelves and painted it the perfect color for holding yarns in my studio. I could not be more delighted with it!!

The wonderful thing about a gift like this is that it sparks the imagination. As soon as the small cabinet was situated in between two picture windows in my studio sunroom, I saw it as a magical wardrobe, much like that of C.S. Lewis’ in the Chronicles of Narnia. The blue cabinet sat empty for a couple of days as my busy life prevented me from filling it. As always, the busy-ness of life allows for ideas to percolate and simmer. While on my morning walk yesterday, the whole story of this Land of Yarn Drobe unfolded with each step and I worked all day, in between laundry and the daily to-do list, to complete it.

Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat, had been eagerly waiting for me to finish filling the beautiful blue cabinet so that they could enter and have a look around. Here is a brief account of their first venture into the Land of Yarn Drobe.

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All you need to enter the enchanted world of Yarn Drobe is this magical key. As the door creaks open you will shrink in size so that you, dear human, may romp on the hills of woolly color, climb spindle trees, and meet the big, tall, but NOT terrible giants of the land. Yarn Drobe is a place where sheep roam the hills and birds spin the wool into swirly nests of yarn. There is even a twinkling spindle tree to light your path.

Those who enter this magical world have a difficult time leaving, as the cheery colors and soft fields of wool soothe their hearts and inspire their imaginations. Macy, Purl, Marisol and Clarissa the friendly Cat ventured into Yarn Drobe warily, not knowing what they might find. But when the giants, Mortimer and Millicent, greeted them warmly and the spinning birds pulled up woolly nests for them to sit upon, they soon felt they could stay here for many seasons. They passed the day with their new friends touring the colorful landscape and spinning to their hearts’ content.

As evening fell, Macy began to wish for her own cozy bed back at the Spinning House. Purl and Clarissa decided to go with her, albeit reluctantly. Marisol, however, knew in her heart upon entering this magical land, that this would be her home. She bade her friends farewell for now, with many hugs and kisses, inviting them to return as often as they wished. She made sure to point out to them where the key was located and that they were always welcome to come walk and play on the woolen hills, spin yarn, and sit under the light of a spindle tree.

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And so begins the adventures of Marisol the Mouse

in the Land of Yarn Drobe.

Spinning Wheel Basket

My new-to-me Ashford Traditional spinning wheel requires the use of an orifice hook, which is not a necessity with my vintage Louet hand-painted wheel. I also have learned that I need to oil my wheels far more often than I had been doing and this has made such a difference in the way both wheels spin! But to have these tiny tools handy for their frequent use was getting complicated. Our dear cat Milo thinks anything long and skinny on the floor is a snake or something to bat around with his paws. Setting them on a chair or table meant that I had to go looking for them whenever I needed them.

A couple of spinning friends of mine have these cute little baskets that hang from the maiden upright at the front of their wheels. Perfect spot to grab the orifice hook, wheel oil and even a Wraps Per Inch measuring tool. I set about trying to find a way to make my own basket.

I could certainly have bought a small wicker basket. But I really wanted to make my own thing. I did see a Free pattern on Ravelry for a beautiful knitted-then-felted basket specifically for a spinning wheel . But I wanted the bottom and sides of the basket to be sturdy and for the orifice hook not to get caught on the felted fabric. Hmmm…

After a bit of pantry-raiding and idea-casting, here’s what I made! I hope you like it, whether you are a spinner or a knitter or you just want something cute to hang and be useful in so many ways. I’m sharing the pattern and directions with you here so that you can make one too!

Happy Spinning & Knitting!

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Spinning Wheel Basket

By Jennifer Edwards

Materials

Size 3 dpns 

Fingering/sport weight handspun yarn 

Yarn needle

Drink mix plastic box cut at 4” tall or desired height

one or two 1/8” Satin ribbons, cut approx. 18” long

Directions

Cast on 12 sts.

Starting with a knit row, Work in Stockinette stitch for 24 rows.

On next knit row, k12, and do not turn, pick up and knit 16 sts evenly across side (Pick up 2 for every 3 rows) , pick up and knit 12 across cast on edge and then pick up and knit 16 sts along final edge. ( 56 sts total)

Place all sts on 4 dpns. Place marker at beg of round.

Begin with Garter stitch rounds (knit a round, Purl a round) 2x .

On next Knit round, decrease one stitch at each corner with K2tog. (4 sts decreased…total of 52 sts. 

Continue knitting in stockinette for four rounds and then garter stitch for four rounds, changing colors as desired and alternating between stockinette and garter until piece is 1/2” from top. (The cover works best if you stretch it up a bit so that it fits more snugly around the plastic container.)

Work in garter for 6 rounds. Then work in Stockinette for 5 rounds . Bind off.  (Note: I did not weave in the ends from changing colors due to the plastic liner covering all of that. But you can weave in any ends you like.)

Using a sharp pointy knife or awl, Poke holes into the plastic box you have cut to desired height , 1/2” from top of plastic box . Fold the top of your knitted cover over the box top with the final stockinette portion turned down over the edge. Starting at one of the corners and Using yarn needle and 1/8” ribbon, secure the top of the knitted cover by sewing through the plastic and the knitting. Make sure to secure the bind off edge inside of the box also as you sew. When you’ve made it back around to the corner, tie ribbons in a bow.

Using same needles, Work a four stitch I-cord for desired length of basket handle. Mine was 5” and has stretched out a little bit already. Bind off.

Using yarn needle, stitch ends of I-cord to corners on opposite sides of box. 

Hang basket onto your spinning wheel. If needed, stitch the last end of I-cord after hanging the basket where you want it to be. Fill basket with spinning wheel oil, wpi tool, orifice hook, etc.

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For Now

I say this quite frequently — For now, this will be fine. For now, this is good. I’m ok with it this way, for now. Two little words that carry a ton of meaning.

FOR. There is purpose wrapped up in these three letters. Intention, will, focus and offering. This is FOR you. I do this FOR others, FOR myself, FOR my children. What is all this FOR? It is FOR our community, our family, our health, our bank account, our future well-being. Hopes, wishes, goals and purposefulness are all there in this small word.

NOW. Equally small, yet holding a universe, this word brings me in sharp focus into a moment I can actually touch and rest in. NOW is a time for us to really live our lives. NOW is the present which holds all our past and future. NOW we get to fully live, but we often squander it with worry about the future or regret over the past. NOW sweeps it all clean and says, “Here…come sit a spell in this chair, with this life, just as it is.“

I got a new spinning wheel! I can’t believe I now have a beautiful Ashford Traditional Wheel! I had been wanting one for a while…the shape of it, really, is what I loved, and the idea of painting another wheel seemed to suit the lovely shape so well.

As I spin on this new-to-me wheel and get to know its excellent properties (so different from my Louet which I promptly painted when I got it four years ago:), I find myself hesitant to paint it just yet. I say to myself and to my family who asks if I’m going to paint it…Yes, probably, someday…but for now I’ll leave it as it is.

I have pulled out a ton of scrap fabrics with the idea to make a quilt. I have laundered and ironed all the oddly shaped fabrics and have begun to cut squares wondering why in the world I think I need a quilt?! To what end is all this time making a simple scrap quilt going to lead me? What will it accomplish? Catching myself getting all spun up in future-tripping concerns, I happily concede that for now, it will be good to make a quilt.

I am learning more and more the goodness of living in the present moment. An overused phrase, it is under-used in our day-to-day practice. To be content for now, with things as they are is a wonder and joy to sink into. Even if NOW is difficult or painful…living for now strips the extra baggage and burden of what if? And why did? To live for now brings a sense of resting in what has been provided, releasing the grasping of attainment and achievement, turning from past hurts and regrets to accepting where the day has landed and living full into it, feet on the ground (or the treadles) and working with the fabric of the day for its own sake.

Letting life be for now doesn’t mean I won’t paint the wheel in future. Taking a detour into fabrics for now won’t mean that I have to make this my new main artistic medium. Who knows what might come of it? That isn’t my concern today. My job is to make a space for joy, grace, and presence in all that I am given just as it is in this moment.

For Now…I am alive.

For Now…I am content.

For Now…there is grace and mercy in abundance whether the spinning wheel gets painted or a quilt gets made…or not.

**As always, I enjoy your thoughts and comments here. Feel free to dialogue about this and how it strikes you, for now. 🙂

The Magic of Morning

Out here on the deck, still feeling the traces of a weary fog, I am enveloped and enlivened by what I can only call pure magic. Perhaps you have felt this too? The titter and chirp of birds and crickets singing a song of hope for the new-made day. Their chatter is a lively conversation of what we might do today, what we could make, how we could repair and revive, what needs to be done, and what loveliness can be spun all around the daily-ness. We long to keep the crickets chirping and the birds singing their hope song.

At some point they will go quiet, giving way to the sounds of cars on a nearby highway, a train in the distance, neighborhood lawn mowers, and the voices of those with whom I live. I will spin today. I already have and I plan to spin more for it is bringing me so much joy lately. As the loose fibers are strengthened by a dance of twirl and twist, so too I am strengthened. Solace, hope, joy, color, excitement, purpose, and a useful work, are all granted as I spin. How this is, I cannot say, for I do not know.

I imagine myself sometimes as others must see me…a middle-aged woman standing with a spindle twirling suspended from her hand. Or an outdated snap-shot of a woman at her spinning wheel, albeit a brightly painted one. It must be odd to see an artist who once twirled paint on paper to be twirling colorful fibers in a similar manner. It doesn’t really make sense.

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for any of us to do the creative things we do when we look at it from the outside. Yet from the inside we know who we are. We enjoy life a bit more when we are making things. We see things differently. We carry that making-magic into all that a day brings us. We consider how we might spin softness and color into every mundane chore and challenging situation.

This is why we create. Whether it is spinning fibers into yarn or words into story; swirling paint on a page or clay on a wheel; stitching wool into socks or thread into quilts…we are bringing the magic of morning into the rest of our day, spinning hope and a new song as we go.

Treasures

A key feature in the Saori approach to weaving is the addition of “treasures”. Treasures are bits of leftover yarns, ribbons, and any other items one might wish to add into the woven fabric. Anything from candy wrappers to flowers, beads to buttons, sea shells to rocks can be added into a weaving for significance, meaning or just because.

In the pile of donated clothes and items for this woven project, I received shoelaces, hair ribbons, belts, embroidery threads, decorative trims and laces. It was a delight to add in these treasures once belonging to folks in our community of faith. But there were other treasures that I stumbled upon as I deconstructed fabric. Embedded in two of the donated t-shirts were words and a picture that stood out so starkly to me. I knew they were to be highlighted in some way. I’ll share two of these with you, along with a delightful serendipity and a last-minute donation from my husband.

One of the t-shirts was from our preschool. Grace House Preschool has been a wonderful outreach to families in our town, offering care for wee ones for many years. I knew I wanted to use the “Grace” word up in the sky portion of one of the tapestries, as this word is meaningful both to the preschool and to our church. Grace flows down to all of us. It is the backdrop of our common life together.

Another donated t-shirt was from a couple whose infant grandson had died just a few months after birth. His handprints were printed on the shirt for the foundation that had been established in his name. Permission was granted to use the cherished handprint in the weavings as a symbol of the foundation of our faith—a babe who came to earth many years ago, to die for his people. I placed this treasure in the center panel near the bottom as a way of visually depicting the foundation of this vast ocean of love.

In a beautiful turn of serendipity, I happened to rescue three shirts belonging to my daughter. She was getting rid of unworn clothes before she begins college. One of the shirts was mint green, with a section of gauzy fabric attached to the stretchy material tank top. As I was cutting up this fabric, my daughter informed me that this piece of clothing was given to her by a woman in our church, who in turn had been given it by someone else in our church. Both of these ladies have since moved on, even though they are both very dear and close to our hearts. I was delighted to know that this shirt had been worn by three different people in our congregation! I wondered if there were other pieces that had been passed around like that.

The last treasure I’ll share with you was plopped on my desk in the last week of weaving the final tapestry. A couple of years ago, one of our families had planted an almond tree behind the sanctuary. It was thriving and had produced many almond pods. My husband has been excitedly photographing their growth. That last week of weaving, one of the pods had cracked open revealing the case that houses the nut. He drilled a hole in it and asked if I could weave it into the panel.

All of these treasures add up to a richness in the woven tapestries which is not purely material in nature. They speak to truths and events that are memorable to those who are walking this grace-filled life. Each bit of fabric and every treasure tells a tale of memories which are now woven into a landscape of love. Those of us who make up this local community of Grace recognize that we are all nut-cases cracked open by the Grace of Christ and we long to be vessels of grace woven into the fabric of our town, nation and world.

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*To all who are a part of Grace Presbyterian Church, I thank you…for your clothing donations, your smiles and your sorrows, and for your unending grace to me and my husband.

**This is the third and final post on the process of making this woven artwork. You may read post one and post two , plus a previous post written while in process. Thank you dear reader for hanging in there with me!

Deconstruction

“I’m not sure I can do this,” I said to my daughter who was sitting nearby as I began the process of turning clothing into strips of fabric “yarn”. Sitting in front of me on the table was a little girl’s Little Mermaid nightgown, well worn, perhaps even passed down from a big sister. Poised with scissors to start cutting, I cringed at the thought of destroying this sweet little gown. Also in the pile of clothes donated by members of our church family, were green flannel boy pajama pants, adult shirts and t-shirts, teen leggings, another baby blue child’s nightshirt, and many other items. Clothes are meant to protect our bodies, to warm us, shield us (and others!:), and even define our personalities. It felt violent to be ripping the clothing into strips or cutting it up into ribbons.

Nearly all the clothing was perfectly good for continued wearing. I have a bit of my grandmother’s depression era mentality that you keep everything so you can continue using it, or pass it on to someone else to use. One ladies’ shirt in the donated pile was brand new and I briefly thought of keeping it to wear…but alas it was too small for me. One of the men’s college t-shirts was so worn and threadbare, I knew it was a beloved shirt for many years. How could I cut asunder these things which had been such an intimate part of the lives of people I know and love?

You see…right from the start…I was being granted help for what was actually occurring in my own life and in the lives of everyone around me and in the world. Collectively, we have been experiencing a “tearing asunder” of the fabric of our lives as we knew it. We have felt cut off from one another, livelihoods have been slashed, regular and normal ways of doing things have been completely rearranged, loved ones affected by the virus have been ripped out of our lives, and toilet tissue (that ribboned necessity) disappeared from sight. The process of deconstructing the clothing of individual human beings mirrored what was happening to us.

In my personal life I was also experiencing a cutting away of what was “normal life”. My beloved yarn shop where I had taught knitting and crochet classes for many years had to close at the end of June. Family stresses and emergencies tore at my heart daily, even as I tore fabrics into “yarn” to weave with. I could feel in my body, as I deconstructed the donated clothes, that this was necessary in order to create something new and perhaps more beautiful and lasting than the original pieces of clothing.

On some level we all know this truth. Suffering often gives way to beauty. Tragedy brings unexpected goodness. Pruning allows for new growth. Deconstruction leads to rebuilding. As an artist, most of what I have created in past years has not required destroying things in order to make something new. Paints, fibers, yarns…these all come to me as beautiful things in and of themselves and I don’t have to rip, slash, cut or tear them in order to make a painting, a weaving or knitted garment. This particular woven project required something more aggressive. To deconstruct first and then to create has been the greatest gift to me, even though I did not relish at all the deconstruction part of the process.

Here is the wincing goodness in all of this:

It is all of Grace that our Maker allows the deconstruction of our comforts, even the destruction of our loves, and then fashions them into something more beautiful and amazing than we could imagine. I’m not claiming that my three tapestries are that much more beautiful than the clothes which were graciously given. I am saying that whatever has been torn asunder, whatever we have lost or has been shredded or cut off in our lives…even these things will somehow, someday be displayed in a new and arrestingly beautiful manner! It will be woven together with that of your neighbor’s and friend’s losses and combined, will become an ocean of love, a sunrise over the mountains, a lovely thing to behold.

Friends we must hang onto this difficult truth. As these tapestries hang in the foyer of our humble church in Kernersville, NC, they remind us of the Master’s hand in the midst of what feels like a dismantling of all that used to protect us, warm us, define us. Something more beautiful is afoot. I’m hanging onto that!

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This is the second post in a three part series on the making of an art project titled Woven Together. You can read the first one here. Stay tuned for the third and final post. 🙂

Woven Grace

Every community of faith contains a wide variety of human beings. If we were to speak of them as clothing, we would see that some are a little frayed around the edges, some are trimmed neat and tidy. Some are colorful, perhaps even loud. Others are soft-toned and muted. Some exhibit dark broody vibes, while others seem light and airy. Indeed each person exudes all of these things in the course of a day. But for our purposes here, each one has a particular fabric…sparkly or dull, multi-hued or monotone, all are a significant part of a faith family.

I had no idea back in March, when I first asked folks in our congregation to donate clothing for an art project, what kinds of things I would receive. There was no way to predict colors or textures. I did ask for items other than clothing such as belts, ribbons, shoelaces…anything weavable. There was no way to plan for a particular image or result in the woven tapestry. Even as I embarked on making the clothing into fabric yarn, I couldn’t envision the final result. This actually is my favorite way to create—-allowing the piece to evolve in the process, listening to the materials as I go.

The Saori philosophy of weaving fits this approach beautifully. To weave with joy, without prior design or plan, letting the materials work together on their own was my original intention. And even though now the resulting triptych of woven panels has an overall design, it still retains this approach of freely woven fabrics and “treasures”.

The concept was to create a piece of artwork that exemplifies the weaving together of our lives as a community of individuals united by a common faith. It requires loads of grace to be a loving community. This grace can’t be generated on our own…we need God’s grace to continue to walk with one another, serving and worshiping in and through our daily lives. Grace is what brought us together. And it is Grace that leads us home.

Almost immediately, as I began to deconstruct the clothing into strips of fabric yarn, I was startled by the message inherent in this work. It began to take on a life of its own, a meaning far beyond what I originally envisioned (more on this in upcoming blog posts.) But this is the beauty of art and art-making. The artist is only a vehicle for what needs to be said or shared or displayed. The process of making these panels was not easy. Yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have been enriched by the creation of this work. It is as much a gift to me as it is hoped to be for our Grace family.

The panels now reside in the foyer of Grace Presbyterian Church. Though this photo does not show the color well, the colors of the tapestries really shine on the interior green wall. I wanted this work to be woven during Ordinary Time (reference to the church calendar), exhibiting how our ordinary lives are woven together in the ordinary days we spend as a church family. The fact that it was woven during the most UN-ordinary time of our recent history, makes this all the more poignant. Who of us can predict the outcome of this pandemic? I certainly could not have predicted at the outset how these weavings would turn out. It gives me great hope to realize that as we continue to weave our days together in the grace and mercy of Christ, something beautiful is being wrought.

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This is the first of three posts on the making of this woven project. I appreciate your gentle reading of its unfolding, and I pray you are enheartened by it.

Encounter

It was so brief! Hardly long enough for it to register in my brain. A blink, and he was gone. Yet for those few seconds of the buzzing, hovering dance, I held my breath and didn’t want it to end.

It was evening a few days ago and I was in my studio spinning to unwind the day. The thought to go out on the back deck to spin Wool flitted through my mind. There was much to keep me indoors…heat, mosquitoes, end-of-day weariness, just plain laziness. But something drew me outside and the moment I breathed in the fresh air and began to twirl my pink spindle, I knew I needed to be there. Plein-aire spinning is the best!

Instinctively I pulled my hands away from the large, buzzing visitor. He hovered a second and I knew it wasn’t a bumblebee. The hummingbird must have thought my spindle was a flower and wanted a closer look or a place to land for some nectar. I could hardly move a muscle as we stood face-to-face for just a few seconds before he flew away.

I gathered up the yarn and wound it onto the shaft thinking how cool it was to have encountered a hummingbird whilst spinning. Thinking that had I not stepped out onto the deck, moving out of my comfort zone, I would never had had that encounter with such a lovely creature. Thinking that a spindle truly is a flower, the colorful wool is the nectar, and I drink deeply of its nourishment every time I spin.

I’m headed out on the deck! Won’t you join me? We just might have a visitor. 🙂

Not Giving Up


A couple of years ago, I had this idea…

It was big. A bit unwieldy. Not altogether formed in my mind. Such are the beginnings of many ideas that traipse through my head and heart. Some of them stick around. Some of them don’t. This one did.

The idea just needed the Covid shutdown to set the wheels in motion for seeing this project through. I am not finished at the writing of this post. But I am well underway, having completed one of three woven panels, a special work for our Church foyer.

I won’t say much more about the overall concept nor will I share the completed panel…yet. That will come in due time. But what is interesting to note, is how these long term types of projects always seem to follow a pattern. Something like this:

Phase One: Idea lands in my head…it is rolled around to view it from as many sides as I can to get the scope of it…determine that said project is too big for the crazy full life I was living then…decide to put it on a way back burner until life “opens up”. Ha!

Phase Two: Years later, life does indeed “open up”, often due to difficulty of some kind (coronavirus this time)…energy is high for embarking on such an unwieldy project…break down the large idea into smaller more manageable pieces…begin with first small bite-sized work.

Phase Three: Deep into the project, where there is no going back but still a huge mountain ahead, I begin to wonder what in the world was I thinking??!…once again I must resolve to just take the next small bite-sized piece and work on that.

Phase Four: A light at the end of the tunnel is appearing and there is great joy and energy…but life has a way of interrupting the good flow of available time and energy to actually do the work…must once again resolve that even if life is whirling out of control in some areas, that I can devote small amounts of time to the project and in so doing, I will certainly arrive at the mountain top eventually.

Phase Five: Project complete…yet a flood of other considerations I hadn’t even thought of come into play…how to hang/display it…how to show/share it…Is it “good”? (That horribly unhelpful word)…will anyone like it?…etc…etc…

It is a process I am very familiar with but it surprises me every time! I really should just write the phases down on huge poster board to remind myself that these junctures along the creative path are normal and can be worked with and through by just taking those small do-able steps and not giving up.

Yes… Not. Giving. Up. 🙂