Change in Direction

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Some time ago, in a flurry of excitement, I had a most colorful idea to re-cover a tired looking hassock with crochet!!

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Bright colors, circles, surrounded by crisp white…yes, this would be perfect!

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I hook and hook, round and round.

My youngest daughter, who likes to sit in the chair next to me and chat while I crochet, asks:

“What are you making?”

I relish telling her my grand idea.

“Why are you doing THAT mom? Don’t you know, with all that white, it’s just gonna get dirty?” said with her best middle school voice tinged with sarcasm.

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Humph! Pish Posh! So what? I like it and that’s that.

But these things have a way of getting under the skin, or rattling around in one’s brain. And eventually, I begin to agree that all that white under lots of feet would indeed sully the bright color and require lots of washing.

What then could this become? I’ve already sewn the squares into enough to cover the top of the hassock.

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Another idea…hmmm…will it work?

Ahhh….YES! it will! Just one more row of these Circly Squares to make a bigger square large enough for covering the European square-shaped pillows on our bed! No more yucky brown shams leftover from another bedding set. This will be perfect with the quilt my mom made so many years ago and which I have just recently quilted to be able to use!!

I will have a proper reveal of the crocheted shams when all is done! I’m so excited about this change in direction!

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But now, I have to figure out something for the old hassock. Definitely crochet. Darker colors. Hmmm… Any ideas??

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**If you’re interested, here’s how I’m making my Circly Squares (US Crochet terms):

Using Worsted Weight Yarn and a size H hook, begin with a Magic Loop center and ch-3.

Rnd 1: Work 14dc into the Magic Loop. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3. Pull the end of the Loop to snug all dc into the center.

Rnd 2:  Ch 3, dc in same st. 2dc in each dc around. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3. (28 dc)

Rnd 3:  Ch 3, dc in same st. 1dc in next dc. *2dc in next dc, 1dc in next dc. Rep from * around. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3. (42 dc)

Rnd 4:  Change color. Ch 2, hdc in next 2 dc, *(dc in next 2 dc; 2tr, ch 2, 2 tr in next dc (corner made); dc in next 2 dc.) Hdc in next 5 dc*.  Rep ( ) once. Hdc in next 6 dc. Rep from * to * once. Dc in next 2 dc. 2tr, ch 2, 2tr in next dc, dc in next 2 dc. Hdc in next 3 dc. Join with a sl st to beg ch-2. Fasten off. Weave in ends.

Note: This creates a slightly rectangle-square: it has 5 hdc on two opposite sides and 6hdc on the other opposite sides. Of course, the ch-2 functions as a hdc stitch, just like the ch-3 functions as a dc stitch. The only trick with this is that you have to orient the “squares” in the very same direction when sewing them together so that the stitch count lines up.

Clear as mud, right? 😉

Sparkle

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In a recent conversation someone was sharing with me that the sparkle had gone. She was referring to a course of study she had undertaken a couple of years ago and was now, at the midpoint, wondering if this was really what she wanted. That original sparkle had fizzled.

After encouraging her to take some time to assess, take stock, and explore, I ended up saying that no matter what course of study you choose, the first-blush sparkle will at some point diminish and fade.  Call it “the law of diminishing returns” or the bane of human existence or acedia…whatever you choose to call it, it happens to all of us in the best of situations. The key is to stand fully in that crossroads, take stock of your life, explore other options while keeping in mind the good boundaries you already have in place.

If there’s anything that knitting and other creative endeavors have taught me, it’s this: if you can move through the diminishing original sparkle, you have the opportunity to experience an even deeper, richer sparkle than before.  That first blush excitement of starting a new yarn project wears off somewhere in the vast regions of row upon row of stockinette or stitch after stitch of endless brown. Setting one’s face like a flint to the sun and knitting on, will bring a renewed sparkle in the end. This sparkle is deepened by the satisfaction of completing something, the loveliness of the end result, the confidence building of new skills learned or old ones revisited.

The dear person I was speaking with had recently finished knitting a pair of mittens. This project began very well indeed with a gorgeous blue yarn with little white flecks, like snow. But the sparkle began to fade as she realized it was not going to fit well. At this crossroads she had several, perfectly viable options: 1.  just keep going and try to make the best of it, adding a stitch here and there to make it work. 2. keep going as is, and give the mittens to someone for whom they would fit. 3. Pull the stitches out to begin again, altering the pattern to fit her hands 4. Pull the stitches out and start a completely different project with the pretty blue yarn.  She opted for #3 and has been enjoying the deeper sparkle of wearing these comfortable and lovely mittens.

A fading sparkle happens in just about everything we experience in life–in our marriages, our parenting, our jobs, our commitments, and even our creative endeavors. But before we jump ship altogether to something we think will give us an enduring sparkle, it is worth exploring how we can achieve a richer or different sparkle within the commitments we have made. This may require just a few different stitches here and there. It might call for an alternate way of achieving the same end. Or we may need to knit the same pattern with a different yarn or knit the same yarn using a different pattern.

Maintaining our sparkle requires an effort well worth it in the end. Some days it may require a white-knuckled grip on the bar in front of us as we fly through the ups and downs of life. Other days require a new set of glasses to see the forest for the trees, the beauty in the mundane. But always, we need each other to encourage, cheer, remind us that being in a sparkle-less place is merely a transition to a deeper, richer sparkle than we’ve known before…if we will take the time to assess, take stock, explore, and above all–Keep Knitting Going!

P.S. Ahem. It seems I blog about this topic a fair amount. Hmmm…can you tell this is an area I struggle with? Maintaining our sparkle must be a key element to Living Artfully. More often than not, what I write here on my blog is a kind of “preaching to myself”. If it encourages you in any way, then it’s a double win! Thank you, dear reader, for being here!

My Lollipop Girls & Memory Lane

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I’m trying to gather myself after last night’s Art Show. It was the culmination of weeks and months of preparation and planning, of vision and hard work.  Though it was an amazing evening, which I’ll share with you someday soon, it is always a bit de-centering.  I do still have much left to do to close out the Art Show chapter, but I waken feeling a bit lost: “what next?”, what was I into creatively before the last month of full-on Art Show prep began?, where would I like to turn my energies now? etc.  Today, my plan is to clean my house which has suffered neglect for quite a while.  It will feel so good to slowly, methodically move through each room to clean and tidy up.

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The night before our school’s Art Show, I had taught all day.  Exhausted from that, and from the thought of the mountain to climb on Thursday, I sat at my drawing table to draw from a photo of Maddie I had just snapped at dinner time.  She bought a yellow lips lollipop at school that day and was showing me her “lips”.  It was a good and restorative thing to sit there, after she had been tucked in, slowly drawing my sweet daughter.  Then a memory of another daughter and a lollipop came to mind.

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This is my oldest child, Catherine. You can see the date of this pencil sketch. She was 5 years old.  As I drew Maddie, I remembered drawing Catherine from life…she sat so still and long enough for me to draw this, probably due to having a yummy red lollipop to lick while I drew. I had to go digging to find this sketchbook.  There’s a bin of sketchbooks I’ve filled over the years sitting out in the garage.  There are more stashed in a closet upstairs. And still more here in my studio. I remembered the dark green, hardbound, wire bound sketchbook with the star sticker on the cover to denote the “front” of the sketchbook.

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I remembered sitting on the park bench while my older two kids played.

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I remembered drawing their favorite slide there at Ardmore Methodist Church.

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I remembered Catie and William playing together on the “fire truck”.

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I remembered that my boy was the cutest thing I had ever laid eyes on.

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I remembered Catie liking to draw in my sketchbook. A sweet picture of her with her brother on his first “skateboard”.

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I remembered Catie riding her bike with training wheels.

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I remembered how hard it was to draw William as he rarely stopped for long on his bike.

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And then this.

The birth of  my third precious child. Maddie. This would have been the day after she was born. I remember it. I remember thinking how can you draw such exquisiteness? I remember thinking that the pencil lines needed to be as soft as possible to adequately depict the softness of a newborn. I remember thinking that this sketch didn’t come anywhere close to showing her beauty.

But I am glad that I drew it. So glad I drew all of this and all the thousands of other sketches and drawings I have sitting in that tupperware box and stashed in so many other places.  They are more precious to me than photos, though I love them too.

I’m not sure this has helped me gather myself and move on today.  But it has served to answer the What’s Next question…to continue drawcumenting this beautiful life I’ve been given. It is indeed FULL, art shows and all! Cleaning will be good to do today, since seeing through teary eyes is not a huge hindrance to that kind of work.