An Artful Life Primer

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The topic of this book began to take shape soon after my sickness and surgery in 2013. It was June. I’d been doing a lot of thinking, knitting and drawing as I continued to heal, grow stronger and get used to life without a colon. I stood at the sink washing dishes in the beach house where my husband’s family goes for a week of vacation every year. As I washed dishes, the thought came into my head that I no longer wanted an Art Career. Numerous and varied attempts to find my niche seemed to fall flat and be frustrated by life’s demands. It occurred to me there, with suds and dirty dishes in hand, that what I really wanted was an Artful Life.

An Artful Life, to me, meant that ALL of life would be infused with creativity. Or at least with an eye for seeing the beauty in it, no matter what came my way. An Art Career could be, and was, constantly interrupted by domestic duties and often sidelined by health crises. An Artful Life, on the other hand, would be possible, if I lived all of life as opportunity for seeing beauty and listening to what it had to say to me. I realized there at the sink, that I had already been doing this for many years. I had somehow learned to use my pen and knitting needles to draw the beauty out of my circumstances and knit it into my heart.

After a second, and then a third surgery to deal with issues arising from the first one, I began to pen a very basic outline of what I was doing to live this Artful Life. I realized I had been developing a practice, a daily habit, of showing up to the page, the sketchbook, the wools & cottons, and working out what I encountered in life. It didn’t matter if life was boring or repetitive, exciting or painful…ALL of it could be scoured for beauty. Creating something, ANYTHING, in and through life’s days became a vehicle for seeing, capturing, releasing the beauty that I was convinced was there.

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This little book is all about my practice of creativity. It is very simple, perhaps too simple, in its straightforward three-fold approach. But I wrote this with you in mind. I want you, no matter your creative background or dependence on rulers for a straight line ;), to be able to engage in a practice of living artfully. Indeed, this practice doesn’t even require that you know how to draw or knit! Simple acts of creation are all that is needed. It will change you. That’s fairly bold to say. To practice creativity on a daily, or multi-days-a-weekly basis will transform you in astonishing ways.

Beauty comes to us in many forms and surprising packages. We need to train our eyes to see it, our hands to capture it, and our hearts to be transformed by it. Beauty is everywhere, in everything we do and experience. Even in washing dirty dishes.

An Artful Life Primer: Practicing Creativity to See, to Listen, and to be Transformed

Available on Amazon

Cast On

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Here’s where it all starts. Make a slip knot and begin.

Cast on a desired number of stitches and then work the rest of the piece from there.

There’s no way around it really. You have to cast on. Even if it’s only two stitches. Or two hundred. This is how we begin.

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Yet it can cause a good bit of consternation. Which cast on should I use? The pattern may or may not say. If I’m designing, I must consider which one will yield the desired edge both in stretch and in braid. For folks new to knitting, the cast on, once left behind for rows of knit and purl, is often forgotten when the next project is begun. How did I cast on? If I use Long Tail, then just how much yarn do I need to leave in order to have enough for the cast on? So many questions and uncertainties.

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It is true also in drawing and painting. How shall I begin? Where do I start on the page? What medium will I start with? Do I fill the whole page? or only part of it? If I start here, will I have enough room for the subject? For some, this very beginning part can create such a storm of questions that paralysis sets in all too soon.

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Yet for me, the beginning is perhaps the most exciting part. Two needles, or a hook, and some lovely yarn. A blank page and a pen. Such possibilities. Anticipation. A bit of chocolate helps!

Even if the initial idea gets frogged only a few rows into it, or the sketch needs to be started over again, the fun is in the diving in, the beginning, the start of something new. This is one of the many reasons I love making things. Each and every day I have an opportunity to start something fresh and new and exciting and different,  in yarn or paint, on needles or in a sketchbook, with a hook or with a canvas.

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Looking around at my studio right now I might have to admit to too many beginnings. I know I will finish them. I usually do. All in good time.

But right now, I just have to start a new crochet design that’s been banging around in my head. It all began with casting on another shoulder cozy (first photo) and in no more than four or five rows my fingers knew this yarn was wanting to be crocheted into something else entirely.

Ok. So here we go. Starting something new. Again.

Perhaps you can start something new today! I’d love to hear about it if you do!!

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Notes on the above photos: First photo’s yarn has now been frogged and is being crocheted into a new vest design. Second photo is the start of a brioche cowl I have finished and plan on teaching in October (watch for details about the classes in my monthly Knitterly Arts Newsletter!) Third photo is a line drawing of a recent visit to our Ciener Botanical Gardens. Fourth photo is the beginning foundation chain and first rows in a recent crochet design I hope will be available in pattern soon! Fifth photo is my first foray into embroidering my own drawings. Should be fun!

Dreamy Poncho Revisited

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Several years ago I designed this poncho from leftover yarns in my stash. It is one of my favorite things to wear when the temperatures turn cool and is often a conversation starter. Sometime last year I started a second one using all greens and have just recently finished it. While it is still too warm here to wear, it sits on Genevieve (my dress form) waiting for the day to be taken out for a twirl.

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It is  truly a dream to knit from beginning to end. I love to play with color and this gave me the opportunity to see what could be done with one color. I had no idea I had so many variations of green yarns! Even the variegated greens offered delightful pops of blues and other colors here and there to add a little spice. You are never bored with this knit! Every color and texture provides a new vista as you work the simple stitches.

I love wearing this both ways:

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As a poncho, with points down the front and back. (Please disregard the NON-matching skirt Genevieve is wearing!)

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Or as a cape (or wrap). The collar adds just enough drama to the simple construction and finishes it off nicely at the neck.

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For this version of the poncho/cape, I changed a few things. The original pattern was written with this in mind, so I didn’t have to make many changes at all to the pattern. I just added the new photos, and a few extra tips to make the knitting it up even simpler. Here’s what I did differently in this version than in the first one:

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The original version had only garter and stockinette stitching alternated back and forth or to suit the type of yarn used. This made for very quick knitting, especially since you are using size 11 needles.  But for this version I wanted to add a variety of stitch patterns, especially when I worked with the smoother yarns. So I randomly chose garter, seed, stockinette, basketweave, two-color rib and so on to add interest and texture in the body of the poncho.

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The original version had edges knitted in stockinette. This allowed the edges to roll and I do love rolled edges! But for this one, I decided to work the edges in garter stitch so that they would lay flat.

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The original version was laced up (one of my favorite features of this design!) using organza ribbon. This version has grosgrain ribbon for the laced up front. You could certainly use buttons or any other closure here, but I really like the added detail and color you can achieve with the laced up look.

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From now until the end of September, I’m offering this pattern for $1.00 off its regular price to those who purchase the pattern through my ETSY shop. If I knew how to offer a discount on  Ravelry I would certainly do it. But for those of you who see this offer here on my blog or via Instagram, you can use the code DREAMYKNIT to receive $1.00 off!

And I would LOVE to see a photo of your Dreamy Poncho once you’ve knitted it! I know of a couple of them that are in the making right now and I can’t wait to see their versions. I’ll share them with you when I receive their pic!

For now…may all your Knitterly Dreams come true!

Knature & Knitting

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I often stand in a place of beauty and I see it in fibers. Wools, cottons, silks, acrylics pop out of the landscape or garden I’m viewing. Colors and textures get translated into yarns. And when I go to my favorite LYS I see them: the bright colors of cocks comb and cosmos, the lovely hues of hollyhock and lily, the golden wheat of Mr. Whicker’s field, the rich tones of our plum tree.

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But this time, it worked the other way ’round. I picked two balls of a cotton tape yarn purely because of the lime greens morphing into every shade on its way to black and back again. I knew it would make for another wonderful Shoulder Cozy. I had knitted one with Rowan Bamboo Tape (shown below) and loved it in the hot weather. This one would be perfect for early fall here, when days are bit cooler.

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And then, on my walk one day. I saw my finished black/green Shoulder Cozy lying underneath a mailbox in our neighborhood! What? Oh! A beautiful leafy plant growing all around the base of it in the exact colors of the Lang Sol Degrade yarn I had used to knit it. Lovely.

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A pleasure from cast-on to bind-off and even in adding a touch of crochet to finish off the top and bottom edges. Not too fussy. Just right. I’ve already worn it a few times, but now it hangs at the shop, hopefully enticing folks to sign up for my class on all the many ways you can knit this Shoulder Cozy!! And hopefully to entice them to pick up some yarn to make one while they are there!

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I’m already pulling the yarns from my stash for the next one. I love this pattern for its simplicity and versatility. It can be worn as the capelet shown here or as a cowl for warmth and a touch of color around your neck. Mindful knitting at its best! No charts to follow or complicated stitch patterns (although you could certainly add a few stitch patterns here and there if you wanted to!). Just knit and enjoy the colors and textures flowing through your hands.

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<sigh>

Pssst…September Newsletter is out!

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Here’s a peek at something you’ll see and read about in this month’s Newsletter!

You can get it here

But why not go ahead and sign up for it to come to you each month for FREE in your email-box!

Lots of inspiration for your knitterly pursuits as well as the classes I’m offering this month.

I hope you have a knitterly day!

-Jennifer

Knitting Up the Un-Ravelled Sleave…

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After last week’s move of three kids into their new “homes”, I’ve needed this week to mend.  Oldest daughter is now happily situated at Wingate University for her final year. Middle son is LOVING his first days as a freshman at East Carolina University. And youngest is enjoying her new “big kid” room she moved into across the hall.  My hands seemed to need soft cozy fibers as much as I could possibly give them this week. With every knitted stitch and crocheted loop, it felt as if the very fibers of  my being were being knitted back together; the unravelled, frayed ends woven in and smoothed out. Even the enormous task of weaving in the ends on a recently finished project (pictured above and below) was soothing and enjoyable.

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Shakespeare wrote: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care…” Although he speaks of “sleep” as the agent of healing here, his choice of words intimate that knitting has that quality of mending what care often frays. All too often my life feels like the first picture. It’s good to know that is only ONE side of the matter. There IS another side…one with beauty, order, structure and functionality. Actually, I see beauty in the underside too, even with all the ends hanging loose!

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*I finished this updated version of my design/pattern called Dreamy Poncho! Oh how I wish it would get cool enough to wear this thing! So many greens that are truly yummy!

*The painting behind me seems to go with the Poncho so well!! It is of the field at the top of our neighborhood. I painted it a few years ago when the morning glory’s were in bloom. I noticed several days ago on my walk that they are blooming now. I love the seasons, the change in colors, the varying greens in the landscape as well as in fibers.

Turning Fifty

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I know, I know. It’s just a number. yet for some reason this number has been looming in my mind for a year now. Probably longer. The thought of turning a half century old has discombobulated me in such a manner I can only describe with the phrase (so telling of my age and generation): it has wigged me out.

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And still is…if I think about it too much.  Now that the actual day is within the week, I’m surrendering and fortifying myself for the event. I will likely sail right through this week without so much as a hiccup. Several changes have been made as I approach this mark. More are yet to be pursued. Certain practices are becoming even more crucial to working out the decades, both behind and before me. These same practices are teaching me an even greater awareness of and desire for dwelling in the present moment, for leaving the past behind and ceasing the future tripping I so easily fall into.

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In a broad sense, I know what the next decade will bring. Children, all three of them, going off to college, graduating, getting married, possibly having children. The thought of myself as a gra…gran…(I cannot type it!) is simply mind-blowing. The decade ahead could also be fraught with more illness for myself and other loved ones, the ache of parents aging, and more dental work. That last one is definitely frightening. Ha!

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I have never faced a decade where I could see such changes, hardships and challenges on the horizon. If I dwell there for long, it takes my breath away quite literally and I have to sit down, breathe, and remember the present…Here is where I am. Here, now, healthy, whole, loved ones all here, sun is shining, all is well. Even on days when the sun is not shining, all is well if I camp out in the present moment. I can breathe. No matter what the next decade holds I’ll be able to breathe if I just remain in  the nowscape of each moment. Prayer, mindfulness, are crucial tools for facing my sixth decade.

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So are drawing and knitting. More than ever before, I find these two endeavors life-giving, healing, enabling me to be fully engaged in whatever circumstance I find myself. I look forward to future drawings and paintings as well as more knitting adventures. I am thrilled to be teaching knitting and crochet classes! I get so excited about meeting new people in and through these classes, offering them the tools to knit that same healing into their lives as I have enjoyed in mine.

With knitting needles in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, I’m ready for the next ten years!

Bring it on!

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Notes on the above photos:

1. Tea and knitting seem to go together, even at the beach! Recent sock knitting has me working with sun colors, neon bright…love it!

2. A friend posted on Instagram a pic of his bicycle in a field of poppies. I asked if I could paint it. This is where I’d like to be. Right now.

3. My birthday tunic is now finished. It is Liesl by Julie Weisenberger. Can’t wait to wear it and share the finished garment with you!

4. I’ve recently been doing a lot of line-only drawings. No watercolor added. Just lines. Continuous. Free-flowing. Caressing the beautiful life I live.

5. I’m enjoying drawing at a farm right across the street from our home. This is not Mr. Whicker’s Farm, as many of you have seen my drawings and paintings over the years. This is a working farm where the Smith family raises goats, chickens, Llamas, and horses. Maddie takes horseback riding lessons here. I draw while she rides. I love drawcumenting my days.

A Lesson in DPNS

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She held what felt like chaos in her hands. Yet to my eye, her teacher, it looked like she had been knitting with double pointed needles for years. She deftly worked the four wooden needles, three to hold the stitches, one to knit across from point to point.

“This is a bit overwhelming, keeping up with all of this. Where to go next, so much going on, I’m afraid I’ll lose some stitches.”

“Just focus on the two needles you are knitting with,” I said. “Let the rest of it just dangle there, trusting the wooden sticks to hold the stitches. When you knit to the end of a needle, just begin with the next one. It will all work out in the end.”

It occurred to me afresh, as I guided her through the puzzle of DPN knitting, what a picture of life this endeavor portrays. Surely our life feels like chaos in our hands. The multiplicity of roles and responsibilities can feel overwhelming and confusing. There are so many things going on, we don’t know where to go next and we’re afraid we might lose something along the way.

It helps so much, in any given moment, to just focus on what’s right in front of me. If I look around at the chaotic landscape, focus is blurred, I start to come unstitched, dropping stitches here and there.

As we spoke of this lesson in DPNS, we marveled at its truth. Who knew that a quartet of double pointed needles could guide us in life as well as produce a pair of socks?

New Knitted Shawl Design*

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Pas de Deux Shawl

designed by Jennifer Edwards

available for purchase on ETSY

Designing and knitting a shawl mirrors life in uncanny ways. You begin with an idea, sketched out, roughly drawn and planned. Knitting begins, slowly working out stitch counts, rows, frogging stitches (and rows!) until it takes the shape you were aiming for.

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Then you knit. Just knit. And knit…working the parts where you can nearly knit on auto-pilot. Stockinette, some garter stitch, a wee bit of counting.

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And then you hit the edge. Ahhh…the edge…that part of utmost importance to the overall look of the shawl, but one which requires your utmost attention. Lots and lots of stitches to work with. As a designer, I want this part to really sing! My original idea for the edging was slightly different. The knitting itself began to “speak to me” changes in my initial plan. So I went with it, and I’m so glad I did.

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I find all this reflected in each day, week, month, and year. So many designs (plans), small and large, that begin with a flurry of planning and excitement then giving way to the everyday living out the established design. Somewhere along the way, either subtly or not-so-subtly, we are redirected. Following where our intuition takes us will often yield a more beautiful outcome. It all sounds so neat and tidy. But we, the knitters, know all the linked stitches, the frogged passages, the weaving of ends, and the blocking. This is the “everyday” stuff of life, the more monotonous parts of being entranced by beauty.

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The title of this shawl came to me as I thought of how the two colors danced together in a way similar to the ballet between two people, each taking the stage separately and then coming together for a final, beautiful adagio.

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I also like how this shawl stays on your shoulders. Instead of a straight edged triangle, this shawl continues around your neck in a semi-circle fashion while still laying flat down the back. I hope you can see this in the photos.

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I also hope you will knit this shawl! I knitted mine with Saucon Sock, in color “Carnation”, which has a lot of cotton in it, perfect for spring and summer. The second yarn is Louisa Harding Yarns, Noema. But I can’t wait to knit it in a wool for fall and winter. If you give it a go, I’d love to see your final shawl!:)

Thank you to everyone who purchases one of my patterns!! I write into each pattern a lot of extra helps and tips along the way to help you be successful in your knit and/or crochet adventure!

Happy Knitting!

-Jennifer

Pointier Points & Other Weighty Matters

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I mean, who really cares about whether the points on a knitted washcloth are pointier than previously knitted? I certainly don’t care one way or the other…but therein lies the fun of it all!

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So, I finally finished my Hitchhiker Shawl, and oh what a nail-biting finish that was! Only about 2 1/2 inches of yarn left on the bind off! Just barely enough to weave in. But that’s all I needed! 🙂

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At the same time, I had been merrily knitting washcloths  my latest obsession, and the thought occurred to me that I could, quite possibly, make the points on my washcloths just as pointy as the points on the Hitchhiker.

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Eureka! It worked! Using the clever little Kfb, turn, purl one, knit one, pass the purled stitch over, worked like a charm to add a bit of pointless pointiness  to the Almost Lost Washcloth. ‘Tis fun, no?

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Other oddments I’ve enjoyed immensely of late are finishing socks…

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…turning cart heels at soccer games…

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…the thrill of toe knitting (not to be confused with knitting with your toes)…

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…drinking tea and eating a cupcake in a new way whilst finishing the knitting of a shawl design (typing up pattern for offering on Etsy soon!)…

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…starting a crocheted circular vest…

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…and finishing it in a few days time…

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…and working on a sweet little project I’ll tell you more about soon!

Pointless Pointiness and all manner of frivolity is very sustaining and enriching to one’s life!

I hope you have a bit of frivolity in your day today!