Roadside Word Picking

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New Year’s Eve…I love Eve’s. They feel like that timeless space of hovering right before warp speed takes over. The eve of something begs for preparation, anticipation, reflection… a mindfulness about the next day and all that it will usher in. Christmas Eve feels like that, and so does New Year’s Eve.

The living room Christmas tree, my studio French tree, and all other decorations are down, packed away carefully and the house feels spacious and clear, ready for a New Year. I’m ready too! And excited for what 2017 might have in store. I know, full well, there will be challenges and perhaps even downright difficulties, sad and painful events. But I also know that making will be a huge part of the year ahead, just as it has been this past year and for so many  years of my life. It is what carries me, strengthens me, gives me joy. Creativity is the lens through which I see my life for the beauty that it is. Making things, be it drawings or paintings, knitted or crocheted items and now spinning wool and weaving wall-hangings, sustains me through thick and thin, in plenty and in want. As I make with my hands, it’s as if I’m holding a lifeline, grounding my feet to what is true, good and beautiful. Creativity allows me to take flights of fancy as it tethers and roots me to home and hearth. Living Artfully allows me to see beauty, as well as create it, in everyday, humble circumstances. I need this Artful way of living and I’m thrilled to continue in the New Year!

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This week between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve been spending some time pondering. Pondering and writing go hand-in-hand for me and I’ve logged numerous pages as I’ve tried to make sense of and sort through what felt like a jumble of clutter in my creative life. 2016 seemed to end with way too many irons in the fire, an explosion of too  many directions and not enough time or energy to really do any of them well. As I’ve left a pen’s worth of ink on the page, a sorting has occurred. As I’ve pondered the year ahead, a couple of words stand out to me:

SLOW and SIMPLIFY

Both verbs, they go together well, one nourishing the other. In simplifying my life, it is apt to slow me down a bit. As I slow my pace, things will need to simplify naturally. Much of this is challenging me to indeed clear out a few things. But mostly it’s a call to live present in each moment as if it is the only moment, and breathe into it, slowing and simplifying my expectation of accomplishment. This past year I began working on this in my day to day life. I did not master it (I wonder if that’s even possible) and therefore will continue the work of slowing and simplifying, even if it is just one small thing at a time.

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The shakedown of all this pondering has left me with a simpler way of seeing all that I do as a creative person. My work as a knit and crochet teacher, the video podcasts, blogging in numerous places, as well as  pattern writing, will all continue but on a lessened scale. My hope is that this will allow me to spend less time on a computer and more time with a sketchbook or fiber in my hands. I’m increasingly drawn to spinning and weaving, which hold in themselves this call to slow down and simplify. It amazes me how I’m drawn to certain kinds of craft which hold an inherent way of living with them. In this, in spending time making, I am more in touch with the beauty around me and I learn how to live my everyday life with grace and wonder.

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I do have new ideas I’d like to see unfold in the New Year. But my gut tells me it isn’t now. Later. Perhaps even in the next year. For now, SLOW and SIMPLE is the way forward, relishing life, making with my hands, reminding myself and others that it isn’t about how MUCH you make, but HOW you make it…slow, gentle, and savored.

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All of this talk of SLOW and SIMPLIFY may seem so pie-in-the-sky! Even I myself, have a little scoffer sitting on my shoulder as I type: “Ha! This is gonna last you maybe the next hour, Jen, but wait ’til warp speed hits!” But to this I say that it’s not necessarily about being less busy. Life is full and seems to grow busier with each year. But this is more about a state of mind, a way of being in the midst of the busy-ness. Certainly I will need to pull back on what I say yes to. But I am committed to experiencing all of life with the same attention and slowness I give to drawing, or spinning, the same focus that’s needed for weaving and knitting. To grow in this capacity will be lovely. Yet even in the slowing and simplifying is a need to go slowly with it, simplifying the steps.

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It all boils down to this: I plan on pulling off the daily path to sit each day and ponder. To draw the landscape around me. To knit the beauty into my heart. To weave wonder and grace into my life and offer it to others. I hope you’ll continue to walk with me here. Let’s savor together the work of our hands and the joy it brings us! Let’s encourage each other to go SLOW, to SIMPLIFY our distracted lives, and to live Artfully each day.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

*Patsy’s Perfect Tunic: Free Pattern!!

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STOP whatever you are doing/making right now and RUN like mad to your stash or your LYS to buy some Super Bulky yarn!!

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Now! Do not pass GO! Do not collect $200!

Well, if someone offers you $200, take it, so you can buy some yarn and make this tunic!

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That’s how I felt when I saw my mom wearing hers…immediately the questions began:

What pattern? Which yarn? Size needles? What stitch? etc. She has actually knitted two of them with different gauge yarns, one chunky, one super bulky. They are both to die for! So, of course, I had to make one for myself. After plying her with a zillion questions (because she had just “made it up”!), here’s how I made mine:

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Patsy’s Perfect Tunic

Design by Pat (Patsy) Pilkington

Pattern written by her daughter Jennifer:)

Written for sizes Small (Medium, Large, Extra Large)

Difficulty Level: Perfect for Beginners!

Materials:

4 hanks of Noro Iro (each hank has 132 yards)

Size 10 1/2 or 11 needles. (I used size 11)

Yarn Needle

Begin: (Make 2 of these Rectangles)

Cast On 50 (60, 70, 80) sts. (Mine pictured here is a Medium. Mom’s pictured below is a Small.)

Work 2 Rows Seed Stitch (Row 1: K1, P1; Row 2: Knit the Purls, Purl the Knits:)

Work 5 x 5 BasketWeave Stitch (*K5, P5 for 6 Rows; P5, K5 for 6 Rows; Rep. from *) until you have length desired. (I just knitted until I was near to finishing 2 hanks.)

Work 2 Rows Seed Stitch.

Bind Off in pattern.

Put Together:

Using Yarn Needle and Mattress Stitch, seam the top shoulders leaving a neck opening of approximately 9 (10, 11, 12) inches.

Then Seam the sides leaving arm openings of approximately 8 (9, 10, 11) inches (or however large you desire!). I began the side seams about 3 inches from the bottom to have a side slit for easier wear.

Block:

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Blocking really made this tunic “sing”! I dunked the finished tunic into my sink of sudsy water, rinsed it, and rolled it GENTLY between two towels to pat out as much water as I could. DO NOT WRING! Then I pinned the tunic to my blocking board so as to make the length and shape I wanted. I wanted the bottom part to be slightly larger than the shoulder area (to accommodate the hips, ahem…)

I could hardly wait for the thing to dry! I was invited to a Sarah Addison Allen book reading/signing and just HAD to wear this tunic, so I yanked it off the blocking board whilst it was still a teensy bit damp! It has grown a little bit as I’ve worn it and worn it and worn it. But I just like it even more! It’s the perfect thing to wear with jeans, over leggings, with boots, etc!!

I can’t wait to start my next one!!

Some alternative yarn choices:

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Mom has knitted hers with combinations of Noro’s Silk Garden Chunky and Silver Thaw. I think she has had to use smaller needles (like a 10?) for these and adjusted the amount of basketweave “squares” to fit. But they are gorgeous yarns!! (And isn’t my mom beautiful??!! She’s an amazing artist whose mediums are oils as well as fibers!)

In looking on line, I found this yarn and this one, in the Super Bulky range I love so much!! Personally it’s all about the COLORS that are self-striping and variegated which make this tunic so lovely!! But, of course, you could knit this with any solid or multi-colored yarn you like!!! Heck, even combine numerous individual yarns together for a fun, whimsical look to your tunic!

The point of it all is to HAVE FUN!!! To make something OH SO SIMPLE that is lovely to wear in the SAME SEASON  that you begin making it! Ha! Ha!

Enjoy!

*New Pattern!

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Finally!! I’ve added a new pattern to my Etsy Shop! It’s a sweater and sweater/vest I’ve been wanting to offer for quite some time. It just takes time to write a pattern properly, with all the information you want to offer so that others can be successful in making it.

Appalachian Comfort  A Beginner Sweater (with Sweater Vest option)

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This pattern is perfect for beginning knitters!! Pass it along to any you may know, beginners or otherwise, who would like a simple project for fall comfort. It can be for any season, depending on the type of yarn you choose. I’m wanting to knit my next one in a yummy Noro yarn.

Here are some things you might like to know:

What You Need:

Bulky Weight Yarn :
For Size Small: 550 yds. Medium: 650 yds. Size Large: 850 yds.
(Shown in pic: Patagonia’s Araucania cotton, 105 yds. each)
Other suggestions: Noro Obi, Kama, Iro, Kogarashi, Plymouth Yarn Gina Chunky, Araucania “Tolten”.
Size 10, round or straight needles (or size needed to obtain gauge)
Interlocking Stitch Markers
Yarn Needle

*Instructions are written for sizes small, medium and large!

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The simplicity of this pattern makes it terrific for an on-the-go project where you don’t have complex charts and stitch patterns to follow. Yet I’ve written the pattern in such a way as to allow you to make it your own by adding various stitch patterns and securing the front in multiple ways.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend full of yarny goodness!