Roadside Word Picking


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!


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


Operation Sock Drawer



(Above drawing made at Eclection last Friday. An impromptu “still-life” complete with socks knitted up to the toe. Finished them up later that day.:)

Another “under the radar” knitting project, is sock knitting. This flies so far under the radar during busy times that I hardly even know I’m advancing at all. Talk about the Slow Clothes Movement… Yeesh!


Take this pair of socks for instance. I cast on the first sock sometime back before the Christmas holidays. I think I posted a blog about sock knitting being my To-Go project, and the above pic along with it. It is now March and I have finally completed sock #2. Yeah…socks are slow going for me. But I like it that way.

A fellow knitter recently said I should try the “knit two socks at a time” thing. Yes, I probably should. I have even gotten so far as to look up how to cast on for this, got my needles ready, cast on the first one, but couldn’t bring myself to cast the second one onto my long Magic Loop needles. What stopped me was a question: Is this really what I’m after in my knitting? Being able to fly through projects? Do I really want the go-go-go feel that often defines my life to invade my knitting as well? Do I really want to foster the immediate gratification syndrome in my knitting? (As if you really could do such a thing with the slowness of knitting in any form!) The more I knit, the more I realize that it’s precisely the slowness of knitting I like so much. I actually like the long drawn out process of visualizing something to make and having to wait days, weeks, months or even years before said item is actually brought into reality. I even like the discipline required of me to have to cast on a second identical sock after I’ve already completed one.



(Newly completed socks on feet with next sock begun on needles.)

Perhaps I will try the two-at-a-time method in the future, just to say I’ve tried it. Or maybe not. Creative projects, knitted ones particularly, have a quality about them I like to call, Attentive Waiting. As I pick up a sock to knit even just a row or two a day, I’m attentive to the project in hand. But I have to wait. I must wait on each stitch to be completed, each heel to be turned, each toe to be kitchenered (grafted).


There is out in the knitting world, a larger project called Operation Sock Drawer. Type this with a hash tag and all sorts of photos of sock knitting will pop up. I’m not sure how the phrase got started. It might be inspired by Susan B. Anderson’s amazing drawers filled with her hand knitted socks. I like to think I’m in on this Operation as well. You can see my several pairs here, but they hardly fill up a sock drawer…yet! Slowly, ever so slowly, I might have a drawer full of hand-knitted socks one day. Then again…the earlier ones may wear out before I can knit up new ones, and thus my pile of socks will remain the same size. That will be ok too. So whether it’s Operation Sock Drawer, or Operation Sock Pile, I’m all in. Happily, and very slowly, knitting one sock at a time.