Friday, September 25, 2015

Pouring Your Heart into a Pattern

  Sometimes a pattern is more than just a pattern... Sometimes it's a way to express yourself, relieve stress, or send good wishes to another. We can simply make a pattern, or we can pour our hearts into the creation of it. Prayer shawls are a great example, for they are made while praying for the recipient. (Get more info on prayer shawls here.)

mandala, Mandalas for Wink, crochet

  Here's where I'll admit to those things we don't always like to talk about: I don't pray. I have no spiritual beliefs. Does that make me a horrible person? I think... No. Because I live my life straighter and more righteously than some people who have tried to drag me to church while calling me a bad person. And does that mean I shouldn't make a prayer shawl? I think... Yes, I can make a "prayer shawl". Because whether you believe or not, you can still pour your heart and good intentions into your work. You can still wish well for someone. Surely that energy carries on, no matter what you believe in.

  What I do believe is that a "prayer shawl" doesn't always have to be a shawl, or a gift to someone else. It can be any item of comfort. The pattern could be a scarf, a blanket, or a toy. It can also be any other item you chose, if you're making it to comfort yourself. Just as you can wish good intentions for others while you create a prayer shawl, anything you crochet is a chance to pour thoughts into every stitch.

crochet, mandala, Mandalas for Wink

  I'm working on a small, but really sensitive pattern that expresses just that: All of my thoughts. All. Of. Them. I've taken some pretty hard hits lately, and I sat down to create a pattern that conveys my feelings. I'm sure my lovely readers have noticed my constant complaining a downward spiral of bad situations going on around here, plus there's more personal issues that I don't talk about here on the blog. Sometimes I fear for my sanity, but I know I have the power to pull myself up again. As I designed this pattern, I thought about why some things bother me so badly, like when I was attacked on Facebook for my work on the World's Biggest Stocking. I reflected on the sadness that got so much worse after the death of my cat. At the center of it all, I took inspiration from the person the pattern was dedicated to.

crochet, mandala, Mandalas for Wink

  I was affected deeply by the loss of Wink from A Creative Being. It seems selfish to say, because I never knew her personally. But she was so much more than another online entity blogging in cyberspace. She was a beautiful but troubled person, and I hoped more than anything that she would win her battle. Ever since Wink moved on, I've been fighting with more and more problems that could potentially drag me into the same situation as her. This pattern is part of how I make sure that doesn't happen. It's just a small mandala - nothing majorly special. But it's a Mandala for Wink. And it's a mandala for me. It's a mandala for the millions of other people out there that get pushed to their breaking point time and time again...

crochet, mandala, Mandalas for Wink

  It's a mandala that I stopped working on. Temporarily. I had pulled it together. I was in a "good place", able to concentrate on my thoughts and make sense of them; concentrate that energy into my project. Then there was a phone call. That innocent phone call that the Other Half makes once in a while when he has a break. We talked about his work. Then we talked about my work. It was a five minute phone call that was coming to a close with "Okay, I gotta go"... Then one sentence was added, like an afterthought: "Oh, hey, I just wanted to let you know Dean-o killed himself."

  An old friend - No, a great friend... But one I haven't talked to in a while. That phone call left me dumbfounded. Angry. Heartbroken. Wondering. I was just talking about him just the other day, how much I missed him, and I wanted to get hold of him. Why? Why did he do it? If I had gotten in touch with him sooner, would it have made a difference? And as always, on a selfish note: Why did the Other Half have to drop it at the end of a phone call like that, to leave me sitting here crying my eyes out, with no one to talk to?

  The point of the energy going into my Mandala for Wink was to show the problems we face, how to acknowledge and accept our pain, and how to use what we have to overcome it. Every bit of that energy left me with one phone call. I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me with a baseball bat. The Other Half doesn't understand that although I haven't seen my friend in a while, I've thought about him often. He was another tortured soul that shared many a tear with me, and I've looked back quite a few times to wonder if he's okay. Because when I wasn't okay, he always had a great-big Dean-o bear hug for me that was sure to make it better. I wish I could have done more to return the favor. And I wish I could bring him back, to tell him that if he thought he was alone, he should have known someone was thinking of him. And because I could sure use one of those great-big-bear-hugs now.

   In a moment of darkness, I wonder if there's just no hope. It seems like everything good that comes into my life leaves on a wave of pain or sadness. I'm terrified that someday I'll break, and end up just like them. A religious friend tells me not to worry, "God only gives us as much as we can take". Will you please explain then; who in the hell is giving me all of this? It's more than I can take. I understand the feeling of wanting to end the pain, so you don't have to hurt anymore.

  But... I understand all to well the pain that such things leave everybody else in, and I don't want them to feel this way too. So maybe there's a glimmer of hope behind it all in the end. My Mandala for Wink is back in progress. Because I realized that what I said earlier isn't true... I do have somebody to talk to. When others turn to friends, loved ones, or God... I turn to my crochet. That's who I "pray" to. My stitches represent my thoughts, prayers, and friends. The story behind the pattern will still stay the same: A lesson in how and why to let go of the negativity. The tale just has another round of darkness added to it. This time, I'll keep my stitches closer. Surround them with more brightness. Weave in the ends with extra-long tails to make sure they never unravel... And re-dedicate the pattern. My Mandala for Wink was partly for myself as well, but not anymore. I don't need it. My Mandala for Wink is now for Dean-o, too. And all the rest I couldn't save. I know I'll be okay, because I have the power to fix myself. I just wish everybody else did, too.

crochet, mandalas, Mandalas for Wink

Keep Crocheting!
And never, ever let go...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Get Ready for I Love Yarn Day!

  Whether you knit, crochet, weave or spin, I Love Yarn Day is a special day of the year for yarn enthusiasts. This year, I Love Yarn Day 2015 will be on Saturday, October 17th, so mark your calendars! What will you do to celebrate?

I Love Yarn Day, #ILYD

  One of the most popular ways to spread the word about our special day is yarn bombing. If you've never been lucky enough to personally experience a yarn bomb event, just search "yarn bomb" on Google Images to get an idea of how crazy yarn lovers get. Bicycles, trees, and even stop signs are all at risk of being yarn bombed on I Love Yarn Day. (Though I'm not sure, I think it might be illegal in some way to yarn bomb stop signs. And fire hydrants. Cute, but not worth going to jail over.)

  I had an idea to yarn bomb a statue in town this year. I wanted to turn it into a way to benefit charity and maybe get some local support for the Scarf of the Month program. After speaking with an official about my plan, I was told I could be charged with trespassing and even vandalism. Really. Vandalism. You have to be kidding me. But sadly, they're not, so I'm abandoning my yarn bomb event. It angers me in a way... I mean, come on! It's yarn! Vandalism? And it's for charity! Vandalism? Oh well. The law is the law, and mean people will be mean people. So...

  I really don't know what else to do for I Love Yarn Day! I did a little searching about our "holiday" and found organized yarn bomb events, but none near me. Since it's hard for me to track down yarn bombings for each and every one of you, I thought I'd share some other information I came across:

  • If you're on YouTube or Instagram, check out these contests from the Craft Yarn Council! For a chance to win prizes, upload your photos to Instagram using #ILYD or #stitchitforward, or make a YouTube video showing your passion for yarn! 

  • Help spread the word! If you're a fellow blogger or you're on Facebook, you can follow this link to download banners and logos (like the one you see up top) that you can use to get others interested in I Love Yarn Day!

  • You don't have to participate in any contests to be a part of #StitchItForward! Get someone else interested in yarn and teach them your skill. 

  • And as always, I encourage #crochetforcharity! Winter will be here soon enough, and those in need require warm accessories like scarves, mittens, and hats. Make a warm item to donate to a local charity, or search online for a national charity that will accept your homemade creations. 

heart, crochet, free pattern

  Because I'll most likely be spending the day alone, I came up with a few ways that introverts can celebrate I Love Yarn Day, too:

  • Clean out your stash! If you love your yarn, then take care of it. Spend a little time organizing your yarn.

  • Be "selfish"! Make something extra-special for yourself that will always remind you of how much you love yarn... Or, if you don't need a reminder, at least make something that will bring a smile to your face.

  • Have pets? Make a toy, blankie, or an accessory so your furry friend can celebrate with you.

  • Go yarn shopping! It's I Love Yarn Day, so there's gotta be a yarn sale somewhere out there, right?

  Since my super-awesome plan was destroyed, I'm a little disappointed. Maybe I'll celebrate by sulking with my stash, or maybe I'll get out in public to work on a project. Perhaps I should spend the day coming up with an even more super-awesome plan for next year. What will you do? Whatever it is, make sure you celebrate how much you love yarn!

Happy Crocheting!
 (Or knitting, or spinning, or weaving...)

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Little Stress is Good for You

  A little bit of stress once in a while is a good way to exercise your strengths, stretch your limitations, and build your patience. A lot of stress all of the time is a great way to test your strength and stretch you to the limits of your patience. I usually turn to crochet in times of trouble, but lately I'm finding crochet to be the source of my anxiety.

  Hit the brakes! Screech! What? Wait, no. Crochet is not the source of the added tension; the things stopping me from crocheting are the problem. I just want to finish this scarf. And, you know, move on to another one. A while back, my kids set me back on a project. My dog set me back on another. More recently, Microsoft held back everything for a whole week. A cat has repeatedly stolen pieces of the project I'm working on now. To top it off, I'm having trouble focusing on my tasks the few times they go uninterrupted. I ask the Other Half for some help around the house/my office. He tells me "You've got this; it'll be okay"...

crochet, stress, Scarf of the Month

  NO. No, honey, I don't "have this". That's why I'm asking for your assistance. Like, go walk the dog when he interrupts me as I'm trying to count to 120 in multiples of four. Or maybe, move the TV into the bedroom if you're going to start snoring and leave it blaring for two hours while you get a nice nap. Try learning how to use the microwave/TV remote//toaster oven/phone/computer without my assistance. At least, help me out with everyone else who doesn't respect that my house is also my work space.

  Does that sound selfish? Maybe so. But I feel that my opinions can be justified. Is it so much to ask someone to warm up their own leftovers, just once in a while? I've cooked everything from scratch for the past TEN YEARS! You don't find taco seasoning, gravy mix, refrigerator biscuits, or canned anything in my house. It all came from scratch for the past TEN YEARS. Get a pizza already and give me a break! I haven't gone out to dinner in... Omg, I don't know when the last time I went out to dinner was. I know it was at least a year before I bought my car, so... Over four years? And does horrible service, cold food and burnt coffee at a midnight diner even count as "going out to dinner"?

  Do I still sound selfish? What does everybody else do with their 15 minute break at work? I vacuum my floor. Or scrub the toilets. Or do dishes. My lunch break is often spent paying bills or answering emails, instead of eating lunch. And then I get back to work. Work is spent trying to figure out how to space multiples of five evenly over 238 stitches to make a border with a scallop/picot edge that a customer wants added to Granny's afghan by the end of the week. And then in the middle of counting, a tornado bursts in the door, scattering concrete dust on my freshly vacuumed floor and hollering about how the sixth truck on a 250-yard job showed up with a two-inch slump when it was supposed to be seven, so they had to send ten yards back... And all I do is I calmly say "That sucks, honey, I'm sorry" and start over with my counting, so hopefully I can get some time to work on the delayed Scarf of the Month.

crochet, Scarf of the Month

 There was one time when I totally lost it... I told the Other Half's friend to shut up. Yup - lost it and hollered "SHUT UP!" at him. They came in the door while I was typing up an article and the Other Half walked off, leaving his friend sitting behind me. "What's up?" the friend asks. "Writing an article" I tell him, and continue typing. A moment of silence, then...


"Hold on..."

"Hey, Jenny!"

"Give me a minute to finish this paragraph."

"Hey, Jenny!"

"I'm working, hold on please..."

"Hey, Jenny!"

"Dude, are you high?"

"Hey, Jenny, it's important!"


"Did you hear that new song by..."

"Omg, SHUT UP!"

 And then there's more... I stayed awake for about 36 hours when we had an "emergency" house guest. The hurry-up-come-get-me-and-bring-the-cops kind of house guest. I dropped work to clean out the spare room and piled everything in my office space. Then the guest added some more stuff to my space. I made food. I did laundry. I answered questions. I offered advice. I tracked down links. And work waited.

crochet, yarn stash

  Through all the stress, I forgot to eat for an entire day. Rheumatoid arthritis started to flare up again. Still, I pour coffee and pack a lunch for someone else, then put on my rubber boots at 5 a.m. and walk the dog in my mosquito-infested swamp of a yard. I take the trash out in the rain. I feed the outside cats in the rain. I chase the neighbor's dogs out of the yard and go close the gate because somebody forgot to latch it - in the rain. I come in and dry off to get a cup of coffee of my own, then sit down to work on the project I'm making for charity. And the cat throws up at my feet.

  So you see, a little stress is good for you. It teaches you to be tougher. A lot of stress will have you wondering if you should just launch a canoe and float on down the newly made river that used to be your neighborhood... Start a new life somewhere on dry land... A new land where yarn flows freely, crochet hooks are never lost, and everybody leaves you alone when you're counting...

crochet, flooding

Happy Crocheting!

On the bright side (pun intended), the rain is letting up and the sun has come out for a few days now. The water is receding, I found fish under my house, and we're back to complaining about how hot it is. 

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