Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My mom is what Debbie Stoller, in her classic knitter's guide Stitch and Bitch, calls a "get your freak on" knitter. Says Stoller: "Throwing away their knitting magazines and relieving themselves of the shackles of a pattern, these knitters, also known as artsy-fartsy knitters, like to grab some yarn, grab some needles, and just make something up. Many of them are so busy expressing themselves that they can't be bothered with knitting rules or techniques. The sweaters they make are one-of-a-kind, gorgeous concoctions, though you might not be able to get your head through the collar."

Like many women, I have a deep-seated fear of becoming my mother. I've begun to confront that fear (read the original post on this blog, for instance). I'm trying to embrace the parts of myself that are like my mom, rather than run screaming in the opposite direction.

But, we've always been different sorts of crafters. I tend to like to follow a pattern, usually just choose one color or color scheme for completing any given project, and stick to the basics, not going too far astray from what anyone might call "normal." Sometimes my crafting is like what my mom says about my clothing choices: "Elana, do you ever wear any colors? I mean, it's always black and grey, grey and black." (That exchange happened a few years ago, but sadly it pretty much still holds true.)

For a few weeks, several of us in my office have had a knitting circle, preparing squares for the Pine Street Inn Knit-a-Thon (see more in this post). Our bunch has shown that knitting is a timeless activity - women have been doing it for years, probably because knitting together opens us up to share parts of our lives that we might not otherwise share. We now knit at lunch time, knit during monthly birthday parties, and some of us knit during conference calls (not me, of course!). So when I started working on my square to contribute to the project, I thought it would be a perfect project for me, an old-school knitter. A 9 inch by 9 inch square. What could be harder?

I had forgotten about genetics. I started knitting (see lovely sea of turquoise above) and got 80% of the way through my "square" before I realized it was a rectangle. An 11 inch by 8 inch rectangle. I knit one final inch, did the binding off, shed a tear/gave a huge sigh of relief, and threw it in the pile of squares created by my co-workers.

And the funniest thing happened.
Everyone liked my "square." Even though it was freaky-big and didn't meet the Knit-a-Thon's "requirements." It's the same way I really like the square being created by my co-worker who's knitting for the first time. She's totally charmed me by saying "Elana brought her own sticks." I love that she calls needles sticks - I'm really not making fun. I also love that her knitting is super-tight, full of holes, and that she might drop a stitch, oh, for every five stitches she completes.

So, on this day before Thanksgiving, I'm giving thanks for imperfection, for beginnings, for freaks, and for breaking the rules. Get your freak on, knitters.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Crafter's Delight

A few weeks ago, I made a second Taxi Tote, a fraternal twin to the original much-complimented bag. I had been challenged by my sewing coach to make a second bag on my own, without her supervision. At the time, my life was a little messier than usual, and I needed something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I had been feeling restless and on edge for a couple of weeks already. I was a little nervous to start a relatively complicated project, given that I didn’t want to end each evening in tears, with pin-pricked fingers and covered in thread.

But I found myself smiling through each of the steps involved in creating something by hand - cutting and ironing fabric, seeing the piece take shape, screwing up and having to figure out how to hide a mistake, hand-sewing trim, and finally choosing and attaching the perfect button. Making the second Taxi Tote in something like 3 evenings was testament to my need to have something to hold on to.

I’d call what I experienced crafter’s delight. Crafting for mental health sounds too stodgy; crafter’s high sounds, well, incongruous. What I felt was tinged with enchantment and glee. I was able to make an entire bag on my own. It was a manageable challenge, resulting in a deep sense of satisfaction.

My life, no more and no less than the life of anyone else, is just full of stuff I don’t know how to fix, sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. Just as it would be amazing to wave a magic wand and make things better, magic bag-making powers would be pretty neat. I could wave my magic bag wand all day. But, it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying, or as delightful, as crouching in a vintage shop searching through a basket of buttons, driving all over town looking for unique fabric, or seeing my Taxi Totes hanging together in my home.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gettin' Knitty Wit It

It's been over 6 weeks since I last posted. I really hadn’t intended for that to happen. In that time, I’ve made some really cute hair accessories and another bag, which you’ll get to see soon. But, also in that time, my good friend Sherri took pictures of her little boy PelĂ© wearing - see!? - his Elanamade hat!

Also in the knitting realm, I’m going to submit a square to Pine Street Inn’s Knit-a-Thon. (Warning: Website may be seizure-inducing.) Though I’m 100% sure that handmade blankets will not wipe out homelessness (sort of like how I’m sure that greater “awareness” about any number of social, economic, or political conditions won’t fix the years of inequality, underfunding, and absolute disregard for humanity that got us into these messes), I do like knitting, and I think the idea of a formerly homeless person getting welcomed to their new home with a handmade blanket is lovely.