A Burgeoning Obsession: Fingerless Mitts

I used to think that fingerless mitts and gloves were, well to be honest, weird.  I just didn’t get them.  I mean, why make, buy or wear something that only did half a job??

Oh, naïve Me.

I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts despite these ill-formed beliefs primarily because I didn’t feel quite ready/skilled enough to knit a full pair of gloves and wanted to practice a bit first.  Needless to say, once I knitted them, I realized how deluded I had been.  Fingerless mitts are fantastic!  I just finished making my third pair (my favorite so far) and I can’t get enough.

mitts 4

Not only are they just plain fun as a fashion accessory, but they actually do a complete and wonderful job – it’s just a DIFFERENT job than the one full gloves or mittens do.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Phenomenon.  It’s an awful thing and even when I’m indoors at work, my fingers, while not in full-on Raynaud’s dysfunctional immobility mode, are still quite cold.  I tried wearing gloves in my office, but typing became a bit problematic.  After fumbling with my keyboard and typing words with so many errors that they didn’t even resemble English, I knew gloves and work were not going to co-exist harmoniously.

Enter fingerless mitts.

Now, obviously, they don’t cover all parts of my fingers, so I still have some cold and discomfort, but the additional warmth on the majority of my hand really does make some difference.

Plus, they’re fun to knit.  Many knitters have favorite things to knit.  Some knitters always have a pair of socks on the needles, others live for hats.  At least for right now, these are my becoming my go-to project.

These newest ones are made from the Pine Court Mitts pattern by Shannon Squire.  It’s a fantastic pattern and, even better, written by the owner of my very own local yarn store, Twisted, which is an amazing LYS.  They’re not too chunky, which I like, and the cabled detailing is enough to make them interesting and fun, without being too busy on the eyes (hence not detracting from or clashing with whatever I might be wearing on any given day).  I used a beautiful random yarn that I picked up in a clearance bin.  The bit of cashmere in it makes it unbelievably soft and cozy on my hands and the variegated grey colorway is endlessly versatile.  Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with these.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m not eager to cast on the next pair!

Holiday Gift-Giving is What Drives Knitters Completely Mad, Right??

I was one of those knitters this year that decided to gift handmade goods to everyone on my holiday giving list.  While I can honestly say that I am glad that I did so and I enjoyed all the making of items for others, I can also honestly say that it was a wee bit stressful.

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Some of my creatively handmade gifted items this year!

Sure, it starts out all giddy excitement – picking patterns and yarn and imagining spotless, perfectly knitted pieces of lovingly created craft wrapped up beautifully, waiting to be opened by their recipients with delight and care.

But it comes to an end with needles frantically clicking together, items stretched out, blocking all over the apartment (leaving little room to walk), you taking clandestine trips to coffee shops where you knit speedily in secret away from those in your home who are receivers of said gifts, and wrapping up items quickly, pushing cats off the wrapping paper and frowning with stress over all the errors you notice (a purl instead of a knit here, a slight snag in the yarn there, that one stupid row where you forgot to slip the first stitch and knitted it instead!), until you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve put together sad excuses for gifts that would be fine if they were coming from a third-grader who goes to a Waldorf school and learned to knit that term, rather than a 32-year old woman who has been at the craft for a couple of years now and spent weeks working on them.

Phew.

But, really, I AM glad I did it.

Irregardless of the imperfections and unsure of which items will be put to good use and which may be tossed into the dark recesses of a closet, I AM glad I did it for a Knitting vintage girlcouple of reasons.  Each handmade item was crafted with thought for the intended recipient.  Instead of heading to the mall and buying whatever gifty things were marketed to the masses, I did take the time to consider each recipient and personalize something specifically for each of them.  I also supported local, small businesses with my crafted gifts.  Supplies used either came from my stash of yarn (which had been previously purchased locally) or was bought fresh from local yarn and craft stores.  And I am proud to share something that I love to do with others in my life.  Like me, the items may not be perfectly crafted, but they are full of good intentions and the spirit of generosity.

Also, of course, now that it’s all over, selfish knitting can take over!  Now begins a few months, at least, of sorting through my Ravelry library and queue and cozying up to items that I can toss around my own neck, slip onto my own hands, and sprinkle throughout my apartment.  Exciting stuff is in the works, indeed!

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #5: It Connects Us

A Note about This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I’m an introvert, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like feeling connected to others. I generally seek connections that are meaningful and serve a purpose – connections that provide opportunities for fun, joy, laughter, learning, growing, and so on.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

I make connections in a variety of ways, but I often find that one method of connection that frequently makes itself apparent is through creativity. Something that I find truly exciting about these particular connections is that they cross over so many dimensions. I connect with people living and deceased (I’ll explain more – I’m not talking about séances, here!), people near and far, people young and old, people that I never would have imagined having anything in common with, and I owe it all to a shared sense of creative spirit.

I have connected through creativity in some of the obvious, physical ways – meeting people through a knitting class, a cooking demonstration, or the like – but through more subtle means, as well. The blogosphere is one fantastic means of this, as I’m sure many of you know. The practice of sharing one’s words and images on a blog is most definitely a creative act, and a rewarding one at that. Though I haven’t laid eyes on the writers of the blogs I follow and the readers of my own, I have made connections through shared stories, recipes, and pictures. Though I haven’t shaken your hand or shared a cup of coffee with you, regular readers of this blog likely know me better than those who share an office space with me for 40 hours a week.

photo credit: Julie70 via photopin cc

I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I read another’s writing, feel touched by it, and then read more about the person to discover they are of a different generation, nationality, political affiliation, gender, and so on. It reminds me that (regardless of differences and perceived barriers) a mutual interest, an inspired spirit, and willingness to share them both can connect even the most opposite of individuals.

Some of the most interesting connections to me are those to the past – to those I never had an opportunity to know or communicate with

Eve by Rodin

directly, but to whom I feel connected through the creative products they have left behind. A great example of this occurred recently. I had the opportunity to visit the Detroit Institute of the Arts. As I wandered through the museum, I was moved by various pieces of art. One piece in particular, ‘Eve’ by Rodin, really struck a cord with me. Standing still and quiet with that piece, I felt connected to the history of it, to the feeling that it conveyed which seemed still as relevant now as it was decades ago. That one piece, born out of a sense of creative energy by a single person has likely impacted thousands of others. How amazing is that?!

Creative acts may be fleeting or lasting, but either way, they are an incredible tool for connection. I’ll never forget the feeling that Rodin’s piece brought me. Or the memory of my grandmother patiently teaching me how to sew a stitch carefully. Or the childhood excitement I shared with others over stories that fostered my imagination. Or the sense of understanding I feel when I listen to certain music. The energy that goes into a creative process doesn’t stop when an end product is complete. It moves on, linking people and making connections that, so often, the creator never even thought possible. If that’s not important, I’m not quite sure what is.

______________________________________________________________

Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #4: It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke Frugal

Why Creativity Counts #3: Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2: It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1: Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #4: It’s Handy When You’re Cheap and Broke. Oh wait – Frugal! I meant Frugal!

A Note about This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Last week I talked about how creativity supports self-sufficiency.  Today I’d like to take that a step further.  I don’t know about all of you readers out there, but I will admit that I am a bit . . . thrifty these days.  I wasn’t always.  I used to spend money like mad.  I didn’t have that money, exactly, but I had little pieces of plastic and it’s remarkable how many retailers you can trick into thinking that plastic = money.

Fast forward a few years and things are a bit . . . different.  Without lamenting about all of my financial drama, let’s just say that I have learned some lessons.  I am now a much more frugal individual.  I buy what I need and sometimes what I want, but I spend thoughtfully and save wherever I can.

photo credit: Gerard Van der Leun via photopin cc

Connecting to my creative mind is such an ally to the new more prudent me.  Let’s face it, life is costly.  Eating well, enjoying various forms of entertainment, gift giving to those you care about, clothing one’s self appropriately, and paying for transportation to get through your days are just some of the ways in which just living can empty our pocketbooks.  Throw in a recessed economy, the need to think about future financial security and inflation and you can get a pretty grim, dull picture if you’re not careful.

Now my picture has, too, been grim and dull at times, but creativity has been able to liven things up a bit.  I’ve talked plenty on this blog about my love for running, knitting, and cooking – all endeavors that provide inexpensive entertainment – but it goes way beyond that.  My creative brain is saving money on holiday gifting this year by churning out some handmade items.  It frequently saves me money on transportation, by strategically planning shipping trips and errands in the most cost-effective way (Yes – successful strategic planning DOES take massive amounts of creative thinking); and it cuts my grocery bills by thinking about cost-effective ingredients in new, interesting ways.  You get the idea.

Thinking imaginatively can open up a whole world of ways to make your life a bit more affordable.  Mr. Move Eat Create and I were finally able to take a bit of a mini-break a few weeks to go visit his family in Michigan – something that seemed very out of reach financially.  However, by creatively planning and playing with travel dates, accommodation options, and entertainment ideas, et cetera, we were able to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in social services.  I can say, without hesitation, that some of the most creative people I have ever met are many of my clients – those living with little or no income.  There is something about survival that necessitates creativity, but many of them have taken it even beyond just surviving.  I have been amazingly impressed by the tactics, talents, and skills that many of my clients have drawn upon to put together gifts for their kids, for their friends, even for me.  (Don’t worry – I’m not accepting gifts from my clients unethically!  But, I’m also not rejecting a beautifully crafted handmade thank you card given to me with earnest appreciation and respect, either).

A wish that I have is that more of us would find and tap into our creative streaks in times beyond necessity.  Do it when you’re struggling and need to be inventive to survive, but do it again later, too.  Do it when you are beyond just surviving and when you’re your ready to manifest your ideas, try something different, plan out a helpful strategy, and save a few bucks!

______________________________________________________________

Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #3:  Self-Sufficiency

Why Creativity Counts #2:  It Makes You Smarter

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #2: It Makes You Smarter

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

Exercising the creative part of your brain is a great IQ booster.  I mean, I don’t actually have any research or statistics to present to you today to support my claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.  I’m CERTAIN that I could find some if you really wanted me to.

But for now, I will make this claim based on my own personal experience.  Because that’s valid in its own right . . . right?

As I see it, being creative provides me with a huge mental boost.  Making connections, thinking of things in new ways, learning new skills – all of these activities get my little neurological synapses firing away.  As someone who loves to learn and get education in various formats, I’ll also attest to the fact that exercising creativity is one of the best free (or at least low-cost) forms of education we can get. Learning in traditional environments is great, but as we get older, it’s often difficult to continue to get that sort of education.  It’s costly, we have other obligations on our time and, quite frankly, at some point, you may just learn the same things over and over again.

But, being creative – picking up a cook book, following along with an online tutorial, taking a community class, getting a book from the library on DIY – these avenues for learning are generally accessible and provide endless possibilities.  And I have no doubt that accessing these resources has increased my own mental capacity.

You want examples, eh?  No problem.  Here are a few:

Craft

You all know that I’m a knitter.  I bet non-knitters don’t realize how much math can be involved in the craft – I know I sure didn’t!  What happens when I see a pattern that makes a 22-inch circumference hat using size 8 needles and worsted weight yarn, with a cast-on of 96 stitches and I want to use DK weight yarn that I already own and make the hat for someone with a 19-inch head????  Math happens – that’s what!

Being able to make conversions such as these (and this is pretty basic one) is a great exercise in brainpower.  I have oodles of respect for knitwear designers who create complex patterns using an amazing amount of numerical-based talent.  It’s serious business.  I’m quite certain this extends to other crafts beyond knitting, as well.  Sewing, painting, drawing, sculpting, et cetera all can be improved by learning about other disciplines, such as mathematics and natural sciences.

Cooking/Baking

Cooking has taught me so much about the world.  When I’m looking at recipes and whipping up new meals, I often come across ingredients and dishes that are unfamiliar to me.  My curiosity naturally kicks in and off I go to learn about these items.  The tidbits and pieces of information that I have picked up about cultures, history (the history of certain foods – spices, salt, olive oil, etc is fascinating) and societies has enriched my general knowledge base time and time again.  And, you’d be surprised how many trivia questions you’ll be able to answer with what you learn!

Practicing Any New Creative Skill

I’ve accessed various methods for taking courses that have taught me new skills.  I’ve taken community ‘Learn to Sew’  and ‘Learn to Knit’ classes, used the Internet for online craft-related courses, and taken a local pasta making class all in the name of pursuing creative endeavors.  I haven’t become an expert at all of these things and likely never will, but I HAVE put my brain to work during each event.  Practicing a new creative skill, something that is generally unfamiliar to me, makes my brain work in different ways and builds new mental connections.  I may not be someone who enjoys making pasta dough from scratch on a regular basis, but learning about how the ingredients in dough react to one another, to temperature, to manipulation, this increases my knowledge of science.  Chemistry, my friends, was one of my least favorite subjects as a student – but teach me chemistry through food and cooking and I’ll learn more then I ever did in a high school laboratory.

These are a few examples in a whole world of creative activities that have enriched my mental capacity.  A personal goal of mine is to remember that there is always more to know.  There is always more that I can understand about the world and all of us in it.  My creative pursuits constantly help me to both feel smarter and more knowledgeable, but also remind me that I always have more to learn.

______________________________________________________________

Previous Entries in This Series:

Why Creativity Counts #1:  Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

Why Wednesdays? – Why Creativity Counts #1: Because It’s So Much More Than You May Think

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.

I’m not sure if others can relate to this, but for the longest time I was really confused about creativity.  I didn’t actually know that I was confused at the time.  In fact, I thought I had it all figured out.  I’ll take you through it.

When I was young, I learned that there were essentially two types of people.  Left-brained versus right-brained.  A-type versus B-type.  Creative versus not-so-creative.  I easily classified myself as a left-brained, type A, not-so-creative person.  I was analytical, for sure.  I was no doubt a rationale person.  A planner.  I still am.  That piece of my identity, I was not confused about.  The problem was that I had essentially learned that being such a person was mutually exclusive from being a creative person.

And learning this ‘truth’, I short-changed myself.

In elementary school, creativity occurred in art class.  Those that excelled could sketch with talent and paint with beauty.  Those that didn’t (i.e. me) slapped stuff on a paper and waited out the tortuous period, anticipating the bell to ring.

In high school, creativity occurred in electives.  There was art again.  But there was also photography, drama, and music.  My vision of what it meant to be creative expanded – but just ever so slightly.  I tried these things.  I really did.  And, I generally failed miserably.  I still couldn’t create anything beautiful from chalk or pencils or paint.  I was way too insecure and shy to get on a stage, and musical instruments were like foreign objects to me.  If it wasn’t a triangle with a little wand to hit it with, I wasn’t going near it.

By the time I reached early adulthood, I was entrenched in the mindset that I was simply not born with creative ability and would never obtain it.

It wasn’t my thing.  When I thought about it, this disappointed me, but it was something I accepted.

But oddly enough, as I moved through the world, met other people, read new things, and took different jobs, I realized just how confused I had been about what it means to be creative.  Creativity is not limited to art or theater.  Creativity is a mental process.  It’s a method of thinking and living that involves exploring new concepts, generating ideas, trying new things, and being adventurous in experimenting with thoughts and actions.

Once I understood this, it became clear to me that I am a indeed a creative person AND a type-a, left-brained, planner, too.

I’m creative when I problem-solve with clients at work about how to make their lives more safe and comfortable.  I’m creative when I wade through my apprehension to see what it feels like to work a sewing machine.  I’m creative when I see a recipe and start thinking about what spices to swap for one another and what vegetables I might want to use that aren’t included in the instructions.  I’m creative when I read a book and let my mind wander into a world of fantasy or when I generate ideas for blog post while out on a run.

I am creative all the damn time.

Seriously.

I bet you are, too. And, you may not even notice it.

My creative pursuits are most evident these days in my knitting, cooking/baking, and writing.  (By the way, I’ve always been a writer, but never thought of it as creative.  Since I generally wrote non-fiction-type things I didn’t think it counted.  Funny.)  But, as I’ve shared, it shows up all over the place.  Some of my most creative moments don’t necessarily have any tangible end-product.  Brainstorming with co-workers and solving problems with clients is a whole world of creative energy in its own right.

Moral of this story?

It took me to practice creativity in my thinking to understand what creativity really is.  Doing so has opened up a whole new sense of self and a fascinating abundance of possibilities.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

To read the previous series in this column, select the ‘Why Wednesdays’ tag in the right side column.  The prior series in this column explored the topic of running.

In the Immortal Words of The Knitmore Girls: “When Knitting Attacks!”

Well, here is the tale of my recent major knitting fail.  I talked a while back about signing up for my first two KALs (Knit-A-Longs).  One of them went wonderfully.  I have a beautiful color affection shawl that I enjoy.  The other . . . not so much.

The Holla Back Tank was supposed to be my first foray into garments (as opposed to accessories and the like).  It is a pretty straightforward pattern and it seemed like a good way to go to increase my knitting skills.  But sometimes things just go wrong.

Sigh.

The Knitmore Girls run a fantastic podcast that I listen to regularly.  On said podcast, they have a segment they call “When Knitting Attacks!”  Well, the Holla Back Tank is my own tale of knitting woe.

I would like to say, as a credit to the Holla Back Knits folks who were hosting this KAL, I do think the pattern is well-written and totally manageable.  But for some reason, it just wasn’t working for me.  The techniques that did me in are techniques that I have done before without trouble, so it is a bit of a mystery, really.  I think that maybe other knitters can attest to this, though, that sometimes, when you start to have a bit of trouble with a project, it can mess with your head in such a way that you just have to put the needles down and walk away.

I have done this.

The front of the tank is done – after a few mishaps, but the back was just problematic.  I made small errors, that were too visible for my liking.  Each time I frogged, my enthusiasm for the project waned a bit and my frustration level increased, which, as any knitter knows, creates a situation that is increasingly likely to result in one of the following scenarios:

a)      The WIP (work in progress) being shoved into the deep recesses of a closet or drawer somewhere to be rediscovered with less frustration at a later date;

b)      Knitting needles being thrown across the room; or

c)      Massive amounts of cursing and berating of the yarn that is betraying you.

I may be guilty of all three.

The fact of the matter is that I couldn’t invest more time and energy in this project right now, with holiday knitting time wasting away.  I do think I’ll return to this project another day – some magical day when I dig through the storage space inside of my ottoman and discover this long lost project with renewed determination and excitement.

Until then, holiday knitting has commenced!