Given I am currently preoccupied with my own little vacation in paradise, and FURTHER GIVEN this is the Year of the Indie Dyer, I have brought you a guest post from a knitter, dyer, and fiber artist after my own heart. Daien dyes her Beloved Yarn in –wait for it– Hawaii! She already knows I am moving in. I have espoused previously in this space my not-so-secret desire to move to Hawaii and open a yarn shop. (When I casually mentioned this idea to the purveyor at my own little yarn shop, she gave me one of those YOU ARE CRAZY looks…) I am glad (jealous!) Daien has found a way to make yarn and Hawaii work! Her yarn is thoughtfully crafted, and I am proud to be able to share her story with you in this space. Enjoy!
This passionate, all consuming, devoted obsession I have with knitting and yarn, when did it start? I recall a fascination with twigs and leaves that began in childhood, coupled with a curiosity that led me to explore the far reaches of gardens and fields, as well as the dusty cobwebbed corners of attics and basements, always looking for, and usually finding, unexpected treasures. Then one day I discovered an unfinished pair of argyle socks hidden in a box found tucked away in my grandparent’s garage. I remember running into the house to find my grandmother, and asking her if I could keep them. She let me have the entire box, with all it’s contents, and I felt as if I’d been given the Crown Jewels. From that moment on I was completely and utterly enchanted with knitting. The thin bone needles and gossamer yarn appeared as magical allies, inspiring a love of the craft that has deepened into amazing realms over the years, present today as a deceptively deep and completely encompassing meditative endeavor.
An avid reader as a girl, my young mind fell in love with traditional practices; shepherding, woolgathering, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and knitting. It become apparent that there was a time when learning a craft or art was as easy as asking a grandmother or grandfather, or someone nearby, to ‘teach us how.’ In many parts of the world this still happens; time honored traditions are lovingly passed down father to son, mother to daughter, so on and so forth. Although she didn’t knit, my own grandmother was an extraordinary seamstress, and taught me how to sew on an old black Singer sewing machine. I can still see her hands helping mine guide the fabric under the presser foot, as I learned how different weights of fabric called for different weights of thread, and sometimes even different needles. Over the years, under her loving and patient tutelage, this translated into being able to discern the proper tools for different tasks, even those that seemingly had nothing to do with fabric and fiber. She wove life lessons into her sewing instructions, and through her gentle kindness she helped to soften my fiery nature.
Later, as I pursued a university education, I fell back on my love of knitting to fund my way through school, working in a knitting and needlepoint shop selling yarns and fibers, designing sweaters, and teaching weekly knitting classes. It never occurred to me to take this up as my primary occupation until years later. After raising children, I had a brief opportunity to raise two sheep, a mother and daughter, delighting in their comic adventures. The raw wool they provided led to learning how to clean and card from the members of a local hand weaver’s guild, where I also fulfilled a long held desire to learn how to spin yarn on both a spindle and spinning wheel. Using some beautiful purchased wool and silk, I spun a gossamer lace yarn, dyed it to match mosses and ferns growing in the back yard, then knit it into Carol Feller’s Trousseau shawl for a beloved friend in England. From start to finish, a childhood dream come true!
Today, when I take a moment to contemplate the magical role of thread and yarn, it becomes apparent that even though we no longer need to engage in the traditional crafts of our great grandmothers and grandfathers, doing so can provide us with many surprising benefits. When I pick up an antique bone crochet hook, or a pair of highly polished stainless steel knitting needles, start my wheel spinning, or warp a loom, there is an immediate connection with another craftsman. Pick up a skein of natural fiber yarn and we’re looped into the land. Cotton and linen root us to bountiful plants. Wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora and camel connect us to animals who are loved and cared for, who walk the land under a vast sky, providing us with rich and beautiful fibers to clothe and warm our bodies. For me, all of this serves to slow my mind and bring me into the present moment, as I find knitting, weaving, spinning and crocheting to innately be deeply meditative endeavors.
Over the years I’ve taught many a person to knit, and have always loved the connections made, the joy experienced, and the outstanding hand-made items produced. But there is more that goes on than meets the eye, and for me that is where the real magic happens. As with all ancient arts, these traditions and skills have a silent language, power, and potency that are mystically veiled, and only revealed through years of practice. As they should be. Many initiated knitters, crocheters, weavers and spinners know whereof I speak. But in the everyday world, these things aren’t spoken of; they’re revealed slowly over time, and through experience, until they’ve been woven into our skin and bones, and are simply known.
This is most visible to me when I’m working on a project and then suddenly realize that something is wrong. The stitch count is off, or it’s obvious that even though I thought I was paying attention to the pattern, it’s equally obvious that I must have been off with the faeries. Knitting in hand, there is the opportunity to gaze at the past by examining the stitches, to see motion and intention made visible by the trail of yarn locked into interwoven loops and whorls. Then, doing what isn’t possible in the everyday world, I can undo the past, destroy and uncreate my mistake, and rework it up to perfection. I often think that this corresponds to some area of my life, some karmic pattern or habit that I’ve been able to absolve through my love and practice of knitting. Needles and yarn drop me into a place of mystery, allow me to tap into the amazing world of shared ancestral wisdom and joy, accessing that which in reality cannot be taught, only willingly caught.