Tag Archives: knitting

Breasts, Lace Leaves and Prayers

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IMG_2077Since this is partially a knitting blog I thought I should actually write about knitting! I have knit a few projects over the last few years that I never got to write about and really wanted to. One of them was a prayer shawl I knit for a friend. While technically the Leaf Lace Shawl is not a prayer shawl I used it for that purpose.

Back in September of 2014 my family and I traveled down to North Carolina for a long weekend because my nephew was getting baptized. We flew in to Norfolk, VA. As we were getting to our rental car and loading it up I turned my phone back on from airplane mode. It started buzzing like crazy with tons of FB messenger messages. As I looked at my phone I saw a long thread of messages from the other moms in our play group. We are all extremely close…like family really. I caught words like “crying” and other things that lead me to believe that something was very wrong. I opened the thread and scrolled a long ways back to the first message. It was from Chris. One of the moms I probably spend the most time with and possibly one of the sweetest, most gentle women I know. She was writing to tell us she had breast cancer. I gasped. I couldn’t breathe. My head started swirling. The kids kept asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t say it out loud…I just handed the phone to my husband to read for himself. I honestly don’t remember if I cried or not…I got in the car and started reading all the messages. Of course they were all positive and super supportive. I remember messaging one of the other moms and asking if I was the only one freaking out. I just kept thinking, “we’re too young to have a friend with breast cancer”. I was 33 at the time and I believe Chris was 36. We had an hour and a half drive to my Dad’s house and Chris was all I could think about. I needed to do something. I needed to do something for Chris. My hands were antsy. I needed to knit her something. I couldn’t get past the feeling that I just needed to knit her something. All the yarn I brought on my trip was tied up in projects and wasn’t right anyway. My Dad lives in the middle of nowhere… there are no yarn stores around and none between Norfolk and his house. At least none that I knew of. Why did I have to be stuck so far away from my friends when I found this out and in the middle of nowhere and WHY ARE THERE NO YARN STORES?! All that weekend in my free time I did the only thing I could do…I poured over Ravelry looking at patterns for shawls. It had to be perfect. Chris is an amazing artist who loves the outdoors. She loves trees and does incredible paper cuttings of them and I wanted something that reflected that. After hours of searching I settled on the Leaf Lace Shawl.  I couldn’t wait to get back to PA and head to the yarn shop for the perfect pumpkin orange yarn. I headed there first thing Monday morning. The owner helped me pick a beautiful, soft pumpkin orange yarn and I went home and got started right away. Initially I wanted to have the shawl done for when Chris started chemo. I desperately wanted to knit her something beautiful and warm to wrap up in during her treatments, I wanted it to hug her and comfort her. I wanted when she wore this to feel like I was hugging her.  It was almost as though I thought if I knit something perfect enough I could knit away the cancer which sounds so silly but if I could have knit it away I would have. The pattern was more difficult than I realized. Looking back I don’t really think it was above my skill level but it required a level of focus that is hard to come by as a Mom of two young kids. I also think there was a lot of emotions going into this project that a lot of my other projects don’t have. I was putting immense pressure on myself to make it perfect.  Chris started chemo a few weeks later and the shawl was not done. I got side tracked for a bit because I knit her a hat with interchangeable flowers so she could remain stylish as she lost her hair. Every time I came back to the shawl I would get a row or two done and then make a mistake. Every right side row of this shawl increases in stiches so making a mistake and needing to rip out rows every few rows is extremely time consuming and as the stitches started to add up once row could take up to almost an hour.  I made a new goal of having the shawl done for when she finished chemo. Chris finished chemo in February and I was not done with the shawl. I continued to make mistakes and get upset. When I think of this shawl I think of the Paula Abdul song that says “two steps forward, two steps back” . New goal…get the shawl done for when she goes in for her mastectomy. By this point it was March and I was having a lot of pain in my hands which is always a signal to me that I’m pregnant…things swell, my fingers get achy and tingly and I have a hard time knitting.  Low and behold I was pregnant…my hands never lie!  I was also so frustrated with the shawl that I just needed to put it away for a while. I started to think I was never going to finish this thing. Around that time I talked with another friend who was also a breast cancer survivor. She suggested that I give Chris the shawl when she was all done with everything. Chris still had to go through several weeks of radiation and I believe another surgery and wouldn’t be done until mid-fall… about a year from when I started. This seemed like a perfect and do-able goal. I took a nice long break from the shawl and around August started working on it again. I was due with our baby in the very beginning of November and I knew if I didn’t finish before that it would never get done. I hustled over the next three months to finish. As Chris finished up radiation and her hair started growing back I put the finishing touches on the shawl. About a week before I had the baby I took the shawl over to Chris. I had never told her I was knitting it for her. As I presented it to her I was able to tell her how I felt when I found out she was sick and how the whole year I had worked on this shawl and prayed for her and thought of her the whole time I knit it. I never knit without knowing where the project is going and I always think about the person for whom I am knitting but I don’t think I have ever knit so many prayers and healing thoughts into a garment before. My knitting students often ask me what the hardest thing I have ever knit is and I always say this project. As far as knitting skills go, yes it was hard but emotionally it was so much harder. There were times I could do nothing for her but knit. I knit the day she started chemo, I knit the day she had her mastectomy, I knit and prayed the whole year. The shawl came out beautiful. I was very proud of it but being able to give it to my sweet friend a year later, my sweet healthy in remission friend was the best part of all. It was an answer to my prayers and the thousands of other prayers that were being sent up for her. I can knit beautiful things but my friend Chris can kick breast cancers ass like no one else with a strength, dignity and smile on her face that to this day still brings tears to my eyes and inspires me.

 

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Blankies and Blogs

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I’m back and  ready to rejoin the blogging world!!! I’ve actually been ready for a long time but with two munchkins at home with me now time for extra activities like writing  is not something I come by easily. As I started thinking about blogging again I thought about how much I have changed in the past year since I have had my son. It seemed to me that I needed a different blog name that suited me more. While I really liked the name Knit and Wit, it added a lot of pressure to my blog posts to make them funny or witty and sometimes I just want to write about my day or my knitting projects and there isn’t always funny tid bits to add in. When I introduce myself to people there are pretty much two things I always say about myself….I am a mother and I am a knitter. Woolly Mama seemed to fit me much better. So here were are…same person (more or less), same blog about knitting and motherhood, new name….I hope you enjoy it and visit often!

I finished a project lately that really tugged at my heart strings more than many of my projects. I knit my son who is almost one a blanky. Not an afghan meant to toss on a bed or the back of a couch but a blanky that is meant to be snuggled and drug around everywhere with him. It is meant to comfort and keep him warm, be puked and peed on, be a cape or tent, protect him from monsters and sooth his sick little body. It will hopefully be his favorite blanky and it was made by his Mama with more love than I think I have knit into anything.

When my daughter was born there were many blankets knit and crocheted and for her. I of course had my favorite made by a dear friend of mine who is a very talented knitter that I pushed on my daughter while she was too young to care but eventually a different blanky crocheted by my Mom won out as her favorite (you can read about that fiasco at my old blog ) and that is the one that must go everywhere with us and no other children are allowed to touch because they might spit on it or something. I have a favorite blanky as well that my Grammy Cramer crocheted for me. I slept with it until the day I got married. I still have it…hidden in a safe place and when life gets to be too much I will pull it out and snuggle it for a few minutes…flipping the soft flaps between my fingers like I use to. There is not much than can comfort and relax me quite like my blanky can. In my book blankies are very special items.

Being the second kid you get the shaft in a lot of areas and  I guess the blanky area is one of them…that and I’m sure people thought I was making him one myself. Knitting blankets is a huge commitment. It takes a lot longer to knit one than to crochet so I’ll admit I was really hoping someone else would make him one. So this past winter I decided Oliver needed a blanky, so I went to my local yarn shop and picked out colors of yarn that matched his bedroom and chose a chevron blanket pattern that matched the bedding in his room and I set to work. I just recently finished the project. It was a great project because the pattern was easy to memorize so it made for nice TV knitting. It just took a long time to finish and there were also a lot of other projects thrown in the mix while the blanky was being made.

As I started knitting I became almost addicted to this pattern. As I said it was a nice relaxing pattern because it was easy and didn’t require a lot of thought but I also just wanted to finish it so badly for him. As a woman we have the incredible privilege of growing a life inside our bodies and bringing that life into the world. Many of us then get to sustain that little life by feeding them milk directly from our own bodies. It truly is an incredible and profound thing. While I was knitting this blanky I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was that I could provide warmth for him. With my skills and my body I could theoretically provide just about everything this little guy truly needs and that this blanky is just one more way he can feel comforted by  his Mama even when I’m not with him.

Normally when I’m knitting something if I make a mistake I have a hard time leaving it there even if others wont notice it. It is really an issue sometimes because I can get a little obsessive and loose precious sleep fixing a mistake that no one else would ever notice and if I don’t fix it then the mistake just glares at me every time I look at the finished item. I did go back and fix some really big mistakes in this blanket (the pattern was so easy that I often completely stopped paying attention and would realize I have gotten off somewhere along the way) but there were a few points where I didn’t notice the mistake until it was so far back that  I would have had to ripe out more than half my work to fix it and the mistake was very small. I would hold the blanket up and stare at it, agonizing over whether or not to fix it. Mike would tell me it wasn’t noticeable and to leave it and I would still agonize over it. I ended up leaving some of the mistakes and I’m glad I did. It makes the blanky even more home made looking and more human in a way. I hope it will show Oliver someday that it is ok to make mistakes, that we can learn from them and that our mistakes can give up character and make us unique. I think in a way this blanky not being perfect helped me to grow as a knitter. As a little side note  (really only knitting people will appreciate this) I also grew working on this project because I was very disciplined and wove in all my ends as I went along with the project which I NEVER do…it was so nice to just be done when I bound off at the end of the project.

I gave the blanky to Oliver a few weeks ago and he seemed to really like it. He is still a bit young to carry it around with him all the time and be very attached to it but I hope he grows to love it and cherish it because I’m not sure I have ever knit anything that has evoked so much emotion in me. There was so much love knit in this little blanky that I’m almost positive when I lay it over him at night he feels like I’m giving him an extra good night hug.

 

The colors are navy blue (looks a little black here), grey, orange and aqua which are the main colors in Oliver's room.

The colors are navy blue (looks a little black here), grey, orange and aqua which are the main colors in Oliver’s room.

 

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I think he likes it!

I think he likes it!