Friday, January 14, 2011

Mindfulness in Knitting

It seems I’ve always made gifts for friends. I remember when money was tight just after graduating from university, I went to White Rose (does anyone else remember them?) and bought materials for stencilling Celtic designs onto t shirts for everyone to have for Christmas. That meant buying the paints and brushes, the plastic material to carefully cut out the intricate patterns I was taking from a Celtic colouring book.

I worked for hours over a couple of weeks on those shirts. Painstakingly smoothing out the fabric and sweating over the way the paint spread into the fibres of the cloth. Mostly, I thought about each person as I worked on their design. You see, I didn’t just make one stencil and use it for everyone. There we a number of couples who would receive these gifts. They were people who were really close to me and it mattered that they each had something that spoke of their interested and desires. I know that sounds funny, but the more personal a gift is, the more it will be appreciated and how much it cost is immaterial when you have put heart into the making.

Over the years I have practised the art of mindfulness in each of the items I have made. Every Christmas, the gift basket fills up with things just waiting for an owner to come and claim them. I don’t just think about any one person while I’m stitching away on them (unless I know the gift will find one particular person and sometimes the gifts choose who they should be going to all on their own) but I do think positive, warm and loving thoughts as I make each stitch. I like to think I am imbuing the article of clothing with the warmth of love and that when the person wears the hat/scarf/mitts/socks that I’ve picked just for them, they’ll be warmer and remember they are loved no matter what is going on in their lives when they wear them.

The socks I’m working on right now are very special socks. A couple of years ago, I designed some socks for a night at the Ottawa Knitting Guild. It was for one of their mid-winter challenges. I don’t know about you, but once the Christmas rush is over, I like to pick up sunny, happy yellows and oranges and greens to help me remember that the light is returning and eventually the snow will melt and be replaced by lush green grass. So I knit sunny stuff in the darkest time of the year. Thus it was with these socks. And as I knit them, I told people that I was knitting back the sun with every stitch.

This statement captured the heart of one of my friends and when the socks were finished, they went to her and she has worn them just about every day after working on her feet and putting up with way too much. She calls them her comfort socks. She says they make her feel safe and warm and loved, so I think the little bit of white magic must have worked because I put love and warmth in them.

This friend of mine turned 60 in December, right smack in the middle of Christmas Knitting Hell Chaos. I asked her what she’d like from the gift basket, thinking a nice neck warmer would be perfect, but she told me her Comfort Socks were in sorry shape from so much loving. They’ve practically become furry they’ve been worn in so many slippers and tucked into bed so often. So I started to make her a new pair of sunny comfort socks.

They are knit with Turtlepurl sock yarn in the colourway Koi and they’ll be done this weekend. I’m writing up the pattern and will have it for sale on Ravelry. I’ll let you know here and on my website when the pattern is ready. For now, this is what they look like.

So my question for you is this: when you knit gifts, do you put love and well-being into your stitches, and if you do, do you think your recipients can feel it?


Veronica Yeager said...

As one of the lucky ones to receive one of the Celtic stencil t-shirts she make long ago I have to say that even though that shirt has long since gone I wore it so much it practically dissolved before I had to regretfully lay it to rest. And yes the love was greatly felt the entire time. So I would have to say that Jen had mastered that particular part of magic from the first!

Many thanks again my friend,

Nicola said...

Yep, I had one of those t-shirts too. I noticed a picture of me wearing it in Portugal a couple of days ago. It's nice to have an identity to the things we wear.