I have no illusions to how incredibly fortunate I am. I love my work. I love my home. I work from my home. I love to sit by my window with the piece that I am knitting or stitching or hooking, an audio or podcast burbling in the background, a batch of cookies in the oven. That’s the fun part. The more tedious bit, that bit that reminds me that it is a job, is when it comes time to marketing all the new wonderful things I’ve created. The photography, the editing, the social media, etc, etc, etc. Not my favorite part. But a funny thing happened the other day: the weather finally warmed, the grass and trees were turning green, and I had a number of things that needed to be photographed. Never has a photo session been so inspired. I threw open the doors and hauled a favorite chair out under the apple trees. My dogs padded behind me befuddled, but delighted with the diversion. And never was I happier to be taking care of the business end of business.
I spend a great deal of time at my hooking frame. That translates into a not insignificant amount of time of me sitting on my rump. I combat the sedentary portions of my day with walking and running and, depending on the season, kayaking or cross country skiing. Still, after a couple hours sitting in one spot, my lower back starts to tweak and my shoulders to ache. In response to these annoyances, I’ve been working on my posture, form (Yes! There is good form for hookers!), and flexibility, and throwing in a little bit of strength training intermittently throughout my day. Stogie, however, has decided that sit-ups are a core bonding exercise rather than a core building one. That’s just how we roll around here.
Sometimes I’m just baffled why it takes me so long to get some things done. I’m going to chock it up to too many ideas, too little time. This hooked mermaid pillow literally began to take shape three years ago. I kid you not. An impromptu iPad doodle was destined to be a hooked work of art one day. I just hadn’t expected it to take so long. Life happens and other projects rise to the surface, orders with deadlines clog the creative highway from time to time. But after a visit to Susie Stephenson’s studio and admiring her hand knit mermaid dolls, I was inspired to dig out the long buried image of the serene bathing beauty from under the sea.
As long as the gal has been percolating in the back of my brain, parts of my stash that went into her may have been percolating longer. The kinky golden wool yarn I used for her hair has been sitting waiting for its purpose for some eight years since I picked it up at a fiber festival in Western MA. Being a hooker, I frequently buy old suit garments to harvest the wool, but I’ve never been able to discard the linings. They’ve just been accumulating quietly in the closet for years. Here, they finally shine. The little hints of iridescence they add to the aquatic background are perfect. Several years ago, friends and I made the journey up to Deanne Fitzpatrick’s studio. One friend purchased a skein of silk sari “yarn” and then later gifted it to me. A mermaid’s body was perfectly filled out with terra cotta warmth against the cool blue sea.
If you are interested in purchasing the Mermaid Pillow, it is available here. If you’d like to hook it yourself, fear not! The instant download pattern is in the works. If you are in a hurry, just email me.
For all the time I spend making things, very little ever gets made (or mended) for me. I may sew for a living, but my wardrobe is riddled with holes, frayed cuffs, and is frequently held together with safety pins. In what was quite a departure for me, as well as an excercise in discipline, I decided to both knit down my stash and be the beneficiary of the enterprise.
My sweater is off the needles, though yet to be blocked— and it needs it. It is something of a bastardization of the beautiful Hiro pattern. I used inappropriate yarn, lengthened the cuffs and added thumb holes, widened the collar, eliminated any waist shaping. I still plan on adding pockets, but I haven’t decided where or what style yet. I made it ridiculously large to wear cross country skiing over leggings finished just in time for — ummm— spring.
Yes. Spring has finally graced our little corner of the world. It seems overnight we’ve gone from snowblowers and parkas to throwing all the windows open and ferrying ladybugs out to safety. Thick winter boots have been traded in for muck lucks to traverse wide swathes of mud. And who could stay holed up in the studio when the landscape is finally inviting you to be part of it again. Certainly not me and my ever faithful crew. The front stoop become the official hookery of the day.
I’ve been having a hankering for some color work knitting lately. Just to mix things up, I think. And me being me, I was suddenly possessed by the need to try my hand at dyeing with natural plant materials. The web is great for instant gratification, and I quickly dug up everything I needed to know to dive in completely unprepared. Whims are like that. Among the list of typical dye suspects of onion skins and beets, there was avocado. I’m not kidding. Again, me being me (and it being a darn cold winter), I descended on the compost pile and started chiseling out all the frozen pits and skins I could find. I didn’t count, but I apparently found enough, because the wool ended up the most lovely shade of muted dusty rose.
In cooperation with The Syria Refugee Mission of the North Shore the next Bee in the Barn at Todd Farm will be be a collection site for donated handcraft supplies to be contributed to NuDay Syria’s frequent shipments of humanitarian aid to two refugee camps in Syria. These are communities of primarily women and children who have very little opportunity to build a better life. Textile and handcraft tools and materials will provide these women the ability to develop a vocation and a means of support for themselves and their families, as well as the much needed supplies to enrich the lives of a community teetering on the edge of sustainability. Sewing Bees have a long tradition as community gatherings for a common goal. In that spirit, at the next bee we will be accepting donations of any handcrafting material or supply you would like to contribute.
When: March 19th, 1-4 pm.
Where: The Barn at Todd Farm, 275 Main Street, Rowley, MA
What to Bring: A handwork project of your choice and a friend! This is a free community gathering open to all with a love of handcraft and community.
What to Donate: Any handcrafting material or tool, including fabrics, sewing supplies and notions, yarn, knitting needles, sewing machines; to name a few!
NuDay Syria is a 501c-3 non-profit dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians. They are particularly focused on creating safe environments and opportunities for single and widowed women and mothers. For more information, visit NuDaySyria.net .
For more information, please contact Jess@jwrobel.com.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
― Elie Wiesel
And let’s not forget the animals, our planet, our communities.
Scrolling through my drafts, I found this piece from over a year ago that never got published. I’m not sure why. But for some reason reading it today gave me great comfort. My now dearly departed Zoey lived six months past the writing of this, surprising us all with determination to live on and love well past her expiration date.
The New Year is always a time of taking stock, regrouping, making plans. This year is more poignant than most. We have numerous life transitions going on, but the most important may be that our 16 year old dog is phasing out. She came to us as a 13 yr old whom we thought we’d have a couple of months, at best. Almost three years later, she is our shadow, our hipbone, our much loved and constant companion. And now she is dying.
We first realized how her ailments were outpacing her in early November. We didn’t expect to have her for Thanksgiving. Her appetite waned (usually the kiss of death for a lab!). She slept longer and deeper. We were preparing ourselves.
I thought we’d be burying Zoey at Christmas, then again after she got to see her favorite people, then New Year’s. She eats sporadically. I’d do anything to help her, but she confuses me. She is skinny as sin, refuses to take any of her medications, but she is the first dog to meet me at the door with wagging tail, loves to go for her walk (aka put-put), can’t wait for a car ride, dozes peacefully touching one of us—tucked on top of my foot, curled into the the crux of Dave’s arm. We swaddle her in love and sweaters. Gauging her happiness and comfort is a minute by minute task. We wish she could talk to us.
Our life is moving in big, bold new directions. It saddens us that Zoey won’t be on that journey with us. But what she has brought to our lives, and (we hope) we have brought to hers, is an immeasurable gift. In the meantime, we are gathering the strength to help Zoey with the best path for her final days, stunned with the knowledge that her only goal seems to be to let us know how much she loves us.
This past year that we are tucking into bed for its final slumber, has been a notable one for us. For our family, we had some very hard and sad losses. But we also achieved great milestones and took wild leaps of faith together. We stirred the pot and sometimes marvel that we had the courage to do so. Change is unsettling. Change can be downright scary. Yet life is change and to both enjoy and share that joy with others requires an embracing of this force that can sometimes cower us and at other times empower us. During this year of endless challenges, we’ve learned to turn our faces to the wind. Whether biting or balmy, there is always something to be learned and an opportunity to be a better version of ourselves tomorrow.
As we prepare to wake to a new baby year, I wish for our family an ability to hold on to the lessons of the year in our wake and to carry them forward. We wish for ourselves and everyone the ability to be brave and outspoken, even if the only audience is yourself. From our home to yours we wish everyone the silence of peace and the roar of change.