My Creative Sketchbook: More Found Poetry

It’s week four of Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook , and Lisa Sonora gave us additional techniques to play with, complete with photo instructions. One of the techniques is “napkin collage.” I saved this napkin years ago because I loved the color of the poppies. My napkin collage page turned out to be the perfect background for what is either another found poem, or wisdom from the world behind the world.





My Creative Sketchbook: Listen

Week 2 of Dreaming On Paper: The Creative Sketchbook, and Lisa Sonora suggested that we make a page spread in our sketchbooks about listening.

I spend a lot of time thinking about listening, and how to hear the harp from inside the music I’m playing. I was looking through my collection of neat quotes and this one jumped out at me. I did this page at the beginning of the week, before reading the last of the week’s notes with her suggestion to do a “listening” page.

It seems that my sketchbook will be an ongoing opportunity for synchronicity.

Listen

My Creative Sketchbook: Found Poetry

Week 2 of Dreaming On Paper: The Creative Sketchbook, and Lisa Sonora says that it’s time to play with words. The task is to look through written material for words and phrases that make something inside go “zing” and collect them to use in the journal.

I’ve been collecting words and phrases from magazines, advertisements, and junk mail for years. I have a cigar box full of quotes, phrases, and word clippings.

Sunday afternoon I pulled out an assortment of phrases that caught my attention, and moved them around on one of my painted sketchbook pages. A poem emerged, one that is the perfect sequel to my last post.

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Synchronicity strikes again.

Looking For Balance

I was filling out a questionnaire in preparation for a harp lesson with Deborah Henson-Conant (which will be an entirely different blog post) and was asked to answer a question about what I thought stood in the way of my creative life.

In yet another occurrence of “I don’t know what’s going on with me until I write about it,” my pen informed me that my creative life was very out of balance. I spend nearly all of my creative energy and time on music. It’s not that I don’t love every minute of my time with my harp and my recorders. But with all my time going to music, I’m not allowing time for writing, for photography, for playing with my art supplies.

Knitting keeps that part of me that needs to make things, that needs to bring something into the world with my own hands, happy and content. But the part of me that thrives on images is feeling ignored and abandoned. I spent all of 2011 creating a 21-page visual journal, yet since then I’ve finished only four more pages. It’s been over a year since I last made a Soul Collage® card.

In France I spent every day exploring with my camera. Every day I thrilled to the feeling in my body that happens when I am deeply looking at the world around me, when, as my mind quiets, I settle into my own skin, totally absorbed by seeing what is revealing itself in response to my attention.

Yet the first time my camera’s been out of its case since the end of my France trip was last weekend in Asheville.

Something had to change.

I was clueless about what I could and would do to bring image-making back into my life until receiving an e-mail from Lisa Sonora describing her on-line art workshops. The one that stood up waving a flag in my face while shouting “pick me, pick me” was Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook or “How To Make & Keep A Visual Journal for Discovery, Insight, Healing, and . . .Pure Fun!” The class description promised four sessions of “visual journaling techniques that incorporate mixed media collage, photography, painting, and writing.” Here was a path of return to everything I love to do, and everything I miss.

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I promptly trotted off to A.C. Moore for the recommended supplies: a new journal, fresh glue sticks, and new bottles of craft paint in my favorite colors. All that was left was the waiting for the class to begin.

The first session’s instructions arrived in my inbox last Wednesday. The creative task this week was to experiment with different techniques for putting the craft paint on journal pages, using non-traditional painting tools.

We haven’t yet explored the process of creating a finished journal page in Lisa’s class. But I’ve been thinking about my word for the year, “Vision”, and how I wanted my word and its acrostic to be in the new journal.

I liked the way the painting experiment turned out on this page, so with some rubber stamps, stencils, markers, and torn papers I gave my word a home.

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Lisa’s next lesson will be in my inbox tomorrow morning. And last night’s ice storm will keep me house-bound another day – perfect timing!!!

(All images © Janet Hince, 2015)

 

Finding Solace: Knitting A Prayer Shawl

It’s just something about knitting. It has a small, yet commanding voice, and what it tends to say, in times like these, is that it will help take us through the big steps with little steps. And technically, in this case, those little steps are known as stitches. Knitting takes unease and supports it with shawls the way the performers at a big top support a trapeze artist with a net. It underpins transition with a deeper sort of harmony.

– Deborah Bergman, The Knitting Goddess (NY: Hyperion, 2000)

When I made it home from London, the impact of Ruth Ann’s death knocked the stuffing out of me. While I was away, I had all of London to distract me. Back home, there was nothing to keep the avalanche of grief and the immensity of loss from bowling me over, day after day. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. Writing was beyond me. There are only so many hours in a day that my body can sit on the harp bench and practice. Long walks siphoned off some of my agitation, but there was no way to walk long enough and far enough to escape sadness. I didn’t know what to do for the far too many hours that I was stuck with just being with myself.

Then I found this yarn, dyed by Debbie Davis at The Fibre Studio at Yarns To Dye For.

Tidal Pool by Debbie Davis
Tidal Pool by Debbie Davis

The merino and bamboo blend is named “Tidal Pool.” The yarn held all the colors of the many mornings Ruth Ann and I spent on the porch of a rented beach house, drinking coffee and watching the day’s first light play upon the water. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I would use it to knit a prayer shawl for Ruth Ann’s partner.

 

Searching Ravelry, I found the pattern Simple Shawl for Fancy Yarns by Jen Hintz. It’s perfect for showing off the beauty of the yarn. I cast on the first five stitches on April 12th.

Some days this was the only project I wanted to work on. With every row I thought about Ruth Ann and all the life we shared. The yarn flowing through my fingers was a tangible thread that tied me to her across the emptiness.

Some days I didn’t want to touch the yarn or the shawl that it was becoming. Picking up the knitting needles was picking up and wrapping myself in grief.

Spring’s days and weeks ticked by. The shawl grew slowly, with four stitches added every other row. The weather shifted from spring breezes to summer heat as I added eyelet rows and garter ridges to the basic pattern. I finished the bind-off and took it off my needles on July 18th.

Completed Prayer Shawl
Completed Prayer Shawl
Prayer Shawl Detail
Prayer Shawl Detail

Knitting this shawl was a tangible sign of and outlet for my grief. Each stitch was like a prayer bead that I could, and in fact had to touch and hold as a part of my own coming to terms with Ruth Ann’s death. Now, all these beads are caressed, counted, and strung. The shawl is finished, and sent off to the welcoming arms of Ruth Ann’s partner, with the hope that wearing it will bring her the healing that knitting it brought to me.

The time spent working on the shawl seems to have somehow defined my period of mourning. I feel more ready to move forward into “next,” whatever that may be, and to step into the life where Ruth Ann no longer walks on this earth with me, but stays forever close in my heart.

Winter Knitting

Here are photos of what’s come off my knitting needles since finishing the Christmas knitting projects.

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Faux möbius cowl knit with Misti alpaca chunky handpaint.

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Churchmouse cashmere beret pattern knit with Louisa Harding silk and wool “Grace.”

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“Simple Summer Tweed” sweater by Heidi Kirrmeier knit in Cestari Heather Collection cotton and wool blend.

That leaves me with only a scarf, a shawlette, and the endless lace project still in progress. Not to worry – I have my next sweater, a pair of socks, and another shawl already picked out and ready to start.

Christmas Knitting

My knitting fever continues unabated, so it was a knitted Christmas this year. All recipients now have their presents, so I can post photos of what’s come off my needles.

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This scarf is knit with Interlacements hand-dyed ribbon, and Crystal Palace Waikiki left over from my weaving days. The pattern is “Misti Chunky Ribs and Ruffles,” by Nancy Kleiber, without the ruffles.

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Here’s “Misti Ribs and Ruffles” again, this time out of Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Chunky.

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I read every easy mitten pattern I could download for free on Ravelry to understand basic mitten construction, and then made a pattern up out of the many I had read, while I was knitting these mittens. The yarn is hand-dyed super wash merino fingering from The Fibre Studio.

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Another pair of made-up mittens, this time out of Berroco Borealis.

And here’s what I knit for me:

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The pattern is “Sundry” and is available on Ravelry. It’s knit with two colors of hand-dyed Araucania Huasco.

There’s a new sweater on my knitting needles, and a shawl, a hat, and more socks waiting for a vacancy to open up in the knitting basket. The lace shawl I started in August remains a work-in-progress, but I finished the body of it today. Now there’s just two knitted-on borders to complete. All I have to do is learn what a “knitted on border” is, and how to do one!

August Milestones

My blog and I celebrated birthdays in August. Heart to Harp is three years old, and I’m, ahem, considerably older. The “Happy Anniversary” message from WordPress reminded me of the morning I registered my blog. I was working out my retirement notice and didn’t have a lot of actual work to do, so I used my free time to sign up with WordPress. When I saw Heart To Harp become real on my computer monitor, I was so overcome with anxiety over what I’d done that I had to flee to the Habitat coffee shop, where chocolate and caffeine helped me get over the vapors.

I remember telling myself, while gripping that tall mocha latte, that registering a blog didn’t mean that I actually had to write anything, or god forbid, post something for someone to read. It was another week before I published my first blog post. I didn’t have to worry about someone reading what I wrote – several weeks passed before I received my first WordPress email telling me that someone “liked” a post, and it took even longer to get a comment notice. It wasn’t until the following March that Heart To Harp had its first “follower.” By then the shock of committing to “write in public” had worn off. I was just surprised that someone would want to read everything I posted.

Three years, 276 posts, and over 100 followers later, later, I can’t imagine not blogging. Writing about my thoughts, disappointments, hopes, triumphs, and the giggly weirdness of life is part of who I am and what I do. Meeting and connecting with so many creative, interesting, talented people and enjoying their words and images is an unexpected bonus to being a blogger. I treasure these connections, and don’t want to live without them.

This August also marks one year of playing at the hospital hospice unit. In my very first August 2010 blog post, Where’s The Magic Fairy Dust? I doubted that I would ever be able to just sit down, pull my harp back onto my shoulder, and play a tune, let alone let someone listen to me play. Now, harping at the hospital, with staff and families and patients listening to me, is a normal part of my week, and I can play for over an hour without repeating any tunes.

Last August C.B. Wentworth introduced me to the knitting loom and the irrepressible notion that I must knit socks. I started my first pair of socks on August 21st. Last weekend I finally posted all my knitting projects on Ravelry. I’ve written about being knitting-obsessed, but I didn’t know how bad it really was. In 12 months I completed 13 projects. I knit five pairs of socks on the loom before I picked up knitting needles last October. Despite believing that I could never learn to really knit, I finished another pair of socks, four hats, two scarves, and one sweater, and I have another pair of socks and a lace shawl in progress.

Dr. Noa Kageyama, author of The Bulletproof Musician, writes in a post titled “How Can We Develop a More Courageous Mindset? (Plus the Secret of Life):

There is an interesting study which came out just last week that I think provides some interesting insight. It was called The End of History Illusion and described how 19,000 participants, ranging from age 18 to 68 consistently underestimated how much they would change over the next decade.

They were asked to evaluate how much they had changed over the last ten years – from their personality, to core values, and likes/dislikes. Then they were asked to predict how much they would change in the next decade ahead. Interestingly, no matter how young or old they were, even though they acknowledged how much they had changed in the previous ten years, they consistently underestimated how much they would change in the next ten years.

I suspect that we not only underestimate how much our personality, core values, and likes and dislikes will change, but how much we will change in the domain of expertise and skill development as well. . . .

Ten years ago music was not in my life. There was only a faint glimmer of a long ago dream to play the harp someday. Three years ago I couldn’t begin to fathom how much I would learn, or how much I would change, or how much connection and joy and excitement I would find through blogging, through playing my harp, and through an entirely new craft. I can’t begin to predict what the next three years, or ten years will bring, or how I will change and grow in the process. Life keeps opening up in new and completely unpredictable ways, and I keep being surprised and delighted. Each birthday marks the beginning of another year of adventures.

Yet this year’s birthday also brings a quiet sadness. With this birthday I am the same age my mother was when she died. By the time she was 61, she’d given up on life, trading any possibilities of surprise and delight for the vodka and bourbon bottles. That Thanksgiving the alcohol finally killed her.

I wonder at the essential difference between us: What made my mother see her life as over at 61? What makes me, at the very same age, see my life as an adventure? What makes me see each day of my life as an opportunity to see what happens next?

With this birthday, I’ve never been more grateful to be so unlike her.

More Socks, And a Mystery Knit-Along

The knitting obsession continues unabated. I thought it might ease a bit when I finished my sweater, but no, I am still knitting at every free moment.  For the last two weeks, my hands have held knitting needles much more often than they have held harp strings.  And I realized earlier this week that I like knitting nearly as much as I like playing the harp.

I just finished my first socks knit with needles, instead of knit on the sock loom. I used the same Patons Kroy sock yarn that I used with the loomed socks, yet these are much thicker and bulkier for having been knit traditionally.

First Needle-knit Socks
First Needle-knit Socks

This sock pattern creates the heel by knitting a heel flap, which I think is too bulky,  plus it disrupts the stripes. I like the short-row, traditional looking heel created on the sock loom much better. I found instructions for creating this short-row heel using knitting needles, which I’ll try on these babies:

The Latest Socks
The Latest Socks

In this photo the ribbed cuff is finished, and I’ve just started the leg.

I am trying something new to avoid the “second sock syndrome.” Instead of completing the first sock and then starting the second one, I am knitting them simultaneously, but on two separate circular needles. I will finish the ribbing and the start of the leg on sock #2 before continuing to work on the sock in the photo. Though I know the theory of how it’s done, I am not ready to tackle knitting two socks on one circular needle.

My newest and most challenging project is participating in the “mystery knit-along” being coordinated by my LYS (that’s knit-speak for local yarn shop,) The Fibre Studio. I am knitting a lace shawl with yarn from The Unique Sheep. This yarn company specializes in “gradient dyeing” that creates colors that subtly blend from one shade to another. They then work with designers to create shawl patterns that will showcase their beautiful yarns. My colorway is “Deep Waters” and moves through aquas to a deep ocean blue:

Deep Waters
Deep Waters

The shawl pattern is named Watership Down, after the novel, but since this is a “mystery knit-along” I have no idea what it will look like.  Every Friday the next set of instructions, or clues, magically appears in my email. Here’s what my shawl looked like half-way through the first clue:

Watership Down Shawl
Watership Down Shawl

A weaving teacher from long ago told me, “Yarn will teach you how to work with it, if you will let it.” Knitting with yarn that is skinnier than dental floss is a test of my patience and perseverance, but I am slowly learning what this yarn wants from me. I can’t chat, or watch television, or listen to music. I have to slow way down, watch my needles as I loop each stitch, and count the number of stitches in each section before I move on. I have to relax the tension in my hands and fingers with every stitch, and let the yarn slide into place on the right-hand needle.  I have to quiet my monkey-mind chatter and focus on the stitch I am making at each moment. For the yarn and I to work together, there can be no past or future, no thoughts or concerns distracting me from the stitch in front of me.

Last night, when I was too wound up to sleep, I didn’t get the sock project out of my knitting bag. Instead, I reached for the shawl. Concentrating on each stitch quieted my mind. This single-pointed attention eliminated all worries. For the first time, my shawl wasn’t a struggle or a challenge. It was knitting meditation.

The Fibre Studio displays a stack of lace shawls knitted by customers. I’d wondered what the draw was to knitting lace, and why someone would start a new shawl before the one they just completed was off the blocking board. After finding peace in creating patterns of lacy stitches, I think I know.