Knitting in Ninety-Five Degree Heat

Knitting in 95 degree heat is not fun. With a stash full of new wool yarns, I looked forward to starting my fall knitting soon. I planned two sweaters for myself, an attempt at my first cardigan-knitted-top-down, and socks for all the guys in my family. But the daily highs are in the mid-nineties, and working under a pile of wool does not appeal.

We keep the air conditioning set on 70 degrees and all the shades down to block as much sunlight as possible, but it’s still uncomfortably warm indoors. All I’ve managed to knit are socks. Not that I anticipate wearing handknit wool socks anytime soon, but socks are small enough that they don’t take up much space while knitting. The heavy shawl I’m making actually makes me sweat, the larger it becomes. I’m looking forward to casting that thing off double-quick!

I love to knit, but I’m thinking I’ll need to re-evaluate what I knit as the summers get longer and longer and as we get less and less snow here in Tennessee. After making several sweaters I felt really proud of last winter, I have to admit I stuffed them in a drawer at the end of January and haven ‘t seen them since. I wear cardigans quite a bit, and I’ve decided to re-route my efforts into garments I can easily peel off this season. While I love to knit pullovers, I have to acknowledge that they will get limited wear.

Will the pattern designers get the message that those of us in the South don’t need sweaters anymore? I was delighted to get a pattern and yarn for a sleeveless tunic from a knitting subscription company last month. A sleeveless sweater in October? Actually, it’s too warm for such a thing now, but in December, a sleeveless wool sweater with a cardigan over it or t-shirt under it will be just what I want to wear.

Patience, fellow knitters! Even here in Tennessee, it will get cool enough (I hope) to wear a hand-knitted wool sweater without melting inside the thing. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll soon see designers and yarn companies offer more goodies for us to knit that will be lovely and useful in warmer weather. 

Happy knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

The Story Behind Every Piece Of Knitting

As I cleaned out a closet today, I found the very first baby blanket I knitted for my son. It’s a small, lacey, baby blue blanket blessed by one of my favorite priests and taken all the way to the Arctic Circle when we adopted our youngest child. It was the first “prayer shawl” I ever made. 

Pulling that blanket out of the closet, I noticed a couple of crooked seams and a section of the blanket that badly needed blocking. But that didn’t matter; it was the story behind that baby blue blanket that mattered more than anything. 

As soon as I had that baby blanket in my hands, the whole story of becoming my youngest son’s mother came back to me: the waiting, the paperwork, the trips to the homeland security office in Nashville to get his citizenship lined up, the cold trip to the Arctic in the middle of winter. I could smell the diesel fuel during a long flight delay in Paris. I could see the faces of the doctors, drivers, and adoption agency staff who shepherded us along the way – all from taking one glance at that baby blanket I had knitted.

Don’t we all have stories woven within almost all of our knitting projects? We remember that Harry Potter scarf knitted for a son when he was in the second grade. That confetti-sparkled hat knitted for a daughter when she was a pre-teen. That hat your husband wanted for his camping trip last fall. 

As I began my book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, I realized that we all have rich, often poignant stories behind our knitting projects. When we give our knitting projects as a gift to someone else, it becomes part of their story, too.

What’s on your needles now, and what’s the story you’ll remember months or years from now? I hope your stories will be tales of overcoming the stress and challenges of daily life, woven with the joy you get from knitting.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Knitting and Mindfulness

Take a deep breath, take a seat, and just knit.  As knitters, most of us know the secret to winding down, tuning out, and experiencing a deep sense of calm.  

Many people call this experience “mindfulness.” It’s something crafters have known and practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years.  If you do a Google search for the definition of “mindfulness,” you find this: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

Sound familiar? Knitting allows you to put everyday cares aside, focus simply on the movement of your hands, and truly live in the moment of whether you need to be knitting or purling at this specific second of your life. Some of us need an intricate pattern to accomplish this. Others of us use a simple pattern we know by heart. It all accomplishes the same thing, the state of mind we now call mindfulness.

Hope you’re having a wonderfully calm day of knitting and mindfulness, Cindy

Recommended new book:

Mindful Thoughts for Makers by Ellie Beck: An excellent, well-written book on the meditative nature of crafting by hand. I truly enjoyed this book and read it at one sitting. I appreciated the author’s thoughts on slowing down, taking a break from our busy lives, and enjoying the pleasant simplicity of crafting. She also reminds crafters that it’s the process – not the finished product – that’s important. This book would be great as a gift for anyone who crafts – sewing, woodworking, knitting, crochet, and any other handmade crafting activity.

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

When Do You Pull the Plug on a Knitting Project?

In the past two days, I’ve pulled the plug on not one but two new knitting projects. First, I tried to knit socks with lace weight yarn. That was Fail Number One, due to utter unsuitability of the yarn to the project. Fail Number Two was more complicated.

I planned to knit a scarf as a Christmas present for Son#1. He recently moved to Nebraska and suddenly needs LOTS of cold weather garments. I miss him terribly, but this gives me a new focus for my knitting. Need a hat, cowl, or winter scarf? I’m all over it! 

But the pattern I selected for this scarf just didn’t seem right. Mind you, there was nothing inherently “wrong” in this pattern – a traditional Scottish horseshoe pattern. But it wasn’t right for son. And that bothered me. I kept knitting the pattern, but I still didn’t like it. Finally, I pulled the plug – or should I say, the yarn – and frogged the whole thing. I re-started the scarf with a tried and true pattern I enjoy and could do in my sleep. (And I’m reasonably certain my son will love it.)

Friends, knitting is something we do for fun and relaxation. We need to knit what we want. If you start a project and don’t like it – for whatever reason – pull that yarn and start over. Knitters have a huge advantage over other crafters: we can re-use materials if we need to start over, and no one’s the wiser. Plus, you get “extra knitting time” with the same yarn if you decide to frog it.

So knit what you want, what you really really want. If you don’t like it, remember this is a HOBBY for most of us. And the whole purpose of a hobby is to relax and do something pleasant. If you find yourself knitting something you don’t like – for whatever arbitrary reason – yank the end of that yarn and be done with it!

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Our Season of Fall Knitting is Here!

Today in the grocery store, I spied a new knitting magazine full of new autumn designs. Cozy sweaters, cowls, wool hats, and mittens – all in autumnal colors of burnt orange, yellows, greys, and harvest greens. I grabbed that magazine and hurried home to plot and plan my fall knitting season.

For North American and European knitters, fall is truly our season. After wearing thin cotton dresses, shorts, and sleeveless tops throughout the hot summer, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and envision ourselves actually wearing wool sweaters again. Not yet, but it’s coming! 

Of course, most of us who have knitted for years already have fall sweaters in our wardrobes, ready to wear after a good airing. But no matter, it’s time to get knitting new ones anyway. We can always swap out new ones for the old ones, give away a few garments to make room for new ones, or even donate some things to a charity shop.

And then there’s Christmas. Who hasn’t given at least a passing thought as to what family and friends are getting in the way of handknitted gifts for the holidays? Between the turning of the season and an impending holiday, we knitters have plenty to do in the coming months. With no apologies whatsoever, we can now stock up on lovely squishy yarns and hit the “buy” button on interesting new patterns.

Just don’t forget to enjoy it all! After all, what’s the point of all this knitting if we can’t relax and enjoy a little “me” time each and every time we pick up the needles?! 

Happy Fall Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Knitting and Creativity

Often, I may look like I’m sitting in a quiet corner, knitting. I may look absorbed in my stitches, paying no attention whatsoever to what’s going on around me.

I’m actually “writing.”  And by “writing,” I mean I’m in the middle of the creative process that eventually ends up as a short story, a blog post, the outline of a non-fiction book, or even a novel. And it all includes those crucial half hours of knitting.

Other creative people probably have some form of creative meditation – fishing, woodworking, cooking, sewing. Anything relatively simple that gets you out of your daily cares and allows your subconscious to run free works as this sort of creative preparation exercise.

When I knit before writing, I always knit something I don’t have to think about too much. Several rows of garter stitch work wonders. If I know a pattern so well I can do it in my sleep, that pattern becomes “meditative” for me. It forces me to sit down and focus on a problem, while also giving my mind an opportunity to go off exploring. 

I’m sure knitting-as-meditation works for anyone, even if you’ve never called it that. So for anyone who has a problem they can’t figure out, an impasse on a work project, or a relationship dilemma, take a few minutes and knit. After a few rows, the perfect answer might just pop into your head. 

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

What to do With All That Clearance Yarn?

Tis the season when the Big Box stores run their yarn clearance sales. We’re all enticed with clearance sales notices popping up in our emails and texts, letting us know of the 70% off sales we likely won’t be able to resist.

So more than a few of us head off (or sneak off) to the yarn store and stock up. If we’re lucky, we pick up that yarn we found too pricey a couple of months ago and get to work on that sweater we envisioned. Or we might find some colors that will work for the fall and winter, and we happily get to work on Christmas gifts.

But what about that yarn at the unbelievable price, in bright summer colors? Well, some of us buy it anyway and figure out what to do with it later. If you’re like me, you can’t just pass it up.

You’ve got a problem on your hands: what to do with all that clearance yarn? I’ve found myself in this dilemma lately. In knitting through my stash, I’ve come up against a plethora of bright, happy colored yarns – bought on clearance in years past – and no discernable plan for any of it. Here’s what I’m doing with it:

  • A Sampler Shawl. I’ve got six skeins of pastel colored cake-type yarn that looked good in the store but turned out scratchy and not-so-nice. I’m using it to try out some new stitches. This shawl may look okay when it’s finished; it might not. That’s okay.  I’ve tried out lots of new techniques and stitches I’ll use in other projects.
  • Mini Prayer Shawls. I’ve used up the Caron x Pantone mini-skeins to make small, coaster-sized squares to hand out as “thank you” gifts. I’ve been asked to speak at a local Book Club, and I’m planning to hand out these mini Prayer Shawls to those lovely ladies who bought and read my latest book. They could probably be used as coasters, phone charging pads, or some other household use.
  • Something wonderful and unexpected. Several years ago, I bought a huge plastic bag full of blue, green, and white yarn at a big box sale of manufacturer rejects and remainders. Just for kicks, I made a long and skinny shawl that’s become my favorite go-to early morning wrap. The yarn tuned out super soft, and the shawl is vibrant and looks terrific. Who knew?

I know you creative knitters will have many other uses for clearance yarn. Feel free to drop a comment to share your ideas with me and other readers!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Psssst! The e-book edition of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles will soon be on sale! On Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13 & 14, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles will be on sale for only $1.99 at this link from 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday until 11 p.m. on Wednesday night. Give it a try and help me out by reviewing it on Amazon!

Stressed? Sit and Knit Awhile

It’s been a bad week here in America. Two mass shootings, stock market volatility, and the usual political divisiveness. Nerves are frayed, and many of us feel the stress.

For those of us who knit, a breather is just a couple of knitting needles and a ball of yarn away. If you’re suffering from jangled nerves, facing personal challenges, or just dealing with ordinary stress, pick up those needles and knit. You can knit anything – it’s doesn’t matter. The easier the project, the better. The point is to take a few minutes for yourself and your own mental health, check out from the rest of the world, and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while. 

In times of deep stress, I’ve always turned to my knitting needles. Several years ago, as I waited to travel to another part of the world to adopt my youngest child, I learned that the children in his orphanage could use handknitted hats and scarves. Delighted to hear this, I used this knitting time to soak up my stress and calm my nerves. When it came time to finally travel, I had an entire suitcase full of warm knitted hats and scarves for children who had no personal possessions, plus scarves for all their caretakers. 

Knitting can heal. Knitting is our own little time and space where we can re-group, re-think, and prepare to face the realities of the world once again.

Blessings for peace and resilience, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, fictional short stories about knitters of prayer shawls and how their gifts bless people they know or have never even met. The story “Hats for Orphans” is based on her own knitting of hats while an expectant adoptive mother. Available in e-book and paperback at this link.

Frogging Just Creates New Opportunities

This past week, I gasped in horror as my cat leapt into my lap, pulling apart a delicate piece of knitting I held in my hands. I couldn’t blame Scamper the Cat. He just wanted to sit in momma’s lap and purr. It’s not like he intended to make me lose several stitches that proved impossible to get back on the knitting needles.

I had to admit, I didn’t like the design of the intricate lacing of the shawl I was working on. The middle of the work looked messy, and I didn’t realize how bad it looked until I had progressed far beyond the point of fixing it. I played with the idea of frogging (“rip it, rip it, rip it out” for those not familiar with the knitting term for unravelling your work and starting over). But I couldn’t bear to tear out several inches of work. I had dithered back and forth for days, unhappy with my design and wondering if I should rip it.

Scamper the Cat made the decision for me. As I looked at the hopeless state of my knitting work, I realized he had actually done me a favor. Taking a deep breath, I pulled out several days worth of knitting and got the work back to a place where I could both re-do my design and get the stitches back on my needles. (Yarnovers and frogging don’t mix, I’ve discovered.) My evening of knitting turned out much more relaxing than I intended; ripping out is pretty mindless work.

We knitters are lucky. For those of us who knit, there are do-overs in life. Not many crafts allow you the opportunity to completely start over on a failed project with the same materials and without having to throw out pricey supplies. In fact, if you’re a “process knitter” like me, you just get more knitting time in with the same skein of yarn.

So if you have to frog your work, just remember it’s no big deal. Your work might look better in the end, and for once in your life, you get a do-over.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Your First Piece of Knitting Will Be Awful, And That’s Okay

I don’t know how many people have told me, “I tried to knit a scarf (or sweater, hat, blanket, sock), and it was awful.” They never try knitting again, and it’s a shame. I want to take such people by the hand, sit them down, and patiently ask them to at least try a second knitting project. It will be better, I would promise them.

When you learn to do something for the first time, you WILL make mistakes. That’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. I seriously doubt that anyone in the history of knitting (or any other craft) started and finished a project without at least a half dozen visible, obvious, and potentially disastrous mistakes. I now tell new knitters that they should plan to put their first project in the trash. If they do come up with something worth saving, we’ll all be happy and surprised. 

Do you remember your first knitted garment? I sure do. The first knitting project I tackled was a big orange and white blanket made solely with garter stitch, because my mom didn’t know how to purl. She didn’t know how to tie up loose ends either, apparently. That first blanket I made (now enjoyed by my dog) has less-than-charming little pieces of loose ends hanging out on every side and seam. 

As a twenty-something, I took up knitting again, this time asking help from the experts at my local yarn store, The Knit Wits. The elderly ladies who worked at the shop patiently taught me how to purl, increase, decrease, and properly sew my pieces together and tie up loose ends. I’m eternally grateful to those ladies. The sweater they had me knit ended up kinda messy, but that’s okay. My skills increased by leaps and bounds. My next sweater looked terrific, and I was well on my way to the ranks of “accomplished knitter.”

So if you’re just learning to knit or still a beginner, give yourself a break. If your knitting isn’t perfect, know that we’ve all been there at some point. I would guess that all knitters have an awful mess of a first project they’ll never forget. But those of us who love knitting so much eventually tackled a second project and maybe even a project down the road we consider a minor masterpiece. And we all hope you’ll try that second project, too. 

Knitting blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the just-published book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. This fictional collection of short stories includes tales of several newbie knitters and those saintly women who mentor them, forging friendships and incredible connections. Available at this link in paperback and e-book edition. Included in Kindle Unlimited.