Red Scarf Season

If you've known me any length of time, you've probably heard me mention the Red Scarf Project. I discovered it a few years ago and have tried to send at least one scarf in every year before the December 15 deadline. Since that deadline is fast approaching, I wanted to mention it again. If you have some time and can cast on a quick garter stitch (or crochet, that's even faster) red scarf, please do. I will happily mail your scarf in for you, and hopefully get it there in time.

The Red Scarf Project sends scarves to kids who have left the foster care system and gone on to college. Most college-bound students have a support system at home, sending love and care packages and money when needed. Students who have been in foster care need this gap filled, and the Foster Care 2 Success folks work to do just that. They are America's "largest provider of college funding and support services for foster youth," and as far as I know, the only organization that asks knitters and crocheters to contribute a tangible "hug" to send to students on Valentine's Day.

To that end, I have designed two scarves as free patterns in the hopes that more knitters will participate, both available as free Ravelry downloads (links under pics):

 

Want to help? Here are the details from the website:

RED SCARF PROJECT GUIDELINES:
Size: approximately 60” long and 5” to 8” wide. Scarves should be long enough to be wrapped around the neck, with tails long enough to be tied in the front. 
Style: Think unisex collegiate. Fringes are optional. Your scarf should drape, tie easily and be soft.
Color: Red! However, this could mean burgundy, cherry, russet, red stripes with other colors, or multicolor hues including red. 
Finished & tagged: Yarn ends should be securely sewn in. For a personal touch, attach a tag saying “Handmade for You” with your first name, city, and group affiliation, if any. Donors have also included washing instructions, messages of encouragement, gift cards, and more.

Contact me here or on our Ravelry group or by email if you have a scarf you would like sent in this year.

Thank you for considering giving to this organization--it is one that has special meaning to me and I appreciate the chance to share it with you!

 

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Benefits of Knitting

There are some articles floating around the internet again about the benefits of knitting. On the one hand, it's nice when the media has something nice to say about your hobby. On the other hand, do we really need to defend what we do?

Knitting has gone in and out of favor over the years, including a solid block of time as a Men Only Club (think Medieval craft guilds--no girls allowed). In my lifetime (which does NOT include the aforementioned Medieval era, no matter how old my kids think I am) there has been a resurgence, as young crafters have discovered how much fun it is to knit, and yarn and needle producers have discovered that the more yarn and needles they produce, the more money they make and the happier we knitters are to have choices.

As it so happens, I already  have  a rocking chair. So there.

As it so happens, I already have a rocking chair. So there.

Along with the resurgence has come more than a few dismissive observations:

  • Scorn:  "My grandmother used to knit"--this implies that not even decrepit old ladies still do such a dumb thing.
  • Ridicule:  "You do know you can BUY a pair of socks for $2 from Wal-Mart, right? You don't HAVE to make them yourself."--this implies that I shop at Wal-Mart, but am also so stupid that I am totally ignorant of mass production.
  • Profiling:  "All you need now is a rocking chair!" -this implies that either I am prematurely gray under my Clairol or worse still, old at heart.

 

Negative comments have made us a bit defensive, and so we tout studies about the therapeutic benefits to arthritic hands and aging brains as excellent reasons why we knit.

All hobbies that involve working with one's hands have physically beneficial side effects--wood working, fly fishing, sewing, painting, and ceramics are only a few examples, because there are so many. Any hobby that engages your mind will have mental benefits. Any hobby that can be social in nature will improve your happiness through relationships with fellow enthusiasts. Why must knitting be singled out to be defended for its helpful merits?

I read somewhere (Yarn Harlot, I think) that worldwide, there are more knitters than golfers. When was the last time you heard someone brag on the benefits of golf to justify greens fees? (I am not dissing golf in any way, I promise.)

The next time another "helpful" article about the benefits of knitting comes across your path, think about it from this perspective. Is knitting something that needs to be justified? Or can we all just agree it is something we enjoy and leave it at that? One day, non-knitters will be the ones who feel as though they must explain why they don't knit. Until that newsworthy day, I plan to keep knitting, happily secure in the thought that I needn't defend it to anyone.

 

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Holiday Hijinks, with Knitting

Actually, "hijinks" might be too strong a word choice here, but I really like the word "hijinks" so I used it. I have a list that I keep of words that I like, because I like words and I like lists, so that makes sense to me. Some random words from my list: pith, conflagration, vim and foible...but I digress.

I can tend to get a little freaked out about holidays. (If you examine that sentence, and remove the superfluous cushions, you'll see: I get freaked out about holidays.) Maybe it's the perfectionist people-pleaser in me, but whatever the cause, holidays get to me. We took a "holiday quiz" a few years ago and the kids picked Halloween as their favorite holiday because Mom doesn't get stressed about Halloween. Halloween requires virtually nothing from me and the expectation levels are healthy and I love pumpkins, so yeah, Halloween is pretty much stress-free. This was pretty enlightening to me, as I assumed that Christmas would top their Favorite Holiday list, but it turns out that Christmas tops the list for Holidays That Stress Mom Out. (Why is that even a list?)

It's true. Christmas can be one long session of nightmare workaholic perfectionist guilt: cards, gifts, shopping, movies, parties, performances, outfits, cookies, food, etc. I know this will sound very Grinch-like, but wow can we cram one more thing into that month? And as it is now mid-October all this holiday madness is only mere days away and I'm exhausted already. What's that? You, too? I knew I wasn't alone.

OK, so here's the plan: We are NOT going to panic. Once upon a time, Christmas was something we loved. Like an exciting new knitting project that over time loses its momentum, Christmas needs to be dug out of the bag under the bed and faced head on.

Remember how we purged projects and yarn in Finish For Fall? It felt good to focus and know what was worth taking the time to finish (beaded scarf we hate, NO; socks for hubby, YES). We are going to make a list, several lists if needed. Examine the holidays. What stresses you out? What should you keep? What should you never ever, under any circumstances, do again during the holiday season? And my favorite: What would a stress-free holiday look like? (It looks like Halloween, but I'm pretty sure they won't let me celebrate that in October AND December, too. It's pretty much a one-shot deal.) All of those perfect holidays we see in magazines and on Pinterest and HGTV are not going to happen for us because we are not a full-time staff of decorators, seamstresses and cooks. Unless you in fact are a staff of such, in which case, go for it.

I know that you just can't spring A Different Christmas This Year on your unsuspecting family. I've tried it and believe me, you don't want to go there. This will take strategy and preparedness and a plan. In the long run, if you are happier, more relaxed and actually able to enjoy your holiday, the family will come around, provided you first ease them into it.

Here are some tips for calming the hijinks in your holiday. They are knitting-related because that's what this blog is supposed to be about...

  • Do not try to cast on a project after November 1 for giving in December. Madness.
  • Do try to knit a little bit every day.  It's your hobby and it brings you pleasure. Don't neglect it till January.  Don't neglect YOU till January, either.
  • Don't laugh in the face of the friend who offers to pay you to knit a sweater for their co-worker's Christmas gift. This may be your first impulse, but curb it in the spirit of the holiday. Politely but firmly thank them for their confidence in your abilities, but decline the offer. Then you can laugh, just not in their face.
  • Don't be upset if you can't finish a holiday gift in time (which we all know you started before Nov. 1, right?). My sweet friend Dianne has proof that even an unfinished gift is well-loved.
  • Do try to remember that you once anticipated the holiday season with excitement, not dread. Like rediscovering neglected old yarn that you loved when you bought it, find a purpose for the holiday that will make it fun again.

Christmas and other holidays are not bad, they just need dusting off and refurbishing. Underneath all of the unrealistic expectations, holidays still have some vim, they needn't turn into a conflagration of stress and accentuate all our foibles.

2008. Seems like yesterday.

2008. Seems like yesterday.

The pith, the essence of it all is this:

Even if you don't have kids, the people you spend your holidays with aren't getting any younger (and neither are you, but you look marvelous, so don't let it get you down). If we can just figure out how to spend less time trying to put Martha Stewart out of a job, we will be able to find the time to tell someone they are special. And isn't that what the holiday hijinks are about after all?

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A funny thing happened on the way to my blog post today...

My original plan for a blog post was either going to be Knitting-Related content or More Knitting-Related content, but what I did during lunch time derailed that--in a good way.

Today I had the opportunity to attend the first in a Series of Discussions on Women in Leadership, hosted by our U.S. Senator Tim Scott and featuring Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of HP. I was able to invite other women to attend, which made me deliriously happy because I love being able to encourage others, and I felt that this had the potential to be helpful to women in leadership positions.

"Women represent half the creativity and potential of the nation... Leadership is about making a positive difference and unlocking potential in others." Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina and US Senator Tim Scott at today's Women in Leadership luncheon

Carly Fiorina and US Senator Tim Scott at today's Women in Leadership luncheon

I had to wonder at first what a high-powered executive like Carly Fiorina could say that would apply to me--a not particularly high-powered wife, mom, knitting instructor, knitwear designer, knitting blogger. It didn't take long for me to realize that the principles of great leadership apply wherever you lead. The passion that I have for knitting instruction comes directly from wanting to make a "positive difference" in the lives of others. When people learn to knit or learn a new technique, it empowers, it satisfies, it will even potentially lower blood pressure and increase manual dexterity! People tell me that they've tried to knit and failed, or that they could never ever learn it and I always say, let's just give it a try (or another try).  I see the potential for them to master a skill, because I said for years that I could never ever learn. (I was wrong.)

She also spoke of how she loves to see that look the people get when they realize they can do something they did not think they could do. She may have meant problem-solving on an executive level for a Fortune-50 company, but if there were ever a perfect description of watching someone catch on to a knitting technique, this is it.

So my advice to you today, my Simple (Not Really)Knitting Tip, is to be encouraged. You may be a Senior Manager or a mom of a senior in high school, but you are a leader where you are.  You can make a difference in the lives of the people around you--empower, uplift, develop, invest. The potential in a new knitter (or a new sales consultant or student or employee) is powerful and you really never know how far someone can go with some training, some respect, and some confidence. People matter. You matter.

And in case no one else has mentioned it lately, I'm glad you're here.

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