Monday, March 7, 2016

Getting Rid of Those Things You Always Wanted

 My "dream" double treadle spinning wheel.  

Since I was a little girl I wanted a spinning wheel with which to spin my own yarn.  I finally got one a few years back.  A beautiful Ashford Traditional with a walnut colored finish.  Promptly, I signed up for beginning spinning classes with a friend at our local fiber guild and began my foray into making yarn.  It was fun, very time consuming work.  My single treadle wheel was lovely to behold, but it wasn't easy to use and I kept getting out of rhythm and breaking my yarn. This got me to dreaming of getting a more modern double treadle spinning wheel where both feet work making it easier to keep in time.  I stalked Craig's List and my local fiber guild for a used version of the model I thought would be just perfect.  Finally, one turned up at a price I could afford and I quickly snatched it up, brought it home and got to work.  It was everything I had hoped it would be and yet spinning yarn was still time consuming work.  Making a skein of yarn took days.  One day to spin each ply (I would make 2 or 3), another day to ply the plies together, another to wind and wash the yarn, and days to wait for it to dry.  Whew!  A lot of time and effort.  As lovely as my skeins of yarn were I sadly found I didn't really like knitting with them.  True, I could spend more time at my new craft of spinning, (I had only been at it for three years) honing my skills to produce yarn I did like knitting, but I found it was not how I wanted to spend my free time.  This realization made me feel really, really guilty having spent so much effort and money on this hobby and it also left me a bit confused.  Why was this not working out as I had planned?  I believe it is because my dream was so much more about an idea than the actual object of a spinning wheel. 

I loved the idea of quietly spinning yarn all day.  It made me think about the slower pace of a life many years ago.  It was idyllic in my mind.  But, since I don't live in that time period, or have the large family to help with all the other chores of everyday life, and that my son is homeschooled, and am often interrupted by the phone, the doorbell or the dog barking, and and.... My dream was in actuality more about that slower pace of a simpler life than it was about spinning yarn.  Purchasing a spinning wheel really only added to my already frenzied full life.  Instead of simplifying I was really cluttering my life with yet another thing to get done.
These associations we have around objects I think are the problem.  Like for instance, how I thought purchasing an ice cream making machine was going to make me happy and my family closer.  It sounds truly odd as I write that sentence, but looking back that was really what I thought.  I saw a vision of my family picking raspberries together in our backyard, bringing them in and gathering around the machine as it slowly churned our fresh ingredients into ice cream.  But, this is not what happened.  In reality no one wanted to help me, the neighbor boy ate most of our raspberries so I used frozen cherries instead and when I was finished nobody cared much for the end product.  I was trying to force a family moment in an area only I was interested in.  I didn't consult my husband or son before purchasing an ice cream machine.  I jumped in because I associated making ice cream with hearth and home - probably due to reading too many homesteading blogs.  Our time would have been better spent playing a card game, having a tickling battle or watching a movie together as they are things we all like to do.  Also, none of those things need some specialty kitchen gadget that has only one purpose.

What I'm trying to say is that often we buy something we've always wanted only to be let down in the end.  Our culture tells us in so many ways that buying stuff will make you happy, but the reality is only you can make you happy.  What I've found is that I the more stuff I get rid of the clearer the vision of what I do want emerges.  The "what I want" that has emerged for me is that I want a close family that spends their time together leading a simple slower paced life.  Thus, I'm getting rid of all this extra stuff that I've always wanted and oddly, that purging is going to make me much happier than the stuff ever did.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Sadness of Letting Go

Rainbow socks which I am knitting and will then probably give away.

In my journey to own less possessions I have felt buoyed as our excess belongings have left our home.  That is until I started tackling my yarn collection.  As I talked about in the previous post yarn is rich with possibilities to a knitter and can bring lots of joy.  Though today I find myself sad as I sort through the many skeins thinking of the garments I wanted to knit, but when it comes down to it don't really need.  My desire for less is trumping my desire to create.  That's simply the direction my life is turning to presently, but as I dig through my tubs of yarn it feels a little bit like a death has occurred.  The death of an identity.  My identity as a knitter is diminishing these last couple months leaving me feeling a bit blue and out of sorts.  Of course no one is forcing me to downsize, or telling me what I can and cannot keep.  It's really only me coming to the realization that my old lifestyle as a knitter does not completely fit with my vision of the minimalist lifestyle I desire.

This thought has me pondering about the phases in our lives: baby, toddler, youth, teenager, college student, newlywed, mother etc.  As well as the less obvious stages that happen in adulthood which usually have to do with our work, hobbies or interests and how they come and go.  My time working at a food co-op where all I seemed to care  about was ethical consumerism and food glorious food.  The stressful years of our trying to conceive a child where I devoured all information I could to help us in our plight.  The dark years of depression and pulling myself out of that hole.  My role as a homeschooling mama figuring out the ins and outs of educating our son.  And lastly, my life as a knitter and how it gave me an identity and  space in my life that was for and about me.  Now though, I feel the tides turning as I want to focus on my family and the ways we can spend more of our time being together; not off in our own pursuits.  I feel minimalism is the path that is going to get us there.

So, while I bag up even more yarn to clear space in our bedroom closet it occurs to me that downsizing really does happen in stages as so many people have said before me.  The last time I went through my stash I thought I couldn't possibly get rid of anymore skeins, and yet today finds me purging again.  I am still a knitter, that phase isn't completely over, but it is now relegating itself to a smaller aspect of my being - not the dominate force it was once.  Even though this shift is causing me momentary sadness I'm feeling a balance beginning in my life that I have never felt before.  That at least feels good. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Can Knitting and Minimalism Coexist?

My current knitting project.  
At the snail pace of a dozen rows knit a week this poncho will take me all year to complete.

I'm having a crafting crisis of sorts.  After scaling back on my hobbies once, then twice I am left with knitting as my sole craft of choice.  Knitting has been my passion for the past eight years often taking up a good chunk of each day until this year that is.  This year my knitting has ground to an unexpected halt.   What's been different?  Well, this is the year I decided to not just downsize, but to embrace minimalism as a lifestyle.  Currently, I'm only on the journey to becoming a minimalist by going through my belongings, doing lots of reading about Minimalism, getting some direction and goals lined up.  In most areas of my life this journey has been an improvement to our lives, but in my hobby of knitting it has really got me stuck.  

Now, there are some aspects of knitting that run a bit contrary to how I see Minimalism working for our family.  The most obvious one is the knitter's stash of yarn.  Knitter's are drawn to yarn like moths to a flame.  We joke about yarn having fumes that mess with our minds as we leave the yarn shop with enough yarn for a sweater , scarf and hat when we only went in for a darning needle.  Yarn has very compelling qualities:  it can be all different textures, fibers, thickness, colors the possibilities are really endless.  And that my friends is what we get stuck on "the possibilities" the dream of what amazing items this yarn could become.  Of course, that's not a bad thing in and of itself but here's the hiccup, you can buy yarn a whole lot faster than you can knit it.  Which brings us to why the knitter has a stash of yarn.  We purchase the yarn with every intention of knitting it up into a wearable item, but knitting is a slow process even for a very fast knitter it takes weeks to finish a sweater.  So, often we will start dreaming of the next project, before being finished with the one we are currently knitting.  The planning process is lots of fun; looking up patterns, figuring out what yarn to use etc.  But why the yarn skeins pile up is that we are fickle and the yarn that we purchased while we were in the middle of knitting endless rows of plain stockinette stitch doesn't still interest us after completing our project.  We want something even newer, so the yarn balls pile up unused building themselves into a proper stash.  

This shopping for yarn, patterns, accessories and tools has become quite epic in scale.  All knitting education events and retreats have shopping, there are clubs that deliver yarn monthly to your house, there are indie dyers that have much built up "shop updates" that if you don't get that yarn now it will be gone forever.  There's pressure to purchase from all these sources and then your knitter friends who enable you to purchase more which I believe makes them feel better about their own purchases.  It's really crazy making.  I know they are out there but I have yet to meet a knitter who buys yarn for a project, knits it to completion and only then buys yarn for her next project.  This is the type of knitter I aspire to be, but right now I'm still the knitter with the stash and lots of half finished projects. 

I've gone through my stash and have sold off lots of yarn.  I kept only that which is currently in a partially knitted project, colors that will go with my now reduced wardrobe (I bought a lot of yarn over the years just because it was "pretty" not that it matched anything I owned) or that is earmarked for a gift.  But, this still leaves me with quite a bit and I don't know how I feel about it.  On the one hand I don't need to purchase any yarn for a couple of years, but then on the other hand I need to store all that yarn for a couple of years.  Will I even still like it by the time I'm ready to knit it?  It's not a dire situation, but it does weigh upon me. 

The next aspect of knitting that I feel is a bit contrary to minimalism is that it makes more stuff.  If I make a sweater I will have another sweater, unless I get rid of a sweater.  Simplistic explanation, but when you're trying to downside your belongings it's hard to consciously make more belongings for yourself to manage.  Now, I get around this by making gifts for others, but even my mom has told me she doesn't need more sweaters.  Then there's making items for charity; hats for cancer patients, warm clothing for the impoverished living in cold climates, socks for the homeless etc.  There are options, I simply don't feel drawn to any of them at this time.  Which leaves me still feeling a bit stuck.  

So, can knitting coexist with minimalism?  Yes, I think it can, but I don't think it's an easy path.  There is a lot of temptation to consume with this hobby at levels with which you cannot possibly keep up.  I'm not sure where this leaves me in regards to my knitting hobby, but it definitely deserves some more thought.