When we got orders to Leavenworth, Kansas, I wasn’t overly thrilled (as most of you are now well aware). However, this state and this town have both been one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of our military adventure so far. There are lots of reasons why this assignment is turning out to be really great for me and our family…among them is that this quiet midwest town is continually offering me chances to get back to some of the things I loved long ago (fitness), as well as try new things I’ve always wanted to learn. Literally 8 minutes from our house, in our tiny town that has just a few shops, there is a quilt store, a sewing store, and a knitting store…all in one block. You guys…it feels like this town was made for me!
Each store has a wide variety of well-priced lessons and classes; and after discovering that a few months ago, I committed to three personal and creative goals for our one year here: 1) Learn to knit at the knitting shop, 2) Learn to use my inherited fancy embroidery machine and serger at the sewing shop, and 3) Complete a quilt by participating in the local Block of the Month at the quilt shop (you can follow my block-of-the-month progress on Instagram!). Because of the demands of this blog, my free-lance writing, teaching fitness at the gym, and being mom to Henry, I can’t dive into all of these things at once (as much as I’d love to!). As such, I am systematically working my way through the town, picking up new hobbies and skills as I go! I started with learning to knit…and you guys, I’m hooked (ha!).
As many of you personal friends and long-time readers know, my beloved mother was an avid and extremely talented knitter. She actually did many crafts and did them all so well, but if there is one hobby and skill I think of when I think of her, it’s knitting. For as long as I can remember, she always had knitting needles in her hand or mid-project sitting in a bag at her feet waiting to be picked up again. Every car trip, waiting room, plane ride, and movie night, she was working on something. Sweaters and baby blankets were her forte. Not a babe in our rather large family doesn’t have a knit blanket from Mom. So many times as a girl, she offered to teach me to knit…and I never wanted to. I guess part of me figured she’d be there whenever I was ready to learn. When Mom passed away last year, all of the amazing hand-crafted things she made over the years became all-the-more special and precious to me and my family. In the almost two years since she passed away, I have become very aware of what gifts hand-crafted items are to those we love…and remain so long after we’re gone.
Honestly, I never really thought about learning to knit and figured I never would with Mom now gone. But when I walked into the small but adorable local yarn shop, it immediately felt right. I suddenly wanted to learn, and signed up for lessons right away. Mom would have been so excited.
My teacher wanted me to start with crochet before moving on to knitting. This made my sisters and I chuckle because Mom hated to crochet, and she only knit. As such, I didn’t want to learn to crochet, but chose to trust in my teacher’s program. After four lessons, I had mastered the basic crochet stitches and felt confident enough to take on my first project. A dear, dear friend had asked me to be her baby’s godmother…and like Mom did for every baby in our family, I wanted to make a knit blanket for my new goddaughter. I purchased yarn, and each night while watching the news…just like Mom did…I worked away at my first little creation: a simple crochet baby blanket.
Night after night, my little blanket grew. It’s not perfect or complicated (it’s a basic double crochet the whole way). But in addition to making a sweet creation for a sweet baby girl, working on this blanket taught me the joy and satisfaction in such a simple craft. I now understand why Mom (and so many!) loved it so. Instead of being locked away in my office…sitting at my computer or hunched over my sewing machine…I can be at work on something (which my heart and my hands seemingly need!) but still be with my family. I can watch the news or a movie, oversee Henry riding his bike outside, pass the time on car trips, and more. I can pick it up when I feel like it, and put it away when I’m tired or bored. It’s soothing and meditative…and most of all…it allows me and even forces me to think about Mom. Just like when I sit at her sewing machine to work on projects, I can’t help but think about and miss her when I look down and see yarn in my hands and on my lap.
Learning to crochet wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy either. In fact, I was surprised and sometimes even frustrated that I couldn’t get it quickly and easily. Knitting is practically in my blood, after all! It challenged my brain and my hands; and for the first time in a long time, I found myself eager to practice and improve. I worked on my little blanket each night during the news; and with every passing broadcast, I did get better. My hands still cramp from time to time, and I still have to watch them as I go; but the movements are becoming second nature, and my stitches are becoming more uniform.
All in all, it has been so incredibly refreshing and rewarding to learn a new skill. I am self-taught at almost everything I do…and as a result I feel like I fake-it-til-I-make-it through so much. So many of my hobbies have turned to jobs (fitness and crafting) and while that is fantastic, it can also rob me of the joy I once had for those hobbies. But this…this feels simple and leisurely and soothing. It feels like something that will always be there when I need it or want it…something I will be able to do for the rest of my life. Like I said…unexpected surprises were waiting for me in this town. And I am so grateful.
This week, I start knitting with two needles and I am just so excited. I don’t necessarily plan to document each and every project as I go here on the blog, but I really wanted to share with you all this part of my journey here in Kansas and also as a crafter. It becomes all too easy to stay in our comfort zone and just do the things we’ve always done. I’m so thankful for this reminder to never stop learning new things…who knows what new love you’ll find!
After a crazy couple of weeks, I’m (mostly!) back into my groove and finally catching up! I hope you have a great start to your week, and I’ll see you back here on Wednesday!