Refinding my comfort zone


Posted on August 26, 2017

Almost as rare as a solar eclipse: Susan writes a blog post.  😉

We made pinhole cameras with our hands, revealing a crescent-shaped shadow.
Fun fact: You can make a pinhole camera out of just about anything, including your hand. This is last weekend’s eclipse, as experienced in Port Townsend, WA.

There’s a good argument to be made that this week is the first time I’ve really had “down time” in 2017. As I mentioned in January, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 2016. Just a couple days after writing that, I flew back to Wisconsin to be with him during a medical procedure, and basically stayed there until he died in June. I came back to Seattle in July and immediately went to work on a couple tech editing projects, including a pattern collection for Tolt Yarn and Wool‘s fourth anniversary (presumably this isn’t a spoiler, since they’ve published an anniversary collection for the last two years. Mark your calendars: their anniversary party is on October 28!). When that was done, there was last-minute planning to be done for a party/retreat my husband and I hosted last weekend in the Olympic Peninsula to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We got back home on Monday afternoon, and this week… I finally just got to breathe, and relax, and reflect a bit without constantly having to look forward to the next task.

Throughout it all, of course, my knitting has been with me. It has brought me comfort, and it has brought me angst. My dad was in the hospital for three weeks in January, and I spent a lot of time sitting by his bedside, so naturally I brought a project. I knit two sleeves and three panels (back + two fronts) of a cardigan from that lovely YOTH Yarns gradient kit I have, and it became my Cancer Dad Sweater: I swatched assiduously and CustomFit the pattern and, despite my past struggles with sweaters, was determined that it would come out beautifully and would always be a memento of that time spent with my dad.

Then I blocked it, and this happened:

Black yarn bled onto light blue yarn.

The dark yarn bled across the sky blue gradient, on all the pieces. I was devastated. Even moreso because I should have known; I know about Shout Color Catchers, and I probably let it soak for too long, and I should have known (I do know!) that indie-dyed yarn has a tendency to do this, especially with dark colors. But it happened, and there was no going back (I couldn’t recapture those weeks spent in the hospital), so I put it in a drawer and tried to forget it ever happened and spent a week being really angry about hand knitting. I shouldn’t have to deal with this crap. I should be able to buy a color and expect that it stays that color. I shouldn’t have to worry about wearing a white t-shirt under a hand-dyed sweater because it’s likely to “crock” and stain the shirt. Why do I spend all this time and love on projects that demand so much of me, that require such fastidious treatment? This is clearly a stupid hobby and a waste of my time. I should just buy store-bought clothes that I can wash and wear and not worry about.

For the rest of my time in Wisconsin, I retreated into sock knitting. Tolt Yarn and Wool is promoting sock knitting this year, and I was thrilled to be featured on their blog this spring answering a few questions about my sock knitting habit. As I mentioned there, socks are—for me—the “comfort food” of knitting. They ask very little of me, and provide reliable satisfaction. So I took a field trip to the KnitCircus studio and cranked out three pairs of socks in Wisconsin, another one in July, and have three more in progress as we speak. Clearly I’m feeling a need for things to go right in my life, and sock knitting is the way to make that happen.

collage of handknit socks
Improvised pattern in White Birch Fiber Arts self-striping 80/20; Vinnland and Zigzagular Socks in KnitCircus Trampoline.

I can tell I’m feeling a bit more equilibrium lately, though, because this week I cast on something other than a sock: Jared Flood’s classic Rock Island shawl, which I’ve admired for years. We’ll see how it goes.

After my dad died, my brother and I took a road trip to spread some of his ashes in Lake Superior. My dad was born on Lake Huron and always loved camping and traveling around the Great Lakes. We drove up to one of his favorite campgrounds in the UP, sprinkled him in the lake, and it felt very right to watch him slowly dissolve into the waves. Although I would’ve loved to have had him around for twenty more years, I feel really at peace with his death, and it’s nice to imagine him up there in his “comfort zone.” Now I have some time to work on refinding my own.

Sunset over Trout Lake, MI
We overnighted at Trout Lake in the Upper Peninsula, just south of Lake Superior. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but I highly recommend the Birch Lodge for its tranquility and homemade muffins.
Dad's ashes on Lake Superior
Dad’s ashes on the lakeshore before their dispersal. His can fit perfectly in the car’s cupholder and I tried to convince my brother that maybe we should just let him hang out in the car with us for a few years—the man did love a road trip—but Joe wasn’t having any of it.



Barbara Armento

August 30, 2017

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences from 2017 – a very special time for both you and Joe. It’s been good to read this, and think about John and some adventures of long ago.
Those are some lovely socks!


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