Not long ago I re-blogged a post about a book with knitting and crochet patterns for cats, Cats in Hats. I bemoaned the idea of dressing one’s cat up in costumes of any sort, but was wise enough to leave the door open for the possibility I might give in to those really cute hats.
Wise, because predictably I’ve bonded with a co-worker, Asia, over our love of cats. So much so that when I found out her kitty Jake will wear bow ties, I told her about Cats in Hats, knowing full well I was about to knit a hat for a cat. Not because she would ask me to do so, but because I couldn’t resist crazy cute.
And if I wasn’t hooked by the idea of her big orange cat wearing a knit hat, this dinosaur cap completely did me in.
IS THIS NOT CRAZY CUTE? Jake wasn’t quite as enamored of the cap as Asia and I were, but he looked adorable.
Next comes a top hat to go with his bow tie. I’m going to have to create a pattern for that one, but I’m figuring it out…after all, it’s a tube on a flat circle…should be easy.
Yes, I did try it on Walter, but he immediately shook it off and gave me a dirty look. So my cats will be staying home this Halloween.
By the way, Cats in Hats was so popular there are now multiple books available with knitted kitty clothing. We really are a crazy bunch.
We speak of passion with great enthusiasm, as in “pursue your passion.” I agree, finding joy in life is a good thing, and finding fulfillment and purpose is a treasure. But too much of a good thing has its drawbacks.
I cringe a bit at the word “passion.” It connotes a drive to do something at the expense of other, necessary tasks in life. There can be a lack of balance when you’re passionate about cause, a skill, a person…anything. Of course, sometimes, that lack of balance is part of what gets the job done. For a period of time, letting your passion drive you is a good thing.
Political candidates and those who campaign for them need to be passionate, for example. When you’re in love, you’d better be fully engulfed in your feelings for that other person, or forget about a long-term commitment.
It’s also a term that’s thrown around fairly easily, one that plays on your emotions but isn’t always easy to define in practical terms. I enjoy knitting. I’m an avid knitter, and I always have a project or two in the works. I love to share and compare with other knitters, encourage them in their projects and pursue the next big undertaking with vigor. I have dozens of knitting magazines (including every Vogue Knitting since 1982, which isn’t as many as it might sound like — for years they only published two issues annually). I dabble in design.
Yet I would not say I am passionate about knitting. To me, that would imply some sacrifice, a devotion that goes beyond what is appropriate for my favorite hobby. I have several friends who own yarn shops. I’ve asked them if knitting is their passion, and they laugh and say no. They love it, love their work and are dedicated to the success of their stores. But there is a balance in their lives, and their passion, if they can name one, is more likely their grandchildren.
For years I was also a devout reader. I read as many books as I could get hold of, and while circumstances dampened my enthusiasm for reading (something I never would have thought possible, and I resent those who caused it), that flame likely will never be fully doused. I still enjoy the feel and promise of a new book, and today, when I order one online, I can’t wait to open that box and just hold the book.
So I’m an avid reader as well as knitter. Perhaps there is a little more passion there, for I will firmly say, “you can’t spoil a child with books.” (I know, I know, some of you could provide solid examples contradicting that statement, but look at the heart of what I’m saying. And if a child throws a fit because he or she doesn’t get a new book every time the family goes to Walmart, that has nothing to do with books.)
The one thing I will say I feel compelled to do, even when I have nothing to say (hence the need for a blog haha), is write. That might come close to being a passion. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if I could write for a living…the jobs I’ve found for writers, however, generally are for someone younger, more entry-level. I’m not sure that’s the kind of writing I want to commit myself to on a daily basis.
I have found a way to make room for all the things I can get lost in doing. If any one of them became a job, would I leave behind my joy and what now brings me peace? Let’s face it, too much of anything is going to hurt you in some way.
That goes for the body as well as the mind. As I grow older, I’m increasingly mindful of the toll everyday activities, no matter how seemingly benign, can take on our bodies. Anything we do for an extended period of time has its price.
I just spent months nursing a thumb injury my doctor and physical therapists believe was caused, at least in part, by knitting. When I posted a story about that, one of my blogging buddies commented how she’d hurt herself reading paperbacks.
Yes, find what you love doing, what re-energizes you. But remember, our bodies and minds need variety to stay healthy. We may not love everything we do with the same fervor, but the balance is what keeps us alive, physically and emotionally.
In my home, as well as my mom’s, there is evidence of my handiwork everywhere — evidence of me. It is my legacy, I suppose, along with other things I’ll let my family and friends determine on my behalf. But I love to create, and those I love are the recipients of my creative efforts, generally, I hope, because they want to be.
Long ago I learned only to give to those whom I know, or have reason to believe, will appreciate the gift. Over the years I’ve received many gracious notes, letters, text messages and phone calls saying, “thank you!” The most memorable, I suppose, was the hug from a co-worker when I made him a mohawk cap (it was knitted, then felted, and when he wore it, it resembled a mohawk). He was in a band, and wore it when he played. Later he wanted me to make the same cap for the others in his band, but I didn’t have the time.
I asked him for a picture with him wearing the cap, and he promised me he’d take one and forward it to me, but I never received it. Never mind, he was so excited about the cap, and I hold that memory close.
At that same workplace I made fingerless mitts for my friends who worked in receiving. Later, I knitted a second pair for one of them when she lost the first pair. Last year I designed and made another pair of fingerless mitts for a friend when she cat-sat for me while I took cared for my mom after surgery.
But take a look at my mom’s home. Never mind the plethora of sweaters I’ve made her, there’s the shawl, the pillow, the quilts, the dish cloths I embroidered, bookmarks I stenciled, jewelry boxes I decorated, a picture of a wild parakeet I drew and soon, she’ll have curtains in her kitchen (just waiting for the fabric to get that one done).
I come by this passion for creating honestly. My mom sewed while I was growing, everything from my underwear to my dad’s suits. She was incredible. My dad, a computer programmer by profession (which I think of as creative), made and sold pottery when I was in high school. If he’d wanted to, it’s likely he could have quit his job and been a full-time potter, but the timing wasn’t right.
Knitting is my primary outlet. I’ve been knitting for more than 38 years, and in recent years have been designing a little here and there. Actually, I’ve always done some design, I just never recorded it.
My friends and family keep warm in the winter because of the hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, cowls and the like I’ve made. For that matter, some strangers do, too, as I always make a few things for my church’s Giving Tree each year, where we collect cold-weather clothing of all kinds to give to those who come to the food bank each week.
Today I discovered the injury to my thumb that has been plaguing me for the last several weeks is likely due to decades of avid knitting. I saw a physical therapist, and with the help of some special tools, she was able feel an unusual number of bumps in the muscle that goes from my thumb to my wrist. These bumps are typically due to tiny tears in the muscle that heal over and form scar tissue. Over time, it can cause tendonitis.
Throughout your lifetime you’re warned to eat right, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid stress. Of course you may or may not pay attention to this advice, and as you age, you could find yourself paying the price of a lifetime of bad habits. That’s expected.
But nobody told me to moderate my knitting lest my thumb pay the price. Nobody.
There’s a limited warranty on our bodies, and not a whole lot of recourse with any of it. There are some relatively guaranteed benefits of healthy living, although disease can hit any of us and counteract those benefits at any time.
For the rest of our physical well-being, it’s basically planned obsolescence.
How many other surprise aches and pains await me in the coming years? This is annoying, I have to say it. I’ve been drying my hair in the same manner since I was a teenager. Is that going to cause a problem someday?
I should regain full use of my thumb, but it may take weeks. In the meantime, knitting is out, which is like taking away a part of my spirit. I find myself getting a little depressed, not being able to use the soothing therapy of creating with beautiful fiber.
Yes, I know, there are many more serious problems, and I do have proper perspective on this. It is wear and tear, literally, not chronic or terminal disease. Overall, I remain basically a healthy person. My heart is in good shape. My screening tests come back negative, and that’s positive. I don’t have diabetes, cancer or glaucoma, and I am grateful. Truly, deeply grateful.
Ten years ago my friendship with Mary began, and two years ago it ended when she passed away at the age of 53.
Mary had outlived the odds from the day she was born, when her birth mother was told she wouldn’t make it more than six months. Later, her adoptive parents were told the same thing repeatedly throughout her childhood — and as an adult, Mary heard it so often she stopped telling her husband, Mike.
Mary was one of those people who had hundreds of “best friends.” She would do whatever she could for any of them, including me. She was gutsy and kind. When she went into the hospital for what turned out to be the last time, Mike asked me to make her a “jaunty beret” because her treatment had caused much of her hair to fall out, and she was self-conscious about it.
I immediately set out to find the right pattern and right yarn — something soft for what I imagined might be sensitive skin — and knit up this little hat here.
Actually, this is the second hat I knit in this pattern. I never took a picture of the first one, which went to Mary. When I asked Mike if she liked it, he said she hadn’t had a chance to try it on. After a short time, I caught on. She was too sick for this to matter the least bit.
She maybe never saw the hat at all, or the slippers I included with it. However, I don’t feel anything but gratitude I had a chance to show her my love by knitting this for her, in the off-chance she knew about it.
Last week another Mary in my life died, one month shy of her 41st birthday. It was stunningly sudden. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been entirely surprised, however, for this Mary had lost her eldest son ten years ago to leukemia, and hadn’t been the same since. In many ways she’d moved on beautifully, but her heartache showed itself quietly. It’s possible that pain influenced the way she cared for herself. I don’t know, and it would be wrong for me to assume.
One day on impulse I gave her a pair of slippers I’d knit from a pattern I designed. She started to cry.
“You don’t know what this means to me,” she said.
They were only slippers, so I really didn’t, but I was touched it meant so much. And oh-so-glad I’d done it. If my one small gesture made even a tiny part of her life better, I only wish I could have done a hundred times more. She was special and deserved to know it.
I’m lucky I have a skill I can use to show my love to others, and far luckier for those I have to receive those gifts. Rest in peace, my friends, your suffering is over. You were a gift and a blessing to me. My life is better because you were in it.
One day at work, I was grumpily recounting the tale of a tug-of-war with my cat Paco from the night before over a rather expensive skein of yarn (he had good taste).
He wanted to play with it in a big tangled mess, I wanted to make a sweater out of it. We both won our battle but lost the war. It was a big tangled mess by the time I rescued it, and after a few futile hours trying to wind it back, it remained the same. Frustrated, I stashed the yarn away with plans to finish later.
No sympathy from my co-worker. “You took yarn away from a cat?” he asked incredulously.
“It makes a pretty expensive toy!” I shot back.
“You don’t take yarn away from a cat,” he replied, shaking his head.
Yes you do, only now it appears there is a way to appease your kitty. You use the yarn to make a hat for him, with 30 knitting & crochet patterns from the book Cats in Hats, by Sara Thomas (Running Press, May 2015).
Okay, good chance I’ll buy the book, just for the camp value. However, my time knitting will most likely be spent on other projects. Unless…I mean, these are really cute hats.
If I truly believed I could get Paco to model anything I knit for him, I might make one. On second thought, I don’t want to be one of those pet owners. I understand dog sweaters during freezing weather, but hats for cats? Good grief. Not even if he looked as cute as the cat in this picture…which he would…nope, still not happening.
Regardless, ultimately you can’t take yarn away from a cat. Nothing mine likes more than plotting to nab that little ball of leftover yarn in the bottom of the bag…he can smell it a mile away…wait, it’s just enough to make a cute little cap for him, isn’t it?
A Halloween costume of some sort, perhaps…I’m turning into a true cat lady… but just think how darn adorable he’d be.