Crochet for Bears to Wear

bear crochet

I intruige you, no?

A good friend (Amy O’Neill Houck) sent me her new book, and although I don’t have any teddy bears (I have a stuffed poodle), I thought it was an adorable little volume of patterns that can be crocheted for any size teddy bear.

But the REAL power of the book escaped me at first, it took a special kid to help me see the true value of this collection of adorable patterns.

Last year I taught a young friend to knit.  It was one of the most fulfilling teaching episodes of my life, as this boy is very energetic, has difficulty focusing, but I could immediately see what a calming effect knitting had on his mind and soul.

Ben Knits

Ben Knits

And on his mother, who was pregnant at the time with her 3rd child and could use the respite of her son’s knitting!

So this year, just before the bear book arrived in the mail, my young friend dropped by (we watch the Amazing Race together each week) and noticed me crocheting like a madwoman (remember that doll I worked up 3 times?)

“What are you doing?”
“It looks like knitting…”

Which was a perfect segue into explaining that knitting and crochet are like cousins, with a lot of similarities.  The main difference is that with knitting each stitch is left live after it’s worked, but in crochet each stitch is bound off as you work it, making for a thicker fabric which can be more sculptural.

My brilliant explanation totally flew over my young friend Ben’s head, he just wanted to get to the YARN.  I showed him how to make a chain, and we made a passable start at learning an actual single crochet, but I could tell the spark wasn’t there.

Then Crochet For Bears To Wear arrived in the mail.

When Ben arrived the following Sunday for our regularly scheduled TV appointment, the book was sitting on the table and he gravitated to it like the moon to a planet.  He devoured it, he looked at every picture, commented on the designs, the possible difficulty of some of the pieces, and – of course – how cute  it all was.

As I said, this is a very special kid with huge amounts of creativity AND sensitivity that can hide themselves in an energetic exterior.  But he’s smart with his hands, and he was itching to try some of these projects.

CFBTW Interior

Just one peek...

Crochet For Bears To Wear is NOT a child’s book, although anyone who can crochet would enjoy working up the patterns.  It does, however, have such a wide ribbon of whimsy running through it that it would engage anyone.

Passion, fun, joy – these are thereasons we knit and crochet.  Any book that can bring so much of all three to a new – or established – crocheter is well worth owning!

In full disclosure I should say that I’d intended to offer my review copy as a giveaway to a worthy reader, but I’m afraid it’s spoken for – it will go to Ben!

[UPDATE: I WILL give a copy of the book away, just not THIS copy!  Leave a message saying that you’d like the book, and I’ll pick one worthy winner.  I’ll need to contact you (I can see your email address when you log in, no one else can) and you’ll receive the book from Amy’s publisher as soon as they can get it out to you!]

A Place of Love; Moving Beyond Logic

On March 21, my Twitterscope By Rick Levine said:

You have had your share of responsibilities over the past couple of years, and today could be an instant replay of the hardest moments. But it will probably be much easier to reminisce than to have to go through all the tests again. The key to standing up to those who might give you a hard time is keeping an open mind and knowing that you are coming from a place of love.

Then today it’s this:

Your key planet Mercury is pushing you into places you might rather avoid today. You may not be able to turn off the barrage of words that are coming at you from others or from within your own head, but you can lighten your load by moving beyond logic. Analysis can be a trap now; you must shift from language into imaginative symbols to find the solution to your current dilemma.

True dat.

When I teach, I try to get both concepts across to my students: 1) Passion / Love will teach you more about knitting than anything else, and 2) Sometimes our hands (intuition) is smarter than our brains (logic)

Let me break this down.

When you fall in love with someone – REALLY fall in love – you commit yourself (formally or informally) to making it work.  That is what love is, making some kind of commitment that you will invest something of yourself, see the object of your love in the best possible light whenever possible, but also not shy away from the “warts.”

In fact, sometimes the warts – the baldness, the extra weight, the annoying habits – can, with love, become quite dear to us.  Sometimes.

Sometimes love just allows you to put them in perspective and weigh them realistically against all that is good in your object of love.

I translate this into knitting in the sense that we are often drawn to a project.  We see a certain shawl, sweater, bag or hat and we know that we MUST make it.  Even if it seems beyond our current skill set, and although we can see where there may be pitfalls ahead, our passion compels us to engage in the project.  Usually the passion pulls us through, but sometimes it, alone, isn’t enough.

Does this mean when you fail at a knitting project you didn’t love it?  No, not necessarily.  It means – to my mind – that grace is always possible with enough love.  If you have a project that you’ve set aside as impossible, but you still love it, it may be good to enlist the help of your local yarn shop.

They can act as a sort of couples therapist, help you see where you may have fallen short, and where the pattern may have let you down.  (If they’re REALLY good, they’ll be able to help you bridge these gaps so you can walk away with the project happily progressing on your needles!)

We are a society of people with strong minds.  We strive to find jobs that engage our intelligence, and if we’re fortunate enough to do well financially, we tend to hire folks to do the manual labor in our lives.  As our mental intelligence grows, our physical intelligence can weaken.

Our lives are so much easier, physically, than at any time in the past.  We have hot and cold running water (no pumping, no boiling water for a bath.) We have vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators, stoves & ovens, cars and mass transit systems.  Even our bicycles are relatively modern in terms of the history of humankind, only being a common mode of transportation for a little over 100 years.

What do we miss by this?  We miss a chance to fully develop the intelligence of our bodies.  We also miss years of back-breaking labor, so I think it’s probably a good trade off.

Our brains make all the decisions, they tell our bodies what to do, and we slowly lose the ability to hear the physical brilliance we each posses.

For instance, there’s a theory that a daily walk is a good way to keep depression at bay, that perhaps a good deal of our societal sadness is a lack of rhythmic exercise.  I agree with this (although I also feel some folks also have chemical imbalances) and whenever possible I try to walk or bike a bit each day.

This desire for a rhythmic, physical activity is why I feel many folks develop a love of knitting and crochet so quickly – it allows us a chance to regain our personal rhythm, and allows us to begin listening to our hands.

Each of us can sometimes allow our brains to over-think things, we put the cart before the horse, we borrow trouble, we count our chickens – all of those pithy aphorisms we grew up with.

I see this happening in in my knitting classes.  A person will mentally work through a technique before they’ll allow their hands to investigate it – and in the process convince themselves that the technique is not possible because they can’t envision it.  In a case like this, sometimes folks become SO invested in what their brains KNOW must be right that they actively fight against what their hands try to teach them.

I try to get across to my students that nothing takes the place of practice (a neat phrase I got from Jennie The Potter.) You can think and think all day long, but until you put needle to yarn, it probably won’t entirely click.

I’ll often just sit with my knitting and fiddle around, playing, not working toward any finished product.  Non knitting folks will ask, “What are you making?” and when I answer, “Just a swatch, I’m just playing…” they look at me like I’m a little nuts.

Why on earth would anyone knit unless they’re making something?

“I am making something,” I tell them, “I’m making myself happy.”