Foray into Florals

If you’re like me, you’re accustomed to always having a “thing” in progress – a thing on the make at home, in addition to other quick things you can grab on the go (idle bus rides and waiting rooms, no more!). As we know, hands love occupation. When I sprained my neck last month, however, my long hours at the work table and monitor had to give way to rest and recovery. Even “easy” knitting and crochet were out of the question for a while.

I learned 2 things: I’m a terrible rest-er. Or, I need and thrive on the colours and textures of my beloved media. I think with my hands, and they need to intermingle hues and textures on needles and hooks. Preferably, on a daily basis. It was tricky, that no-knitting thing.

Second, though, I learned that we can adapt, and that new loves are always just around the corner. In need of some creative time, I picked my brain for a gentler, less tensing activity than fiber art – one that would allow me to enjoy colour and texture and form, but without too much muscle-work. And I found it: florals!

I went to Trader Joe’s and picked out a few things that caught my eye: a bit of white freesia, a smattering of baby’s breath, some Sweet William (for that wonderfully kinetic purple), sea lavender, and some sunflowers. Saddled with my bouquets, I took the train home during rush hour; navigating the packed-like-sardines train ride was a bit tricky. I crinkled and smushed a few buds, but everything arrived intact overall!

I laid all the stems out and started to think. Assembling a bouquet is a wonderful and gentle process – one assembles with one hand, and holds the stems in the other (gingerly at first to keep things loose and adjustable). My goal wasn’t perfect symmetry (flowers teach that nature is rarely perfectly symmetrical) but the vaguer criterion of ‘balance.’ For me, balance manifests as a wide open feeling of “ahhhhhh”: a sigh, in part, in relief and, in part, in the marvel of a new revelation.

I started building my bouquet from the middle outwards, beginning with a central cluster of sunflowers and freesia. I discovered, in the process, that the smell of freesia instantly opens the spirit right up (it does just as its name suggests!).

I thought it would work well to add a generous bit of Sweet William to the cluster. The colours seemed to delight in each other’s presences – a sign to keep going!

The sea lavender and baby’s breath followed. I wanted to emphasize the natural twinkle of the baby’s breath, so I kept it around the edges of the bouquet:

Before long, my hand was full – my cue to wrap it up. I took an end of ribbon from my container o’ scraps, and a bit of twine, and tied the bunch in place. I also trimmed down the stems. Voilà, a handheld bouquet!

I love florals! Working with them is relaxing and peaceful and healing. It’s energizing to create something with living things – each stem brings its own particular colour and structure and feeling to the whole. Each has its own little but beautiful way of being with the others, and the process of putting it all together makes the heart sing.

Happy Thursday to you. 🎵

Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Moms – you make the world go ’round!

Here’s a handmade bouquet for mothers, mother-figures, and any and all of the maternal energies that sustain us. 🙂

(and more on my little foray into floral therapy soon!).

Have a beautiful day. 🌸

Crochet: hints from Spring

Greetings!

Pardon my involuntary blogging hiatus. I sustained a neck injury earlier this month that saw me take a trip to the ER, followed by a ‘minimal screens’ and ‘minimal crafting’ regimen for a while (as a craft blogger, understand that this was not easily done). Things are better now, and I am slowly and gingerly healing up and getting back into the swing of things (thank you, pain meds).

After a truly magnificent blizzard swept through the city two Sundays ago, Chicago, it’s safe to say, has finally settled into its proper Spring-time weather: the sky turns that optimistic and clarifying shade of blue again, the sun is back, and so are those little mottle-feathered birds that perch in the bushes and on the eavestrough and fill the mornings with chirpy musings.

The hands have been busy — with extra vigilance of the neck’s temporary limitations. As they say, absence make the heart grow fonder — not being able to craft for a while only renewed my craft-itchiness, and when the time was right, I got back into my hooks! I’m taking a hint from spring in my making: all hearts and flowers and silver linings. Very much wishing you the same!

Frost-land

Greetings from the polar vortex. If you are anywhere in or around the American Midwest or central Canada, then you know what this is all about. The last two days have seen the region clobbered by heavy snowfall, blinding snow squalls and freeway-whiteouts (imagine a dense, moving pocket of snow that clouds up your windshield), and of course, record-setting lows and their bitter, bitter winds. In Chicago alone, this early morning, lows dipped down to -28 C/-21 F (-39 C/-39 F if you happened to catch a side of wind with that). We were colder than parts of Antarctica, Alaska, and apparently, Mars.

What does strange Martian winter feel like? Frightening. It’s the kind of weather that hardens the world in ice, slickening the footsteps on past snows into unyielding, ankle-twisting formations. It’s the winter that will take the air out of your tires and leave you stranded a near-mile from home, just because (luckily, on the warmer of the 2 days, at -21 C). You’ll spend the afternoon re-heating at a strip mall sub and sandwich joint, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, and when it does, an exhausted mustachioed man in a blue sweatshirt lifts your felled car away and your heart sinks to know he’s been at it all day. You walk that near-mile home at your best speed, but the darkening sky and the growing sharpening in your knees suddenly reminds you that there are parts of your body that are made entirely of flash-freezable fluid.

On the way, passing 6-foot snowdrifts in pharmacy parking lots, you notice a curiosity: an abandoned bottle of perfectly good, uncorked Merlot is peering out of a snow bank. You try to imagine a scenario that starts with “purchase fancy wine” and ends with “leave fancy wine in the snow.” You wonder if you should adopt said wine. Then you fear it’s a trap! (and then you realize that, at this moment, the outside world is a trap). Hastily, you leave the abandoned wine in its place, but take it as incontrovertible proof that the cosmic order of things has shifted. Is shifting. The graininess of the picture of the bottle reminds you of UFO-sighting photography.

You arrive home safely — not frost-bitten but frost-nipped, a little reddened and unprepared for the sting of thawing out (ow!).

While indoors, the mind quickens and grows squirrel-jittery about staving off any incoming freeze. As the temperatures inside plummet along with the blustering world outside (an apartment built in the 1960s has presumably outworn some of its original insulation!), the utility of duvets is no longer theoretical. Alongside radiant heat, fleece, and woolen anything, duvets become the best thing ever invented and you spend the entire night rolled up in goose down, marveling at the small, storm-free world undercover. Overnight, as thick beads of ice form on the insides of the window panes, you consider the dual warming meanings of night cap. In the frigid 6 a.m. air, the wordplay makes sudden, amusing sense — and, come to think of it, also explains why your instinct, during the past 2 days, was to start knitting yourself a hat, in worsted weight on tiny #3 needles, so that the stitches pull in real close.

In other words, it’s been cold.

I hope you are staying warm and keeping safe, wherever you happen to be.

Merci, 2018

Hello, friends. It has been nearing two months since my last thing here – I managed to miss the new-year’s tidal wave of blog posts, and then some, but am finally getting around to catching up. Having also renewed the domain for another 12 months, I thought it was high time to break my no-post dry spell.

I’ve found it challenging to keep up with blogging this past while. The last few weeks have seen me a little blocked up – it’s been hard to find my yarn-fingers (the knitter’s equivalent of sea legs) and my words. Even my gouache colours have been lying dormant and unsqueezed in their travel-toothpaste-sized tubes. After some attempts at forcing a few creative Starts — a bright orange alpaca hat that came out too small, a garment-unravelling project that hit a snag and stayed there — I’m deciding to get friendly with this period of creative dormancy — to stop trying to fix it, to let it be, and maybe even get acquainted with it.

As I’ve written in past posts, The Block is no stranger in these here parts. My projects have often followed this logic and sequence: there’s the dizzying dream of making something new, the hours of research; brow-furrowed exertion melds into hyperfocus (the sweet spot and superpower of creators!); acuity grows with repetition and concentration, but unfortunately, so does fatigue; the arc of work winds down; soon, I find myself not just tapped out, but feeling a bit like the bikes I’ve seen around town, tethered in place and missing a wheel (am I the only one who likes to imagine the complex emotional worlds of bicycles?).

That said, I’m learning to soften into periods of pause, like this one. Although the needles and keyboard are mostly silent these days, I keep cooking and ironing the odd shirt and puttering around the apartment with my green-bristled broom, witchy and on the lookout for dust-bunnies. I read books and aspire to finish books — one at a time, too, which is very uncharacteristic. I eat milk chocolate and talk to friends and watch funny movies. I try not to let the post-vacation laundry pile creep too high. I drink detox herbs at night, stream episodes of “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo and make an earnest attempt at streamlining the spice cabinet (that’s about as far as I get, but I’m happy, in the process, to rediscover a jar of hidden cloves so I count the effort a success). 🙂

I also take stock of projects past, reminding myself that Pauses are temporary guests and not year-round roommates. When I think back on my creative journey of 2018, I remember that it was a great year, full of firsts, milestones, growth, and giving — a very first colour-work garment (yay!), breaking into lace in a big way, doll-making experiments, and knitting up a good amount of baby-things and gifts. It was a year of giving away and keeping the learnings. It was a solid year.

In that spirit, I pulled this little blue butterfly out from my 2013 watercolour archives — I chose it as if to say “Merci” to 2018 for all the good things, and to lift a little wing for the flight ahead.