Friday, February 20, 2015

Lady Bountiful Syndrome

"Luckily, the homeless shelters will take everything..."
                          a knitter on Instagram

A knitter posted a picture on Instagram today of a hat that had turned out too small for her, then added the above comment. 


Unfortunately, I see suggestions of this kind of attitude all the time. On the one hand, many people very kindly put a lot of time and effort into making things for people in need, and that's wonderful. On the other hand, quite a few of those people make no bones of the fact that they are using their, shall we say, less desirable yarns to do so. Often, combining odd balls of yarn left over from other projects with no thought for aesthetics. Of course, not for nothing do they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe I should just shut up about that.

But here's the thing. I have noticed a dichotomy between knitted and crocheted items destined for cancer wards and old age homes, and those being sent to, for example, homeless shelters. Anyone might end up in either of the first two places, after all. But homeless shelters? Well, that's a whole different ball of wax. Or so these folks seem to think.

I don't even know if the people (like the knitter quoted above) even realize the implications behind what they are saying. I see it all the time. "Oh, they are / should be so grateful for anything they get."

This kind of attitude really pisses me off. I mean, REALLY pisses me off. I call it Lady Bountiful Syndrome (Lady Bountiful was a character in an 18th century play called The Beaux' Strategem, by George Farquhar. The term has come to be used to describe "an over-patronising woman, showing off her wealth by acts of overwhelming generosity"). I tend to use the term to describe people who take great pride in their "gracious assistance to poor unfortunates" (I put that in quotation marks because it seems to me that is exactly how they think of their actions, deep in their hearts).

Of course, not all people who knit, crochet, sew, or whatever for others think or feel that way! But I have to wonder if there isn't some sort of unconscious discrimination going on. People who are ill, or elderly, are somehow "better" than people who don't have a place to live. Every now and again, like today, I see something that makes me believe that, sadly, many people really do think that way (whether they realize it or not).

In a way, I think it is somewhat connected to whether one thinks of crafting for people in need to be charity, or not. Charity is a word that is used all the time, mostly with the best of intentions. I believe it has different connotations to different people, though. To me, it sounds a little condescending. In Hebrew, the word usually translated as "charity" - tzedaka - actually means righteousness or justice. In other words, doing the right thing. I tend to think of the knitted objects I send to various organizations not as charity, but as community knitting, because I am making things for people who are part of the community of the world, just as I am.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

If Hats Could Heal

On Thursday night I had the opporunity to meet a young man whose basketball skills I have admired and respected for several years. He is such a lovely person, I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have gotten the chance to get to know him a little. Avi and I are hoping to invite him (and his wife and baby daughter) over for a meal, soon.

Sadly, his wife and daughter are currently in the US visiting her mother, who has cancer. The family is trying to raise money for all of her treatments and care, and there is a fundraising site with information. Since I was aware of the situation, I spoke with the young man about it, and he told me how hard it was for his wife to see her mother losing her hair (due to the chemotherapy treatments). Of course, I immediately offered to make a hat. And here it is.

The yarn is super soft, and I hope the hat will feel warm and soothing. I only wish I could do more.

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Finish

I am very excited about my first finished project for 2015 for a couple of reasons. First, it is part of my 50 States Project, and will soon be on its way to West Virginia. Second, it was the oldest project I still had on the needles, started almost three years (!!) ago in February of 2012. For some reason, after knitting the front, back and most of one sleeve, I just put this project aside and pretty much forgot about it. It took just about two hours to finish it. So silly.

Since I have given so much thought lately to the things I do and don't enjoy knitting, I will probably focus on hats for my project from now on. Hats go so quickly and don't need much yarn, and look fabulous with stripes or colorwork, which will be great for all of the leftovers I've got. 

Except I think I want to make at least one scarf for the Red Scarf Project. Just no more sweaters for a while. Even when they are tiny, garter stitch sweaters, they seem more daunting to me. But who could be daunted by a simple hat?

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Happy 2015! I never got around to posting a roundup of all of my completed knitting and crocheting projects (and there were even some sewing projects!) of 2014. Or, for that matter, of my paper crafting projects. Rather than spend time making collages of all of the photos of finished items, I will just say that in 2014 I knit or crocheted 11 toys, 8 pairs of socks, 5 blankets, 4 squares that will be added to others and sewn into a blanket (not by me), 3 pairs of fingerless mitts, 2 hats, 1 scrap of icord that I wear as a bracelet, and 1 shawl (no partridges or pear trees, though). I sewed 5 toys (I think it was five, eep), one Kindle cover, and one patchwork quilt top (sadly, still not made into a quilt yet). No clue how many cards I made, a lot. At least by my standards.

The photo above shows the knitting projects that are still in progress as we begin the new year. The green blob will be a sweater for me one day. I started it a couple of years ago, and of course it always gets moved to the back burner as I find things I want to make for others. The pastel colored baby sweater is meant to go to an organization in Appalachia (possibly Kentucky, I don't recall at the moment. I started this tiny thing years ago, and I really must get it done! It only needs a sleeve and a half, for goodness' sake!). The gray sock for a friend was started on December 25, 2014 and will be finished in short order. The lavender item will be a bathrobe for Liat. It was also started late in December. 

But of course I plan to start something new today, it seems only right to begin a new project with the start of a new year. It will be a pair of pink socks for Meital. I am also working on a new stamping project for my friend Kristy of Hopeful Threads. I will share more about that soon.

Appearances to the contrary, considering I am talking about having five knitting projects going on at one time, I have decided that the theme for this year is going to be Simplify. By that I mean decluttering my home and my head. Getting rid of the things I don't use or need, or that don't make me happy (yesterday's post also talked about this). It will also include cutting back on the number of people I follow on social media, especially those whose posts are mostly aimed at selling something. More power to them, but I prefer to see posts by people who simply enjoy what they do and like to share it, without regard for financial remuneration.

I also want to use up as much of my yarn stash as I can, and the plan is to knit much of it into hats, and possibly scarves, for my 50 states project. I have gotten rather lax about that, concentrating instead on making multiple things for the same few organizations. I still want to do what I can for them, but I also want to reach my goal and it won't happen just by thinking about it. As my husband is fond of saying, Dream big, but don't forget to wake up and start working on your dreams!  I would also love to make 12 pairs of socks this year, one pair per month. 

Liat and I are planning to do the 2015 Reading Challenge. You may have seen mention of it around the Internet. It is basically a list of 50 challenges to read various kinds of books. One challenge is to read a trilogy, so it works out to 52 books for the year. We probably won't read that many (espcially since she is a busy college student) but may, instead, find books that meet more than one challenge - for example, a book written by a woman and a book that is set in your hometown... It's an interesting list of challenges and should be a lot of fun.

Another challenge I have set for myself for this year is to try watercolor painting. I tend not to think of myself as artistic, so it will be a stretch for me to try making art that doesn't involve rubber stamps. But to go along with that (and, by the way, I don't plan to go out and buy a whole bunch of new supplies for that, except watercolor paper, as needed), I need to think seriously about my other interests, ones that are usually neglected, like cross stitching, scrapbooking, and sewing. I want to do all of them, but realistically speaking, I never get to them. It's time to face facts, and deacquisition some (all) of the stash I have for each of those hobbies. I have my tried-and-true hobbies that I work on actively, and the others are mostly just wishful thinking at this point. If I end up enjoying the watercoloring, I will make what I create into cards, so that kind of dovetails into my stamping/cardmaking hobby.

I think that's all more than enough to be going on with, don't you?? Should make for a fun and interesting year. I hope your 2015 is a wonderful one!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taming the Want Monster

"I have enough yarn...said no knitter ever."
"If someone tells you that you have too much yarn, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."
"The one who dies with the most yarn wins."

Many have you have probably seen things like this all over the Internet (substitute the key word of your choice: books, glitter, etc.). We are flooded with messages like this, right along with all of the reposts and shares for giveaways, contests, and sales. It is so easy to get sucked in, to - quite literally - buy into this "gotta have it" mentality. It reminds me of a book I used to read to my girls, The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies. 

When did this relentless pursuit of MORE start filling our lives? Probably it was always there, a natural part of human nature. But when it is out there in your face on all the social media sites, it really becomes overwhelming. Or at least, it does to me. I have been battling the want monster for a long time. Like with anything you practice regularly, it has been getting easier.

But I still have a way to go. In recent weeks I went through my yarn stash and uploaded it to Ravelry, a website for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers. I was shocked when I clicked the "magic" button and discovered exactly how many miles - yes, miles - of yarn I have sitting in my house. The photo above, by the way, is only of all of the sock yarn left over from already-completed projects. I also have a whole heck of a lot of brand new skeins of yarn, and not just for socks.

But since the want monster still slips the chain now and then, on Christmas Day I found some really pretty sock yarn on sale and ordered three skeins. I was very happy and excited about getting them. Then yesterday, I got an email saying one of the colors, the one I liked the most, natually, was out of stock and had been discontinued by the yarn company. I was so outraged and disappointed! You'd think I had just been told that there was no more yarn anywhere in the world! That's when it hit me. The want monster was completely in charge again.

There is nothing all that special about that skein of yarn that warrants such an extreme reaction. What business do I have getting so unreasonably upset about something like this? Don't I already have more than enough sock yarn to knit socks, wrist warmers and hats for a whole year? Sock yarn that I just absolutely had to have, way back when? If I'm not happy with what I already have, why am I basing my happiness now on what I just bought? What is with this relentless pursuit of MORE? That path only leads to dissatisfaction and emptiness.

So I am pledging to myself to strive for LESS. Less stuff, less clutter, less outside pressure. I am "unliking", "unfollowing", and unsubscribing right and left, to free myself from the constant pressure to buy the latest thing. I am working to clear out the stuff in my house that doesn't make me happy, that I don't use, or haven't worn in more than a year. 

My word for 2015 is Simplify. I am really looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Playing Favorites

My sock drawer looks pretty darn full of awesomeness, if I do say so myself. I made all of these socks, except for the fourth pair down from the top on the left. Those were a gift from a wonderful friend. Thank you, Kathleen.

The first pair of socks I made for myself (second from the top on the left) were actually my fourth pair ever knit. I used 100% wool yarn given to me by another wonderful friend. Thank you Ellen. Ellen sent me the yarn in the hopes of encouraging me to try sock knitting. It took a few years, but eventually I did. And the reason I tried, and succeeded, is because I had help and encouragement from yet another friend, the wonderful Judy Sumner, who sadly is no longer with is. But I think of her every time I knit a pair of socks.

Of course every pair of socks in the drawer has a story behind it, and many of those stories have already been told here at Bag of Chocolates. I knit my first pair of socks in 2006 and have loved every one of them. I have given many pairs of socks away to a lot of very special people - family members and dear friends. I have donated handknit socks to organizations that help others. I have made socks in all sizes, from footies to crew length to over the knee socks, for baby feet all the way up to size 18 basketball player feet. After years of being afraid to try knitting socks, once I got started I couldn't - and still don't want to - stop. 

Usually I knit my socks cuff down on double pointed needles. There are many other ways to knit socks, but this is the way that makes me happy. I have tried knitting from the toe up. The knee socks I mentioned were knit that way. I have tried several different kinds of heels, but the classic heel flap and turned heel is my favorite. I have tried lace socks and colorwork socks, socks with cables and ribbed socks. My favorite is still the plain stockinette sock, which some people call a plain vanilla sock.

Some people say they have trouble forcing themselves to knit the mate to the first sock. After making the first one, they want to move on to different yarn, or a different pattern. This is called Second Sock Syndrome. Of all the pairs of socks I have made since 2006 (and unfortunately I don't remember how many that is. More than 50 pairs, certainly) I have only neglected to knit a second sock once. I decided to try knitting from the toe up to see if I could manage it, so I made a toe up baby sock. It worked out fine, so I immediately started that pair of knee socks for my niece. I never did go back and make the second baby sock.

Not only do I have a favorite method and pattern for knitting socks, I have come to realize I have favorites when it comes to sock yarn, not necessarily for knitting but for wearing and washing. Some socks I wear again as soon as they are clean. Others spend most of their time looking pretty in the sock drawer. 

There is so much gorgeous sock yarn out there to choose from. And more and more, you'll find independent yarn dyers who sell absolutely beautiful sock yarn on their Etsy sites. The system seems to be that the dyer makes up a bunch of colorways, then schedules a "release". If you manage to grab some in time before it sells out, you're one of the lucky ones. Given the fact that my clock is 7 hours head of Eastern time, you can probably guess how good my chances are of that. This used to frustrate me and I would feel sorry for myself.

But you know what? I stopped and thought about it, and thought about which pairs of socks make it out of the drawer and onto my feet most often, and which don't. And I realized that the pairs I wear the most, and which still look almost the same as the first time I wore them, are the socks knit from established companies, like Opal, Regia, and Zitron (Trekking). Even though the other yarns are gorgeous, they don't hold up well, and often bleed color when they are washed (by hand, they can't handle machine washing like the three companies I mentioned). Not only that, many times the knitted fabric starts to felt, even if it is a "superwash" yarn base. Then the socks become thick and stiff, and don't have any stretch to them. Those factors, plus the fact that handwashing socks is a pain, means those socks are mostly decorative rather than useful. Now, I'm sure there are many very capable dyers - and not just indies but other companies - out there who do their best to prevent these things, especially color bleeding out of the yarn. But it can be a risk.

Right now, the socks I wear the most are the first six pairs on the bottom, starting on the left. And now that I've finally realized what I truly love in a pair of socks, I don't feel too badly about missing out on all the cool hand-dyed sock yarns. I have seen how poorly they hold up, and I would rather stick with yarns I know will keep on looking good after years of use.

And speaking of socks, I am currently working on a pair for Liat and that pretty gray cabled sock for a friend. Time to get knitting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Socked In

SOCKED IN: Closed in by bad weather, often said of an airport; fogbound; snowbound. This expression originally found in the context of flying, has its roots in the use of a windsock at airports to provide wind direction. The windsock, a large, open-ended, cone-shaped sleeve attached to a post by a pivot, at one time provided pilots with wind direction. When the weather deteriorated (fog or snow) to the point that the sock couldn’t be seen, the field was said to be ‘socked in’ and takeoffs and landings would be difficult to impossible. The expression is said to date from the 1940s. 

I found that explanation of the term on Not sure it's accurate, but it certainly sounds reasonable.

Anyway... I am usually a one sock at a time kind of knitter. I have been known to work on two socks during the same period of time (each on its own set of double pointed needles). But today I have three socks going. The gray one with only about 16 rounds is the Amyrlin pattern (found on Ravelry). It is a beautiful design full of twisted stitches and cables, and it takes forever to complete just one round. I have finally gotten the hang of the design, though, and I think I may just be moving from a geriatric snail's pace to a middle aged snail's pace. Yay me. Yarn is Cascade Heritage, a lovely and soft yarn that is reasonably priced. Good thing the gal I am making these for is worth it!

The sock in the middle (working on the foot now) is the Broken Seed pattern also found on Ravelry. I am using leftover Cascade Heritage in black and Mini Mochi in Intense Rainbow. The pattern is super easy to memorize so the only hassle with these socks is juggling two balls of yarn. At first I didn't like the way the sock looked and I hate the Mini Mochi, which feels very fragile. But I am happier with it now that I have made more progress. I doubt I will ever buy MM yarn again, however. These are for me.

The third sock, just started today, is my go-to 2 x 2 ribbed sock in Fortissima Socka. Hoping to get a pair done for Meital in time for Chanukah, which starts on December 16.  I could practically knit this pattern with my eyes closed, so it moves quickly, but it will be a stealth knitting project, obviously. 

Good thing I love making socks! So if you don't see me around much, it's because I'm socked in.