Episode 326: Knitting, love, and loss.

pink flowers & coffee cup with a lit candle in the background

Today’s podcast episode is a little out of the ordinary.  We will be talking about crafting and creativity and Happiness Projects, but also about  grief and loss. I’ll be sharing some thoughts and feelings I’ve had lately about loss in the knitting community and in my own life. I just wanted to give you a little content warning that I’ll be talking about some tougher things, in case you’re just not feeling up for that topic today.  If you’re not, make sure to be gentle and take care of yourself. It’s okay to sit this one out, and don’t worry: I’ll be back again next week with a lighter episode and more knitting and sewing content.

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Show Links:

Christina Bain on Ravelry

Memoriam Blog Post for Christina Bain written by maryheatherb on Ravelry

Grief is a Sneaky Bitch episode with Christina Bain

What to Make When You’re Dying article by Christina Bain in Seamwork Magazine site

Bearing the Wait Blog 

Paula Emons-Fuessle on Ravelry

Knitting Pipeline Podcast (Paula Emons-Fuessle)

The Habitation Throw

The Habitation Throw by Helen Stewart, Curious Handmade

Finished Habitation Throw

Sweet Fiber

Homebody Diaries on YouTube

Come little leaves! pattern by Alice Jeffries

Come Little Leaves sock knitting pattern packaging with dog and yarn

Sniffing out the The Come Little Leaves pattern

Birch Hollow Fibers

Using a Nostepinne tool

#thehappinessproject on Instagram

Join the Curious Handmade Group on Ravelry for  new pattern announcements, KALs, support and questions for patterns and any other fun things that come up.

Show transcript:

Welcome to the Curious Handmade podcast. You’re listening to episode 326. This podcast is all about crafting a life of happiness and creativity. I’m your host, Helen, and you can find me on Ravelry as HellsBells, and on social media as curioushandmade. You can also full show notes and transcript on my website at curioushandmade.com.

Hello and thank you for joining me for a chat today about knitting and life. I did have a rough plan for what I was going to talk about today, and at the beginning of the month, in efforts to plan out my schedule a bit better. I decided to have a little theme for each episode in February to base my content around. It is a bit of an experiment, I guess, and so far I’m enjoying it. So I think I’ll continue to plan the podcast this way for another month or two.

I’ve done this in the past in different ways, and this time I’ve chosen vague themes and feelings rather than specific topics, like in the past where I would’ve talked about yarn types or sheep breeds or particular techniques. Today I had chosen the theme ‘savor the moment,’ and now I’ve come to record, it seems really appropriate. And I had a plan for that theme to be very upbeat, but now I’ve come to record, I’m actually feeling quite sad today. And I pondered about what to talk about, and I thought I would share about why I’m feeling sad with you. But I just wanted to give you a little content warning before I get into it, that I’ll be talking about grief and loss, in case you’re just not feeling up for that topic today.

I think that it’s quite important, especially at the moment when life is more stressful than normal for most people, so I think it’s important that we really curate what we listen to and read at this time. And yes, if you’re feeling that something heavier isn’t what you need today, then there’s lots of other episodes of mine and other peoples you could listen to instead. I hope it will be uplifting, but just wanted to say that upfront.

Because last week, I read the news that the beautiful Christina Bain passed away after a seven-year fight with cancer. Christina was part of the Ravelry team and knitting community. And I didn’t know her personally, but I’m so grateful to her legacy, and I’ve listened to her talking about her life and cancer and her hopes and dreams and also grief on the podcast Grief is a Sneaky Bitch, and that was published I think last November. It was linked to in a tribute that is posted on Ravelry.

So I’ve just listened to that and also read the article that she wrote, which is called What to Make When You’re Dying, which was published in Seamwork Magazine. And I will put links to both of those things in the show notes if you would also like to listen and read. And yeah, so I’m just so grateful that she’s shared those thoughts. She also had a blog where she wrote a lot about her cancer journey called Bearing the Wait, as in B-E-A-R-I-N-G and W-A-I-T. And I … yes. I feel like I did get to know her a little bit, which is incredibly sad that it is after she’s gone. But very grateful to her sharing so generously and honest. But I’m very grateful about her sharing so generously and honestly about her life.

One of the things that just struck me as being so bittersweet in her interview on the podcast, she said, “I feel very strongly in my heart that I’m not done.” And I just thought that was so beautiful. It reminds me a lot about my friend Andrea, who was my best friend from childhood, my kindred spirit, who passed away from cancer, and that will be 10 years ago this July. So I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately in the lead up to that milestone. Partly because it was around this time of year 10 years ago that we understood, it became apparent that she wasn’t winning the fight.

And yes, there’s a lot of emotions for me around this time of year. And I had basically put away my grief all this time, and have just been starting to have thoughts about, “Maybe it’s time to grieve.” I just haven’t been able to deal with it. And so Christina’s legacy has been a gift, and I’ve been processing her memory over the past week or so.

When Andrea passed away, I made the commitment to myself that I would do my best to be happy and positive and make the most of my life, because she lived her life so positively every single day before her diagnosis and during the five years that she had her diagnosis, right up to the moment where she passed away. And yeah, it’s a strange place to be in when you’re feeling so sad, but also happy and grateful for everything good in your life at the same time. It’s like two parallel tracks running in your life.

And yeah, it’s just a bit hard to reconcile really. And I’m not sure that I’ve really been able to do that for all this time. I’ve also been thinking a lot about my dear friend Paula Emons-Fuessle, who is the host of the Knitting Pipeline Podcast and knitwear designer, who is also fighting a hard fight with ovarian cancer at the moment. I’ve been thinking about the extra layers of difficulty that COVID has meant for everyone needing treatment over the past year. It’s just adds that extra layer of sadness and difficulty in not being able to have the support of your support team with you in hospital and having treatments delayed and so many complications on an already very difficult situation.

So I have been, yeah, just thinking a lot about Paula especially and feeling comforted that she has such an extraordinary community of friends and knitters and family praying for her and caring for her. So I hope that she feels that love at every moment. And I’ve been thinking about how generous she and Christina have been in their lives, of sharing their stories and their knowledge and their love on … in Christina’s case, her blog, and Paula’s case, her podcast and through the retreats that she ran. We can be so grateful for Paula and Christina and all the generous spirits in the world that share so much.

For all of you struggling at the moment with illness, grief and loss, I just want to send you all my love. I’d like to send a big warm hug to you and wish you all the strength you can find to cope with everything that you need to at the moment. My thoughts are with Christina’s family and her many friends here in the knitting community. And I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you and all the people who are in my world, and just to let you know that you all give me so much strength and joy every day.

So it’s a bit hard to move onto lighter subjects, but just to share some other things that I’ve been up to this week, and it hasn’t all been sadness and tears, although some of it has been. I have done lots of knitting on my Habitation Throw, and I’m very excited to have a finished object. I have been knitting on this since the beginning of December, when I started using my Sweet Fiber Advent set, beautifully dyed by Melissa, and it has been such a joy to knit. Her colors that she dyed and curated for the 2020 advent kit from Sweet Fiber have been so magical and they look wonderful together. I talked a little bit about the pop of neon yellow and whether I would include it, and I’m so glad that I did, and it just looks so fabulous and it makes me smile thinking about my indecision about it now.

So I’m glad I trusted Melissa’s choices and I’ve truly enjoyed every stitch working on that project, mostly because of the beautiful yarn and the beautiful colors. So a huge shout-out to Melissa at Sweet Fiber. And I’ve also enjoyed knitting along on my Habitation Throw with lots of other people who also chose that pattern as their choice for knitting their advent sets. I know that lots and lots of people have knitted over the past year, and it was really nice to be knitting along with other people. So thank you for that.

And now even though I have several other WIPs I probably should be working on, I just couldn’t resist casting on a fresh project. A couple of months ago, the lovely Alice from Homebody Diaries, gifted me a pattern to her new design, at the time, which is called Come Little Leaves. It’s a sock pattern, and it’s just delightful. It’s a really cute design. And yeah, she just contacted me and wanted to gift me her pattern.

And so I have had that in my queue for a little while and thought that it would be just such a nice pattern to cast on with some Birch Hollow Fibers yarn that I received recently. Well, it was probably before Christmas now. But it’s relatively recently. And so I have cast on a new pair of socks with this beautiful yarn and pattern. I will post some photos on Instagram and in the show notes. That’s just me making a little note to self to take some photos.

And then the other project that I’ve been working on, which is not a knitting project exactly but knitting-related, and definitely falls into the category of savor the moment, is that I have been winding my scraps, some scrap yarn, and also some full skeins of yarn into minis, into 20 gram mini skeins. And I have a little project in mind. I don’t want to announce it just yet because it is quite a time-consuming project, so I’m not sure when it will be ready for sharing. But yes, I’ve been very much enjoying the process of using my nostepinne, which is a tool to wind yarn. It’s a beautiful carved stick, for want of a better way to describe it. And yeah, just the process of hand-winding yarn is so lovely.

And I’ve been very much enjoying savoring the memories of what I have made with the scraps that are left over from lovely projects over the years. I’ll just leave that there as a little bit of an enigmatic teaser. And finally, a little Happiness Project update, I talked a couple of weeks ago about my Happiness Projects, and I’ve actually been going quite well working on them. I thought this year I would try to focus on these projects from the get-go rather than having a list that I sort of think, “Oh well, I’ll get to that at some point during the year.”

I’ve been trying to seize the day and savor the moment. So I went last week to band with my dad, and he’s been trying to get me to go along since this time last year, I think, or maybe even earlier. And yes, definitely even earlier, because he actually gave me … I remember him giving me the music for the band back when we were still in the Airbnb when we just arrived. So yes, so back in August in 2019.

And I finally went along, and really, really enjoyed myself. So I’ve decided to keep going. And the music is fairly … I guess you’d describe it as easy listening. It’s a concert band. And one of the best things was that there is another … I want to say girl, but woman, who joined that week with me, playing the flute as well. So we were able to sit together and kind of pretend to play through pieces that were too fast to sight-read, and photocopy all the music together.

So it’s super nice to have a buddy. She’s absolutely lovely. And so that was a very nice connection, for my word of the year, as well. So I’m looking forward to being part of that group and I’m happy to have finally ticked that Happiness Project off my list. It was actually on my list all last year, too, to join a band or an orchestra. And I guess COVID didn’t really help when things were closed down for half the year here. So I’m looking forward to that.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a good week, happy knitting, and I’ll talk to you again soon.

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