Tag Archives: Meditation

August Rolag Club: August Wakes

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August Rolag Club: August Wakes

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Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are celebrating August Wakes.

Wakes celebrations began as feast days in honour of the patron saint of the parish church, and gained their name from the medieval tradition of staying awake in the church all night in order to hear the dawn mass on the saint’s day. Initially these festivals were quite sombre, involving penance and fasting. Following the reformation, however, the emphasis shifted to revelry, eventually becoming rowdy enough that the celebrations were shifted away from the saint’s day.

In northern towns, wakes became a secular, industrial holiday. Each town chose its own wakes week, and the workers were given unpaid holiday whilst the mills were closed for maintenance. Although wakes could occur at any time of year, summer was most often chosen for wakes weeks, and many occurred during August. In fact, wakes became synonymous with the town’s annual holiday, which often meant a mass exodus to the seaside!

The observance of wakes weeks has become almost obsolete due to the decline of local industries and the standardisation of school holidays, but as a child growing up in the Lancashire mill town of Oldham, I still remember the annual Oldham wakes holidays.

This month’s club represents the two sides to August wakes: the original religious observance, represented by ‘Vigil’ rolags, green tea and a meditation stone, and the later summer-holiday feel, represented by ‘Coast’ rolags and some seaside treats.

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Rolags in “Vigil” and “Coast” colourways. The flax component in the Vigil rolags should give an interesting texture, whilst the tencel adds a translucent sheen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer, however you chose to spend it!

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A coastal scene.

In this box you should find:

  • The story of August Wakes
  • 20g of rolags in “Vigil” – 67% Merino, 16.5% Flax/Linen, 16.5% Tencel.
  • 10g of rolags in “Coast” – 67% Merino, 33% Llama
  • A handspun mini skein in “Deckchair”
  • Tea in Serene Jasmine and Moroccan Mint green blends
  • Stitch markers
  • A meditation stone from Buttons Be Good
  • A recipe for Feasten Cakes
  • A stick of seaside rock.
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A mini skein in “Deckchair” inspired by the seaside classic.

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A fistful of minis.

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Tactile meditation stones from Buttons Be Good.

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Kirsty used the rolag colours to inspire her design.

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Seaside treats!

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Stitch markers: A bucket and spade, and a scallop shell. Made by Imogen.

Recipe: Feasten Cakes

A tradition from the Cornish celebration of wakes, these saffron-coloured cakes are delicious served with a little cream.

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 20g/2 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • Large pinch of saffron, infused for ~20 mins in 150ml hot milk
  • 175ml clotted cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g currants,
  • Milk to glaze
  • Clotted cream, to serve.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
  2. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Rub in the butter.
  3. Cream the yeast with 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Strain the saffron milk and beat in the cream, then mix with the yeast. Leave in a warm place for 20 minutes until bubbles form on the surface.
  4. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour with the beaten eggs. Add the currants and the remaining sugar and knead well. Cover and leave in a cool place for the dough to rise slowly until double in size. Knead again briefly then knock back and shape into 8 small buns or cakes and flatten slightly. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove so that the dough springs back when pressed, 20-30 minutes.
  5. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Take out and cool on a wire rack.

Reference: Cattern Cakes and Lace by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, Dorling Kindersley 1987

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Hook to Heal: Wk 5 Reading/Wk 3 Check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 5 Reading/Wk 3 Check-in

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Our week 5 reading assignment is:

Week 5: 30th May – 5th June

  • Embrace a Sense of Adventure, pp. 94-115

For those reading on Kindle, that’s from the chapter heading “Embrace a Sense of Adventure” to the text box entitled “Yarn for Thought: More Musings on Developing your Sense of Adventure.” The box contains 6 bullet points, and the last one begins “Make a bucket list,” and ends “… spark your creativity in new directions.”

This week the challenge is to build on these foundations of self-care and launch into new adventures, pushing against the walls of our comfort zones and learning new things, both about our craft and about ourselves.

Have fun!

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, week 3

  • Morning pages: 6/7
  • Artist’s Date: 1/1 – Knitting indulgence!
  • Exercises: 4/6

So, here I am, a full week behind! I have decided that this is OK. I am remembering what the author said in her introductiom about not using this book to beat ourselves up (after all, isn’t that what we’re trying to get away from?) I also want to demonstrate that it’s OK to not do something perfectly. It’s OK to carry on in my own way. It’s certainly better than just giving up.

It has been another exceptionally tough week (fortnight, actually). So letting go, releasing, relaxing are all very good things to be concentrating on and I also continued with the idea of mindfulness crochet. Real life comes along with a big dose of stress for our family at the moment, and I have been using repetitive craft exercises as a balm. This week the almost endless beaded cast-off on my current project, and carding much of my fleece supply have helped to keep my sanity in tact.

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The almost endless beaded cast-off. So long. So worth it. So meditative.

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Carding raw fleece: guaranteed to calm the mind and soothe the spirit.

Letting go, releasing and relaxing is very familiar teritory to me, mainly thanks to my study of the Alexander Technique. So many of the exercises were either things I have done before, or aimed at types of personal development that I’ve been studying for years.

Focussing on our successes, getting rid of the ‘shoulds’ that we all have, challenging the belief that we need to know or to control, working with processes rather than aimimg for a specific result, this is all well worn ground for me.

So I enjoyed being a beginner (exercise 2). I taught myself Bavarian crochet! It didn’t go that smoothly, the tutorials I picked skipped over some key information (which, as someone who occasionally writes tutorials, is a very useful lesson!) But I wasn’t too worried about the errors, I left them in (exercise 6), and because I was only interested in the process of learning, not the final product, I frogged the lot after reaching my goal (exercise 4). I have already joined a mystery crochet-a-long (exercise 3) and although I didn’t get a chance to sort my wips (exercise 5), I shall certainly be following this exercise as I pack to move house over the next few weeks.

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First steps in Bavarian Crochet

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That doesn’t look right!

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A few errors, but basically I understand this now.

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Continuing beyond the tutorial. I got this.

 

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Final product. Ripping out my work scandalised my daughter. But the process was the thing that mattered, and that learning can’t be frogged.

Week 3 was a week of consolidation for me, rather than new territory. It was great to take the general principles I’ve been learning for the last few years and apply them to my craft in order to further eradicate the menace of perfectionism. They are lessons I will need to remember as I move forward with this project.

Hook to Heal: Wk 3 Reading/Wk 2 Check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 3 Reading/Wk 2 Check-in

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Our week 3 reading assignment is:

Week 3: 16th-22nd May

  • Letting Go, Releasing, Relaxing, pp. 32-52

For those on kindle, that’s from the chapter heading “Letting Go, Releasing, Relaxing” to the box entitled “Yarn for Thought: Musings on Letting Go, Releasing and Relaxing.” The last line says “What are your rituals for letting go?”

This week we bring into focus all the ways in which we are really too hard on ourselves. We particularly consider all of our “shoulds”, and the beliefs we have about ourselves and our creative work that drive those terribly unyielding “shoulds”. Importantly, we have the opportunity to start, or reinforce, the process of letting all of that go. This chapter does exactly what it says on the tin.

Have a great week!

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, week 2.

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  • Morning pages: 5/7
  • Artist’s Date: 0/1
  • Exercises: 4/8

Cards on the table: I have had a rough week. The hardest week I’ve had for some time, actually. I have had long, exhausting days. I have had incredibly stressful wonder-what-the-future-holds days, I have had days of battling my fatigue problems and all the associated symptoms, I have had amazing birthday celebrations with my children, I have had deep conversations with friends and family, I have had a wonderful day with my training colleagues and I have had a day where I felt so overwhelmed by the expectation of their concern for me that I couldn’t bare to be in the room with them. What can I say; it’s been quite a roller-coaster.

So, amongst all that, how did the mindfulness crochet go? Well, not great in all honesty. In my state of raised anxiety I neglected to protect that time to really heal myself. It’s a daft choice. It’s a trap I have fallen into before and will fall into again, just like everyone else. What matters to me at the moment is not to never make these mistakes. It is to not allow them to pass unnoticed. Not in order to beat myself up, but to use as a stepping-stone to improve.

Having such a bad week, especially so early in the process, has served to reaffirm my committment. If life is coming into a difficult phase for me, then I need to take more, not less, care of myself. So that committment I wrote last week, here it is again. And this time I am going to read and take in every single word, every breath of it:

I commit to the work of nurturing, expanding and celebrating my creativity.

I commit to protecting my own precious time and space to pursue my creativity.

I commit to being gentle and forgiving with myself and helping myself to heal.

I commit to exploring the idea of artistry with an open mind.

I commit to investing my time, energy and attention in myself, such that I may become stronger, more balanced, and a better conduit for the creative process.

I commit to making myself better, not only for me, but also in service to those with whom I share my life.

Having said that, the Mindfulness Crochet chapter did have a big impact on me. Although I did not use structured time to work on Hook to Heal, I did do an awful lot of crochet and knitting to help myself feel better. And it was a different experience. I noticed so much more. I noticed the feel of the work, the delicate, skillful movements of my hands, the way the plies in my yarn untwisted and retwisted as every stitch was made. And the colours! Oh! I was working at the beginning of the week with the perfect yarn, full of unexpected, exquisite pops of colour.

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Möbius cowl/poncho made from “OITNB” from The Captain and Lovely

Look closely. Can you see them? Flashes of purple, pink, magenta, lime, tangerine. Bliss

It wasn’t until the beginning of this week that I sat down to work through some exercises. I still feel very resistant to all this work. The stress I’m feeling currently drives me to work quickly, and at a superficial level. To overcome that and reap the benefits of deep, slow attention I have to not be put off by the fact that when I start this mindful process, it is actually the last thing I want to do. The feeling doesn’t last long at all. It is a minor barrier to starting, but having started I then want to continue.

I was pleasantly surprised by how long my chain was when I attempted the first exercise: Basic Practice. I made it into the 20s before my mind wandered. I suspect I will repeat this exercise often.

The increased breathing triangles (exercise 5) were so much smaller than I expected!

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I’ll keep going with this exercise and see if they get any bigger! I fancy collecting them all to make a mindfulness mobile.

I have chosen my mindfulness cues (exercise 7), and although I didn’t get around to mantra crochet (exercise 3), I have the perfect project waiting for this exercise.

These exercises are definitely tools I will be using again and again. They are not tasks to be ticked off and then forgotten about. They have a lot to give. And I have more to learn from them. Above all, what I got from week 2 was a reaffirmation of my committment to this project and to myself.

Hook to Heal: Wk 2 Reading/Wk 1 check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 2 Reading/Wk 1 check-in

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Our week 2 reading assignment is:

Week 2: 9th-15th May

  • Mindfulness Crochet, pp. 23-31

For those on kindle, that’s from the chapter heading “Mindfulness Crochet” to the box entitled “Yarn for Thought: More Musings on Meditation and Mindfulness.”

This week we will take a closer look at the second of the three tools listed in the introduction: mindfulness. We will think about what mindfulness is, how to incorporate it into our lives, and how it might be difficult to do that. We will work on some or all of the 8 mindfulness crochet exercises listed in this chapter.

Have a great week!

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, Week 1

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

– Samuel Beckett

  • Morning pages: 4/5
  • Artist’s Date: Forgot! 😮

I set very small goals for week 1 of this project, and yet it was surprisingly tough to meet them. I wanted to re-establish my morning pages practice. That went pretty well, although it was surprising how resistant I felt to the process. I wanted to re-establish my weekly artist’s date. Failed. Failed because my Friday did not go as expected, and I was utterly exhausted. Never mind. Try again next week.

I wanted to carve out some time for this project. That was hard too, but it went ok. I have identified at least 3 spots in the week that I want to dedicate to this work. But, as with the morning pages, I felt very resistant to putting this time aside to work on myself. I think this is a reflection of how difficult I am finding things in terms of my energy levels, my health, and the way life generally is at the moment. When things are this hard, I’d rather keep my head down and trudge on than actively work to change it, despite the latter being a much better idea! I did manage to put those feelings aside and do the work I’d planned, and of course felt much better for doing so. Life’s still hard. But I’m less likely to make it harder than it is.

And finally, I wanted to work on my commitment. Vercillo has the template of a commitment in her pages. I decided to think carefully about what I wanted from this project, and how to reflect those goals in my commitment. Here is what I came up with.

I commit to the work of nurturing, expanding and celebrating my creativity. I commit to protecting my own precious time and space to pursue it. I commit to being gentle and forgiving with myself and helping myself to heal. I commit to exploring the idea of artistry with an open mind. I commit to investing my time, energy and attention in myself, such that I may become stronger, more balanced, and a better conduit for the creative process. I commit to making myself better, not only for me, but also in service to those with whom I share my life.

I also tried something new. I had many, many rolags to make this week. Often I will listen to music or radio or occasionally even have netflix playing as I  work. Why was I doing that? Well, I think that I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was seeing the process as a pile of work that I had to get through, so distracting myself with entertainment to help me ‘get through’.

It occurred to me that instead I could really focus on the process. I decided to work without other distractions. I decided to experience and enjoy the creating. It was completely transformative. I didn’t find the job long or tiring. I found it refreshing. I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t something I had to get to the end of. As I worked, so many ideas came for other things I could create, and for new perspectives to take on familiar situations. I thought about the way we’re praised in society for multitasking, and wondered whether it was better to pay shallow attention to many things, or deep attention to just one.

The experiment gave me a new way to work. I am so pleased I tried it.

 

Neolithic technology stands the test of time

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Neolithic technology stands the test of time

The thought recently occurred to me that I am extremely easily amused. A stick, or sticks, and some fibres will keep me entertained for hours on end. A hooked stick and twisted fibre: crochet. Two pointy sticks and twisted fibre: knitting. Add a weight to the stick and start with raw fibre and you’re ready to spin.

It really is that simple. The drop spindle, made typically from a wooden shaft and a spindle whorl, is an ancient tool which has been in continuous use since at least neolithic times. It is a cheap and easily available way to try spinning your own yarn. You can even make your own spindle (a length of dowel and an old cd will do it).

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The drop spindle is a beautifully modest, stunningly effective tool. When I received my first drop spindle I hit youtube for some guidance. I didn’t know it at the time, but I struck gold. The first video that seemed worthy of investigation was by Abby Franquemont. Her clear tuition got me started, and I didn’t look back.

I did, however, look further into Abby Franquemont’s work, and bought a copy of her book “Respect the Spindle” [1]. I think the title tells you everything you need to know. The drop spindle, humble though it may be, is no poor relation of the spinning wheel (a relative newcomer, not in general use until the 16th century, or thereabouts). I do a lot of spinning on my wheel, but my drop spindles are not neglected. They are fine tools. I especially admire the craftmanship evident in my Schacht Hi-Lo spindle. I love the portability of a drop spindle. I never leave home without some kind of fibre project to hand, and a bag containing fleece and spindle fills that niche perfectly.

But the thing I love most of all, amongst the wide vista of possibilities involved in making your own yarn, is the meditative experience of spinning on a drop spindle. Flicking the spindle to set it in motion, the feel of the whorl spinning, angular momentum in your hands, the balance of drafting fibres through your fingers just in time for the twist to bind them together into a thread strong enough to support the weight of  the spindle. And seeing the classic “cop” of spun fibre build up around the spindle shaft as an undeniable measure of what you have achieved, of what you have made with your own hands, during this day. I lose all sense of time when I spin on a drop spindle, and what flows in is a profound sense of peace.

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[1] Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Interweave publications, 2009.