Friday, February 4, 2011

the philosophy of yarn.

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
Maria - My Favorite Things

Those really are some of my favorite things. I love wool. I adore knitted things. I love all things knitted - I love nearly anything made of wool. I am always attracted to the texture, the natural colors, its functionality, its simple and raw beauty.

I found an old project of mine in a box downstairs tonight as I was searching for something else, and just like when I bought the wool in this incomplete project nearly nine years ago, it spoke to me from its box. It not only made me realize why I had not thrown it out or given it away in those nine years. It was ugly and tangled and mixed up in many other things inside the box that couldn't have made less sense if it had tried. I felt a little gasp escape my lips as I remembered this wool, remembered my desire to learn to knit so I could use it. It is so soft, so perfectly muted gray, so beautiful and so lovely. It appealed to me in the same way it had so long ago - but it was a mess. A tangled, unusable, horrid, twisted mess. 

With a sigh and a thought of do I really have time for another project? its loveliness won me over. Of course. I scooped it up, hauled it upstairs, and sat. Cross-legged on the floor, I sat untangling this pile of heathered gray yarn, a supple and warped, matted mess that seemed to have no beginning and no ending. Time passes, I put the kettle on for my evening peppermint tea, and I continue gently pulling, gently tugging, persuading, untwisting and coaxing a seemingly unwilling string to come on now, come on now - there, there - it's okay. Come on out now... and then it comes, and for a few satisfying pulls on the string - gratifyingly it goes... and goes... and my mind wanders again into the depths of soft, gray, possibilities. of potential.

My mind started to wander to thoughts of my desire to dig in deep, and how I am not one who enjoys the banter around in superficial small talk. My heart always always always wants to connect, to get real - to heave sighs and have meaningful conversation and be honest and open to the core - and to allow and encourage others to do the same. Pulling this yarn apart made me think of wanting to dig deeper into my own heart, my own spirit, and fix whatever may be in there that could hold me back from being the me that I was created to be.

My, how this digging and pulling of the yarn can be thrusted along with ease, at times - or it can fumble and lurch and stagger along, slowly but  undoubtedly, and then... stop. 

A snag can be encountered where the thread requires me to stop. I have to do this differently now, the yarn insists. I must slow completely down, and carefully turn it in my hand to not lose the spot where I left off. I move it to my other hand, look at it from another angle, and yet another, and treat it a little more gently, a little more softly, and understand it is not the fault of the wool that it became this way. When it gets tangled like this, an unwilling knot unrelenting its hold on the string, if I were to pull it with the same force I was while it was free and unresisting, it  would simply dig its heels in and hold tight. Batten down its hatches for the impending and possibly ugly storm of my pulling and yanking - and as my desire to make it untangle, make it fix itself becomes stronger and more forceful and more aggressive, the more it just gets tighter and tighter wound into a knot that is nearly impenetrable. Then the knot requires me to go further back down the line, further and further back towards the jungle that used to be the ball, and dig in and untangle back there, attempt to figure out what's causing the mess on the forefront, and then once that is somewhat successful, I can go back to the knot and perhaps, with a deep breath and a renewed sense of possibility, coax a little more out of it.

Aren't we like that? Our fragile little selves, a glorious, beautiful and complicated jumble of knots and love and life and pain and joy and threads and strings that all intertwine and lead somewhere... and if someone pulls or pushes too hard when the going gets tough - we just gnarl up. Hmmm. It may be just woolly yarn, but it gave me a small epiphany just now.

My yarn needs me to be soft, my heart is telling me. 
My heart needs me to be soft, my yarn is telling me.

And then something happens. I reach a point where it just won't untangle. The knot is unyielding. My fingers grow weary, my eyes straining to see where the problem could possibly lie - turning and turning and peeking from below, making every possible attempt at figuring this one out - and then I reach a point where I have to realize this one is really stuck. It is immovable.

I am blinded by the heathery in the gray, each little twisted and soft strand indistinguishable from the rest. I wonder if I must back away, give up on this battle. And again I am struck with the similarity between my yarn and my heart. Not that some things are Just Too Difficult and not worth fighting for or healing or the power of a loving and gently coaxing in trust, but that some knots are just not meant to be untangled. I have to stop, and recognize there may be something else in mind here.

I have no choice but to begin a new task - I pull hard, straining with the string wrapped around fingers on both hands, and with less force than anticipated, the yarn breaks.

and when I will use it to make something, I will encounter this knot again, this break again - only it will be as a new knot. As I tie the new and raw end of the yarn to the old, softened, lengthened-from-pulling end of the yarn, this new little purposeful knot has become part of the new, redefined heart. yarn. 

I have to apologize again for the flash photos. Sigh. Spring and sunshine will be here soon, right?

The new, less obtrusive knot connects the ball of straightened string to the rest of its counterpart - and where the original knot was a flaw and an obstacle and an endoftherope so to speak - now it will be the connection to the rest of the ball, the rest of itself, really - so that now, because of the new knot, it can continue to grow and change and become something bigger and better than it was before. All it needed was gentle hands, plenty of attempts to coax out the bad stuff, and for its maker to never never never give up, and to know that it already was something greater on the inside, and just needed a little more from me.

Wringing the last ball of yarn to completion, my fingers feel around with familiarity, tracing the paths of each strand after strand wrapped in and upon and over and under itself - and every now and again, a small bump is there. Ah, I remember that one. And that one. 

Just like my heart.

And the yarn is okay, even with these scars. It is still useful, purposeful, still beautiful, still strong and just as heathery and lovely and softly supple - and full of potential. Just like me. Just like you. Just like all of us.

And you know? Somehow with the story the untangling of the wool drew out of me, it is more beautiful than it was before.

To all of those beautiful people who take time to leave a comment on my posts? Thank you. You have no idea how many of you have said things that make me sparkle inside. 
Thank you, so much.

How about my first giveaway? A random commenter on this post will receive one of my pairs of homemade mittens, made from a wool sweater, born again. See if they make you sparkle inside.

this little guy sparkles inside always. this is his new favorite pastime, chomping on chins.

Egan wants to do a blog post and is working on it, so stay tuned. It may be next.

Have a warm on the inside, lovely and purposeful weekend. Love big.


  1. Oohh! I want to be a winner!

    Beautiful post, Laura! Seriously, I think this one has been one of my favorites. I love your "yarn" even with all of it's scars. Thanks for always loving my yarn too.

    I have to share with you one of Andrew's new quotes. I bumped him with my elbow in the tub yesterday without knowing it and he said "Ouch, mom, you bumped me. Can you say sorry?" To wish I replied, "I'm sorry, Andrew". He answered me, "That's okay, mom. Please be very careful with me because God made me very special."

    Made me stop and think a bit. God made us all very special. We all need to be a lot more careful of ourselves and others.

    Love you, sweet sister.

    PS- If I am already getting a pair of mittens because I am one of your "five" from facebook, you can leave me out of this giveaway, just make me a great cup of coffee when we make it down your way.

  2. *jaw open

    My favourite post of yours.

    Wow. (Or as Ellis would say "Wooooweeeee!")

    That was great. This post went perfectly with my coffee.

  3. So blessed by your written heart.
    So thankful for the insight of a good friend.
    So hopeful for the beauty of life untangled.

    Thank you.


  4. What a wonderful post, who knew a ball of tangled yarn would have so much insight. I love reading your blog it is always beautifully written.

  5. I have hidden fantasies of knitting. I love the memories found projects hold...I also love that colour of yarn...not really grey, no, too rich for that.

    p.s. soon there will be sun, I promise!

  6. oh man! i can't wait to read egan's post. also loving your more frequent blogging resolution. very inspiring. now im feeling an itch to knit something sad looking that my husband will be forced to wear with pride.

  7. I have been meaning to send you a message for a while, and a mitten give-away seems to have been the perfect motivator :)
    I discovered your blog through Kelle Hampton's Enjoying the Small Things, and have been following your posts from afar for a little while now. I was drawn to your blog initially because of your desire to do in Canada, what Kelle has done for the NDSS in the US.
    I would be so happy to help with any project you take on and hope that you find one that is perfect for you :)
    Love from a very snowy Ottawa!

  8. LOVING the blog Laura. Consistently beautiful photos and words!

  9. Don't need mittens in Australia but loved this post, thank-you Laur...and my daily dose of gratitude from today was remarkably fitting read :
    "Heaven and earth are threads from one loom."

    -Shaker proverb

  10. Beautiful writing as usual, laura. Have you ever heard of (or have you done?) gallop strengths finder? If not, google it and have a look. We just did it for the hub retreat. I say this because ine of the strengths it lists is "connectedness" or an ability to link every day things to spiritual things. I would bet my bottom dollar you have this strength. Coupled with your eloquence, it is quite a thing to watch unfold in your blog.
    P.s i may or may not have lost two single mittens from two different sets of mittens this winter...just throwin that out there. ;)

  11. And you have me in tears, you beautiful readers. Thank you, ever so much, from the bottom of my heart. I am so blessed and touched that you read and feel me.



make no mistake, I am smitten with your words. please say hello, or pour something out - you will make my heart happy.

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