Friday, April 4, 2014

Coping With and Creating Stress

Well, hello there!

How is your little corner of the world? I've seen a pretty busy time at work. It's been one thing after another, and while stress has been my frequent companion, I've found some things that are helping me through.

There are the small things in life to cheer us; my work with people suffering from various mental and physical limitations has trained me to make much of these things. This latte with a shot of toasted marshmallow flavoring is all the better because of the love literally poured into it. I fear it may come across as a bit twee, but for a person feeling like their world has fallen apart, this would be the cup of coffee I'd like to offer him or her.

Spinning has been a source of stress for me; I broke my precious Golding spindle (which, by the way, is so great that it kinda spoiled me for other spindles), and I've just not had a great relationship with my wheel. It turns out that I just don't know much about spinning, especially on a wheel. My partner has been much more successful at getting comfortable on the wheel, and recently he started spinning up some Dorset. Did I mention that I have a bit of a fixation on Dorset this year? I bought two lovely braids from Miranda at the Garden State sheep and wool fest last fall, and have been dying to take them for a spin. The intake on my Louet has been so strong that I just couldn't make it work with the long draw technique Miranda recommended. But seeing my hunny spinning Dorset gave me the courage to try yet again, and this time I found a happy place. (Fortune cookie say: Sometimes it helps to have someone to come alongside you to show you it can be done.)

Part of the solution for making my Louet work for me has been in a bit of rather convoluted lacing, which really isn't so bad once I get the rhythm. It does reduce the pull on the fiber enough that I can relax my grip on the fiber and let it draft itself.

Another key is to avoid spinning so thin that it breaks. That makes the whole process a hot mess. So when I backed up, stopped trying to be a hero or a purist, and let the drafting technique be whatever works, spinning became soothing again.

And I finished the braid, at last! There are three ounces on that bobbin; maybe today I will find time to ply it up.  While letting this bobbin rest, I broke out the braid that I've been afraid to mess up, and it's been going so much better, now that I have a sort of rhythm going. It's a pretty grey with shots of oranges, yellows and greens spaced out over its length.

Ain't it lovely? The colorway is called "Cat's Eyes" and as I was spinning my cat kept me company out on the stoop. It turns out that this braid pretty closely resembles my cat's coloring, which made me like it even more. For someone who professes to not be much of an animal lover, I've certainly got a soft spot for this tiger.

A couple weeks ago, after a particularly stressful day at work, I brought along a liquid assistant to knit night. You would think between having my favorite drink and being surrounded by friends and knitting, I would be able to find a positive outlet for my anxiety. Instead, I just felt cranky and wound up, trying not to be too much of a burden to everyone and being unable to take comfort in my knitting.

The next evening, I chose not to medicate myself with more liquor, and instead of my usual activity, I sat in a corner and read a book entitled The Relaxation Response. As the book described creating space to become still and quiet, this little guy crept up in my lap and demanded my full attention.

Soon I found myself just being still and paying attention to the purring of my cat, feeling his weight on my legs and his softness under my fingers. We stayed in that space together for a while, and that evening was just what the doctor ordered. It reminded me of the afternoon I spent at Wunsapana Farm, chilling with the llamas and waiting quietly for them to come to me.

Studying harp therapy is all about bringing relaxation, and it has come at a good time for me. My current work situation has demanded that I learn to embrace stress as something that does not quickly subside, and I need to learn some new ways to cope and renew. Knitting and spinning can at times become sources of stress, rather than the solution. Sometimes my fiber craft is so driven by a desire to finish something or to always be productive that I find that I am not stopping to be quiet. This past half year or so, I have made conscious decisions to reclaim my wool play as a place where I can enjoy being creative and whimsical, rather than being deadline-driven and demands-oriented. Sure, it's not a money-making venture right now, but it's a happy place, and right now that's what I need.  But sometimes even the needles need to stop clicking for a while, so I can take stock of things and just be present in the moment.

Am I still knitting? You bet I am. Some gifts, a fair amount of cotton, some delicious wool bases (including Targhee, Perendale, and Dorset), some practical items, and some knits just for the heck of it. But I'll save those for later. For now, happy knitting, spinning, and finding your way to stop and be quiet.


  1. I need to find that zen happy place as well, Will ~ might have to check into that book since cat therapy would only ignite the allergies and then I'd be stressed AND miserable :)

  2. I'm glad you're slowly finding peace in your life. And good on ya for sticking with the spinning! The S10 is notorious for having a very strong draw in - I'm impressed that you were able to work your way around that.