Brilliant Colors for All Ages

Have you ever seen those Do and Don’t articles in Glamour magazine? I remember in college and beyond, all my friends lived by them. Lots of women do. I’m 48 years old now, and I’m bombarded with images of how to dress for my age. For example, I regularly receive Sahalie, Coldwater Creek, and Northstyle catalogs. And don’t get me wrong – I love Sahalie. But I will tell you what bothers me: Why do I need to dress a certain way just because an “expert” tells me so?

I love colors, as you know. I want them in my life –
all the time. Colors make me smile…I feel alive,
and I just feel good!

I remember sometimes, walking down the street, and seeing an older woman dressed more “eccentrically,” and it would cause people to stare, laugh, judge, or just admire. A couple of years I was selling at a craft show and met a woman who was wearing a pair of cheetah-print bell-bottom leggings…I loved that! She looked awesome! She was a sweet and lively woman, with a great sense of humor and a friendly face. She looked great actually, and she was in her 60s. More power to her!

I don’t remember exactly who I had this conversation with, but I remember it well…I was told that I should cut my long hair because I’m getting too old for it. (As if long hair on a woman my age is no longer appropriate, or dignified). An old hairdresser of mine told me I should dye my hair because my white hair looked like shit.

Another time, last year, I was selling my ice dyed home decor at a holiday craft show. A woman came by, and you could tell she really loved the colors and styles and designs of my coasters and napkins. She asked me how I made them, and I explained the process to her. Then she said, “Well…it’s beautiful. Would’ve been perfect if I was in my twenties, but now…” and she walked away.

What did she mean by that? Did she mean that when she was younger, she liked those kinds of things, but her tastes have changed over time? Or did she mean that although she still loves these things, they represent a time long gone, and now she’s too old to have these types of things?

How very sad that someone should deny herself something that she loves because she thinks that she’s too old for it.

I hope that’s not how she felt.

I’m not talking about refusing to wear glasses if you can’t see, or eating a high-sugar diet when you have diabetes. I’m simply talking about freedom; freedom to be us–everywhere; and the freedom to create the environment in which we want to live.

My freedom comes out in colors…bright, vibrant colors in an active, dynamic designs. Why on earth would this be reserved only for the young? And who made up this rule anyway?!

Think about it. What do you do? Do you take care of your family? Do you feed your pets? Do you make sure your elderly parents are happy and safe? Do you go to your day job and get the work done? Do you pay your bills? Do you volunteer? Do you see to your responsibilities? Do you do what needs to be done so everyone around you is taken care of and then some? Do you maintain your relationships with your friends and family? Do you keep your commitments? Do you pay attention to what’s going on around you?

If you said yes to any of these things, you are worthy of honor and respect. You should be proud. So why would anyone let someone else decide how they should look, or what their home environment should look like?

If “experts” say that maturity means fine china, sterling silverware, minimalist home decor, expensive leather couches and white carpeting….or wearing only black or gray clothing and sedate, understated jewelry (don’t be flashy), well….that’s bullshit, okay? And by the way, I really like my brown-turning-white hair.

(Please note: if you’re totally into minimalist interior design and black/gray clothing – that’s wonderful! My point is, everyone has their own style.)

Dignity and maturity are a part of what’s inside us. It has nothing to do with our environment. Our maturity is shown in our behavior, how we act. It has nothing to do with how we dress. Or how we decorate our homes. How we dress and how we decorate our homes can tell someone what a little bit about us. It can give people a glimpse into our inner mysterious selves, and some of our characteristics. If you like bright colors in your home, well go ahead and use them!

Why? Because your opinions are valid. You know what you like, and you know what’s good for you.

You’re doing all that you can, the best way you know how, and you’ve earned the right to make your own choices, and they are beautiful – because they represent you!

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That Leap of Faith…in People

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the people I spend time with…whether it’s at work or at home, or online. Most people I know are pretty creative. Some are musicians. Some are knitters. There are painters, crafters, writers. Some are many of those things in one. Some people I know don’t consider themselves creative, but they are…because they think “outside of the box.” They approach life in different ways, and they approach business and teaching in more down-to-earth, relaxed and transparent ways. Being relaxed and open is a great way to meet people and build friendships, and it works in business too.

It’s all about relationships.

I’ve always understood that the customer is most important, but I never really thought about what that meant. Lately, I’ve been asked to think about what the customer deeply wants, and what’s stopping them from getting what they want. What can I do to help them get what they want?

I’m still trying to figure out what people are looking for: some are looking for freedom to just be who they are, without judgment, without even being noticed, really. And some are looking for trust. I think a lot of people are looking for trust. It’s hard to trust anyone these days.

When you can’t trust the people around you, you can’t rely on them to be there for you when you need them. You have to do everything yourself.

Sometimes, doing everything yourself isn’t a good way to live.

I’ve learned this the hard way in business. The art of delegation—asking for help—is paramount. It also helps you become more efficient, a better manager. This is true in our personal lives too.

Knitting is like therapy for me, but it does take time. What are some therapeutic things you need to do? Do you need someone else to take the load so you can accomplish this?

Sometimes, you need someone to help you so you can help yourself. But you have to put your trust someone in order to accept that help. Maybe experience has burned us in the past and that’s what makes it so hard to trust someone. You still have to do it though. Perhaps it takes a leap of faith. A risk.

I think I mentioned last week that I had to have a biopsy. It seemed like all the symptoms were pointing to something bad…and I really didn’t know how to take it. The worst part was…not knowing. Waiting a week felt like years. I was fearful. I prayed a lot. I prayed by myself. For so many years, I thought it was bad to talk about my personal life online. It’s better to just keep it to myself… It’s my own private business, and people don’t like to read about, or talk about health stuff because it makes them uncomfortable!

But even though I prayed alone, I had a strange, ominous feeling, way deep down inside of me. I could get up, get dressed, go to work, smile, laugh, and ignore, ignore, ignore that icky feeling. I could interact with people, do my thing. Yet there was this ever-present looming shadow that reminded me of this unknown, scary thing.

So I took a leap of faith in a post, I asked for prayers and good vibes. I know it’s a small request, but it meant a lot to me. I was amazed at how many people not only offered just that, but people texted me, called me, emailed me. People came out of the woodwork to offer support and healing thoughts. What a pleasant surprise! It was so helpful, and it really did lift that weight a bit. Just knowing that there were all these minds out there, hoping that the results would be good.

A week later, I learned that the results were benign, at which point…my brain no longer functioned. I had been holding my breath for weeks on end. My world was just a big exhale.

I’m still figuring out what “my people” are looking for, but I do think we could all use a little self-care–whatever it may be. It could be time to paint a picture. Or walk in the woods…a quiet moment with a glass of wine, a phone call to a friend, or a movie by yourself. In order to do these things, we need to put our trust someone to take care of everything else, if only for an hour, so we can do just that. We just need to take that leap of faith; that risk. Ask, and people will step up.

We still need the help of each other. We all need each other, to keep us sane, strong, healthy and happy.

Some of my favorite self-care activities: hiking, music, and friends. What are yours?

Goals! :-o

People who’ve known me a long time know these things: I have a problem saying “no.”

My eyes are too big for my stomach.

I take on more than I can handle.

I’m still working on this, but still…I’m reminded of this occasionally.

August is one of those times.

A while back I joined a group that helps me set goals and keep them in terms of taking LSSLuscious Knits to the next level. It’s a great source of information, resources, and feedback. There’s also a lot of advice on how to make my business better. Of course, I joined this group in order to take that advice and use it – and it’s been working for me!

Then, I signed up for a five-week course on how to improve my writing for my business, (which I plan to use for my new and improved website, which is going live on September 1st). This course not only requires writing, but it requires thought-process, brainstorming, time in which I need to focus, as well as getting feedback.

Oh did I mention that I’m driving my daughter downstate to college in a few days? (See last week’s blog post).

And…I had my first outdoor show (one of my goals). That happened yesterday – the Sheridan Park Arts Festival in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. I went, I sold, and it was literally the most gorgeous day – EVER.

A scene from the Sunnyside Mall, location of the Sheridan Park Arts Fest held on August 12th, 2017.

I also joined an accountability group (two, actually) to help me stay on top of my health goals. I started running in July. Still doing both of these things, although I’m dealing with an annoying cramp in my right calf.

Then of course, there’s the new website. Last week I promised all of you a FREE knitting pattern when you sign up for my weekly newsletter – this is still happening, don’t worry! Just read on!

The thing is, I had planned to do an amazing, beautiful landing page for my new website, so when you all arrived there – you would see it, be awed by the powerful writing, and then, of course, sign up for the newsletter. Well…because the pattern itself (my free gift to you) took longer than expected, I didn’t get the time I needed to create that perfect landing page.

In the end, I just said,

You know what? I promised you a pattern, and that’s what I’m going to give you.

So in exchange for a gorgeous landing page, I’m giving you what I promised.

By the way, did you know that LSS Luscious Knits is a one-woman operation? And this is not my only job. I actually have a part-time office job at a caregiving agency!

The big kicker was that I had to have a biopsy last Wednesday. I won’t find out the results until this Wednesday. The waiting game for something like this sucks, people. It’s not right. Luckily, I’m very blessed, with a lot of really wonderful friends and family around me, who are praying and passing along the good vibes, that all will be well.

And in my heart, I have a strong feeling that yes, everything will be all right.

But at some point, you just have to admit that you’re doing the best you can.

And some of those goals just have to wait.

Prioritize it. Do the most important thing first. Get *something* out there (like that free pattern eh?!), and just go down the list. But remember to take care of yourself, because those tasks will still be there when you’re done. And you’ll do a better job when you’re feeling rested and ready to work.

So I invite you to visit this place – a home that’s still in progress (like life).

Sign up for my weekly newsletter, where you’ll get previews of my upcoming blog posts, information for where I’ll be selling live, other free patterns, how-tos, coupons, and specials. In thanks for doing this, you’ll get a free knitting pattern in your mailbox.

A word about the pattern: I had originally called it something else, but because I received the much-needed help of a dear, dear friend – at almost no notice at all, I changed the name of the pattern, and I think it’s much better.

Because, at the end of the day, you just want to thank your friends, your family–any loved one–for just being there for you when you needed them. That’s the stuff that makes life so amazing. That’s what LSS Luscious Knits is all about. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit http://www.lsslusciousknits.com today – sign up and get a free knitting pattern!

Ten Rules for New Knitters

Good afternoon everyone! It’s almost August, and since fall is near, I thought I’d write a whimsical list for all the new knitters out there. It’s getting close to gift-giving season, and if you have the itch to learn how to knit, I want to give you some good advice, just as I was given when I started (but some of it I didn’t follow very closely, and I should have).

Currently, I’m getting ready for a show in August, but I’m also revamping my website. I will soon have my own domain name, as well as a weekly newsletter so you can get all sorts of good information about the shop, what I’m doing, where I’m selling, as well as fun things like free knitting patterns, ice dye how-tos, and shopping coupons and specials! Next Sunday, I’ll be able to give you more specific information about the new site.

It’s a very exciting time for me and I want to share all that good stuff with you too! Follow me so you don’t miss a thing!

In the meantime, enjoy my top ten rules for new knitters. You’ll notice that there are a lot of “always” and “nevers” throughout this post – but it’s all sound advice. Read on…

1. Try a new project.
If your first project was a scarf, don’t knit another scarf. Pick something a little more challenging. My knitting mentor – Marcy –who taught me how to knit, told me this and she was right. If you knit another scarf, that’s all you’ll end up knitting! Try a hat. Then try a pair of mittens. Then try a pair of socks. Then try a sweater. Then try stranded work. Then try lace. Keep upping the ante with each project. You’ll learn new skills along the way, and you’ll become a very accomplished knitter in no time!

2. Do whatever style you like.
Some people think you HAVE to knit using the English method. Some people prefer the Continental style. Some prefer the knitting loom. Some prefer the machine. A famous knitting pioneer, Elizabeth Zimmerman, said she hated doing the purl stitch. So she knitted a vast number of garments in garter stitch just to avoid purling! She was a wonderful person who had an attitude of “doing what suits you.” And it’s absolutely true. Do what you like! The world isn’t going to go into a panic if you prefer not to put a rib stitch at the bottom of your sweater. As long as you’re creating something and it makes you happy, you’re golden. As John Lennon wrote, “Whatever gets you through the night…it’s all right!”

3. Always, ALWAYS swatch!
OK, even I am guilty of this. You don’t want to “waste” your time making a swatch. You just want to get to it. But believe me, you’ll be wasting a lot more time if you make a hat that doesn’t fit or a sweater that is too small. Every pattern designer in the world will tell you, and for good reason: Swatching is serious! It’s the only way you’ll know for sure if your final project will fit you properly.

The Fiber Universe in Peoria, IL

4. Watch your budget
New knitters (me 14 years ago) can get really excited about the millions of different yarns out there. Seriously, you will walk into a luxury yarn boutique and drool over everything. There are so many different fibers; from cotton and hemp to wool, alpaca, silk, yak (!?), even paper and metal! And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous colorways. They’re all very tempting, and most of them are very expensive. Sure you can TRY to discipline yourself to only buy the yarn you need for one project, and not buy any other yarn until you’re ready to start a new project…but that’s not very realistic is it? Most likely, you WILL end up with SABLE* (stash acquired beyond life expectancy). Just try not to go completely broke. Oh…and yarn conventions? You’ll probably go to one. You’ve been warned.

Highlighting different cables in a pattern really helped me keep track of everything.

5. Read your pattern BEFORE you begin.
This is a pretty important step. It’s one thing if you’ve looked at the glossary and understand what k2, p2, yo, psso and k2tog mean, but it will help to understand how your project is constructed…especially if it’s something more complicated like a sweater or a lace shawl. Make sure to read through it and try to get a general visualization of how the garment (or accessory) will come together. If there’s a part of the instructions you don’t understand, you can ask for help first and then move forward. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting halfway through the project and realizing you made a mistake. This is particularly crucial when working in cables, lace, or any area that has mirrored increases or decreases, like sleeves and collars.

6. If you see a mistake, don’t try to keep going. Either fix it or start over.
This particular rule can be up for debate. It really depends on what kind of person you are. If you’re more of an organic, “mistakes are beautiful surprises” kind of person, then this rule probably won’t apply to you. However, if you’re quasi-OCD like me, then a mistake is going to plague you so badly, that you won’t be able to complete the work without hating every minute of it. And if you do complete the project, trust me – you will always see that mistake. It could be a gorgeous Norwegian-style stranded cardigan, but if you messed up on a few stitches, you’ll notice. Your best bet is to back up and fix it before you go too far.

7. Always check the direction of your stitches before you join the round!
This has happened to just about everyone who knits. Please check your stitches before you join in the round. Make sure the stitches are all facing in the same direction, otherwise you will have the unpleasant surprise of a twisted row. And you can’t untwist it unless you unravel it and start over.

8. Feel the yarn before you buy!
Once you’ve been knitting for a while, you’ll know what your favorite yarns are (c’mon, you can’t just have one favorite), and many well-known manufactured yarns are pretty consistent (Cascade, Knit-Picks, Brown Sheep, etc.). But until that time, it’s best to go to the store and touch the yarn first. Especially when it comes to wool, you do NOT want to buy the cheap, scratchy kind. That kind of yarn will make. You. Miserable. Remember there are all kinds of wool out there, and depending on how old the sheep that the wool came from, what kind of sheep it was, and how processed the wool was, will vary greatly in texture and softness. My friend Marcy (whom I mentioned earlier) told me that if you rub the yarn against your neck and your cheeks and it feels good, you’ve got a winner.

9. Make YouTube your new friend
If you’re ever completely stumped on how to do a certain technique, and it’s 2 am and you can’t sleep and you just want to knit in front of the tv, there are literally thousands of tutorial and tech-help videos on YouTube. Some are long, some are short, all are good. One of these videos will have the answer to your question. And if not, then it’s too late and you need to go to bed and wait until morning to ask your knitting guru friend.

10. Never, ever, ever knit a sweater for your boyfriend.
I’ve been told that it’s a mistake to do this. Even though you love your boyfriend so much and you want to make him something special. So you spent months knitting, undoing, knitting again, seaming, toiling away your nights, using the most luxurious (and expensive) alpaca-wool blend that came from Peru. And your boyfriend never wears the damn thing. This is the beginning of the end of your relationship. You’ll never forgive him for not appreciating all the hard work you put into this labor of love. Save yourself the headache and make him a watch cap, since that’s all he really wants.

Me with some of my knitting bitches!!

11. Bonus Rule: Don’t Knit On An Island.
I included this rule because again, this may not apply to everyone, but sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone can yield amazing results. There are SO MANY knitting communities out there, both online and in person. My guess is that every town in every state in every country of the world has at least two people (men or women) who love to knit. Get out of your living room and join them at the coffee house, or library where they meet. Or if you don’t want to leave your living room, invite them over. I’ve done it! Knitters are not dangerous people. Oftentimes knitting boutiques have knitting groups that meet weekly. They’re very informal, and every one of these groups has knitters who are willing to help. Every knitter has a different skill set, and you can learn so much from each one. You might have something to teach as well! Knitting groups are great places to have conversations, and you never know—you might end up meeting your future best friend!

Now you are armed with knowledge! Next week I’m going to offer a free hat pattern for you to create for yourself, or a loved one! Have a good week!

* The term, “SABLE” was coined by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot, who has written many books, spoke at many engagements, appeared at many conventions and written many a blog post on the subject.

Meeting My Customers

You know that feeling you get when you’re nearing the end of a season? Some people feel trepidation, like when school is about to start, and all the busy months are practically on the doorstep. Maybe some people get irritated because they don’t like summer.

Actually, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like summer. Bad example.

A lot of people get a quiet thrill from the change of season.

Maybe they’re excited about learning new things at school…
or entering football season…
or anxiously waiting for their favorite TV series to return (mine is the Walking Dead)…
or thinking about shopping for the holidays!

I’m feeling a few jitters, but mostly excitement and motivation! Starting in August, I’ll be participating in at least one market each month through December. It’s a lot of hard work ahead, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s a step in my journey to build on LSSLuscious Knits. Just making my way towards realizing that life-long dream of making a living as an artist.

One of the greatest things about doing markets and fairs is that I get to meet my customers in person. It’s wonderful to correspond with them online, but seeing them live is a very different animal! I learn a lot more about them; where they’re from, what they do, whether or not they have pets or kids. They’re all interesting and have a unique story to tell.

Last year, a nice lady bought a whole bunch of mittens from me. She wanted to give them as gifts to a number of relatives who were visiting Illinois at the coldest part of the winter…and they were from California.

I used to do maybe 1 or 2 shows per year, always in the winter. This year, I promised myself I would step it up. I wanted to do shows that spanned more seasons of the year, and take myself out of my comfort zone. Selling in person is hard. It’s difficult for me to talk to strangers, but when I’m in a market, that’s exactly what I have to do.

The good thing is, I know my stuff. So it’s easy to talk about it with just about anyone! And…even though I may be a little nervous about “putting myself out there,” I basically love people. I think most people are pretty cool.

One of the things I like the most about my customers is that they always encourage me to “go with it.” They give me a very simple guide…like a color or two that they love, and then they tell me to just take it from there.

I love the artistic freedom customers give me.

This tells me that they trust me, and I cherish that, truly. It’s hard-earned and can be easily lost. Trust is one thing I’ll never take lightly.

It also tells me that my customers have a deep appreciation for all things handmade. They enjoy original art and the often-unplanned happenings that go into the process.

They’ve have had good experiences with my work in the past, or they enjoy the work they see so much, that they’re interested in what I can do for them specifically.

To me, this is an amazing thing: having people from all over the country, requesting something as personal as a handknit pair of mittens – completely my own design, or an ice-dyed t-shirt, with no real knowledge of what the outcome will be.

If you’ve ever commissioned anything from me–thank you. I’m honored that you chose me to make something for you! If you haven’t, I hope you’ll have a chance to visit one of the markets where I’ll be selling. I’d love to meet you!

Have a good week!

18 in 1987 vs 18 in 2017

Last week, my daughter turned 18 years old.

 

Some of the things my daughter understands at 18, as opposed to things I understood at the age of 18:

  • She is painfully aware of the internet and its permanence. For this reason, she posts cautiously, carefully and thoughtfully. She always considers the consequences tomorrow for the things she posts today. When I was 18, I did what I wanted, said what I wanted, wrote what I wanted, without any thought for the future. I wish I had that discretion, as many photos and diaries remind me (cringe…).
  • She knows when a boy is texting her and another girl at the same time. When I was 18, there were no cell phones, no texting. I don’t think we even had call waiting on our landline. I was so clueless that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if someone was talking to me and anyone else at the same time. Ever.
  • She understands the importance of regular exercise and working out. I, on the other hand, didn’t even have exercise on my radar.
  • She loves music. She loses herself in music, and it brings her solace and peace, yet it also makes her feel energized and inspired. I can definitely relate. When I was in high school, music pretty much saved my life.
  • She knows when she’s having an attack of anxiety, and she knows what to do when it happens. She recognizes when she’s been feeling down for a while, and knows that she can talk to me about it. Or someone else. When I was 18, I had those same feelings but didn’t have a name for them. It was impossible for me to get out of the moment and look at the big picture, to realize what was going on. I didn’t talk to anyone when I was going through these times.

When I was 18, I looked at any kind of mental illness as something to be…shunned. I felt sorry for anyone who suffered from it, but deep inside I also considered it a sign of weakness. Something shameful. I never thought that mental illness might be something that existed in my immediate family. Somehow, I was led to believe that if something was bothering me, I should either exercise, get busy, and basically snap out of it.

It took many, many years of education, therapy and eventually, a small dose of Wellbutrin, for me to realize that there is no shame in anything like depression. It’s not a sign of weakness. In my case, it was clear that a good diet, a walk in the woods, and telling myself to be happy wasn’t working. And it turned out, to my surprise, a whole lot of other people I cared about and admired suffered from some type of mental illness, in a wide variety of degrees.

What did happen after I started accepting and treating depression was that I was able to think a little more clearly…

Over time, I was able to get out of my head a little more and see the bigger picture. I was able to look at things not only from my own point of view but through other people’s eyes. And if I couldn’t see it through their eyes, I could at least understand that what others went through was real, and valid, and a struggle in which they were all too aware. My relationships with friends and family improved, I was able to build a strong community of friends through work, church and even hobbies…life just improved all around.

My husband walked with me through all of this. I shared these experiences with my parents and they eventually understood. More importantly, I shared this with my kids. Not only are they aware of the necessity of resources for mental health, but they know those in their own peer groups who need these resources too. I know we as a society still have a long way to go to remove the stigma of mental illness.

Mental illness…even now, those two words still evoke a list of negative images and connotations, but at least we’re talking about it.

We all know that it exists and it’s almost ubiquitous in all of us. We also know that help is out there, and it’s available to us. My daughter knows this, and her college knows it because they offer many resources to their students.

Everyone suffers from time to time. Everyone will suffer again at some point, for any number of reasons. But I am so thankful that some things have changed since I was 18.