Healing and the fiber arts

Posted on May 22, 2018 by Brenda Lavell | 0 comments

Last Summer was a challenge for me, as I started having a host of continually worsening medical issues.

By early Fall, my hands and arms were affected:  I couldn't knit, let alone dye yarn.

Multiple ER visits later (I couldn't get into the kind of specialist I needed), I realized that my lack of medical care was quite literally going to kill me.  I couldn't sleep for pain.  I was no longer able to walk or get out of a chair without help.  I hadn't knit in months - I couldn't even write my first name!

After that realization, I got on the phone to the San Francisco Bay Area, my old home, and made the needed appointments, despite the very long round trip drives.


Had a preliminary diagnosis in two weeks, and a firm diagnosis in a month.

Four months later, I am SO much better, though this is something that has altered our lives completely.

During the worst of it, well meaning people would unhelpfully say things like, "Well, at least you can spend all your time knitting."

Except that I couldn't spend ANY time knitting.  It was excruciating to just hold the needles, let alone move them in such a way to create knitted fabric or lace.

During all of those months, all I could think about was knitting.  I wanted a wardrobe of hand knit sweaters and socks, in super soft yarns that cradled and comforted my tormented, twisted, painful joints.

Maybe the fantasizing provided some impetus, but I think medications started doing their jobs a couple of months ago.

I was able to dye several days a week.  100 skeins or more (after one day a week, tops, maybe 20 skeins)!

And I could reskein and twist for more than a few hours.

AND ... I decided to try it.  Knitting.

If you know me, and what a Type A I am, I immediately started in on a pair of socks.  Not plain vanilla, but not super scary.

For the first time in more than six months, I was hopeful.

Because if I could knit - and dye - I could see a continued future in the fiber arts,.

Which is important to me.  This work allows me to live with my retired dad up in the mountains with our dogs and cats.  Moving to a city wouldn't allow the same lifestyle.

My doctor believes we caught this early enough to allow me a full lifespan given kinda scary medication (this is a serious disease that often ends lives far too early).

I wasn't able to knit during the worst of it, but my longing to knit, I'm convinced, helped me through the darkest times.

And let me tell you, knitting now is SO restorative.  I'll write more posts about the actual science behind knitting's healing properties (there are many), but based on my own experience combined with the many amazing stories shared with me by my amazing Phydeaux knitters ... knitting truly does heal spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and even socially.

What about you?  What has been your experience with healing and the fiber arts?


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Making your own handmade wardrobe

Posted on May 21, 2018 by Brenda Lavell | 0 comments


I learned to sew, crochet, cook, bake and (sorta) knit when I was really young.  Grade school.  Then came Home Ec in Junior High and High School, where I learned to really sew, and never looked back.  

Funds were limited growing up, so discovering how to sew my own clothes was everything to me.  I could sew the latest styles for next to nothing, compared to the prices in our small town stores.

I was SO desperate to learn to really knit well after high school.  I was wavering between art and biology / chemistry in our local community college (this has always been a struggle for me!), and relaxing with a good crochet project really helped with the stress of learning the quadratic formula or Avogadro's number or moles.

But, knitting was a big challenge.  "M1."  What does that mean???*  We were JUST accessing apple computers in community college.  There was no internet.  Certainly no youtube.

I checked out every possible knitting book from the local libraries, didn't really help.  Each book had a different M1 / increase technique.  Yarn in front vs. yarn in back was all the more confusing.

So, I stuck with sewing and just dreamed of hand knit sweaters.

The internet truly has been invaluable to reviving the hand arts.  Once I realized I could watch just about any technique via youtube, I was smitten.  

I stopped sewing when I started working fulltime, many years ago, but periodically fondled the fabrics at a local shop, chose a few, and sewed up some skirts for work.

And, I have a small stack of fabrics that are ready to pin and cut, in order to make some cute Summer skirts. As soon as I have time (ha).

AND, I'm knitting the tops and sweaters to wear with them.  Huzzah!

What about you?

What about your own handmade wardrobe?  Do you sew in addition to your fiber art of choice?  I'd love to know - leave a comment below!

There are SO many new options for sewing your own clothes and accessories.  Used to be sitting at the fabric store with a pile of pattern catalogs, writing down your list of pattern numbers and brands, then combing through the pattern drawers and narrowing down your choices (your size was sold out, or you didn't realize the notions required weren't something you had access too, etc.).

Now you can search for dirndl skirt digital download sewing patterns, and voila, you have a sizable mountain of search results.  Download the PDF or send for the hard copy.  Done.  


Or search for any kind of knitting or crochet pattern!  Ravelry is a good place to start, but so is Google.  Or your favorite indie designer or hand dyer's website. 

I'd love to hear about your handmade wardrobe experience - please share below!

*BTW, the one concept that I've truly embraced when it comes to knitting?  Most techniques will work for a particular increase, etc.  As long as you achieve the desired result, most people will not care if your increase is a YO, picking up the bar, working the stitch below, etc.  It's just what works for you and for your project.  Heresy, I know!

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