THE FIRST THING:
To the left you'll see a Bag of Boobs. Yes, boobs. Breast prostheses, that is. I knit them for the Knitted Knockers organization and supply them to my local hospital's mammography and medical oncology unit. They emailed Friday to ask for another batch because "women love them."
I was so happy to hear it.
I knit in the evenings while I watch the news or a tv program. I cannot watch tv without doing something with my hands, and this has forever solved that problem. Because breast cancer is so common, there's an unending need for these prostheses for women who've had a mastectomy.
THE SECOND THING THAT STARTS WITH B: THE BOX
Here is the back spine of the box (I posted a picture of the bottom of the box a few posts back--you can just catch a glimpse of that underneath the narrow spine above). And above it you can see the as-yet-untangled top of the box. The tangle on the spine is Toodles. Done with white pen, colored pencil, graphite, white chalk pencil.
This is one side of the box (both sides are the same).
So now only the front of the box is left to tangle. Surprisingly, I am not enjoying tangling on this box one bit. The underlying structure is probably chipboard or something equally hard, and the brown paper covering is not porous at all. The combo makes it very challenging to tangle on--it's as if the paper wants to reject the pens entirely. Hard to get the ink out!
Plus tangling on tiny narrow surfaces that don't support one's hand is a real challenge. The combination of pen-rejecting paper and no hand control is making this a difficult project. When I'm done I think I'll love the box, but I sure don't want to tangle another one. Live and learn!
The photo above is a picture of Barbara Demorest, who founded Knitted Knockers, my absolute favorite things to knit. She's sitting on a pile of (as-yet-unstuffed) Knockers. I added to the pile this morning when I mailed off over 60 Knockers I made--I sent them to her organization to distribute, free, to cancer survivors who've had mastectomies. This is such a rewarding and compelling reason to knit.
Below you can see what a Knocker looks like once it's been stuffed with polyester. So much better than the silicone/plastic prostheses, which are heavy and can promote sweating and irritation. Knitted Knockers are light, airy, washable, and more closely resemble a genuine breast.
Let me allow Barbara and her organization to explain, as they can do it much better than I can.
If you've had a mastectomy, I hope you will contact the organization and ask for a free Knitted Knocker.
And if you're a knitter, I certainly hope you will volunteer to make a few of these. If you do, be sure to go to the organization's website to find a zillion patterns (knitted or crocheted, and many options for how to make them) and a list of "approved yarns." Using only approved yarns is very important, as only certain fibers can be tolerated next to delicate and/or healing skin. Thank you for considering this!
Here's the bag I sent to the organization this morning. It's absolutely stuffed to the gills with Knockers I've made while watching tv in the evenings. So easy to do, and so helpful to breast cancer survivors.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been in intensive learning mode--taking a course on sketching and watercolor. I've been failing regularly in my attempts. And I'm also learning a lot. You can see previous entries on this experience HERE (the start of the series), HERE (scroll down to the bottom to see that one), HERE, and HERE.
It seems I can only do one thing at a time, though, so no tangling has been happening. I look forward to getting back to that. I am able to knit in the evenings, so I've been making Knitted Knockers (soft knitted prostheses for breast cancer survivors) and will soon have about 60 of them to ship out for distribution. Today I went to the local yarn shop and picked up these yarns for future Knockers: [If you knit, I hope you will seriously consider making Knockers for women who need them post surgery.]
I have also been unpacking and the kitchen is nearly ready. Given that I do not know how to cook, how ready does it need to be? Well, once I get back to rug hooking, it needs to be ready for me to dye yarn and wool. Today I moved my "dye chest" into the kitchen, and more equipment will come. I'm very encouraged about this.
Here are my most recent drawings and watercolors. I hesitate to even term these "watercolors" as I'm truly struggling with the waterbrush and trying to resist going back to regular brushes.
Let me begin with a photo of the actual roses I was trying to capture, in their vase. Both roses were well-past their prime and beginning to die by the time I finally got to start drawing them.
Here is my teacher's comment on this painting--and I agree with it:
"In this version, the vase became the focal point, rather than the rose. Another really lovely drawing and color, but I think what is missing is the whites of the page and the lights on the flower. Well done!"
The final compliment was kind of her, but the analysis about the vase becoming the focal point is exactly right.
Before I saw her comment, though, I had decided to go back and try to add to this with another layer of color, to better shade it...
The teacher hasn't commented on this drawing yet.
I was so frustrated working on it. Once again I had the sense that the paint got away from me despite my best efforts.
And yet...it's overworked, but I think it's also stronger.
More importantly, every time I try this, and fail in epic fashion as I have so far, I do learn something.
In fact, I am chronicling this in public all because I so strongly believe that we often learn best by failing. Certainly we can choose to resist learning from failures, but usually the lessons are so "loud and clear," they can lead to real success if we can heed them.
Or so I hope! Ha.
Which brings me to one of my all-time favorite quotes:
"Success consists of going from failure to failure, without lost of enthusiasm."
No, those aren't weirdly-colored taco chips, they are unfinished KNITTED KNOCKERS. I've written about them in the blog before (and I hope you will click on the link above and read about them). They are hand-knitted, soft cotton breast prostheses for women who have survived breast cancer. That's the current crop that I've knitted. They are "unfinished" because the final step is stuffing each one with polyester filling, at which point they look uncannily like breasts. However, I'm about to mail off this batch, and to save postage, I mail them un-stuffed. They'll get stuffed when they reach their Washington destination, and then each one will be mailed, free, to a woman who has requested it. I really love making these.
Because my schedule is so unpredictable right now, and because I am living in two places, I can't do any rug hooking or any of my usual creative pursuits, but I can grab my very small knitting bag (pictured on the upper right) and I can make a knocker anywhere. It's about all I can do. Because I've learned the pattern, these are stress-relieving no-brainer tiny projects and they make me feel great as I make them.
Helping me, and helping the recipient.
If you knit (or crochet--there's a crochet pattern for them also), please consider making some. The need is great.
In all the time I've been making rugs and using gripper frames, I don't think I've ever done what I did today. I was moving the punch-hooked rug on the large frame and for the first time ever I cut both hands and bled all over the rug. As I said, jeez!
Fortunately, it only showed on the border, which will be entirely cut away as I begin binding.
Best of all, I have no pictures of this event, You won't be seeing it.
Despite that, I did accomplish one thing I've been meaning to do for a very long time:
...I created a Rube Goldberg solution to the problem of having to sit down the entire time while I work on the rug. [There really was a real Rube.] How's that (above) for making Rube proud of me?
Before I tucked it up, it looked like this...which gives you an idea of the size of this rug (some of the rug is hanging down in back of the frame and can't be seen):
I used these clamps from the Wool & Dye Works in Florence MA to neaten it all up:
By the time I left, it looked like this:
Yes, much neater. And since the frame is sitting on top of two plastic boxes, it's the perfect height for standing while punching. I can also easily lift it off the boxes and make it the perfect height for sitting and punching. My intention is to alternate sitting and standing, about a half an hour each, every time I work on the rug. Last week I sat down and punched for about 5 hours straight, and when I finally got up to go home I realized that was a very bad idea. Waaaaaay too much sitting.
I am pleased with this solution; I tried it out today and enjoyed myself.
And here is my new dye cabinet. It was cheap cheap cheap (and looks it, I know) and hardly elegant ($30 at Michael's with a coupon) but it rolls and it will do the trick. Plus the gaudy colored plastic drawers mean I can sort the dyes by color, making them easier to locate quickly. You can see the sorted jars sitting just inside.
When I was unable to go to the studio over the weekend, I made a bunch of additional Knitted Knockers. I love knitting for that cause. The picture below shows them un-stuffed. To see what they actually look like when ready to be used by mastectomy survivors, see my last post on this topic.
After sending off my last batch of Knitted Knockers, I got a postcard with a thank-you message.
Such a wonderful organization.
I only wish they hadn't bought into the entire "pink ribbon" thing, but unfortunately, most of the public doesn't know the disturbing history of the pink ribbon--not to mention the insult to Charlotte Haley and her inspiring, original project.
In case I didn't make it clear above, my hands are fine--no lingering injuries from those powerful gripper strips (or at least only minor ones that will have healed by tomorrow). A good reminder to be more careful when punching near the border of the rug.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh...I love it when I discover something scientific that justifies one of my so-called bad habits, and this video is less than 2 minutes long:
AND ABOUT THOSE KNITTED KNOCKERS:
Ok, so here is what I have been doing in the off-moments when I haven't been dyeing yarn for my new rug: making Knitted Knockers.
Yes, they are what they sound like and look like. They are ingenious prostheses for mastectomy patients to wear instead of the (usually) nasty implants or other heavy, unwieldy prostheses. You can find out all about them on this amazing website.
You see here a pair I have nicknamed the Blue Boobies...isn't there a bird called the Blue-Footed Boobie? Well anyway, I couldn't resist doing a pair in blue.
I was really moved by this project, and--given the trauma a good friend of mine is going through this very week--really wanted to be a part of it. So I am knitting knockers and I hope someone finds them useful.
Now that I've got the hang of it, they are easy to make and require no thought. But the first one! Oy vey. Let's just say I haven't worked with double-pointed needles in years (I prefer Magic Loop for socks) and it took me more than a dozen tries to get the first one going. But that was it--once I got that one started, the rest have been a snap. I just love this project.
I'm snowed in here so haven't been able to get to the studio to work on my rug, but I've been continuing the yarn-dyeing orgy and should have more skeins to show very shortly. I may--just may--have finished dyeing all the yarn for the rug. Just about 50 pounds of yarn. Phew. And each 4 oz skein has been dyed individually, by hand.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator, meditation teacher and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society