Monday, January 26, 2009

Knit One, Purl Two...

When I was in middle school, my mom taught me how to knit and crochet. I don't remember anything that I made at the time, but I did like it. Last year on my annual camping trip with a group of women, I was re-introduced to knitting. Several of the women were in the process of knitting sweaters, socks, baby hats, etc. When I got home, I bought a "teach yourself to knit" kit, yarn and a set of needles.

My first project, a scarf made with a boucle' and eyelash yarn together, was beautiful. I still wear it often. Excited, I bought more yarn, needles and a couple of knitting magazines. Then, I got busy and did not knit again until I put my garden to bed in October.

Then, I knit my sister a scarf (like the one I made for myself). Mary, one of the women on my camping trip, was making a felted purse during the weekend. Felting involves knitting then putting the item in the washing machine to create a tightly woven fabric (like felt). I had a book called "One Skein Wonders" that I had bought last year. I found a pattern for a felted bag and decided to try it.

My first bag was made with a brown, super bulky yarn and it came out great. (Thanks, Brenda from City Knits for your help!) By the way, a great place to learn to knit, pick up great yarn, books, needles, etc and support a local business is City Knits in the Fisher Building in Detroit. Their website is

To finish my new bag, I added some beaded ribbon and bought some fabric to make a lining. I am not very good at sewing. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I can hardly get a button on straight. My first attempt was a little clumsy, but everytime I carry this bag, I get compliments.

Since then, I have made two more bags. I have had several offers from friends, family and total strangers to buy my bags. I have also had requests to make various items. (Several of these offers have come as a result of knitting in public). Recently, I was offered $65 on the spot for the red bag (pictured at the left), which was made with Shepherd's Wool, from a Northern Michigan-based company, a mohair blend yarn, and two leather straps cut off a purse I bought at a local thrift store.

I have also made a big purple totebag from a wool sweater that I felted in the washing machine, then cut and sewed. The strap and buckle is a repurposed belt.

I have always loved creating things. I love the satisfaction of baking my own bread, culturing my own yogurt, growing fruits and vegetables. It must be the relatively immediate results and sense of satisfaction of finishing something. Knitting has the added bonus of creating something that has the potential to stay around for a long time.

To enhance my kniiting projects, I have decided to learn to use a sewing machine. I found an old one on craigslist right after the holidays and purchased a user's manual. The last time I used a sewing machine was in high school and the resulting skirt was unwearable. Hopefully, this time will be different.

With encourage from several friends (Hey, Sonji!), I am now looking at how to turn my latest obsession into a business opportunity. Who knows?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Extraordinary Day

Much will be written about the historic inauguration that we witnessed yesterday. I had the good fortune of spending time in several places with many friends and members of the Detroit community in which I live.

For most of the day, I was at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. ( The Cass Tech Marching Band, an awesome choir from Inkster and a packed Theatre created amazing energy in the building. As members of the community streamed in to the Theatre to watch the inauguration, I was particularly moved by the reaction of the elders, many of whom had fought and struggled during the Civil Rights movement and had personally experienced racism. I spoke with a gentleman who was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen who had tears streaming down his face as he spoke about how he felt watching our new President take the oath of office. It was a day that he did not expect to see in his lifetime. It was also exciting to see the faces of young children and hear them speak the name of our new President; the name Barack Obama rolling off their tongues as if he was a beloved family member.

Mid-morning, I went to my sons' school, University Prep Academy, to watch the swearing in ceremony with my 8 year old son. We had just spent the MLK holiday at a breakfast event the day before. The program included a short play performed by students from Detroit Public Schools' Spain Middle School. It was a dialogue between Martin Luther King and the Obama family. The keynote speaker was Rev. Byron Moore from Ebenezer AME Church in Detroit. He was awesome-- drawing biblical references to current events. My favorite message from his speech... The Joshua generation needs to sit at the feet of the Moses generation (listen to our elders), but the Moses generation cannot lead the Joshua generation (we need to step up.)

The school was decorated in red, white and blue. The student's were allowed to wear Obama shirts, etc. over their uniforms for the day. As the students gathered in the gym, it was clear that they knew this day was important. I am talking about kindergarten through fifth graders here. When the ceremony began, the children were silent. Everytime the crowd in Washington cheered, they cheered. I overheard a couple of little girls talking about what it would be like to be Sasha or Miela. One of the boys interjected, " I am going to President someday." How awesome that these African American children will grow up really believing that anything is possible.

Sometimes, as parents, we aren't sure if the messages and lessons that we are trying to teach are getting through to our children. On our way home from school, my older son was picking at his younger brother about sucking his thumb and dragging around his blanket (He's 3) I told him to "stop being so critical of your brother. Nobody's perfect, including you." My older son then responded, " Yes there is. God is perfect. Jesus was perfect, wasn't he?" I told him that, Yes, God is perfect and that Jesus was the most perfect human being to walk the earth" He then said, "And Martin Luther King was perfect." I told him, " Martin Luther King was a great man, but he wasn't perfect either" He then said, "Yeah, but he tried to make it perfect." We talked about how MLK did what he knew was right and that he lost his life trying to make things better for everyone." My son then said. "Just like Jesus did." (Yahoo!!)

We capped off our day at a potluck hosted by the Garden Resource Program at Focus: HOPE. If you live in the city and love to garden, you MUST join the Garden Resource Program. It is a partnership of the Greening of Detroit, Earthworks Garden, Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Michigan State Universtiy Extension. I have been gardening for 6 years and this group, with its terrific, generous people and lots of resources have helped me grow a substantial amount of food to feed my family. (if you want to learn more, go to )

There really is a new sense of optimism in the air. I don't believe that this is a "pollyanna" view. Most of us recognize that things are not going to change over night and that it will take all of us to work and sacrifice to create a better city, nation and world.

Let's get busy!!