ON CREATIVITY | EARL GREY + PINK STITCHES

 
ceramic bunny tea cup kata golda by samantha spigos

I am a gift knitter. Any knitting skill I possess is something I consider an offering to others. This is less about self-sacrifice and generosity and more about motivation. I am motivated to be-woolen my loved ones, and sometimes their loved ones, and that desire keeps me knitting. Coupled with Mark’s and my economic life being stringently tight every month, I experience major guilt over the notion of purchasing or using yarn for myself. This is a little silly, as I’ve gone three winters without a hat or mittens of my own making. Wait, is this what it means to be a mom? At the onset of this year, I burnt out on knitting — even for my own child, who is generally my ever-flowing spring of inspiration. I managed to cast on a few things, but if the single child’s pant leg taunting me from the other room is any indication, they were not seen through. Surely a stuffed penguin was the answer after the joy I felt sewing Rosie’s bunny (who has since been named Posie), but in the end each attempt fell by the wayside and I spent too much time on my phone. Surely you can relate.

At the root of this creative slump were two factors: I wanted to knit with vibrant color but did not own any, and I wanted to knit something for myself. After prodding my sister over how to get over these feelings and rise out of the slump, she rationally replied that I should buy some colorful yarn and knit myself something. A novel idea if there was one.

mondim yarn fingering weight hat knitting by samantha spigos

I probably first imagined the moral of this story to be something like, “avoid rewarding the notion that life will get better if you spend money, and use my knitting piety as an example,” but the reality is that investing in myself was a very healthy decision. This is what the internet calls self-care. Knitting, it turns out, is more than an avenue for gifting woolens to loved ones. Methodical and centering, it is a practice that not only takes me out of the wildness of the world, but it also connects me to sheep who worked hard to grow the wool that I wind and throw between my fingers. For living in town and possessing no more than 1/4 acre backyard, it is remarkable that I can interact with specific breeds of sheep daily. Putting a small sum towards this practice reinvigorated my creative spirit. As for the color itself, staring at saturated pigment during a wet, icy, gray winter has been a truly effective way to offset the lowness I have been experiencing. Slump conquered.

And one other thing. Are you a tea drinker? Always good for a cup of tea but never particularly jazzed about it, my love language was, until recently, coffee. A good ten years with a decidedly unhealthy coffee addiction, I became foreign to myself when, after pregnancy, my body could nary tolerate the caffeine or acid. I made the switch to black tea (with one blessed cup of decaf to start the day) and feel just about ready to identify as a Tea Drinker. Do you have a tea you love? A blend you make yourself? A story about a particularly good cup of tea or coffee (or Diet Coke; I’m looking at you, mom)? I would genuinely love to hear from you in the comments. Talking about food and drink experiences ranks in my top ten list of ideal topics.

black tea ceramic tea cup lilac teapot by samantha spigos

P.S. The yarn is Retrosaria Mondim in colorway 205, and the tea is Lord Bergamot with heavy cream. Both enchanting.


—S

WHY I LOVE VALENTINE'S DAY SO DEARLY

 
mother and child by samantha spigos
pink and red playsilks valentines gift for baby by samantha spigos

You know how certain things need defending? Like ice cubes in a glass of milk, Shania Twain, and socks with sandals? For the record, I do and will uphold all of the above. It’s due time to stand in defense of lowly, overlooked Valentine’s Day. It was in middle school that I started wearing pink pants and decorating homemade valentines for friends to mark the occasion, but really it was childhood that fortified my deep love of the day. My mom was working by the time I can remember the holiday, leaving well before any of us were awake. Being a household of seven, a lot of things get lost in translation, such as getting picked up from school (only once or twice did this happen, but I did have to lift my feet so the janitor could vacuum around me, and you don’t forget a thing like that), having lunches packed (we did the packing; I’m sorry, dad, for the time I packed you nothing but a piece of cake), etc.

For the things that occasionally got overlooked (and understandably, I might add), it seems to me that my mom never let Valentine’s Day go uncelebrated. One year when I went downstairs, long after she had gone to work, there they were: boxes of sugary, name brand cereal. One for each sibling, with a note featuring her iconic lipstick kiss next to a heart with the word MAMA. Another year there was a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a treasure to be savored and hidden from all of my fiendish siblings. And every year of elementary school, when kids could still design and bring in their own valentine boxes, she would help me craft something magnificent. No straightforward boxes for the Jacksons. In first grade she made me a butterfly out of a barrel shaped plastic pretzel tub and cardboard wings. Fourth grade? A life-sized vacuum. I pushed it the whole way to my grandma’s house on the walk home from school, and with pride. In fifth grade we made a large house, complete with a front door and a bedroom window featuring the school photo of your’s truly. I come by my love of Valentine’s Day naturally.

And then there’s the pink and red color story. Warm, loving, inviting colors to punctuate a wet, drizzly, cold month. Right in the middle of February we are offered a chance to feel embraced, if by the colors alone. Mark and I love to host a Valentine’s supper for friends or family, because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that a day of love needn’t be relegated to romantic love. Love is for everyone, and so is February 14th. Unclear on what to do this year, and suspecting that it might be a normal hamburger and rice sort of evening (we have a one year old, after all), I have taken to celebrating in little ways. Red and pink clothes, handwritten notes and homemade valentines, a cup of rosy black tea each afternoon, a little extra baking, you get it.

Why not write a note to your love? Or bake some cookies with your kids? Or go for a walk and tell the ground you love it, tell the sky you love it, tell your lungs and legs you love them? For the diehards out there who cannot and will not give it a chance, I surely have not convinced you. But if perhaps you love a reason to make an otherwise ordinary day a little extra, I think Valentine’s is for you.

P.S. Pictured above are the two playsilks I picked out from Ginny’s shop to give Rosemary, despite her not being old enough to remember. In the future she’s getting cereal, but only the good stuff.


—S

THIS WEEK IN FLOWERS

 
cotton pods flower vase windowsill image by samantha spigos
dried cotton pods image by samantha spigos

“On this late January afternoon,

the sky is oyster gray, and not a breath of air stirs the bare branches.

I climb partway up a steep hill and sit

to catch my breath and retie my shoes.”

— Julie Zickefoose, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds

the bluebird effect by julie zickafoose image by samantha spigos

Extinction, to me, is powerlessness, inexorability, rage, and despair. Extinction is the buzzing saw that drowns out even the double rap of a powerful woodpecker. Suddenly, I have to get some air, and I turn out the lights, put on my boots and coat, and walk deep into our woods. On this late January afternoon, the sky is oyster gray, and not a breath of air stirs the bare branches. I climb partway up a steep hill and sit to catch my breath and retie my shoes.”


Julie Zickefoose, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds


+ Creating a bird-friendly yard.
+ The Great Backyard Bird Count is February 15-18, 2019! Any and all can participate.
+ Cheerup, cheerily, cheerily, and other bird mnemonics.
+ Julie Zickefoose’s (a fellow Ohioan) upcoming talks.

last time in This Week In Flowers: Mother Teresa


—S

A BUNNY OF HER OWN

 
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

Rosemary turned one on the twenty-first of January. In truth, I love this age the most. I love that she is no longer a tiny newborn, no longer a floppy, squealing six-month old, no longer a freshly crawling nine-month old. The goal of raising children and living our own lives is to keep staying alive, no? Every stage was our favorite stage (well, except the first spell of teething). I feel no sadness that the days have been slow but the year flew by. Mark and I rejoice in our one-year old girl, thanking God for her health and vibrancy and undeniable charm; thanking God she is alive and thriving! Perhaps in twenty years I will lament how quickly it all passed, but for now I feel content to spend each day with our one-year old, our Bubinga, our bunny. Speaking of, I sewed Rosemary a birthday bunny.

handsewn bunny first birthday gift by samantha spigos
handsewn wool cotton bunny first birthday by samantha spigos
first birthday gift handsewn cotton wool bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

Long before Rosemary was Rosemary, but rather a floating water baby we referred to as Shim, I purchased the materials to make a stuffed bunny. I really, really love a good stuffed toy. It’s the history of mohair bears, the companionship of fuzzy bedtime friends, and the unexpected reasons children love the ones they do that spurred my desire to sew my own. It’s no secret here that I am deeply devoted to natural fibers, in jest referring to myself as a Wool Evangelist. I know of a handful of special toy makers out there producing heirloom-quality stuffed toys made exclusively of natural fibers (cotton and wool, mostly). I want to buy all of them, but at present can not exactly afford any of them. For Christmas Rosemary received a donkey and a hedgehog from her gurny, and a pocket doll from her grandma — each one made of cotton, wool, and alpaca fibers. Talk about a lucky lady! (Or is it me who really loves them? As Mark’s mom once joked during a gas station pitstop, “You want her to have the beautiful toys, but she’s going to want the Beanie Boos from the gas station.”) Having held onto the slubby cotton fleece and peach wool felt for more than a year, I contemplated not going forward with sewing her any animal at all. Sure, I’d invested in the materials, but could anything I make really compare to the toys she had just been gifted for Christmas?

It turns out that yes, it can.

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
wool cotton handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.

“It's a thing that happens to you.

When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with,

but REALLY loves you,

then you become Real.

The Velveteen Rabbit

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

It took roughly a week to sew, and this is from someone who has only sewn three garments total. Much of that week was spent waiting for the wool stuffing to arrive and hand stitching the limbs and head to the body. The day before her birthday I haphazardly freestyle embroidered her initials into the rear, because should not all handmade objects come with a love letter? This was the most enjoyable project I’ve made in a year or more. Something about knowing my child would hold it, possibly even love it, and maybe keep it close by for a very long time truly fueled me with an honest ambition I do not generally feel while making. If you have never made a loved one a stuffed toy but think you might like to, please consider this the gentle nudging you need. Unsurprisingly, I want to knit and sew stuffed toys forever now.

Happy birthday to our Rosemary Isidora, a little funny bunny of a one-year old.

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

For the inquisitive . . .

+ Materials used*:
Organic cotton fleece (1 yd)
Wool felt in color Peach 69 (1 mm square)
Cotton sewing thread in color 1140
Sashiko embroidery thread in color Orchid Pink
+ Soft Woolen Bunny free pattern.
+ A sunshine dress to bring cheer (from the shop of an amazing heritage toymaker).

*This material list provided enough fabric and thread that I can sew two bunnies.


Or, a few heirloom-quality bunnies ready to be gifted . . .

I’ve compiled the very best stuffed rabbits I know of. They are not inexpensive. If it’s within your means to provide a gift like this to someone you love, I would gently encourage you to trust that your gift will be cherished. Like adults, children truly do have the capacity to appreciate and respect high-quality objects.

+ Baby’s first bunny. This bunny went everywhere Rosemary went for months.
+ A true velveteen rabbit, thread whiskers and all.
+ German-made bunny that is sure to be passed down.
+ Spectacular rabbits to grow through childhood with (from the maker of the sunshine dress).


—S