So That's What I Was Missing

Back in the Saddle

I thought this was going to be a very straightforward email, then I realized the simplicity of what I want to tell you about is tied up in a bunch of things that need explanation. So here we go!

As you may know, when most Jewish kids are about thirteen years old, they have a bar or bat mitzvah. It’s a rite of passage into a more mature relationship with their religion. I am not religious, but my Jewish identity is key to who I am, and our kid will have a bar mitzvah as part of his learning about and exploring his own Jewish identity, however he chooses to express it throughout his life.

Traditionally, Jewish adults (I mean, if we’re really talking tradition here it’s Jewish men but as you might have anticipated, we participate in an egalitarian denomination) wear a prayer shawl called a tallit. It’s traditional for a kid to receive and wear one at the time of their bar or bat mitzvah.

A couple months ago I learned of a community that invites parents or grandparents of upcoming b’nai mitzvah kids to learn how to weave a tallit for their kid(s). Naturally, approximately forty-five seconds after learning about this I decided that I will weave a tallit for my kid. I have over two and a half years to do it.

If you’ve been with me a long time you’ll know that I have dabbled in weaving, both tapestry and rigid-heddle. I’ve preferred tapestry, mostly because there are few projects I could make on my 10” rigid heddle loom that I’d actually want in the end.

Deciding to weave a major project, though, led me to realize how limited my imagination has been by the size of my tiny loom. I would like to weave blankets, for example, but I have no desire to make them out of half a dozen narrow woven strips. I love to wear shawls, but almost never wear scarves.

In other words, I realized that trading up my wee loom for a larger one would not only enable me to weave a tallit for my kid (at minimum they’re around 20” wide), it would also (probably) lead me to weave way more, period, because I’d be able to make things I’d love.

Still, as I’ve been writing about over the last several weeks, I haven’t exactly been in touch with my usual creative mojo. So though I decided to embark on this involved and long-term project, which will require quite a lot of learning and practice, I didn’t actually do anything about it.

Ok, so that’s one bit of background to my simple (heh) story: I want to learn more about weaving so that I can make a very special project, I’ve not actually done anything about it, but I have decided to buy a larger loom and to find a new home for my 10” one.

The other part of the story just happened this long weekend. I was talking with a loved one (hello, loved one), and they were mentioning wanting to find a new hobby. Which, of course, immediately piqued my interest, because I’m nothing if not a pushy and meddlesome interferer in other people’s desires to find a hobby.

It turns out the vague hobby-seeking notion my loved one had is… you see where this is going… to try out weaving.

Which is how it came to be that yesterday I handed off my 10” loom and all its parts and its manual, followed up with a link to Liz Gipson’s incredible resources, and that today I placed an order for a 32” loom, which I’ll hopefully get to pick up later in the week.

So that’s the background of what I really want to write to you about. Which is this:

My happy creative headspace is most often achieved when encouraging others to be creative; it is sometimes, though not even usually, achieved pursuing my own creative plans.

Obviously, I spent ten years of my career focusing on this, but I never really considered the role that encouraging others has on my own feeling of creativity.

Now that I’m not doing this kind of work anymore, having just this one opportunity to encourage someone was like, “Oh, hello, normal self!” I had a spring in my step all day after handing off the loom, with the added bonus that I knew why I felt good.

It’s because I find it incredibly satisfying to say to someone, or to a huge group of people, “Try it! What’s the risk? There really isn’t one if you decide you’ll embrace a horrible first try. Even better if you celebrate your horrible first try and make a second and a third and let yourself discover if you enjoy this new thing. If you don’t, no harm done! If you do, well, there you go—you’ll have given yourself the gift of a new hobby that makes you happy.”

I’ll have to sort out how I might keep this kind of encouraging a part of my life despite my new professional focus and in the context of ongoing pandemic isolation. (Another signal I’m feeling more like myself: the thought that just fleeted across my brain that maybe I should start a vlog.)

Certainly I can insert a bit more creative encouraging into my work at Digits & Threads (indeed, I realize that my excitement about hosting our upcoming Studio Hours from my kitchen stove for our focus on natural dyeing is 100% because I intend to encourage everyone to give it a try themselves).

I feel a bit more like myself today is what I’m saying. ❤️

Brace yourselves for some weaving enthusiasm (no doubt also cursing) over the next few years.


We’ve got April discussion threads going:

One about books, and one about crafts.

Come hang out and chat!

Items of Note

  • Never knew I had a dream home until I saw this.

  • This 🖖.

  • Jabby 💉.

  • Grover, 100%, I can’t understand why every single person doesn’t agree with me.

    • To be clear, this is a must-read.

      • Like, make some time, curl up, read every word and click the links (especially click for Swedish Chef, which will make you snort-laugh just like you need right now, I promise.

    • Also, how awesome is it that chaos muppets and order muppets are a thing we just talk about now. As a chaos muppet with slight order tendencies, once I read the original piece about this I’ve never stopped thinking about people on this spectrum.

    • (I will go on the record right here and now and say that the only muppet I’ve been less interested in than Kermit—for my whole life, since I was a wee wee child—is Gonzo. The aforelinked ranking has cemented my impression that I am forced to live in a world dominated by beings who exist outside my understanding.)

    • To be fair, the third and final muppet I’ve never enjoyed is Miss Piggy. I endured endless Piggy and Kermit to get to the Grover parts.

    • I can go on about this for a very long time.

    • A great point of pride for my father is that my very first belly laugh was to Grover’s “near and far.” Lest you’ve ever doubted that tiny children are already who they are and will remain, I’m laughing right now just thinking about that bit.

  • Our weekly video hang-outs are held on Discord, on Thursdays at 1:30pm Pacific / 4:30pm Eastern Time, in the Community Hangout voice channel. To join us on Discord:

    • Head to Discord and download the app or proceed to use it in your browser. Then click or enter this link to join our server:

What I’m making: Still a Pi Shawl, and a toque from my handspun yarn.

What I’m watching: Snowpiercer. Which I really love. And not only because I’m a Daveed Diggs fan (bonus points if you catch the other inclusion of him in today’s email). Survival of the human race confined to a long-ass train is the dystopia I’ve been needing.

What I’m reading: I thoroughly enjoyed The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary, and am now just starting Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville. His writing is brilliant in a way I sometimes find hard to read, because I get distracted by it. I think I’m going to stick with this book, though. The kid and I are about twenty pages from the end of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I’m now prepared to say I do not recommend it. It’s deeply problematic in a variety of ways, and after what Wendi shared in our books chat last month, I’m prepared to drop the gavel of my judgment on it without hesitation. Also, I will offer you what I have offered my son: I have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau (I have also been to what remains of Sobibor, Majdanek and Treblinka), and I will share my experiences of walking those grounds if you would like to know about them. One of the things that is abominable about Pajamas is how intentionally vague it is where it really, really shouldn’t be. I’m not saying that a middle grade novel should graphically depict the horrors of a death camp. I am saying that the way this particular book is written does an injustice to the truth that inspired it.

What are you enjoying (or hating) reading these days? Head over to the book discussion thread!