Crafting Shadowlace

A few months ago, on a cold, snowy day, my husband, daughter, and I were lying cozily in my bed. I looked up from my reading to see my husband writing on his laptop and my daughter watching a fairy tale on the tablet and, as I listened to the snowflakes brushing whisperingly against the window beside me, I felt a rush of contentment and gratitude that we had warmth and companionship. Then I noticed, with a happy jolt of satisfaction, that all of us were cuddled up under our own blankets, and that those blankets were the ones I had made for each of us.

I forget about these blankets because we use them all the time; they have blended into our everyday lives and don’t seem as special sometimes as the things I make to give away. But each of them were made to personal specifications: soft neutrals with no big holes for his toes to stick through for my husband, a cloud-soft nubby yarn in “turqwawoise” for my daughter, and one of my favorite lacy patterns, a bargello, in a cool, light cotton for me. I may forget about the work I put into these particular afghans, but they are well loved.

And that is one of the reasons I love to create: to have a tangible reminder that someone else is worth my time and effort.

Don’t get me wrong: the act of creating something, especially with my hands, fills me up; I get a sense of that spark of divinity that we all carry around inside us. The vivid bliss of getting to play with color, the peace that comes with feeling the softness of the yarn run through my fingers, the sharp joy of seeing something that at one time existed only inside my head be made material, all of that is a tremendous motivator for me to continue creating. (Not to mention that I truly fear that without the calming influence of my crafting, my sanity would be irreparably frazzled.)

But on that snowy day, I realized how much gratification I feel knowing that something I made is loved. That’s ultimately why I made it, after all. Even if the person I made it for doesn’t remember that I had anything to do with it, I hope my creation is loved, and giving the comfort that inanimate things can sometimes give in return.

This time of separation, when there is so much loneliness and anxiety, is a wonderful time to think about what you can make for someone else. It could be a comforting scarf or afghan, a lacy thread bookmark, a fun amigurumi toy, or whatever you think will help the person you have in mind. Spread some of that soft, colorful love around!

It will probably help keep your own sanity from getting frazzled, as well.

Looking Forward

I apologize for waiting so long to post; our lives became super hectic this last month, with visiting family members, lots of doctor appointments, and various commitments we had to fulfill. In addition, I was in charge of writing the program that the children in our church put on to show their parents what they have learned, and Kohl directed a short film (in the middle of editing his feature!). I was asked to be an extra (I’m almost entirely sure I was asked just because I have long hair), so I was on set. Now, however, things have started calming down a bit, and I can get back to my routine.

The short took place in 1830’s France, so even the extras got fancy costumes.

The air is just starting to change here. The days are still warm, but the breeze has just a touch of a chill in it, and the leaves are starting to turn. Every time one of those cool breezes hits my face, my heart leaps a little in my chest. Autumn is a time of change and possibility, and I can’t help but be happy as I look forward.

One of the best things coming up on my horizon is that Kohl will finally be done editing his feature film. He has been working so hard every day. He leaves in the morning, comes back for dinner, and then returns to the production office to keep editing. This has been his schedule for the last three months. I love how, as a filmmaker, he can work from home so much and how flexible his schedule can be, but, on the flip side, when he has a project deadline coming up he has to work regardless of whether it’s a Saturday, holiday, or special occasion. When he’s done (hopefully today or tomorrow), we’re going to take a day and just spend some time together.

In addition, my dialysis has been working really well. I’m not retaining fluid, and I feel a lot more energetic now that they’re being aggressive with my anemia. The only things I’m really struggling with is how out of control my emotions are and how slowly my brain works. I know that it’s only temporary, though, and it does make Kohl laugh to see me crying at commercials.

This is also the season when I start making all my Christmas presents. Last year I realized that I just don’t have enough time to make something for everyone, so I trade off making things for Kohl’s family and my family. I am so excited for the things I have planned. As I finish them, I’ll post them so you can see what I’ve been doing. In the meantime, here are some other projects I’ve been finishing up.

Socks I made for a newborn in our ward. Kohl wanted me to make them Rainbow Dash colors.

A tunic and furry boots I made for one of my friends who is about to have a baby girl. I gave her some pink leggings to go with it too.

A sweater vest for one of my friend’s twin babies. The sizing was tricky because the twins were premature, so they were a little smaller than normal, but I needed to size it for how big they would be in the winter. I’m still not sure if I got it right.

The other twin’s sweater. Her mom is a style maven, so I included different ribbons so she could mix up her look.

Hats for the down syndrome walk. I’m making some in men’s, women’s, girl’s, and boy’s sizes. These are the womens’ hats.

A closer look

The boys’ hats for the down syndrome walk.

The girls’ hats for the down syndrome walk.

I love this detail from the girls’ hats. It goes on the side and can look like a bow or a butterfly.

Of course, I have already been crocheting like a mad woman. Not only do I have literally a dozen friends and relatives having babies (and how can I resist making some adorable crocheted items for all those little joybugs?), but I also found out that one of my best friends is having a Walk for Down Syndrome in honor of her daughter Teila, and they are including a Craft and Bake Sale. I volunteered to send some crocheted hats, and I have absolutely loved working on them, for a couple of reasons.

Isn’t she a doll? If you are able, this is a wonderful cause, and I’m sure there will be plenty of delicious things to eat and buy. You can find more information here:

Firstly, it’s nice to make something quick and without worrying about whether the person for whom I am making it will like it. I get to play with the colors and yarns I choose, some of which I’ve had for years just waiting for the right project. Secondly, when dealing with something as life-changing and all encompassing as a chronic disease, there is a real danger of becoming overly selfish. Your mind automatically reverts to survival mode, and nothing seems as important as getting what you feel you need immediately. I’ve watched this start happening to myself every time I start dialysis, but this time I made a goal to focus on other people more than myself, and opportunities to serve like this one help to counteract that selfishness. I still have a long way to go until I’m as generous as I need to be, but I have noticed that as I focus on being there for others the inevitable emotional upheaval and depression that come with dialysis have not affected me as much as they have previously. It makes sense, doesn’t it? You can’t be constantly thinking of how hard things are for you if you’re trying to think about how to make things easier for other people.

Plus, planning out what kindnesses I’m going to perform makes looking forward so much more pleasant.


I know I let you down last week. For the first time since I started this blog, I wasn’t able to stick to my one post a week goal. Ok, that actually sounds arrogant to me. Let’s rephrase it: I let myself down. Believe me, I’m completely aware that this whole blog thing is much more about me dealing with my shadows and letting long unused talents see the light than it is about bringing hope to the hearts of the masses. However, if you did miss me…I’m sorry.

The truth is, the last month has been much rougher for Kohl and me than I had thought it would be. The previous year, as my health slowly faded, I felt like every day was a magical gift, and I was grateful. However, I was also a little arrogant; I kept thinking, I know how to deal with this kidney disease, and though I’m not looking forward to it, I can be stronger than it. Then we were hit by a succession of emotional trials, and sometimes I feel like I’m breaking.

Kohl is still grieving for his dad, and I don’t always know how to comfort him. The other day my heart broke when I heard him sobbing in his office, only to discover that he was actually gasping for breath while he laughed hysterically at a YouTube clip of someone getting hit in the head by a ball. Other times I find him with tears in his eyes as one of his dad’s favorite songs comes up on his iTunes playlist, or worrying that he’s not close enough geographically to help his family.

For me, besides the constant yo-yo of “I feel pretty good today…oh, wait, I’m starting to feel cruddy…no, no, that must have been a fluke; I’m feeling ok…oh, man, I feel terrible,” I’ve also been dealing with the fallout from an emotional conflict with loved ones that has left me struggling with a lot of anger and bitterness, and I’m not sure how to adequately, or healthily, cope. I thought I had learned how to deal with these emotions better than I have, but apparently I still have a long way to go. To top it all off, I got a call last night that my grandpa had had a heart attack (they think), his kidneys have shut down, and he’s in the hospital. Although it sounds like he’s doing better today, there are still a lot of unknowns, and I’m feeling a little out of control.

I’m not sure why all of this is happening at once. Why is it that struggles so often come together? What is it that we need to learn from the combination of grief, fear, emotional distress, and helplessness? If it’s that we sometimes are unable to cope with situations all on our own, that we need help and love, believe me, I am feeling it. I think there is something else, though. I feel like there is some profound truth just beyond my vision that I am supposed to be in the process of learning right now. I hope that I’m discerning enough to grasp it soon, because I do not deal well with emotional pain.

In the meantime, I am trying to be calm and allow myself to feel what I need to feel to work through the anger, fears, and stress. I’m turning again to being creative to help soothe my frazzles. I really love just sitting in silence and working with my hands; I love music, and I like watching things as I work normally, but lately the silence has allowed me to really think about where I’m at and what I truly want while my hands are creating structure and beauty out of tangled threads. In fact, the other day I sat down with some yarn I’d been crushing on for months and created my own pattern for a simple cowl. I spent a few hours on it, and afterwards I felt amazing.  My problems weren’t miraculously solved, but I felt more able to deal with them. Plus, I can never have too many warm things to wear up here on the mountain; this place is cold.

Below is the pattern I created as therapy this weekend, for those who are interested. Please don’t sell the pattern or the finished piece without my permission. (Not that I think any of you would, but apparently this is important to put up for legal reasons.) Here’s hoping that it might help someone else with their frazzles too. If you have questions, let me know!


Measurements: 7 ½” (19 cm) by 52” (32 cm)


Lion Brand Tweed Stripes yarn (100% Acrylic, 3 oz/85g/144 yd/132m) or other bulky (weight category 5) yarn: 2 skeins Woodlands

US K-10.5 (6.5 mm) crochet hook, or size to obtain gauge

Gauge: gauge is not critical for this project

Foundation Row: Ch 132. Being careful not to twist chain, connect circle with a slip stitch in first chain.

Row 1: Ch 2, hdc in same chain. Hdc across.

Row 2: Ch 2, (FPhdc around hdc, BPhdc around hdc) across.

Row 3: Rep Row 2.

Row 4: Ch 1, sc across.

Row 5: Rep Row 4

Row 6: Ch 3, *sk next sc, 1 dc in each of next 3dc, 1 dc in skipped sc, repeat from *. Join to top of turning ch with sl st.

Row 7: Ch 1, turn. Sc across.

Row 8: Ch 2, hdc across.

Row 9: Ch 1, turn. Sc across.

Rows 10-13: Rep Rows 6-9.¹

Rows 14-15: Rep Rows 6 and 7.

Row 16: Ch. 1, turn. Sc across.

Rows 17-19: Rep Rows 1-3.

¹ The current pattern will give you three repeats of the central pattern; if you want to make the cowl wider, repeat rows 6-9 once or twice more. If you do choose to make it bigger, you may need another skein of yarn.

The Bright Side

The last couple of months have been challenging for me, and I’m afraid that this blog has been a little gloomy in consequence. The truth is, my life is pretty fantastic. I live in an apartment in a beautiful Victorian mansion in a historic part of Salt Lake City with my husband, who happens to be an extremely talented filmmaker capable of making me laugh daily, and my chinchilla. I’m fairly weird, and yet I’ve been able to make good friends who can either look past the oddness or share some of it. I am surrounded by people who care enough about me to consistently check up on me and want to take care of me, though I’m afraid sometimes my desire for self-sufficiency and stubbornness deny them the opportunity.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry those of you who read regularly have been subjected to so much doom and gloom lately. I’m actually a very optimistic person, but I think that the stress and sadness of the last few months has been reflected in the emotions I’ve expressed here. In contrast, I want this post to focus on all the bright, sunshiney spots in my life, so I have listed some of them below.

-I have fourteen nieces and nephews whom I love with all my heart. I can’t resist making things for them, and I could talk about them all day. (Although I don’t, or at least I try not to; I’m pretty sure etiquette demands that I refrain from monopolizing the conversation with anecdotes about the precocious and adorable offspring of my siblings and in-laws. If you’re interested, though…we should have a chat.) One of the things that makes me happiest is writing letters to those little joybugs. I started it when I moved out of state and didn’t get to see them as much, and it has been more fun than I ever imagined. They LOVE getting mail.

-Some of my friends and I started a Craft Club. We get together once or twice a month, and everyone brings something they’re working on (or not; sometimes people just want to get in on the conversation), and we talk and craft. It is a huge stress reliever. In fact, the first time we did it, I ended up bawling like a baby as I talked about some of the stuff going on with my disease, and afterwards I felt so much better. Luckily, I’ve never repeated that performance, but it’s so nice to know that I have a place where I can be like that and people will still sit near me the next time they see me. Also, one of these times I’m going to have someone teach me to knit.

-While in Arizona for my father-in-law’s funeral, we were able to see some of our best friends. Just seeing their faces at the viewing and funeral made everything easier. Again, when we came back to Utah, we were able to see many of our best friends here, and it eased my heartache. I have genuine love for these people, and there is not much I wouldn’t do for them. To have them there when I needed them was a blessing I didn’t even realize I needed.

-I find constant delight in creating things. One of the premiere joys in my life is to sit in a beautiful place, preferably outdoors, and work with my hands. I just finished a sweater for one of my nieces, and I have been in love with it for the last 24 hours. I couldn’t stop picking it up and admiring the colors. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging; I adored the colors when they were just hanks of yarn also. I just mailed it off this morning, and I can’t wait to see a picture of my niece in it. Making and giving gifts provides some of the happiest moments in my life.

A sweater for Autumn

-My husband, Kohl, is my very best friend, and he has been since four years before we were married. He was there the first time my kidneys failed as my friend, and he was with me the second time as my husband and primary caregiver. He is patient, gentle, irreverent, witty, highly intelligent, startlingly creative, and hilarious, and when he doesn’t know anyone is watching, he is an amazing dancer. I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t have him in my life.

-Finally, after all the fear and worry about my doctor’s appointment, it turns out my numbers are still surprisingly good (for someone with only 9% kidney function, at least). My doctor said that I don’t have to start dialysis right away; she’s giving me four more weeks, and then I’ll get more bloodwork done. Considering that my previous kidneys have failed in a matter of weeks after the earlier returns of my disease, the fact that this failure has taken more than a year is miraculous. I am so grateful for this extra year of health that I’ve been given. I feel like my senses are sharpened, and I have been able to notice every delightful thing with grateful eyes. The doctor also told me that I shouldn’t have to go on hemodialysis at all! That was a huge pile of dread that slid right off my shoulders, and I’m feeling a little more able to breathe. The only gray lining to this silver cloud is that I’m badly anemic, to the point that I may have to start getting bi-weekly shots of Epo to strengthen my blood. Unfortunately, these cost $2500 a pop, so to be able to afford them I might have to start dialysis anyway, in order to get on Medicare.

Regardless of the hurdles still ahead, I’m feeling happy and relieved that things turned out so much better than I had hoped. It’s a lesson to me not to let my fears control my outlook. With a life as full of delight and joy and sunshine as mine is, it’s a pity to focus on the gloom.

Shadowlace, Crochet-Style

One of the reasons I love crochet is that it looks so handmade, whether it’s a solid fabric, like the Mohawk hat, or something lacy. It probably doesn’t surprise you when I say that I particularly love the lacy look; I mean, it’s basically shadowlace that I’ve created. Anyway, here are a few of the projects I am working on right now or have recently finished. I’ve also made something for a lot of you, so if you want your project highlighted on here, send me a pic, and I’ll post it.

The Mohawk hat. I’m also making one in blues and one in greens for the brothers of the little boy who is getting this.

This is a detail from the afghan I’m making for our bed. It’s hard to tell (especially with my particular brand of fuzzy photography) but it’s made in a super bulky yarn, and the pattern is a checkerboard of plain squares and squares with bobbles (or bumps).

Ripple scarf


I made one of these scarves for myself, and one of the beanies for Kohl. We liked them so much, and they were so easy, that I ended up making a bunch for our friends up here for Christmas, all in different colors.

This is one of Kohl’s all-time favorite things I’ve ever made. It’s a simple throw that we have in our living room for cold nights, and it’s made with a bunch of leftover scraps from other projects.

This is one of the easiest and quickest things to make, and it’s one of my go-to gifts for baby showers. My aunt taught me to make them. All you do is crochet a little ruffle around the edge of the sock, throwing on a bead every once in a while, so you end up with a beaded ruffle. The color combinations are endless; I like to find out what my nieces are wearing for Easter Sunday and make socks to match.

These are some ponchos I made for all of my nieces. The funnest part was picking out a colorway that each of them would love. The pattern is super simple, but every little girl seems to love it. (Except, apparently, Brooke in the middle there. I’m just going to tell myself she’s hungry.)

I don’t know if this satisfied those of you who wanted to see some of my projects, but it was super fun for me. If anyone wants the patterns I’ll scrounge them up (or write them down for the ones I made up). I’ll keep you posted as I finish new things.

P.S. I wanted to thank everyone for their very kind responses to my last posts. I am still terrified to throw all of this stuff out there, but I’m grateful for your words of encouragement.