The Storm and the Quiet

I love this time of year. For someone who hates the heat as much as I do, the cooler temperatures are a relief and a joy. Is there anything cozier or more comforting than warming up after being briskly chilled? It’s one of my greatest pleasures. And the textures! Soft earth, crunchy leaves, a buffeting wind…this season is sensational in the truest sense of the word. I think what I love most though are the gray storms rolling in, tossing the multi-hued leaves, interspersed with skies that particular shade of vivid blue that only shows up in the fall. I never get tired of the autumn skies.

The dichotomy of the skies feels very familiar to me. The cycling of my bipolar disorder is very similar to the constant displacement of roiling gray and vibrant blue and vice versa. Like most people, the last couple years have left me particularly vulnerable to mental and emotional fatigue and more rapid, and therefore vicious, cycling between the extremes of my condition. I’ve been finding a lot of insight, though, in the beauty of this mercurial season: there is magic in the gray and the blue, the storm and the quiet. When I was younger, I thought that the depressive episodes were purely negative while the manic ones were good for me, since I felt so much more powerful and alive during them. Then, in my late 20s, when I realized how many more unwise decisions I made during my manic episodes, I began trying to avoid them at all costs. Now as I am older, and hopefully wiser, I have realized that the real solution is to find balance between the two. It is ok for me to embrace what is positive about my swings, while using the tools I have learned to regulate the negative aspects. Balance has become my ultimate and daily goal.

Crochet really has become one of my go-to methods to maintain emotional stability. And just like the autumn season, it combines the elements of color and texture (and coziness!), all of which help ground me in the creative process. I personally have found very little else more effective in both soothing and stimulating my mental equilibrium.

In that spirit, I wanted to share a quick cowl pattern with you to work on during this changeable time. It’s soft and colorful, and it works up really quickly. It would be a great handmade Christmas gift too. And if it helps to keep you balanced during your own storms and lulls, so much the better.

Velvet Slouch Cowl

Size: 10.5” x 12.5” (27cm x 32cm)


1 skein Bernat Crushed Velvet (size 5 bulky) yarn. I used Cranberry Cider in these pictures.

Size K (6.50 mm) hook

Tapestry needle 

I love the ridges

Notes: I use a one chain turning chain instead of the more common 2 chains for hdc in this pattern; the turning ch does not count as a stitch throughout.

Work stitches tightly, as velvet yarn has a tendency to worm.

Ch 75, join with sl st.

Row 1: Ch 1, hdc in first ch and across. Join with sl st in first hdc. (75 stitches)

Rows 2-30:  Ch 1, turn, hdc in BLO of first hdc and across. Join with sl st in first hdc. (75)

Fasten off. Weave in ends.

I never get tired of the way velvet yarn catches the light

Simple Sophistication

Lao Tzu said that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

As a crocheter, I find myself drawn to all kinds of different patterns, from wildly colorful to calm neutrals and difficult to easy. My pattern choices depend a lot on who the end product is for and what I feel intrigued by at the moment. I don’t make many things for myself, so I don’t often put much thought into what I, personally, would want out of a project.

A couple years ago, however, I found myself swept away in a tide of velvet. I was entranced by the softness, the colors, and the slightly heavier drape of the many velvet yarns that came flooding into the market. I ended up making lots of cowls for gifts that year, experimenting with the many different brands and colors. And I couldn’t resist making myself a handful of cowls with some of my favorite colors.

These particular cowls were made with two strands of Bernat Velvet yarn held together.

What I discovered over the next winter was that these simple cowls made my outfits shine. They were crafted in only one color using a very simple stitch, usually half double crochet, to avoid distracting from the luxurious texture of the velvet. The soft, somewhat heavy feel of the yarn was comforting, and a cowl is super utilitarian because it protects your neck so well from those icy drafts that winter loves surprising you with. Imagine my surprise then when, even when I threw one on with a hoodie and rain boots to take my daughter to school, I received compliment after compliment. The very simplicity of these easy, sturdy projects in their luscious yarn and vibrant colors made me look more sophisticated.

Or at the very least they distracted from the inevitable hodge podge of garments and moods that mornings always induce in me. Which is also a very workable situation.

So I thought I would throw up a super simple cowl pattern in a new velvet yarn I discovered this last year so that you can feel a little more glamorous in the midst of your own hodge podge.

The bonus is that it will only take you a couple hours to make, so it’s a great gift as well!

Look at how gorgeous the texture is as the sunlight plays over it.

Simple Velvet Cowl

Loops & Threads Chunky Velvet, 57 yds (2 skeins) or other super jumbo (weight 7) yarn (You could also try doubling up a weight 5 or 6 yarn)

Size N hook (10 mm)

Measurement: 14” wide x 8” high

Gauge: 4” square: 5 hdc and 4 rows 

Note: Turning chain does not count as a stitch.

Ch 36, join

Round 1: Ch 2, hdc across, join to first hdc (36)

Round 2: Ch 2, turn, 2 hdc in same st, hdc across, join to first hdc (37)

Rounds 3-6: Ch 2, turn, hdc across, join to first hdc (37)

Round 7: Ch 2, turn, hdc across to last two st, hdc2tog in last two st, join to first hdc (36)

Round 8: Ch 1, turn, sc in first st and across, join to first sc, fasten off

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.


This week has been hard.  I have spent basically the entire week curled up in bed trying to decide which hurt more: my stomach or my head. My head ended up winning. Hurray.

This is particularly frightening, because last time I was on dialysis one of the complications was a bout of Pseudotumor Cerebri. That’s Latin for spinal fluid collecting on the optic nerve, building in pressure and causing shatteringly painful headaches and blindness. I was blind for a couple of months before I had a surgery that relieved the pressure and restored most of my sight (although it is still way too easy to sneak up on me from the left).

This was the fear that kept banging against my skull with every painful throb of my painfully throbbing headache this week. Combined with my OCD, which tends to get far worse when my kidneys stop regulating my hormones, it transformed me into a gibbering basket case.

Now I’m going to say something that may surprise you based on the previous three paragraphs, which strike me as exceedingly whiny. I’m not writing this post to complain. I hate complaining; it makes me feel weak and victimized. In fact, letting the above details get out to anyone besides Kohl riles up every instinct for privacy and self-preservation that genetics and breeding have given me. No, I wrote this post to tell you about something marvelous.

There are two things that brought me back to normalcy. One was Kohl patiently holding me as I gibbered, and telling me over and over that it was probably just high blood pressure rather than a return of the Pseudotumor. (That may not sound comforting, but, believe me, it’s preferable.) The second thing that soothed my jangled nerves was crocheting.

For those of you whose interest in this post just plummeted, let me explain. There is a power in manually creating something. There is a magic in watching something you dreamed of take shape in reality. There is a beauty in letting the textures and colors play over your senses like a warm breath. There is a relief in having something in my life which I can control.

I’m working on a Mohawk hat for a little boy right now, along with a luscious, thick, cream colored afghan to go on our bed. As I worked on them this week, as I let the yarn rub against my fingers and watched my projects come to life row by row, I felt so much peace. In my life right now, inside my own body, there are processes of destruction taking place. This often leaves me feeling broken and bereft. The process of creation that I enact when I crochet balances me. I am powerful and magical and beautiful when I am crocheting.

May I suggest, then, to those of you facing your own personal darknesses, that you find something that fills you up, some part of your world that you can create. I have found it most effective when it is something I have to use my actual hands to do, like cooking or gardening. For you, it may be working on cars, or rebinding books, or painting furniture. It might be building model planes, braiding someone’s hair, or organizing a closet. When you find what it is, use it wisely as an outlet and a refuge, but not as an escape. There is solace in creation, and it is one of the most positive things you can do for yourself.

It really helps with gibbering, too.