Monthly Archives: December 2009

Why I Knit

The week after Thanksgiving, I managed to finish the last of the Christmas knitting.

Now I realize that makes me obnoxious to a lot of people, but even more are surprised by my passion for knitting. “YOU KNIT?” they say, as though you can’t have both a career and opinions as well as an interest in the domestic arts.

Yes, I knit. I cook. I can even sew. (I don’t garden or clean very well, but we can’t all be perfect.) I learned to sew at my mother’s knee. You know my mother, Holley Ulbrich, the Ph.D. in economics, the Alumni Distinguished professor, the once president of the Faculty Senate and tax expert at the Strom Thurmond Institute. She’s also the one that likes to quilt potholders.

So, why do I do an activity that seems to be the realm of grandmothers and older aunts?

First off, my knitting ain’t your grandmother’s knitting. It might have started out that way. I taught myself how to knit when I was in college, from a book, just the way my mother taught me to learn about anything. And I churned out horrible looking sweaters, thick socks no one could wear, scarves that shouldn’t be wrapped around anyone’s neck. It really was your grandmother’s knitting and I wised up and set it aside.

But about five years ago, I stumbled across the yarn aisle at Michael’s and there was all this fabulous yarn not available at the Sky City when I started this insanity in college. The next thing I knew, I was buying yarn online and visiting local yarn shops when I was traveling. What a plethora of options out there these days! A friend of mine even sent me a link for yarn made out of possum fur. (I didn’t buy it.) And the patterns! The patterns are wonderful. I’ve made devil hats, skull potholders, custom kitty toys, beautiful socks and best of all, sweaters that finally fit my short torso. How can you resist picking up knitting when there are books out there like “Domiknitrix” and “The Happy Hooker?” (OK, the second one is a crochet book.)

What I have found though, as I got sucked back in to this craft by beautiful yarns and fun, funky patterns, was it was a form of meditation for me. After spending the day thinking hard about solving people’s communications problems, it’s nice to do something repetitive and somewhat mindless at the end of the day. It’s a nice way to catch up on the TiVo without falling asleep, too.

It can also be a spiritual practice for me. It’s humbling to think you have to create every single stitch in a garment and there can be thousands, even millions of stitches. It’s a reminder of our place in the world. Each stitch or person is special, but they are even more so when they come together as one piece or community.

A craft can keep you grounded to the earth in a different way that Facebook can keep you connected to the world. In an age when most of us spend a great deal of our day in front of a glowing rectangle, a craft gives you the chance to work with your hands. Since I’m an art graduate, working with my hands is something I have always loved. Knitting is a good way to continue that.

Of course, there’s the added benefit of giving your loved ones something you created, instead of something you purchased. It just feels like more of a gift when I’ve made it. There is more of a connection to the gift for me. Sure, this puts me in danger of making the fluffy pink bunny PJs reluctantly worn by Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” so I send out an email in January for requests. It might kill the surprise to know they will be getting socks, but at least everyone is happy at the end of the day. Besides, they’ve usually forgotten what they requested by Christmas anyway.

So I will enjoy wrapping the mittens I made for my brother-in-law, the basket I made for my sister, the silly fish hat I made for my niece and begin thinking about what I’ll make for everyone next year. And yes, by the way, I did make my socks. Thanks for noticing.


The Year in Review

Leigh, Christine and Mark after Jazzerblitz .. 4 classes in one day

Christine is still working at Clemson. My year there was dominated by creating a new campaign for admissions, which looks to be a success. I spend a lot of time examining ways the Clemson can better use social media, which is a great reason to be on Facebook and Twitter. I traveled a lot this year as a board member for UCDA (University and College Designers Association.) February took me to sunny Phoenix, land of a great deal of golf and tennis. June was a trip to Montreal. What a progressive city. I ended her visit by riding one of the rental bikes the city offers ($5 a day) but still didn’t remember much of my college French. October brought Seattle, which was cold and rainy for the first two days, but sunny and warm for the last six. Lastly, a quick four day trip to Minneapolis required a purchase of new clothing, including winter boots. I’m OK with never experiencing below 3 degree weather again, which I thought would honestly be the death of me. All four cities brought great food and shopping and inspiration, along with profound discussion and fellowship amongst other college designers. The rest of the year was the usual knitting, Jazzercising, cooking and general fun and growth that makes up life.

Keith and Feline Keith, Oreo

Keith is still happily working at Epson, although it does involve the travel the job promised. He’s gotten to be quite the experienced traveler and navigates the world of airports, cars, hotels and all that comes with it better than I do. We enjoy seeing each other, but fortunately, we’re both completely addicted to technology as well. We see each other through IM, texts, emails and phone calls and it seems to work. When he’s home, he enjoys the furry coworker Oreo, who thinks nothing of laying his 18 pound body across the front of his keyboard. When he’s not working, he’s not really in the mood for a lot of travel, so we take a lot of day trips. We’re fortunate to have plenty to do within a couple of hours, so we’ve been to Asheville and Atlanta and the like, all great trips! We’ve picked apples, eaten lots of good food, seen the Terra Cotta warrior exhibit and even been to Great Wolf Lodge for some crazy water slides.

The three older cousins

Caroline, Bella and Abby

Bella, incredibly, is in fifth grade this year. Her last year at elementary school, I can’t believe it! Fifth grade has brought the promise of much homework as advertised, but she seems to be surviving it. This year, the extracurricular activities include guitar, girl scouts and martial arts, which she really is enjoying. She loves to draw and she draws a lot of cartoons. In fact, she’s penned some comic books with a few classmates as well. In a lot of ways, she’s becoming a lot like her mother, so feel Keith’s pain in dealing with two of us now.

Angel Oak in Charleston

As for travel, we did get to the beach this year, which is always a great time. We joined my parents at Seabrook Island, which is a lovely place near Charleston. The food was terrific and much of it local. We took advantage of a lot of local produce down there. We even worked in a visit to the tea plantation down there, which was really educational about how tea is produced.

All in all, it was a very busy year and for that we are truly grateful. Not only do we have employment when so many are struggling, we have interesting and challenging work. Life might feel too full at times, but we’re happy for that. We wish your family the same happiness.

More pix

Bella and Christine

Bella and Christine at Biltmore

Bella riding at Biltmore

Sunflowers at Biltmore

Christine surviving Minneapolis

Want some Peanut Butter?

Bella is Max


John, Bella and Christine

A visit from John

Christine and Bella


Bella at a birthday party

Bella at a birthday party for Lou

Amy and Christine

Going Fishing

Homily Grill with the Parents

Christine and Bella at Seabrook Island

Imagine Peace, in Montreal

Me and my Aunt Kay in Hilton Head

Bella in a tidepool

Christine and Bella before the birthday dinner

Some random Bella quotes

Stealing this idea from Christy Kilgore-Hadley. Here’s a list of the funny things from Bella recently:

1. While driving down our lit up neighborhood to our house: “Do you think the neighbors think we’re Jewish?”

2. “Where’s your coat?” “See this is why I shouldn’t go on sleepovers.”