The Beekeeper’s Quilt – A Labor of Self-Care

In December of 2018 my marriage, like so many others, ended in a very painful fashion. After 32 years I was adrift and unsure where my life was headed. I was facing an uncertain financial status, and the challenge of self-sufficiency. About that time I began work on my most ambitious knitting project to date – The Beekeeper’s Quilt. Its progression and mine became deeply intertwined. https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/the-beekeepers-quilt Those familiar with this pattern know it takes time. So does healing, stitch by stitch. It seemed the perfect project for my fragile state. So I purchased a few skeins of fingering weight yarn in yummy hand-dyed merino and began.

The Queen Bees

As I completed a few hexipuffs, I began to embellish some with queen bees because they felt empowering. My husband and I filed a separation agreement, and put the house up for sale. I needed a plan to move forward. The pile of hexipuffs began to grow.

Multiple Hexipuffs

I would lay them out in various arrangements, trying to find a pattern that felt right. I work in horticulture and I began to see flowers emerging, perhaps because my mind trends in that direction. It felt right. I began to look for a little house of my own with enough land for gardens.

The garden of hexipuffs grew.

And grew…

But then problems emerged. I could not find the right house, and the way I was grouping the flowers was not leaving a defined edge. I began to fear disorder and instability. I needed to widen my search, and open my mind. At last I found a little house on a bit of land in Chapel Hill. It was small, neat, well restored, and affordable. I fell in love with it, and when I moved in, the blanket pattern began to coalesce. I studied the various patterns around me: china, fabric, rugs. The challenge was spacing so that I could get a repeating edge pattern. A rug provided the guide I needed.

The flowers did not need to be jammed right up against each other, they needed space, light, separation – just like I did. With the right spacing a diamond pattern began to form. I chose natural, un-dyed wool to fill the gaps and bring in the light. Outside, my real garden began to grow. My dearest friends showed up one Saturday with plants from their gardens. They helped me form beds, haul beautiful, rich soil, and plant their plants and mine. The garden now had paeonies, iris, hostas, ferns, heucheras, alstroemerias, colocasias, columbines, viburnums, sarcococca, and a fig tree. As the season wore on, I added a large vegetable garden and a compost bin. Fall brought a ginkgo, a persimmon, and 2 peach trees. Change was happening, and as my garden grew, so did my strength and my confidence. And I kept knitting. Lucy Lou, the knittin’ kitten, tried to help.

I now had over 800 hexipuffs and the end was in sight, but I knew it would take more than the year I had estimated. I needed about 400 more hexipuffs. Don’t ask me how much I spent on yarn. I cannot resist the yummy multi-colored yarns from Miss Bab’s, LaJolla, Malabrigo, Hedgehog Fibres, and the many locally dyed yarns I picked up in my travels. I found some lovely yarns on Knit Picks, too. Chalk it up to therapy. I took money from my food budget when necessary. It was worth it. As the pile of hexipuffs neared completion, and I began to piece together diamond-shaped segments, my mind sharpened, my strength increased, and I began to find joy again. Things literally fell into place in the blanket and in my life. I became self-sufficient. I could do this! I joined a local knitting group, moved my parents in with me so I could care for them as they aged, and I began to venture out more. I was becoming one, becoming whole, healing. Of course there were setbacks, but on the whole I was progressing nicely and so was the blanket.

It’s not finished yet, and neither am I. We are both a work in progress. I will post a finished photo when the blanket is done, but it could be a while…

Mitered Star Pillow – Knitting Pattern

What does this gardener do when the temps are below freezing? Knit! OK, I knit in warm weather too. In fact, knitting rivals gardening in my list of obsessions. I have made several mitered square blankets and shawls in the past couple of years, but recently I designed a mitered star that works well as a pillow. A smaller version can be a Christmas decoration, or hang many of them for a mobile for the nursery. Have fun using only one color, or a variety of hand dyed yarns. My favorite is Miss Babs. I am addicted to her colorways. You can find the pattern below, or on Ravelry. Happy knitting! I’d love to see your results. Send me pics!

Star Pillow

For large pillow:
Cast on 72 stitches and work in garter stitch in basic mitered square*, changing colors as you like or keeping it all one color. If you know how to make a mitered square, this is the same idea except that you make a fifth square. It really is that easy!

* Cast on 72 stitches, placing a marker after stitch #36. Then knitting every row, on right side knit to 2 stitches before the marker, slip-slip-knit, move marker to other needle and K2tog, knit to end. Wrong side row simply knit. When only 2 stitches are left on your needle, cast off.

To make the next square, pick up 36 stitches along one cast-on edge of the first square, place marker, and cast on 36 more stitches. Repeat pattern above. Do this 3 times. For the 5th and final square, pick up 36 stitches on the cast-on edge of your last square and 36 from your first square. Repeat the main pattern. Voila! You have one star! Make one more, and then sew them together inside out, leaving one length open. Turn the pillow right side out and stuff with batting. Sew the final edge. Add a large decorative button in the center on both sides and you are done!

Blanket