She's (Definitely) On a Mission by Cathy Wilkerson

the future is female Jan 12, 2018

Mission. The second weekly theme. What do I think of when I think of the word mission?

First, is a quest to serve others. To go on a mission, usually to a far away counrty to help impoverished people who are in need. To complete an essential project that is a dire necessity; medical treatment , clean water, education. 

I have never been on such a mission, but doing something of the like is on my unwritten bucket list. To serve others for the pure sake of giving, helping, and improving another’s quality of life- in a BIG way.

Mission also connotes to be on a forward trajectory, a space mission, Mission Impossible, mission accomplished, recuse mission. Then there’s Mission Statement, your purpose, your beliefs, your shizzle. 

The phrase “she’s on a mission” is what I would like to explore. When someone speaks of a woman on a mission, it usually means the woman in reference has laser-like focus on work or on a project that needs to be completed, usually quickly. 

In the world of craft, projects are often referred to WIPs or Works In Progress. I have a lot of WIPs. As a maker of many things, I also read a lot of blogs by other makers. I read a lot of knitting blogs. Knitting blogs reinforce the idea that not only is it ok to have many WIPs but that serious knitters also NEED a “stash”. You really can’t even call your self a knitter if you don’t have a stash. A knitter's stash is usually a combination of yarn that they saw, had no project in mind, but just had to have. It also includes “souvenir” yarn, yarn purchased from stores while on vacation (most of my stash is this). Many knitters also spin, so their stash has yarn they have spun themselves with no particular project assigned to it. Stashes are also built up by visiting sheep and wool festivals, trade shows, or donations from friends who tried to knit, but just didn’t get the knack of it. Donations can also come from from a beloved friend’s grandmother, mother, or sister who just passed away. Then there is the “sacred yarn”. Yarn that is so special, that it is waiting in the stash for just the right project, and that may take years. 

But stashes also include a lot more than yarn; they are all the notions (buttons, zippers, thread), needles (circular, straight, double pointed, interchangeable, square, magic loop, blunt, pointed, metal, bamboo), accessories (row counters, measuring tapes, scissors, stitch markers, point guards) and other cool gee-gaws that knitters must have!

Stashes are usually kept in large plastic bins, Ziplocks, plastic bags from the grocery store, cheap canvas bags and bags that are specifically made for stashed yarn. Stashes are mainly stored in inconspicuous places. In the basement, the back of the closet, under the stairs, under the bed, or if you are really lucky, a space devoted to only the stash. Stashes are often not organized. They are in haphazard order and many contain WIP's and UFO's (Unidentified Finished Objects), meaning you have no idea of what it is you started or how to even finish it. My UFO's get unraveled and saved back into the stash. 

My WIP's are stored in variety of individual bags, with the pattern, needles, notions, and also contain the receipt of the yarn and pattern, gum, granola bars (sustenance!), pencils, and are a mix of easy-peasy to highly complex projects. This gives lets me work on a variety of grab-and-go projects defending upon my mood and knitting locale. My mission is to accomplish my WIPs and also use stash yarn to finish them instead of buying (even more) new yarn. 

This year I’m on a mission to finish my WIPs. Let me take you on a tour of my Works in Process:

This blanket started from the pattern Triangles, Diamonds, & Squares, Oh my! by Grace Ahern. I began this project about three years ago. I knit on it constantly for about a year, then I needed a break from it. Into the WIPs pile it went. I am so close to finishing it, that I have taken it out from it's hiding place and have started on it again. I dyed many of the colors with Kool-Aid. To finish it I need to dye a few more colors, stitch it together (a monumental task), apply an i-cord edge and a flannel back. This project is a 1 on the scale of technical difficulty. 

I saw this sweater pattern on a blog and fell in love. It includes a steek- which I have never done, so it was also technically compelling. It comes as kit, so I asked for it as a birthday gift. I started this last year. The hand dyed yarn is gorgeous and knits up beautifully. This rates a 3. 

I saw this picture in a Facebook page I belong to and knew I had to make them. I have made fairisle mittens before, but the color and pattern of these mittens had me seduced. The pattern is from a book written in Latvian. The English translation was over $200, so I found a used edition in German for $17. I used Google Translate to read the text. The pattern is laid out in a chart, so you don't really need to "read" it. The pattern is the same on the front and back, but I wanted the back to be different. I designed the bac using the front motifs in the design. The difficult part was working out how the color would carry from the front to the back as the mittens are knitted in the round on double pointed needles. Designing the back was a challenge, but super fun. I have a few yarns in mind that I think will have the colors and the gauge I need, so I am waiting for yarn sample to arrive so I can do a few trials. Although these mittens are pretty complex, the knitting shouldn't be difficult. These will require looking at the chart constantly. I rate these a 3-4

I began experimenting with sashiko and boro embroidery techniques on my indigo samples for the last few years. This spring I will be teaching a workshop on these techniques at the Rhode Island School of Design. I want to continue this exploration of mark-making so I can dig deeper into these techniques and so I will have an array of personal samples to show. This rates a 3 on my scale of technical difficulty. 

I also have many more projects that are in the works too. I began a book project during a creative session with my local inner-circle of creative textile friends. About once a year one of these friends gathers us all together and creates a visual buffet of collage materials for us to experiment with. We sit, create and chat. It's heaven to be with like minded women who have different visual sensibilities but speak and understand the same language of shape, mark-making, color and texture. I want to create a "book" that continues with these explorations. I have several found objets and ephemera I want to add to them. This project rates a 3.

Another WIP  is a little rough for some people to understand. For the past 10 years I have been collecting my dog's fur when I take her to the groomer. I want to have it spun into yarn and knit a pair (or two or three) of hand warmers with it. Some people find this gross but we wear wool form sheep, how is our beloved pet any different? Since I don't spin yarn (yet), I am having an accomplished spinner spin the yarn for me. I haven't picked out a pattern yet, but they won't be difficult. This is a 2.

There are ongoing sketching, painting and experimental projects that are in a constant state of exploration. Don't even get me started on the rabbit hole of Pinterest. I have many projects I haven't even started yet! My WIP's is ever growing. I want to explore other methods of natural dyeing , printing on fabric, create a daily color journal, and many, many more. 

It's only January, but you can see how I progress on theses missions by following me on my Facebook page The Indigo Squirrel. You can also see more of my work at

Thanks for this opportunity Crispina. See you next Tuesday! Cathy

*The opening picture is of my 80 year old Mom at the Women's Rally in Cambridge this past weekend. This was her first rally! She is definitely on a mission!


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