I started my Sunday letters last year just as I was beginning to emerge from a time that I can only describe as a crucible. It was the pandemic, of course, but, for me, it was also a time of a pretty powerful mid-career, mid-life reckoning.
It has been a storm of learning how to live in a body that is different than the body I had in first half of my life, learning how to let go as my cherished (only) child reaches for independence, and learning how to find my place in a world of nonsensical culture wars and rising tides of white supremacy.
As a Gen X-er, I’m young enough to love technology and to be a tech early adopter (I still have my original iPhone and its 2007-era playlists). I’m also old enough to remember what it’s like to be bored in the summer, ride my bike for the joy of it, or flop on a beach chair with a good book, happily absorbed for hours. I love the technology but I miss the analog. It feels hard to pull away from the dopamine highs and doom-scrolling lows of Instagram and email and Slack forums or Ravelry threads.
The inputs into my crucible have been menopause, entering my 50s in a world that hates aging, a pandemic, a racial reckoning in the knitting world and in the larger world, the growing dominance of social media, a family health crisis, and an imminent empty nest.
I’m still in the midst of it, and these Sunday letters have become, for me, a place to connect and belong as I navigate each of these things—and to share how I always come back to my knitting life. Being in a crucible of change has influenced my explorations in color, knitted fabric, choice of colleagues, and what I’m wearing. And, inside of this older Anne is always a little me who loves to plan endless outfits for her Skipper doll (Barbie’s little sister). A love of clothes and fabric and making have been with me for as long as I can remember.
So, this Sunday, I want to share something that’s been making me feel better as I navigate the crucible of mid-life:
Content note: following is neutral talk of body size. Feel free to skip ahead to the picture of yarn if this doesn’t feel supportive to you today.
Take the measurements of your one wild and precious body
Knowing what my body measures in a whole array of places (high bust, full bust, bicep etc.) and knowing that these measurements are morally neutral has breathed new life into my knitting, sewing, and clothes-buying. I cannot recommend highly enough that you take your measurements. Doing so will give you a better understanding of how a garment is going to relate to your body before you make it or purchase it.
I am currently at work on probably the most technically complicated piece of knitting I’ve ever made: the Cruden vest by Ysolda Teague. I purchased a kit for the vest in ~2017 and it’s patiently waited in stash. When I pulled it out a few months ago, I realized that the size I originally planned now needed to be larger. It felt so good to know my measurements, to know what kind of wearing ease I prefer, and to be able to get more yarn. Now, my fingers are crossed that my gauge and swatch measurements are correct, but I am starting from the best possible point: knowing what size garment I like, at various points on my body.
Here are several resources that have felt supportive to me, both mentally and practically, as I’ve taken my own measurements and started to disconnect those numbers from any kind of judgment:
Jacqueline Cieslak’s Embody collection, which has helpful essays and tips about making to honor your body.
Burnt Toast, Virginia Sole-Smiths’s newsletter that helps me navigate diet culture and fatphobia.
Sabrina Strings’ book Fearing the Black Body that identifies the racial origins of fatphobia. (Here’s an excellent NPR feature with the author.)
My Body Model, which is an ingenious app that creates a custom croqui (a fashion sketch) of your body. The measurement form and visual tutorials are free to use, although I also recommend purchasing a croqui that you can download!
And I found this new resource for you:
A class on taking your body measurements solo (class is on March 31) with teacher and yarn dyer Kim McBrien Evans of Indigodragonfly. I’ve taken a class with Kim before (just not this one) and she’s an awesome teacher.
Any discussion of body size is incomplete without acknowledging and centering those who are most impacted by fatphobia and the racism that fuels it. Body positivity is a movement that was originally formed by fat, queer Black women to demand respect from society. If you’re white, like me, and benefit from the intellectual leadership of Black women, let’s buy a book, read an article, share our respect.
Something I’m working on …
I’m working a really special collection and it will be in the shop on Friday, April 7. It’s called California Street, and it’s for a perfect-for-early-spring, sportweight shawl, filled with friendship, color, and playfulness.
I created the yarn and my dear friend and shawl designer, Tyne Swedish (on Instagram and Ravelry) created the pattern. It’s a pandemic creation, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
I’ll let you in on a secret: Tyne is my ride or die. She creates shawls that slow everything down and wrap you in friendship. Hers are the shawls that answer the questions: what do I need, what do I wear, what will I be proud of in years to come?
A well-wish for the “all-grown-up” you
I’ve been thinking a lot about aging lately and have started to notice how deeply entwined a fear (or even hatred) of aging is in our culture. From anti-aging beauty products to the common compliment, “you haven’t aged a day,” everything, everywhere seems to say: don’t get older, and if you do, hide it, cover it, deny it.
Today, I wish for us all of us to feel a bit of pro-aging.
Growing older is pretty awesome. We are deeper and have such rich emotions because we’ve experienced so much more. We know the grief of life and the joy, the heartbreak and the soaring. This depth hasn’t come easily and, this Sunday, I pay homage to the emotional capacity each of us has developed and to the honor of simply being able to be present to it all.
I am pro-aging. I hope you might be too.
Another Gen-Xer writing to thank you. Crucible, indeed! I don’t have a child, but I did kick out breast cancer in 2019, so it’s been quite a ride here, too. One of the books I read at 40 that’s calling me back is Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. I remember finding comfort in its Jungian archetypes (look! I’m not alone!) and drawing a different kind of energy from the “strivelessness” (my word, not the author’s) of the years to come. Thank you for shining the light of resources and kindness into corners so often kept dark — and for acknowledging the courageous souls whose wisdom lifts us. Can’t wait to see more of your collab with Tyne. You are two of my most treasured IG connections. xo
I'm about the same age and have been going through the same body changes and acceptance process. Thank you for some new resources! And I highly recommend Aubrey Gordon's books.
What's funny is that I registered for Kim's class at Stitches as soon as I saw it on the schedule. I recently realized that I have no idea what my measurements are anymore when I did a sweater test knit for a size that should've been too big but ended up fitting perfectly. No wonder my jackets were feeling too tight this winter! Definitely time to get some accurate numbers.