Wednesday 23 October 2019

Bairbre Power: 'Forget meditation, I'm knitting my way to a more mindful state'

Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen, with J.R. in Dallas
Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen, with J.R. in Dallas
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I came across a photograph the other day of myself with Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen from Dallas, doe-eyed actress and owner of the most tellygenic 'quivering' lip which was camera gold for dramatic closing shots.

The exploits of Sue Ellen, her scheming Texan oil baron hubby J.R., not to mention his disappearing shower-loving brother, Bobby, made for compulsory TV viewing every week in the 80s.

Once we heard the opening riffs of the show, the ESB's power network surged as the nation's kettles were all switched on and we all settled down on the couch, entranced.

Those were the days when we consumed our TV favourites differently. No box set bingeing back then. The nation watched in unison and the viewing experience was positively enhanced by a seven day build-up between episodes.

It struck me forcibly the other night after I'd watched six episodes of Grace And Frankie back to back from my flu-filled perch on the couch. I didn't feel sated at all. In fact, it felt like tummy ache. I'd over consumed, like way too much buttery popcorn. Sometimes instant gratification just doesn't do it for us or feed the soul.

But back to Dallas, which was a ritual in our house where the antics of the Ewing and Barnes families crossed over with a spot of mother and daughter time back.

It was a Monday night if my midlife memory (we all know what that's like!) serves me right. I'd call over to my mum's house for date night with Dallas, and I'd bring over my knitting and, invariably, I'd be looking for some assistance with dropped stitches in some highly intricate intarsia. My grandmother and mum taught me to knit, crochet and sew, and for that I salute them. They were freestylers who could whip up something gorgeous without a pattern. Our next door neighbour was gifted at carpet making and I have a cousin who is a whizz at cross-stitch and crafted beautiful, thoughtful panels to mark the birth of my two kids. They're family heirlooms, but how many of those do you see now? They're been replaced by baby-foot moulds or casts of baby's first shoe.

Funny how handcrafted things have gone out the window. I started knitting a French-style garter stitch jacket for a baby recently. I've always loved Debbie Bliss patterns and I've been an 'A' student at collecting pattern books and kits. Kaffe Fassett, Rowan, Sasha Kagan - I bought them all, but I was poor when it comes to seeing my crafting projects through.

Sure just look at the collection of amazing brass and ornate black buttons I've bought in sets of eight in specialised shops around the world in order to upcycle old coats. They're still gathering dust.

As for the baby cardi I started - I saw a nicer, and cheaper, one than mine and threw in the towel. I regret that now. It was a poor decision and, in retrospect, the art of making it would have gifted me something wonderful too... mindfulness.

Lying in the dark in my sick bed last weekend got me thinking about the serene mindfulness that goes with the clickety click sound of stainless steel knitting needles gliding off each other. I know some men hate the sound. It's like white noise, but to me, it has a bewitching charm - the choreography of hands slicing by each other while watching the marriage of yarns.

The timing could not be better and the fact that The Knitting & Stitching Show is on this weekend in the RDS is the perfect opportunity for me to purge my crafting-skill blues.

The sight of supremely focused, animated crafters, skilled in all forms of stitching can make one feel inadequate, but I've vowed to stay committed to knitting. No elaborate patterns or sock heels or Fair Isles on complicated, circular needles. I just want to plain, purl and garter stitch my way to a relaxed, meditative state of crafty calm.

No, there are no immediate plans to transform the spare bedroom into a crafting room. I'm keeping my immediate plains simple. Plain yarn and big needles. Sadly, mohair - a favourite from the past - is out because I find it too itchy.

In 2019, I want to achieve crafting calm and if I manage to get some meaningful Christmas gifts out of it, how fab would that be? It's a win, win.

Irish Independent

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