On Grief and Emergence

The following is a bit of an emotional reflection, sans any crochet instruction – I don’t usually share in this very personal way but I had some thoughts I needed to get down. So if you’re interested, read on ❀

A month ago, I was staying at my parents’ place to dog-sit while they were gallivanting around the Grand Canyon. I had all the materials to complete the patterns I was working on – the Tree of Life dreamcatcher mandala and the Embla Vest – and a bunch of free time to do it in. Until the call came in.

I’d lost another friend. One I’d just seen not a week ago. He died overnight of asthma-related breathing complications, three weeks from his birthday.

Grief seems to have been my companion this summer. In June, a friend from high school had passed away of suicide – a friend that I hadn’t seen in years, but nonetheless occupied my memory as my closest adolescent bestie, the girl I spent countless hours laughing and crying with. The distance of time between us was no real distance at all, and I grieved for Michelle.

Later in the summer, my hometown was rocked by controversy at the weekly community Farmer’s Market. An Anti-Fascist action group released leaks from an internet hate forum called Identity Evropa, which revealed with certainty that one of the farmer’s market stalls in Bloomington was operated by Neo-Nazis. The community was in uproar and the market was shut down because the protests became too dangerous. I walked the aisles of the market myself and saw the armed skinheads waiting to pick a fight.

When the market temporarily closed, the fear was brought to my front door. My then-workplace, the local co-op grocery store, decided to host an alternative market for the two weeks the official market was shut down because of safety concerns. The turmoil in town was at its peak, and during this time several public shootings occurred across the country. Customers even pointed out to me, a produce clerk, that I should have an escape plan.

I began to fear for my safety and then something very real hit me – the notion that all over the country, other people feel like this all of the time and I, with my unasked for privilege, was only now getting a taste. I was sick with anxiety at the time and I now realize that what I was feeling was in fact grief. Grief for the death of my worldview in which my town (despite its problems) was a good, safe, open-minded place to be. Grief because I’d read the leaks from the forum, and the poisonous hate speech was unbearable. Grief because I’d never had to feel this unsafe before and yet some people grow up with this danger in their bones.

Things settled, for a while, after the markets resumed (there are still yet protests happening there) and I left that job, and life went on, and I decided to focus more on my business. That dog-sitting gig was the perfect opportunity to hammer out my new pattern, and get some pretty shots of it against the background of my parents’ deciduous autumn landscape.

Until the call came in. On a Monday morning, I found out I’d lost another friend and grief was to stay by my side. And here it’s been – for a month – saturating everything. At first I pushed through, mechanically figuring the pattern numbers as if it was the only thing in the world, the only the I wanted to do was force it to make sense. Make everything make sense.

As I wrestled with it, I was frustrated and blocked up and felt at times like I was drowning in emotions from the trauma, other times I felt nothing. I latched onto other projects, creating visions in which “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”.

Grief is a funny thing. It’s slippery, and sometimes insidious and it latched onto old wounds, causing them to bubble up from below and before I could really grasp why, I was stricken with sadness from past abuses, guilt from ancient misdeeds, and doubt that I could ever emerge.

It’s been and continues to be difficult. But the grief I’ve been experiencing has also given me positive perspectives. My friend group, who all knew Isaac, have pulled together for each other in their strength. I’m incredibly, unbelievably lucky to be here on Earth for the time that I am, and to know those shining souls that I know, and to have this platform to spill my thoughts, to people who I’ve never met but whom I can only hope feel lucky too.

The Embla Vest was so named months before my friend died, but the name is a nugget of hope. Embla was the first woman in Viking mythology, her life begun with breath on an old, fallen tree. From the dead, twisted driftwood she emerged to start humanity. The old Norse notion of time is not linear, or even circular – it’s a spiral. So all things come to an end, as they naturally should, and all things begin once more, to spiral out as they will.

It’s a really pretty philosophy. It’s a neat little metaphor, wrapped in a hopeful package. Right now, it seems too cute to deal with the messy and unfathomable world of death and grief. Embla, emerges from the trees? And starts life over again, like your favorite track on an album?

I wish it were that easy. But then again, if you’ve ever actually been lost in trees, you may know that emergence isn’t easy at all. You trip on unseen undergrowth. You get smacked in the face by branches. Sometimes, you wander into a thicket with no way through and have to turn back. But when the world is ending, you have no choice. Driven like clockwork, Embla must emerge because emergence is what she does. Time drives the motion of the spiral and Embla emerges until the end comes for her, too.

And at the end of the world (Ragnorak), the sun gives birth to a daughter, and Ask and Embla’s children (humanity) survive, and the world starts over again like your favorite track on an album, and new humans emerge, and time spirals outward.

-MF

P.S – If you are interested in Norse mythology, I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s a copy of the myths I’ve had since I was 13. They are well researched and beautifully told in narrative format.
“The Norse Myths” by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Embla Vest Pattern

It can be awfully hard to pinpoint where an idea began it’s journey toward fruition. I’ve wanted to design my own tree of life motif for years, and finally picked up a hook to start experimenting with it just a few months ago. I vaguely thought about adding the motif to the middle of the vest design I was working on, and so I tinkered until this was possible and set down a general framework for the pattern. Today I finally finish this saga, with the premier of the Embla Vest crochet pattern – available as a downloadable, printable, ad-free PDF in my Etsy Shop and Ravelry Store ❀

During the making of this pattern, life happened, and then death happened. In the course of this, the Embla Vest became very personal to me (more so than other designs, although it’s hard to judge) and getting through the process of creating this pattern became a journey of emergence. I’m so glad I’m here now! Ha πŸ™‚

The vest design itself was inspired by several stylistic sources including steampunk waistcoats and some of my personal crochet heroes’ designs, and I made SO MANY of them before I settled on what looked accurate to the vision in my mind’s eye. The resulting design is the new award winner for Most Drafts Crocheted, a title formerly held by the Ida Shawl (worth it in both cases!)

Yes, there was struggle and heartache. Through it all, I kept creating – because there isn’t any other way. I hope you love this design as much as I do, and I hope you make it for someone you love and they love it, too ❀ Read on for the full details!

The Embla Vest is a playful and versatile garment inspired by the Norse creation myth, in which the gods breath life into a dead tree to create the first woman, named Embla. I drew from many different design elements to create this unique and customizable piece of wearable crochet art.

This circular vest is worked in the round, featuring a stunning Tree of Life motif in the center and blends beautifully outwards in #4 worsted weight variegated yarn to make the perfect lightweight layering piece.

In addition to the FIVE sizes (XS-XL) this vest features lots of customizing options, including instructions for a solid back (alternative or in addition to the Tree of Life), sleeves, and hood! Create a structured, waistcoat look by working the buttons instructions, or make a fairy tail cardigan featuring a lace-up front. All sizes and styles fit with a wrapping collar, a dainty pointed back, and front panels that draw away in a figure taper.

The PDF file includes written instructions for every size in step-by-step order with stitch counts and 75+ bright, clear tutorial photos. The Embla Vest PDF also comes with the Tree of Life mandala, a separate BONUS PDF file for the full Tree of Life dreamcatcher design (also available here on the blog).

Materials:
4.5 mm hook
Lion Brand Shawl in a Cake or Shawl in a Ball (#4 weight, 150 g, 481 yds)
Main Vest: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2 skeins
Hood: Β½ Β skein
Sleeves: 1 skein
Tree Motif – 50 yds Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton (#4 weight, 100 g / 186 yds)
Scissors
Tapestry Needle
Stitch Markers

Sizes and Finished Measurements: X-Small (XS), Small (SM), Medium (MD), Large (LG), X-Large (XL)
Finished measurements are approximate
Bust: Β 30”, 34”, 38”, 42”, 46”
Length (back collar to bottom point): 19”, 21”, 23”, 25”, 27”
Arm Opening (circumference): 9”, 10”, 11”, 12”, 13”

All instructions are written in English in U.S terminology.

I have real bits of bark on my sleeve. That’s authenticity.

In the outdoor photoshoot I am proud to be sporting 100% handmade/small business apparel – here’s where it’s all from!
Floral Berry Crown: @daizel_doozle
Hi-Lo Scrunchie Dress: Elven Forest
Tie-Dye Yoga Pants: Dimples Dyes
Macrame necklace & bracelet: Selinofos Art

The sleeved vest costume also includes a piece by Dimples Dyes (halter top) and Selinofos Art (Pendant necklace). And more by me (crocheted leather feather head wrap)

And of course, in several of these photos I’m also wearing one of my one-of-a-kind pixie belts, which you can get all the how-to instructions for FREE here on my blog.

Now, go out there, make some stuff, and hug a tree.

❀ ❀ ❀

-MF

Tree of Life Video Tutorial

This post will be a quick one, so I can get back to my lazy Sunday afternoon sloth-fest, but I’ve managed to create a video tutorial for the first 6 rounds of the Tree of Life Mandala pattern and wanted to share it as soon as I could πŸ™‚

This video is full-length up to Round 6, so that all the intricate workings of the branches are available to see in real time. Since some bits of it are a little complex, I knew that a video would be eventually if not immediately necessary. I hope it’s helpful!

If you’ve been keeping up with Morale Fiber lately you’ll notice that videos have quickly become a regular feature and I hope to continue that trend – so like and subscribe to my channel if you don’t want to miss anything πŸ™‚

So without further yammering, here’s the video ❀

Have a truly wonderful day!

-MF

Tree of Life Mandala

Who doesn’t love trees?! Besides being one of the most successful life forms on Earth, trees are the lungs of our planet. Majestic and sometimes dangerous they are also, but I think one of the main reasons we humans have such a symbolic attachment to the Tree as a concept is that we tend to project ourselves onto them.

Gazing at the canopy – pictured in the Lotus Duster

With their roots-like-feet, their strong trunk torsos, and their reaching arms of branches, it’s easy to turn them into a metaphor against which we contrast our own sense of existence. They grow taller as they age, they occur in all environments, they group themselves together, and recent science has even discovered that they communicate with each other.

(There’s a great little article about tree communications here, referencing a book I’d quite like to read sometime)

Ancient photo of me, up a tree, wearing the Woodsman’s Wife Ruana

For me, it has always seemed natural to speak with trees. And yeah… to hug them. πŸ™‚ I’ve always felt that they had a Presence which ought to always be acknowledged and I’ve been drawn to tree and forest imagery my whole life. I was stoked when I found this adorable crocheted Tree of Life motif from 365 Crochet and instantly tried it out as a feature of one of my pixie belts. It’s quite an excellent little free pattern!

Pictured is Hickory, one of my original crocheted utility pocket belts. I have an in-depth tutorial series on how to make your own unique Pixie Pocket belt here on the blog and also available as a purchasable, ad-free PDF.

The Tree of Life concept occurs in several cultural stories. My familiarity with it came originally from Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology that holds all the worlds from its roots to its branches. Since I’m so attached to this symbolism, I wanted to attempt my own crocheted version of the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life mandala features an intricate central tree motif, worked in the round using a variety of crochet stitches. The intertwining branches are worked in layers, with double-treble stitches criss-crossing and forming the signature woven look of the Tree of Life symbolism. Though it looks complex, the central motif is easy when taken step by step, especially since the tutorial includes 50+ detailed tutorial photos with figure references to the written pattern!

Once I had honed my Tree pattern to satisfaction, I realized the mandala version would make a perfect dreamcatcher-style wall hanging and set about to providing this FREE tutorial for the project! You can also buy the downloadable, printable, ad-free PDF file for this crochet pattern from my Etsy Shop or Ravelry Pattern Store.

I also hastened to create a video tutorial – you can find that for free here!

This one is made with Malabrigo Rios, which I am now hooked on.

I’ve got a few more concepts cooked up for this pretty little piece in the future that I’m very excited about πŸ˜‰ So be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook!

Tree of Life Mandala Wall Hanging

Materials:
4.50 mm hook
#4 worsted weight yarn in solid color – I used Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton
#3 or #4 weight yarn in accent color – I used King Cole Riot DK for the rainbow Tree and Malabrigo Rios for the autumnal Tree.
1 14” bamboo or wood hoop (I used an embroidery hoop from the hobby store)
Scissors & Tapestry needle

Stitches and Techniques:
Magic Ring – A short tutorial can be found under this pattern on my blog.
Hdc – half double crochet
Ch – chain
Sl st – Slip Stitch
Sc – Single crochet
Dc – Double crochet
Tr – treble crochet (YO x 2, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop. YO and draw through 2 loops x 3)
Dtr – double treble crochet (YO x 3, insert hook in next st and draw up a loop. YO and draw through 2 loops x 4)

Gauge: Not critical. The trunk of the tree should be about 1.25 inches in width and the tree itself should be about 4.5 inches tall from root to top branch after Round 3.

Notes:
The outer yarn used to border the Tree of Life can be #3 or #4 weight. If using a thick and/or stiffer #4 weight, check to make sure your piece isn’t getting too big for the hoop. You may need to omit a round of solid Hdc – the mandala needs to stretch tightly over the hoop once finished.

Instructions

Make Magic Ring – fig. 1

Fig. 1

Rnd 1: Ch 2 (does not count as first hdc), 12 hdc into the ring – fig.2. Join with a sl st in the first hdc of the round. Tighten the ring to close – fig.3

Fig. 2

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Rnd 2: Sl st in the next  st, 1 sc in the next st. (1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 hdc) in the next st – fig. 4. 1 sc in the next st, sl st in ea of the next 2 sts – fig. 5. 1 sc in the next st, hdc in the next st. (1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 hdc) in the next st. 1 hdc in the next st, 1 sc in the next st. Sl st in the next st. – fig. 6

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Rnd 3:  LIMBS: Sl st in the next 3 sts. – fig 7. Ch 2, 1 dc in the same st – fig 8. Ch 2 – fig 9, 1 dc in the side of last dc. Ch 3 – fig 10. Slip stitch back down the side of the dc’s. (1st limb made) – fig 11. Sl st in the next st. *Ch 2 – fig 12, dc in the same st. (Ch 2, dc in the side of last dc) twice – fig 13. Ch 3. Slip stitch back down the sides of the dc’s, sl st in next st. – fig 14. (2nd limb made). Repeat from * for 3rd limb – fig. 15. Ch 2, 1 dc in the same st. Ch 2, 1 dc in the side of the last dc. Ch 3 – fig 16. Slip stitch back down the side of the dc’s (4th limb made) – fig 17. Sl st in the next 5 sts. – fig 18.

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Rnd 3 Ct’d: ROOTS: *Ch 2, dc in the same st. – fig 19, Ch 3 – fig 20, slip st down the side of the dc – fig 21. Sl st in the next st. Rpt from * 3 more times. – figs 22-24. Sl st in the next 3 sts.

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Rnd 4: Ch 5 – fig 25, sc in the ch-3 loop  at the top of the 1st limb – fig 26. Ch 3 – fig 27, double treble (dtr) in the middle of the 2nd limb – fig 2829. Ch 3 – fig 30, dtr in the middle of the 1st limb – fig 31. Ch 3, sc in the ch-3 loop at the top of the 2nd limb – fig 32. Ch 3, dtr in the middle of the 3rd limb – fig 33. Ch 3, dtr in the middle of the 2nd limb – figs 34-35. Ch 3, sc in the ch-3 loop at the top of the 3rd limb. Ch 3 – fig 36, dtr in the middle of the 4th limb – fig 40. Ch 3, dtr in the middle of the 3rd limb. Ch 3 – fig 41, sc in the ch-3 loop at the top of the 4th limb. Ch 5 – fig 42, sl st one st away from the base of the 4th limb. Sl st in the next 3 sts – fig 43.

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Fig. 28 – YO 3 times to begin dtr

Fig. 29 – insert hook into the middle of 2nd limb, draw up a loop. (YO and draw through 2 loops) 4 times. Dtr made.

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Fig. 43

Rnd 5: Sl st up the ch sts on the side of the 1st root. Sl st into the ch-3 loop at the top – fig 44. Ch 3, (counts as first hdc + ch-1), hdc in the same space – fig 45. (Ch 3, 1 hdc in the next ch-3 loop. Ch 1, 1 hdc in the same sp) 3 times. Ch 8 – fig 46-47. (1 dc in the next ch-3 space between branches – fig 48, ch 2, 1 dc in the same space) 9 times – fig 49. Ch 8. Sl st in the 2nd ch of beginning ch-3 to join – fig 50.

Fig. 44

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Rnd 6 (Change color): With new yarn, join in the 5th ch-2 space of previous round – positioning your hook in the middle of the branches. Ch 2 – fig 51 (does not count as first hdc). 2 hdc in the same space. (4 hdc in the next ch-2 space) 4 times – fig 52.  10 hdc in the next ch-8 space – fig 53. (1 hdc in the ch-1 space of the next root. 3 hdc in the next ch-3 space- fig 54.) 3 times. 1 hdc in the next ch-1 space. 10 hdc in the next ch-8 space – fig 55. (4 hdc in the next ch-2 space) 4 times. 3 hdc in the next space, join with a sl st to the first hdc of the rnd – fig 56. – 70 sts

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Fig. 51

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Rnd 7: Ch 1 (does not count as first hdc), 1 hdc in the same st. 1 hdc in ea of the next 5 sts. 2 hdc in the next st – fig 57. (1 hdc in ea of the next 6 sts, 2 hdc in the next st) 9 times. Join with a sl st – fig 58.– 80 sts

Fig. 57

Fig. 58

Rnd 8: Ch 1 (does not count as first hdc), 1 hdc in the same st. 1 hdc in ea of the next 6 sts. 2 hdc in the next st. (1 hdc in ea of the next 7 sts, 2 hdc in the next st) 9 times. Join with a sl st. – fig 59 – 90 sts

Fig. 59

Rnd 9: Ch 1 (does not count), 1 hdc in the same st. 1 hdc in ea of the next 7 sts. 2 hdc in the next st. (1 hdc in ea of the next 8 sts, 2 hdc in the next st) 9 times. Join with a sl st. – fig 60 -– 100 sts

Fig. 60

Rnd 10: Ch 4 (counts as first dc + ch 1). Dc in the same st. (Sk next 2 sts, 1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc in the next st) rpt around. Join with a sl st in the 3rd ch of beginning ch-4.

Rnd 11: Sl st to the next ch-2 space. Ch 5 (counts as first dc + ch 2). Dc in the same space. (1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc in the next space) around. Join with a sl st to the 3rd ch of beginning ch-4. – fig 61.

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Fig. 61

Cut yarn and tie off, leaving a long tail for attaching – fig 62. Weave in other ends.

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Fig. 62

Attaching & Finishing

Using the long tail left from Round 11, thread yarn on a tapestry needle. Center your piece inside the hoop – fig 63.

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Fig. 63

Stitch the piece onto the hoop, making your needle pass around the hoop and under the last row of the piece, between the dc’s (not the chain spaces). Work the piece all the way around, adjusting tension and tightening as needed to create an even appearance. The piece will be stretched! – fig 64 – 66

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To make sure my tension is even, I like to cut another long strand of thread and go back over the piece in the opposite direction – fig 67. This is optional.

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Fig. 67

Border Round:
With new yarn, attach to a ch-2 space on Rnd 11. Working by inserting the hook under both the chain-2 space and under the hoop, YO and draw up a loop. Work 1 hdc around the hoop and the chain space. The entire border round works around the hoop – this can be a little tricky at first, but be patient! It gets easier. In the same chain space, work 1 dc, 1 tr, ch 2, 1 tr, 1 dc, and 1 hdc – fig. 68. Sc between the next pair of dc’s – fig 69. *(1 hdc, 1 dc, 1 tr, ch 2, 1 tr, 1 dc, 1 hdc) in the next ch 2 space, 1 sc between the next 2 dc sts. Rpt from * around. – figs 70-71

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Join the final round with a slip stitch in the first hdc. Cut yarn and tie off, weave in all remaining ends. You could also add tassels, fringe, extra leaves (I have a good candidate, a free pattern for leaves), or charms to personalize your new Tree of Life wall hanging!

Thanks, trees. You guys are awesome.

Tree hugging in the Elf Coat

– MF