Artwork by Lisa Curry Mair

If you are a knitter, you know that moment when you realize you dropped a stitch way back at the beginning of your project. It’s a gaping hole, just waiting to run and ruin everything below it and make your project useless. And then the next ugly realization is that in order to make things right you are going to need to undo your patient, hard work and go back to the problem spot and begin again. They say recognizing the problem is half the battle. So true.

This seems to have become my mantra. I have done a lot of unraveling in the past year and dare I say, I think I might be almost back up to where I can move forward productively, knowing that my base is strong and well-constructed. No holes! This is true in my business and in my pursuit of my dressage (riding) dreams.

In 2015 Canvasworks had grown to a business which had me sitting at my desk, processing orders, scheduling projects and managing employees for the better part of 7 days a week. The dropped stitch was my creativity. I started dropping it back in the mid 2000s. The “Blanks” (floorcloth supplies) side of my business was growing in popularity, and every order that came in spurred me on to try to get another. My business head took over and my creative side stepped back. I finished the sweater and ignored that stitch.The dropped stitch began to run. By 2014 there was a huge gaping hole down at the bottom of the sweater. I wore the sweater but it provided little warmth. The hole got bigger and the wind blew in. In 2015 I looked in the mirror and saw how much I hated that sweater. It didn’t represent me. It couldn’t keep me warm and gave me little comfort. I just “wore” it because people wanted me to. Orders had grown and I was running as fast as I could but I couldn’t keep up. So early last year I took the sweater off. I ripped out all the stitches and wound up the yarn. I started over. Carefully this time. I’m still knitting this one, but it is much more colorful, and has some interesting cables and patterns added to it. I am being very careful not to drop a stitch! I’m old enough to know that I want this sweater to last a long time, so I’m not going to give in to enticing pleas to go back to what I had been doing. As you may have noticed, my website has changed significantly. It focuses on my art. It offers no blanks or floorcloth supplies and it downplays the role of floorcloths in my art. This is me, celebrating my creativity and my desire to paint as an artist; not just as a craftsperson.

“Kate” Winslet is my horse and best friend and partner in dressage (a sort of ballet with horses). She came into my family in 2013 as a
young 3 year old, with only the basics in training. She is very flashy and catches the judges’ eyes in the dressage show ring. This can be a great thing and it can be misleading too. I have trained young horses up through the levels with some degree of success throughout my 50 years of riding, but I’ve never had a horse of this quality and potential. Since I started with her, I have been careful to seek good help and train her with care and patience. From the first dressage show I took her in as a 4 year old, she has produced wonderful scores and lots of blue ribbons. I was excited and eager to move on with her. That’s where I dropped a stitch or two. Dressage is based on a set of training principles. You can’t successfully move on in the training unless the horse is accepting, understanding and physically able to do certain things with relaxation and confidence. Just like anything else in this world. Right? Well, when you’re pretty and the judges like you, you can get away with stuff. Here comes the ugly sweater again. There were holes. Kate wasn’t relaxed and confident in her work. She’d do everything OK- to the average bystander it looked pretty darn good, but her back was tense and she was preventing herself from moving to her full potential. Last summer I could feel that something wasn’t quite right and our test scores stopped getting better. Introducing new work to her became harder and harder. The sweater was showing its holes. So last fall I started training with Deb Dean Smith at Huntington Farm, here in Vermont. She immediately pinpointed the problem and gave me exercises to start unraveling the sweater. Kate and I spent the winter at Huntington, with both of us in training. It was interesting that as we unraveled the sweater, it meant showing Kate that she needed to use her body differently. She needed to relax and stretch over her back; loosen her neck muscles and soften her jaw. And that meant she had to hold herself up- not rely on me to hold her in her braced position. Like I struggled in the previous year letting go of the bad parts of my business that were preventing me from relaxing and allowing my creativity out, she struggled with this new freedom we were asking of her. There were days that she was downright pissy about it. “I like the old way! It’s hard to use new muscles!” But Deb persisted and helped me to stop enabling Kate’s tense way of going. So we’re reknitting that sweater too, and it’s looking lovely. Kate’s body has blossomed into a powerhouse and she’s more comfortable in it every day. She’s coming home from Huntington tomorrow, but I will continue under Deb’s tutelage to be sure I don’t drop any more stitches!

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