Forget the Gauge. I’m More Worried About YOU.

As any knitter knows, there is the philosophy of gauge. But what I think knitters forget sometimes is the PSYCHOLOGY of gauge.

I never pay attention to the “gauge” concept. Ok, ok, ok. The intention behind a gauge is that if you’re following a pattern so many stitches across, and so many stitches worked up, should result in an exact measurement. Its an important idea, a very solid way of measuring how well you’re doing against a pattern….but, then I taught Kara to knit and it struck me, something about the gauge only says what SHOULD happen….not what IS happening.

Kara came to me and said, “To keep up with your orders, you need some help. Teach me to knit.” So, I did. It would be easier in life if I subjected to the same comments I’ve received before from people around the world: “You wanna make this work? Charge more….” But, I can’t. I just can’t. I WANT them to be affordable. I mean, we are so bogged down with orders that need to be filled, but in order to keep up with the rent and the electric and food and all of that, I still have to keep selling…at an affordable price. I could make them more expensive, but they would be exclusive. And that is never ever what I wanted. I wanted anyone to be able to have one. I HATE the idea of exclusive.

So I taught Kara to knit within a week and she was flying. Double pointed needles in hand, she was helping me with the “bodies” of the bear. But, when I received her work I was concerned.

The stitches were strangely tight, eerily close. And as I watched her working up another body I couldn’t help but see this expression on her face, this focus that looked like someone trampling others to get to the finish line. I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Calm down….What’s the matter?”

“We have to get these done. Now.”

“But, I can’t use these. They don’t fit. The gauge is off.”

“You said there was no gauge.”

“Well, that applies only to SANE people. What the hell is wrong???”

The extent of our conversation goes no further than her and I, but that is when I realized that the gauge for measurement is flawed compared to the gauge for your emotional ability to pick up some needles and work up a piece. If you are hurried, rushed, wide eyed and filled with the assembly line terror of just finishing, this won’t work. Nothing you work up and knit will work. It’ll all come out flawed and strange, reeking of your negativity, the things you don’t wanna say, the things in your heart you wish to ignore; those pierced eyed and clenched fists will burn themselves into your knitting and it will scream of everything you DID NOT want to say.

However….If you let that all go, and move through the action with extension of what peace you’re looking for, and NOT what you’re demanding, then something different will happen.

I’m often accused of not being able to maintain a relationship because I can never do the holding hands, kiss and cuddle bit. Sorry, but I show my love in other ways. I work these hands in moments of frenzy that bring to life something that I cannot PRECISELY say, but rather implied. I spend six hours working up one bear with all hope and intent that you will FEEL that, you will KNOW that I love you, and that I thank you. That I am grateful for you keeping me alive and with a place to live and food to eat every time you buy one of my bears. And, there have been times I’ve worked up a bear and I never mailed him, because I could look at him and see the stress, the fear, the hopelessness and I couldn’t dare send him. Those bears are taken apart and reworked with the reminder of, “Make him speak for you, make his face say something kind….”

“No….that’s not what we do,” I told Kara. “We don’t knit just to get it done. We make these bears with hope and compassion. We don’t do it just to get orders filled. It has to be done right…’s like any other art form….it has to come from the heart. Otherwise people could get the same emotionless crap from Walmart. This is different. Every action of your hand must reflect the beauty you wish to convey.”

(Imagine if we all did that often, daily, every minute…..the actions in your hands reflecting the beauty you wish to convey.)

Never would I have thought the gauge had metaphysical significance, but there you have it….You find epic moments of the soul found in simple action. A gauge is, I guess, not really intended to show mathematical importance, but to reveal something more primal and informative. If your gauge is off, then perhaps something inside is bothering you.

Thank you so much for all of you saving me another month. I’ll get these bears out…..But each one that goes out must be done right, must be worked up right, must hold, contain, and bridge a moment between you and I. You HAVE to feel my care for you when you get him…YOU HAVE TO. You HAVE to know that I love you and thank you when you open that box and see his face. It MUST be the first thing you see and feel…..Those little embroidered eyes must say, “Thank you for rescuing me.”

Otherwise, this won’t have meant a thing.

(PS. After our talk, Kara’s gauge kicks ass.) 🙂




  1. It’s so funny that you posted this today…I was just thinking about a scarf that I was knitting for my mother-in-law a few years back that I stopped working out, frogged and essentially gave up on. You see, she had done some not very nice things to her son (my boyfriend at the time) and I was upset with her. Every single time I picked it up to work on it I would get upset and start dropping stitches or otherwise screwing up the pattern and I realized that I really didn’t want to give anyone, even her, something that had not been made with love. You are so very right that people pick up on what you put into your creations and it is vital that what you put into anything for someone else is love, care, and consideration. Thank you for putting that idea so beautifully into words and reminding me why I knit.

  2. amen! in my own world I crochet and I totally empathize with the meaning of “gauge” you’re trying to convey. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh I so totally agree with you, I have made several chicks for Easter and eggs so I thought I would do a rabbit’t, but my heart wasnt in it and he certainly looks nothing like a rabbit. I will probably do him again but not yet. I can’t hurry something, as you said it comes from the heart. I also do dress making, again I don’t know how much to charge because my payment is the pleasure someone gets when they put the dress or garment on. No price on love. Loads of love to you xx

  4. I love the theme for the day–the idea of gauge and what is behind the gauge is so true for many things–and it is the love and joy that make it worth the effort! Knit on in peace!

  5. I really needed this today. Thanks!! I’ve been starting & restarting a hat for my mom out of some beautiful fibre. Should be easy but I’m using a falling leaf pattern repeated & my guage is just off 😦 My mom is a designer & makes me beautiful things as gifts that show her love & kindness. So she deserves nothing less than positive energy back in my gifts to her. Thanks for voicing what all of us are thinking.

  6. I crochet and knit Chemo caps for donation. I am conscience while working on them that they are for people who are ill and I think healing thoughts while crocheting or knitting hoping that my care and concern for them comes through in the hat.

  7. I see that spring has got you posting more on your blog, it is good to see you more often!

    I ordered a bear in October and while I am not in a hurry at all, I have read that other people who had ordered that long ago have received their bears and I am worried that my order may have been lost?

    Please know that I understand that you are doing these handmade from your heart, and I really am not in a hurry to receive the bear, what is burning my biscuits is no way to know if my order just got lost, or if you have it and are working on it.

    I have written a couple of emails and had no reply so I’m trying here, again, to see if you can look into it for me please. My email addy is maidenearth at gmail dot com. Check your spam box, if your filters are set too high it may have been sorted into there because it is my business email with links in the signature.

    Please do me the courtesy of a reply email to let me know what is up with my order.

    I am a big supporter and love what you are doing. Thank you!


  8. Well, said. Let the work of your hands reflect your heart. There is a tremendous difference in just making something and making something with thoughtfulness, caring and love. I am patient and willing to wait for something made with as much love as you make it with. Cheers!

  9. I think you’ve really got something there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started work on something, even something where gauge isn’t important, but I end up frogging it or just giving up because it ‘doesn’t feel right’. I’ve never considered that it is because of my emotional state at the time, but it makes sense. When you make something for someone else, you can’t feel good giving it to them if you know every stitch is full of sadness, frustration, anger, hopelessness, or panic. Thank you for the insight, I’m definitely going to keep this in mind.

  10. So true, so true… Back in the ’70’s, as my marriage was falling apart due to my husband’s early-onset midlife crisis (at the age of 27!), I was crocheting an afghan. The pain is still evident in the stitches, as it tightened noticeably from halfway through, so it isn’t rectangular at all, but more trapezoidal, and cannot be blocked out. My daughter loves the color scheme, but I can’t bring myself to give it to her, since it holds so much of the pain and tension of that time… Glad your talk helped Kara’s gauge!

  11. Thanks for these awesome words. If you don’t have this in a book or are thinking of putting it in a book I think that you should. You are so right on. I appreciate what you do so much. God bless you and give you strength to keep it going. : ) This applies to all we do. Thanks again.

  12. The bear I got from you sits on one of my art trees that I finished with a lot of love and that’s just where that little bear belongs, sitting under a tree with a lot of love!! Hugs to you and Kara!!

  13. Yesterday, I was reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s book “At Knit’s End”, and there was a little reflection about knitters who make prayer shawls. She explained that each shawl was knitted as “religious expression, and each stitch is infused with love, gentleness, and good wishes for those who need it most”. Today, I come across your post and this just confirms it: you need to be at peace to create something beautiful. I have tried knitting when I was angry, just to frog it minutes later. Knitting just doesn’t work that way. So when I’m angry, stressed, annoyed I grab my needles and take a very deep breath and start working. The nasty feelings go away almost immediately. This brings me to the next point. My sister in law has cancer, I want to knit something for her because that’s what I can do best, being the introvert that I am, and I certainly do not want to pass any negative feelings through knitting to her, so I will have to be mindful of my feelings and good wishes while working on her project.
    Thank you for this post!

  14. after reading this it will make my bear all the more special when I receive it. it is amazing that you take the time to frog and redo the bear if the doesn’t talk to you “right.” thanks.

  15. Thanks. I’m a nurse and I get this. I can often get caught up in my to do list. It all become about the tasks and not about this person in front of me needing care. I good reminder that my hands should reflect the love in my heart. Thanks.

  16. thank you for your love. (please forgive my previous comment. It’s just so nice to hear your voice in my life.)

  17. I know that feeling when the gauge is right and it certainly doesn’t have very much to do with the physical measurements. That something when the heart and hands are in sync and the mind is calm and loving, each stitch a prayer of sorts. It does make a big difference in the finished piece. Nice to have you articulate that so beautifully.

  18. What a lovely post – I am lucky in that there are no ‘time’ pressures to do anything so sometimes things may take months, but I know they are made with love and enjoyment because everytime I pick it up just to knit a couple of rows – that and the fact it if doesn’t fit one child because I have taken so long, it can be passed to the next one.

  19. Yes! You just hit this on the nose. While I don’t knit, I see this in my straw. If I’m distracted, stressed, tired, rushed, etc., the straw gets wobbly, lop-sided or ripply from messing up the hand tension. The pieces becomes a mess.
    I have to create in a good mood or a relaxed mood. (Though, working can put me in a relaxed mood.) Recently, I was honored to be asked to make a few mourning bonnets for people. It was so very important to me to work on each one lovingly because they were meant to be worn for a loved one.
    Thank you for such an insightful post this morning. Happy knitting.

  20. Wonderful way to put it – whatever is going on in your head comes out through your hands and forever imprints on your work. I think it relates (backwards) to Heather Ordover’s work on Cognitive Anchoring ( where, in a nutshell, what’s in your mind gets captured in your yarn and helps the memories stick. Relax, meditate a bit, and keep calm with all those stitches – it’s better on the needles and hooks too!

  21. This was a lovely post and makes me think long and hard about fulfilling my own knitting obligations. I have orders, contracts and commissions to focus on and sometimes I get lost in the due dates. Unfortunately I tend to let my mind wander while I’m working and I end up stressing over all of the things I can’t do while I’m knitting! It’s a curse I tell you. But I’m getting better, and it’s really great to hear another man’s perspective as they work their craft. Oh sure I can talk to my girlies, but having another guy say stuff like this helps in just a slightly different way.

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post… now I’m off to knit, better.

  22. Thanks for this message. I whole heartedly agree. I knit a number of prayer shawls, and I can not knit on them when I am upset as I do not want that “I have to get this done” feeling to get into the shawl.

  23. I always find that my craft reflects my mood, and I try to not knit big projects when my mood is changeable as it makes the over all messy! Sadly I have been so busy at work recently that my knitting has taken a back seat, but reading your post has inspired me to cast on the project I have in my bag! lots of detail and changes in direction and style but I am looking forward to it! Thank you for your insight into your world and much love to Kara, with friends like her you will never sink! (get wet maybe due to life but not sink) and love to Mario and George.

  24. This is such a truth. Wen I’m teaching I always tell people that their state of mind is in every stitch. Being mindful is part of why knitting can be so relaxing. I love your bears, my only stuffed animal has been an elephant but I often look at bear patterns and think I should try.

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