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Karma Mittens
It was a quiet sound, the whispering of the yarn as I gathered the last stitches from the top of the thumb and pulled them together tightly with a thick, blunt sewing needle. I ran the needle and yarn twice through the top stitches and then, turning the thumb inside out, knotted the yarn in a few places, snipped the end and turned the thumb right side out.

The final gesture was exactly what it had been with every pair, checking the thumb gusset. No holes or loose stitches there. I’d finished my one hundredth pair of mittens. Quietly.

I laid this last pair on top of a basket filled with mittens. I re-counted all the mittens, just to make sure. I touched and admired and criticized each pair. I tried on a few. Soon I would call Mary Palmberg, who runs our town’s Free Lunch Program and is one of those earthly angels who always seem to be aware of who in our community needs what, from an extra ice cream scooper to one hundred pairs of mittens. In January, I had given Mary the first installment of my goal: 65 pairs of mittens.

I emailed Mary last week; would she like the rest of the mittens now? The weather had been warm and I worried that she would want me to wait for fall. I should have known that people like Mary always have contingency plans for out of season donations. They could store the mittens at Free Lunch she told me. There is always a lag time between when it gets cold and when donations start to arrive. The mittens will be there, ready for the first cold hands of fall.

I started to knit these mittens over a year ago, on my fiftieth birthday. In THE REASON TO KNIT MITTENS (Lion Brand Newsletter January 28, 2006), I explained my vow to “knit a hundred pairs of mittens for cold and needy hands.” I was hoping that knitting almost exclusively for others “might get my troubled mind off my own petty problems and ultimately change my karma.” I promised to write about the karma change part when I finished all the mittens.

Sitting here in my knitting chair, surrounded by baskets of yarn and mittens, I feel very rich and blessed. I guess that is where the karma part comes in. In a year that was filled with ups and downs for me as a mom, a writer, a knitter and a citizen of a world that seemed to be always on the brink of a new crisis, knitting mittens was my oasis of calm. It was my teeny tiny contribution to a teeny tiny part of humanity that was in need.

All year, I carried my mittens in progress with me everywhere. It was a click clacking repetitive calm that never failed to ease my tensions and quiet my storms. A new yarn, a different pattern or size or a clever embellishment was a simple joy that always took me by surprise.

I talked about my mitten project to those who asked me what I was knitting and, on more than one occasion, those who didn’t. I had lots of wonderful conversations with people about life, and knitting and mittens. I received many touching emails from those who read my mitten essay. It is hard to feel bad about life and the state of affairs, global and personal, when you keep meeting fine, interesting and caring people. Every time I went into my local yarn store, Edie, the owner, added a pair of mittens to my pile. I think that is part of the karma change, too.

Knitting one hundred pairs of mittens has given me a deep understanding of what makes a good mitten. I am now very opinionated about thumbs and gussets and the length of a cuff. I think of myself as a mitten maven. My middle daughter’s friend Hayley refers to me as a “mitten factory.”

What will I knit now that I have finished my hundredth pair of mittens? What will I do with my mitten knowledge?

I have a backlog of knitting I’d like to do: socks, baby gifts, an afghan and a purse or two. I’ve promised myself a sweater. I know I’ll always have a community knitting project going: shawls, preemie hats, chemo hats, and afghans. But when Mary comes and takes the mittens, will I ever fill the empty baskets again?

As I sit in my knitting chair in the evening, I can’t help but notice how totally set up I am for the next hundred pairs of mittens. The patterns, the needles are in a satchel by my chair. And the wicker baskets hiding under the coffee table are filled with more than enough yarn for the first few dozen mittens. Maybe that’s my knitting karma change.

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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