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  • Writer's pictureAmber Rose Ostaszewski

Revolutionary Rest

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

Once 2021 started I was living on high hopes. It was the start of a new year, and having survived through all that the year 2020 brought, I joyfully looked forward to starting my spinning work on Distaff Day, January 7th. Traditionally, Distaff Day is the day that women would resume their work following the holiday season, and spinning played a large role in that. Depending on how the calendar year shakes out, it usually follows a few days after Plough Monday, which is the day that men would return to their work respectively. As I picked through my shelves full of fiber to decide what roving to work on first, I dreamed of the future projects I could make in the year ahead. I settled on some merino/cashmere/silk blend roving I had bought the year prior from JulieSpins on Etsy and set it aside for January 7th.

Enter January 6th, where I'm faced with images of violent mobs of people with ill-intent storming the Capitol. It sent waves of anxiety to my core. While I had been well aware that radicalized people would be loud leading up to the inauguration of the new administration, I underestimated just how out-of-control and revolting these people could be. My instinct was to reach for my drop spindles and start spinning. Only a day earlier than I had planned to start on my work, I felt it was absolutely urgent and necessary. I kept my hands busy drafting and winding with hope for the future while I watched the scenes unfold on the television screen.

I continued to spin all eight ounces of roving I had over the next two weeks. The more I learned about the intentional uprising from these people with such hate in their hearts, the more I put love and compassion into my spinning work. As I spun, I'd picture justice for Breonna Taylor, housing and food for those who are hurting due to the failed unemployment system, and relief for our nurses and doctors who are overwhelmed with Covid patients. I'd imagine lively schools full of children happy to be learning side-by-side with their peers, and peace and comfort for those who've lost friends and family this year. I visioned a more peaceful, loving, and regenerative world, embodied by kindness and understanding. A world where instead of shouting over each other, we showed grace, listened, and worked together.

By January 20th, I had two skeins worth of double-plied, worsted weight yarn. They were soft and fluffy, relatively well-balanced, and the silk in the blend gave them this beautiful white glisten, like the mid-January snow that had just fallen and blanketed the trees outside my window with an enchanting quality. Again, I watched the events of the inauguration on my living room television, this time scrolling Ravelry for ideas on what I'd make with all of the 450 yards of yarn I had spun. Originally, when I had bought the roving I imagined making a hat out of it (maybe getting 300 yards or so?) and wearing it on chilly nights around a fire with friends. But now it seemed different, I had spun it during such tumultuous circumstances than I could have never imagined, and I had much more yardage than expected, allowing it to be a bigger project than just a hat.

The inauguration was everything I hoped it could be. I especially fell in love with the words and energy of Amanda Gorman. She expressed everything I was dreaming about as I had spun my yarn with such eloquence that I was left stunned, crying in my living room (somewhat) alone; recognizing that across the country, perhaps even the world, others like me, were sitting in their living rooms also crying alone. What weird times Covid has created.

There was much delight over Bernie's mittens, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps that's what I should be making with my yarn. Not only would it give me a reason to fire up my dye-pot to transform my yarn into a variety of brown hues, but the sentiment behind his mittens felt right with the intentions I had spun this particular yarn with, and they certainly marked the moment historically. Most importantly, I had about the right amount of yardage. I was ready to get to work.

Yet, the more I thought about it, I was really being drawn to another pattern--a pair of cable leg warmers. I looked at the example on the screen and imagined myself lounging around the house wearing them, perhaps on a snowy day, bundled up with a cozy cup of tea and a good book, reveling in comfort. I'll admit, it was a dreamy vision (dare I say luxurious!) but I also felt some tension. You see, I felt guilty about it. That it would be selfish to waste this yarn made during such revolutionary times and spun with such humanitarian ideals to be made into something so personal. I decided I would shelf the skeins until I could make up my mind as to what project suited them best.

For the next few days, I was continuously being pulled to the idea of the luxurious leg warmers. It was when I opened my email to one of my favorite newsletters by Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, and one particular phrase struck me that it all came full circle. In it she wrote:

"Figuring out what we really need, not just what we were taught or told we need, can feel overwhelming. The discomfort of relating to ourselves in healthier ways, with deep compassion can bring up grief, among other uncomfortable emotions. This is where we can rely on imagination, play, experimentation, rest, and intuition."

This is where things started to make sense. When I had completed my merino/cashmere/silk blend yarn, I had felt I had made it out of this historic moment and therefore it was only befitting of a historic project; but looking back, I realize that it was actually more about taking time for myself and giving myself what I really needed. Spinning, for me, has always been a source of comfort. It checks the boxes of play and experimentation. I don't consider it "work" in the way the women who celebrated Distaff Day did of the past. It helps process my emotions, and so when it comes to choosing a project for this particular yarn, it only makes sense to pick a project that will continue to comfort me. A project that will give me what I truly need. And in a time and place where we are continuously pushing ourselves to work at the expense of ourselves, it's a reminder that slowing down, creating comfort, and rest truly are revolutionary acts. Luxurious, lounging, lush legwarmers it is!

With inspired intentions, I think it's also important to recognize that rest as revolution comes from BIPOC thought-leaders like Rachel Cargle and Tricia Hersey spreading the word of Black Liberation Theory. Due to systemic racism and injustices around the world, these activists emphasize that rest goes hand-in-hand with resistance, change, and dismantling oppressive systems.

For more reading on rest as revolution, see these amazing leaders:

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