A Portrait in Objects: Brandi Cheyenne Harper

We’re thrilled to welcome Brandi Cheyenne Harper to these pages. We’re big admirers of Brandi’s knitwear designs, which are fresh, exciting, and calming— all at the same time, somehow. We’re inspired by her exploration of knitting as an act of self-care and force for creativity in our lives. Our heartiest congratulations to Brandi on the publication this week of her beautiful book, Knitting for Radical Self-Care, with ten inspiring new designs, some of which you can glimpse in this Portrait in Objects. 

—Ann and Kay

I dream of taking my entire workspace into an open field of high grass and wildflowers. Setting up a space where animals native to the land can feel at home, at peace, in tune with me and me with them. Where each ball of yarn is a shade within the sunset. Drops of honey at the edge of my teacup will attract the honeybees. A home away from home.

I design knitwear, write patterns, and teach full time. There are periods I won’t leave my home-based studio for days at a time. Being able to move my desk, pillows, shelving, and tools around every couple of weeks keeps me inspired. The layout I have now will be different tomorrow, and it will change a month after that.

After a big design push, my needles and yarn end up in baskets—tangled. Half of my double pointed needles decide to go missing. I begin to feel overwhelmed, and everything seems impossible, and I just want to lay down and eat snacks and do nothing. The world believes knitting is very relaxing which is true most of the time, but knitters know that is not always the case. Because how can I not find one tapestry needle, not one?! It’s so frustrating! The first sweater on this clothing rack is the Lighthouse Cardigan in Purl Soho Lantern. I often need reminding that even in my darkest moments there is a beacon of light, an answer, the key.

So much of my work is keeping organized, with everything at home and everything in place. When my space is in order and my plants are thriving, my mind feels at ease.

Over the years, I’ve collected and made tiny homes for all the tools, knits, and yarn. I found brass key rings and paper clips that are just perfect for circular needles. They’re portable and hook and clip in a bunch of different places. My double pointed needles live in these crocheted pouches I made years ago, and I love them so much. I started throwing bowls on the potter’s wheel and I use them to separate stitch markers, buttons, and other small notions. The markers pictured here are from Homebody Fibers. I’m planning to sell some tool cases and ceramics for makers in 2022 so stay tuned! There are two vases I made housing more DPNs and crochet hooks and those babies I’ll cherish forever.

The best way I’ve found to decrease the overwhelm that is bound to happen with so many works in progress and things to take care of is to start with the mindfulness practices that encourage me to be in this present moment. Not thinking about what I need to do tomorrow or what happened yesterday.

Mindfulness allows us to take better care of ourselves, connect more deeply to our craft, and harness the energy we need to support our world from a full cup. Mindfulness is the moment between our thoughts. I talk more about this in my book, check it out. Do you hear the bird chirping? Did you see the leaf fall? It can be found in stillness and in movement. Knitting one row in silence is a mindfulness practice. It is the second you quench your thirst. It happens on the inhale and comes back for seconds on the exhale.

The first thing I do at the start of each morning is make a cup of tea. Right now, the only clay mug I’ve ever made is glazed in a color called tahini. It sits empty, a biodegradable tea bag filled with genmaicha awaits another round of hot water. Activating the flame, hearing the whistle, feeling the steam grounds me in the right now. I am reminded of just how beautiful the earth is during this predictable and repetitive action.

Separating my yarn by color also soothes my mind. My furnishings, wardrobe, and wool are all colors we’d see on the beach, on a mountain top, in a park filled with trees. Doing this makes me excited to make what I’ve always wanted to make.

I fold and hang my finished garments on a couple pine shelves I got from Ikea and on this leaning shelf from Yamazaki Home. Since switching over from selling finished garments to writing how-to patterns I’ve had more time to design sweaters! A few of these sweater patterns are now available: The Brioche Bomber Cardigan in Purl Soho Woolly Wool. The Gentle Cardigan in Purl Soho Gentle Giant. The Allay Jacket in Ocean by the Sea Thicc and the Ode Cardigan with pockets are patterns from my book Knitting for Radical Self-Care.

I made this little bud vase as a reminder to celebrate my beginnings, the in between stages of figuring things out, shedding as a way of growing. Sometimes, often in those moments I’m in need of rest, I will look around and feel like I’m not growing fast enough, finishing things quick enough. That everyone’s tree is bearing fruit, while I am only just planting seeds. In moments of stillness, I remember to bud means to show promising signs of continuing. Whether it’s finding ways to keep your knitting tools organized, recommitting to the daily practices that keep stress at bay, or trying something new, I want you to remember you can start anywhere. Do anything. Each action is a promise to the earth, to my communities that I will grow in my own time and at my own pace. Every day an opportunity to begin again. At any time. In any moment.

MDK receives a commission for books ordered through affiliate links in this post.

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