Ever since March, I’ve felt like my brain isn’t working all that well. Something about the COVID-19 lockdown and the life changes that have gone with it has made it very hard for me to do things I would normally find only mildly challenging.

For example, my attempts to knit a shawl have stalled out ever since I got to the lace border. I kept making mistakes and finally wound up putting in a ton of markers, thinking I was just losing track of my place. It turned out I was ignoring an entire section of the pattern. But even though I figured all that out, I find myself off by a stitch here, a stitch there. I keep making mistakes, but I can’t figure out why.

The batik block I started with, layered for quilting.

So I’ve been doing free-form or improv projects, like the embroidered kestrel LNK. I have an idea and some materials, but there is no pattern, no instructions, and no plan for the final product. I’m making things up as I go along. For some reason, I can handle this right now.

Beaded butterfly in process.

My latest project is symbolic of this time of change: a beaded butterfly. I bought the batik block at a quilt show years ago and had always intended to put beads on it. In my bead collection, I found green and purple beads from a kit that I had never used, so I started with those, adding other beads from my stash to get more value into the piece.

I’ve found beading and stitching really soothing pandemic activities. There’s a lot going on in the world, and I need quiet time to examine my thoughts and feelings. Making something with my hands while I rest and think has been essential.

Butterfly, beaded and hand-quilted, by Kit Dunsmore.

The only problem with my butterfly? It’s done. Well, mostly done. I’ve decided to put a quilt binding on it so we can hang it on a wall somewhere. So there’s a little more stitching to do.

But once it’s finished, I’ll have to find something else to do with my hands. Something my brain is actually up for. Something that is interesting without being too challenging. Something that will leave my brain space to deal with the next surprise 2020 gives me.

How are you dealing with the endless surprises of 2020? Do you have favorite activities to help you get through these difficult times?

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