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A decade or so ago, I was at Home Ec Workshop, a store in my hometown that sells yarn and fabric, and that has become a place where I have found community. In their big central room, they had a full-service coffee bar with such scrumptious baked goods, that even non-crafters stopped by for cookies, cake, and scones. Rarely was Home Ec quiet or empty. That day, in an unexpected late afternoon lull, Codi, the owner, and I were enjoying a little break together, me from my book work, and she, from her day-to-day as a busy shopkeeper.

She was telling me about an embroidery class she had taught to kids experiencing homelessness. They had settled into their stitching when all of a sudden a boy stood up. Codi said she could see the wheels turning in his head.

“I can fix my pants!” he told her.

I knew right then I had to write a picture book about the empowering connections learning handcrafts can make: If Codi’s student could stitch, he could mend his pants. If he could mend his pants, what else could he do? I knew how he must have felt at that moment. I have felt that way many times in my knitting life, and I bet you have too.

Maybe it was when you turned a sock heel for the first time, then caught the flutter of something beyond that heel. Whatever you wanted to try next seemed more possible now because of what you had mastered. Our knitterly achievements impact us in surprising ways.

You have probably heard about someone who gets an idea for a children’s book on a bus ride across town, and by the time they ring for their stop, it is nearly written. Perhaps they are also knitting a sock, why not? I suppose it really does happen.

I can tell you in all honesty, though, writing the story that became Me and the Boss, my newest book, was a long process of developing character and setting. Eventually, a boy named Lee walked onto my page. He had an older sister named Zora. He went where she went. Together they go to an embroidery class at their local library. Zora is the boss, but it is Lee’s story.

For the telling, I looked about for truths from the maker’s world, keeping the moment when all the pieces fall together for Lee as my North Star. Stuck in a scene that wasn’t working, I opened Melanie Falick’s book, Making a Life. There in the Introduction, in large type, was this: “Keep Looking at Your Hands.” Of course! So when Lee struggles with his embroidery, he looks at his hands. Slow down, he tells them. Sometimes I tell myself the same thing.

Bit by bit, like the many rows of a garter stitch shawl, Me and the Boss took shape. Then, April Harrison, the book’s illustrator, added her zing, like a wide breathtaking, show-stealing lace edging.

Now that our book is out into the world, I am sticking close to the joy of our collective victories, celebrating what our stitching inspires us to try, whether it is to fix our pants, or to cast on another pair of wristers. Viva entrelac! Glory be to brioche! Onward to stranded knitting! Happy trails to the vast plains of crochet territory!

Like Lee, we all have our maker’s stories. Many of you posted yours on MDK recently. I hope you will continue to share them with those around you. In these challenging and uncertain times, our stories give us courage and remind us of what we can do! Competent, able, and skilled are good words to keep anyone company on a difficult, uneven path.

About The Author

Michelle Edwards writes about family, friendship, and community. Her work chronicles the large and small victories and defeats of everyday life. She frequently posts her illustrations on Instagram, her website, and at StudioScrawls, her Etsy store.


  • Thank you! I have been following your columns and writing for years but today’s column really hit a chord. I work with preschoolers with many challenges and needed this reminder, too.

    • Nice to hear from you, Mary Beth! I think we all need reminders every now and then.

  • I’m always looking at my hands…they keep me grounded.

    • Michelle, so interesting! Looking at our hands is grounding, but it took me time to realize that. Look on!

  • I’m always looking at my feet. Thank you for the reminder to set my gaze a little higher.

    • Alicefarm, I look at my feet at lot, esp. when walking on rutted paths in the woods! About 6 years ago a friend and I were hiking and busy talking. I kept my eyes on the path and my feet, but she didn’t. She took a step where the path had washed away and broke both ankles. Ever more vigilant these days when I am out!

    • maybe feet as well as hands are wanting notice.

      • Marty, could be! Feet deserve notice too, esp. when they are wearing handknit socks!

  • Always enlightening! Thank you

    • Thanks, Josee! Nice to hear from you!

  • I’m so grateful I can look at my hands and create happiness. It’s like magic. This weekend a friend asked if I could darn a sock. “Bring it in” I said, knowing for some reason this sock was important enough to save. I repaired tiny wear spots on the toes for a brightly polka dotted compression sock. She wears those because she needs to and so many are kinda blah. These lit up her day and so I helped her along the way.
    Aren’t hands great!

    • Lucy F, that’s a terrific story. Thanks for sharing it. And yes, hands are great!

  • Oh my! Tears in my eyes

    • Sending you a virtual hankie! xoxo

  • I just finished reading this lovely book. As a retired elementary teacher, I can see how great conversations with children could occur about pride in working with one’s hands. I recommend Michelle’s early book “A Hat for Mrs. Goldman”. A wonderful read about creativity and giving. Thanks for these great books that help guide children in important ways.

    • Sharon, your kind and thoughtful words made my day.

    • Yes, one of the very best things about teaching is seeing that spark, the awareness of that moment of discovery, the wavering understanding that it’s linked to more growth, and the sense of capacity, agency. It’s a rush of joy.

      • A rush of joy is a perfect way of describing that moment. Thank you, Dorothy!

  • Home Ec Workshop sounds like a lovely place!

    • It is!! And Iowa City is a great place to visit!

    • Such a wonderful story and life lesson. The empowerment that comes from making is real! You want to make everything, good and bad but never boring. Thank you for your beautiful story.

      • Robin C, making is empowering!

  • What a wonderful and thoughtful article to start my day. Thank you!

    • How lovely to hear this from you! Thanks, Mary Jo!

  • So inspirational. How reading and needlework (for my money, knitting in particular) open up worlds. (Can I add the importance of a hug, especially for children, in the process?). I wish my town had a Home Ec Workshop.

    • Chloe, you certainly can add the importance of hugs! Thanks for writing!

  • This was so sweet. Thank you for sharing this

    • Lynne, I have been waiting a long time to tell this story. Great to be able to share it with you and others.

  • This is such a great reminder for all of us. I teach knitting to mothers and daughters(and sometimes sons). Wonderful advice, I am anxious to share it with my grandsons. Right now there ‘knitting’ is sewing cards and yarn traps on the stairs. They are three and five.

    • Pamela, I remember those sewing cards! I loved them. Good for you teaching others to knit, spreading the warmth!

  • Nice read to start the day. Thanks

    • Thank you for this beautiful post. My hometown is Cedar Rapids and Home Ec is just the best! I hope you’ll consider letting this artwork make its way into your shop. It would be perfect for my making space. Thanks for your work that brightens my world!

      • Hoe Ec is the best. I will be reading the new book there on November 19, 1-3, if you are around. I’ll think about making prints of the artwork. Thanks for asking.

      • Good to hear from you, Anne Marie! I will think about making prints of this art. Home Ec is the best. I will be doing a book event there on November 19th from 1-3, if you happen to be around!

  • I’m a retired elementary school teacher. I taught crochet classes for many years after school and I then started teaching knitting classes. Both were fun. Children do like to make things with their hands.

    • Carole, I agree!

    • Lovely! Thank you.

      • Anne S., I appreciate hearing this from you.

  • Starred review from Kirkus, calling it a “gorgeous, powerful exploration of a loving sibling relationship.”

    • Thanks for sharing the book’s Kirkus star. I am proud of the one from Booklist too!

  • After 45 years together, my husband decided he wanted to learn how to mend, and tackled a 30yr old day pack. He now refers to these efforts as him doing fiber arts projects. Any day now he will lose a button and tackle that skill as well.

    • Sharle, here’s to the lifelong learners of the world, like your husband!

  • Not only did I love this inspiring essay/maker’s note but it also led to a eureka. This week our hands can also help knit our democracy.

    Make sure you vote y’all. Our hands and our voices are part of the fabric of being a country together.

    • I love this: Our hands can also help knit our democracy. Thank you. I voted a week ago. Vote!

    • Beautiful!! Vote!

      • Amen!

    • I just watched a Textile Talk called “Crafting the Vote,” which explored this subject, through knitting, quilting, and weaving. The rerun should be on You Tube soon–highly recommend it.

      • Susan, thanks for the mention. Sounds like a great talk. I will look for the Youtube.

  • Thank you for such a lovely article.

    • Nancy in Gallatin, good to hear from you with your kind words.

  • What a wonderful article. It lifted my heart to hear such sweet positivity. Thanks

    • Nancy, Nice to hear from you! Your words lifted my heart too.

  • Thank you. I so enjoy your posts. It amazes me how ya’ll always come up with such great topics.

    • Bobbi, good to hear from you! Stories are funny things. They seem to be everywhere, I just write them down.

  • Thank you, Michelle—for this piece and for the beautiful “Me and the Boss.” Your gift for making—scarves and shawls and books and artwork and friends—is inspiring.

    • Always special to hear from you, Vicki! xoxo

  • Listen to the song “Some Hands” by Dave Gunning (or of a cover by the excellent group Brother Sun)! Fits the topic!

    • Thanks, Fran! I will!

  • Perfectly kind article I needed this. I’m waiting for that golden moment when I learned to turn the heel on my first sock. I’ve only been trying to learn to do socks for about 58 years and I now 76. Onward and upward I can do this… I love your illustrations they are absolutely charming.

    • Thank you, Lynda! Have you ever tried heel-less socks? One of my kids prefers them over the heeled kind. I knit the “spiral” sock sin sock weight yarn.

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