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Wendy Shepherd, a passionate knitter, doesn’t usually keep the things she makes. Instead, she gives them to family and friends, or donates them to persons in need; however, she definitely plans to keep her current project because it has a special meaning attached to it.

Last August, Shepherd, executive director of Mittens for Detroit, a charity that donates new mittens and gloves to needy Detroiters, began a possible year-long “purposeful project.” She’s knitting what’s called a “mood scarf,” an idea she came across one day while surfing the Internet for information on therapeutic or meditative knitting projects after losing two people in her life whom she was very close to.

“I was actually doing some research for mitten patterns, and it (a site on knitting mood scarves: https://make.jemweston.co.uk/tag/mood-scarf/) just kind of popped up in a search. When I looked into it, I thought this is exactly what I’m looking for,” recalls Shepherd, who was also searching for something to help with her grieving process.

Shepherd lost her best friend and a “super-close” aunt just six months apart, and after spending a month on the couch grieving, she says knitting the mood scarf has bought her time to “heal a little bit.” She says, “Plus, I’m getting one heck of a gorgeous scarf out of the project. I plan to go a year, but if it gets ridiculously long, I’ll stop.”

The idea behind the mood scarf is to knit a couple rows every day, choosing one of your three or five color choices that reflects how your grieving is going that particular day. “You do two rows each day – one out, one back, and you have to write down each day how you’re feeling,” explains Shepherd, adding that there’s also a crocheted version for making such a scarf.

She says, “Selecting the colors is the hardest part. They suggest you do three or five colors. I’m doing five. I made a whole process of this. I knew I wanted red and black because I wear a lot of red and black.” A major retailer didn’t have the textures she wanted, so she ended up at PK Yarn Over Knit in Clawson where the owner assisted her.

The five colors she chose to express her feelings are bright red (“happy”), off-white (“for the mostly really good days, but nothing too spectacular”), black (“really bad days”) variegated with all five colors (“confused bumpy days – my challenging days”) and olive green (“challenging, but not a really dark day”). The four solid color yarns are an extra fine Merino wool, and the variegated fiber is a blend of acrylic, wool and nylon.

“It’s so personal and important to me, so picking the colors was stressful. I really wanted to make sure I had the right colors,” she remarks. “I had started another one and decided I didn’t like the colors, and that’s when your local knit shop comes in. The texture was so important to me because I want to use this when I’m done with it, and I wanted to be comfortable with it when I was knitting it.”

Describing the nearly 50-inch long scarf-in-the-making as a “really healthy project,” Shepherd says, “If I had started when they first died, it would have been rows and rows of black for about 30 days.”

Depending on what’s going on in her life, she admits there have been times when she’s gotten behind on her daily knitting and has had to catch up for a day, or maybe even a week, like back in December when things at Mittens for Detroit were “wonderfully busy.” One of the big patches of bright red rows reflect days of excitement after her husband, Ken Hershenson, won the MI Great Artist Competition, an annual online contest for visual artists ages 18 and older living in one of the following counties: Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair or Wayne.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Wendy Shepherd at Wendy@MittensForDetroit.org.

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