Saturday, April 11, 2015

April

Today I am watching a young blue jay hop from limb to limb in the birch. In the sunshine, the bird's coloring reflects as a vibrant blue. The grass is brilliant emerald after three days of light rain. Trees are beginning to put out small leaves in a myriad of greens. Maples sport a red fringe. When I walk this afternoon, I will check the progress of a tree leafing out in vivid chartreuse. Spring colors are a welcome change after winter's landscape.

Shades of green have also been part of my knitting for the last few weeks. I recently cast on the Leaf Press shawl, striping Madelinetosh Merino Light yarn in a sage green color with another variegated skein reminiscent of a Monet watercolor. I finished the little green Antler Cardigan. As I knitted, I pictured an active toddler wearing this sweater outdoors on a cool Spring day. Green was a good idea in late January when I bought the yarn for the Antler sweater. While I choose colors I enjoy, my choices are influenced by the seasons.

April is National Poetry Month. Poetry brings another kind of color to my reading and writing. Local and regional poets offer wonderful work. Linda Hasselstrom and Joyce Sutphen write from different parts of the Great Plains. Twyla Hansen, the Nebraska State Poet, and Marjorie Saiser are even more local to me. These poets and many more help me see the world in new and different ways.

Join me in discovering a new-to-you poet this month. Browse the poetry section of your library or bookstore. Try reading a poem out loud to feel and hear the unique rhythm and sounds in the words. Enjoy the colors and sounds of an April Day.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Turning Toward Spring


Spring brings me renewed energy. I am working on inside projects before outdoor gardening season begins. Although it is tempting to clean out perennial and herb beds, I wait until the first week or so in April leaving weeds and last year's growth to protect plants from fluctuating temperatures. Ten days ago, temperatures reached 80 degrees but yesterday afternoon rain turned to sleet and the roofs were covered with frost this morning.

Recently, I finished two knitted projects created without a pattern. Although I will never be a designer, it is nice to know enough to make my own simple projects. I finished a sweet little shawl out of yarn I purchased at least five years ago. I knit a garter stitch triangle, increasing on the edges and spine until I had the number of stitches (including edges, center stitches, plus a multiple of the 18 stitches) necessary to repeat seven motifs on each side.

I have also been working on baby knits. The little green antler cardigan is done all but sewing on the buttons and being photographed. I made a hat and mittens for a niece expecting a baby in July. I referred to Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns and Stephanie Purl-McPhee's Knitting Rules for a general idea on size. The idea for the purled row in the stripes comes from Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats. I have knit three or four variations of this striped beanie in different yarn weights for other children in the family.

I find my writing also reflects the season outside my window.  I am almost finished with a small group of poems created during the winter from writing prompts. I am looking forward to new knits and new thoughts in the colors of Spring. The season turns ever so slowly. I am taking notes on its arrival. 




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Shawls, Shoulders, and Spring

The March days are growing longer and this week's temperatures are considerably warmer in Nebraska. Yesterday, in solidarity with the local public school teachers and students on Spring Break, I sat on the deck in the sunshine and read "Old Mrs. Harris," a short story from a book of Willa Cather's collected short stories, articles, and essays. Reading early and less well known work by an author reminds me that all writers were once beginning writers.    

Last week I finished this shawl to give as a gift. The Red Robin Shawl pattern by Helen Stuart is well written. She includes a small spread sheet stating percentages for each section so the knitter can use up the entire skein of yarn. Once the blue shawl was blocking, I finished the pink raspberry shawl. When I cast on the pink shawl, I knit garter stitch rows until I had a multiple of stitches needed for a pattern repeat of eighteen stitches plus the center and edge stitches. Then I knit a feather and fan border because I enjoy knitting that pattern. My encapsulated (frozen) shoulder joint was healing but I needed the easy comfort knitting that I find in simple shawls. Although today's knitters and designers have updated shawls in interesting new ways, the little pink shawl is not one of the new fashion forward wraps. I think I it will join a few other sturdy shawls I use for keeping my shoulders warm during winter's cold.

After two months of physical therapy, the range of motion in my shoulder is near normal. I have been discharged from therapy with instructions to diligently stretch and strengthen the joint and surrounding muscles for at least two more months. I will be following the recommendations as well as taking frequent breaks and using good body mechanics while knitting as I don't want to repeat the experience. Besides, the warmer temperatures and sunshine are calling me to the garden. I want to be ready to pull weeds and thin perennials. Green shoots of crocuses and daffodils are just up above the ground. Spring is around the corner.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Making the Most of Winter's End


February days are often cold and gray. However as the northern hemisphere begins to turn ever so slowly toward Spring, the light begins to change. I mean to enjoy the last winter days. Late afternoon and again after dinner, I brew a cup of tea. A week or so ago, my son sent me a tea sampler of Harney and Sons Teas. Since then, we have been chatting about various flavors. My favorites are Egyptian Chamomile and Japanese Sencha (Green Tea.) I don't do lots of baking but something about a winter day calls for warm brownies or a homemade cookie. At least once a week, I make a pot of soup. While I tend the soup, I watch the sunset. Spectacular winter sunsets are compensation for cold days. If I could, I'd knit something the color of the sunsets. Instead I bought some green yarn.       

This Spring and Summer will bring two new babies to our family. One baby will be born to a nephew and wife and the other to a niece and husband. Currently I am knitting a toddler size Antler Cardigan. I bought this Perfection Worsted Yarn from my local yarn shop. It is an acrylic/domestic merino wool blend. Generally I don't knit with acrylic yarns but this has a nice hand and it will wash well. I finished two small sleeves and cast on the body this week. I knit the sleeves on two circular needles, a method that is easiest on my arm and shoulder. The gender of this babe will be a surprise so I chose a medium green color. I usually knit baby sweaters in a 9 months or larger size as little ones begin life at variable weights and then grow quickly. Their clothing needs to be loose enough to be comfortable with some room to wiggle. I continue working on the Christmas Quilt squares for my youngest grandson. He has certainly become a toddler that likes to move and needs plenty of room to wiggle and climb.

Enjoy the yarn on your needles, homemade soup, hot drinks, and winter sunsets. They won't last forever.

 

   

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Messy Creations


Today sun is streaming in the windows as the recent heavy snowfall melts. Earlier this morning I saw a robin on my windowsill. Robins winter in Nebraska but even so the sight of that rust colored breast against a blue sky hints of Spring.

Currently I am making small books from a set of plain envelopes and cards purchased at a craft store. I adapted the You Tube Envelope Mini Album Series to make a small book. The videos provide clear detailed instructions for making a small scrapbooking album. Since these books are a container for my poems, I did less decorating. Each of my books requires four envelopes, two cards, colored card stock, cardboard or chipboard for the book covers, decorative duct tape, ribbon, and a few pieces of decorative paper. I considered recycling postcards or photography from a magazine but don't want to violate copyright on previously published material. Instead I used my photographs and a few pieces of scrapbooking paper. Fortunately, I have a table in the basement where I am able to spread out materials because making books is a messy process.
One reference (I can't find it right now) suggests planning two books of any particular method because putting together books is a learning process. Amen. I made two envelope books. Hopefully the next books will have fewer mistakes. I like these little books because I can tuck different poems into them. Last year, I made a chapbook by printing poems in landscape style and then sewing the pages and cover together. Each poem in my envelope book is printed on a single sheet. Both book types have their advantages so I will make them again.

Yesterday I took care of my sweet grandsons and I can tell you there is nothing in the world like a peanut butter hug. When the little one went down for his nap, E and I got out the art supplies. The last time I took care of them, we searched the computer to answer his question: "Why is a macaroni penguin called a macaroni penguin?" This weekend, I thought it would be fun to make a macaroni penguin but E had another idea. He cut different colors of construction paper into odd shaped pieces. Then he taped and glued them all back together. While he decorated his "project" with markers and glitter glue, I made the penguin. As ever, the process was messy but oh so fun.  His art project was much more interesting than my preconceived penguin. I should have known.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Grandmothers of Knit and Purl


Both my grandmothers were born in January. As last week's brittle cold gave way to a thaw, I found myself walking and thinking of them. When I was growing up, they seemed quite different from each other. Grama-Grama Helen was born in Omaha in the early nineteen hundreds. She was definitely a city girl who loved costume jewelry and pretty clothing. Prior to being married, she and my Grandfather danced at Peony Park ballroom, went to movies, and ate at an old Chinese restaurant in downtown Omaha. Not so far away at the same time, Grandma Catherine was born on a farm in southeast Nebraska. Although she never talked about her courtship, I imagine it occurred at church and in her home. Both women lived through the World Wars and the Depression. Grandma Catherine and her husband lost a farm and moved to town. She was widowed in 1943. Grama Helen and her husband squeezed out a living in their small town when my grandfather accepted half-time wages for a full time job.  

Now I see similarities between the two women. Grama Helen attended the Methodist Church while Grandma Catherine was part of a supportive Mennonite community. Although two churches were different, both women had a strong faith. They both enjoyed music, baking, and cooking. Grama Helen made sweet orange rolls while Grandma Catherine baked hearty rye bread and a hard roll called semmel. They both sewed and did needlework. Grama Helen was an excellent seamstress and knitter. She taught me to knit. Grandma Catherine crocheted and did some sewing. Catherine liked to embroider and both women needlepointed. Helen went to Omaha to buy needlepoint supplies while Catherine ordered her from the Lee Wards Catalog. Sometimes Catherine would use a magnifying glass to count stitches in a magazine picture so she could make a project without ordering a kit or pattern. When she ran out of embroidery floss for a project she substituted another color. As I photographed this finished Winter Sky Textured Shawl, the wrong side flipped over and reminded me of my grandmothers, grandmothers of knit and purl.  On this January day,  the two women seem like two sides of the same fabric.

As my sore shoulder begins to heal, I am moving more and knitting less. I suggest any knitter pay attention to body mechanics before discomfort turns into pain. As I wrote in a previous post, knitting socks on two circular needles is better because I can rest my hands in my lap and keep my elbows supported and at a 90 degree angle. Metal needles with a reasonable number of stitches put less tension on my neck and shoulder. Recently, I happened to buy a pair of new Knitter's Pride Nova Patina circular needles that feel very comfortable to me.

Shawls that don't require pushing lots of close fitting stitches are best for now. Last week, I cast on a raspberry pink shawl which reminded me of Grama-Grama. To say that she loved pink is an understatement and a story for another blog post. Grandma Catherine was more conservative in her dress and favored navy blue and grays. Although I prefer blue of any shade, I also wear pinks and reds. Both remind me of my dear Grandmothers of Knit and Purl.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Once Upon a Quilt

Once upon the 1980's, I made each of my children a Christmas Quilt. These were not small wallhangings but quilts for their twin beds. Both of the quilts were hand pieced and hand quilted. How I hand quilted bed sized quilts with two young children is a bit of a mystery. At the time, I enjoyed quilting as much as I now enjoy knitting. I finished Kate's quilt in 1986 and Aaron's quilt a few years later. Kate's quilt is made of alternating blocks of Christmas motifs and those cut from a cranberry red print. Many of the Christmas motifs came from a coloring book and others from assorted quilt magazines. As I recall, we chose some of them together. I embroidered, pieced, and appliqu├ęd figures from the nativity, a Santa, a reindeer, a candy cane and more. Each year, we got out the quilts after Thanksgiving and put them on the beds. Then both of our children grew up and the quilts, wrapped in clean sheets, were stored in the linen closet.

Last December, Kate and family were visiting. I got out her Christmas quilt. She and her oldest little guy wrapped up in the quilt. I sent it home with them. Now the quilt spends December and most of January on E's bed. His favorite block is the one with a jingle bell at the end of the long hat atop an elf mailing a letter to Santa. After Christmas last year, I walked into their home and E. came running toward me with the jingle bell. He handed me the bell and remarked, "It is all my fault." I assured him, the bell coming off was nothing to worry about and quickly sewed it back on.

This year the quilt came out again. Kate, being a thoughtful mother and daughter, explained how Grammy sewed the quilt with fabric and thread. E. loves to look at the quilt and find the jingle bell, the fuzzy sheep, the candy cane with a ribbon, the star, and more. As Kate asked me this year, "Did you ever think that when you made this quilt, that thirty years later there would be a little boy who would get so much joy from it?" The answer to her question is, "No I wasn't thinking about grandchildren." I did hope my children would look forward to getting out Christmas quilts through the years and I think that despite, their sometimes harried mother, they did.

This quilt story hasn't come to an end because E. has a younger brother who is fourteen months old. E. also thinks the Christmas quilt belongs on his bed. So I have begun again. I haven't done much quilting in the last few years but I still have my supplies. Thank goodness I saved the coloring book and most of the patterns. In the quilting archive, I located a set of red and green quilt blocks made but never sewed together. Now they will be a Christmas Quilt for M. After I finish the motifs, I will machine piece the quilt top, add borders, and have the quilt machine quilted by a local woman. If I tried to hand quilt it, M. might have children of his own before the quilt is finished. Five blocks are stacked in a basket with quite a few more to go. Once upon a new Christmas quilt, . . . The End.