Monday, September 18, 2017

Stitching Life Together


A welcome rain is falling this morning. I finished Jonah's little gray sweater. Photographing a gray sweater on a gray day is not optimal but I think you can see it against the quilt. This is a larger version of last year's Flax sweater. Jonah is growing and by winter, he will have grown some more. The sweater looks big to me but he is a good sized little guy. He loved last year's sweater, so I am hoping he hasn't changed his mind. As he cruises into the terrific 2's, his opinions will develop and change. If so, my daughter can find a good home for it. The sweater, knit on size 6 needles and a familiar classic pattern, was an easy peaceful knit during pre and post cataract surgery.

I also finished the scrap quilt underneath the sweater. My quilts and quilt fabrics are hopelessly out of date but that doesn't bother me. I love using pieces from other quilts and from family and friends. I enjoy working with the humble nine patch block. The pattern can be arranged in many ways. The nine squares in the block are predictable, and easy to piece from small bits of fabric. Heaven knows I have plenty of fabric scraps on hand.


I added the half-square triangle and split blocks for fun. It makes me happy to break a few quilting rules. Some of the spacer blocks came from a very worn tablecloth I bought at a second hand store. I used it as a dresser scarf until it fell apart and then saved the embroidered sections done by an anonymous woman. I mended the fabric near one of the motifs so I could put it in this quilt.


I don't know why or when I started piecing these blocks and tossing them in a box. Last September, after my daughter and family moved to the East Coast, I was straightening up the basement family room and came across the box of blocks. I carried it to my corner of the couch and began piecing the top. Although I didn't think about it until now, I realize I did what I often do. When life changes or throws me a curve, I often stitch it back together.

I finished the quilt a week before cataract surgery by threading my needle under a magnifying glass. The tiny almost invisible hand stitch securing the binding is called a blind stitch, quite the accurate term for this summer's stitching. By August, I sewed mostly from muscle memory. At least the last blind stitches are on the back of the quilt. They are staying in the quilt as they are part of this previous year. My new glasses lenses are due to arrive by Friday. I can't wait. While I am grateful for medical technology and an excellent ophthalmologist, I am anxious to be able to read a knitting chart and any book I choose. I am celebrating with a trip to the library.


Until then, I hope everyone is safe and dry. I wish you a good week this mid-September.   


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September Threads



Early September days pull me from the generous tomato/basil harvest of summer toward autumn. My favorite little summer bouquet of old fashioned sweet peas and black-eyed susans decorates our table. The lavender is blooming so I add a bit of fragrance to the old syrup pitcher. The sun warms my back. As I walk, I savor bright marigolds, a lush bed of impatients, and the red/purple morning glory vine cascading over a neighbor's railing. I share parsley in my herb garden with very hungry caterpillars that will become butterflies.


I finished this summer shawl. The yarn is lovely, a very slight blush color in a light fingering. After reading the Ravelry notes of others, I made the shawl slightly smaller than the pattern specified. It is still a generous size. I think it will be good for summer wear which is one of the reasons I chose the yarn and pattern.


Until I get new glasses, I am happily knitting away on Jonah's sweater. I wonder if it is too big. This afternoon I am going out to find a toddler sized sweatshirt for comparison.


I had a lovely birthday weekend. My son was home, the little guys sang Happy Birthday via FaceTime, and my dear sister knit a beautiful pair of two color mittens for me. Both children gave me flowers. My husband brought me a latte and helped me order some new knitting needles. September is also the birth month for my grandfather and first grandson. That grandson and his family will be visiting here the end of September.  As awful news spirals through the newspapers and media, I give thanks for all that I have and do my best to offer kindness and support to others. I also knit on.

Yesterday the prevailing summer breezes shifted, coming from the north. When I walked I saw two trees with small streaks of red. Looking from the top of a hill, I noted muted browns showing along the edge of some trees. September threads connect us to a new season.

What threads connect your September days?


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Through the Lens


Last week was a week of new lenses for me. On Monday we watched the total solar eclipse at a friend's country home. Despite a few cirrus clouds blowing in and out, we saw most of the moon's movement, a small solar flare, and the silver diamond ring of the sun. I thought the changes to the blue gray twilight were stunning. Naturally we wore the funky ISO approved eclipse glasses. My favorite eclipse instructions were don't drive or walk around while wearing the glasses. Well of course not, the lenses obscure everything but the sun. I was also pleased I could see the eclipse given the cataract in my left eye.

On Thursday, I had the cataract covered lens removed and a new lens inserted. Surgery went well and my eye is healing. On the drive home, I noticed bright vivid colors with sharp precise distance vision. I am forever grateful to medical personnel skilled in the newest technology. As I type, I can see all the markings on the chickadee at the feeder. Literally, I have a new way to see. Now I wonder how else I limit my vision by looking though my own cloudy point of view. It's worth considering.

While my eye heals, I have no lens in the left side of my glasses. I will need some bifocal correction for that eye and more powerful correction for the right eye. The right eye isn't ready for surgery. Until this eye heals, reading remains a challenge. Friends, family, audiobooks, enlarged fonts, and knitting are the answers. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts.

I am also grateful to be a knitter. I finished the striped socks before the eclipse. I prepared for the post surgical transition by choosing two skeins of yarn. If I absolutely couldn't knit, I planned to wind yarn. However, the night of the surgery, I propped my glasses over the large bandage on the left eye (the doc's suggestion) and knit on this washcloth. It was comical as the glasses kept sliding down my nose. Early the next morning, the bandage was removed at a followup appointment. Since then I've finished the Gemma Shawl (it is blocking), worked on Jonah's sweater and cast on a pair of mitts.



Yesterday I found a mostly red maple leaf. The color was beautiful. Today I may wind the pink yarn for mittens or I may toss a bin of yarn just to look at the colors. Mitten and wool sock weather is around the corner.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Under the Canopy

Most days I walk in my neighborhood. I wonder if the neighbors are amused by my habits. In the summer, I walk one direction to have the sun at my back. During cooler weather, I reverse the route so the steeper hill comes first. On hot summer mornings, I zig-zag back and forth across streets to stay in the shade. I leave electronic devices at home. I look folks in the eye and greet them. Lately I've been noting the arrangements of porch furniture and pots on the small front porches. Many decorate these spaces but no one ever seems to enjoy them. Our porch is very small, about large enough for two flower pots. My dream home has a large wrap-around front porch with a swing and comfortable chairs and pillows.

This week I stopped to look up and into the canopy of trees. This morning I stood under the very dense, deep green canopy of a linden and the layered leaves of a maple. I stood in the sun dappled space under an ornamental pear and was almost hidden by low hanging limbs of a large oak. The sound of the breeze through the leaves is peaceful. I didn't have a camera. Honestly if I'd stood under trees and took photos, the neighbors might think I was really unravelling. At home, I stood still and breathed deeply from the canopy of a linden. A pair of chickadees flitted among the branches and called to each other. Across from me, a mama house finch fed a fledging. I discovered a hint of autumn in the yellow leaves. Despite the craziness in the world, the rhythm of the season continues. The trees stand in the rain, sun, wind, cold, and heat. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Every year they grow a little taller and stronger. I find all of this reassuring.


Earlier this summer, I picked up a copy of The Cottonwood Tree, at a used book store. It is on a list of 150 books by Nebraska authors created as part of  Nebraska's sesquicentennial celebration.After cataract surgery, I plan to read it and learn more about the tree.

In the meantime, I am knitting more than reading. Although I set these socks aside, I tried again because I wanted to learn how to knit an after-thought-heel. Never one to give up easily, I placed the sock on the table, held a magnifying glass with my left hand, and picked up heel stitches from waste yarn with my right. This first sock was a little saggy so I ripped it out. It was a tangled mess but I did manage to save the yarn.


This heel doesn't fit my foot as well as a traditional heel flap and gusset. However, I might knit it again in order to maintain the sequence of stripes in self-striping yarn. Yesterday I cast on the third sock of this pair. Three socks for the price of two - more knitting time from the same amount of yarn. I may just carry my sock and chair outdoors in order to sit under the canopy of the linden. The day is fair and the leaves are rustling in this sheltered space.






Saturday, August 5, 2017

Jonah's Christmas Quilt


When my children were young, I made them each a Christmas Quilt. When they had children of their own, I gave the quilts to them. Austin now has Aaron's quilt and Emmett has Kate's quilt. Emmett loves "his" quilt and was not inclined to share it with his younger brother, Micah. Honestly, I didn't think he should have to share so I made a quilt for Micah. A week or so after I finished Micah's quilt, my daughter and son-in-law announced they were having another child. First I knit Jonah a Christmas stocking, then I began his quilt.


Jonah's quilt contains many of the same motifs as his brothers but unlike the others, I set the blocks together with sashing. After arranging them, I merrily cut and sewed the green vertical pieces to blocks, forgetting to square up the blocks. I fudged and fumed as I ripped out long and short seams. Eventually I lined up the blocks as best as I could and sewed the top together. My excuse is that I was sewing while taking antibiotics. Or maybe I'm just getting forgetful. It's a good thing I love these little guys like crazy.


I had the top machine quilted by a local woman. Her work is meticulous and she is really a quilting artist. She matches thread color to compliment each motif and piece. She combines stippling and designs in a way that makes a quilt sing. On this quilt, the red border is quilted with red Christmas trees. She quilted around each tiny snowflake in the plain bright blue fabric blocks. On the light blue fabric blocks she quilted a large snowflake. She also saved the angel by quilting a wing that I had forgotten.




Each Christmas quilt includes something unique for each child. When I made Aaron's quilt, he requested "stars that twinkle." Aaron/Austin's quilt is pieced stars with sashing that meets in a small star at the corner of each block. The three brothers have motifs I traced from an old coloring book. Kate/Emmett's quilt has a boy and a girl hanging up their stockings. Both Kate and Aaron's quilts have a poem/message written to them. Micah's quilt has an extra lamb as he has a beloved 'baa baa." Jonah won the snow and snowman lottery for winters in the northeast. The quilts are set together differently.  Each quilt contains a sprinkle of mistakes topped with a heaping scoop of love. Little Jonah will have a Christmas quilt when he moves out of his crib. Meanwhile, I have to figure out the best way to get this quilt from Nebraska to the East Coast. Perhaps a hand delivery and a hug would be best.


P.S. I realize the quilt photo skims off the top of my head. It was either me or the quilt. I opted to show the quilt.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

Life as a Monet Painting


Summer continues with its glorious colors. The bright cone flowers and black-eyed-susans shout joy amid vibrant green leaves. This season a cataract is growing in the lens of my left eye. I debated about whether to write about it but decided to be honest. Cataracts are one of the unavoidable processes of aging. The vision in my right eye is good but constantly adjusting to the increasing cloudiness of the left. The good news is surgical removable is low risk with excellent results. Last week I saw an ophthalmologist and scheduled the procedure to be done in three weeks. Hooray! I'd have it done tomorrow if I could but at least I am in the queue. I have a new appreciation for clear vision and good ophthalmological care. I think of others who can't afford treatment and/or cope with more serious, not so easily treated vision issues. I also recall some former students with significantly impaired vision. They struggle with poor vision all of their lives.

In the meantime, I am adjusting to life as a Monet painting. Reading from a Kindle works well. I am not driving on the highway. If the glare and light of a day is too challenging for driving, I call on my husband or a friend for a ride.


Wonder of wonders I can still knit with light colored yarn, a repetitive pattern, and good lighting. As my husband says, "thank goodness." I set aside some socks on size 0 needles because I want to try an after thought heel and I can't see well enough to pick up the stitches. They will keep. I finished the HItchhiker - most of it knit during the miles from Minnesota. I continue to work on the Gemma Shawl. I put the stitches on a dark needle for contrast. Where there is a will, there's a way.


I cast on a Flax Sweater for my youngest grandson. Last winter, the same sweater was a big hit. The yarn washed well and the little blonde guy was handsome in soft gray yarn. Best of all, he liked the sweater. Once he grabbed it off a chair and crawled over to his Mom so she could help him into it. I ordered the same yarn and am knitting the next size up. I have washcloth yarn for garter stitch, if necessary.


If my photos are slightly blurry, know that they will improve in a few weeks. For now, put on those sunglasses, have your eyes checked regularly, and enjoy the flowers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

High Summer

Hello. Recently we drove to north central Minnesota to spend a few summer days with my sister and brother-in-law at their lake home. We also were able to catch up with my Montana brother and his daughter. Our lake visit of warm days and cool nights was lovely. The company is very dear to us. I love being shoulder to shoulder with my sister in the rocking chair, the kayak, along the roadside for a walk and in the kitchen. North central Minnesota had a late cool spring so the wildflowers continued to bloom with wild abandon. One afternoon, Lance and I walked with our niece. We heard all about middle school, piano competitions, and her upcoming trip to Japan as she snipped wildflowers for a bouquet.

Close to the lake, my husband saw a fox slink across the road. Small frogs hopped in and around the grasses at the lake bank. A great blue heron fished intently from a small floating dock anchored near the shore and a pair of loons bobbed on the lake. During the day, birdsong floated into the screen porch where my sister and I sat in rocking chairs with our knitting. My husband and brother-in-law completed a small woodworking project in the garage. Two evenings we played board games around the table. I didn't take many photos but instead tried to make the most of time with wildflowers and family.

Both coming and going, we stop at a rest area outside of Worthington, Minnesota. It is a good lunch spot with shaded tables and a path around and through a big meadow of wildflowers. The flowers are bright and beautiful this year. I discovered a variety of coneflower with fluttery lavender petals and patches of bright orange milkweed. Both varieties were new to me. On the way, I knit the second foot and toe of a pair of socks, kitchenering up the toe just before we hit the last 45 miles of winding road around the lakes.


While at the lake, I knit on a hitchhiker. I made good progress in the rocking chair and on the return trip to Nebraska.


Since arriving home,  I'm catching up with my own garden. The black-eyed susans are beginning to bloom. This morning I spied an orange tomato in the vegetable bed. High summer season has arrived. I hope summer is treating you well.