Friday, June 24, 2016

Stitching into Summer

A few months ago, I read about the book Slow Stitch. Last week I checked it out from the library. The author presents an approach to textile art that includes mending, darning, embroidery, and repurposing. She showcases several different artists. In most of the work, the imperfections of hand stitching become part of an art piece. She writes of building up worn fabrics by incorporating a patch into the fabric. I particularly enjoyed a section on Kate Bowles and her handmade books. Slow Stitch also includes sections on stitch journals as well as dying embroidery thread with natural materials such as onion skins, walnuts, and black beans. I have no plans to dye thread but it is interesting to read about it. In fact, I may never create textiles like those in the book but I'm intrigued by following the process back through all steps to better understand stitching. It reminds me of following words and ideas back to their origins while writing.  Reusing or even using materials on hand also appeals to me. Wellesley-Smith's ideas seem like an interesting jumping off point for creating and making. I found this book to be good reading on a summer day.

In a different kind of slow stitching, I finished Jonah's Christmas stocking. Although it is made of entirely new materials (if nothing, I am inconsistent) I lined it with a found piece of fabric. The pattern was published in the 1950's. For me, intarsia knitting is an exercise in slowing down. This project required some quiet extended knitting time without listening to podcasts or an audiobook. Picking up and twisting in each color while following the chart goes best one stitch at a time. The finishing that involves steam blocking, weaving in of at least 52 million ends, cinching up a few gaps between colors, seaming the stocking, and sewing and installing a lining took four days to complete. While this stockings was an exercise in patience, slowing down gave me plenty of time to knit love and care into the project. I had fun imagining what this little guy will look like through the coming years. Right now, he is five and a half months old and growing like a summer weed. This is Jonah, in his whale swim trunks, a few week ago. He's grown since then.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

June Knitting Notes

Hello. As sometimes happens, spring has jumped into hot summer with near 100 degree days. When the Christmas stocking (see previous post) is finished, I'll cast on another project or two that doesn't involve a large mass of wool in my lap. I steam blocked the stocking and wove in at least fifty two ends. Next I'll mattress stitch the seam. Then I'll make a lining, crochet a loop for hanging, and sew the most important jingle bell to the toe. This is record time for completing one of these stockings.


By the end of May, I finished the Frozen Silver Shawl with two yards of yarn to spare. The shawl turned out to be a large slightly dramatic asymmetrical triangle. It seems to call for a wearer who is taller than 5'2" and wears something besides t-shirts with a cotton skirt, yoga pants, khaki capris, or slacks. I often wear smaller shawls out to dinner, to the library, grocery store, farmer's market or gatherings with friends. I may give the shawl away or maybe we will have to dress up and buy symphony tickets.

Regardless, the soft rose yarn and two stitch patterns were a joy to knit. I had previously knit one of the stitches in the Honey Cowl. Since the cowl is worked in the round and the shawl is knit from side to side, the same stitch can be made in two different ways. This is useful information. Although we knitters may not use a technique or construction method forever, many of us seek to learn new skills, try different constructions, and discover new tricks and tips. The possibilities are endless. I also applaud the knitting community's respect for individual differences and preferences.

Now I am mulling over smaller projects - mitts, socks, mittens and perhaps a smaller shawl.
First I have to hook up the soaker hose and water the tomatoes and basil. A few weeks from now, they will make a delicious pasta sauce. Happy Summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Knitting Them Safely Home

We had a happy family celebration on Sunday of this Memorial Day weekend. Our son-in-law was ordained as a pastor and then he baptized his youngest son. Friends, family, and extended family gathered with the congregation to celebrate both milestones and then we had a family potluck lunch. This morning I am savoring the weekend and the joy of being together.

Yesterday everyone packed up and headed for home or out for a small vacation. Late spring weather on the Great Plains alternates between balmy sunshine and fierce thunderstorms. This month storms with hail, lightning strikes, and funnel clouds have been particularly severe. Last night I kept an eye on storms rolling across the Plains as Patrick's brother flew to Utah and our son to Texas. At the same time our daughter and her family drove west down I-80 to his seminary graduation in Denver.

What's a knitter to do besides knit? I worked on a Christmas stocking for the newest little grandson. Last week in a quiet moment, I had located the Christmas stocking pattern, charted the baby's name, and retrieved the bag of stocking yarn. In the 1950's, my aunt knit the same intarsia stockings for myself and three siblings, and her five children. Later she knit them for her children's spouses and grandchildren. She shared the pattern so I could knit stockings for my husband, two children, a niece, and son-in-law. Now I'm making them for my grandchildren.

Intarsia knitting is messy. Only a knitter could see this tangle and believe it can turn into a Christmas stocking. Paying attention and a little faith are required. As I watched radar and waited for text messages last night, I worked on this stocking. Late in the evening, everyone arrived safely at their destinations. I felt like I had knit them home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Granola: The Next Generation

When I was a graduate student in the mid 1970's, my fiancé and I stood in line for over an hour to eat at a local health food restaurant. The waitresses wore tie dyed t-shirts, denim skirts, and birkenstocks. Pots of ivy, asparagus fern, and philodendron hung in front of windows. We ordered green salads, quiche, or sandwiches of sprouts and turkey between dark rustic breads. Friends and I traded recipes for granola made from oatmeal, wheat germ and a large amount of vegetable oil. Then not liking cold cereal for breakfast and lacking imagination, I stopped making granola and went on to bagels. I thought bagels were healthier than doughnuts but I did slather them with cream cheese and jelly.

Fast forward to 2016 Mother's Day. My husband and I spent the afternoon and ate dinner with my daughter and her family. Playing hot wheels and helping the five year old cast a fishing line off the deck was lively fun. Kate brought me a small container of home made granola. Her recipe, although still high in calories, has more nutritional value than my older version. It calls for more variety grains, nuts, seeds with less oil. She used refined coconut oil (better nutritional value than vegetable oil) and flavored the mixture with honey, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. During the week, I sprinkled this improved version over yogurt and added a little to my trail mix of roasted unsalted nuts and raisins. Yesterday I made a big batch and divided it into containers for freezing. All of this makes me smile. Here I am making the next generation of granola.

As for knitting, I am almost finished with cotton washcloths for awhile. I used most of the bubble gum pink yarn so it is no longer taking up space in the storage bins. I tried other patterns for the pink yarn before discovering the pattern, All Washed Up. It is easy to memorize and less boring than others. Two sections remain to be knitted on the rose colored shawl and I need to knit a foot to finish this pair of socks. Nothing like knitting to get a husband through a knee replacement/revision surgery. He is post-surgery two weeks today and doing well. The jury is out on how many degrees the new knee will bend into flexion. We are hopeful he will have better range of motion by the end of physical therapy. As we knitters say, "Keep calm and knit on." In the meantime, a little granola is a nice snack.

Vanilla Latte Socks Yarn: Regia, Arnie and Carlos


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April News

The Spring Shawl of the previous post is growing. Knitting garter stitch rows between slipped stitches is a peaceful counterpoint to the exuberance of spring celebrations. Yesterday I planted tomatoes, peppers, basil, and thyme. I didn't have much compost. Fall leaves, grass clippings, and tea bags need more time to simmer under a hot sun. A robin is weaving a nest way out on a birch limb. I trust she knows her business. The spring flowers are early but glorious this April, National Poetry Month.

Have you noticed the best knitting projects acquire a rhythm? Needles move in, out, around and through. Knit two, purl two ribs create structure. Knit three rows, slide or twist a stitch into a vine. Slip slip knit, knit two, yarn over, knit two, knit two together shapes a leaf. Spaces between stitches make a pattern.

Spaces between lines structure a poem. Sounds in letters and words lull the listener/reader. Then the poet breaks a line, repeats a phrase, or substitutes "quiet" for "hush." Rhythm and meaning change.

If you are in search of a poem, read your knitting, pick rhubarb in the rain, or peer into a tangle of columbine, wild with color.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Welcome Spring

Spring, ever so welcome and a bit early, has arrived. The first week in March I stepped out on the deck and heard hundreds of sandhill cranes flying overhead. Two weeks later, my husband and I drove out to central Nebraska. During the afternoon we rolled down the windows and drove county roads to watch the birds in the fields. The fields were brown and the March sky filled with blustery gray clouds. Crane watching isn't a cherry blossom festival but a spectacle of natural color and season. In the fields, the cranes bounce up and down, fly a short distance, and then parachute down to another feeding spot. All the time, they call to each other with sounds that haven't changed for thousands of years.

After dinner, we dressed in layers and walked out onto a pedestrian bridge over the Platte. While light left the sky and the smell of cold wet grasses rose from the riverbanks, we chatted with two women from Colorado and listened to a father and children from Chicago spot two deer. At sunset, the cranes flew up and down the river searching for their evening roost. They kept their distance from bald eagles in a tree on a nearby sandbar. They were also wary of the humans gawking from the bridge. Still we viewed extended wings and red masks through binoculars as we listened to their ancient cries. The Rowe Sanctuary  website posts excellent photos and information about the cranes. Crane Music: A Natural History of American Cranes by Paul A. Johnsgard, a noted ornithologist, is another good resource. Most springs, I reread a section that begins,  "In the heart of North America, there is a river . . .  There is a season in North America . . . There is a bird in North America . . . "  And so, once again spring begins.

The temperatures bounce up and down from just below freezing to a warm 81. On a cold gloomy day last week, I made a list of spring cleaning chores. Saturday was warm so I worked outdoors. I stirred the compost bins. Then I gave the bird feeder a soak in a bucket of water while pulling weeds from the vegetable garden and raised bed. I finished the afternoon by potting up some pansies for the front porch. Flowering trees in my neighborhood are in full bloom. The blooms are early this year but they are gorgeous. Fresh air blowing through the house is glorious.

My knitting projects have also turned to spring. I threw caution and a cowl-in-progress to the spring winds. Instead I pulled out two skeins of rose colored yarn that I have been saving for something, evidently a Frozen Silver Shawl. Alternating garter and textured stitches is a peaceful knit. In the process, I learned a new stitch - Diamond Pattern- which looks like a trellis to me. The instructions are very clear and the stitch isn't difficult.  I have also been knitting up some dish/wash cloths. Over this last winter and holiday season, I had given my stack away. I enjoy giving them to new Moms, someone going through a rough patch, to say thank you, or just to brighten a day. A few new dish cloths in my kitchen would be a breath of fresh air. Perhaps they will motivate me as I move through my inside Spring cleaning chores.

What about you? How do you welcome Spring?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Last Week

Last week I finished the September Morn sweater I have been knitting this winter. That is, I finished the ripping and re-knitting and finally knit the contrasting ribbing. Since my short neck gets lost in a large turtleneck, I knit a simple ribbed crew neck. Then I washed and gently blocked the sweater before weaving in ends.

The sweater was hard to photograph, especially this time of year with little contrasting color in the landscape. Too much light washed out the color and too little made for a dark photo. The shadows in this photo remind me of an older image of my Grandfather. The photo was taken in 1919, just after he arrived home (a farm in south central Nebraska) after serving on the Western Front in France. When I look at it, I see a shadow on his face and wonder what he was thinking. His smile doesn't seem quite natural, perhaps a little tentative. I also wonder who took the photo and what the family was doing and saying in the yard under the pear and elm trees. Before spinning a story, I remind myself that sometimes shadows occur in photos. Perhaps he was just looking into sunlight on a May day.

I can tell you what I was thinking when my husband helped me with the sweater photos. "Stick a fork in this sweater because this story has come to an end." The Chickadee yarn by Quince and Co. held up beautifully. I knit several skeins four times with no difference in the finished fabric. The wool, tightly spun and carefully processed, has as much memory as an old photo. I will wear this sweater/sweatshirt often because it is warm and cozy without being heavy. I prefer sport to worsted weight sweaters.

However, I am not casting on a stockinette sweater any time soon. Currently I am knitting the hand of a second mitten and a cowl. When I finish these smaller projects, I will tackle a Christmas stocking for little J.

Last Friday morning, he came to visit for a few hours. He is growing but still at the newborn stage when he melts into the chest of whoever is holding him. I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday morning.