Wednesday, March 25, 2020

One Stitch at a Time

The sky is gray but sunshine is predicted for late afternoon. Yesterday while we walked, the clouds parted to a gorgeous blue sky and the temperature rose to the mid-50's. I saw a purple crocus bloom. The bird song speaks joy. Spring has arrived. 

Knitting keeps me in the present. I'm enjoying the stockinette stitches in the gray sweater and the garter and lace stitches in the shawl. Stitch by stitch, row by row, we knitters make things. Our hands hold needles as we pull one loop through another to make a stitch. Each stitch, like each member of the community, is dependent upon the integrity of the others around it. Most of the time, stitches line up neatly on the needles. The best we can do for each other is to stay home. I am thankful for such a warm comfortable shelter.

I am working away at the gray sweater and shawl. Yesterday I cast on a pair of vanilla socks so I'd have a portable project. I feel better when I have a project bag ready to grab on the way out the door. Socks provide lots of stitches and take up little space. I probably won't knit too much on this project and I hope I won't need it for a health emergency but it feels like good insurance.

Jonah's current favorite Face Time read is The Runaway Bunny, an old sweet story by Margaret Wise Brown. I'm still reading A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf and am less enthusiastic about the last third of the book. It is an interesting view into her mind and work though and I plan to finish. These days I'm also reading a mystery, A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden. I've just begun but it is well written. The victim and his sister are part of the art world in Victorian London. Mysteries are good escape reading and the genre is predictable. 

Locally, this evening at 6:00 p.m. First Plymouth Church is giving a "Carillon from your Car" Concert. Everyone stays in their cars and listens to music from the bell tower. The music is audible from as far away as a mile. I am making peanut butter sandwiches for a car picnic. I may even bake a few cookies. I've been resisting the urge for cookies but if I make some with oatmeal, dried fruit, and nuts, they will have some redeeming value. That's my cookie story and I'm sticking to it.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I wish you good health and safe shelter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Gentle rain fell during the night and early this morning. The moisture, although scant, is welcome. Out my window, a female cardinal tears small pieces of birch bark for her nest. I hope she is building near by. Even though we won't be standing on the pedestrian bridge with hundreds of other watchers, I know thousands of sandhill cranes feed and rest along the Platte River in a migration almost as old as time. In my mind, I hear their ancient music and my spirits lift.

Small buds are visible on the lilacs and the maples sport the red fringe of new leaves. Yesterday after my walk, I noticed these tulips in our front yard. Last summer we reworked this area, covering it with ground cloth and several inches of river rock. I thought the bulbs were a lost cause but somehow they found a way through the rocks. These are four tough tulips.

So ever hopeful, I knit on. Never in all my days have I been so happy to have a stash of yarn and a bookcase of books. I knit a tea cozy for my two-cup teapot and learned a new stitch, the mistake rib. I like the texture and wonder if it would make a good hat. I may try. I ripped out an Icicles hat that is knit from the top down. I set out to learn a new-to-me technique and learned I didn't like it one bit. I don't swatch for hats. I just knit the bottom edge and check the fit. Of course, this didn't work with top-down construction. I didn't discover it was too small until after I fiddled with the cast on and knit the increase rounds. Well, maybe I knew after a few rounds but ignored that wise knitting voice in my head. Anyway, I didn't want the hat enough to try again with other yarn and larger needles. 

The Soft Sunday Shawl is perfect knitting for listening to a mindless mystery. I cast on this pullover sweater three times. I blame the corona virus for a preoccupied mind. Now that I have finished the short rows and can see the lines of wide raglan shaping, it will be a good project for these indoor days. The yarn, needles, and pattern have a nice hand.

I am currently reading A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf. After her death, Woolf's husband culled through years of her diaries and published one volume of entries pertaining to her work. She is witty and this little volume is one view into her intelligent mind. It is easier reading than her fiction but tempts me to read some of her other work. I'm also enjoying Joy Harjo's American Sunrise. Our current poet laureate is deserving of her honor.

I will link this post to Kat and the Unravelers as a way to knit us together through these days.

To all the medical people on the front lines and the school personnel making sure kids have online learning opportunities thank you, thank you. To the grocery, big box, and drugstore clerks facing a never ending line of customers, garbage haulers on the road, first responders, and child care providers trying to keep children safe and sound, and many other helpers thank you, thank you.

While we put one foot in front of the other, may we be as tough and tender as tulips.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shawl Weather

Morning fog creeps down the hill just east of our home. The gentle slope creates a small valley through the backyards. Fog wafts into the neighborhood and settles in this the backyard valley.  I suspect the seventy degree temperatures over the weekend followed by Monday's cool rainy day created conditions for a foggy morning. The house is cool so I wrapped a shawl around my neck and shoulders. When the world seems foggy, I often reach for a shawl. Whether I wear a bright hitchhiker or a humble garter stitch triangle I knit in 2012, a shawl is shelter and comfort. I am good company with my shawls. Women and shawls have a long history.

My sources of knitted shawl history: Cheryl Oberle of Folk Shawls, Mary Thomas's Knitting Book (first published in 1938, reprinted by Dover, 1972), Martha Waterman's Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, and of course Wikipedia, have varying opinions about the location of the first shawls. If word origin is any indication, shawls originated in the Eastern world. The word shawl comes from the Persian word shaul which came from the Sanskrit (an Indian language), sati and sari, a piece of cloth.

Currently, I have two shawls on the needles. The off-white Soft Sunday Shawl above is for my daughter.  This is the third time I have knit this pattern so the lace pattern feels familiar. I believe in muscle memory that comes from repetition. I couldn't have written about the specific stitch pattern but one row into the lace and my hands recognized and picked up the rhythm. This is comfort knitting at its best.

On Sunday, International Women's Day, I cast on another Wool Peddlers Shawl. Way back when, I bought red yarn to make this shawl as pictured in the Folk Shawls book. For awhile, the garter stitch body will be a carry around project. Knitting from a book I own and with deep stash yarn feels like a win. The cherry red is a nice contrast to the cream colored shawl and the gray and white mitts I recently finished. I unraveled the pink stitches and reknit the mitts in gray and white. The yarn bases didn't go well together so they are not Neapolitan colored (original design name) in the least. They were fun to knit so I may use this pattern again for leftover yarns.

I am listening to The Ten Thousand Doors of January and surprised by how much I enjoy it. I don't usually read fantasy. Perhaps this isn't a true fantasy but more magical realism and definitely an allegory. At any rate, I am enjoying the writing, literary references, strong characters, and an action filled plot. The audio narration is a trifle too dramatic (in my opinion) but not enough to quit listening. Last weekend, I opened Toni Morrison's last published book, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays and Meditations. Morrison's work is extraordinary and this nonfiction is no exception. The first few essays are dense with her thoughtful opinions and ideas. She is another woman whose strong voice will be missed.

The fog has given way to a bright gray day. After I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I am off for a walk. I hope to see the wings of a cardinal folded over her back like a triangular shawl. I'm putting hand sanitizer and toilet paper out of my mind for the time being. I'd rather think about shawls and Spring. I may even slip out and buy some flowers. Stay well my friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


Here we go into the first lamblike week of March. The birdsong is more noticeable as I walk. This morning I saw one junco in the back yard. Soon they will be gone for the season. The little house finches flit around in pairs. Spring is around the corner, I'm just not sure which one. Last weekend neighbors cleaned out gardens and flower beds. As I wrote in a comment response, I had a walk around the yard, took one look at all of the Creeping Charlie, and went for a walk. Maybe it will be ground cover. In spite of a few sixty degree days, our last frost date is around May 10. I'm not ready to uncover perennials yet. Last year's daffodils were a little thin and I haven't seen any poking out of the ground. My husband might have to dig up that area so I can amend and add to the soil. The older I get I like the idea of gardening more than the actual process.

I finished three projects so I am casting on some new ones. I am trying these mitts and cast on a shawl for my daughter. She said she would like a neutral colored shawl that is bigger than the one I made when she was pregnant with her second child. Time flies. Now she has four children. Shawls and mittens/mitts are my favorite things to knit unless I'm knitting something else.

I am pleased with the Rewilding Shawl The yarn is wonderfully soft around the neck.

I also finished the baby sweater and made a hat to go with it. After consulting the baby's grandmother, I went ahead and let the colors of the yarn play out in the sleeves. I am not sure I could have matched the stripes even if I had cut the second skein apart. I hope the playful look of this sweater encourages the parents to use the sweater. The pattern, Little Nugget, is a good basic sweater in multiple baby and child sizes. Although it calls for fingering weight yarn, I used this light DK, knitting the smallest size to get about a 6 month size for this April baby.

The scrappy Hitchhiker is finished with 38 teeth but who is counting. I will forever associate this project with recovery from a sore back and the audio version of The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. The story set in Kentucky in the 1930s makes me wonder how much progress we've made when it comes to rich powerful men who run businesses without much thought for employees or the environment. The friendship of the women librarians is heartwarming and they are all strong characters. The ending of the book seemed abrupt and weak to me. I would write more but I don't want to spoil the story for prospective readers. Currently there is some controversy about possible plagiarism that, for me, removes the shine from this novel. Given the storyline, it is a little ironic.

I savored every word of Erosion: Essays of Undoing by Terry Tempest Williams. The way Williams weaves personal and ideas about public lands is masterful. I read a few chapters at a time in order to think about her ideas. What a thoughtful voice.

After Williams' book, I needed to read something different, Then the The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow appeared in my Overdrive Account. I'm not sure how to categorize this novel but am enjoying the two stories I've encountered. Maybe this novel is fantasy or magical realism?

As usual on Wednesday, I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers and will read the news of knitting and reading.

As this crazy winter comes to a close, enjoy these early March days.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tender Questions

A male robin often perches in the ornamental pear tree in our front yard. Since January, he claims this tree as his space. The little bits of some fruit that remained in the tree are long gone although I doubt he could eat all of them. I call him the "guard robin" as he chases all other birds out of the tree. He behaves as if his dominance is paramount and that food and perching space in the neighborhood are scarce. Other robins seem to move among the mature trees lining the street. The cardinal couples shelter in a tall blue spruce or the bushes along the front of the house. If either cardinal dares to perch in the tree, the robin flies at them. So goes the world. Sharing power and territory is not easy.

Honore' invites us to reflect on the one word I chose for 2020. I chose tender. Lately I've been thinking of it in relationship to the earth and climate change. Poet Mary Oliver wrote masterfully about the tender soul of the earth. This poem is a beautiful reflection on the interdependence of all things on the earth.

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another?
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it and not the camel?
Come to think about it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Mary Oliver, House of Light. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1990. p.1

So one more time, I resolve to do my best to live tenderly in this world, to focus as much on the reduce and reuse as the recycle side of the triangle, and to voice my opinion to elected officials and those running for office. There are no easy answers. I live in a country that is dependent on fossil fuel consumption and a society driven by consumerism based on scarcity. I have many questions but none as eloquent or as tender as Oliver's.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Sunday, my husband and I, enjoyed the milder afternoon by walking on the MoPac Trail. This trail, east of Lincoln, is named for an old Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor that it follows. The portion we walked is outside the city limits. As the prairie comes to the end of winter's rest, I find beauty and peace in the subdued landscape. Although a few shaded spots on the trail were covered with frozen slush, green weeds poked up along the edges. Finches and juncos chirped. We came upon this lightbulb art piece tucked back in a lane off the trail.  Here I am in my old barn jacket and patched jeans, looking a little like my Mom in one of her many red coats.

The lightbulbs hold a special place in my heart. My daughter and her family lived in Lincoln the summer they were installed. My two eldest grandsons and I spent many happy hours visiting them. At first Emmett was frightened by some of them and so we just drove by. Then as we ventured out to look at the more whimsical pieces, he lost his fear and wanted to get out at each location. Then he chose his favorites to revisit and show to his next youngest brother, Micah. Of course as we drove around town, we sang, "This Little Light of Mine." Later the pieces were auctioned with the proceeds going to The Lighthouse, a local agency serving at risk teens. They found new locations around the city, hence the surprise siting off the trail near a restored prairie. For me, that summer was golden. We took this photo and sent it to the boys.

The good news is walking, which I love, now eases my back pain. I am also able to knit on most projects, taking frequent breaks to stretch or move. Really, we should all be doing this as a preventative measure. I knit a bit on this baby sweater and hope to finish for a mid-March shower. I am ready to knit the bottom ribbing but may rip back a few rows. It looks long to me. Thank goodness I noted the needle size for the ribbing in my Rav notes. Otherwise I'd have no idea what size I used on the neck. Whew.

Last evening, I finished the knitting on this shawl so it is ready for a bath and blocking. I left the teal yarn attached in case I didn't like the gold edge. In the light of morning, I think it is fine. I love the golds, tans, and browns on the prairie but I don't wear them often. I think some of the dithering about this shawl has to do with the gold accent. Color influences my knitting in a big way. I am often drawn to new designs by the colors in the sample. How about you?

I am listening to The Giver of Stars, a novel based about a group of five women who worked as pack-horse librarians in Kentucky during the 1930's. The traveling library was a WPA project promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt as a way to develop literacy. At the beginning, I thought the story and characters were too predictable. About midway, I am quite invested in the young women and the obstacles they face. The growing friendship between five women of different backgrounds is very heartening. Because I need something more peaceful at bedtime, I am rereading Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach. This journal of Grumbach's experiment of spending days in solitude is a ramble through her reactions on winter days in Maine. The book was published in 1994 and recalls such a different time.

Late as it is, I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I hope you are making good progress with your knitting and seeing a little glimmer of Spring. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


The morning sky is gray and heavy with clouds. After sunny milder days, the temperature will drop quite low tonight. Spring is a ways off. Still, the quality of daylight changes as the sun sets a little later. This week the bird songs sounded like Spring. One afternoon I walked and noticed a bush across the street almost quivering. It was covered with fluttering chirping sparrows. Here, house finches have nearly squeezed out the sparrows so seeing them was a treat. Funny how I never paid much attention to the humble brown sparrow until recently. I looked for a cat or large bird of prey but didn't see one. Maybe they were just happy to converse with each other in the sunshine.  

This is a week for patience with weather and with myself. After a PT session of strengthening exercises, I type with an icepack at my back. Two steps forward, one back - no pun intended. My back is better just not back to normal. Patience is required as I remind myself this condition is very minor compared to others with catastrophic illness and other difficulties in life. I am also grateful to be knitting on both of these projects. 

At least I think I am grateful for this shawl! I have knit this pattern previously and the eyelets are simple. I don't know if I was engrossed in the audiobook mystery or just trying to keep myself in a good position for knitting. Regardless I unraveled the eyelets several times. First I made a rookie mistake of skipping two yarn overs. When I knit this pattern previously, I followed the chart to knit the eyelets. Somehow I forgot there was a chart and knit from the printed directions. As I put the stitches back on the needle for the third time, I somehow recalled an old email notification for a pattern update. By then, my pattern was covered with four different marks indicating the rows knitted. There was one little pesky error in the printed directions for the eyelet pattern. I updated the pattern, printed fresh pages of this section, and have been happily knitting ever since. Egad. Here's a tip: before you reknit something for the third or fourth time check the Ravelry pattern for a correction/ update. How many years have I been knitting?!!

This hitchhiker is really fun. It's wild and busy but it makes me smile. I began by knitting eyelets on every other tooth, then stretched the space to every third tooth. If I knit another scrappy hitchhiker, I'd skip the eyelets. The fabric is plenty busy without them. This is my second hitchhiker and I'm going to keep it in mind for gift knitting. If you like garter stitch it's fun to knit and who can't use a scarf to wrap around their neck in chilly weather. 

I continue to savor Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams. If I thought my congressional representatives would read it, I'd send them a copy. How I wish elected representatives would listen to the literary voices. They are so wise and eloquent. Last night I finished The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I found ideas I missed previously, including the touching and sweet little Epilogue. I enjoy all of Cather's writing, but I think she is at her best when she writes of strong women. While reading this novel, I reread a few letters (The Selected Letters of Willa Cather) Cather wrote about the novel as it was being published. She mentioned a couple of experiences she took from her life to create the fictional characters and the story. In The Song of the Lark Cather meanders slowly through her heroine's life but I love the pace of the story and the descriptive writing. Her writing has such depth.

So as I join Kat and the Unravelers today, I wish you smooth sailing, little patience required, with your knitting and reading. I plan to make a cup of winter white chai and enjoy the light of February.