Saturday, May 20, 2017

Same Yarn Second Verse

Steady rain has fallen the past three days. The garden is soggy and the iris stand valiantly against the rains. I took photos before the first storm on Wednesday. Long ago, iris were planted on the graves of women to guide them on their journey home. My Gram grew hybrid iris in her yard and so they remind me of her. Practically, iris foliage is green from spring to fall and the tight bunches of rhizomes just under the ground keep the weeds down.

In knitting notes, I ripped out a sock and cast on another pattern. The cable stitches in the first sock made my hands hurt. The Pebbles pattern is easy to knit while chatting with friends or sitting in a waiting room. I knit an Eye of Partridge heel flap with a traditional heel turn and gusset. I am also knitting a baby sweater by the same designer. It is a simple top-down raglan that I may have turned into a yoke sweater because of a different gauge. The sleeves might be more turquoise than yellow as I am playing yarn chicken with yellow yarn scraps. Knitting is nothing but an adventure. My sister contributed the bright turquoise yarn from her stash to make enough yardage. This little joint project will be a charity donation.

I took advantage of these rainy days to make a summer reading list, my version of the public library summer reading program. When I was teaching, the list helped me get through the busy end of the semester to the more relaxed summer school schedule. Sometimes books not listed will appear on my stack of "to-read" books and I rarely read everything on the list. This year's list includes:the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, Commonwealth by Anne Patchett and A Piece of the World by Christina B. Kline. Others listed are Dickinson, a commentary on Emily Dickinson's poems, and a book of essays, The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin. These days I try to borrow most books from the local library or interlibrary loan. Then I loosely follow the reading rule given to me by a friend: "When you begin a book, read the number of pages of your age to decide whether to continue or not. After fifty, you get to subtract any number of pages you like."  

I hope you have some lovely summer plans. Memorial weekend is coming up and summer is around the corner.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Shawl and a Poem

My winter knitting projects are finished. Saturday I knit the button band onto the sweater I started in December. I carried my knitting and a cup of tea to the deck. Here I am in my Saturday best, knitting on that beautiful May morn. I hope a good soak and blocking will correct a slight pulling-in on the button band. I often rip out and repair but picking up seventy million stitches on a v-neck was tedious. More spring knitting on the deck, yes please. Picking up all those stitches again, no thank you.

I finished this Soft Sunday Shawl. Shawl knitting is magical unless one tries to memorize a poem at the same time. Isn't it always that "at the same time" that brings trouble to knitting? In honor of poetry month, Sara of Yarns at Yinhoo podcast suggested memorizing a poem. I chose Ted Kooser's poem, "Mother" published in Delights and Shadows. Reciting poetry while knitting is very peaceful but not so good for stitch counts. After redoing two garter sections, I tried one of Sara's tips for memorization. I worked on the poem while walking. The language and rhythm in poetry have physical properties based on sound and breath that I thought about while walking. Learning the poem by heart helped me better understand how all the elements worked together. It also helped me pass time while tilted upside down in the dental chair. You never know when poetry or knitting will come in handy.   

Now I am planning some smaller spring projects, perhaps a baby sweater and some fingerless mitts. While pondering my stash of yarn and patterns, I'm knitting up a few washcloths. Mitered Cloth patterns create a perfect square cloth, a preference of mine. I hope your spring knitting and reading is treating you well.  Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesdays. 

Happy Mother's Day.    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Apples From a Teacher

If every quilt tells a story, this story is more like a chapter book. In 1990, my youngest child was in kindergarten so I took a part time teaching position. On my way to pick up my students from the bus, I walked by a first grade class and noticed M. reading "Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt" to her students. I stopped after school and introduced myself, telling her I was a quilter. We became friends as she helped me survive a challenging teaching assignment. A few summer mornings each year, we sat on her porch swing and talked of handwork, gardening, family, and education. Eleven years later she decided to move to a mountain valley in western Montana. She spent the next fall and winter in Montana planning and supervising the building of her straw bale home. I took care of her Lincoln home while she was away. That winter she sewed these apple blocks from a free pattern she picked up in a quilt shop in Pocatello, Idaho. When she ran out of red print fabrics, I sent her some from my stash. In the spring, she returned to Nebraska, packed up her belongings, and moved to Montana.

In 2003, she sent me the hand pieced quilt blocks. Living in a small motor home with limited space, she did what women have often done. She used materials at hand, sandpaper templates, a pencil, needle, thread, and small scissors. The stitches are even but the blocks were slightly different sized. I attached strips from my dark green fabrics to square them up. Later as I traveled to and from my parents' home at the end of my Dad's life, I stopped in Columbus, Ne. and purchased the apple print to use for sashing. Last winter, 2016, I cut sashing and machine pieced a top and backing. Since I hadn't purchased enough apple fabric to use all the blocks, I sewed six into the backing. After the holidays, I delivered the quilt top, backing, and batting, to the woman who has machine quilted my last three quilts. She is an artist with a long arm quilting machine. Last week I finished the binding and made a label for the back. I used a label M sent with the quilt blocks as well as the corner of a napkin she had embroidered with the letter M. The label lists the names of all three of us. 

Twice I have visited my friend in her environmentally friendly home in the rugged mountain setting. In her mid-eighties, she continues to live independently. Arthritis doesn't allow her to hand piece or quilt but she sews on her machine, gardens, and knits. She has a closet full of quilts and doesn't want this one. However I made the last three blocks into a table runner and will be sending that to her as a birthday gift. Teachers, we are a persistent bunch.

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


My making this spring is a story of process. I have a shawl, socks, and a sweater on the needles. I finished most of the knitting the Travel Sweater but it needs blocking and button bands, my least favorite part of sweater knitting. The table I use for blocking is filled with fabric and patterns for J's Christmas Quilt. I am almost ready to assemble the quilt top so I don't want to disturb the creative mess in order to set up blocking mats. Procrastination perhaps?

The yarn I used in these mitts has been sitting in a basket near my desk. The colors were so appealing, I cast on a pair of Small Flower Mitts. This is a great pattern for using up leftover bits of yarn. The touch of color work makes them interesting to knit. I knit the flowers from a tiny ball of variegated sock yarn. Since I didn't have enough to match the colors in the mitts, I'm embracing the difference. It is fun to look at all the variations of these mitts posted on Ravelry.

My writing projects are also in process but then most of writing is process. I finished this poem begun two years ago. I offer it here, at the end of National Poetry Month.

How to Enjoy the Prairie in April
April 20, 2017

Breathe into the back of your lungs.
Amble into a draw, dry from lack
of winter snow and spring rain.
Retrace your steps up the swell.
Breathe deeply.

Under the bowl of blue sky, scan
the horizon for a cottonwood
the crone of the plains. Breathe.
Sift through her branches for shades
of green and brown. Smell the fresh
grass. Embrace the wind. Breathe.

Listen to five notes from a meadowlark.
Memorize the ancient melody as it
recedes across the plains.
Study a single white-mountain lily.
Find promise in well cared for land.
Breathe again and again and again.

Copyright by Jane A. Wolfe

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April Color

April and the view outside my window becomes more colorful each day. Although I favor blues, pinks, and lavenders, I watch for green shades creeping into the landscape. This week, the birch leaves outside my window began to bud. I never wear chartreuse anything but after the monochromatic landscape of winter, this color is a welcome sight.

Early in the month, the New England weather also changed before our eyes. On our first full chilly day, we toured the Emily Dickinson Museum. There are two homes on the property as well as a large yard and garden area. Miss Dickinson was an avid gardener so we walked around a good sized garden bed that will be planted later this spring.  A few brave purple wildflowers bloomed under large trees. The home of Austin Dickinson, Emily's brother, is not available due to renovation. Portions of Emily's home, including the conservatory where she gardened and wrote, were also closed. We were able to tour the parlor, another downstairs room, a room upstairs that is temporarily set up with some items from the library, and of course the bedroom where she wrote much of her poetry.  

The guide/volunteer was excellent. He downplayed Miss Dickinson's reclusiveness. Before visiting, I reread an essay on Dickinson by Adrienne Rich (Vesuvius at Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson.) Rich discusses the poet's life from a feminist perspective. Personally I agree with Rich's view that Dickinson recognized her own talent and created a life that allowed her to write. Fortunately for all of us, Dickinson's parents supported their unconventional daughter. She had access to education and a home that included a pleasant bedroom with lots of natural light and a view of a main street in Amherst.

After dinner that evening, we drove around Amherst and happened onto the cemetery where Dickinson was buried. By then it was cold and I wished I'd worn a few warm knits. There is another small museum in the area with Dickinson artifacts. Somehow I missed that in my research before our trip. Touring that museum the next day wasn't in our plans. This grandmother wanted to arrive at our daughter's home in time to walk the kindergartner from school. We were so eager to hug those dear ones. Since our daughter lives not too far from Amherst, I hope to visit again.

On this trip I knit most of a pair of vanilla socks for my daughter. Before we left, I took a photo of five skeins of sock yarn and asked her to choose a color. She picked purple and I used some leftover Opal Smile yarn to add a little pizazz to the vanilla. Knitting a heel flap, heel turn, and gusset on a plane without error made me feel quite accomplished. Turning a heel is such good entertainment. I also made friends with a flight attendant who is a knitter. Knitting really is a universal language. Kate tried on the first sock so now I know the exact length for her sock foot. I jotted the measurement down on my sock recipe card so I am all set for the next trip. Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the colors of spring.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April Travels

Earlier this month we visited our daughter and family who live in Connecticut. I knit my version of a vanilla latte sock on the planes, in Amherst, Mass., and down the coast to Old Greenwich, Ct. We spent one day visiting the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in the Amherst area. On a cool April weekday, we practically had both museums to ourselves. The Eric Carle (author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other children's picture books) Museum was beautiful. In addition to three galleries, the museum has an extensive library of children's picture books and a large art room where visitors, old and young, can create a piece of art. I read Carle's books to my children and preschool students. Now, I am reading them to my grandchildren so learning more about his art and personal story is a joy. My ever patient husband and I enjoyed the displays showing how Carle and two other illustrators created the art in their books. Stay tuned for more on the Dickinson museum in another post.

We spent the rest of the days with our family. In between walks around Binney Park to count the snapping turtles, we crashed Monster Jam trucks and raced Lightning McQueen cars. We watched a white egret in the pond and discovered an osprey nest in a utility poll at the train station. We helped? keep three boys quiet in church. How does my daughter do that while her husband is in the pulpit?

One morning the two older boys and I looked at yellow wildflowers in the grass. I called them buttercups, the 3 1/2 year old called them sippy cups. They were neither but labels were not the point.Two warmish sunny days made for afternoons at the beach. One early sunrise, our daughter walked around Tod's Point with us. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone has dyed yarn in the colors of the sunrise - peach, soft yellow, and the most exquisite blue.
Some evenings I knit on a sock while my daughter and son-in-law shuttled three little guys in and out of the tub. As she says, "sand in the tub at the end of the day, means we had a good day." We had six and a half very good days. One evening E. wanted to know what I did with the yarn pieces dangling from the sock. So I showed him how to weave in ends before his bath.

After an all too short week, we boarded a plane with sand in our pockets and hearts full of love. We arrived home to full blown spring complete with blooming lilacs, growing grass, and weeds galore in the perennial flower beds. I wish all of you a heart full of love as you celebrate spring.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shawl Notes

During this gray cool weather, I completed knitting the body and sleeves of the travel cardigan. Next comes wet blocking, then picking up stitches and knitting the
v-neck and button bands. I need to shop for buttons before I tackle the finish work. In the meantime, I pulled out the Schoonheld Shawl. I worked on it a couple of evenings last week and couldn't find a rhythm in the stitches. I made mistakes in the simple lace pattern. Friday evening I tinked back the same few rows twice before setting it aside and picking up a book. Saturday morning, I ripped out the shawl.

Pashima is luxury yarn and I've admired the well written pattern for quite some time. However this combination was a mismatch. Lately process matters as much or more to me than product. Perhaps this shift is part of growing older. Sweaters often require brain power and finishing fortitude. Cowls are fun to knit while mittens retain a classic construction. Socks are full of whimsy, warmth, and fun. Shawls speak to me of peace. They don't have to fit perfectly. The pattern can be simple, complicated, or somewhere in between. They also make lovely gifts for a special sister, friend, or maybe even a stranger.

From time to time I wonder how many shawls a knitter really needs to knit. I have several large sturdy shawls scattered around the house and I wear them often. In the fall and spring, I often tie an asymmetrical shawl around my neck when I run errands, go out for coffee, book group, or church. Recently I wore one on the first day of spring when I attended the funeral of a highly respected colleague, beloved by her family and friends. That afternoon on my walk, I noticed catkins on the birch tree, yellow forsythia on the bottom of a bush, and white fringe in the top of pear trees. Sometimes one needs a shawl, preferably in yarn of some combination of merino, silk, alpaca, or cashmere.

Saturday evening I began knitting the Soft Sunday Shawl. The knitting is delicious and I am making good progress.