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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Robin's Wing

Even as the weather swings from warm to windy to rain to snow, spring is around the closet corner. Yesterday the wind blew a gale. The sandhill cranes arrive along the Platte River. This is March in Nebraska.

In knitting news, I cast on two pair of socks, one vanilla pair for take along/social knitting and another called Sunday Morning Socks. I purchased the pattern last December during the Indie Gift Along sale on Ravelry. I am enjoying knitting on the Travel Cardigan. I finally found the rhythm between the yarn and needles. More often than not, staying with a project makes that happen, at least for me.

A few weeks ago on a cold day, I was out walking and found a robin's wing. The beautiful wing was just as it had lain on the bird's body. I saw no other tissue, blood, or feathers in the area. The gray top feathers lay in a cross wise pattern with less than an 1/8 inch of space between them. Both space and feathers insulate a bird from cold and heat. They also allow air to flow through and lift it in flight. Elegant shape and construction protect a bird and allow it freedom. Only this time, neither had been enough.

I pulled a tissue from my pocket and used it to turn the wing over. An outer rim of rust colored down was visible on the underside of the wing. The bone had snapped off cleanly, leaving only a faint hint of blood in the joint. Using the tissue, I picked up the wing with my mittened hand to carry it home. I wanted to look more closely and perhaps save a feather or two. I held the tissue-wrapped wing gently. Several times I looked to make sure it was still in my hand. At home I stooped to lay the wing on my porch in order to unlock the front door. Somewhere, the wing had slipped from my hand and I held only the tissue.

I retraced the last block of my walk. Not finding the wing, I returned home. I never saw it again. Maybe it decomposed in the grass or was picked apart to line a nest. Maybe some drop of fluid in the joint, a bit of bone morrow, or even a morsel of flesh under the rust down sustained a small animal. I hope the wing became part of the natural order of the earth.

As I prepared our evening meal, I glanced out the window to see five or six robins sitting in a tree. Robins winter here so seeing one or two in February is not unusual. Flocks are more common later in March. I nodded to the robins and wished them a safe evening. Then I watched one of the last sunsets of the season.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stitching Away the Winter

Today the sky is blue and temps are predicted to reach 70 degrees. These are mighty warm February days in Nebraska. Currently, I am ignoring the icon on my phone that predicts snow on Friday. This winter Lincoln has been the edge of most storms. A little snow would bring welcome moisture and melt quickly. In the meantime, I am stitching away the brown landscape.

I have more than my usual number of projects in process. Perhaps this warmish brown winter combined with the unsettled time in which we live has something to do with the fits and starts in my projects. Most evenings I work on blocks for little J's Christmas quilt before I pick up my knitting. This is the third incarnation of this quilt so once I cut the white fabric and gathered Christmas prints on hand, the prep is easy. Most of the patterns are together in a file folder. When I finish one block, I prep the next. The variety carries me along. I am finding the embroidery quite peaceful.

I finally finished the green, and I do mean green, socks. The yarn has a lovely hand but the colors were prettier in the skein. Now when I am tempted to buy a skein of yarn, I search Ravelry for projects in the same color way. To date I've saved my stash from six new skeins of yarn. I'm sure the colors are beautiful to someone and that is wonderful. I plan one more tweak on the heel flap in another pair but otherwise I've developed a good recipe for a well fitting sock. Travel knitting here I come. We stayed home during the winter but this spring we are so looking forward to visiting our children.

In other winter stitching, I hit a snag in the length of the raglan line on the Travel Cardigan. Since I'm getting the correct gauges in both stitches and rows, I must have misread the pattern. I ripped out the same eight rows three times. Finally I put the stitches on waste yarn, tried the sweater on, and measured it against another hand knit raglan sweater that fits and planned the rest of the increases. I hope I am back on track as I'd love to wear it traveling. The shells in the dish in the sweater photo came from Todd's Point on Long Island Sound and I look forward to walking that trail and beach with my daughter and her family. A bassoon playing grandson in Fort Worth, Texas also calls to us.

Wherever you are, I hope you are finding peace in these last few winter days.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Now It Is February

Some early afternoons when the sun is shining, I take up my knitting and sit in my Great Grandmother's chair in front of a tall window with a southern exposure. While the sun warms my back, I watch the light play with color and shades in the yarn. Light also highlights shadows among the texture. Fifteen or twenty minutes is a nice break in the day.  

I finished the hat and mitten sets for my grandsons and sent them off in a Valentine's Day package. Although I have two other projects on the needles, I returned to these socks. Vanilla socks are comfort knitting.

I bought the skein because I thought the colors were so pretty together. I am not as pleased with the colors as they display in the fabric. Still, the yarn has a lovely hand and who am I to argue with green socks in January. My goal is to create a snug ribbed vanilla sock pattern for my narrow foot. The customary sixty-four stitches in many patterns is too wide while the smaller size of fifty-six stitches is too small. I am knitting a version of a broken rib stitch on a circumference of sixty stitches. The repeat goes like this. Row One: Knit 4, Purl 2. Row Two: Knit. I may try a slightly shorter heel flap on the second sock to see if it fits better.    

I'm reading Upstream, a book of essays by the well known poet, Mary Oliver. She writes prose with a marvelous elegance of language and reverence for natural world. Upstream collects a few new essays with those previously published. Even though I have read many of these pieces, I find something new on each page. Light shines from her writing as well as the cover art.

Now it is February and the quality of natural light begins to shift. Dawn and dusk change while the cycle of seasons remains constant. As we turn toward Spring, I mean to savor the last orange and lavender streaks of winter sunsets.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Early on Sunday afternoon a 24 hour rain began to fall. The temperature hovered at 33 degrees creating an ice covered landscape. By Tuesday the sun shone on a dazzling 27 degree day. Today promises to be warmer. I've been knitting mittens. I drank hot tea and imagined joining hands with generations of knitters, including my grandmothers.  

Our six year old grandson needs a bigger hat/mitten set. Although the three year old could wear the hand-me-downs, I won't send a set for one without including the other so I am in for two hat mitten sets. While I wait for the charcoal gray yarn for the six year old's set to arrive, I cast on mittens for the three year old. I like the recipe from Ann Budd's, "The Knitter's Book of Handy Patterns as it is a both/and mitten; no left or right. Kids can pull them on either hand as they run out the door. The first pair looked too big for M. so I cast on another, the next size down. Someone somewhere will need warm hands.  

Last week I knit these Align Mitts for my niece. She had admired the mitts I made from the same pink yarn for her Mom. This is another both/and pattern. Left/right mittens have their place, especially when they are designed with cables or stranded color work and I enjoy knitting those too. Left and right, right or left, mittens keep and extend warm hands. Either way the best mittens are those knit by hand.

The ice is melting. I can hear it falling from the birch outside my window. I am going to find my old warm mittens and go for a walk. While walking, I try to imagine stories and conversations of both/and instead of either/or. When I come home I'll have a cup of tea and finish the fourth mitten.