Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January Magic

We have had a few foggy nights and frosty January mornings, the ones when the moisture forms soft hoar frost. These mornings carry a bit of magic. Monday the frost was visible until early afternoon. Speaking of magic, my new iPhone phone arrived on January 9, one month, six days, and four phone calls after Apple agreed to send a replacement. Automation may be efficient but it is hard to correct. Thank you for your kind words. I continue to receive an email every weekday stating my order has been delayed by another day. I called one more time to report this but am now done waiting "on hold for the next available Apple advisor." "Egad and little fishhooks," as my grandmother used to say.

I prefer to play with the color and yarn in this shawl. I try a color and then think another combination would be better so I rip out a few rows and try something else. Colors in skeins take on a different appearance when knitted next to each other. This shawl has given me new respect for pattern designers who knit and reknit many stitches to arrive at designs. Jonah and I are enjoying this version of The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth. After the little boy loses his mitten and the animals explode it into red spaghetti in the snow, the grandmother knits him another, because she loves him. One cold fall day, Jonah told his Mom "it is time to order my Grammy mittens." Love is the true magic in knitted stitches. 

My nephew and his partner are expecting a new baby so I cast on a baby sweater. My gauge is different from the one suggested in both the pattern and the yarn label so I knit a small swatch. If you ask me, the sizing in baby sweaters is not like magic. It varies quite a bit from pattern to pattern. Looking at the neck ribbing, I wonder if it will stretch over the head of a six - twelve month old. I may start over with the next bigger size - at least for ribbing. Babies have big heads.

I am reading Educated by Tara Westover. This tough story is well written but hard to read. I will finish it because I want to know how this woman survived her growing up. I read The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. This madcap literary adventure is a light enjoyable read. The heroine, a descendent of the Brontes, is funny and irreverent with some interesting opinions about the Bronte family. It may not be for everyone but it was a nice contrast with Educated and other heavy fiction now available.  

The wind has pushed away the gray skies. The sun is out and the walks are dry. I am linking to Kat and the Unravelers. Then I am going out to walk before the ice and bitter cold return. May your making, whatever it is, bring you a little bit of magic.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Ordinary Days

Hello. This January morning the sun is out and the breeze is picking up. Mild temperatures make for good brisk walks, quite welcome after the cookie extravaganza of the holidays. I am working on a thorough dusting and cleaning around the house as I savor these ordinary days. Routine and order comforts me as I search for the peace of January. I look for it while walking a trail, watching the downy woodpecker at the suet feeder, and memorizing a winter sunset. For many reasons, peace feels elusive these days. 

Thank goodness for knitting as I vow never to order from Apple Online again. As the wisdom goes, we can't always choose what happens to us but we do choose our response to it. Knitting is as good a response as anything else. On December 3  I received a defective iPhone. Since then I have been trying to sort out and receive the replacement. Apple online shopping is just too automated for common sense. Cross your fingers, the phone arrives today. One more time, raise your needles and repeat after me - more often than not, shopping locally is the best policy.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I have a little unraveling to report. The third or fourth time is the charm for some yarn I bought last June in Connecticut. I tried to knit this shawl into a pattern called Afetos but the lace defeated me. I used stitch markers, I color coded the chart, I added a lifeline, and I tried knitting from both the chart and written instructions. I looked for errata (there was none) so the errors were mine. I wonder if the lace symbols were different from other designs I have knit. Regardless my brain wasn't computing and tinking out lace over and over is not my idea of a good challenge or peaceful knitting. My favorite shawls have a boomerang shape and are knit from scraps, striping in colors and adding eyelets with reckless abandon. I decided to create one of those shawls from a pattern I've knit previously. I don't know if I will follow it exactly or add on some other type of lace border. If I don't use every inch of this lovely yarn, I'll have some leftover for another project and it won't have been shredded by constant frogging.

I also cast on a cowl as an easy carry around project. The lavender yarn was leftover from a pair of mitts. Sometime last Spring I bought two more skeins (gray and blue) of the same yarn in order to knit a matching cowl. This is a good knit for January. 

Currently, I am reading several books including Fever. This historical fiction novel is based on the life of Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary. The hysteria and the way she was treated as a poor woman and Irish immigrant is an interesting story. Sometimes I wonder how much the progress we have made in attitudes toward immigrants. I have just begun Educated as our next month's book group selection so I don't have an opinion - yet. Rarely am I short an opinion (as my husband will tell you) so more on Educated later. 

My son sent me the link to an online newsletter called, "The New Paper." The news is delivered once a day as short bullet points with links if you want more information. The newsletter aims to send factual news without sensationalism and opinion. It is one way to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed or like I've stuck my head in the sand to avoid anxiety. It isn't my exclusive source for news but I do appreciate the clarity.

I am off to fold up the Christmas quilt on the coffee table. It is the last of the holiday decor to be put away. My sister made it years ago. I love the angels quilted into the corners and the crisp points of the compass in the center. She is as dear as angel that is for sure.

Where ever your knitting or reading takes you, I wish you peace this January.

P.S. I have had a few spam like comments in the comments. Currently I delete them as soon as I know they have popped up. I hope to find a better solution soon.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year

In January 2019 I wrote, "I choose wonder instead of worry." The magic of wonder certainly enhanced my thinking and writing but I did not worry less. Life happens and it isn't contained in ideas of either/or. Both/and makes more sense to me. I am a worrier and a wonderer. Perhaps my best lesson is to honor both the worry and wonder. Both are part of who I am. The wonder might be to try and hold them at the same time.

This year, I choose tender. Somewhere I heard of The Tenderness Project and became intrigued with the word "tender." This project defines tender: to care, to be sensitive, to tend, to exchange. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as an adjective, a verb, and a noun. The word has several origins that led to different parts of speech. What is my "tender?" What do I offer myself and others in gentle exchange? As I carry wonder into the New Year with other chosen words (understand, imagine, light), I look forward to tender. The old ones echo through my days while this new one promises possibility.

Because it is Unraveled Wednesday (thank you Kat for continuing to host), I'll post about this shawl. I finished the knitting on Christmas evening and last night I wove in the ends. Chickadee yarn from Quince is one of my favorite yarns. It isn't fancy but will be warmer than a fingering weight shawl. I knit this shawl with leftovers from two different sweaters and enjoyed making with what I had on hand. Mostly I let knitting take me where it will, just enjoying the process. This year I may try to knit one project in each of group of WIPS from scraps and/or leftovers. Now and then a limited parameter challenges my creativity.

Joy Harjo was named the U.S. poet laureate in June 2019. Since I hadn't read much of her work, I ordered one of her earlier books, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. At the end of each prose poem, she wrote a few notes about the inspiration and her beliefs about each poem. These notes help me understand her beautiful complex writing. Themes in her poems are social justice, myths, southwest US, and jazz. Harjo was born in Oklahoma and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. In the last few years, whoever has chosen the poet laureate has chosen well. Harjo follows Tracy K. Smith, another remarkable poet. 

The sky is bright this New Year's Day and I am determined to bundle up and take a walk. The wind is blowing in the new decade. Let's hope it is a wind carrying change. Here's to a slender thread of hope in 2020.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Knitting Journals

Hello. I hope you are enjoying the after glow of Christmas. I love these days between Christmas and New Year's when the kitchen is full of leftovers and the Christmas mugs are out on the counter. Today the sky is heavy with gray clouds and the air is damp. The forecast is for precipitation of some variety and the birds are feeding like crazy - even a white breasted nuthatch. After I post this, I plan to make a cup of hot tea and thumb through several new books.

Juliann asked me to write about my knitting journal so here I am with my less than glamorous record keeping and probably more than you want to know. I am not a scrapbooker, nor do I keep a bullet journal but I do like journals and notebooks. In the 1990's and early 2000's, I kept a quilting and knitting record in a Steno notebook. As I spent less time quilting and more knitting, I began taping yarn labels into the back pages. In 2014, I created the first of three knitting journals from a half-sized notebook. I have used the same methods in all three. The current notebook has an envelope inside the front cover where I stash labels until I have time to tape them on to a page and write accompanying notes.

I divide the notebooks into two sections. Under the first tab divider, I keep track of projects. If I have it, I tape in a label and jot down needle size, pattern name, and date of the finished project. Additional details go on Ravelry. The "Notes" paper is a little heavier than generic lined filler paper. I used to buy it at Office Max in the section with papers for my work planner. I don't know if it is still available but I am about to find out as have come to the end of leftovers from my work days.

In the second section, I keep notes on a few techniques, like knitting without a cable needle, so I don't have to look them up on websites. Interestingly, the more I knit, the more techniques I memorize so I need these notes less often. This section also contains a page with measurements and/or sizes for gift recipients, for example the length of sock foot for my daughter. When these notebooks fill up and they do because yarn labels take up space, I transfer the second section into a new notebook.

I used to keep a yearly count of yardage of yarn in and out. Yardage out was a combination of yarn knitted into projects and skeins donated to a new home. Yarn in was the yarn I purchased. It was interesting to track that information and prompted me to make some changes in the way I buy yarn. Last year, I decided I didn't care about the numbers so I quit keeping that record. It took up time that I'd rather use for something else.

Last winter I added a second journal. When I ordered it, I did not realize it had lined, unlined, and graphed pages so I decided to use it for knitting. Why have one journal when you can have two? It has become a workbook for knitting without a pattern. Last summer, I used it when I knit the lace scarf by choosing stitch patterns from a stitch dictionary. I also charted a lace pattern for a shawl that I later abandoned.

In both journals, I found lists for possible projects. I knit about 50% of these ideas. This doesn't bother me in the least because knitting is one area of my life I choose not to be bound by hard and fast rules. I store both journals in the end table next to my favorite knitting spot on the loveseat where they are handy.

Thank you Juliann for prompting this trip down memory lane. What about you? If you journal about your knitting, what works for you?

On this Thursday, I link with Kat and the Unravelers because these journals keep my knitting life from unraveling.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A New Season

Happy Winter Solstice. Although light will be in short supply today, the sun streams in my windows. Today is as good a day as any to begin a new season.

Everyday Miracles *
December 2019

Orange berries feed the robin.
Leaves release Autumn's grace.

Junco returns to bare branch,
fragile nest visible once more.

Chickadees fluff against the cold.
Light and shadow dust early snow.

Come, let's walk together. Step
by step, shoulder to shoulder.

Hand by hand, heart by heart, let's
craft a new season of hope and love.

*I sent this poem out in my Christmas cards and now I share it here. Please respect my copyright.
Copyright 2019 - Jane A. Wolfe

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Week Before Christmas

Tis the week before Christmas and all through the house, the knitter is not knitting not even a mouse. However I am dreaming about the next projects. My sister and I spent a day together last week and visited Knit.Paper.Scissors, a local yarn shop. I picked up this skein of Rowan Felted Tweed. I plan to knit something in the round to see what kind of gauge and fabric it produces. It comes in many beautiful colors.

Yesterday I baked pistachio shortbread. The drizzled white chocolate and chopped nuts made a delicious mess. The recipe suggests cutting the shortbread with a fluted pastry cutter, a gadget I don't own. Thinking dough is like doh (flour, salt minus dye) I used a clean playdoh cutter but it wasn't sharp enough. So much for my clever work around. The cookies have unique shapes. As a friend once said, "presentation is not a strength." They taste good though. Baking is one of my favorite holiday preparations so I am grateful for the baking time this week. When I was working, the holidays often went by in a blur. Chocolate cappuccino slices and Gram's Spritz round out my list. Maybe I'll try one new to me recipe. I usually take a small cookie plate to a few neighbors.

I knit a few rows on the textured shawl but not enough to photograph. I did finish the autumn socks. They are a nice addition to my sock drawer. The alpaca, merino, nylon combination is warm and long wearing. Ribbed socks from this yarn (five pairs over the last decade) do not lose their shape anymore than any other of my hand knit socks. Classic Elite yarns has gone out of business so this is the last pair I will knit from this yarn. I think Personal Threads in Omaha may still have some stock but I am determined to knit the last three untouched skeins of sock yarn into socks before buying more. No worries about running low in a snowstorm as I have plenty of leftover scraps of sock yarn!

I read Island of the Mad, a Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery by Laurie King. Although the story includes some interesting history about Venice Italy, I enjoyed it less than others in the series. The plot didn't take off until midpoint in the story, or so it seemed to me. I am rereading Where The Crawdads Sing and loving it. I find rereading a way to notice more detail and think differently about a book. In this case, I'm not sure if the difference is the format (audio versus hard copy) or that I slow down to savor the prose because I am not reading to figure out the ending. Perhaps some of both. This book is the January selection in my local book group. The group discussion will be an added bonus.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I wish you the hope and peace of a gentle holiday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Good morning. The sky is bright and the blue jays' feathers are ever so blue as they reflect the sunlight. The outdoor temperature is cold. I am sitting in the living room with my wool-clad feet in a patch of warm sunshine. The sun streams in our rather streaked windows. My husband fell once this fall and required stitches. He is fine but we are not climbing extension ladders to wash windows. Next Spring I will hire someone to do the job.

This morning I left my shopping and errand list on the counter to make space for a few deep breaths. Today and the past few days brought annoyances, all of them minor. The dishwasher can be repaired and the bungled return of a new but defective iPhone will eventually sort itself out. I can return two skeins of yarn because they have little red dye specks that don't belong on the solid neutral color. I can reprint the ink edged pages of the little chap books I am making. If the Christmas boxes are mailed tomorrow instead of today, they will arrive in time and my life is still darn good. Next week I will bake cookies, one of my favorite parts of the season. Breathe. Perspective and gratitude for resources to put things right are the keys and, for me, so is knitting.

After blocking, I wove in the ends of this sweater. It fits and I like it. When knitting a top-down raglan, I often think the raglan line isn't long enough and adjust. I may have added a few too many rows to this sweater as I have a little extra fabric under the arms. I made a note in my knitting notebook for future raglans. I don't dislike the sweater enough to shorten the yoke and reknit the body and sleeves. I made it to wear like a warm cozy sweatshirt and it fits the bill. I love the color and overall I am pleased with it.

I am enjoying these socks. Breathe. Knit. Breathe. Watching the colors pool just a bit over the heel flap and gusset is fun. This kind of pooling in socks doesn't bother me. While knitting, I listen to The Dutch House. I hope the book lasts for the rest of this second sock. The audiobook was worth the Overdrive wait. Sometimes a family story set in contemporary time becomes overwrought with drama but (I think) Patchett writes real characters. They are not perfect but not overdone with angst. Tom Hanks as narrator is just right.

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers, I hope you are enjoying your holiday preparations. All together - breathe. Breathe again. All is well.