Friday, December 2, 2016

Early December

My Christmas knitting is finished. This year I chose fewer gift knit projects and began knitting early in the fall. During the year, I made fingerless mitts from scraps and a few washcloths to stash away as love presents to someone who needs a lift or a thank you.

In other early December news, I sent a "getting ready for Christmas" package to my little grandsons in Connecticut. I bundled up pretzels and dried cranberries for our favorite Rudolph sandwiches, knit mitten ornaments for each one, and cut strips for paper chains. Last year Emmett made a long paper chain and wrapped it around our tree. This year we won't be together so I'm getting creative. I cut strips and started the chains for each of the three boys. I wrote a little message on them. I enclosed two rolls of scotch tape so the six year old and three year old can have their OWN roll of tape. Just what their mother needs this time of year, two boys with yards of sticky tape. The baby doesn't need tape. I haven't completely taken leave of my senses yet.

I wrapped up one other project for the year. This Ramona Cardigan in Montera yarn, a wool/llama blend, (think very warm) has been sitting in a bag since January. I worked on it last winter but didn't enjoy the knitting. I put it away the end of March because it was too warm on my lap. I got it out this fall and put it away again. Last week I knit one more row and realized I really don't want to knit the sweater. The pattern is well written and the sweater fit. However, the yarn was shedding. I didn't notice the shedding while swatching but didn't check either. The weight of all the stitches with heavier yarn hurt my arm/shoulder. I don't wear heavy sweaters nor did I want to figure out how to store this one. So I cut off the current ball of yarn and put half a sweater in a waste basket. When my husband emptied the trash, he pulled it out and set it aside. "Did you really mean to throw his away?" he asked. My answer was a resounding, "Yes, the sweater isn't for me."  The rest of the yarn might make great mittens or slippers. I may knit with it and I may not. For now, I'm returning the yarn to a storage bin - guilt free. Knitting is not a chore.

I am planning a new project or two. I am considering a shawl with a wool cashmere yarn I purchased at a sale two years ago. The yarn won't cause any discomfort and it doesn't shed. I purchased the newly published Singing Beach Cowl. I have several skeins that would work for this pattern. In the meantime, I am joining knitters around the world to knit the Project Peace Cowl. At last count 16,000 knitters had downloaded the pattern. I am not one to join knitting bandwagons but this project appealed to me. Yesterday I cast on the cowl with some yarn from Lake Yarns and Fiber. I've lost the label but I think the yarn is a dk weight. The pattern calls for fingering weight so once again I am making a few changes, fewer stitches and larger sized needles.

The Christmas cactus began blooming Thanksgiving week. It is a little early but rather festive. I'm taking the days as they come. Happy Peaceful December.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Long View

We are home from our Connecticut visit. We had a lovely time and safe travels. As the sun came up on the red-eye flight, I frogged three inches of a sock. I managed to get the stitches of a dark colored yarn back onto the needles without a crochet hook. Whew! I wouldn't want to start a cross country trip without knitting. I arrived home with one sock almost finished. Since it is a Christmas gift, I am not posting a photograph.

We savored the moments with our daughter and family: playing race cars, reading stories, shopping a local farmer's market, attending church, and playing in the park.

We enjoyed trick or treating with three little Waldos. We watched the school Halloween parade and I read to E's kindergarten class on Halloween. The darling little faces on wiggly, excited bodies were delightful, especially since I wasn't the teacher in charge.

Sunday afternoon was warm enough to play on the beach. Another windy day, my daughter and I walked the path around Todd's Point, a Greenwich community treasure.

We came home to November. Yesterday I visited nearby Spring Creek Prairie, a preserve owned and managed by the Audubon Society. Some of the land is original long grass prairie. It was well cared for by a family who donated it to Audubon for future generations. Recently, additional acres have been purchased by Audubon as a buffer to the original site. Parts of the prairie are being reseeded with native grasses. During the first few years of growth, grasses directs their energy underground to the new, extensive root system. Care of the prairie requires a long view.

The day was bright and cool enough for a light jacket. The wetland area has changed a bit with grasses filling in under the footbridge that once spanned water. A few small birds, probably sparrows, flew from the nearby bushes as I crossed the bridge. Perhaps one was a bluebird but the birds were gone in an instant and I went without binoculars. Sometimes it is good to be in a place without naming and labeling. I walked the trails for over an hour. I walked down from a ridge and sat on the ground. Cradled by the land, I listened to the wind, the rustling grass, and a few insect noises that will soon be quiet during the winter. Three times the flapping wings of a large hawk drew my vision up to the bare limbs of trees along a draw on the southern edge of the prairie.

At home, I am finishing the second Christmas sock, trying to remember the long view. Thanks to Becky for reminding me that we live locally. I hope that together we can make a difference. Welcome to wool sock weather.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Home to Autumn

We arrived home safely from a week-long road trip. We drove to Kansas City and picked up our daughter and her youngest son at the airport. We loved spending two days with them and taking care of the baby while she taught a short workshop. I gave this youngest grandson his pumpkin hat in Kansas City and it fit. I knit a toddler size for this nine month old. Next year he will need a bigger hat.

After we put them on the plane, we drove to Fort Worth to see our son and family. Despite the hurricane on the East Coast, the weather in the middle of the country was lovely. Our son and daughter-in-law welcomed us with a Texas style barbecue. We toured the 6th Floor Museum and the Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. We also took in our oldest grandson's 7th grade football game. When we left Fort Worth, the 6:00 a.m. temperature was 76 degrees. We wore lightweight clothing and sandals. Silly us. Somewhere in Oklahoma the temperature began to drop. By the time we stopped in southern Kansas, the outdoor temperature was 56 degrees. During the drive north, the temperature kept falling. At noon, we picked up more coffee, pulled on jackets, and arrived home at 6:00 p.m. for the first local frost.

We drove many miles safely and spent time with dear ones and for that we are thankful. I drove two short spells but had plenty of knitting time. First I finished a pair of ankle socks. I wondered if I'd like to wear them on cool mornings or give them as gifts. Since they were an experiment, I used scraps and a vanilla sock pattern. On the second leg of the trip, somewhere between Kansas City and Oklahoma, I wove in ends and cast on another pair of socks. On the long day home, I pulled these shorties out of my bag and put them on for warmth. I like them.

When we left, the trees in our neighborhood were mostly green. Now we are home, home to autumn. I plan to finish drying herbs, pull out frosted tomato plants, and begin Christmas gift knitting. Thank goodness for knitting. Knitting, walking, and poetry are going to get me through the last few weeks of the national election. I'm off to put on a pot of soup. Enjoy October.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Changing Seasons

Although the Farmer's Market is rich with tomatoes, eggplant, and watermelon, last night's full moon rose earlier. Light shifts toward autumn as the heat begins to relent. Evenings, I brew a cup of hot tea before I sit down to knit. Autumn is my favorite season. I am ready for the flavors of butternut squash, apple, pumpkin, ginger, and cinnamon as well as long walks among the changing colors.

Two of our four grandsons have begun new school years. The seventh grader attends school in Texas and is busy with sports, orchestra, and the Civil Air Patrol where he learns about flight. The next youngest grandson is a big kindergartener in Connecticut. He is meeting new friends and learning about the ocean. Our daughter and son-in-law took advantage of a wonderful opportunity and moved to the East Coast.

As we travel this Fall to visit both families, we will share new experiences with them. Meanwhile, thank goodness for technology and snail mail. We play the little boys' favorite game of hide and seek via Where's Waldo postcards. As is my custom, I sent a book as a birthday present. I chose Fall Walk, a story about a Grammy and a grandchild taking a walk to identify leaves from various trees. This past summer, the little boys and I enjoyed this book, sitting together on the couch. Now we will read it over Face Time. My local library has a great selection of children's book so with a little planning, I can check out the books the boys have in their home and we can read them together. While distance in miles changes, distance between hearts remains the same.

Other things also remain the same. Wherever they live, boys grow. If they live in cold climates, they need warm hats. I can knit hats. Dashing through my local yarn shop, I thought the color of this fingering weight yarn would make a cute pumpkin hat. So I bought the yarn and started a hat for my youngest grandson. At seven months, he will not be able to scoff at being cast as a sweet little pumpkin. Most patterns for the vegetable and fruit hats are knit in worsted weight so I am making up a pattern for this lighter weight yarn. Whether these boys live across town or the country, knitting a hat that fits is a gamble. I'll be finished shortly and that is a good thing. This hat won't fit anyone next year.

Wherever you are, I hope the change of season is full of possibilities. Happy Autumn.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Some of my projects take longer than others. This bright crazy Apron Strings Quilt has been in progress since 1995. Some years I put the box away and worked on other handwork. I may not work quickly but I am persistent. This past weekend, I sewed the last stitches of the binding.

My copy of the Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, circa 1980, that published the pattern is long gone. As I recall, there was a line drawing of a block without any specific instructions for overall design. No matter, I began piecing scraps. I sewed the four patches and half square triangles by machine and then hand stitched the four units into blocks. About midway through piecing, I decided to arrange small squares of the four patches so the colors marched diagonally across the quilt. I numbered the color combinations, made a diagram, and pieced accordingly. I sewed rows of blocks together by hand and sewed rows together by machine. After finishing the top, I cobbled together a backing from large leftover pieces of fabric with parts of a quilt that never fit together.

Most of the scraps in the quilt come from other sewing projects and quilts. Several blocks contain a red, white, and blue print from a quilt my Mom made for our son. She pieced an Ohio Star crib quilt for him in 1981-1982. Other scraps come from a good teacher friend, now in her 80's. On the first day of a teaching assignment, I walked by her first grade classroom. She was reading the picture book, Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt to her class. At the end of the day, I introduced myself and we have been friends ever since. I pieced blocks on a trip my daughter and I took to commemorate her 21st birthday and my 50th birthday. My mother and I sat in the shade at Mahoney State Park as I stitched on blocks and she worked on counted cross stitch. Our extended family was together celebrating my parents' forty-fifth anniversary with my siblings and families.

This summer I took the quilt to a woman who does beautiful machine quilting. The drive out to her old gracious farmhouse is part of finished the quilt. After she finished, I sewed scraps together to make the binding. Two long pieces of binding are leftover from a quilt I made for my daughter when she was five years old. The day I finished stitching the binding, our son and oldest grandson arrived for the weekend. My husband joined them as A. attended his first Nebraska football game. The next morning, he helped me hold the quilt over the railing for a photo.

Lives and quilts stitched from pieces and memories are so very good.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Following a Thread

Years ago I claimed one corner of the family room as a sewing corner. I hung a few things on the wall, including a counted thread pattern that came from my paternal grandmother. I put the yellowed newsprint in an inexpensive frame and never thought much more about it. The other day I took it down while dusting and found a story. My grandparents lost a farm during the Depression and my grandfather died around 1940. Though it all my grandmother raised three healthy children. She was loving, kind, and very frugal. She used a magnifying glass to count stitches in photos of needlework so she could stitch the design without buying the pattern. When I looked carefully at this pattern, I found numbers Grandma had penciled near the embroidery key.

This pattern was written in German and published by the J. Wiehller Company of Berlin. The title, "Dumpfaffen" means "old world finch." The color key directs the birds be stitched in red, gray, and browns, making them similar to the purple finches in my yard. I began to wonder if Grandma inherited the pattern from her mother, Agatha. Grandma didn't buy many patterns. Perhaps my great grandmother brought it to Nebraska when she immigrated from Prussia in the late 1800's. She was 18 or 19 years old when she came with her parents. 

I gave up dusting and searched for notes I made while having a conversation with my aunt and two of her cousins, three Agatha's granddaughters. They have passed away so I can't ask them about this pattern. However my notes reminded me that Agatha learned advanced sewing skills and hat trimming while still in Prussia. She stayed in Marienburg, away from her family, for six weeks to learn those skills. Rumor has it that while she was there, she pierced her ears and learned to dance, quite a statement by a young Mennonite girl in Prussia. These ladies were quick to add that these were only rumors and no one knew for sure if they were true. Regardless, my great grandmother liked to make things. She also loved music and composed at least one piano piece. Her four sons sang as a quartet. Her daughters pooled money to buy a piano for the family. The three ladies I visited with remembered Agatha often sang to her grandchildren as I sing to mine. As a purple finch lands on the bird feeder, I wonder if Agatha liked to watch the birds. 

I am a saver of old family stuff. Sometimes I look around and wonder why I save it. I want my children to take only things they want. Stuff accumulates, makes clutter, and takes up space. For me, the stories that go with the stuff are more important. I am writing some of the stories and putting them in a notebook. They won't take up much space. As I followed the thread of this story, I finished a shawl. Maybe I'll dust another day. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pickle Time

The summer temps are soaring, the humidity is high, and the cucumber vines are producing abundantly. Two hills, each with eight seeds, are vining up and over the raised beds. The cucumbers play hide and seek with my grandson as he exclaims with glee at spying the biggest and pokiest.

When family and friends refuse to take more, I make what our family calls "bread and butter pickles." Now I wonder if anyone ever ate them with bread and butter. Really, they are better in potato or egg salad. I use a recipe my Mom found in the red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens looseleaf cookbook. My version of this cookbook was published in 1973. The edges and spine are worn and the pages with favorite recipes have smudges from frequent use.

The pickle ingredients are basic: sliced cucumbers, green peppers, and onion. Cover the sliced vegetables with pickling salt and ice and let sit for 3 hours. Then turn on some kitchen music and wash jars. Sing as you drain and combine the veggies with cider vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed. Bring to a boil, put in clean hot jars, screw on lids, and water bath for five minutes. Change the CD and sing with gusto as you clean-up the mess. These pickles aren't hard to make but it does take a good portion of the day. Singing helps pass the time. Mom and I made these without a food processor. We sliced the vegetables by hand, sometimes scraping knuckles or fingers. How fortunate I am to have a food processor for pickles, pesto, garlic, nuts, and other kinds of chopping.

In other garden notes, the basil tastes great while the tomatoes are late in setting on fruit. The healthiest tomato plant is growing out of the compost bins. I think this plant must be from cherry or grape tomato scraps tossed in during early spring. I'm not sure how I'll get in to harvest any tomatoes but I enjoy watching them grow. It is always fun when a plant pops up at the edge of the compost bin.

I'm knitting on a pair of socks and cast on a shawl in a pattern I've wanted to try for some time. I'm pondering my next project from yarn that has been in a storage tote for a long time. The worsted yarn project requires cooler days and a little math. Take good care of yourself and others on these hot crazy summer days.