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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Yesterday I walked a bit in mist and the brown landscape. Our area has not received much snow so walking is easier but I miss the peaceful quiet of a snowy January. I came home from my walk resolved to fix a color mistake in this scrap afghan. Last winter I began this project with oatmeal colored yarn that never became a sweater and added some coordinating colors. I set the afghan aside when it was too warm to knit with a lap full of wool. Late this autumn, I pulled out the basket of yarn hoping to knit a color repeat four or five times a week. Last month, the project stalled. I knit on, ignoring the small voice in my head telling me to reconsider the orange. Instead I kept knitting, thinking the other colors would eventually balance the garish orange.

Yesterday I took a deep breath and decided to cut out the orange. The worst that could have happened was that I would have to re-knit all the rows above the stripe. It's all knitting right? I cut carefully on the wrong side and pulled out the pieces of orange. Then I put the pieces back on smaller sized needles to avoid pulling out live stitches and kitchenered the afghan together. The invisible weave is between the second and third oatmeal stripe. I'll be picking up orange fuzz for a few more days but I got the project back together. I cut my knitting and I survived. Imagine.

After four or so false starts, I cast on a Schoonheid Shawl. I'm adding a seed stitch border on both sides to prevent rolling. The yarn has been in my stash for two years. I decided to knit with it instead of saving it forever. Imagine.

I've been thinking about a word/theme to carry into the new year. This year my word is "Imagine." I like the idea of thinking, creating, and forming an idea in my mind. Related words like imagination and image are also intriguing. An image can be a portrait, a figure, representation, or a reflection. Imagine and simulate have related word origins. Isn't it interesting that to simulate means to imitate something and imagine means to form a mental image? To use part of a well worn quote by Arthur Ward, "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it." Imagine the creative solutions we can devise in 2017. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Wrap Up

When last I posted, I was working on the Peace Cowl. I enjoyed the project very much and finished a few days before the end date of December 21. I have another skein of the yarn and may knit some mittens to match. I plan to donate the cowl to another woman in the New Year. I am trying to finish a pair of 2016 socks but they are dealing me a fit. I have knit the second heel twice and it needs to be ripped out again. Perhaps my mind has been on other things or perhaps it is time for me to learn a new technique for knitting heels. I knit socks with a traditional heel flap, turn, and gusset because that is the way I learned to knit socks. I am going to purchase Susan B. Anderson's pattern, Smooth Operator Socks, for her detailed well written instructions for an afterthought heel.

We celebrated a quieter Christmas season this year. While we missed our children and their families, we found other joys this season. Since I enjoy baking cookies, I baked old favorites like Gram's spritz and my sister's peppermint brownies. I tried a more labor intensive cookie recipe I've always wanted to bake. The Raspberry Linzer Cookies, more like a pastry than a cookie, were pretty and tasty. I gave cookies to neighbors and friends. We also have plenty in the freezer for another day. I decorated a small tree in the dining room with cookie cutters (something else I've always wanted to do) and German stars that were once a gift from my sister. I read a Cather novel, Shadows On The Rock. This lovely story follows a young girl and her father through a year in Quebec in the late 1700's. The girl with a devout faith is very resourceful and the relationship between father and daughter is quite touching. In a Christmas scene, a young ragamuffin of a boy, who the pair have befriended, brings a hand carved beaver for a creche sent to the girl from an aunt in France. Cather's description of ordinary and simple events is beautiful and peaceful.

Currently, I'm pondering some knitting projects and a Christmas Quilt for the new year. Three grandsons have Christmas quilts so I need to get started on one for the fourth little guy. This year he is still in his crib but next year will be a different story. I am also considering a word to adopt as my intention for 2017. In the meantime, I plan to finish a few New Year's greetings and enjoy the last days of December.