Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Ah January

On this last Wednesday of January, the day is cold, gray, and windy. A little red-breasted nuthatch huddles in the crotch of two birch limbs. The sidewalks are clear of ice and snow and I could walk this afternoon. I have plenty of wool layers and my sensible self knows I feel better when I get out and walk. The self with creaky joints would prefer to stay inside where it is warm. I am not as intrepid as in my earlier years. Ah, January. 

Today is Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and company. I'm making slow steady progress on my gray sweater. I like the nubby tweedy texture of the yarn. Evenings I try to knit at least an inch. If I am not tired of gray, I knit more. When I need a brighter color, I knit on this scarf. The pattern designer wrote the texture is good for variegated yarn. My handspun fits the bill as the rose/pink yarn is wildly tonal. The periwinkle with rose is variegated. I love knitting on the scarf. The handspun has a springy quality to it and the thick and thin width of yarn from the rose/pink braid plays well in the textured stitch. This texture would make a great wash cloth. No doubt some creative knitter has already thought of this. It's a nice little free pattern. 

I am decreasing gusset stitches on the second sock. I pull out this project when I have ten more minutes on a pot of soup or five minutes before leaving for an appointment. On Saturday evening, I turned the heel and began gusset decreases in my prime knitting time. Heel turning goes best in one sitting. I don't know about other knitters but I find striped socks almost knit themselves. 

As for reading, I'm reading Time After Time, a light story set from the 1930's - post World War II in Grand Central Station in NYC. The romance between the two main characters requires magical realism with a touch of pseudo-science. It's a fun read. The history of Grand Central Station is interesting. I just began The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. I'm sure I'm in for a good story. 

The second bud on the amaryllis is blooming. It's beautiful and a nice contrast to the January weather. The sunsets are also gorgeous. I hope you are finding bright spots in your week. 

Ravelry Links

Striped Pullover

Handspun Scarf

Solstice Socks


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Snow Day

Hello on this dark day of wintry mix. The birch outside my window looks like a Christmas card with downy woodpecker, chickadee, white and red breasted nuthatches, cardinals, blue jay, and house finches fueling up for this wet day. The cardinals have ice crystals on their tails but don't seem to shake them off. The top of the feeder is coated with ice and the wintry mix splats against the window. A cardinal perched on the window ledge with the red crest just visible at the bottom of the window. To heck with dust and paperwork, I declare this a snow day. I hope we get the moisture predicted. I'd love to see some snow but a freezing rain is falling. 

Today is Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and and friends. I'm humming along on the gray sweater. I knit the third stripe, separated the sleeves from the body, and knit another two inches. Over the weekend I arrived at the moment of truth, I tried it on and it fits. So now it's gray stockinette round and round. In today's stormy light, the sweater looks even darker gray. It's pretty but I'm going to need a progress keeper on the sweater and some color in another piece of knitting. 

I finished the first sock of the Winter Solstice pair and cast on the second one. Whether my book group meets in person or on Zoom this evening (depends on the weather) I hope to make some progress down the leg of this sock during the discussion. 

I plied the second skein of the Greenwood Fiberarts BFL. Now I have two generous bouncy skeins for a future project. The skeins are full of possibilities. 

I am reading Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo. This second memoir by Harjo is part poetry and part prose. I am about a third of the way into this beautiful book. Harjo's writing is lyrical and brave. She doesn't shy away from the difficult events of her early life. Her insight into relationships and the story of her growing up to become poet makes for thoughtful reading. I am reading slowly in order to savor the book. I am also reading When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson. This story set in Iraq is suspenseful in a way that is almost too real. Three women, living in Baghdad are navigating friendship while keeping their families safe. It's a chilling story of our time and I can't read it before bed. I almost gave up but descriptions of Iraq when the country was more stable keep me going. This afternoon I may skip to the end to check on the characters and then decide whether to read the entire book. Every now and then I do this. Have you ever skipped to the end?

I am off to make a grocery list for tomorrow and then tuck in with my knitting. I hope to avoid baking a warm pan of something but I fear that resistance is futile. An outdoor walk would be wet and the sidewalks slick so I'll be pulling up a yoga video or two. Stay warm and dry this week. Happy reading and making.

Ravelry Links

Striped Pullover

Winter Solstice Socks

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

New Projects

Hello. The sun shines this morning making my spirit lighter. I love the deep gray blue of a bright winter sky. The blue jay with a peanut in his mouth is a flashy character, especially in the sunlight. For the first time ever, a black squirrel just scurried around the birch trunk. Squirrels are far from my favorite crittes but I've never seen a black one in our neighborhood. Until now, I've seen them in the older LIncoln neighborhoods but perhaps this neighborhood has edged into older.  We moved into this home in 1991 and like most of our neighbors, planted trees and yards. Watching a neighborhood mature is one way to mark time. I wish I'd paid more attention in the beginning but our kids were young and I was working. Life was busy.

Today is Unraveled Wednesday so I link this post with Kat and the other Unravelers. The day and posting is a good way to document knitting as well as be inspired by others' projects. 

One way I marked Advent was by knitting on the Guernsey Wrap Scarf. I finished the project on December 30th and late last week wove in all 50 ends. Good thing I don't mind weaving in ends. This project was a perfect match of pattern and yarn. I thoroughly enjoyed the knitting. The yarn was a wonderful gift from my children for my 70th birthday. The scarf is very warm. The next time the temperatures drop down to single digits I'll be ready. 

I'm knitting along on this raglan. The first stripe was too close to the neckline so I ripped back, added six more rows of the gray and then began the striping sequence again. I am not sure I have enough handspun to stripe the entire sweater. I also don't want to knit 3/4 of the body and then discover I don't have enough. My plan is to knit stripes in the yoke and then add a narrow stripe around the bottom of the sleeves, maybe the body, and/or the edges or in the ribbing. I am playing as I go and having a great time. The handspun stripe, as per gauge, requires one size bigger needle. The trick, at 9:30 p.m. in the evening, is to remember to switch needles. Don't ask. It's all knitting, right?

Over the weekend I plied the first skein of Bluefaced Leicester singles. If I do say so myself, this yarn is just beautiful. Of course, it's blue which influences my perception. Greenwood Fiberworks has the nicest preparation with their fiber. It's spins like a dream. I have another set of singles ready to ply so I should have enough for a nice project. This yarn feels like a DK weight. 

My reading isn't as interesting this week. I'm rereading Still Life because it is my local book group selection. Often when I reread a book, I find something new but not this time. I am looking forward to the discussion. My current audiobook, The Masterpiece, is about to be abandoned. I checked out the novel because it was set in Grand Central Station in NYC. The history of the building attracted me but the women characters feel predictable. Why do women characters, particularly the young woman who aspires to be an illustrator, have to be involved with a romantic interest? Perhaps it is an accurate reflection of the time period or perhaps I am just old but it feels trite. I'm going to give it a little more time to see if anymore plot evolves before I abandon it. 

The amaryllis, on my Grandmother's old rickety plant stand, is putting on a show of brilliant red. This bulb is sending up another bud and I wonder how many blossoms will come from it. I can see how it would be fun to have different colors at various stages of blooming. Take care and have a good week. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A Clean Slate

A few snow flurries fly this morning as I link with Kat and the Unravelers. The weather app calls it drizzle but it looks like snow to me. Later I'll make a grocery list and decide whether to shop this afternoon or tomorrow. Honestly, getting the list together is the battle for me. I still have laryngitis but could send my husband or wear a mask to go out. I finished all the lingering 2022 projects on the needles by December 31. This doesn't always happen but it is nice when it does. The night of the solstice, I cast on a pair of socks because I needed a project I could pick up and put down easily. I am counting them as a 2023 project.  

The Advent Wrap is washed, blocked, and dry. I'll photograph it after I weave in the ends. I finished the cowl knit mostly from handspun. It's not my favorite piece but was a learning experience. The yarn is a little wooly for around the neck. When I spindle spun that fiber, I had plans to knit the the four shades of yarn as a gradient but if I'd looked at the colors more closely I'd have realized that wouldn't work. Now, I would have plied different shades together to make a more interesting yarn. Spin and learn. It's all a grand experiment. My goal is to try some new-to-me spinning fibers and techniques in 2023. 

Last fall I swatched for a sweater with a combination of commercial and handspun yarn. On New Year's Day, I cast on the sweater. I am using the adult raglan sweater pattern from Ann Budd's The Handy Book of Topdown Sweaters and planning to stripe the gray with handspun. I am excited to play with handspun in this project. I expect some unraveling and re-knitting along the way. 

While I have five or ten minutes here and there, I've knit on the renamed Solstice Socks. Last week I knit the heel flap and turned the heel during our drive to Omaha. Ravelry reminds me this is the fifth time knitting this pattern. What patterns do you reknit? Socks tend to be my fuss-free knitting.

Currently I'm listening to Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark. I love that two of the main characters are older women. I like reading about writing and books from the viewpoint of the character Agnes, who is a writer. The descriptions of Maine shore are beautiful. The plot meanders along slowly, almost like an older novel. At times, I think the story moves too slowly and would benefit from editing out mundane details. Perhaps the author is trying to convey characters in old age living at a slower pace as well as life in summer cottages along the shore. It's been good company on cold nights while I knit and as I undecked the halls. I'm almost to the end and I plan to finish this evening. 

The picture book Winter Bees by Joyce Sidman, is a small collection of winter poems along with a  paragraph or two about the flora and fauna in the poems. The illustrations are gorgeous. Sidman has published quite a few books of poetry for children. 

Lastly, here is the amaryllis watch. The plant is growing and I may need to find a stake. 

The snow has stopped but with temperature hovering around freezing I plan make the grocery list today and send my husband tomorrow. We can eat from the pantry and freezer this evening. Stay warm and safe friends. 

Ravelry Links

Mostly Handspun Cowl

Striped Pullover

Solstice Socks

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023 - Delight

This year I choose the word, delight. Delight makes me think of my grandchildren. One of the joys of being around them, is watching their delight in the world." Oh look, a long stick, a leaf, a feather, the ice cream shop, this big rock," and so on. Both of my children are playful, a trait they learned from their father. I tend more to the serious side of life. I am aware that way too many people live in oppression conditions, the state of the climate is dire, and this country is in a political quagmire. I understand these things and carry them with me everyday. However, at seventy one, I am a woman rowing north (Mary Pipher) and I don't want to miss the delicate beauty and charm of the world. So I choose delight, not a constant search for joy, but days with more ease and less worry. 

I sit at my desk on a gray damp day. When I got up, I noticed rows of raindrops lining tree branches. I also felt sluggish from a virus, not Covid, causing laryngitis and a slight cough. I haven't had a cold since way before the pandemic so it's my turn. I brewed my favorite white peony tea in a teapot and poured it into a snowman mug. I wrapped up in my favorite garter stitch shawl and sat down to write. For a time, I watched fat snowflakes melt on the ground. A cardinal pair came by as two little girls walked a dog around the cul-de-sac. They pushed their hoods off as they laughed and talked. Now the snow has stopped and the morning is gone. However a few sparkling drops remain on the tree and I feel a little lighter. Hot tea, at least until the new coffee pot arrives, may be the elixir of life and a good start to this morning. I hope you had a good morning. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

TGIF - Last Friday of 2022

The morning began with a frosty overcast sky but now the sun is shining. The fox just went by on his morning run and a red-bellied woodpecker is climbing the birch trunk. His bright coloring shows beautifully against a blue sky. 

Thinking about the red-bellied woodpecker and his name. His breast is hard to see but honestly it looks creamy white. Since the color on his head is the dominant feature, the name seems off-kilter to me. Perhaps the red-headed woodpecker had already been named and someone thought an orange-headed woodpecker would be confusing or redundant. An internet photo of the bird shows the brighter colored breast. Once more, google to the rescue. 

Grateful for my family, near and far. Although we weren't with our kids in person, we talked to them via Face Time on the Christmas weekend. My husband's brother and wife invited us to have Christmas dinner with their family and it was nice to be included. This past Wednesday we had a lovely sweet day with my sister and her husband, my niece, and little great-niece. My sister made a delicious soup and served it with cornbread and fruit. We had a few cookies for dessert. This simple celebration warmed our hearts. They gave us this special gift. 

When we were girls, these two pieces of needlepoint hung in my grandparents' home. We think Grama made them from a kit. She did all kinds of needlework and sewing. She taught both of us to sew and me to knit. Anyway, I hadn't seen them for years and didn't even know my sister had kept them. She took the pieces out of frames that were falling apart and gently cleaned the needlepoint. My brother-in-law made new frames out of some pine he reclaimed from his Dad's work bench. The wood grain lines up beautifully. This is a gift that comes from the heart and hand. What a treasure. After I put away the Christmas decor, we will find them a special place for them. 

Inspired by the reading done by friends both locally and in this little blogging community. My local book group met earlier in December and chose books for the coming year. It's a varied and interesting list. As always, there are a couple of books I would never read on my own but that is one of the benefits of a book group. I have enjoyed the Erdrich-Along organized by Mary. In the past Erdrich's books felt almost too heavy to read but I enjoyed discussing them with this group and we have two more to go. It's been interesting to see how Erdrich expands the characters as well as themes, particularly in the justice trilogy. 

Fun. This morning I talked to Jonah and Norah as they painted snowmen with watercolors. Jonah was quite careful using watercolor pencils to add special buttons and mittens. Norah painted a rose-colored snowman with enthusiasm. Then we read The Mitten Tree and Wake up Bear, It's Christmas. This week I cast on a Christmas sock with yarn from my stash. Next to turning the heel, the other part of sock knitting I enjoy is knitting enough cuff to see how the yarn is going to look in the pattern. The yarn is Holly and Pine by Fibernymph Dyeworks. The pattern is Impossible Girl. 

And so, onward we go into 2023. This afternoon I'm going to take a walk and put most of the Christmas decor away. I am ready to mop up the dust and generally tidy the house as the new year begins. This evening I will finish the Advent Scarf. 

Happy New Year. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Kindness 2022

I chose the word, kindness, for 2022, kindness as kindling for a practice. What I have learned is that kindness is doable. One doesn't have to be an activist on a street corner to be kind. Quiet actions are valuable and kindness is a place to begin. Kindness is extended and received. 

I kept a fuss-free imperfect journal, making an entry for each month. In September, Norah picked out this birthday card for me. She thought I would like dogs in pink tutus. She was right. What Grammy wouldn't love this card on her 71st birthday? Right after she brought it home, she showed it to me and signed it while we were on FaceTime. I love that her Mom let her choose the card and share it immediately. 

Extending kindness to those near and dear is natural and easy. Extending a smile or thank you to a stranger or a grocery checker becomes a habit. Donating food to the hungry feels good. When I reframe, I am able to think kindly about the driver who pulls into a parking stall just ahead of me. Perhaps that person carries a heavy load. Perhaps they need to get to work on time or home to a sick child or family member. As a wise friend once said, "There is no need to send my angst into the world." Being kind to myself is also part of the practice. 

For me, the challenge is to extend kindness to an acquaintance who is annoying or irritating for some reason. Let's say, they don't recycle or they litter their yards with eyesores, or their political opinion is different from mine, or they monopolize a conversation with trivia, or, or, or.  Here, as the saying goes, is "the rub" that creates a blister. However practicing kindness or trying to reframe a behavior makes me feel better. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. Kindness is a practice, a process. I hope I don't sound like goody-two shoes here. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes but for me it's worth the effort. As I mull over a word for the new year I will carry kindness with me. Onward we go. 

This is the poem I sent with our holiday greeting cards. Now I send it out to you.

Kindness *

Outside my window

junco shelters in the birch.

Around her, bark flutters

like a string of prayer flags.

The gale peels away

layers of roughness,

years of care that

protected the heart.

A flag frays, then falls,

a postcard of kindness

sent to a neighbor

just down the street.

What if we squared our shoulders,

bent our hearts to generous care?

What if we spoke nothing

but kindness to the prevailing wind?

*Copyright Jane A. Wolfe

Birch comes from Burg and means the tree whose bark is written upon.