Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Turning Season

Summer begins to turn to Autumn. The greens are not so vivid. Grass in the neighborhood fades and leaves hang loosely from their stems. The coreopsis is spent. My garden has the end-of-summer look. Tomato vines wither from the bottom. The volunteer cherry tomato plant I stuck in the raised bed is out of control. It leaves many little rotten tomatoes as next year's volunteers. The zinnias continue to bloom but it's time to collect seed for next year. One day wool socks, the next sandals.

As the news goes from bad to worse, needle, thread, yarn, and spindle are a balm. Over the past few days, I knit this cowl mostly from my handspun. The gray stripes are knit from commerical yarn. When you knit a small project on size 7 needles, it doesn't take long. Knitting with this yarn was an adventure in thick, thin, and twist. The ribbing is a little flippy but hopefully a bath and gentle blocking will help. I enjoyed watching the handspun become knitted fabric. My next goal is to spin a more even yarn with a little less twist. It's a learning process. 

I blocked the Touchstone Shawl and wove in the ends. I can use a touchstone these days. The light peachy pink is an interesting color, a bit of a change for me. For some reason I am drawn to that lace pattern. I love to knit it and I like the way it the looks. I have knit other projects with that stitch pattern. 

I cast on the second sock of the Downpour pair. The top ribbing and the pattern set-up is finished. Often a second sock knits up faster than the first. We will see. 

I listened to the audio version of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. If it hadn't been a selection by my book group, I wouldn't have listened which is only one of the things I appreciate about that group. I enjoyed the book. I have a cursory knowledge of marine creatures so the book was an opportunity to learn more. I have a new respect for those who work at big Aquariums. The relationships that persons with disabilities developed with the creatures in the New England Aquarium in Boston is a touching reminder that anyone can benefit from interaction with animals and/or the natural world. The author reads this book and at first her enthusiasm and emotion seemed a little profuse. As the story went on, I grew accustomed to her presentation. I also would like to visit a big aquarium some day. 

I link with Kat and the Unravelers today. May you find a touchstone during these days. Maybe we will learn to turn toward better days. 

Ravelry Links to projects

Handspun Cowl

Touchstone Shawl

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wool Sock Weather

Gentle rain falls this morning. Sunday's high was 93 degrees. The temperature began to drop on Monday and then with thunderstorms on Tuesday, eventually fell to a high of 46. After a dry hot August, moisture is very welcome. Last week as I walked out to the garden and the compost bins, I noticed cracks in the ground. Yesterday afternoon I pulled on a pair of wool socks knit by my sister and brewed a cup of tea. I set the vacuum cleaner aside in favor of Findings. I enjoyed the first essay on light and dark. This book of nature writing from Scotland was just right for a rainy afternoon. Today, in spite of the rain, I best get back to a little housekeeping. 

In the meantime, here is the round-up of my projects. I finished knitting the Touchstone Shawl and hope to block it this afternoon. Last night I finished the toe of the first Downpour Sock (above) in this pair. I decided not to kitchner the toe at 10:15 p.m. last night. Today will be soon enough. The sock fits and looks nice when tried on but the slip stitch pattern pulls a bit when laying flat. 

I cast on the Frosted Lily hat because I like to have three or four knitting projects in rotation and I need a break from shawl knitting. This rainy cool weather puts me in the mood for sweater knitting but I haven't made any choices yet. 

Labor Day, I plied the last two singles of this fiber. I used the first small skeins of the teal color in some mittens I posted previously. Then I spun the skeins below. I estimate 81 yards of this periwinkle colored yarn. What to knit with them? I may try a small cowl because I can knit without trying to divide yardage for fingerless mitts. Dividing these skeins by weight would not yield equivalent yards per division.  The yarn is a little more consistent in thickness with the emphasis being on "a little." I have some stash yarn to add if needed.  

I plan to use that little bit of the darkest fiber for practice as there isn't enough for anything else. I spun these skeins by setting the spindle in motion to the right and then plied two singles in the opposite direction. Each skein requires two singles so I am much more comfortable manipulating the spindle to the right. Plying to the left still feels awkward. I plan to reverse the action with the leftover fiber for more practice in spinning to the left. I would really like to take an "in person" class in spinning some day. 

As always, I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers.  Thanks to Kat, I get my projects updated. Ravelry links are listed below. Please excuse the dark light for today's photos. The gray drippy sky creates less than optimal conditions for photos. Be well, be safe. 

Ravelry links for projects:

Downpour Socks

Frosted Lily Hat

Malabrigo Handspun Project


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Birthday Month

Yesterday Lance and I drove out to Branched Oak Lake and took a walk. The ditches were full of wild sunflowers and goldenrod. Although the state recreation area will be busy this weekend, we walked in an area away from the campsites and had it nearly to ourselves. We were able to leave our masks in the car. Two great blue herons fished in sheltered areas of the lake. We wore our old comfortable clothes as well as hats to keep the sun off of our faces. A light breeze took care of the mosquitoes. For a few hours the angst of the world fell away. It was a lovely way to mark my sixty ninth birthday. This is what sixty nine looks like. The only time I feel the years is when I'm pulling weeds in the garden. I do have better jeans but old jeans are often the best jeans and it is my party. Maybe next year, I'll spring for a new sun hat but maybe not. This one doesn't have any holes in the crown or brim. Through thick and thin, this guy has been at my side making sure we mark the day. He brought me a latte this morning. 

Today I am grateful for good health, comfortable shelter, food, friends, and a loving family. The Connecticut crew called earlier. Jonah was drinking warm milk with a little decaf coffee in my honor.  We read 
Peter Rabbit and Silly Sally and Micah showed me his drawings of everyone's favorite baseball teams (Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees.) Since Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards, upside down, Jonah showed me how he can walk backwards on his feet and hands. Really what could be better than those dear faces? My sister sent me a text message and I heard from friends yesterday. I'm sure I'll hear from the Texas crew later today. Our oldest grandson started his junior year in high school two weeks ago. His school system opted for remote learning so he is zoomed in right now.

For today's version of Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and company, I have some progress on projects still in process. I am now reacquainted with the "if you knit on something you can make progress" knitting rule. I am nearly finished with the Touchstone shawl. (Ravelry link) The last garter stitch section is going to have fewer rows than the others because I am almost out of that yarn. It will be fine that way. I'm enjoying the rhythm of the garter stitch and simple lace. I also made some progress on the first Downpour sock (Ravelry link) and the little quilt I wrote about last week. 

I finished reading Virginia Woolf and the Women Who Shaped Her. Gill organized a great deal of information in this biography. I now know more about the Bloomsbury Group although I'm not sure I needed all the steamy complicated details. I found the connections between people in Woolf's life and characters in her novels to be informative. I may choose a novel to read and hope to better understand her writing. Did you know that it wasn't until 1947 that Cambridge University began awarding degrees to women? I wonder how Woolf's life and writing would have been affected by full access to education and better treatment for mental illness.  

Here's to September and another trip around the sun. Today I'm thumbing my nose at the tomatoes and plan to bake some cookies as they are my favorite sweet treat. Life is short and who knows what the next year will bring. By the way, it is my opinion that we are all entitled to a birthday month. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Summer sings another song. Early morning is tolerable for walking but the rest of the day is hot. Little rain has fallen or is in the forecast. The tomatoes roll in from the garden and I will make more sauce this afternoon. I simmer saute'ed onion and garlic, tomatoes, and tomato paste until thickened. Then I funnel it into jars and freeze. When I use the sauce, I season it to suit whatever I am cooking. It's a great base for all kinds of recipes. Currently in our area of the country, canning lids, rings, and jars have disappeared off the grocery shelves. Luckily I bought supplies early in the summer before they became the latest shortage. 

One hot afternoon, I went downstairs to my sewing area and pulled out a set of five quilt blocks pieced years ago by a woman I never met. Nine summers ago a former colleague and I met for an ice tea. She was not a needleworker and needed a home for a collection of hand pieced quilt blocks. Before the days of quilt magazines, books, patterns, and shops, women pieced individual blocks to remember patterns. Her mother pieced blocks and then wrote the name of the pattern on a 3 x 5 piece of paper and stapled it to each block. This woman had also pieced and quilted bed sized quilts for her family so my friend was not without her mother's handwork. The quilter was born in 1908 and grew up in southeast Nebraska. As evidenced by the neat letters on each card, she was a country school teacher before marrying in 1930. 

These five little blocks were the only ones made from the same pattern. I don't know when they were pieced but they have a Depression Era look to them. Some of the muslin background was cut on grain and some was not. The blocks were carefully stitched together with the points meeting precisely in the centers. They were also slightly different in size and not exactly square. I used the technique of sewing border strips on the blocks in order to square them to the same size. After trimming squares, the width of border strips vary. The eye, in optical illusion, is mostly drawn to the pattern and ignores the small differences. Although I am sure the differences might bother some precise quilter, I think they are part of the charm of an old quilt. I set the quilt together with unbleached muslin and marked traditional quilting patterns with soft pencil.

Now I am hand quilting the piece. I enjoy scraps of all kinds - fabric, yarn, quilt blocks, and stories. Hand quilting with a short fine needle casts a spell like no other and reminds me of another woman's story.

As I read The Warmth of Other Suns, I am also thinking about the importance of story and the many stories missing from my education and reading. I am a little late to this party so echo comments of others. This book is nonfiction at its best. It is well written and well organized. Wilkerson crafted a book featuring individual stories that make facts very real and very human. The word story comes from the Latin "historie" which came from a Greek word "histor" meaning to know. Story, I believe, has the power to change us. Why else would books be banned and writers censored and persecuted? 

I hope this week finds you well and safe with a story of your own. I really will link this post with Kat and the Unravelers. I'm not sure what happened last week but I am sure it was my error.  One last note, I turned on comment moderation as I've had some spam. I will try to post them in a timely manner, that is if the tomatoes don't take over my kitchen. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mid-August Notes

This mid-August morning I felt a touch of fall in the air. The ornamental pear in our front yard sports one branch of yellow. The color change seems early but whenever autumn arrives it is very welcome. A white breasted nuthatch hops head first down the limb of the birch and finches feed in the dappled sunshine. As I divided iris yesterday, two monarchs fluttered between the blanket flowers and the zinnias. This afternoon we are back to summer. 

Small knitting projects appeal to me these days. I finished a hat for my daughter-in-law's Christmas gift. I recommend the Modern Rib Hat by Susan B. Anderson if you are in the market for a multi-sized free hat pattern and don't mind knitting ribbing. The ribbing makes a soft squishy hat. Jacque loves stocking hats and wears them indoors and out during the winter so it is fun to knit them for her.  

I cast on a pair of cuff down socks from a pattern I've had in my Ravelry library for quite some time. The designer lives just down the road near Omaha. I bought the yarn, dyed here in Lincoln, at a local yarn store. They won't be travel knitting so they are truly Nebraska socks. The slip-stitch pattern on the side of the leg adds interest to a vanilla sock. I tried a pattern for toe-up socks but between the cast on and texture of one stitch cables I decided it wasn't for me. I prefer to knit top down socks as I know how to knit them to fit.

I knit a few rows on a shawl in progress but not enough to photograph. My daughter has requested a large warm shawl she can wear around the house this winter so I am looking at patterns I already own. I don't mind supporting independent designers but as I looked through my library of books and in Ravelry I wonder why I don't use what I already have purchased. 

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I will write about my reading. I finished The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. Although the dialogue was a little stilted at times, the story was engaging. I enjoy historical fiction presented from a unique point of view. If you are offended by the idea of Jesus having a wife then this book is not for you. For me, the relationships the main character, Ana builds with other women are the strength of the novel. Wherever she lives, Ana creates a sisterhood. Her outspoken, wise, sad aunt was my favorite character. Be forewarned that women in that time and place had no rights and were treated as commodities and property. In an author's note at the end of the book, Kidd scrupulously identifies fact and fiction in the story. I wish I had read that note first. 

Last but not least, our mayor did what the governor would not do. She mandated masks. This week the Covid positivity rate in Lincoln has declined to 5.6%. Last Wednesday, the public schools opened with a six hundred page plan created with input from the public health department. Remote learning is an option for families. This means teachers are juggling in person and remote teaching at the same time. The high schools have alternate scheduling so only half the student body is in the building most of the time. Students and teachers are wearing masks. It will be interesting to see what happens. I am ever so grateful to be retired. 

I wish you safe August days. 

Ravelry links to projects: hatsocks

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


My maternal Grandmother taught me to knit. I remember how hard it was to master the purl stitch. I'd knit at home until my scarf was a hopeless mess. Then I'd ride my bike to her house and she'd straighten it out. Teaching me to knit was a priceless gift. One of the many things I learned from her was to knit with the best yarn I could afford. Although we could have gone to a local discount store, she took me to a yarn shop to buy yarn for my first sweater. I chose cranberry red wool. Gram loved pinks and purples and soft blues so buying red yarn was another gift of love. I knit the cardigan in pieces, she sewed it together, and I took it to college. 

Now I am learning to spin. New learning is humbling but also a bit magical. Last month I spun some Blue Faced Leicester natural colored fiber on an inexpensive Turkish Spindle. I threw away a great deal of my first attempts. Eventually I spun a very wonky little skein that I keep as a record of this beginning. Following Gram's advice, I ordered one braid of roving in colors I enjoy. 

I also ordered three top-whorl spindles from Greensleeves Spindles. Crafted from cherry wood, they are beautiful and lovely to use. I think it so interesting that throughout history, makers have crafted beauty into practical objects. I look forward to shopping for spindles in person at a fiber festival. 

I spun three little skeins of widely varying weights on the Turkish Spindle. To say that the yarn is thick and thin is an understatement. I found a skein of Montera in my stash and together with this handspun made a pair of fraternal mittens. I unraveled the top of the second mitten three times. I couldn't get the hands to match in length. I thought the handspun was causing the discrepancy and kept counting rows above the thumb stitches. Finally I noticed I had knit fewer rows of cuff ribbing in the second mitten. Oy. Normally I'd redo the mitten but when I pulled the yarn through the last few stitches at the top, I turned the mitten inside out and wove in all the ends. Sometimes being tidy is not so helpful. I wove the handspun in by hook and by crook because of the thickness and I wasn't sure I could pick it out and reknit it. I decided to leave these as fraternal mittens. Honestly the slightly off-kilter row arrangements matches the handspun. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Now I am spinning from a different section of the same roving. Ever so slowly the singles look more consistent and the process is quite peaceful. Watching the spindle turn is mesmerizing. Plying isn't so natural but yesterday, I tried to relax and let the fiber be what it wants to be. I can throw away what isn't useful or keep it as another benchmark of progress. Thankfully I am not spinning to keep my family warm during the winter. The latest yarn is drying and seems more balanced although somewhat thick and thin. 

I am reading the same books I wrote about last week, The Warmth of Other Suns and The Book of Longings. I am also listening to The Grammarians, the next month's book selection of my book group. The word play is fun and interesting but I feel like the plot is slow to develop. 

Thank you to Kat for providing the link-up. Are you beginning any new projects this week?

Mitten Ravelry Link
Handspun Ravelry Link


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Summer Sanctus

Here we are in high summer on this Sunday afternoon. While I dislike heat and humidity, I do my best to appreciate the colors, flowers, and gardens of the season. This week I noticed many yellow and orange flowers on my walks. Both photos are of flowers in my neighborhood. 

Once a writing teacher, Linda M. Hasselstrom, and I discussed different kinds of poems. At the time she was (and still is) a published writer/poet and I was a neophyte. That day she differentiated between poems with metaphor and poems of description or what she called windshield poems. When skillfully written, one kind is not better than another but a difference to understand. At least that is how I recall our discussion. 

This week I thought about that long ago conversation. Some ideas appear at close range in the windshield, that is they hit the windshield with force. Other views through the windshield are more expansive and provide a different perspective. I wished I was on a trip to see loved ones and enjoying the Great Plains through a wide angle lens of a windshield or a plane window.

Anyway, this poem came from being in my own backyard. It is a good place to be right now. Constant fretting about the future gets me nowhere except into a state of anxiety. Finding joy in the present moment isn't always easy these days but in an effort to celebrate the season I offer this poem. 

Summer Sanctus

Stretch into altar of dust and green.
Receive sharp tomato scent.
Pick fruit warmed by the sun.

Marvel at Grandmother Spider.
Celebrate monarch over zinnia,
honeybee on basil, ant in grass.

Scrub birdbath, offer clean water.
Forget right or wrong. Love
lavender, make a garden. 

Plant feet above roots.
Breathe from the linden.
Share a breeze with the Earth.

Sing in this sanctuary.
Right here. Right now.
Sing praise for summer day. 

Jane A. Wolfe
Copyright, Jane A. Wolfe