Thursday, January 25, 2018

These January Days

Whether you place a chair near a sunny window or take the book with you into a warm bed, these January days are meant for reading. I recently finished Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal by Linda M. Hasselstrom. This writer is at her best when describing the seasons, grasses, animals, and other plants in western South Dakota. The journal format sets off Hasselstrom's recollections of daily and seasonal life on her ranch. The book includes an examination of the family relationships that have shaped her life on this piece of land. She doesn't hesitate to look deeply into family journals and records, weaving family and landscape into a good story for a winter day.

I continue knitting on the gray sweater. This evening I will split the body from the sleeves on this top-down raglan. I need to think about how and where I will add the next block of color. This project reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books my children read while growing up. Now and then I need a little knitting diversion from rounds of gray stockinette so I cast on a hat. I ordered a skein of the Quince and Co. Phoebe yarn when it was first available to try in a small project. Better a late try than never. The yarn spun from 100% American Merino wool has good stitch definition. It has a lovely soft hand and would make a good cabled sweater, mittens, or a hat. 

Earlier this week we had a snowstorm. We were on the edge of the storm so only a few inches of snow fell but the wind blustered most of the day. Today's sun and warmth will melt most of the snow. I will be out walking this afternoon. I hope wherever you are you have a good book at the ready. Enjoy these January days. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Welcome to the Flock

The sun is shining and the temperatures are going to climb out of single digits this afternoon. Hooray. It will be nice to walk further than to the mail box and around the cul-de-sac. I am sitting in the corner of the love seat with my feet in a patch of warm sunshine and a cup of tea on the side table while I savor these mittens. They were a Christmas gift from my daughter. Like all knitted gifts, they are a love story.

One holiday break during my daughter's college years, I taught her to knit. Then she became a graduate student in physical therapy and married. She had little time for knitting. Eight years ago, when she was pregnant with her first son, she knit two toys, an elephant and a bunny. They were not uncomplicated projects. She finished the elephant but the bunny was missing one ear. Now she is a mother of three and little Jonah at 22 months found the bunny. He kept bringing it to her saying, "Mama, fix it." So in November when she came to teach for a weekend, she brought the bunny. Together we struggled over picking up the stitches. The instructions are designed to create a pleat in the ear. I helped her but we, mostly me, picked them up backwards so the ears are not symmetrical. Jonah doesn't care, he just wanted a bunny with two ears. She knit the ear. She watched You-tube videos while she made increases. She sat beside me and I showed her how to kitchener the top together.

Since she had nothing to knit on the plane ride home, I gave her a pair of needles, a ball of washcloth yarn, and a pattern. She wanted to knit some two color mittens like the ones my sister had made for her. I tried not to squeal with delight that she was interested in and had time for knitting. We talked about yarn and she ordered some before she left. I helped her just a little with the pattern instructions. Her first pair of color work mittens came in our Christmas package as one of my gifts. They arrived with a poem she wrote about knitting them. They fit, are extremely warm and so pretty. I was so touched by this gift. After she finished them, she ordered yarn for another pair. A good friend has asked her for a cowl so she has a project in her queue. She is a dear daughter and I am delighted to share knitting with her.

Meanwhile in Texas, my daughter-in-law made nine Christmas stockings on a knitting loom. She created the designs for these stockings. All the family members, including the dogs, have new matching stockings. Jacque has big heart and she is a wonderful daughter-in-law. She has driven me to several yarn shops in Fort Worth during our visits and patiently waited while I wandered around those stores. She crochets and is now creating designs for t-shirts. Two new knitters in one month! To them I say, "Welcome to the flock." May your fiber endeavors bring you joy, peace, and comfort.

As for me, I continue with my sweater - so far, so good. I should put the stitches on waste yarn and try it on. There are a few imperfections in the dye on this skein. I could have cut them out but decided to embrace what they bring to the sweater. There are plenty of other things to worry about in this world. I am listening to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Some sources call it one of the first feminist novels. It is interesting that after Anne's death, her sister Charlotte prevented this story, a woman who eventually leaves an abusive mate, from being republished. I am reading a book of poetry, Rock, Tree, Bird, a gift from my knitting sister. It also came with a pair of beautiful color work mittens. The book is written by Nebraska's State Poet, Twyla Hansen. Hansen worked as a professional horticulturist and writes with a strong respect for the environment and her agricultural background. The poems are lovely to read on a winter or any other day. They are one antidote to the constant font of troubling news in our country. 

So as I join Kat and the Unravelers today, I wish you good knitting, good reading, and time to enjoy the sunshine.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Knitting Notes

We are back to cold temperatures although we missed the heart of the storm that arrived in the wee hours of this morning. The wind roared and temperatures plummeted from yesterday's high of 50 degrees to 11 degrees at daybreak. If we have an inch of new snow I'd be surprised. I think quite a bit of it blew away. 

I finished the Contrail Shawl right before Christmas. It is a generous sized shawl and good for wrapping up in on these cold days. I enjoyed knitting the pattern and the yarn. I finished hat and mitten sets for our Connecticut grandsons after the New Year. They fit - mostly. The finished hat for the youngest looked small so I unraveled the crown and added another inch to the body of the hat. I think that inch makes it wearable for him this winter. Whew! Micah's wild and crazy hat is a little bit big so maybe he will get another year's wear out of it.  I'll exercise a grandmother's privilege and post a photo of them.

On New Year's Day, I began swatching for a sweater from some leftover yarn. I don't have enough in any color to make a pullover for myself but do have three colors in enough total yardage. (Very brief Rav notes here) I could have striped the yarn but decided to make a colorblock sweater. I intend to wear this sweater for everyday and am thinking of it as an experiment. At least that is what I am telling myself. Five times, I cast on and knit a few inches. Each time I came closer to a raglan line with a ribbed design and increases without big holes. I knew this would be a process and thought of it as swatching. The yarn held up beautifully to repeated ripping and knitting. I cast on one more time and knit along until I made a mistake in one of the increases. I took out three or four rows stitch by stitch because when I pulled it all of the needles I couldn't quite get the increased stitches back on correctly. Now the knitting is smooth sailing and I may need another more complex project to break up the stockinette stitching. 

Today I am going through my yarn stash and knitting bags in an attempt to make some order. My knitting bags are a jumble of needles, patterns, and yarn both leftover and wound for projects not yet begun. I am not making any elaborate goals. In keeping with "light" as my guide word, I am hoping to shed some light onto the yarn and be inspired by this stash. 

I meant to write a post yesterday in order to link with Kat and the Unravelers. Perhaps I need to write on Tuesday so I can publish on Wednesday. So it goes. Enjoy these deep winter days.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

Sunlight streams from the eastern sky creating shadows on the deck and inside the house. Juncos, finches, chickadees, downy woodpecker, a male cardinal (where is his mate?) a pair of bluejays and a red-bellied woodpecker come to the feeders and yard. The red-bellied woodpecker is a rare sighting here. I watched him pick up a safflower seed and drill it into the birch trunk until the shell opened. I am not sure how the birds keep from freezing in the sub-zero temperatures. They surely need plenty of fuel to keep warm and fly back to safe quarters.

The sum of the last few days includes frigid wind chill outdoors and after-Christmas cleaning indoors. I like to start the New Year with a clean house. I have almost completed the third hat/mitten set for our Connecticut grandsons. They are easy knits except for the sizing. I made them to go with their winter coats and hope they will fit someone. This all started when Micah announced he wanted to wear a different hat every day. He likes them wild and crazy so I made him a hat from variegated yarn. And yes, those are hand-knitted socks on my feet at the bottom of the photo. Wool is a necessity these days.

Instead of New Year's resolutions, I choose a word/ theme for the year. The last few months, the refrain from "Anthem" (lyrics/poem) by Leonard Cohen kept coming to mind.

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

So today I choose "light." The word has Germanic, Indo-European, Latin, and Greek roots with many derivations. For example, the Old English leoht, leah, and then lea is a pasture or meadow drenched in light. Luxury and deluxe from luster are American English derivatives. In the English language, "light" may be used as an adjective, noun, transitive, or as an intransitive verb. We can live lightly, a derivation used as an adverb. There are the scientific and spiritual definitions for the word. Light in the sky provides endless beauty. Light allows us to see color. Light creates shadows. All of this keeps my mind busy on bitterly cold days and for the coming seasons.  Slowly, the light returns.

Happy New Year!