Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reading and Knitting Notes

Reading notes: I was intrigued by A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland. Long ago, I adopted this philosophy given to me by a good friend: "Before abandoning a book, read as many pages as you are old. After age fifty, start subtracting the number of pages to read." I am now way past the age of subtraction. Regardless, I did not find this book engaging enough to continue. Maitland excerpts from many journals of solitude/silence seekers - one after another. I was troubled by her dismissal of the difference between choosing silence in a relatively safe environment and having silence imposed involuntarily. Perhaps she comes back to this idea later in the book but I will never know. The fifty four pages I read did make me think about quiet, silence, and solitude.  Ironically I am moving on to another work of nonfiction, Words Are My Matter  by Ursuals K. LeGuin. I find her nonfiction essays and short talks beautifully written and thought provoking. Evidently silence is not in the cards for me. Just ask my family.

Knitting notes: I am working on the sleeves of the baby kimono. Usually I enjoy sleeve knitting because it means I'm nearly finished with a sweater. This little sleeve knitted in garter stitch in the round is a bit tedious and I have a few loose stitches in the area between needles. I hope a good soak and block helps or I will be using a crochet hook on the reverse side to even out the stitches. Yesterday I bought a shorter pair of double pointed needles from a local yarn shop and have been shifting stitches to different positions. Even with new needles, alternating knit and purl rows for garter stitch in the round feels fiddly. Another time I would knit the sleeves flat and seam them together. Magic looping the sleeves might be another alternative. It is not my favorite knitting technique.

I finished a hat I began for the Minnesota road trip so I have two hats to replace the one I wore inside out and mended last winter. This was an easy breezy summer knit. I also cast on the first Irish Hiking Mitten. The mitten was not good social knitting. The dark color way is pretty but hard to see in evening light. It is an older free pattern with written row by row instructions. I have knit several pairs of these mittens previously. These days I am used to more concise charted patterns. Once home, I unraveled five or six rows and straightened out the cable twists and thumb gusset.

One of my grandsons has an August birthday. He wondered if I could make a rainbow bear. Well of course I can. I plan to use the Mother Bear pattern.

I am joining Kat and the Unravelers today. What are you knitting, reading, or not reading today?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Summer Saturday

Last week we spent some days in north central Minnesota. My sister and brother-in-law have a lake home and are gracious enough to invite us to come each summer. My sister, brother, his daughter, and I did a little kayaking one beautiful afternoon. We saw a great blue heron lift off from the shallows, an osprey on a nest, and of course loons who kept their distance from us. One morning we picked blueberries at a large U-Pick blueberry patch. The bushes were loaded with large ripe berries and they are delicious. We overlapped one night with both of my brothers and some family. James and John each had a daughter in tow so we had two of eight cousins. John and his wife also brought two grandchildren. My siblings and I (the four J's: Jane, Julie, John, James - it was the 50's :-) live a distance apart from each other and all have children. John and I have grands. My favorite moment comes when we gather around the table for the evening meal, join hands, and sing the Johnny Appleseed grace. Voices of three generations, raised with joy and gusto, make my heart sing. Time together is a treasure. 

My travel knitting consisted of an adult hat and a baby sweater. My husband drives most of the miles and my sister and I knit on the screened porch while looking out at the lake. I made good progress on the baby sweater. I am now working on the sleeves.

We arrived home midweek. A couple of rains kept the trees and plants green. Today summer is at its best. I walked in warm dappled sunlight and shade. The sky was clear, the humidity was lower and the temperature was near seventy degrees as the breeze ruffled my hair. The zinnias are blooming, and my garden is beginning to produce its extravaganza of basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

The cherry tomatoes are ripening and other tomato plants are heavy with green fruit. My favorite summer dish of garden tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, parm over pasta will be on the menu soon. Food for the gods. I hope summer is treating you to some of its bountiful goodness.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Flowers

Monday I had a massage at Bella, a local spa. Two young women created the business in a charming older house. Customers and passersby walk through a small front yard converted to a perennial flower garden that includes a small fountain and rocks. Tulips, daffodils, and a small flowering tree greet customers in the Spring. This month glorious coneflowers, lilies, and bright campanula bloom. As I walked down the steps through this sweet little garden, three honeybees buzzed around the bright purple campanula and a large yellow swallowtail flitted among the coneflowers. At that moment, all seemed right with the world.

This small space with its shelter for honeybees and butterflies reminded me of an Emily Dickinson poem.

                     In the name of the Bee -
                     And of the Butterfly -
                     And of the Breeze - Amen!

That Emily, she had a playful way with words.

These exuberant mismatched flowers also make me happy. Last evening I worked out modifications for the rose colored shawl. I took the shape and motif from the pattern and gave the shawl a simpler look. I plan to knit two rows of flowers on all three outer edges of the triangle. I think the stitch counts will allow for two rows across the top edge. Three times, I tried to begin the edge pattern by counting backwards from the end of the row. Finally I created a chart on paper and the stitch pattern became clear. Hopefully the flower motif is more visible after the shawl is finished and blocked. If not, the lace edges will stay as a design element. As we say, knitting is a process. 

I am near the end of Anything is Possible. Strout writes well. Her characters are very human and the theme of forgiveness and reconcilation is good food for thought. I am listening to I Was Anastasia: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon. The readers, one as young Anastasia and the other as Anna Anderson, the woman trying to prove her identity, are excellent. The story of the younger Anastasia moves forward in time while that of Anna begins at the end of her life and moves backward. Chapter headings with the narrator's name and dates orient the reader/listener. I haven't found it difficult to follow but did turn it off while I charted the knitted flowers. I couldn't count opposite directions on a chart and keep track of a story moving in opposite directions at the same time. Imagine. I find the book entertaining and intriguing. When and how will the two storylines meet? I also look forward to hearing the author's note at the end of the story. 

One other note: Thank you to all who read these posts. I have had trouble responding to the comments and some have not been able to comment. I had two helpful notes from readers so maybe I have this fixed. At any rate, thank you. You make the world a friendlier, better place.

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. Lots of interesting knitting, reading, and gardening going on these days. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Tomato Growing Weather

My Granddad often said corn should be knee high by the 4th of July. Born in 1899 on a Nebraska farm, he knew about hot summer work. After he served in World War One, he came home and found a job selling construction materials for a company called Door and Sash. He never became a farmer but loved working in his garden with an old straw hat on his head. I followed that hat around and learned to love gardening. He taught me that heat and humidity extending overnight is prime tomato growing weather. When he finished working in his garden, he sat down in an old white metal lawn chair in the shade. Dewey (as we called him) was a quiet gentle man with a quick wit. I often think of him as I garden and wonder what he thought about when he rested in that chair.

During this tomato growing weather, my handwork feels as flighty as a butterfly. I reclaimed the rose colored yarn and am currently trying a new shawl pattern. I don't swatch for shawls but just cast on and knit to see the pattern/yarn combination. I completed a bit more of the knitting but am letting it rest to see if I want to continue. In the meantime I cast on a hat that I'll donate somewhere.

Last winter I wore my favorite old walking hat inside out because it was so faded. This seems like a sad state of affairs for a knitter, so I knit a new walking hat from three strands of yarn. As per pattern suggestion, I divided a skein of fingering weight in two and then added a strand of light mohair. Both skeins came from stash. Three strands meant I knit a little more slowly but it wasn't terribly fiddly and turned out to be a good way to cope with constant turmoil of the news.

I am stitching on Christmas quilt blocks for the new grandchild arriving late in September. I cut the blocks, leaving a margin for squaring up later. To date I have finished five of twenty blocks. Quilting, like knitting, is a process - one stitch at a time. The baby won't need this twin sized quilt in his/her crib this Christmas. I just wanted to get started as I think about this new little one. The handwork is a nice break from knitting. 

I am reading Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. This book fills in the back stories from Lucy Barton's (My Name is Lucy Barton) home town. As usual, Strout's writing is excellent and I am enjoying these stories. I have just begun but am wondering how the theme "anything is possible" will play out during the book. 

Linking up today with Kat and the Unravelers.

Happy 4th of July and Happy Tomato Growing Weather.