Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Stitching Away

While the temperature and humidity hold on to the end of this Nebraska summer, the morning and evening light comes at a different slant. Some mornings the spider webs are hung with dew. Yesterday a front blew through so this morning feels like autumn. Grandmother Spider is busy repairing her web.

All summer I have been making quilt blocks for our new grandchild. Come December this little one will be sleeping in a crib and have no need for a large Christmas quilt. I am under no immediate deadline to finish and am taking my time. I enjoy thinking about Baby Coconut (temporarily named by her eldest brother and due in mid September) while I stitch away on the blocks. I have completed seventeen of the twenty. I will stitch the last one after Baby Coconut arrives. I need the child's given name for the block with my name and date. Come autumn, after a visit to meet this new babe, I will set the quilt together.

I finished the Petty Harbor socks. The alpaca/wool/nylon yarn makes warm soft socks and worked well with the textured pattern. I often buy a skein of Alpaca Sox yarn from a LYS in Omaha. My sister and I shop the store's end-of-the-year sale together. These socks remind me of a cold December day in a yarn shop with my sister. The summer shawl and a toddler sweater remain on the needles but haven't seen much knitting time lately. Currently I am joining some other women in knitting Mitered Cross blanket squares as a gift to a cancer patient. The construction of the garter stitch square is interesting and makes the knitting go by quickly.

I am reading several books. The Cottonwood Tree by Kathleen Cain, a native Nebraskan combines science, ecology, natural history and Cain's experiences with the trees. Most of it is quite readable. A section or two describing the science of the tree are a little technical but still interesting. The other two books are from the library. Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley is a resource with patterns as well as mathematics needed to design mittens in a range of sizes with various weights of yarn. I am always on the look out for knitting books and found this one on a shelf of new nonfiction. After listening to an episode of "On Being" podcast featuring poet Michael Longley, I requested his Collected Poems via Interlibrary Loan. Listening to his Irish Brogue as he read and talked about poetry led me to search for his work. His poems are beautiful.

I'll link to Kat and the Unravelers today. It is always fun to see what others are reading and stitching or even unraveling.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Knitting Needles

One of my summer projects was to sew a fabric case for my double pointed needles. Since becoming a dedicated knitter, I have stored DPN's (in the original packaging) at the bottom of the basket that also holds circular needles. Other than the time spent looking for DPN's and buying a few unneeded duplicate sets, the system worked well. Lately some of the packaging has worn out, letting needles slip through the wrappers. On our last road trip, we pulled off the highway and stopped so I could retrieve a needle that fell down beside the seat. 

During the past few days I made a case from supplies on hand. I did purchase some twill tape printed with a tape measure that I used to label needle sizes on specific pockets. Every time I pull out supplies from storage, I think whoever finds this mess after I am gone will say, "Well, she had a lot of good ideas." "Egad and little fishhooks," as my Grandmother used to exclaim. Gram was a sewer of all kinds of projects and had a sewing room full of interesting supplies and tools so she would understand my collection. I inherited her buttons, a few pieces of fabric, and many knitting needles. 

Anyway, my sister has a fabric DPN case, so I asked her to measure and photograph it for me. This project would have been much more difficult without that information. First I inventoried sizes, lengths, and duplicate sets of needles. Then I spent three afternoons measuring, cutting, trimming, pressing, and sewing to create the case. 

I finished it by hand stitching down the binding and attaching size labels. Hand stitching the size labels seemed like the best way not to inadvertently sew the pockets shut. Oh dear. I enjoyed the puzzle of creating and sewing the case but will say that whatever Etsy makers charge for a DPN case is a fair price. 

While sorting needles, I came upon these Susan Bates needles. Look at the prices. I remember buying one pair of these but the others probably came from my Grandmother's collection. She didn't knit much on DPN's but used them to cable.

I also have some of her straight needles in the pastel aluminum colors. I don't use them often but keep them in a small pitcher that also belonged to her. She had a set of "Tickled Pink" dishes she used everyday. Pink was her favorite color but that is a story for another day. 

I am reading the last chapter of Craeft. The author, an archeologist, traces the history of craeft and tools that enabled agricultural life in England and Wales before petroleum products came into widespread use. His ideas are intriguing and mostly readable. Some technical sections about tools were a little tedious for me. I enjoyed the section about sheep farming, spinning, and weaving as well as the story about baskets. 

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers today. May your books and knitting needles stay neatly in their assigned places and projects.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Touch of Fall

Yesterday a slow steady rain fell all morning. The sound of rainfall and gray light was meant for stories and words. I picked up The Reading Woman engagement calendar that I keep on my desk for inspiration. A generous thoughtful friend and fellow book club member gave it to me last December. The calendar is illustrated with paintings of reading women. A reading-related quote by a woman follows each painting. The art work is beautiful and the quotes range from sassy to meditative. As I considered the bright shining faces of neighborhood children on this first week of a new public school year, I read this quote by Maya Angelou,"If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young." I wish these young students a good year with time enough to read a book for pure enjoyment. I miss this wise woman but am thankful for others who write and speak today.

Ursula K. LeGuin was another wise woman. Although I haven't read her fiction, I admire her essays and short pieces of nonfiction. Her insights into life, writing, publishing, and reading are thought provoking. In February 2010, she talked and facilitated a discussion of "What Women Know" published in Words Are My Matter. She finds hope in the ways women teach lessons of being human to children and strengthen cultures by telling stories.

Kat and the Unravelers continue their reading, stitching, and story telling. I look forward to reading their blog posts today. I am knitting the foot on the first blue sock  and reading several books at one time, including Words Are My Matter. I have only begun Craeft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, written by an English archeologist. It begins with history of a scythe and making hay. Although I was hoping to read more about the fiber arts, the book is interesting enough that I keep reading.

Today is cool and gray. As my Mom used to say, "There is a little touch of Fall in the air." No doubt the temperature will rise and today's humidity will make the afternoon feel like summer but this morning I sense the season changing. Like my wise and kind mother, I prefer autumn and winter, however I am grateful for the feast of fresh summer produce. Today's tomatoes make good soup and sauce for colder days. This afternoon's work is to preserve some of this tomato bounty. The green sprigs behind the tomatoes are herbs. Stacking them on paper towels is my high tech method for drying and saving them for winter. The system is messy but it works well. 

May you all have wise and kind women in your lives and reading as you savor the bounty of summer.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Local Gem

Why is it I forget to savor the beauty in my own community? I often drive by the Sunken Gardens located near a busy intersection in Lincoln. This garden was built in 1930-1931 on a former neighborhood dump site. The original goal of the rock garden design was to turn the land into a place of beauty. The workers, who were part of a program providing work for the unemployed, earned $6.40 per hour. They planted 416 trees and shrubs. In 2003, the Lincoln Parks Foundation raised 1.7 million dollars for renovations. The work was completed in 2005. Today the garden is planted and tended by volunteers under the direction of Lincoln Parks and Recreation.

A week or so ago on a sunny afternoon I made this local gem my destination. The park consists of three gardens: a perennial garden, an annual garden, and a healing (white) garden. There are also two reflecting pools filled with lilies, a waterfall, and two statues. Let me show you some of the beauty.

A pavilion marks the entrance to the garden. The dome consists of laser cut panels portraying the four seasons in Lincoln. Here is the view looking up from inside.

Colors and textures in the garden are a feast for the senses. The afternoon I visited many others also enjoyed the garden. I saw children looking at koi and butterflies, a woman helping her elderly mother to a bench in the shade, volunteers with hoes and wheelbarrows, and quite a few photographers. A few of them appeared to be university/college students on assignment. The garden holds beauty and space for all.  

Since I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I'll also write about knitting and reading. I am enjoying small projects on these hot summer days. I finished the Irish Hiking mittens and cast on some socks using blue yarn from my stash. Of course the yarn is blue. I am slowly chugging through my sock yarn (fingering with nylon) stash - three remaining. I do have several fingering weight skeins without any nylon content set aside for shawls or mitts. Whew.

I read The Girls of the Kingfisher Club, a retelling of the fairy tale about 12 princesses. In this version set in the 1920's, the twelve sisters sneak out of their New York City home to dance the nights away. Think flappers and the Charleston. This book is pure summer fluff that could have used more character development. Still a fairy tale was a good way to read myself to sleep at night. I continue to read Words are My Matter by LeGuin during the daylight. I read a piece or two at a time and then ponder the author's thoughts. 

One housekeeping note: my daughter helped me with settings for this blog so perhaps the commenting feature will work better. Time will tell.

I hope your Wednesday is treating you well. Have you visited any local gems this summer?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Peppers, Onions, and Cukes, Oh My!

August first is half way between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. Since I retired, the day feels more like the midpoint instead of the end of the season. Teachers in Lincoln go back to work in just a few days. I remember those days well - anticipation of a new school year mixed with sadness at the end of summer days and long evenings. My good wishes go with them. Teachers go to work, often before they are required to be on duty, with goodwill and energy to prepare for their students.

Today I am grateful for the remaining summer days. Seasonal produce is delicious and abundant. Last week I stuffed zucchini with summer veggies and bread crumbs. I also baked a squash/tomato tart with zucchini from a friend and the first few tomatoes from my garden. The Colorado peaches have arrived in local grocery stores and the Farmer's Market is bursting with color and flavor. This morning I sliced up a sink full of cucumbers, green peppers, onions, and garlic. In a couple of hours, I will rinse and drain the pickling salt and water before processing the veggies in a water bath canner. Bread and butter pickles for the winter. The cucumbers grew in my garden from one hill of eight seeds. Am I ever glad I planted only one hill. This is the second batch of pickles in a week.

This little rainbow bear (with blue and a hood as per request) is on its way to Connecticut. It was fun and easy to knit. Micah will be five this month on August 8 because as he says, "Eight is great!" We won't be with him in person but are sending our abundant love. We will sing to him via Face Time and look forward to an autumn visit. Where does the time go?

I finished the infamous baby kimono. The loose stitches/ladders in the sleeves didn't even out with blocking. This is not the fault of the pattern. I have knitted it previously in a heavier yarn. I don't usually have trouble with ladders while knitting in the round. Perhaps alternating knit and purl rows with this yarn is the reason for unevenness. That is my excuse and I'm sticking to it. The soft little sweater used a generous skein of fingering weight stash yarn. It will keep some little one warm, uneven stitches and all.

Since I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I will mention an audiobook, To Die but Once, a Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear. If you haven't met Maisie and enjoy mysteries, you may want to give this series a try. Maisie is an intrepid independent young woman who served as a nurse in World War One. Most of the series is set just after the war but in this story, #14, England is once again at war. The novels are more substantial than cozy mysteries and the history is interesting.

Happy August. May your produce, knitting, love, and/or reading be abundant and delicious.