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


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Early August

August arrives with cooler days. This week I walk at 8:00 a.m. in a long sleeved shirt or light jacket. The unseasonable weather is about right for this topsy-turvy year. The tomato plants are full of green fruit. The pesky squirrels take one bite of the few turning orange and then drop them on the ground. Next year I may go back to my unlovely chicken wire fence. The compost garden is growing too. I pulled tomato plants and a squash vine out of the inside of the bins. Now tomato plants grow between the bins and the shed. Their tenacity makes me smile so for now I'm leaving them to grow. A potato plant grows in the other bin. One year three watermelons grew from the compost. Who knows, maybe this is the fall garden I never seem to plant. As far as I know, the squirrels don't visit the compost bins. 

Since last linking with Kat and the Unravelers, I finished the scrappy sort-of-Local Yarn Shawl above. This project reminds me how much I like a soft subtle color. I modified the pattern to suit the scraps I wanted to use. I knit all but the border at least twice. I knit a middle section three times and eventually left out one ribbed lace pattern. I adjusted the number of rows in most sections until the shawl doesn't much resemble the pattern but I am pleased with the results. Something about knitting and wearing a shawl brings a lot of comfort. Weaving in all the ends was so satisfying. Have I ever mentioned I like closure?  

I combined scraps and a single skein of superwash Corriedale yarn to knit this shawl. The Corriedale softened a little with washing and has a lovely crisp/soft texture. Alas, the base is no longer available. Knit Circus does still dye the colorway so I'm filing that information for future use. I love the soft shade of blue. 

These mitts were a satisfying knit. Alfresco Mitts is a nice free pattern I've now knit three times. 

I am working on some small projects that will become birthday and Christmas gifts and may try a toe-up sock soon. I could also pull out a shawl that's been languishing in a bag this summer. 

Yesterday The Warmth of Other Suns came in on my holds Overdrive account. I read through the beginning chapter and am hooked. I predict I'm going to enjoy the writing, structure, and stories in this book. I recently listened to the On Being interview between Krista Tippett and Isabel Wilkerson, the author of this book, and it was excellent. I know Wilkerson has published, Caste, a new book that is getting wonderful reviews. I am also reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. I have read some of Kidd's other work. Her prose is lyrical. This storyline is intriguing but I find myself anxious when reading about women who had few rights. 

I am sure I'll get accustomed to the changes in Blogger and I shouldn't complain because it is free but why does the technology have to constantly change? If the pictures look a little out of proportion or boringly in the same position, it's because I'm learning to navigate the changes. One more topsy-turvy thing to add to this year's list. I think I'll go put on a shawl and finish my tea. I have plenty to choose from and for that I am grateful.