Friday, May 11, 2018

Sweet Days of May

Since my last visit here January has finally found its way into May,
where I admit I am much more at my ease. Although I appreciate the beauty that God gives to each month and season in turn, I really am in my truest element when I can feel the soft, sweet freshness of each new Spring awakening all of my senses once again. I enjoy the icy, more dignified beauty of January days but there's just something about the promise of May that quickens my spirit. 
The tiny early Springtime flowers with their magical fragrance make me feel completely alive again. I tread lightly as I wander amongst them and choose a few to bring in just in case there are fairies flitting beneath their delicate fronds. 
I look up to find myself under a garland of Crabapple blossoms.
Yes...
I'm fairly certain this is the exact spot
the fairies have chosen to make their home...
There are birds, bunnies and squirrels who run in and out of the garden throughout the day for a visit as well. All of these sights, sounds and smells quench my thirsty soul, give me inspiration and quite simply just make me happy.
As Winter slogged on and on, I kept knitting, kept crocheting,
kept sipping cup after cup of tea and returning to my old friends the Classics.
As always, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell to name a few, carried me safely through and delivered me, once again, into the promise land of May.
During this time many fibers, textures and colors have slipped through my fingers and soothed my soul as it longed for more open spaces, curtains blowing in gentle breezes and the sweet days of May and the Summer ahead on my porch swing.
In a two and a half week span of time just before Easter I made forty of these little knitted teacup bunnies. They were hopping in and out of my dreamland by the time the holiday rolled around.
I have one more to make this week for a baby shower gift.
No Spring is complete without a few bunny hat orders. 
I love knitting these in Organic Cotton.
It's so soft and snuggly for delicate baby heads.
Then I began to move into my "Shawl phase".
I usually try to knit and crochet a few large pieces early in the year to prepare for the Pumpkin Festival Craft Faire each September
and my December Christmas Open House.
This one ended up selling already, however.
It was a gorgeous golden color of 50% Alpaca and 50% Mulberry Silk.
It's soft and supple with the perfect amount of drape,
as you can see on my daughter, Hilary.
The next shawl was this lovely striped one is shades of dusty purples,
teals and a slight hint of grey.
It's actually finished and waiting to be wet down and stretched out
on the lace blocking wires.
I'll show you the finished results soon.
After knitting a couple of smaller sized shawls I decided it was time to get out my crochet hooks and work up a couple of larger ones. This is the first one I made. It's a lovely shade of Sterling, which is a grey with a slight purple undertone. The fiber content is 70% Merino Wool and 30% Silk. It's fingering weight, making it soft and light, with a slight sheen from the silk. 
You can find it for sale on my shop here or here.
It's a Crescent Shaped Shawl, meaning it comes to a gentle triangle. 
Click the links for full details.
The shawl I am currently crocheting is full of color.
It's definitely a happy piece of work.
It practically sings out Summertime!
I expect it to leap off my hook at any moment
and fly away into the garden
to join those fairies for an afternoon dance. 
Who knows...
when I get it finished,
maybe I'll wrap myself up in it,
just once,
and take a twirl in the garden...
"I would always rather be happy than dignified."
Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Dreamy Activity


The beginning of the week brought me to the end of the various complexities of the full scope of characters in George Elliot's great work of literature, Middlemarch, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
As I seamed this baby sweater and sewed it's tiny pearly white buttons in place, the lives of Dorothea, Rosamond, Will and many others who had become as living, breathing people to me began to ebb away. Some of their essence will always linger, however, when I remember the knitting of this sweater.
That's how it always is with me. I become connected to the items I make and they remain a piece of what was going on for me, around me and inside me during the time of the making. This may be one reason I like both books and projects that take a bit of time. A slow read and a slow knit. Sometimes they are both what the soul needs... slow down... slow down...slow down...
Be Dreamy...
Working on baby knits has always been dreamy to me. I love to picture their chubby tummies and arms wrapped in a cardigan that's been made with tender care. My mind wanders to the sight of that precious little head covered by a hand knit hat. Every stitch made with great purpose and so much love.
I really like the lacework pattern in this sweater by Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard.
It's a very easy repeat to follow. The pattern is easy to follow as well,
for the most part.
However, there are a few things you should know
if you decide to try your hand at it.
First thing is that it comes out small
I am typically on the loose side when I knit and crochet both.
Even though I was on gauge this sweater came out smaller than I intended.
I was following instructions for size 9-12 months, which brings me to the
Second thing...
There is one mistake that needs correction in the pattern.
Left Front:
After Row 6:
Next row: K6, [p1, k5],to last 7, (4:6:4:6) sts, [p1, k1] to end of row.
The book is missing one stitch here. It shows a 6 where I have a bold 7.
Third thing...
There are no buttonholes knitted into the pattern. 
It instructs you to simply poke the buttons through. Being a loose knitter, I can do this easily enough, however it is never my preference to do so. I have decided, all things considered, that I really do adore this sweet baby sweater, so much so that I will make it again. I have made my knitter's notes {scribbles...} and therefore know exactly what to expect. I might even work out how to size it up in the future. Most definitely there will be knitted buttonholes incorporated from now on.
As you travel along your own knitting journey, I would like to encourage you to make changes when and where they are needed, or even just when you feel like it. If you'll look at the top of the sweater you will see one row of garter stitch running around just about five rows beneath the neck ribbing. I added that on a whim. It was meant to be plain stockinette but I suddenly decided to throw in that one more touch of texture. Forge ahead... Be Brave... Be Confident!
Like I tell my knitting and crochet students all of the time...
"It's just yarn, needles and hooks... sticks and string really...
don't be intimidated ...
YOU are the BOSS of it ...
BE THE BOSS OF IT
Every student I've ever taught loves that and at some point of frustration will repeat that back to me out loud. It's a great encourager and a fantastic bit of comic relief when one is sweating over the learning process.
As the great knitting icon, Elizabeth Zimmermann said,
"I can knit, I knit all year, day in, day out, it is my passion,
and I rarely knit the same thing twice the same way."
So I say this to you,
Relax...
Make your knitting yours.
Experience it.
A large part of the overall experience is, of course, sensory.
Notice a say sensory rather than tactile.
For me fiber is about feeling, seeing, smelling, thinking... emotion.
I must admit this is why I have such a great love affair with natural fibers.
There's a purity, a quality, a fragrance, an essence to them.
Have you ever tried to smell acrylic...???
Once again, I'm with the late, great Ms. Zimmermann on this one who advised to
"pass by the synthetic yarn department with your nose in the air..."
{All hail to the Queen on this one}
On a much lovelier note, I can promise you,
my senses know the instant they come in contact with
wool, cashmere, alpaca, silk...
These fibers flow and breathe with the body and skin.
The yarn I chose to work with for the sweater, as mentioned in my last post,
is Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk Dk in Color number 0359 Blossom.
It comes in a 50g ball/116m/127yards for $9.95 per ball.
There's not a single thing I don't absolutely love about this exquisite fiber.
I highly recommend it, especially for baby items.
It's ultra soft, has beautiful bounce and shows great stitch definition.
It can be machine washed, if you like but must be laid flat to dry.
Once I put the finishing touches to the sweater,
I decided there must be a hat to accompany the gift as well.
This "Hat with Wave" pattern is also in the Lullaby Knits book. I was intrigued by its uniqueness and then completely smitten with its outcome. Since it is knit flat, as you can see in the last picture {because I am now making just one more...}, then seamed up the back and cast off across the top in a straight fashion, rather than round, it gives a somewhat squared off shape when laid flat. I was delighted to discover that when placed on a round object, like a baby's head, it gives the slight appearance of what looks like ears. Almost like a tiny pussycat hat or a golden honey bear. Too sweet.
The needles I used for both the sweater and the hat
were from one of my favorite circular sets of
These needles are light and silky smooth with perfect joins and cables that swivel as you knit. I have two sets. The smaller and the larger sizes and I love them.  
I find that each time my needles or hooks return to babyland I have a hard time getting them to come back out right away. While I'm lost in the dreaminess of it all... the gliding along of those smooth needles and lush fiber,  I can almost smell that baby sweetness and feel their incomparable softness. All things "baby" will always hold a special, dreamy place in my heart.
If you're looking for me this time of year I can usually be found walking along the windswept moors with the sisters Bronte or off in some snug drawing room with Jane Austen, sipping a nice cup of tea and knitting...
always, always knitting in my own dreamland.

"Really, hand knitting is a dreamy activity,
built into many people's thumbs and fingers
by genes already there,
itching to display their skills 
and achievement possibilities."
Elizabeth Zimmermann
(1910-1999)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On Life's Classic Things

I finished knitting the Tin Can Knits Grayling Mittens a few days ago, which as I said in my last post I purchased as a kit and made for myself. If you are interested in the pattern only, however, you can buy it for just $5.00 by clicking on the link I've provided. If you love to knit mittens and enjoy cable work, as I do, you will find this pattern pure bliss. Remember they do require smaller needles. Mine are knit up on size US 2 /2.75mm DPNs. Although I find myself oftentimes working on larger needles in order to accommodate the wishes and needs of my customers, my personal preference is always smaller needles and finer knits. I love, love, love lacework and am always drawn immediately to any pattern that has cabling involved; the more intricate, the better. To me these are the classic things in the world of knitting, along with faire isle, which I dearly love as well and have set as a goal for 2018 to do more of. 
Though it is a bit Christmassy for being into January,
I couldn't resist showing you this photo.
Actually, this was my New Year's Day knitting project at my kitchen table with the glorious Winter sunshine pouring in, which was greatly appreciated as it was just barely above zero degrees that day. Every year or so I knit a few more of these magical little fairy trees that sit atop wine corks. They are another project for my preferred size 2 DPNs and, as you can see, are done in beautiful little cables. I use worsted weight yarn in scraps of wool or alpaca usually and sprinkle them around my house and gift them to family and friends. They make me happy. They always put a smile of delight on the faces of others too. I think even Mercedes has a fondness for them.
Well, once I was done playing with tiny trees and had finished my one allotted knit for myself, it was time to return to work. This pair of fingerless mitts {yes, it has a lovely big cable running up the center} is my first completed custom order for the new year. They are actually both off the needles now and ready for pick up at week's end. They are made of a nice soft, warm, squishy blend of merino wool, alpaca and Donegal tweed and have been a top selling item in countless color combinations for the last few years. Apparently I'm not alone in my love of cables. Like I said, they are classic and timeless.

Speaking of classics, another of my true loves in this area are books. What you can't see in the picture with Miss Kitty is that she politely perched herself on top of my iPad on which I was at the time listening to the audiobook version of Jane Eyre... {again}. I confess that this is one of my all time favorite books and I have read and listened to it a few times over the years.
It seemed appropriate to start the new year out by revisiting it since I ended 2017 by listening to the audiobooks The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, which I loved very much and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. As fond as I am of all of the Bronte sisters, and even enjoy reading books about them, Charlotte is the reigning queen of my heart.  Plus just before I listened to Jane Eyre again, I read the hardcopy of a book I thoroughly enjoyed called
Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker.
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So why do I enjoy trudging through these old classics?
Good question. I have always loved literature and poetry and words...
As for the older writings, maybe I am drawn to them in the same way and for the same reasons I am drawn to the traditional, classic styles of knitting. They call to my old, romantic soul. I love the formal antiquated language that sometimes causes me to look a word up and expand my vocabulary, which I find to always be a good thing. Also the fact that so many classics are so very character rich really works for me. They are chock full of a whole cast of people with deep emotions. People who still knew and used the fine art of writing letters. They are usually deeply descriptive about lush countryside views that take me places my heart longs for and ramble through my mind long after the books end. So often they are stories that go on and on, which is a bonus for me. I love being totally immersed into that other world full of it's delicious sights, sounds and smells; surrounded by those other people with their thoughts, ideals and yearnings that make me think...
I listen to audiobooks as I knit. They keep me company around a quiet house during the Winter months when I can't go outside and on warm days they are my companions on the porch swing until those with flesh come along. This way I am never without a friend and I can keep on working... knitting... stitching... learning... dreaming...

Two of my favorite quotes from Jane Eyre are:

"Crying does not indicate that your are weak,
Since birth it has always been a sign that you are alive."

 And...

"I would always rather be happy than dignified."

Yes, I can wholeheartedly agree with both of these.
As for me, I most definitely want to be alive. Actually fully alive.
I also have a tendency towards choosing happiness,
having discovered over the course of my life it suits me best.
So why not strive for it?
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Remaining in the same frame of mind, these are my current reads.
On audio I have just begun the long story of  Middlemarch by George Eliot,
who was really Mary Ann Evans.
It is read by one of my favorite narrators, Nadia May.
I have wanted to read it for ages and decided it would be the perfect book to listen to during these still, cozy days of being tucked inside the house.
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The book I am  reading in hardcopy is not technically a classic but is written about Jane Austen and in her style. I am finding it to be very good so far. Even though it may seem odd to read a Christmas book in January,
it's a yearly ritual of mine.
We can't be on the subject of all things "classic" without bringing up friendship.
I received a package in the mail early in the week with these two wonderful gifts from my dear friend and Soul Sister, Genie, who lives in California. We enjoy sending fun things to each other throughout the year and keeping in touch by phone, especially when there is a need for special prayer.
In between working on custom orders I have started on a little baby sweater for a special friend who has a beautiful new baby girl in need of a hand knit piece of warmth and love. 
{And some beautiful classic knit lacework...}
Also, what could be more classic than a hand knit cardigan? 
It just says, "I love you" like nothing else.
Don't you love that delicate buttercream yellow? That's Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK in color shade 0359, which some websites refer to as Butter Yellow and others as Primrose.
The pattern is Lacy Cardigan by Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard
and is in the book
These are the things I fill my time with during these days and weeks of
Winter hibernation.
With such gentle, cozy comforts at hand
I don't mind the cold weather so much.
As a boss I had in banking years ago once said to me,
on a day when the weather was riddled with somewhat violent storms,
"Oh I don't mind the weather, no matter what. It's just weather... I like it all."
Now there is the attitude to take.
I tucked that in my memory bank and in my heart that day and have found
that as each Winter has approached I dread it less instead of more.
"Live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit."
Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Silent, and Soft, and Slow


Yes Christmas has come and gone again already.
It comes in a hustle and leaves with a flurry...
But I am always reluctant to let it go and so I hang on for just a bit longer...
And though I love Summer days of open house breezes and carefree front porch swinging, there is still something about a crisp, cold, clear, sparkling, snowy Winter that is almost magical to me at times. The sight of the bright January sunshine drenching a fresh fallen snow and transforming it into a field of glittered white takes my breath away, even from my kitchen window.
I just have to stop and give thanks for the glorious beauty of it all.
Though all the presents have been given and received, the mess torn away and disposed of, I am still feeling quite festive. The Spirit of Christmas lingers on with me during these cold, snowy days of the new year. It has been so long since I created a blog post that I have so many things to share.    
Therefore, this one will look a bit like Christmas
and for those of you who follow my
Facebook pages or Instagram, it will be somewhat of a repeat. Sorry about that!
I made these pretty faire isle knitted hats early in the season using
This yarn is so soft and scrumptious you have to feel it to believe it... and it comes in the most wonderful soft, subtle colors. Definitely a favorite luxury fiber of mine. So if you want to treat yourself, or a friend to something special in the new year, make it using this fabulous fiber.
{or contact me for something custom ;-) }
Of course there were stockings and mitts crocheted and knit up as well.
There were hats galore with big fluffy pom poms... because somehow we all seemed to know we needed to make ready for the frosty days that lay ahead and nothing warms body and soul as well as soft, hand knitted items made of merino wool, alpaca, cashmere and love.

There was even a custom order on my Etsy Shop for some tiny stocking caps with pom poms
and little pumpkins to be used as egg cozies.
I guess even the eggs were anticipating a cold winter...

There were mittens too.
Knit in that same exquisite Purl Soho Flax Down fiber. 
The first Saturday of December ushered the Christmas Season into my home with my annual Christmas Open House. There were five of us here this year selling our handmade items and baked goods. It was our best year ever with a heartwarming turnout of nearly one hundred people passing through the house during the day. We were overjoyed. And again, if you were one of those people, we thank you and we look forward to seeing you here again every year on
the first Saturday in December. 
The following weekend in December brought us to Peoria Ballet's Nutcracker Performance with my granddaughter Gabby having three roles this year. I have pictures of her in just two of her costumes.
It was a beautiful performance. Not only did I have the pleasure of watching from the audience but I chaperoned during the Saturday evening performance and was able to watch some of it from the stage.
All in all it's been a wonderful, magical and very blessed holiday season.
And as I said before, my spirit still lingers in Christmastide... after all, the twelve days of Christmas start on December 25th so I'm not so very behind. Although others around me are pulling down their decorations and storing them till next Christmas I'm not quite there yet. My kitchen cupboards still look festive and there are corners of the house that bear traces of old fashioned yuletide.
It all looks Wintry to me so I'll keep it for just a while longer...
I'm still enjoying steaming hot cups of my favorite Christmas teas too.
and my absolute favorite
Taylors of Harrogate
One promise I made to myself was that after a year full of nonstop knitting for "work" I would take just a little break and make one thing for me  before starting up the new work year. Once again, expecting a cold winter, I decided on a new pair of mittens.
There are a few reasons for this choice:
1) My hands are always cold
2) My custom order book already has orders into Eastertime,
therefore I needed something that I could knit quickly
3) Mittens are my all time favorite thing to knit
4) Whether it be real mittens or even cookies shaped like mittens,
all things mitten - like  warm my heart and bring out my inner child...
for some reason they cause great delight in me.
I have the first one finished and am actually further along on the second one than this picture shows.
Here are the details in case you are interested in making some yourself.
The pattern is very well written and easy to follow and the yarn shows the stitch definition beautifully, making the cable work stand out perfectly.
So here goes...
I ordered the kit from Kitterly
and you can find it right here
It will let you choose from a good selection of colors of Ewe Ewe Yarns So Sporty
which is a 100% Merino Wool Superwash. I chose Brushed Silver 
The kit includes a set of double point needles and a cable needle.
My gorgeous Rosewood Yarn Bowl is from Knit Picks.
Click the link to go straight to it if you're interested in it. 
I have to say I really love mine.

I pray this finds you all having had a very
Blessed Holiday Season
and entering the New Year in 
Good Health and Great Joy
with the special
Peace of Winter
settling in around you.

As for me I am taking things...
Silent,
and
Soft,
and 
Slow...
{just like the Winter Snow...}
for a little while...
And praying that in this New Year I will be filled anew with
"the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and Praise of God." 
Philippians 1:11

Snowflakes
Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodland brown and bare,
Over the harvest fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, October 6, 2017

Stay Gold

In this ever changing world of people doing things to their fellow man
that we cannot understand; that leave us gasping for breath and wondering...how?...why?... I still believe in the deep down goodness and great capacity that we have to love one another. My last few weeks have been quite interesting and full to the brim. In the midst of devastating world events and a very local school shooting threat, I have, in my personal realm, been touched so deeply by the warmth and kindheartedness of some very beautiful people.
In the heat of my mad dash week of preparations for the annual Pumpkin Festival Craft Faire a precious friend and neighbor had supper delivered to our front door, knowing that I was just crazy busy and wanting to help in some way. Mind you, she has an extremely hectic household of her own with six children but she was determined to lighten my load. My other friend and neighbor tagged my items and stamped my bags with my business name, as she does every year, around taking care of her four children. The friend and neighbor who lives in the middle of these two and directly across the street from me sent food over hot off her grill one night while she herself  was also preparing for the Pumpkin Festival and caring for her three little ones. This is the community I live in. These are the golden hearts that God has placed just within my reach. We run back and forth across the street when there's a need and we look after one another. To me this is Life at its very finest ... Life as it's meant to be... and I am so very, very thankful.
I've also been blessed by visits from friends who I've enjoyed lovely front porch conversations with. Some of them have shown up with fresh flowers from their gardens in hand for me. Others have brought home baked cookies or pumpkin scones. I've put on the kettle for tea or made them coffee. Together we are squeezing every last drop of pleasant porch time we can before the air turns to chill and forces us indoors again.  They are helping me create memories that I am storing in my heart for the long winter ahead. Each one being its own golden ray of sunshine in my soul.
Of course while we talk, I knit... and knit... and knit some more.
Autumn means lovely little pumpkins and I am just about to wrap up my custom orders on them for this year as I move on to other items to prepare for my upcoming Christmas event. I have knit so many pumpkins this year! I have to say, I think I've enjoyed them more than ever before. Like a dear friend said when she saw a ton of them all loaded together in a big basket before being sorted for individual orders,
"It's like having a litter of puppy's! It's going to be hard to let them go!"
The other thing I knit continuously every Fall
is fingerless mitts in various styles and colors.
Everyone seems to love them. I even have people who prefer them on the coldest of days because they still want their fingers free while driving. Plus a lot of us tend to have cold hands even inside, like my daughter, who wears them to work to keep her hands warm and her fingers free for typing on her computer. 
They tend to be my top selling item.
Some are knit in a DK weight lacework pattern
with a lush blend of merino wool and cashmere.
Others are chunky, cable knits in a soft blend
of merino wool, alpaca and Donegal tweed.
And I have to get my hooks into crocheting some as well, 
with this wonderful merino wool and bamboo fiber.
Although I do as much of my knitting as I possibly can sitting on the swing on my front porch, while weather permits, I have another favorite spot I love to go to knit once a week. Thankfully knitting is portable so I take my work with me wherever I go. One evening a week I take my granddaughter, Gabby, to ballet. She has two classes that together last 2 1/2 hours. This provides me with wonderful knitting time in one of my favorite coffee shops. Also I get to visit with the other customers and employees.
This week I spent time talking to a young man who I've seen in there many times. He's a regular. A friend of the manager. Through the course of our conversation I was very touched by his outlook on life. His desire to live simply and enjoy the smallest things in life... to quite literally find joy in living. We talked about several things. We talked about his siblings, my husband and children and grandchildren, happiness, God and what it's like to be content with our lives, comfortable in our own skin and thankful for everyday life
in a world that is plugged in and disconnected all at the same time.
And here's the thing...
this young man has been confined to a wheelchair all of his life
due to cerebral palsy.
Yet it is well with his soul.
He has figured out how to stay gold.
When the evening was over he thanked me for an "enjoyable conversation"...
Some people absolutely amaze me.
Though it may not seem like it at times,
there are still so many truly good people out there.
We have to look for the good in others and continue to try to connect.
Somewhere inside each of us is that carefree child of eternal summertime, turning a face toward the sunshine and believing that the world is full of hope and beauty and will be forever a place of gold.
"Stay gold, Ponyboy... Stay gold..."
{continue to be innocent and pure}
Johnny ~ The Outsiders

"I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."
Psalm 139:14