Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Soft Serenity

For those of us who live in the corner of the world where this time of year slowly brings Autumn to our doorstep, we are sitting on the edge of our seats with the anticipation of little children as we watch September once again walk out of our lives, taking with her the last random days of golden summertime. She must make way for her friend October who will bless us with her soft hues of russet, deep red, orange, brown and her own softer shade of gold. We see apple trees heavy with their fruitful bounty and porches decked out in their harvest attire of pumpkins, gourds and mums.
The days will become clear and crisp and the nights will be fresh with a hint of smokiness in the chill of the air. Each step Sweet October takes closer to our hearth makes us dream of cozy sweaters, thick socks and friends and family gathered with us around steaming mugs of cocoa, cider, coffee or tea.
For me it's always lovely hot tea along with my knitting projects to be worn for the cooler days ahead. This always includes a variety of fingerless mitts to suit different peoples fashion styles and this Fall it includes a few custom orders for some beautiful Shawls that I am so excited to make.
The one shown in the picture at the top is my own personal wrap. I have a customer who wants me to crochet one identical to it for her elderly mother who lives in Texas and gets very cold in air conditioning. Hers will be worked in grey and I am anxious to see this favorite accessory of mine made in a new color. As for the other two shawls I have been commissioned to make, I will show them to you when the journey begins ...
It really does thrill me when someone discovers I make shawls and orders them from me. These lovely articles have a language all their own and not everyone speaks it anymore. It seems to be too antiquated for some. Those of you who continue to share my love and passion for them know exactly what I mean.
Fingerless mitts and mittens are another one of my great knitting loves. There's just something about warm hands that make us warmer all over. I love fingerless mitts especially this time of year because they enable us to still hold onto those delicious hot drinks of choice, not to mention leave our fingers free for the many tasks of our day. Another bonus for me is knitting in the round on double point needles. It is my absolute favorite way to knit. There's just something about it that I find extra soothing. Maybe because it forces me to work just a touch more slowly and therefore is even more relaxing to me.
These are my newest mitts on my shop
They are just like Jane Austen might have worn... very feminine and lacy with a touch of old fashioned romance to them. This pair is a gorgeous shade of Cranberry Red, which is my all time favorite color. I am currently working on another pair in Charcoal Grey; my other favorite color. I also love all shades of pink and most purples. There is a beautiful ball of the loveliest shade of Dusty Lavender patiently waiting its turn in my knitting bag to be the next in line to grow into a pair of lacy mitts right after the grey ones jump off the needles.
I love keeping a pair of mitts in my work basket because they can be done in between other projects so quickly and easily. Plus they are very transportable.
I am busy stocking my shop with a few different options.
These are the heavier, warmer cabled version that I love so much with their wonderful flecks of tweed.

 There are also some with a more intricate cable and a bit more length up the arm.
I absolutely never ever get tired of cable work.
It's classic, elegant and totally timeless.

Although I am a Summertime lover through and through, I must admit that when this time rolls around every year feelings of peace and soft serenity begin to settle in on me. Oh how I love going to the drawers where I store the items I have handmade for myself over the years and pulling them out. Old friends we are at this point. They lay waiting to once again wrap themselves around me so together we can be set free to discover all the hidden secrets this new Autumn holds for us.
It's as if they too know there will be mornings in the park picking up colorful leaves, acorns and pinecones, afternoons spent on the porch swing with my tea and knitting, and moments of awe when the most glorious sunsets suddenly fill the sky and I will need their warmth wrapped around me to step out into it all and soak in every drop of the beauty my heart and soul can hold of this magnificent season.

"Autumn, the years last loveliest smile."
William Cullen Bryant

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Community

Well the whirlwind of Morton's 50th Golden Pumpkin Festival has finally come to an end and I am slowly recovering. I was unable to do my usual Thankfulness Tuesday post yesterday due to overwhelming fatigue but after an afternoon nap and then 12 hours of sleep last night here I am.
So please bear with me as I try to figure out exactly what day it is...
This photo shows only a portion of our booth about mid morning on the first day, which was actually two spaces wide, and I had to snap quickly between customers. We had two days full of gorgeous sunshine that brought out a beautiful crowd of shoppers. There was a bit of issue with the weather on Friday that caused our director to have to work hard and rearrange the whole schedule {hats off to you Kim for all of your hard work!} but in the end it all worked out perfectly. It was the best show the three of us have ever had. So many of the items that we have spent hours working on sold and that makes us so happy.
Plus I came home with custom orders as well.
But here's the real bonus for me...
I really love the opportunity to be involved in my community in this way. Being up there in the midst of it really is all about community and people coming together for a common goal and to have a good time. At my heart of hearts God programmed me to be a people person and I spend the entire year that I am creating fiber art for this craft faire looking forward to the time I will spend with the different people who will flow in and out of my booth. We always have family and friends who help with the setup and show up to visit, shop and show their loving support year after year, which I cherish more than words can say. If any of you are reading this... Thank You. Then there's the thrill of meeting all the new people that trickle in and out to look and try things on and make purchases or custom order items if we don't have the right size or color they need. I always find myself face to face with and old high school friend or two who has moved away and is home just for the festival and it's so much fun to reconnect. I also gain new knitting and crochet students every year too because they take my business card and show up for lessons and oftentimes we become friends. Although it takes me a good week to recover due to my health issues, I absolutely love every single drop of it all and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I am so thankful that when the smell of pumpkin starts floating on the air I find that God has once again given me the energy and strength I need to be involved in this very special event.
Of course there are also the rides that start on Wednesday before the Craft Faire.
Eric took Gabby and Parker up the first evening and got this picture of Gabby but there are no photos of the little guy. He was very excited about the train... but only watching it. He had no plan to ride it. Maybe next year.
Brandon captured this moment of Hilary and Archer on the merry go round.
I'm always so busy getting ready for the Craft Faire and setting up and then selling that I often have to conserve my energy just for the business at hand. Thankfully they are good about sending me these precious pictures when they snap them.

I hope this post finds each of you enjoying this last true day of Summer in
Good Health and Great Happiness.
I will be back in a few days to share a recipe and show you
what I'm working on for my
Christmas Sale.
For now I leave you with a lovely quote on community and friendship ...

"Alone we can do so little;
together so much."
Helen Keller

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Goodness of The Lord

Yesterday was a milestone in our household. It was the day we celebrated my husband, Scott's, five year mark of being a Pancreatic Cancer Survivor. For anyone who knows anything about this particular cancer, you realize what a truly miraculous thing this is. Very few people beat this one. It's considered The Big Boy of cancers. When I was thirteen I watched my grandmother lose her two year long battle to it and all those memories made me even more thankful that God had a different plan for Scott and me and our whole family.
For one thing we have two little grandsons he might never have known had things gone differently. This is Archer we are pictured with. He belongs to our oldest daughter Hilary and her husband Brandon.
We celebrated his second birthday on Saturday, September 10th at a local park on a very beautiful day.
His name is actually Archer Scott, which made a certain set of grandparents cry when we received that announcement after his birth. The joy that he has brought into our lives truly has no words. He reminds us in many ways of his mother at the same age and yet he is much like our beloved son in law as well.
His cousin Parker, who was two in May, was at the party as well.
His first question when told he was going to Archer's birthday party was,
"Will there be cake and will it have frosting on it?" He also really likes balloons.
  I just can't imagine Scott not being here to experience every drop of these two little men that God has sent straight down from Heaven just for us.
Look at this beautiful face. Once again, the perfect blend of a much loved daughter and son in law.
The joy that they all bring to our lives is something that I could have experienced on my own you might be thinking... but believe me, it would never have been the same without My Beloved. Scott and I have been together since I was a mere girl of 15 and he was really still just a boy of 19. At this point we are one flesh, one breath. Sometimes it's hard for me to tell where he stops and I begin. So I am more thankful, clear down to the very deepest part of my heart and soul, than anyone will ever know, that God chose to allow me to keep him. I thank Him every single day for His blessing.
We went through a difficult time five years ago, there's no denying that. Scott had sixty percent of his pancreas removed, along with his spleen and a soft ball sized mass. We spent six nights in the hospital. He was so sick that some of it's a blur to him but I remember every detail. During that time both of our daughters were planning their weddings six months apart. Scott had surgery in September, Chelsea was married in October and Hilary was married in April.
Plus in the midst of all of it, Scott had massive radiation treatments. He was so thin that he had to be refitted for his tuxedo he wore in Chelsea's wedding. He still jokes that it was her who walked him down the aisle in that wedding. But he made it. He danced with both of his cherished daughters at their weddings and he was here when their children entered the world. And by the Grace of God he is still by my side. I have to say here that I knew before we were told that Scott had cancer, that he did indeed have cancer. I felt the Lord preparing me. However, I must tell you that I also knew just as certainly that God would see us through. I had complete assurance of heart about it. That doesn't mean the journey was easy by any means but I always believed he would be
A Survivor.
"I would have despaired unless I
had believed that I would
see the goodness of the
Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart
take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord."
Psalm 27: 13, 14

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Constant Solace

In the Spring of 2000 I left the public workforce for the final time. Throughout the years I was raising my two daughters I was mostly a stay at home mom. However there were times I worked small, very part time jobs and even went back to school for a period of time. Then I went to work when they were in upper grade school at a bank in the small town I live in. That job started out as part time as well but soon grew into full time. I loved that job and everything about it. I was a bank teller and eventually trained all of the new bank tellers. As much as I enjoyed the detail part of the work involved it was the people I really loved. My coworkers became a second family to me and I became very fond of the customers. That's what it always comes down to for me really when God plants me in a new place; it's all about the people. So when I leave a place it's the loss of daily contact with those people that I grieve.
The fact that I left that job rather suddenly made it all the more difficult for me to cope with during the time. Although I have been struggling with rheumatoid disease since the age of nine, it took an aggressive turn when I began to approach my mid thirties and a new diagnosis of Systemic Lupus was added to the existing Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fybromyalgia. I no longer had the stamina to make it through a work week or even a work day. I couldn't think straight at times and when you are responsible for handling extremely large amounts of money all day long and teaching others to do the same and have to balance your own cash drawer and a new tellers twice a day every day a clear head is rather essential. I was practically crawling in the back door when I got home in the evenings. When all of the tests finally came through the doctor called me in and had a long talk with me. It was time for me to quit work she said and the really hard part was that she didn't even want me to give a two week notice. She told me that if I worked another two weeks I would end up in the hospital in even worse shape and it would just be harder to get things under control. I was ordered to go the next day and explain the situation and clear out my things and Go Home. Well then... Okay...
She said that if there was any problem they could call her and she would explain. Of course, there was no need. They were wonderful at the bank. Remember, my second family. God works all things out. I, however, was a bit shattered. Oh I was too sick to continue to work as far as my body was concerned but my heart and mind took a very, very long time to catch up to things. Years really. The rug was pulled out from underneath me so suddenly I felt. One moment I was working hard and laughing my way through the day surrounded by lots of people and the very next day I was too sick to get out of bed most days and eventually on disability. This was not exactly where I thought I would find myself at the age of 34. Not only was I suddenly lonely because my husband was at work and my girls were in school all day but I struggled big time with feeling that I no longer had any purpose in life and never would have again. Prior to this time not only had I worked at the bank, I had been a cosmetologist and worked in a beauty salon, I had worked in a gift boutique, helped my parents run a family owned business and done many things over the years at church such as teach Sunday school classes, lead youth group along with my husband and help lead women's ministries. I felt completely defeated. If I can't help other people in some capacity then what good am I ever going to be? That was at the heart of the issue for me always.
So... what did I do? I have to admit it required  the help of an antidepressant for awhile to get me over the initial hump of it all but I also needed something to do to self soothe, fill my time and show that I was being productive in some way.  So once again, I picked up my knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn. I had learned to knit and crochet both many years earlier and would do a bit here and there but hadn't had much time for it while working full time. On those days when I was home alone and adjusting to a new season of life and, quite honestly, too sick to do anything else, I would prop myself up on the couch or even in bed and knit or crochet for hours. And stitch by stitch my heart began to heal. Eventually I no longer needed those antidepressant pills. Not only was I filling my days with something I loved, my family and friends were enjoying the fruits of my labor at birthday and Christmas time so in at least that small way I felt like I was giving something to someone again.
The years rolled by and I wound up taking courses to be certified by the Craft Yarn Council of America and now I teach private lessons in my home so I have knitting and crochet students coming and going from time to time and it gives me that connectedness I need with people. Plus I get the joy of teaching something I love doing so very much. Then there's my Etsy Shop as well and the local craft fair that I do along with my annual Christmas event in my home. All things considered, I am pretty pleased with the way God has grown my passion for fiber arts into a small, home based business that I can easily manage around my rollercoaster of good and bad days.
No matter what direction my life has taken or will take in the future, knitting has been and will continue to be, my constant solace. My love for it has seen me through my own dark and uncertain days of redefining myself on this journey of life. My hands continuing onto the next stitch and the next one and the one after that got me through the hours of Scott's surgery when they removed the bulk of his pancreas and the days after that when he was so sick in a hospital bed, then through all of the cancer treatments that followed. Regardless of what life brings my way, I just keep stitching through it all.
Has my physical health gotten better? No. But sadly, that's often the nature of long standing rheumatoid disease. A few years ago I took a medication in pill form to try to get things under better control. I didn't respond well to it and it made me nauseous literally night and day. After 2 1/2 years of feeling sick all of the time, being too thin as a result, and much prayer, I entered the world of biologics. I started self injecting Enbrel on a weekly basis 2 years ago this month. I respond very well to this medication and saw results by the second injection. I have virtually no side effects from it.  However, as with many people who are on it, I am not fully remissive. It is most likely due to the fact my disease is long standing. I am much better with it than without it so I stay on it and Thank God that I live in a day and age when medical advancement makes this possible for me. After all, there's a life to be lived and I don't want to spend the bulk of my days doing it in bed. I would so much rather be enjoying my family and friends and, well, my knitting.
I'm making progress in the hats this week. This is my dear friend Erin standing beneath my dogwood tree wearing the blue hat. I think the blue is stunning against her beautiful thick brown hair. It brings out her lovely blue eyes too but these pictures didn't catch that.
Modeling the cream colored hat for me is my youngest daughter Chelsea once again. For those of you who remember posts with my granddaughter Gabby in them, this is her mommy. I really love the contrast of the soft creaminess of this hat against her gorgeous red hair.
This hat is a slower knit than the fingerless mitts due to the fact that it is lacework but it is well worth the effort in the end. As with many of the patterns I use, I have taken the liberty to make my own changes to this here and there causing it to come out the way I prefer it. Even though it takes a little longer and requires more concentration it is still very self soothing, especially as the soft cotton yarn floats through my fingers. I can get one hat accomplished from start to finish and a good start on another one in a days time if the rest of Life doesn't crowd me out too much.
So I just keep knitting...
And when I need a little break I take one.
And always I Thank God for helping me to be the very best I can be at every changing season of my life.

"Make the most of yourself ...
for that is all there is of you."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803-1882)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Individuality

"I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well."
Psalm 139:14

As I sit and ponder this verse once again on a late summer morning with the sound of thunder rumbling in the heavens and rain pounding the ground and rolling down my window, I am amazed at a God who can cause the earth to cry out in such force at times and yet took such gentle care to design each of us so very uniquely. He is a God of tender mercies and One who loves infinite variety. It begs the constant question: Why do we so often play the comparison game?
We all do it at some point. I think we may find ourselves going in and out of seasons of it. To compare ourselves to ourselves is often a good thing because it can be how we measure our own personal growth but when we step one tiny toe into that territory of comparing ourselves to anyone else it can sometimes set off a whole chain of events and it is never a good idea.
Each one of us was given our very own unique, individual, personal set of traits, characteristics and qualities. We were born with a God given temperament. We were "hard wired" so to speak with a specific blue print that the Maker intended just for us. So what do we so often do? We try to be like someone else. Then what happens? It doesn't feel right. Someone else doesn't fit inside our skin. That's because only my soul was made to fit inside my skin just as your soul was made to fit inside your skin. This is why I believe we should celebrate our uniqueness and individuality and not only stop trying so hard to be like everyone or anyone else but also be very careful about passing judgement on others. Every person around us is exactly who God made them to be. They may not be functioning in their very best mode at all times but that is an issue between them and God and we must always be careful with the heart of another individual.
When it comes right down to it, we only get one chance in this life. We really do need to get it right. By that I mean we need to give it our best shot at being exactly who we are. We need to express ourselves and live fearlessly. We should have the courage to step into ourselves and fully be the person God already knows we are. We get so very caught up, or shall we say "hung up",  on minute details that in the whole scheme of things never end up mattering, that we lose sight of the big picture. I truly believe God wants more for us than that. It's right back to that whole concept of abundant living that Jesus came to give us. It's within our grasp. Not only does He want us to have salvation, He wants us to be at peace with ourselves as well. I believe wholeheartedly this is attainable. I also believe that in order to achieve it we must reach a point of being at home within our own spirit, mind and soul. He wants our hearts to be at rest.
At the end of the day the only person God really expects us to be is Ourselves.

"You can never cross the ocean
unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."
Christopher Columbus
(1451-1506)

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
Oscar Wilde
(1854-1900)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pressing On

As August nears its end I will finally be moving onto my next big project for the upcoming Pumpkin Festival. One of my absolute favorite yarns of all time to work with is Knit Picks Billow. It is literally the softest cotton yarn I have ever experienced. It's a bulky weight pima cotton that runs thick to thin and is downright buttery in its softness. As we all know cotton has no negative ease, or give to it, which causes some knitters and crocheters to shy away from it or not like it at all. However, in my opinion, cotton just requires the proper pattern. What cotton does have, when used in the right pattern, is beautiful drape due to the fact it is very lightweight. Also cotton is the perfect choice for anyone with skin sensitivities or for someone who just simply loves whisper soft, supple, barely there feeling things against their skin.
My favorite pattern to use Billow for is this hat that I make every Fall.
This is my youngest daughter Chelsea wearing the hat. Billow comes in sixteen gorgeous color options but I especially love the Turmeric on her beautiful red hair.
This hat is very pretty in the back with its little flower like effect. And see what I mean about the nice bit of drape? The fact that the cotton is so very lightweight and the pattern is lacy makes this hat have the perfect slouch to it.
This hat is lovely for Autumn weather. It provides some warmth and beauty without being too heavy and hot. It's fun to knit and it makes the most beautiful gift. Like the fingerless mitts, I can never make too many of these. People love them. So starting on Monday I will be making a whole lot of these as I am finally calling it a wrap on my mitts. Although I have two more pairs of adult size to knit over the weekend,  I just added the last pair to my little girl size stack yesterday. Each color stack goes deeper than the picture makes them appear. When I peer down into the crate I feel happy with what I have managed to accomplish.
Now... if I can just get the same reaction out of others.
"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends."
Walt Disney

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Imagination

One of the things I love so much about being creative is that it usually takes a bit of imagination sprinkled in the mixture. Although as knitters and crocheters we are oftentimes working from a written or charted pattern, we still have to use our imagination to a certain degree. We use it when we make decisions about color and how to combine different colors to get the right look we want in the finished piece. This actually takes some thought process, especially when we are making an item for someone else, as everyone sees color differently. Actually I believe people feel and experience color because, just as smells do, color often subconsciously grounds us to things deep down in our core. I think that's why we become so creative when we work with color and our imagination comes into play even when we are not aware of it. We must visualize the final result, yes. But we are also, on some level trying to capture how that finished item will make us or the recipient feel. Ahhh.... now that requires imagination. We use it automatically in this way, all of the time, and don't even know it.
Then there are the times we knowingly and very purposely tap into our imagination during the creative process. When I make crocheted covers for these Nursery Hangers is such a time for me. I have to say these are one of my all time favorite items to make because they allow me to let my imagination roam free. They are totally my own design and creation. Each time I am crocheting the cover piece for the hanger I am letting my mind ponder the possibilities of how to embellish that particular sweet creation. Once a year a place an order from my supplier and buy these beautiful  wooden hangers in bulk. The hangers themselves are solid, gorgeous and of excellent quality but they are plain on their own and I like to cover them. Plus adding a nice covering to them helps to keep the clothing from sliding off.
Early last Winter I had a custom order through my Shop for 24 of these covered in all different flowers. My customer wanted to open her little girls closet and feel like she was walking into a Fairy Garden. See, once again, it's about the way things make us feel. This particular customer was a Marketing Manager on Wall Street. I'm sure she had plenty of hectic things in her daily life and when she crossed the threshold of home I can only imagine her need to surround herself with pretty, soothing things that might make her feel peaceful and give her a sense of well being and happiness. Maybe she even needed a magical moment when she opened the closet doors.
 She and I had a great deal of correspondence back and forth while I worked on that job. She gave me free reign to create as I wanted to with one stipulation only. No Repeats. So I went to work and I spent hours upon hours laying out color pallets and making plans for twenty four different flowers to adorn those hangers. Some were knitted and some were crocheted. Some had glass pearls sewn in the centers and others had very tiny glass beads added to look like dew drops. Just a hint though. As I made a couple I would send her pictures for her approval. She was thrilled the whole way through. My favorite was one with a pink cover that I attached three tiny white lily of the valley to. The cute little bells dangled down over the arch of the hanger with soft green slender leaves behind them. During that time I definitely discovered that creativity is imagination at work.
Then the day came and I wrapped them all lovingly in tissue paper and boxed them carefully for their journey to  New York City... and I held my breath. Nothing looks the same in person as it does online. One must hold and experience things. The package finally arrived at its destination and immediately I received a long and wonderful message. My customer and her Nanny were so filled with delight and wonder that they could not put the hangers down. They filled the closet together then took all the hangers back out because they just had to hold them again. Then they called the grandma over so she could do it all with them. Well, don't you know, I was over the moon with some delight of my own. All those hours of planning and working and laying in bed imagining fairy flowers through the nights had paid off. I still hear from that sweet customer from time to time and she sends me pictures of her beautiful little girl.
The hangers pictured in this post were shipped off to a customer in Brisbane, Australia yesterday. It will take approximately two weeks for them to reach her in the land down under. I am hoping she lets me know when they arrive and whether she likes them or not. The one with the sprigs of lavender and the tiny glass butterfly is a particular favorite of mine.
Of all the things in my life I am thankful for, I have to say, imagination ranks pretty high.

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."
Albert Einstein