Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Dog Days of Autumn

Nearly two weeks ago I took a little road trip
to pick up the newest member of our family.
This is our new baby, Percy.
He's a Toy Poodle and we simply adore him.
He looks all black in this picture but his coloring is actually called "phantom".
You can see his beautiful coloring better in
this photo of my two sleeping beauties ;-)
He loves to play with his toys...
Sometimes I go through the house and pick them all up and put them in a pile because I'm stepping on them at every turn.It doesn't last long though. I sit back down to my knitting and within no time this is where we are again...
This is the hallway just outside the bathroom door and leading into my bedroom.
For some reason Percy loves the bathroom.
When he goes missing I oftentimes find him curled up asleep
on a towel in the bathroom floor or on the bathroom scale.
He loves the kids and they love him.
Parker is so excited to have a new puppy in the house.
On the day we brought him home he said,
"Grammy, Thank You for getting me a new puppy."
He tells everybody that Percy is HIS dog.
He decided it was time to start reading his favorite books to his new best friend.
 I think for Percy there might have been a bit of chewing involved
but Parker didn't seem to mind.
On the days I pick Gabby up from school Percy rides along.
He watches intently out the window for her from my lap.
By the time she reaches us there's a whole lot of wiggling going on!
As for our other two dogs, Phoebe, who turns 10 next month,
is delighted with her instant status of motherhood.
Heaven help us all if Percy so much as makes a squeak.
She has to sniff and lick him and ensure he is okay.
They play together and lay together.

Mack, my older boy, is taking his time deciding about Percy still, as is my sweet old kitty cat Mercedes, who is spending time hiding out in the basement and sneaking up for an occasional peak at the black fluffy thing that seems to have suddenly taken over the household.
I have faith in them though.
This isn't the first time I've worked to integrate animals with one another.
We'll get there. In the meantime I am making sure
that everyone gets plenty of attention.
{It's a full time job}.
All things considered, he's a very good boy and we are settling in quite nicely.
He is very smart, as poodles typically are.
By day 2 he was coming to me when I called him by name.
This is my second poodle in my lifetime.
We had a chocolate colored miniature poodle, named Cocoa,
when I was a young teenager that we all loved dearly.
Having one again makes me extremely happy.
Poodles are easy to train because
they thrive on routine and are therefore obedient.
I can already see this in Percy even though he is just coming up on 15 weeks old.
He was born on June 26. Just 4 days before my birthday. It was meant to be.
For the most part I am home and don't have to crate him.
However, I do take my granddaughter Gabby
to ballet each week while my daughter is working.
I am gone for about 3 hours and I need to know Percy is safe
and not chewing on things in the house
that could hurt him while he's still so young.
He had his first time in his crate this week and got right in with zero fuss.
He simply laid down, curled up and went to sleep.
{Phoebe was the frantic one upon our arrival home,
due to separation anxiety from her baby}.
I got to relax and enjoy my knitting and this fabulous
Signature Fall Latte at my favorite place.
While Gabby is in ballet I always sit and knit at
Thirty-Thirty Coffee Shop in Peoria's Junction City.
I love the drinks and the employees there.
I look forward to this respite from the daily madness every week.
It's how I do ballet.
There are times like today that I enjoy a nice misty Autumn day.
The leaves are turning scarlet on my dogwood, the squirrels scamper industriously around the house as they collect walnuts from the tree in my backyard,
I keep the tea kettle whistling, the dogs romp and nap at intervals
and my knitting grows and grows a stitch at a time. 
Yes, on days like today, I say let it rain.

Whatever your day and weekend brings to you, 
I hope and pray it's peaceful, happy and full 
of all the things and people you love best...
and maybe even a dog or two...
or three.

"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures;
they give unconditional love.
For me, they are the role model for being alive."
Gilda Radner

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Joy-FULL Living

As hot Summer days gradually slip into soft and gentle early Autumn,
I am soothed to my very core.
And yet I find myself to be oddly exhilarated at the same time; inspired even.
This is a good thing.
A very good thing.
My business is growing more all the time
and I am working on tweaking things
like ordering new business cards
for a fresh new look and updating my websites,
including my business facebook page.
For those of you who are on Facebook and are interested
in following me there you can click on the link
and keep up with what I'm doing on a regular basis.
You might even see me make a fool of myself on live video from time to time...
As you can gather, our September Sale was enormously successful,
not to mention so doggone much FUN!
I knitted ever so many Pumpkins in a bazillion different colors...
And yet I am still knitting more and more of the little beauties for custom orders
because they were all snapped up during our sale.
This is, after all, THE Pumpkin Capital of the World. And we LOVE our Pumpkins!!!
From time to time over the years I have been asked if I ship internationally.
The answer is YES! Absolutely!
This lovely little trio left our Morton Post Office yesterday to head across
the big ocean to their new home in London, England
where I hope they will be very happy indeed. 
{More importantly, I hope they will make the sweet young woman
who ordered them extremely happy!}.

I cannot even express the honest to goodness pure JOY that is brought into my daily life by the entire process of every aspect of this business. It just keeps rolling on from year to year. I love choosing the fibers, which I am extremely particular about. I love pouring over patterns then modifying them as needed to make them fit the needs of individual customers or my strict standards. For example, it has taken me several years to perfect these Pumpkins. I use the exact same wool, a certain type of poly fill and my own secret technique. Plus each one weighs the same in order to ensure premium product quality.
I want my customers to have only the very best.
If my name is on it, then it better be top quality. 
My policy has always been that unless the customer is 110% HAPPY,
I remake or refund.
This brings me to the real JOY-FULL part of what I do.
I am first and foremost a people person.
Those of you who know me personally, know this.
However, I deal with so many people around the globe
who I will never meet face to face.
I want all of you to realize that
if you place an order or make a purchase with me,
I work hard at going back and forth online with you until we get it exactly right.
I track packages once they ship and I follow up with customers to make sure they are happy with their goods when they receive them.
They may be small things like pumpkins or fingerless mitts,
or larger garments such as 
shawls or baby clothing that I've made to specific measurements.
I need to be sure they fit properly.
It is all very important to me because YOU as an individual
are very important to me.
Whether you live locally and I know you personally,
 we have just recently connected through one of my events 
or I work with you through one of my websites 
You bring great joy into my life.
You cause me to continue to grow and stretch as an individual.
My days are filled with creative purpose as I work full time from home 
to continue to supply as many lovely knitted garments and items
my hands and needles can possibly create in a year's time. 
For all of this, I thank each and every one of you.
I am excited about the many new avenues we will travel together
as my business continues to grow and expand.
I look forward to placing small treasures in your hands that make you smile 
or ...
Wrapping you in cozy things that make you feel warm, happy, beautiful and loved.
For me this is Joy-FULL living.
It's my adventure.

"Wonderful adventures await for those who dare to find them."
Hazel Gaynor, The Girl from the Savoy

Monday, September 3, 2018

Butterfly Days

I love this time of year when every day gradually slips into a new season.
One of the things I love best is that each day
holds its own beauty and element of surprise,
as the weather is all over the place.
 Late Summer and Early Autumn are dancing with one another ...
Hot, humid days followed by thick muggy nights...
Then suddenly a cool fresh morning of blue skies and fluffy white clouds I could float away on...
Some days Summer wants to leave her cares behind and
let Autumn reign and other days she stands her ground...
Then a storm wraps itself around us.
I love it all.
Only God could create such glorious wonders.
I have come to think of these days as butterfly days.
Never in the whole of my life have I ever seen so many butterflies.
From early Summer my yard has been so filled with these lovely creatures
that they've flown into me, landed on me,
lighted next to me as I've sat knitting on the porch swing
and fed from my hummingbird feeders.
While I know it has to do with their migratory habits towards Mexico,
it seems so ethereal and even magical to me.
Like tiny particles of Heaven coming down and flitting all around me.
They bring me peace and make me pause and cause me to remember
to breathe and give thanks during these hectic days of my life.
Days filled to the brim with the blessing of family and overflowing
with the ever constant work of my hands... knitting and crocheting...
This photo depicts both family and my work.
My daughter Chelsea is modeling my Happy Vibes Crocheted Shawl.
We just happened to catch that exact perfect moment
when the sun was beginning to descend westward,
slipping towards its restful time of gloaming. 
All of the elements lined up perfectly...
The softly setting sun, 
the dogwood tree that's donning her Fall foliage,
the spider web shawl with colors that entwine the seasons together
and Chelsea....
My Autumn hued beauty.
Each day finds me switching over from needles to hooks repeatedly as
I knit awhile then finish up bits of crochet.
It takes nonstop work to prepare for an upcoming event.
First I'm making shawls, then I'm covered in stuffing and surrounded by various colors of pumpkins.
Turquoise is a new addition to my line of pumpkin colors this year. 
I've been told that it symbolizes allergy safe candy and
items for children with allergen issues.
It's also the color for Ovarian Cancer and September
is the month for this dreadful disease.
I stand in support of both.
Being a lover of all soft colors, 
I always make a variety of choices to accompany
the traditional orange pumpkins.
The Soft White and Green have always been my personal favorite.
I also really love the almost black one pictured here.
The unique thing about this one is that it's made from
undyed and unprocessed virgin wool.
That's the exact color of the sheep it came from.
There are tiny specks of white throughout.
I love the raw, natural look and feel of it.
Then, of course, because Fingerless Mitts are always my cup of happy,
some of these will make an appearance at our September Sale as well.
Some have knitted cables and bobbles with tiny embroidered rosebuds.
While others have pretty meandering lacework eyelets.
Every year as Summer begins to recognize her eminent defeat,
allowing Autumn's crisp and cooling breath to blow over us,
I feel my heart being tugged to provide warmth to cold hands.
I delight in introducing a new pattern or two of mitts every year.
For some reason, they give me great joy and deep satisfaction with each stitch.
Something about knitting mitts is uniquely different for me
than any other thing I ever make.
Maybe it's because our hands are such a vital part of who we are.
They carry our whole essence.
We love with them,
We feed with them,
We talk with them,
We heal with them,
We give with them,
We receive with them,
We show the world who we are with our hands.
We can't speak of love without the mention of babies.
These Pumpkin Hats are another make of mine
that hold a special place in my heart.
They combine both of my fiber art passions with a knitted "pumpkin" 
and crocheted pumpkin leaf and vine.
The one pictured here is Newborn {0-3 month} Size. 
However I'll have a full range of sizes available as shown below.
For those who are unable to purchase something you want
from the Sale due to my being
SOLD OUT before you arrive, or your inability to be there, NO WORRIES.
I will be taking custom orders after the Sale.
Also, as much as I knit, knit, KNIT...
I am still just one person with just two hands and a whole lot of happy,
active life going on in abundance around me.
Although I am a fast knitter, and a constant one, it's not an instant job.
All that being said, 
I will have as much as possible with me at our September Sale
and then you can contact me afterwards if you want something specific.
I can always make it happen.
I got up one day last week and realized I had probably worked too late
into the night before when I took a good look at this photo...
At exactly midnight the previous night,
I attached the stem to this pumpkin
then set down my work and called it a night. 
The next day I posted this photo to my Instagram and Facebook pages.
Later in the day, when responding to a comment, 
I noticed I had attached the stem to the bottom of the pumpkin!
Of course I had to remove it and reattach it to the top.
Though my days are filled with butterflies,
my nights are full of pumpkins...
And apparently at the stroke of midnight
they do their own thing.
Or maybe Cinderella just needs a bit of sleep...
Especially if she wants to dance with the butterflies.

"Take time to be a butterfly."
Gillian Duce
Magic and Mayhem - The Winning Game

"When nature moves, butterflies take flight."
Anthony T. Hincks

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Make A Wish ...

As the heat and hustle of Summer have blossomed into the full bloom of August,
I find myself amazed to be looking back at my sweet friend May,
who was just here only moments ago.
After our eight months of Winter, and my longing for the breezy, sunny,
open windowed days of Springtime, and a long languid Summertime ahead,
it seems that someone hit a fast forward button.
My Summer days have been happy and busy and full...
The house has been filled with family coming and going from one generation to the next and, as always, the beautiful laughter of children dancing off the walls. We've celebrated birthday's galore and rejoiced in the blessings of being together for another year of LIFE.
My sister, Bridget, who's a Cake Artist, made this gorgeous creation for my special day. It was gluten free and filled with organic raspberry preserves between the layers. I love naked cakes, especially if they're dressed in a giant rose somewhere along the way.
And the connecting thread that's always running through the background of my life is my work with fiber. Whether it be knitting, crochet, or both,  as seen on this baby hat, my hands are busy nonstop with needles, hooks and the most sumptuous yarns I can lay hold of. Along with the love of family and friends, it's what keeps me going. Some days it keeps me grounded and others it keeps me soaring. It keeps me dreaming, rising, gentling, pondering, enjoying and even wishing.
I dream of the babies who will one day wear these hats and bonnets that I put love into with each stitch. I breathe a prayer over each one with the finishing touches. A prayer for the baby, the child, the future human she or he will grow into.
Oftentimes I rub some lavender oil into my hands { very well } while I'm working, 
so there's a faint fragrance of this lovely herb infused along with my prayers and well wishes.
Though my knitting is pretty constant these days,
as I am definitely into my extremely busy season,
I still weave it in, out and around the joy of family.
As afternoon just began to slip towards evening yesterday,
I needed a bit of a break and Parker was in want of a walk
to burn off some excess energy.
So I suggested he and Grammy take a stroll around the block.
In the full glory of his four year old energy, he quickly donned his shoes,
grabbed his Jedi Knight Lightsaber and away we went. 
"Grammy, is it OK if I run ahead of you?"'
"Yes, as long as you stay on the sidewalk and STOP when I say."
As we started off he showed the business end of his Lightsaber 
to some ants
while they went about their day on the sidewalk.
Apparently they were living on the dark side of life.
We happened upon something quite magical.
A Dandelion.
"Grammy! GRAMMY!"
"I need to make a wish!!!"
After he made his wish and told me it was for a specific toy,
we walked a little farther and found a few more of these awe inspiring "flowers".
This time...
"Here Grammy, YOU make a wish."
"What did YOU wish for Grammy?"
"I wished that YOU will be Happy  forever."
"Oh I'm gonna be Grammy!"

"Where there is great love,
there are always wishes."
Willa Cather

"Wish on everything.
Pink cars are good, especially old ones.
And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. 
Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars.
Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.
Birthday candles."
Baby teeth.
Francesca Lia Block

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.
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 ...
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,
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