Thursday, October 08, 2020

October Yarn Along: Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Sadly, the only "mists" we've had of late have been suffocating fogs of smoke from fires to our west. But I can pretend, can't I? It's been a mellow season, with simple rhythms of school and life. 

I picked up my crochet hook this month, because I had a hankering for a Fall leaf garland. Crochet goes so much faster than knitting, in my opinion, and I have no desire to spend to prolong this particular project. I found a maple leaf and oak leaf pattern on YouTube -- video tutorials are my favorite because I am such a novice that I can't read patterns well, and crochet so infrequently that I inevitably forget what a "half double crochet" is between projects! I have a few leaves to go, and then it will be ready for assembly. I still have to figure out the garland details -- wood beads and felt pom poms would be my ideal, I think...

As for reading, I've been immersing myself in The Lord of the Rings, which I started back in November of 2018. I abandoned it half-way through The Fellowship of the Ring -- the loss of our baby, Christmas, and a cross-country move crowded close on one another's heels in that season. I picked it up again a few months ago, and read a bit before bed every night. I always forget between readings how much I enjoy Tolkien's writing! His prose is poetic, and yet still very earthy. I haven't read the entire series since my early 20's, and I find it speaks to me differently than in the past. Before, I enjoyed the adventure and the beauty of the narrative; this time I'm more sensitive to the threads of loss that run through the story. I think of Tolkien, living in a world that must have seemed forever marred by the horrors of WWI -- horrors he experienced -- and I can understand why this theme pervaded his writing. But hope flickers in the darkest chapters, and love and humor break through the grimmest clouds.

I was struck by this passage in Book 2, chapter 6 of The Fellowship of the Ring:

[Merry]: "I have never been out of my own land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don't think I should have had the heart to leave it"

"Not even to see fair Lothlorien?" said Haldir. "The world indeed is full of peril and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."

My poor Roseroot top has been laid aside for now -- I won't be able to wear it until Spring, anyway, so I'm not in a hurry. I'm still steadily working away at my Poolside top -- I don't know why it seems to be taking so long, because the rows fly by! But it's been a smooth and quiet process, which suits my mood this month. A pleasant, restful monotony.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

In Which I Can Finally Call Myself a Knitter

I have resisted making a shawl ever since I started knitting in 2013. I've often been tempted to add one to my queue, especially as so many knitters seem to find them indispensable! Could I really even call myself a knitter without a shawl in my repertoire? *wink* But I've always found shawls a bit troublesome with little ones to wrangle, and worried knitting one would be a waste of both time and yarn. Then I saw Catherine's Cowboys and Angels shawls last May, and I knew I was in trouble! Lack of suitable yarn held me up for a while, but at last I came into possession of 4 skeins of Vidalana Lofti DK in the colorway "Mittens." It's purple-and-white, but it reads pink from a distance. 

This shawl was such a treat to knit! The pattern is by Isabell Kraemer, and it's so well-written. It kept me company through many a hot summer afternoon, while the littles frolicked at the splash pad and I sheltered in the shade.

The details in this pattern were what really attracted me -- lattice, bobbles, texture. My yarn was a bit heavier than the pattern called for, so it ended up thick and cozy. Which suits me just fine, because I've discovered that a shawl is quite a comforting thing. And comfort is something that's quite welcome in this heavy, weary year. I love to wrap myself up in and enjoy the warmth and peace. At least until I'm called away by a child or a task, which usually happens within five minutes...

I'm glad I finally succumbed to shawl knitting, though I know better than to let it become a habit. And I have a feeling my current queue (which only seems to get longer, not shorter) will keep my busy for a while!

Thursday, September 10, 2020


Shortly after we moved out West, we stopped at a local Salvation Army for a browse. On a shelf cluttered with knick-knacks, I found a battered frame. Beneath the scratched plexiglass was a page from a 16th century Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible holds a special place in my heart (and in history!), and I was smitten at once. I resisted the impulse to buy it then and there -- but as time passed, I still thought about that page. My patience was rewarded; by the time I returned, it was still waiting for me and was marked down 20%. 

Taking pictures of glass is hard! *wink*

The frame was a disaster and even the matting was faded, but that could be remedied. I procrastinated in my usual fashion, but I finally found a frame that suited and had a mat made at a local frame shop. 

Of all the pages it could have been, the passage on this page was Psalm 118 and the beginning of Psalm 119. The former has been such a comfort to me over the past two years (especially verse 14), and Psalm 119 -- well, it's in a league of its own!

I've flanked the page with two images -- both cut from the companion booklet that came with my Reformation Study Bible. On the right is Westminster Abbey, and on the left is a map of Geneva.

My little "Reformation" collection now graces a formerly-barren wall in our living room (our home here has so many blank, white walls!), and I see it regularly throughout the day -- a reminder of God's timeless, steadfast love and His providential care of His church through history. 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Case for Art

A few months ago I decided to purchase a set of watercolor pencils for art and nature study. After a bad experience with Loew Cornell pencils a few years back, I'd all but given up on watercolor pencils. But a Faber-Castell kit I found on clearance changed my mind! The pencils drew beautifully, and the watercolor feature actually worked. With only 10 colors, though, artistic options were limited. Eventually, I realized that pencils would be easier to transport (and far less messy!) than regular paints, so I bought a set of 48 Faber-Castell pencils and an inexpensive set of water brushes

But if transportation was going to be easy, I needed a good way to store our new pencils. I wanted something compact that would allow us to see all of the colors (i.e., not a regular pencil pouch). I discovered standing pencil pouches, and finally found a free pattern -- in Korean! Between the photos and video, I was able to figure it out. 

I didn't enjoy the sewing process much, due to how fiddly the construction could be -- I certainly made good use of my seam ripper... But it seemed foolish to purchase a case when I had all of the needed supplies on hand! I used some Birch Organics Tree Stripes in "Sun" (leftover from Rosa's Christmas PJs), a spare zipper, and scraps of heavy interfacing. 

And happily, it turned out in the end! I did make it a bit larger than the case in the tutorial, and in hindsight that was unnecessary. But it functions well, and our pencils are now accessible and tidy.   

We're studying birds in our Zoology curriculum this year, so we purchased a used copy of Drawing Cute Birds in Colored Pencil by Ai Akikusa -- it's excellent! We've only tried sparrows so far, but I'm quite impressed by the ease of the instructions. We have the companion Drawing Cute Animals book, too.

It's lovely to have our art supplies ready to go at a moment's notice -- better accessibility means more time and opportunities for making art!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

August Yarn Along: Summertime Hues

I've got two projects on my needles just now -- both are tops for me, and both are in vivid hues. I suppose I was in the mood for colorful projects?

I finally frogged back a bit of my coral Roseroot top, knit some extra rows on the yoke, and have the armholes bound off again. I think I'll still need to cast on a few extra stitches under the arm, but I'm feeling better about the fit. My yarn is a lot lighter than the yarn called for in the pattern (even though they're both fingering weight!), and it's caused a few problems already. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing now!

My second project is a teal Poolside top, in the loveliest silk/alpaca/linen yarn. Perhaps my theme for this month should have been "Unknitting," because I seem to be doing a fair bit! Short rows still trip me up a bit, but I think I've got them figured out and can't wait to see this project take shape. I was excited to realize that this pattern is by Isabell Kraemer, just like the Cowboys and Angels shawl I finished up last week -- that pattern was exceptionally well written, and I have a feeling I'll enjoy this one, too. 

Much of my reading time lately has been health-related (profitable, but not exactly riveting), but I've also been reading Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. I've never read her books before, but I think I'll be reading more after this. It does seem a trifle ironic to be reading a book about how to read a book -- but so far, it's been well worth it. 

I'd love to hear what you're reading or creating just now!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Something for Samantha

What to do with two skeins of yarn leftover from Rosa's Magnolia Mini sweater? Make a sweater for Rosa's Samantha doll, of course! I scanned my Ravelry favorites and settled on Dolly Spring Butterfly by Rachel Evans.

I made this simple pattern even simpler by omitting all of the back details. I decided I wasn't keen on the butterfly motif, so I pretty much winged it once I made it past the armholes. Of course, I managed to forget to slip the first stitch of every row more than once, which resulted in more frogging than such a small project justified! 

I do love the picot edging on the hem:

And here's Samantha herself to model it:

Rosa's joy over a new doll sweater has certainly motivated me to turn more of my yarn scraps into tiny garments for her dolls -- less yarn in the stash, quick projects for me, and lots of delight for her!

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Regency Reveries

When I first spotted the Fairfax reticule by Anne Gilmour, I knew I wanted to make one -- after all, it combines my love of Jane Austen and Regency fashion in one tidy little package (quite literally!). I snagged three skeins of Bremont Victoria in "mauve" for a fraction of the usual cost back in September and tucked them away. Enough yarn for two, because I though it would make the perfect gift for my kindred-spirit-of-a-sister.

It's a good thing I bought three skeins, because my yarn was so light that I had to hold it double! I ended up with very little left over, which suits me just fine. The alpaca/silk blend was lovely to work with, and I do love a good lace pattern (though a sneaky stitch marker shift half-way through did result in quite a bit of frogging on the second reticule -- you'd think I'd make fewer mistakes the second time around...).

The drawstrings were quite an adventure (each one has to be twisted 300 times, and I had four of them!), and I looked for several alternatives before just giving in and following the instructions.  

The lining also proved a bit of a challenge, probably due to variations in gauge and blocking. I ended up coming up with my own design to make it work -- basically a circle with four "darts." The lining is dupioni silk (which I've had in my stash for about a decade!).

I finished these up just in time to send one to my sister for her birthday! I have so many fond "Jane Austen" memories with her, from reading novels to watching movies to visiting Jane's home and haunts -- excuse my while I reminisce...

Jane's garden at Chawton, 2007

Lyme Regis, 2007

PS -- I realized I have a bit of a backlog of knitting projects to post, so expect a few more posts in the near future.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Citrus Sherbet Socks

I'm a bit late posting these, considering I finished them in May -- but it's been that kind of year, hasn't it? 

Laddie was next up for socks, and I decided to try dyeing yarn for his socks. I'm still figuring out the "perfect sock," in terms of fiber and weight. I found Dyer Supplier to be a wonderful resource, as they actually sell non-superwash wool yarns! They're quite inexpensive, too, which made me more willing to experiment with dyeing. I settled on organic merino Tilandsia fingering. I've read mixed reviews of merino as a sock yarn, but again -- experimenting.


Laddie helped me dye his yarn -- the beauty of dyeing with KoolAid is that it's non-toxic! I wish I'd had more of the lemonade to make a darker green (in retrospect I could have added a smidge of food color), but the orange came out nice and bright. A few zaps in the microwave set the colors. 

After dyeing the green, we spread out the skein and "poked" it with forks dipped in blue and orange dye -- the speckle effect worked perfectly! 

When it came to knitting, I ended up devising my own pattern based on stitch counts from other fingering-weight patterns. I did have to start over shortly after getting through the heel, as they were coming out too narrow (they still look narrow, but Laddie has skinny little feet!). Simple ribbing on top helps with the fit, and I wanted something simple that wouldn't distract from the color contrast. I also used the Fish lips kiss heel again, and I doubt I'll ever use another! 

Laddie thoroughly enjoyed helping me dye his yarn, and was delighted to have some hand-knit socks of his own. Now if I can just keep them out of the washer and dryer...