Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Year in the Psalms

I finished up my year-in-the-Psalms book in May. It was a bittersweet ending. Sweet, because I've  rarely summoned up the discipline to complete a year-long devotional commitment. Bitter, because as I neared the end I didn't really want it to end. When I started, I little guessed that the already-long-and-dark valley I was traveling would only grow longer and darker in the coming months. 

But God knew. It's no accident that I started this book when I did, after it had been languishing on my shelf for about a year (there were even a few entries from not one, but two failed attempts to start it). At the time, I knew that I needed to commune with Him, but I couldn't have known just how much I would need that communion in the coming year -- my heart already heavy with loss, I carried and grieved three more babies as I journeyed through those pages. 

God met with me in the Psalms. In the depths of my grief I began to understand lament, which had always seemed a bit foreign before. When I couldn't express the intensity of pain or praise, He gave me words. The Word.  When I would have lingered -- wallowed, even -- in the darkness, lines penned by divinely-inspired ancient poets drew my eyes back to His steadfast love, His faithfulness, His nearness. God met with them, too, when they traveled the darkest valleys of life. Their raw honesty resonated with my soul. Their passion for God and His law humbled me. 

As I neared the end, I knew that I wanted to keep reading the Psalms regularly. Much as I loved the little book that's been my companion through so much joy and grief, it's not ideal for re-use (and the way it was divided up was sometimes clumsy). I'm certainly not ready to part with this book yet, because it has all of my notes and reflections inside! But it was time to move on to something that would lend itself to years of study. I chose the ESV Psalms Illuminated Scripture Journal, which is both lovely and inexpensive. It has plenty of space for journaling, and the blank pages have a grid of faint dots so that you can write or illustrate neatly (this isn't an ad, by the by! I just love good books. *wink*). 

The Psalms have become a familiar and necessary rhythm in my life. Because unlike physical food that satiates as it's eaten, consuming God's Word leads to deeper cravings. The more I know Him, the more I want to know. There are so many facets of His character in the Psalms, glimpses of His glory like the rainbow hues cast by a prism. He's there when we're grieving and when we're rejoicing. He's there when we don't understand "why?" Always faithful, always loving. Always Himself. 

You have said, "Seek My face."
My heart says to You,
"Your face, LORD, do I seek."
Psalm 27:8

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Little Bean

I've recently taken up knitting for my daughter's American Girl doll, which has been quite satisfying to both of us. Rosa loves having new clothes for Samantha (who was actually mine when I was a girl!), and I love the "instant gratification" of knitting tiny things while simultaneously using up leftover yarn.

I had yarn leftover from Rosa's winter accessories, so Samantha will soon have a matching set. While there were a few options on Ravelry, I ended up making up my own hat pattern. 

And here it is!

Little Bean

Ravelry link: Little Bean  

Size:   12 1/4" circumference (fits American Girl dolls, Bitty Baby dolls, and other similar dolls/animals)

  • 20g (approx. 44yds) of worsted weight yarn (I used Wool of the Andes in "Blossom Heather")
  • 4.0mm (US 6) double-pointed knitting needles
  • 1 stitch marker
  • tapestry needle
Gauge:   4.5-5 stitches per inch 

  1. Cast on 60 stitches, place 20 sts on each of 3 DPNs, and join for working in the round (I recommend a stretchy cast on, such as the old Norwegian or Jeny's Stretchy Slipknot Cast-On). 
  2. *K2, P2* repeat to end of round.
  3. Continue in K2 P2 ribbing for 1" (about 7 rows)
  4. Next row: K all sts. Continue knitting until work measures 3" from cast-on edge. 
  5. First decrease row: *K3, K2tog,* repeat to end of row (48 sts remaining)
  6. Next row: K all sts
  7. Second decrease row: *K2, K2tog,* repeat to end of row (36 sts remaining)
  8. Next row: K all sts
  9. Third decrease row: *K1, K2tog,* repeat to end of row (24 sts remaining)
  10. Next row: K all sts
  11. Fourth decrease row: *K2 tog,* repeat to end of row (12 sts remaining)
  12. Next row: K all sts
  13. Cut yarn, leaving about a 12" tail. Using a tapestry needle, thread yarn through the remaining 12 sts (removing double point needles as you do). Pull tight. I like to thread my tail through these stitches again, for extra security. 
  14. Weave in the cast-on tail, but leave the tail at the top for attaching the pom pom after blocking. 
  15. Block (if desired/needed).
  16. Pom pom: wind yarn at least 60 times around two fingers, a fork, or other implement. Tie off the center tightly with a scrap of yarn and clip the yarn loops. Trim until tidy. (Here's a helpful little tutorial: 5 Min DIY: yarn pom poms). Use the remaining yarn tail on the hat to attach the pom-pom, then weave in the tail.
  17. You're done!

I'd love to hear from you if you try this pattern, and please be sure to let me know if you have any issues!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Spring Break

It's been about a month since we had our Spring Break, though I'm just now getting around to posting about it. I thought keeping to our normal school routine would be best during the pandemic, and I'm so glad we have; life feels as normal as it possibly can, and I think that's helpful for the littles (and me!). But we really did need a bit of a respite, and there were so many little projects and activities that I've been putting off because it's hard to find the time during the normal school week.

This was probably our most successful batch of homemade play dough so far -- I gave up and used
regular food coloring, and the results were so much better. I also bought two pounds of cream of tartar,
so I'll probably have some to pass on to my grandchildren one day! *wink*

It was a respite, but our days were pleasantly filled with adventures (the stay-at-home type, that is). Sometimes chaotic, often messy, but such great fun! The weather cooperated, and we ate many of our meals outside. We treated ourselves to chocolate banana ice cream for breakfast -- which is not quite as naughty as it sounds, because the only ingredients are frozen bananas, milk, spinach, and dark chocolate cocoa powder. We played countless games of cornhole, built our thrifted volcano kit, made bath bombs, dyed yarn with Koolaid, painted herb pots and then potted herbs, played games, and generally had a lovely time together. I think I actually said "yes" more than "no." 

Little Man helped dye his orange yarn, destined for the heels and toes of his socks

We used lemonade and blue KoolAid to dye the green yarn (which came out a bit
lighter than I'd hoped), and then speckled the yarn with blue and orange)

Mt. Vesuvius, in all its glory... *ahem*

The little love using bath bombs even more than they love making them!

Rosa's yarn was dyed with a blend of pink lemonade, grape, and black cherry KoolAid

I used the extra time to finish my yarn swift, so that we could wind our dyed yarns easily

It didn't take long for Emma the German Shepherd to un-pot these! Ugh. Fortunately they survived!

We've just learned to grill hamburgers with the grill lid open, and it makes such
a difference! Homemade hamburger buns are a new favorite, too.

All of our adventures left us quite tuckered out! Scout took a decently long  nap in this position.

It was surprisingly difficult to resume our studies the next week -- after numerous complaints about having to do school, I was almost ready to declare that we'd never have a Spring Break again! But we got back into our routine within a few days, and I am glad that we took a week off. I don't often dedicate a week to the littles, apart from school. And I managed to work on quite a few personal projects, too! I've been convicted lately about investing in my children -- as I grieve the many babies we've lost, I don't want to waste the precious time I have with the children I can hug and hold. 

We only have a few weeks left in the school year, and I'm eager for a little more freedom in our schedule -- and also hoping we'll be able to venture a bit futher afield soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Southern Roots

I've been eyeing a certain style of knitting pattern for ages -- but since most were written in Danish, all I could do was sigh and scroll on. It seems that more and more are finding their way into English, and when I came across the Magnolia mini pattern by Camilla Vad, I added it to my queue straight away! The name seemed appropriate, since Rosa has spent most of her life in Magnolia "territory." 

I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in "Amethyst Heather" -- it was quite reduced, so I only spent $12 on yarn (and I have more than a skein left, which will probably be used to make something for one of Rosa's dolls). And it's the perfect color for my pink-and-purple loving girl! Hopefully Rosa will still wear it, despite her sensitivity to scratchy wool. It did soften up quite a bit when I blocked it.

I love twisted rib, even if it's not as easy to knit as regular ribbing!

This was only my second sweater with yoke increases/short rows (I used twin stitch), and it went well overall -- though I did have to frog the yoke a bit past the ribbing, because it came out so small! It stretched over Rosa's head, but came up so high on her neck that I knew it would be uncomfortable. I restarted a size larger (8/9), and then went down a size when it was time to separate the sleeves. I'm so relieved that it worked, and the sizing seems perfect (I made it slightly large, so that it will fit Rosa in the fall).

I omitted knitting the lace pattern on the sleeves -- the lace instructions had been a bit confusing, and by the time I get to the sleeves I'm ready to just finish. I think I actually prefer it with plain sleeves, anyway! Or maybe I'm just trying to justify my laziness?

I'm so pleased to have this project done, and it's now stowed away for the Fall. There's also an adult version, so maybe one day...

Friday, May 08, 2020

Shorts for the Shortest

Summer is coming. I have a growing toddler, but I also have an aversion to both fast fashion and expensive play clothes...

I've done a much better job of controlling my children's wardrobes over the past few years -- they have less excess clothing, and they actually wear their clothes out over the course of a season or two. This means less clothing to store, less waste, and lower costs. But it also means fewer hand-me-downs for my younger boys! With the charity shops still closed, it was time to upcycle.

Scout was in need of some summer shorts, so I found two suitable patterns and set to work. I cut out the grey knit shorts and a pair of leggings for Rosa from a second-hand women's skirt. They went together in a jiffy -- probably less than 2 hours for both garments. I cut the denim shorts out of a pair of women's stretchy jeans, and entire construction time (including printing/assembling the pattern) was probably an hour. 

The knit shorts are from Craft Passion's free 3T pattern. I typically shy away from boy's clothing, because it's hard to recreate all of the typical pockets, top-stitching, belt loops, etc., without significant effort. But play shorts seemed accessible, and I decided to keep the pockets to give them a more finished look. They were quite simple, really!

For the denim shorts I used the Misusu Olli shorts pattern. I noticed on the pattern page that there's a free code in the Facebook group, so this lovely pattern ended up being free! I love the design details, and the construction technique opens up all kinds of upcycling possibilities (I wouldn't usually be able to cut 2-3T shorts out of a pair of women's jeans without creative piecing). They went together so easily, and I was surprised how quickly I was able to finish them. I think they'll be quite cloth-diaper-friendly, too -- though it's time to think about potty-training Scout. Yay...

I did add some top-stitching, but the thread
blends in so well that you can't really see it!

Less in the stash, more shorts for Scout -- I'll call that a success. But I'll be very grateful when the charity shops reopen!

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

May Yarn Along: Spring Magnolia

I'm so close to finishing Rosa's Magnolia mini sweater! Just a little left on the sleeve, and it will be ready for blocking. I've cobbled together two sizes to make this work (my daughter will be eight when she wears it, but even accounting for growth the 8/9 would be far too large). The sleeves are on the slim side, and Rosa has commented that the wool is scratchy every time she's worn it -- hopefully it will actually be worn! I might need to make or purchase a shirt to go underneath, or perhaps washing will help with the scratchy factor?

I'm slowly reading through The Children of Hurin, my first Tolkien in ever so long. The writing is beautiful, though the main character is frustratingly obtuse! If he would stop getting in his own way, he might have a chance at a happy ending... though my husband just finished his second reading of this book (I'm reading it at his recommendation), and he's told me enough that I have little hope of a happily-ever-after. 

I'm also working on a second project -- a pair of socks for Laddie in his favorite colors, green and orange. We dyed the yarn together (more on that in a future post!), and this has been a great little project so far. I'm not using a pattern for these, and I'm experimenting with toe-up socks. That's resulted in a fair bit of frogging, and I don't even want to count how many times I've restarted these socks! But they're finally the right size, and I'm ready to start the heels. I've never done contrasting heels/toes on socks before, and have been eager to try. 

It's not knitting, but I did add leather to my knitting bag handles --
they were starting to look a bit worn and dirty, so leather seemed like a good solution! 

My other read is A Practical View of Christianity, by William Wilberforce (one of my personal heroes). I purchased this book over a decade ago -- in fact, I posted an excerpt in 2009 -- but never finished it. It's quite a challenging read! But well worth the effort so far. I've read several biographies of Wilberforce, but I'm enjoying reading his thoughts first-hand. It's part of my daily devotional reading, but I'm trying to fit in some extra readings here and there because I have quite a few books in my "devotional queue" right now.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Seven Years: A Saga

Seven years. That's how long this poor chair has been languishing in my garage (in four different garages, actually, because we've lived in four different houses during those seven years -- one was a local move, but that's still a startling thought). I found it on Craigslist for $20 and thought it would be a quick fixer-upper project. It had a nasty coat of brown varnish and was in quite a state of disrepair, but it had potential. 

Oh, youthful optimism! My plans were thwarted by motherhood, procrastination, and uncertainty about how to fix it. I did manage some disassembly, but that hardly seemed like progress. The chair almost didn't make the move out West, because by then I'd really started to doubt that it would ever be a chair again. Our poor movers were concerned when they unloaded it, worried that it had suffered some catastrophe during the moving process!

But, it's obviously in chair form again. With a bit of extra time at home lately, I had no excuse to procrastinate any longer. More disassembly, a bit of sanding, lots of repairs, new screws, and some painting-and-waxing later, it's finished and finally in use. All told, I only had to buy casters and a jar each of Waverly chalk paint and cream wax (plus a few screws and a dowel to fill screw holes with). It wasn't even that difficult, it just took some time and finagling to get everything painted and assembled. 

My sewing desk is never this clean, by the way... *wink*

I don't think I've ever posted my updated sewing desk on my blog, come to think of it. It used to look like this, but two or three years ago it needed to be refinished. Cue chalk paint, distressing, and cream wax! Seriously, the Waverly and Martha Stewart waxes that are sold in jars are my favorite to apply. They look like A Big Mistake until they dry, and then after buffing they're amazing. The finish is durable, too. The desk only needed paint, wax, and new hardware, so it was an inexpensive update.

It's lovely to have a dedicated sewing chair again, but I think I'm mostly happy to just have it done. Next time I'm tempted to undertake a fixer-upper, I need less optimism or more motivation...

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Swiftly Now

I made a thing. 

A yarn swift has been on my "I really should make that" list for quite a while now. Every time I wound a hank of yarn into a ball, I'd have to get creative. Usually by wrapping it around a few chairs {cue copious amounts of movement} or even using my knees {cue backache}. And there's always a snag or tangle, it seems. 

So last week, on a whim, I scrounged up some scrap wood in the garage and set to work. 

I loosely followed Steve Ramsey's handy tutorial, especially for basic measurements. I say loosely, because mine is a bit janky and his is far more "finished." Lots of improvising, wheedling, and bungling later, I had a swift. I did go to the trouble of staining it (try to look impressed), and finished it off with some wax. The only materials I needed to purchase were a few bits of hardware and a dowel. Entry level swifts are in the $25 range and they go up from there, so "almost free" was quite acceptable. And while it won't win any beauty contests, it functions well enough for my needs (i.e., it spins...). It even folds compactly.

Rosa's interest was piqued when she saw me using it, so I had her help me wind a ball of yarn. Step One of "Knitting Indoctrination" complete!

For the trial run, I pulled out some yarn I found at a Spring festival a year ago. It's a blend of merino and local alpaca, and I purchased it from the alpaca farmer (who lives just a few miles away from us)! It's such a lovely muted shade of purple, and I can't decide what to use it for. But hey, when I do find a project, it will be ready to go.

Emma was quite fascinated by the swift, but happily she kept her distance:

Of course, once the swift was built I needed a way to store it when not in use. I re-purposed a long linen/cotton skirt I'd found at a local charity shop -- it even had a drawstring, so with a few modifications I was able to reuse the drawstring channel. Some of the scrap drawstring serves as a loop so I can hang my swift in the closet. It probably took about 10 minutes to disassemble the skirt (including unpicking the waistband so I could salvage the elastic and drawstring), and another 10 to assemble the drawstring bag. Laddie helped me by measuring the swift and pushing the sewing machine pedal. 

My knitting addiction often seems to seep into other crafty areas; usually it's just sewing (pouches, needle storage, knitting bag), but this time it included a bit of woodworking. I enjoyed getting to work with my hands in different ways, and I know I'll very much enjoy how simple and swift (pun intended) it will be to wind my yarn now -- especially when the ball winder I have on order arrives!