a Girl-Cozy

Dear Mom,

The winter storm warnings started last Thursday, and the forecast for the next week or so is about the same - rain, ice, and combinations of those two. This weather has not been dramatic, just quietly oppressive. I feel like there are only two colors left, early morning gray which lasts all day, and then night, which begins about 4pm.

I did finish a project this week, though. Here's the North Sea Shawl pre-blocking -

North Sea Shawl

and blocked. I ventured out into the icy park to take some pictures on the way to the coffee shop.

North Sea Shawl

North Sea Shawl

The pattern is in Folk Shawls, and I used 4 skeins of Knitpicks Palette, in Clematis Heather. I really enjoyed this pattern - the lace was really simple, but satisfying, to work. I'm really pleased with it. It's such a surprise, all over, how warm and cozy something with so many holes can be.



These West Virginia 'Collars'

Hi Gwen,
Because of the WV accent in this region many of the locals pronounce color as collar. This is subtle but to the unpracticed ear the difference is momentarily confusing. A poker face is a must for a northerner lest you look completely daft. And I think there must be a polite limit as to how many times you are allowed to ask "Would you please repeat that?" I will never forget the lady who spoke as if I was deaf and asked "WHERE - DID -YOU- COME- FROM?" Poker face time though I was laughing so hard I could hardly answer her.

Here are some of our local collars.

Dad and I took a leisurely car trip to the highest point in West Virginia, Spruce Knob. The road to the top was a gravel road with no barriers. We stopped all along the way to enjoy the views and to take pictures. Fortunately the day had low humidity so we could see into the distance for many miles. On the way down the backside of the mountain we wandered our way through the wilderness area back to a main highway. A few people were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to camp along the stream areas. Our fall colors are nearly finished now. We have the last of the oaks in their burnt orange and mustard yellows .

When Julie visited WV in late summer she and I went to Jinny Beyer's fabric studio in the suburban Washington DC area. After a hunt for its location we were rewarded with a store filled with lush jewel toned fabrics. These few yards came home with me. How could one resist such beautiful color?

This is an Angel Wing Begonia. It is now living on the hallway table above the entryway. As you look up from the ground level you can see all the red color under the leaves. This may be the first plant I have bought because it looks good from underneath.



North Sea Shawl

Dear Mom,

Two weeks ago, it was very chilly here - chilly enough to warrant a sweater, jacket, and scarf. The weather quickly turned warm (even hot) again, but that little chill got me thinking about winter knitting. I searched Folk Shawls for a likely pattern.

This is actually the second time I've started this pattern, the North Sea Shawl. I began Labor Day weekend happily knitting it out of some local Illinois yarn I picked up earlier this year, only to realize late Saturday that I only had about two-thirds the yarn I'd need. So I ripped it out and the frustration that ensued led me to make some very bad (and kind of hilarious) decisions, which I'll share with you next time.

This time, it's going well, though. For needles, I'm using the wooden strawberry-ended Peace Fleece needles I found in that little store in Zanesville with you. The strawberry theme around here lately has been wonderful, if seasonally disorienting.



ready for snow

Dear Mom,

This last week, as you know, is an auspicious one for our family - three birthdays in seven days! As you also know, I visited the third birthday celebrant and her family this weekend, with knit gifts aboard for the girl who asked for strawberry cake (it was strawberry pie instead, and it was delicious!):

It's fair to say she was a highly enthusiastic wearer, but somewhat reluctant model.



Hello, baby

Baby Genius Burpcloth, MasonDixon Knitting

Dear Mom,

I often ask my students to share things when I do attendance, in attempt to build any sort of an esprit de corps. Yesterday morning, the first chilly morning we've had, I asked them to tell us what their favorite item of cold weather clothing is, and why.

Herringbone bootees, 50 Baby Bootees to Knit, Brown Sheep Cotton Fine

The overwhelmingly popular response was "a hoodie." Only a few students said "a sweater," or "scarves," or "mittens."

Cable Socks, 50 Baby Bootees to Knit, Baby Ull

I hope that the baby who I knit these things for is better prepared with more interesting, less carefully anonymous answers to that question when she's 18.

Oh, and we'll teach her to love pie, too. :)




Hi Gwen,

Today the sun came out and became the perfect day to catch up on pictures. I am trying to decide if I should proceed in a chronological or thematic manner. My sixth grade training in outlining is rearing its head. Roman numerals and capital A's and B's are floating around.

Let's begin with you....

Your rose socks are terrific. I like the subtle striping of your yarn very much. Thanks for helping me knit my first pair of socks. I especially like the time I called you in your car and you just happened to have the directions with you. After some very pointed questions from me you told me to just do it exactly like they pictured it and it would work. And it did! It was a knitting miracle.

Well, here is my second pair of socks in development...

This pair is knit from the top down. I think it is a minor miracle how the heel turns and off you go knitting the foot. Knitting the heel turn gave me pause a few times. One afternoon while Julie was here I spent a better portion of it charting out the increases and decreases to get the hell (this is a real typo, yikes, the mind too funny sometimes) heel to turn. Thank goodness for the internet research. Of course I had figured out how to do the math a different way using the same directions. Never underestimate the ability of a person (me) to invent another way to do the very thing so carefully described.

I am already thinking ahead to the next time I use this pattern. I wonder if it would be too heavy to continue the slipped stitch pattern on to the bottom of the heel and foot?

The ribbing pattern for the top of the sock will continue on to the instep. The knit-through the-back-of-the-loop on each edge of the rib repeat leaves that little raised pattern. I am enjoying the light striping of this yarn. This is the same Trekking yarn as our socks.

I finished the knitted pouch. This project was done in the denim yarn that is so much fun to knit. I worked on it during Grandpa's surgery and recovery days. No matter what life brings... Remember to Live ,Love, and Laugh. You just never know what miracles are on the way.




All ye, All ye, out's in free!

Dear Gwen,

I heard the neighborhood children out playing evening games the other night. Most of their fun was centered in the yards at the top of the road so just drifts of noise made its way down to us. Our other summer night noises have begun with the cricket and katydid songs. We do not have the cicada songs as many of the Midwest neighborhoods do. One of my clearest summer memories must be from a cicada year. Because we were younger than my brothers Becky's and my bedtime was set earlier. At that time we had the front bedroom under the big catalpa. We must have had a late evening bedtime because I remember the light level being soft but still strong. And the buzzzzz of the cicadas droning on and on. Behind all that insect noise I could hear the neighborhood kids playing. As it got darker they would start to play hide and go seek. I must have fallen to sleep hearing "Olly Olly Oxen Free!"

It wasn't until I was older that I realized how great a spot we had for this game. As you know my parents' house is right next to the cemetery. The combination of the gravestones, the big trees and bushes, and yards provided wonderful hiding places. There were rules about playing in the cemetery. We had to be careful not to damage any grave sites or break any plants. No one wanted to be 'it', especially for the older kid version of Kick the Can. There were just too many places to hide. Later in the evening it was great fun to change hiding places under the cover of darkness. I remember hiding far from the street light and then slowly making my way up closer to the can. It was always a great surprise to dive behind a gravestone to find someone else already there. And this scene usually ended in a whispered argument as to who was now obligated to move first.

I caught this trying to hide in my garden.Come out, come out wherever you are!





Before - fresh from the farmers' market



Happy First Day of Spring

Dear Gwen,
The thaw has begun.

We heard the Spring Peepers today.


Do you say cozy or cosy?

Dear Gwen,

We are having a real winter in West Virginia. Our driveway is at least as long as the Capron drive and it is uphill. Or down hill if you start at the lot line and work your way back to the house, which is the direction I settled on to push snow during the second snowfall. Our latest snow fall was a soft, breathless drift of snow that accumulated to about 10 inches. Weightless as it was, the snow made nice big piles on everything. Willie had a blast rummaging around in the snow. I think he smelled little furry things. He would put his nose under the snow and snowplow forward. I wonder if dogs can get an ice cream headache in the nose.

I must admit we miss the fireplace on icy cold days. Everyone in the household is looking for warmer places to rest on for a while. As you could see from the last post an activated electric blanket and the promise of multiple body heat is all the invitation that is needed for close company. I think we need a new use for the word cozy. It could be useful as a verb, as in, to cozy.

To cozy is to make soup, or to cover in an afghan, or to curl a cat around you.

Or to make tea

This tea cozy is made from a felted jacket. When I finished the felting process the pattern had softened to a fuzzy imitation of its former self. This turned into a very heavy wool piece quite capable of keeping a tea warm for a long time. It reminded me of a winter hat so I topped it with a pompom. The second cozy was made from felted wool yardage I found at the scary fabric store. I fell in love with its robin egg blue color. The inset of flowers is a type of reverse applique. I did not turn under the edges because the wool will not ravel at this point. This wool piece did not felt as compactly as the pink wool. As a result this cozy easily snugs around the tea pot. The extra stitching is free motion embroidery in regular sewing weight thread. the blanket stitch around the upper edges is for decoration only. This cozy is being shipped off as a thank you for the teapot given to me as a gift.

Or to put on socks

Don't your
socks look terrific? They fit Dad very well. He said to call them his cozy toesies.

(Dozy dog) Nice sock

Or to fill a hot water bottle

One cold night I really wanted someone to come in and run the pan of hot coals through the sheets to banish the chill. Not having that someone nor the hot coals I decided to make a cover for my hot water bottle. This is also a felted thrift store sweater. I loved the color and the cabling. It felted into a very heavy fabric, perfectly suited to holding the heat from the water bottle. The bottom of the bed was only warmer when Chloe used to sleep there.

When Dad and I lived in New York state we went winter camping as site directors at a Girl Scout camp. That night it got so cold the water froze in the room where we slept. When Dad woke up in the morning he turned over to see if I had survived the night. He laughed because he saw two noses sticking out of my sleeping bag. I had pulled the dog into my sleeping bag during the night and we were cozy.

love, Mom


The Peaceful Kingdom

Honest! See! I was just..........tasting him.


Old and New

Dear Gwen,

Thanks for the fun posting. You and Dad seem to share an ability to turn a phrase. My favorites are the limericks in which you two trade lines. Who would have guessed at some of the words that now rhyme in Rudy style.
I found these handkerchiefs at a secondhand shop in Cumberland. They are machine embroidered on an incredibly fine cotton weave. I am trying to decide how the fabric was stabilized to allow this much stitching in one area. I have no clue as to where these were made. They will remain a pretty mystery.

Do you remember the smock that Grandma R. made for you when you were a little girl. It was off white with maroon flowers and trim. You wore it whenever your clothes needed protection. This is the newest version for the 21st century girl.There is plenty of room to grow into it. One of the first things she did was to test the pocket capacity by loading it up with toys. At that point walking was more challenging. We used yours many times as a cover-up at the kitchen counter as you helped with the baking . Your smock shows the remnants of past projects, displaying paint and marker spots. Your crafting days started at a young age.
Love, Mom


We can produce our Poetic Liscenses upon request.

Hi Mom,

I don't think you'll mind if we (Prairie Lark) participate in the silent poetry fest that is forming today, do you? It's been a poetry-filled day already for me (I brought Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied Beauty" in to my class today), but I'd like to highlight some of our homegrown poetry here, since we are a poetry-writing family.

I've dug out a few textile-related poems from the family archive. The first is a very good example of found writing transformed. Let me set the stage:

The original post-it note, penned by you, read:

Sweater in Sink

Cryptic and short. I'm unsure what you meant. Were you washing a sweater in the utility sink downstairs? Did you need to put a sweater in the sink? At some point Dad added to your brief domestic missive with swift, sure strokes of the pen, changing it into this:

One day, while reaching for a drink,
There fell a Sweater in Sink -
downstairs ran I to rescue it,
only to find it fell in RIT.
The moral is that oft from DRINK,
a careless person can DYE in the sink!

This playful intertextuality can also be seen in this more recent poem, as well. Here Dad takes as his departure point the lines from an Emily Dickinson poem that I had up as an away message - Some little Artic Flower upon the polar hem.

Some little Artic flower, upon the polar hem
Tiny Inuit children went out to gather them.
With mukluks on and parkas snug
they ventured on the ice
For tiny frosty poseys
to make their igloos nice.

I will also share a poem of my own. Although the tone is a little different (partly because I was writing it for a class), it demonstrates the same basic modus operandi - take, and make something new and slightly different. One of the things that I liked best about the creative writing classes that I took is the way that they changed the way that I saw and experienced every day things - I felt like a more reflective person, like I was always looking for a way to understand or repackage what I was seeing. I think that that would be a neat goal for the things that we make, too - how is our handiwork the product of taking from here or there and remaking?

Swedish mitten

Traveling myself, the immigrant chest
in the corner seems so epic
compared to the small bag I carry.
On the wall of the guest bedroom,
One mitten hangs from the frame of a
Wedding picture. The bride smiles,
Alone and confident,
enveloped in a cloud of bright white lace,
a necklace of large pearls round her neck
and lace gloves on her folded hands.
The mitten too is white, the creamy white
of wool newly shorn, embroidered
with stylized flowers, leaves.
Mitten, where is your other half?
Was it lost before the trip began,
or was it caught, yarn pulling, stitches ripping
on the rough hewn bottom of that painted chest?

Happy reading, and happy Friday.

Love, Gwen


What I did with My Winter Vacation

Dear Mom,
After the holidays, I settled down with the sewing machine and began some serious production. First I made this skirt (in an afternoon, then wore it that night, I believe).

This was also the work of only an hour or so. I wanted to make a jean skirt from an old holey pair of jeans, but I did not want to do it the usual way, with the long pointy triangle inserts. There's no perfectly neat way to deal with the fly in front with that method, and the triangles look tired to me, too predictable. So I fiddled around and came up with this.

I began by cutting the leg pieces in half along the seam line, then using the old side seam as the bottom, I wrapped two leg halves around the skirt. The bottom hems of the pants are that poochy bit on the right side in the photograph above. I left them open for a bit of a slit (I also saved one of the old patched holes on the dangling part in the back). This skirt looks better on me than it does on the hanger - I pulled and eased the pants legs to really get it to fit well.

Then, after the two skirts, I thought I better sew something to wear on top.

This is New Look 6976. I had both the fabric and the pattern here, waiting to be used. This is the second time that I've made this pattern, and I think it might be my last. I thought the gathered (tiny) cap sleeves (they're really more like cap epaulettes) might compensate for the general boxiness of this pattern. I may add some applique or a bit of ribbon to the side seams to tie in back. This will still be a useful shirt to wear under sweaters and jackets now, and by itself in the warmer months - I do like the print quite a bit.

Then I took a time-out from the garment sewing and whipped this out before going over to campus one morning. It's a sleeve for my laptop.

I bet you recognize the fabric? I used two layers of batting for extra cush. The green ribbon was in the bag of odds and ends from Julie.

And finally, I sewed a dress. Another quick and easy garment, this is Simplicity 3875. I cut it out and started sewing late last Saturday night, then did the rest of the construction Tuesday night because I really wanted to wear it on Wednesday.
It is flannel. My goal was to make a dress for winter; I've been wearing my summer dresses quite a bit, with extra layers underneath and sweaters, which has been a good solution, but also means I wear the same things all year round. This dress is pretty toasty, even though the (kimono) sleeves are really only elbow length. It is also extremely comfortable - nightgown-comfy, really. I wore it with my tall black boots, and my grey stole, and it was a good outfit for a long day. (I only matched the stripes on one place - the front center bands!) I will sew another dress from this pattern again, because I think it produced a good, basic-but-not-too-basic everyday dress (the sizing seems overly generous, though - I made a size 10 without any altering at all and I think it may still be a little big).

This sewing has been no fine hand-rolled hem. This spurt of sewing has been strictly about the product, and using things that I've had set aside. But still - satisfying.

Love, Gwen
(ps - glad you like the new look of the blog)