Friday, October 28, 2016

A Holey Relic

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept of beauty in imperfection and impermanence-- the adventurous ruggedness of driftwood, the comfort of faded denim, the legends in chipped teacups. There is nostalgia in this beauty, and a hint of sadness. Artists who focus on blowing and falling petals, rather than newly opened blossoms, understand wabi-sabi.
 Fall leaves are a more timely example. Yesterday, my concord grape privacy hedge was golden and should have been photographed. Today it is mostly naked, revealing five shriveled grapes that were missed during the harvest.
I did not know about wabi-sabi, when my mother gave me the old aluminum colander, but something in me saw it as beautiful.
She gave it to me for my boys to play with. At least one of them was at a stage where he enjoyed pulling all my dishes out of the cupboards whenever I worked in the kitchen. I'm sure he kept making a mess as I started to use the colander to wash lettuce and drain spaghetti.
But my husband objects to grimy-looking cooking tools. He has kindly replaced most of my kitchen twice now in our marriage. Shiny new colanders and strainers were included. He told me I could get rid of the old one, like I threw out the rusty cheese graters. But I couldn't. 
I promise to wash these again before spaghetti night/
Instead it has been moved to non-cooking tasks. It is my favorite vessel for foraging in the garden and for the many washings and rinsings involved when I work with raw wool. today it is ornamentally employed to hold a mix of super-wash wools that I will combine to make a couple of baby sweaters. 
I like the contrast of old metal and new yarn. The old and new will also come together in the sweaters--ancient Inca patterns will adorn a sweater for a baby who probably isn't even born yet.
I am really looking forward to those baby sweaters because they are tiny and fast, so I can afford to use higher-level skills on them. 
The big turquoise shawl is reaching about hip-length and working on it is really getting old. The problem with knitting circles and squares is that they start tiny, but they keep growing. So I started with 2 stitches per side. Now there are 155 (620 around). Every two times around, I add eight more stitches. So each round is slow and uses a lot of yarn. I am hoping I have enough to make the final section the right size and finish the thing off. I originally thought about lace edging, but there just isn't enough yarn or patience left. It better be finished by next week's blog.

 I did take a break from blue to make a cute hat. It is made of yarn samples which include wool, alpaca, silk, and acrylic. If you want it, you can find it in my shop.
Three feet square of hot pink to maroon. Takes?
I also washed and stretched the purple square I knit. It is still too small for a good shawl, but I don't want to pull it apart and start over. It would be fun to mount it and put some sort of art in the middle. But I live in a blue and brown house with very little wall space. If one of you is interested, and local, let me know. We can barter something for it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Coloring Page Photo Update

I promise an actual blog on Friday, but I didn't want to wait to share my "coloring page."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Coloring way outside the lines--knitting as art

Both art and life are usually messy.


I'm sorry the blog is late this week. I used up all of my energy yesterday. It was Aunt J's funeral and everything went beautifully. Family and friends shared great tributes both over the pulpit and informally.

Due to firm belief in Heaven and the Resurrection, Mormons usually have very positive funerals. There was as much laughter about happy memories as tears of loss.

Funerals also tend to be the most effective family reunions. Aunts, uncles, and cousins had the chance to reconnect.
Aunt J's guys know cars. This unique hearse was perfect.
My responsibilities were minimal. Lots of hugs, but mostly sitting and listening. Nevertheless, being "on" (meaning dressed, conscious, and publicly acceptable) for 5 1/2 hours was enough to do me in. I've been mostly resting ever since. Now I'm hoping to get the blog finished and posted before dinner time today (Saturday).


Leaves falling and snow on the mountaintops make me want to run away from winter before it arrives. I can't afford a tropical escape physically or financially, but I can pretend.

So I'm reading a travel book called In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I read two books he wrote about England--Notes from a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling--which I found entertaining, but maybe too nostalgic and critical.

But this book, about Australia, is much more positive. Bryson is delighted by almost everything and draws readers to share the delight. I'm 2/3 of the way through the book, then I'll need to search his other works and hope he's visited Tahiti or the Bahamas. 

I've also been traveling through art. Jenny Lawson, one of my favorite writers issued an invitation. She has created a piece of art for us to color together and share. (You can find a full-sized, printable copy by clicking on the link in the drawing's caption.) This should be a relaxing activity and a way to connect with fellow fans, butI'm highly competitive and stubborn about doing things my own way.
My handwriting has always been sloppy and my coloring less than precise. Shaking from pain or weakness makes it worse. So I've found adult, "stress-relieving" coloring books pretty frustrating. 

But the text, and the theme, for the picture is perfect for me right now. In the circles around the sailboat it says, "Through calm waters and stormy seas, I will find my way."

I decided to knit the picture and promptly announced it in the blog's comments.
(I never quite trust my motivation.  Am I being a quirky, creative type or a show off? Am I displaying talent or hiding its absence?)

On the first night, I ordered a sailboat brooch through Etsy and dreamt of a pattern. I have two colors of handspun Icelandic wool ready to knit. It will only take a couple of days to process more white. I have a bag of grey Finn wool that I may be able to spin into compatible yarn. 

So I pictured a circle with wave motifs in four colors--mostly tropical and calm in the center, then getting bigger and stormier towards the outside. But even during the early stages, I discovered that I wasn't succeeding in the combination of circles and color work.
 This could also be a problem for my next sweater, which will be a traditional Icelandic Lopi pullover. But I have patterns for that. My artwork is improvised. I finally gave up on color work and switched to lace because I've done circles that way before. For the backing and other colors, I bought a piece of foam board and a set of Sharpies.
While knitting and coloring, I pondered the meaning of the original picture and how it applies to me. Am I in calm waters or stormy seas? Which do I prefer? I know that during my teaching decades--first with small children at home, then with a chronic illness (and larger children in school)-- I longed for the stillness of my current existence.

There are scary pictures on the internet.

But now I'm less sure. Today's calm feels more like the doldrums. I'm becalmed in the Sargasso Sea, desperate for a breeze to get me moving. I could use a storm.

Maybe this little boat and I just need 

My project is mostly finished, but the sailboat is still in the mail. I'll take a proper picture of the whole thing hanging on a wall when it arrives. 
All I need is a boat!

This looks quite nice when I wear it, but is currently soggy from its first washing.


My orange sweater is finished and ready to wear. It's debut will probably be next Sunday. It will look good with my black dress and quite Halloweeny. I have a nice scarf with spiders on it too, but that may be too much for church.

The blue square shawl, which I started the night we went to visit Aunt J, is currently consuming its third ball of yarn and is about half the size it will ultimately be. I'm planning to keep it.

Next week I promise to show some new knitting for my shop.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Beautiful People, this Ugly Election, and Knitting I Don't Have the Heart For


Being on disability, I don't get out much nor go very far, so social media is my window on the world. (And this blog is like a message in a bottle to lands beyond my living room.)

Politics in America are so divisive, and this election has been so negative, that the view is pretty depressing. To survive, I like to focus on the positive, on people I know and topics I care about.

Knitting and mental illness sometimes go together.
I've only recently joined Twitter, but I've been choosy about who I follow. I'm getting to know more knitters, spinners, and designers.  I'm following blogs and tweets of disability and mental illness advocates.

I love this sweater!

My purpose for Facebook is to enjoy photos of your babies, grand babies, and fur babies. I enjoy your  vacations, your successes, your good deeds.

One of those good deeds saved my week. Only a few hours after the "Trump Tapes" were released. My friend Lisa brought me flowers. There was no occasion, it was just a Friday afternoon. Despite teaching special ed all week, she found time to cut fall blooms from her garden and bring them to me along with kind words about my blog.

Despite the apocalyptic predictions of both parties,  caring for each other, acts of love large and small,  saves our world every day.

Visiting my husband's dying aunt reminded me how love blooms during times of sadness. Aunt J was funny, loud, and outspoken--larger than life. Like most big personalities, she sometimes lacked tact, but never lacked good intentions.

For my first pregnancy, she sewed me some shirts and a dress. The dress was huge. I was sure it would always be too big. But during the last two months of both pregnancies, the white tent with blue flowers was the only respectable thing I owned that fit.

During the second pregnancy, I had plenty of cute baby boy clothes, but my oldest was wearing size six at age 3. I couldn't keep up.  J was one of the great relatives that followed the platinum rule and gave what I really needed--big boy clothes.

J is the mother of four boys who also show her type of practical kindness. My husband's cousins have spent countless patient hours helping to fix cars or work on remodeling projects at our house for nothing but a thank you and maybe some doughnuts.

They showed that kindness to their mother. Up to about two weeks ago, Aunt J was one of the liveliest people I know. But she suddenly started slurring and losing words. Tests showed cancer, in her brain and all over her body. Doctors said she might have six weeks, but she passed this morning.

She asked to spend this time "with her babies." So her oldest son's living room became Grandma's bedroom. Four of her five grandchildren live there and wandered in and out with stories and cuddles. The dog stayed protectively close.  Her son and daughter-in-law took charge of her care while accommodating visiting friends and family and working full time.

I think most people would choose to spend their last few days surrounded by people who love them. I'm sure Aunt J felt that powerful love from her family.

I found a couple pictures that leave my relatives some privacy.
Sadness and love also came together at a beautiful family wedding this week. Weddings between two good people are usually happy. As a family, we are certainly happy for the new marriage and our new sister-in-law.

All three girls wore their white baptism dresses. Here is the middle sister getting a hug from Dad.
But she is taking on a big job, marrying into a family of three little girls whose mother died less than two years ago.

She is joining two new extended families. The girls and their dad have been helped a lot by grandparents, aunts and uncles on both sides of their family. This support was visible on the wedding day. Sisters and parents of the first wife embraced the new wife's family.  It was beautiful,  and joyous, and heartbreaking.

In any other election, this t-shirt would be offensive.
For a long time I've wanted to knit election-themed ski hats. The designs would be easy and fun. Elephants and donkeys are both cute. I also thought that a purple hat with both animals and/or question marks could be fun. But the political divisions have been getting more and more hateful, which takes the fun out of the planning.

I had ruled out political knitting until I was browsing for political yard signs and discovered the porcupine that is sometimes used as a symbol for libertarianism. It is so darling that I started to plan again.

Not wanting to put time into numerous hats, I imagined a commemorative pillow with patches for each party. But in the end, I couldn't commit to that much time focused on this year's politics. My ballot is marked and in the mail.  I can ignore the circus until they start counting votes.


Bright colors make me happy. Right now simple patterns do too. So I'm working on the sleeves of my orange sweater and I've started a large square turquoise shawl.
Unfortunately, I broke another needle last night. A replacement is ordered from Amazon, but I'll probably pick up another from my local yarn shop this evening as well.

I'll post some finished projects next week. You can also find some in my shop. In the meantime, here are pictures of my cats. If you want unconditional love, get a dog. If you want unrequited love, a cat is a great choice.

No cats here--fall-blooming crocuses (crocusi?)


I've felt fragile for a while. Storm clouds bring in extra pain and thoughts of winter ahead. But my favorite flowers are blooming.

I always forget I have them until they show up in mid-October. The tiny purple flowers have no leaves. Those came up in the spring. They are six petals on a weak stem. Rainstorms knock them down. They close when the sun isn't out. They seem fragile but they bloom for two weeks or more every fall and have spread in my garden for twenty years.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Finding True Colors

I'm wearing this while editing, not while trying to sleep.
So, when my body is demanding sleep 20 hours out of every 24, why are my most alert hours from midnight to 4 am? I’ve been lying awake writing the blog in my brain for a couple hours now and have finally given up and crept into the next room to start typing.

Part of the purpose of this blog, and of this phase of my life, is to figure out who I am outside of the classroom and past the stage of full-time momming. (Momming—sorry spellcheck—is a full time job for almost all who take it on, whether we also take on the full time job of running a household or leave the household to chaos and work elsewhere.) 

Discovering our identities is supposed to be the work of youth, and even though my youth was spent before there were handy quizzes on-line, I did take tests to guide me. 
Two sorted everyone by color. The one I learned about first was arguably the most superficial. One of the great eighties fashion trends (right up there with brightly painted-on cheekbones) was color seasons. 

Classes were taught by various experts in make-up or clothing, who would figure out which color season one volunteer belonged in, then hope others would pay for the service later.

I was never officially tested, but I knew which season I wanted. All my favorite colors to wear are in Autumn. 

 I love the colors of dirt and rocks and trees. Orange is my absolute favorite, followed closely by olive green.

Almost three years ago now. Of course, we have only grown more beautiful.
 Notice that we are all wearing olive green in the family picture. Partly it is because we look good in it, but largely it’s because we all own plenty of it. I buy the clothes in this household. 

This looks totally natural. Right?

Notice, my hair is also starting to match the olive green theme. I like to think of it as “sloth green.” They earn status as the only green mammal by sleeping enough to grow moss and lichen in their hair. I’m not quite that bad yet, so I have to rely on artificial coloring.

I admit to liking the grays and the option of silver jewelry.

The colors I “should” be wearing are the pinks and blues of summer. I’m wearing more blue lately because it makes my husband happy. But when I dress to make me happy, it’s orange. When I dress to feel comfortable or comforted, it’s brown.

Less superficial is “The Color Code”  which divides people into personalities based on their primary motivation and uses colors as shorthand for the four main categories:


My test results categorize me as very, very white. I hate conflict and love independence.  I won’t bother you, please don’t bother me, and we’ll get along fine. I’m also supposed to value order and quiet, which I do, but I don’t create it. 

My poor husband will testify that I turn on a radio every time I enter a room and leave a pile of belongings behind whenever I exit.

This is much shorter than the office version.
The only test I get to play with these days is the depression/anxiety index they give at my doctor’s office. I think everybody games that test. Too much is at stake not to. If I try to answer “honestly” I have emotional reactions to the questions and cry though the test. But If I seem too happy, maybe the meds that are helping me seem that way will be cut back. So I aim for the middle. How sad do I need to be to get my drugs without ending up on suicide watch somewhere?

 I’ve been tempted to answer a bit over the top to see if anyone actually reads my test or if my drugs will be renewed automatically forever and the test is just given for my or my insurance company’s benefit. But I’m a white. I hate to make a fuss.

But all of these tests, even the first depression one, were taken before my RA diagnosis, long before fibromyalgia and the rapid slide into disability. I’m not the young woman who took those tests. I’m not sure I put any more credence in them than I do the BuzzFeed quizzes that show which century I really belong in or which Disney heroine I most resemble. 

I don’t know who I am now, who I want to be, or why I am still so upset that my patronus is a hyena. (Tell me your Hogwarts house and Patronus. If you also end up traumatized, we can start a support group.) 

Does this look like a species that just likes to get along with everybody? 

I do know that true self-discovery comes through work, work through therapy, study, prayer. But generating the physical strength to shower, generating the mental clarity to fill out insurance forms—My “lazy” daily life is a lot of work. 

Not bad for a selfie
That may be why I keep returning to the superficial, physical aspects of identity. I can color my hair, wear brightly-colored skirts and too many rings. It makes me feel a little more alive, a little less invisible.


What I really need to do is let go of my anger over this illness. I need to stop letting that anger separate me from God. I need to start reading scriptures again. Which again brings me to work. But at the very least, I can start to listen more. 

It is hard to photograph the top of my head. I kept missing and getting trees

We'll pretend this is a picture of me on a very good day.

I’m still working on the Iba sweater. I found the pattern through
and the yarn is Madelinetosh Classic in Aries. I’m pretending to be a cool famous knitter and calling it my Rheinbeck sweater. 
I tried dyeing Icelandic wool again on Monday. Using the right dye really helped. The turquoise turned out very bright, even when I cooked two exhaust batches, the color stayed quite vibrant.
Seasons experts claim everyone looks good in turquoise, so I should be able to find homes for the stuff I make from all the merino lace-weight I also threw in the pot. 

Feeling accomplished, I even managed to make dinner while dying wool in my kitchen. Amazingly, none of the bread looked  blue. 

I also managed to spin a little. I like these colors, but I don’t have enough for much more than a little cowl, so I am going to process a mix of brown merino and alpaca and spin it, then ply the two together, I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Hey, I’ve started Christmas shopping. Have you? There are some easy options in my shop.