Monday, November 28, 2016

Writing to my Red State Reps

This is not a normal blog entry.  Friday I will be posting wooly, knitty, hopefully positive stuff.

But right now I can't sleep. I have tried all of the stages of grief several times in random order and am tired of helpless despair. Being housebound due to chronic pain gives me enough of that, but also limits my political activity.

The least I can do is reach out to my representatives and express my concerns. Here is the rough draft that I will personalize for each of them.


I am worried about the future of America.

This is my seventh presidential election. I have backed losing candidates more often than winners, but this is the first time I have been afraid.

We have elected a man who encourages racism and sexism. Trump has no respect for the law or the truth. He doesn't seem to know or care how the government works. What will happen next is impossible to predict.

Part of my fear is rooted in family history. My grandparents came to Utah from Germany after World War II. As young adults, they watched the rise of Hitler, but felt that as ordinary people there was nothing they could do about it. If they had spoken up in defense of civil rights or the lives of Jewish neighbors, I might not be here.

But this is America. I don't have to accept abusive government.

You are my voice in Washington. I expect you to hold our new president to rule of law and require high standards in his appointments.

If Trump uses the presidency to enrich himself and his family, or if his followers are allowed to erode hard-won civil rights, America's reputation abroad and Americans' faith in government will be damaged for generations.

I am trusting you to defend the constitution and our freedom.


Debra Thorpe

Personal touch for Orrin Hatch:

As a leader in the Senate, you are in a key position to guide the party and the administration. I thank you already for speaking up against banning filibusters. Please continue to protect the better traditions of our government .

Personal touch for Mike Lee:

I have great respect for your courage in sticking to moral principles and refusing to endorse Donald Trump. I usually lean to the left, but I appreciate conservative values when they are genuine. You have won me over and will have my ongoing support.

Personal touch for Jason Chaffetz:

You were right to criticize Trump when the country learned about his habit of sexual abuse. I was very disappointed when you decided to endorse him anyway. You seemed to be more concerned about party loyalty than principles. That cost you my vote. Imagine the damage a failed Trump presidency could do to the Republican Party. With control of the presidency and both houses of congress, it's all on you now. Be sure to stand up for legislation that is good for working Americans.

Tomorrow I will look up proper business letter format and get letters into the mail.

This is an introductory letter. I want to keep an eye on these men and give both correction and positive feedback. I just started following them on Twitter and will do so on Facebook as well. Please let me know the best ways to keep an eye on the government. I've usually paid little attention to politics between major elections, but it's past time to do better.

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Traditional" American-- Cultural Appropriation and Copyright Violation

Navajo Churro Sheep: mostly-American wool makers

On Thanksgiving in addition to overeating and spending time with family, I often find myself thinking about America and what it means to be an American. In today's blog, I'm going to focus on what it is to be an American knitter.

(Capitalism is a proud American tradition. I personally avoid Black Friday chaos, but will use this blog to push a few of the products in my shop.)

One of the things I love about knitting is learning how traditional techniques and styles were developed to fit cultures and environments and the wool of  sheep selectively bred to those environments. But when I read about Shetland or Icelandic wool and knitting, for example, I feel a sense of loss.

As an American, I come from a mix of imported cultures. American fiber history is the same. I can only think of two natural fibers indigenous to North America--Quivit (musk ox) and American bison. Both are harvested from wild animals and therefore prohibitively expensive.
This scarf contains a mixture of wool and bison fiber. It is available in my shop.

The Navajo churro sheep come close. They were brought over by the Spanish many centuries ago and have become the core of traditional Navajo culture.

But I've never seen any knitting yarn made from their hair. I assume it's quite coarse and strong since it is usually used in weaving beautiful rugs.

(American chemical companies are directly responsible for acrylic yarns, which have their place. But I am a yarn snob and am not going to abandon natural fibers out of patriotism.)

Native Americans create beautiful patterns in textile and pottery that I am sometimes tempted to copy in my designs.

But I don't feel right about it. Without guidance, I don't know what patterns still have cultural or religious significance and which are merely decorative.

Wool hat in Incan pattern from my shop.

I have stolen some Incan images. That might be easier because Peru is farther away, but it is giving me second thoughts about my baby sweater patterns. I may present design choices from multiple cultures. I have genealogical rights to Celtic and Scandinavian patterns.

Do these patterns represent anything? I don't know, but the hat is in my shop.

Hand prints in natural wool colors from my shop.
I give myself permission to use Anasazi designs because they are a vanished people.

About ten years ago I hiked through Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. That canyon is an art gallery of ancient petroglyphs.

I was touched by the age and mystery of the pictures and had to express myself in wool. So I have made several sweaters and hats bearing those images.

One is a personal favorite sweater. I wear it camping and around the house whenever I am cold. I am wearing it right now. Knit of a natural-colored blend of merino and alpaca it has (rather square) rattlesnakes around the neck knit in cream-colored yak.

Kind of daring hand prints, in my shop, of course.
My sweater was the rough draft. Its successor is made with the same materials, but with brown yak. It is covered with hand prints. I love the hand design because it is so universal. I saw it all over the Anasazi art.

Hand prints were also painted in the French caves and by Australian first peoples.

These are the signatures of pre-literate people. But hand prints are still used as a unique mark of identity.

I've put my hand prints in wet cement by my childhood home. I treasure my sons' finger paint and plaster prints.  Famous people leave their hand prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now I use a thumb print to open my iPad.

There are also two more colors in my shop.

Last summer I went further back in time. A trip to the desert made me think of even more ancient inhabitants of my home. These I can copy without guilt, so I made three T-rex hats and two with dinosaur tracks.

Reverse colors are in my shop

 Since dinosaurs star in many of my favorite movies, they make a good segue into my other line of "American" knitting.

Pop culture has been our biggest export for several decades now. I've made and sold many hats inspired by sports teams, movies,  comic books, and video games.

That gets a little sticky on Etsy. Companies have the right to watch out for their copyrights.
You can request custom colors in my shop. But please don't expect new projects before Christmas.

So far I have only been called out by Minecraft. It was a good reminder to avoid newer ideas. I've had the most success with vintage video games, especially Space Invaders.

One of three frogger-inspired hats in my shop.

Inspired by, um, Carlsbad Cavern? (in my shop)


Thinking about this blog inspired two more Anasazi hats. These are made from local Wyoming merino ( in sandstone shades naturally colored with dyers' coreopsis. I found them on clearance and am pretty sure they were part of an experiment.

I finished these hats and washed them this morning. Once they are dry enough to be photographed properly, I'll update this section and list them in my shop.

I'm also working on a skirt pattern, which involves a lot of easy knitting. I've half-finished the knitting for a skirt in my size, then I'm going to see if my formula scales down.


I'm grateful that Thanksgiving is over. I don't know why I was stressed, but putting the day behind me has been a relief.

I think the main issue is that I hurt all week and wasn't sure I would be up for the occasion. On Monday,  I drove myself half an hour away and back to sign up with a disability lawyer. My body refused to work right  afterward.

For me, "up for the occasion" required simply attending. My mother-in-law has hosted Thanksgiving forever and I hope she will continue to do so for many years to come.

(If my daughters-in-law are not serious chefs, our Thanksgivings in the distant future may be catered by Marie Calendar. I get exhausted thinking of where we would seat more than six people, let alone any real hostessing issues.)

Last night's dinner was tasty and the event was harmonious, with the only tears coming from the very youngest kiddos at the very end of the evening. I am thankful for the passionate family into which I married and their gracious acceptance of my leftist hippie self.

I'm very thankful for my family of origin as well. We are an accommodating lot, leaving Thanksgiving proper to the other sides of the family and meeting later. Our Thanksgiving this year will be on the first Sunday of December.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Recording A Handcrafting Heritage and Legacy

This afghan is the result of untold hours of  loving work by my mother-in-law. We can't blame her for the cat.



Illustration from the linked article captures today's mood.
 I have taken all the drugs, plus a lot of sugar and am now sitting upright, but still having a hard time seeing the point to anything. Pain and depression work well together that way.

There is a better description of fibromyalgia pain than I can write today in the linked article. If you know someone with this ailment and want to understand, or if you are skeptical that it is real, please read. 

By the way, all the drugs in my case includes the disease-modifying stuff I'm supposed to take every day, plus Tramadol (a weak opiod), Excedrin, and Crystal Light with caffeine.

I like to believe that if I lived in a medical marijuana state or had a doctor that was willing to risk my becoming addicted to opiates, my pain would be controllable enough that I could keep working. Pain-thinking is very urgent and short-term.
Like most active Mormons, I take my caffeine cold.

I slept as well as usual last night after sleeping most of the day yesterday and sleeping the night before.

What did I do to myself? Three things--felt hope, called lawyers, and visited Hobby Lobby.

Late last week I got a letter denying my claim for disability because I can sit, stand, and walk. True, I thought. Maybe I can do something. So I tried to be just a little more active. Nothing amazing--just sitting when I felt like lying down and standing when I felt like sitting.

Also I prepared and taught the lesson at DUP(more to follow) which reminded me how much I enjoy hearing myself talk. Maybe I can do something.

Maybe not. I didn't sleep Monday night. On Tuesday I reached out to disability law firms on line, on Wednesday, I set appointments on the phone.

A triceratops is necessary for any inclusive unicorn collection,

Not really sold on the butterflies yet.
And I ran one errand. To finish my sweater, I needed a few yards of ribbon.

 After less than an hour, I left Hobby Lobby with lots of ribbon, butterfly decals, a triceratops, and pain.

There is a reason I usually buy my crafting notions on-line. That store is brilliantly set up for impulse buying and pain is bad for impulse control. It's a good thing that all the yarn there is synthetic. I'm still surprised I didn't buy any.

Which brings me to now,  held upright by caffeine, trying to cobble together a blog that makes a little bit of sense.

This quilt was pieced by my maternal grandmother and hand-quilted by my mother-in-law.


When Thomas Jefferson gave his son-in-law the writing desk he used while composing the Declaration of Independence he included a letter certifying it’s ownership and authenticity. 

Painters sign their works. Books are published with the author’s name right on the cover. But artwork created by hand from fabric, yarn, or thread rarely comes with any sort of maker’s mark and can quickly become anonymous.

I began to dwell on this while preparing a lesson on souvenirs and memorabilia for my Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) group. The lesson manual and museum photographs focused on keepsakes from travel. But as I sorted through my own treasures for examples, I realized that most of my cherished items were not travel purchases. Instead, I have a wealth of items hand made by talented people in my family.

My maternal grandmother gave me this piano runner, but she didn't remember who made it.
I also realized that none of these items bear the names of their creators. My sons don’t know who made most of them. In a few cases I don’t know myself. If I don’t leave a record, those who come after me won’t know which items are precious and why. 

I shared this concern with my DUP sisters. At least one already has a notebook describing each piece of handwork she owns and who had created it. That inspired me to start my own record—on the computer with photographs. The photos I take for this week’s blog will serve a double purpose. 

Here are just a few pieces of my hand-crafted heritage: There are many more. I planned to photograph all the afghans, including creations from my paternal grandmother and my husband's great-aunt--possessions made more valuable because their creators have died. But I'm running out of steam and I'm just not up to plundering storage shelves today.

embroidered by my mother-in law

My mother-in law also pieced and hand quilted this star quilt for my wedding.
Afghan from my maternal grandmother
Another afghan from Grandma

Thoughts of my own legacy are unavoidable. My children, my knitting, and my writing are what I leave to the world. I’ve never wanted to sew labels into all of my creations because it’s one more sewing step that takes time from knitting and spinning. But on the other hand, I am proud of my work and like the idea of signing it. 

A quick look at Etsy, source of all great things, gave me 2,813 results for “custom fabric labels.” Here are two  that I like with the Etsy shop names in the captions.



In addition to giving myself credit, I would be giving my family and my customers permanent records of fiber content and care instructions. 

Once the highly expensive holiday season is past, I will have to look more closely at the options.


This simple hat is crossing the Atlantic right now.


The knitting highlight of the week was an overseas Etsy sale. For reasons I don't understand, I seem to sell more items to Europe than I do to the United States. Every time this happens, I shake my head because the orders come from places that I imagine as chock full of knitters. Why order something from Flyover, USA, when you can just ask your gran to whip it up for you?

Anyway, this order was from a gentleman (or perhaps, a pirate) in Penzance, England. Correspondence started with him confirming measurements and making sure that the hat was 100% wool. But he went on to talk about the hat matching his eyes and the nearby ocean. By the time his hat was in the mail, he had sent me multiple ocean pictures. It all felt quite flirty, which is something this housebound old lady doesn't experience often.

If you need unique hand-made Christmas gifts, flirting is fun, but not required. Check out my shop. If you are local, or passing through and can pick up your item, convo me and you can skip the shipping costs. 

I haven't made a ton of knitting progress this week--mostly false starts, but I did get brave and accomplish the steeking i.e. cutting of my sweater. It is now a cardigan and I am wearing it. I have a few fitting issues and am still debating a button or two, but am no longer entirely afraid of taking scissors to my work.

Knitters who want to support wool from the American west, my favorite woolen mill has started a yarn subscription plan. I am enabling you to buy more yarn by including this link.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Core Values and Natural Fibers

I've been crying a lot this week. The Hamilton soundtrack made me weep today.

Some of us are hurting right now. Many are afraid. This is not new. Though we live in a rich, free, country, there is so much pain and fear and it has been used to turn us on each other, to become increasingly divided over the past thirty years. Pain and fear created this year's election.

Easy for him to say.
Garrison Keillor suggests that liberals need not worry. We can quietly grow organic heirloom tomatoes and wait four years for the Republicans to screw things up, then elect our people again. As an old rich white guy, he can get away with it. I could too.

But I want to do more. I want to reduce the need, fear, and hate in our country.

America Needs You!
Dear Millennials, you are my hope. I have seen and heard so much that is intelligent and good-hearted from people of your generation. Don't give up. In addition to protesting and voting, get involved in the system. Both parties are in desperate need of strong young leadership. Notice that the candidates this time (even darling Bernie) are your grandparents' age. If your parents' generation isn't ready to lead and inspire, take over. Drag your slacker friends along with you. (It's time for the first man-bun in congress.)

We need to keep our loved ones close, while trying to reach out.
And let me know how I can help.

To guide our millennial sons, my husband has been teaching us about core values. These are basic pillars of our natures that we need to understand to set worthwhile goals and plan satisfying lives. Since my life has turned upside-down, I've been trying to figure out my own core values.

Ironically, the value I feel most clearly is independence. Not working for a living right now drives me crazy.

I worked hard for a college scholarship and studied with a clear career goal in mind. My teachers had great flexibility over what and how they taught. That independence and the illusion of summers off for travel attracted me to my life career.

I was the original stalker girlfriend.
Even my codependence is rooted in independence. When my first high school boyfriend broke my heart, I decided that I liked having a boyfriend, but wanted more control over the situation. I wasn't going to wait around for some guy to notice me and hope he was the right one. I found the boy I wanted, stalked, befriended, and snagged him. We've been married almost 26 years.

One of many wonderful things about my sweetheart is that he has never treated me like some fragile flower or alien being. From the start, He spoke to me the same way he talks to his friends. I've never felt like I needed to be anything or anyone other than myself. One of his key values is loyalty, so he sticks by me despite flaws and both mental and physical illness. Loving him feels like one of my key values, though apparently I'm not getting the concept yet.

My other values are fuzzier, harder to pin down. Introspection is not one of them.
This sheep from the British Channel Isles is also fuzzy and hard to pin down.

I don't have a word for it, but I have great respect for the complete process of how things are created.   In my world view, home grown, home made is always superior. For knitting, natural fibers, grown on animal or plant, are a must. I prefer to work through the whole creation as much as I can,  even though the yarn I process from scratch is not always as soft or ever as perfect as yarn I can buy.

When I buy yarn, or spinning fiber, I want to know where it comes from, who makes it. I also want to buy products created as close to home as possible.

As much as I drool over the British sheep in my Twitter feed and love to listen to accented podcasts. I believe it is better for me to buy fiber and yarn from America (including Canada and Mexico--though  I haven't found Mexican wool yet). Before I share the knitting I have nearly finished, Let me share what Santa is bringing to me via two great American creators and my favorite wool mill.

Warm colors are medicinal in January.

Jill Draper's work caught my attention on Twitter. So did her politics, which are similar to mine. She dyes wool beautifully and is also involved in its production. So far, I have three items from her shop under my tree.

(Metaphorically. I am not allowed to put the tree up before Thanksgiving.)
The notebook will be in my stocking, also not out yet.
This is so gorgeous and so soft. I don't know what I will make yet, but it will be started Christmas Day.

From my sweetheart I am a receiving a subscription for monthly spinning wool, dyed conveniently down the street in Orem.

The label didn't photograph well, but the wool is from Camino Kid ranch
I will start knitting this yarn before Christmas. These are the destined to be a sweater for the pattern I am developing. I bought this gorgeous yarn from The merino wool is bought directly from local ranchers, then milled and dyed in Buffalo,Wyoming. Every skein has a sticker telling whose wool it was made from.

I toured the mill with friends a couple years ago and was impressed with their efforts to be not only local, but as ecologically friendly as possible. If you are in the neighborhood, sign up for the free tour.

When I next have money, I will be buying some of their natural colored yarn for another baby-pattern sweater and a bunch of some manly shade to make to sweater I have long owed my youngest son.

Salt Lake Locals: I need babies. (You don't have to marry my sons, though I wouldn't mind.) I actually just need to borrow babies.

I will need a few babies to be photographed for my sweater patterns. I have no money, but would be glad to give you to sweater in exchange for good pictures you take of your kiddo in them. The plan is to make sweaters in sizes 1-4 and then to write and publish the pattern.

 If you are interested, PM me through Facebook or email me at


My main knitting accomplishment is finishing my not-quite-Icelandic Lopi sweater. Except it's not finished. Scandinavian patterns often include the crazy concept of steeking, which involves CUTTING UP WHAT YOU JUST FINISHED KNITTING.

If you look closely, there is a line down the middle of the sweater. That is where I may or may not cut it to make a cardigan. I have detailed instructions but have yet to even work up the courage to watch them yet,

I have enough of these natural colors left over to make a child's sweater, so I have started my size 4 Inca sweater. I am adding detail to my written pattern and hope to have two sweaters to show for it next week.

As you may notice in my pictures, we are having bright blue skies (except for smog) and warm temperatures. But I promise it won't last. Knitwear weather will return, maybe in time for Christmas. Check out my shop to keep yourself and your loved ones fashionably cozy.

I don't like to wear hats as much as I like to knit them. Scarves that double as hoods save my poor ears. 

Notice the hose and sprinkler key--bad photography or a tribute to suburban gardening?
Both of these scarves are machine washable. They can be worn a lot if it ever gets cold enough.
It will get cold enough. This is Utah. We will pray for snow!