Tuesday Treat – Warm Feet

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Today for a Tuesday Treat: Slippers!

This past winter for the heck of it I tested a few slipper patterns for felted wool. (I hold my breath as I say “past” since the last drift of snow in our yard disappeared only YESTERDAY.) I tried out three: Stephanie’s Sewn Felt Slippers  and another simply-named Felt Slippers at Martha Stewart.com, as well as Cosy Slippers by ThePrintPlace on Instructibles.com.

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Each of those test pairs has its pros and cons. (None of those made the photo shoot, incidentally. They were made of reject sweaters! the stuff I keep on hand for experimenting! The ones pictured here Stephanie’s pattern, which I later made as a quick gift for a friend.)

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For each one, I redrew the creator’s pattern with my own foot measurements. Stephanie’s was the simplest pattern to size in this way and also the quickest to sew up. Her moccasin-based slippers fit close like socks and feel snuggly warm because of that. The other “Felt Slippers” come farthest up the top of the foot of all three patterns and are really warm because of that. And ThePrintPlace’s pattern takes the most time to measure and draw, but yields a homey, traditional-looking slipper that says (don’t your slippers talk to you?) “Yea! you’re home!” when you walk in the door at the end of a long day. All of them benefit from the addition of a couple of suede or leather patches at the ball and heel of the foot so that the wearer doesn’t slip and the wool lasts longer. (I cut ovals from suede elbow patches I had removed from sweaters.)

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So, anyway, that’s my little review. They were fun to try, and now I love having extra slippers at each door of the house. You never know just what they’ll say when you walk in at the end of a long day, but it’s always downright welcoming.

Under construction…

Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you might be wondering if you’re in the wrong place. But you’re not! Please stay and browse! The thing is, I’ve been wanting to make some changes here. But I found I’ve got some steep learning ahead as I try to rock with all the customizing capabilities WordPress has introduced since I first began this blog four years ago. So right now you catch me smack dab in the MIDDLE of re-construction. If you can be patient as I work my way through, I’d be really grateful!

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“Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her”

Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her

We recently drove downstate to a revered Italian restaurant in a tiny Illinois town (the town of my mom’s roots) to attend a surprise birthday party. The surprise had been in the making for MONTHS. (The family who held the secret together may swear off surprises completely, so difficult was it to keep all their white lies straight!)

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Susan (guest of honor) and her husband drove in to this well-loved home town from their current home in Colorado. Here, let me try to give you an idea of what Susan is like: Feisty! Red-head! Vivacious! Loves to dance! Tall and elegant! Loves people! Loves an adventure! Those words would be ineffective without their exclamation points. That’s just the way she is.

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Naturally, among the top contenders in my mind for a gift for her was a blanket. I chose a lap blanket for this occasion.

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For a starting point, I asked her husband, “What is her favorite color?” His answer: “Well, she doesn’t have just one. But she loves the color of the ocean. Bora Bora blue!”

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“Directions: Open mind, pour in bora-bora-blue color plus all listed adjectives. Stir thoughtfully and allow to settle.” With just a bit more work, “Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her” was cooked up. The red-headed mermaid begged for inclusion and then took off for warmth and adventure…and some dance-able Tahitian tunes.

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Did we surprise Susan? Only she knows for sure. If the party itself didn’t surprise her, the sweep of people there did. We came from different parts and eras of her life. We came from eleven states and from coast to coast. The emotion most clearly evident on her face was: “Oh. my. gosh. All these people came?!!…for me!?!!”

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We did! [exclamation point] !

We came because we love you! [exclamation point] !

Happy birthday, Susan!

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“Bora Bora Blue: The Sea Beckons Her” (49″ x 40″)

(This blanket was a gift and is not available for sale.)

Happy birthday, Februarians!

The Birthday Coat

Note: I am not proud of the photos posted here. I did my best on a cloudy day. I’m even less proud of the dishcloth hanging on my faucet, now enjoying internet status. (Narrow photos don’t work well on this blogging template — thus the dishcloth inclusion.) Today I’m just sharing a bit of joy, so ignore all that other stuff :).

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Quick, before February is gone (although it is NOT going to be missed this time around!) I need to post one more thing. February is not a popular month to many, in spite of (and perhaps beCAUSE of) the presence of Valentine’s Day. But I happen to generally think very highly of it. February is my birthday month.

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And this year I had in mind a gift I wanted to make for myself. This sweater coat had actually been forming itself in my mind for several weeks. After all that mental cooking, I put it together in a weekend. I drew the pattern off a store-bought jacket I have, then just went from there. It’s not perfect, but it was so much fun to do.

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Happy birthday, fellow Februarians! We’ve got to hang together!

“The Twain Shall Meet”

The Twain Shall Meet

Marriage.  It doesn’t just bring two PEOPLE together. It brings two families together. Two histories. Two sets of memories. Two world views.

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It brings together two ways of being, which in their new consolidated form sit on a continuum somewhere between Extremely Similar and  Extremely Dissimilar. (Amen??)

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Today I introduce you to Lori and Steve, a Norwegian girl and an Irish boy who have 11 years of marriage and a son and a life together.

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Where do these two weigh in on the Similarity Scale? They love to be outdoors and to exercise. They share their faith in Christ and have similar values. They enjoy being busy. They are gracious, hospitable and gentle. And how are they dissimilar? From Lori: she is always cold and he is always hot. Steve likes spicy food and Lori, not so much. He likes gadgets, she could care less. She keeps things clean, he likes his piles.

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After considering having a blanket and a story of their own, Lori presented me with some sweaters — sweaters that hold memories for them but that they simply never wear. (This is the perfect project for The Green Sheep. I love solving this “problem”!)

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In the days when Lori and Steve were dating, Steve had an opportunity to travel to Ireland with his parents. In retrospect it turned out to be a specially momentous trip because Steve’s father passed away later that same year.

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While in Ireland, Steve and his dad golfed on a beautiful course at Ballybunion. (You must click on that link if you are craving green and nature right about now!) Steve brought home a wool golf vest. The logo from that important day became a cornerstone of the blanket.

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He also brought home a thick, heavy, beautiful brown Irish wool sweater. But I mentioned he gets hot? So Steve’s brown sweater, too warm to wear but perfect for a blanket, builds the crossroads where these two have met. The leaf shapes scattered throughout are directly from the Irish crest for this couple’s family name.

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Lori also had a sweater from her pre-marriage days that she had been saving.  Hers was from Minnesota — but the black-with-red-and-white trim unfortunately kept throwing off the balance in the blanket.  So, as per Lori’s initial request, I stuck to coordinating with the couple’s bedroom colors instead, with the cream and the grey. If I couldn’t use her sweater, though, what could reflect Lori in the blanket?

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For her, there is the iconic Scandinavian metal button,

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a little extra bling, and, most importantly…

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…some proud Viking representation :). These horns make the blanket’s second cornerstone.

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It was a pleasure to create this for you two, Steve and Lori. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come. And, quite appropriately, Happy Valentine’s Day to you and to all!

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“The Twain Shall Meet” (74L x 60W)

This blanket was a custom order.

“A Pair for Notre Dame”

A Pair for Notre Dame

I have some trouble getting excited about football. Why is that? I’m guessing it’s my languishing competitive spirit. Or maybe the transient population I grew up with in Southern California (weak loyalties) or the fact that Los Angeles had NO football team in my entire young life. Or maybe my dad’s soft spot for baseball?

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I know. It’s a weakness of mine, especially here where I’m surrounded by Bears fans and Packers owners. BUT. I DO have a ton of enthusiasm about staying WARM in wind-whipped stands during those chilly football months.

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Judi, who knows a couple of die-hard Notre Dame football fans, came to me with an armful of sweaters and a question:  Would I make lap blankets for this Fighting Irish married pair? Ohmygoodness, what a great idea.

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So I came up with a his and a hers, not identical but certainly mates.

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His has the bold letters, gold edging, and inset striped blue/gray pieces (above).

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Hers has the shamrocks, green edging, and the blue/green basket-weave pieces.

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(I had a terrible time with the exposure, trying to photograph these in our early December snow. It did not do justice to the sumptuousness of these colors together!)

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Finally, I love this tidbit of sentimentality: the blankets contain a sweater from Judi’s brother’s own days at Notre Dame years ago (left side of the photo below, under the shamrock). Come fall, it’ll be taking its place in the stands once again, to cheer on the team and keep fans warm. Go, Notre Dame!

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A Pair for Notre Dame” (each lap blanket is 36″ by 48″)

This is a custom-made set of blankets.

“G is for Griffin” — and gondola too

"G" is for Griffin

In September, I received an email from Sandi out of the blue:

“I have had the luxury of napping with our grandson under one of your wonderful blankets.”  I’d be fibbing if I said that didn’t make my day.

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Sandi did some exploring about The Green Sheep and then she wrote me. She said she had a brand new grand nephew and was hoping for a similar blanket for him. And she surprised me by attaching a photo in that very first email of little Griffin’s bedroom.

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Okay. Now this little guy’s bedroom has some wonderful creativity behind it. Rising on the wall by the crib is a hand-painted mural of stunning tall, gray, snow-capped mountains. Fluffy white clouds hover above them. And strung between two peaks is a red gondola, ferrying people through this majestic scene. That gondola is irresistible.

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Then I heard the story of Griffin’s parents and how the great outdoors brought them together.

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His father is from California and his mother is from Wisconsin, and she moved out west after college. But the event that caused their paths to cross was a little random. She was on a rafting trip at Lake Tahoe with girlfriends. The women got stuck — but were happened upon by some young men who helped free them. Among that group of guys was … well, the rest is history for this particular couple.

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The gray and the blue in this little baby blanket were an easy match to Griffin’s bedroom. And as I pondered what style of monogram to add for his name, the red of that gondola stayed with me. The “g” of the typefont “Open-Dyslexic” by Abelardo Gonzalez adds a good-natured grin.

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Welcome to this beautiful, amazing world, Griffin. Welcome to an incredible place to explore, with parents who will probably teach you how. I can imagine that tantalizing gondola on your wall carrying your imagination to far-away places.

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“G is for Griffin” (38″ x 35″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

Tuesday Treat

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In January 2013, I accepted a challenge from a friend on Facebook. In the “Creative Pay-It-Forward Challenge,” the first 5 people to comment on my friend’s status would receive from her, sometime during the year, a GIFT! Those commenters agreed to re-post the status and thus pass a gift on to others. The idea tickled my fancy and I signed up.

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I had a few people indicate interest, but only one who carried through: my high school girlfriend, Cindy. Here we are on our flag team in high school — the mid-1970s in Southern California. Put a flag in my hand today and I’m SURE I can still work it. (Cindy’s on the front right; I’m on the far left.)

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Not only was Cindy a fellow flag twirler, she happened to have the distinction of being the first among my friends with a driver’s license. I was a frequent passenger in her sky-blue Pinto. 

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Since I haven’t seen Cindy in person for many years, I asked her what her interests are these days. What do you know: she likes to sew. I knew right then what I wanted to give her.

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Whenever I do handwork with needle and thread, I grab my old sewing pouch to bring my supplies to the sofa, where I can sew under a good light and in front of TV. But I curse that little pouch — it’s black (it’s hard to see and I always prick my fingers on the needles) and it’s got a zipper (which is forever eating thread ends and getting stuck).

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So for Cindy’s gift, I did some free-style sewing, piecing together the kind of little kit I’d love to have: places for a cutter, seam-ripper, ruler, thread, pins and needles, all out where I can find them easily.

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Of course you figured it out: the sky blue in this sewing book harks back to Cindy’s much-revered Pinto. I bet I still owe her gas money. Cindy, for you: I had fun making something new while thinking back on some great, great times!

Tour de Fall

Fall Art Tour 2013

Two years ago I made a delightful discovery: there is such a thing an “artist studio tour” and fall is the time for them around here.

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On a summer weekend with the family in 2011, we stopped in at the Brewery Pottery Studio in Mineral Point, WI, for two of the five of us to have a look-see. (Does this “conflict of interests” exist in your family too??)

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I bought a perfect, lacy mug (above) made by the owners, Diana and Tom Johnston, and picked up a flyer for the simply-named “Fall Art Tour” in southwestern Wisconsin. Artists in adjacent towns would open their studios and put their works on display for sale. The two of us who shopped that day made a pinky pledge to try to make the tour.

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The date didn’t work, but we were so enamored with the idea that in fall of 2012 we found another studio tour north of Milwaukee, and booked a room at The Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg, an artist-haven sort of town. Our map led us to artists and their studios in old barns, in the lofts of old brick buildings, in their own unique homes, and in one power-plant-cum-architects’ studio. We talked and learned about each one’s art.

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That was just the beginning. We were hooked. Besides, it’s hard to go wrong with ANYTHING in the fall in the Midwest, what with deciduous leaves and all.

We changed it up a bit this year in order to include all three of us girls, and picked YET ANOTHER studio tour, this time south of Saugatuck, MI. (We can nearly drive blind-folded around the tip of Lake Michigan after a two decades of such trips. Well, we probably COULD, if it weren’t for the semis.)

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For fun, I checked VRBO.com for a place to stay. VRBO is “Vacation Rental by Owner”, and I highly recommend it. We found the tiny Saugatuck cottage, “The Nutshell”, bravely holding down its postage-stamp bit of land between Kalamazoo Lake and Lake Michigan. It was just right for three nuts.

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Okay, enough about us. Back to the ARTISTS. This weekend was called the Blue Coast Artists Studio and Farm Tour, as local artists and local farms (apple, pumpkin, fruit, cheese, etc.) got together to hold a giant open house. All are located along the Blue Coast Highway in western Michigan, each just a short drive from the next.

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The photo above is at Khnemu Studio, an 1890s farm-now-studio with solar panels enough to power artist Dawn Soltysiak’s electric kilns. (We had rain on the weekend, which did put a damper on photo-taking but not on our spirits! A deluge had passed through not 30 minutes prior to this set of shots.)

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That’s Dawn above, in the blue plaid. She has just removed a bowl from the kiln (left) and is applying a special technique to it in the straw fire. One of the barns contained work by several potters, and we bought a few pieces. Hidden until Christmas, they are!

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One fun part about this farm was the free-range birds, EVERYWHERE.

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The  fellow above was a beauty. The hen below got a notion in her head about our ankles. Time to be on our way.

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We stopped at Evergreen Lane Farm for a goat cheese sample — and ended up meeting the goats and Dash the horse, hearing the story of how Farmer Cathy started making cheese, buying two cheeses, and picking a half-dozen organic apples.

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The boy goats (above) were too busy competing in King of the Hill to come meet us. The girl goats (below) were eager to see visitors and could barely hold still. We let them gum our fingers (no teeth on top!).

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Farmer and cheese-maker Cathy (on the right) graciously lent Grace and me farm boots to hike back to the organic apple orchard — I think I mentioned the rain?

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The fresh-picked apples and goat cheese staved off our late-afternoon hunger until we made it to our dinner destination in Fennville:

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The Salt of the Earth restaurant. Wow, were they worth the wait. They collaborate with local farms to serve fresh produce, dairy, and meats from this agriculturally abundant area. Listed in the menu’s sidebar of partners, we found Shady Side Farm, where fellow blogger and wool-lover Lona and her husband raise sheep and more! I visited Shady Side last winter for sheep-shearing time.

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The next morning, we made one last stop at the studio of Reverie Design & Craft, where Sandra and her husband are finishing construction of this cozy structure. Sandra makes beautiful and playful pieces of pottery. I bought a small “pot” for sewing tools in my work area. I love that it makes me think of artists in other places when I use it.

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And that’s my story of an artists’ studio tour. I can see how each tour has its own personality. Last year in eastern Wisconsin, for instance, we saw much more two-dimensional work: a large variety paintings, and drawings. This year, lots of ceramics — and farm products!

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Each artist’s story is unique and each path to and through their craft so full of thought, passion, unexpected turns of events, plans, and serendipitous associations. Very, very interesting and very fun.

So, YOUR TURN! Have you gone a-visiting like this? Do you have recommendations for intriguing places to go?

“Tiger Tracks”

Tiger Tracks

While the weather can’t make up its mind these days — a regular occurrence for northern Illinois — fall is definitely pressing in to push summer on.

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When I retrieved the newspaper this morning, I noticed the trees across the street turning mottled yellow-orange. It surprised me with all the heat we just had.

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On a recent evening walk, my husband and I saw geese overhead, soundless this time but for their wing strokes. And this weekend, we’re driving up to Wisconsin for a 30th anniversary gift to ourselves. I look forward to see the coming of autumn there too.

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While mother nature’s delivery of fall can lag and tease, there are two other things that escort this season DIRECTLY to us without messing around:

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SCHOOL

and

FOOTBALL.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

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So I’ve got a combo pack for you in today’s blanket. It was custom-ordered by a mom who was thinking of those two things when she imagined this gift for her son.

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Laura found The Green Sheep online. She asked me to design something for her son Bennett who was about to head off for his freshman year at University of Missouri. Her first child, going off to college! She wanted something special to send with him, something school-related, something sports-related.

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Here’s the Mom low-down: Bennett loves sports. He finished high school on the varsity baseball team. He loves hanging out with friends. He likes the sciences and is considering how he might use that in his future.

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Bennett also had his heart set on Mizzou and was eager to get there. So Mom Laura decided to go for the Mizzou theme and mascot: the Tigers. Then Laura decided to give me a jump-start on this blanket — she did the resale rummaging herself to find the right school colors: black and gold. She loved it!

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“Tiger Tracks” is a BIG blanket, big enough to be a bedspread for a dorm bed or to be available as a throw for a college-sized guy.

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For Bennett, I hope your freshman year is nothing less than GREAT! (For a perfect start, the Tigers football team is 2-0 so far!) For Laura, I saved a tiger paw to make you a potholder — a small tangible reminder of your son, who, though several hours away, is always in his mom’s heart :)

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“Tiger Tracks” (70″ x 93″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

“Fullness of Peonies”

Fullness of Peonies

It’s been my delight in recent weeks to create another “legacy blanket” from, as it happens, another beautiful Irish sweater.

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The pieces with the diamonds (above) and the chevron (below) — that’s the Irish one.

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Each time I work on one of these blankets (like hereherehere, and here) I am moved by the complexity, wonder, and organic force of legacy within a family.  I hear about these things when an individual brings a sweater and says, “My dad passed away, but I’d love to have his wool sweater put into a blanket for my mom. Will you do that?”

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Mary, one of six kids in her big, lively family, found my work online while exploring what to do with her late dad’s sweater. She emailed, asking if I could make a blanket for her mom, Barbara. I replied (“Of course!”) and asked, as I always do, if I could briefly interview her by phone about her parents.

This is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s where ideas begin to germinate.

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Mary not only talked with me, she sent a couple photos of her parents’ den, a long-time favorite hang-out of the entire family. WOW. A picture and its thousand words cannot be beat. I particularly fell in love with a sepia-toned vintage map of Europe above the red couch, hung next to a classic print of a horse and rider.

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The blanket took its shape around what I learned of Mary’s family, her mom, her dad, and that welcoming den.

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Mary’s dad, a college professor, became a US Congressman in the ’60s and moved his family near Washington D.C. He and his wife not only raised their family and served their state and country together, they co-authored books! There’s a lot to admire there.

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Barbara is a capital-G Gardener, with related offshoot activities: she has led garden tours as a docent and helped launch (I believe — my notes grew sketchy here) a neighborhood garden club. I got the feeling she loves to be around both gardens and people.

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Confirming my suspicions, her daughter reported that Barbara adores having a house full of people :)

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And so it came together: the neutrals to match the masculine sensibilities in the den, the flowers to match the warm red furniture, the fullness of peonies to match this mom and her family full of generations, interests, activities, loves,…legacy. To Barbara, Mary, and the family: I hope this blanket represents your family well :)

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“Fullness of Peonies” (55″ x 70″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

What I’ve done so far on my summer vacation.

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I feel like I owe some explanation for my absence here for two-thirds of the summer — but I’m hoping that you have been too busy yourself to notice!

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I keep my trusty camera handy to preserve a bit of the beautiful, interesting stuff I see. Honestly, I feel surrounded by that stuff every single day.

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Or course, it’s not hard to feel surrounded by beauty in ALASKA, which is where we were for a one-week family celebration with two dozen relatives. Simply amazing!!

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These pictures, in random order, were taken in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan.

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BELOW: Closer to home, we spent a weekend with my son-in-law’s parents, who inhabit a quiet spot in the Michigan woods. I had been longing for rest in a two-week battle with a cold; their great hospitality and this gorgeous setting did the trick.

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FINALLY: In my estimation, there’s never a shortage of loveliness on the home front either. For Mother’s Day, my family surprised me with a bright outdoor rug from Lulu & Georgia. A book, an iced coffee, a cushion on the chair — heavenly.

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This summer, in my work as an occupational therapist in a neuro outpatient clinic, we’ve been, um, “mastering” new electronic documentation. The difficulty of the task is compounded by the many audiences we must write for: the patient, other clinicians, doctors, insurance, and Medicare. Hoo boy. No wonder those deck chairs look good to me when I get home!

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This summer has also held the weddings of wonderful young people, the funeral of a precious friend, one daughter home from college, and my brother-in-law staying with us while he finds a house for his family to follow from out east (we’re delighted he’s accepted a job near here!).

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In the midst of all that, I’ve been working on several custom-ordered blankets which each have their own great story.

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Stay tuned, because I have two more of those to share very soon :)

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”                             –Philippians 4.8

What have YOU been up to this summer?

Pillowcases for a Princess

Pillows for a Princess

In January, I posted photos and related the story of Calliope’s Castle. My latest project is a companion piece: pillowcases of a sort. They are actually flange-less shams, meant for completing the scene more than cradling the head :)

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When I finished the queen-size blanket, there were so many great sweaters left to work with that this was simply the next logical thing to do.

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I laid out the fronts first, choosing some apricots and greens.

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I had to start with all fresh sweaters and wasn’t able to pull in anything but the teeniest of scraps left from creating the original blanket. I had used every bit of those earlier sweaters!

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Then four cream-colored cardigans of Calliope’s presented an idea  for the backs of the pillowcases — they could serve as the closures…

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…making the pillowcases fully reversible.

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And so the backs got a separate set of colors to tie them in: pinks, green, and creams.

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I was able to add in some meaningful little details from the sweaters themselves:

the ballet slippers,

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the painter’s palette,

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and the sweet neckline of Calliope’s own little-girl sweater.

Queen-size pillowcases (20″ by 30″ each)

This is a custom order.

“Sunshine and Happiness”

Sunshine and Happiness

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This blanket makes me think happiness! every time I look at it. The colors are fantastically WARM and luscious and gorgeous together.

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It’s like the wild California poppies in the empty lot next door to the house I grew up in.

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And the spring-green tumbleweeds across the red-dirt desert of northeast Arizona.

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It’s the jumble of marigolds and cosmos in my Midwest garden.

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And shopping in a Mexican market.

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It’s the hot sleepy feeling of lying on the beach in August.

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And chili-smothered pork, roasting in the oven, to be shredded and eaten with tortillas.

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It reminds me of just about anything with sun and heat involved.

How about you? What does it make you think of?

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Sunshine and Happiness (Size: 55″ x 68″)

This blanket is no longer available for sale.

“Rainy Day”

Rainy Day

I’ve had the sweaters for this blanket matched up for some time, just waiting. Even before they were a blanket, I thought they were comforting together —  like being indoors — cozy, warm, and contented — on a rainy day.

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Just about the time I put the blanket together, my daughters put together a book they had worked on through this semester for my younger daughter’s watercolor class. The assignment: to paint a series of paintings as illustrations. Daughter #2, the painter, asked Daughter #1, the writer, if she would contribute poems to this project. Their collaboration took its final form as this book.*

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They created a painting/poem pair that fits so well with the spirit of a rainy day that I asked the daughters if I could share their work with you.

They said yes :)

Here is “Early Spring,” a painting by Hope Olson, and “If Only,” a poem by Grace Claus.

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Hope's rainy day watercolor

“Early Spring”

(Painting reprinted with permission of Hope Olson)

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If Only

(Reprinted with permission of Grace Claus)

On a day like today,

inspiration is nowhere

to be found. It has stolen

like a fox into the woods

and has curled up beneath

a silent bush, damp but

asleep while the rain slaps

the leaves, weaves between

branches, slips down

trunks, shoots, roots,

and seeps into the soil.

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If only I were a fox

and could leave this stale,

drowsy house, sheltered

from the rain, and let

one immaculate drop

startle my shoulder,

bead against my fur,

and disturb my sleep.

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Proud momma? I s’pose you could say that :)

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I could’ve tied this all together better if I had had a cloudy and dreary day to shoot these pics. How did I miss all those cloudy, dreary days?? Even the turtles at the local park came out to sit in the sun.

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Anyway, to me, the cream-colored squares in the blanket are like two windows, letting in wan but welcome light. Up close, you can see scrabbling vines “outside.”

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The gray wool with the diamond pattern is sprinkled with a handful of clear sequins, looking like little raindrops balancing atop the wool.

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This blanket is very cozy, cushy, and a nice throw size. In person, the colors are absolutely gorgeous together. (It’s difficult to capture that aspect in these photos.)

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“Rainy Day” (58″ x 74″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

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On a Day Like Today

(“On a Day Like Today” by Grace Claus; illustrated by Hope Olson)

“A Quiet Creature” (the hummingbird blanket)

A Quiet Creature

My friend Gloria is a sweet fan of The Green Sheep. Along with choosing a blanket for herself, she has let me have fun designing for her grandkids (see 11, 12, Dig and Delve and I Love Minnie). Once, when she saw a small baby blanket I had made in purples and greens, she said, “You can make an adult-sized one of these for me!”  I kept my eyes open for more of those colors.

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Months later, with a nice collection of hues, I contacted Gloria to see if she was still interested. Yes, indeed, she replied. Her email contained a little postscript with a smile: “I like appliqués. I especially like flowers or hummingbirds.”

Just in time for hummingbird season, here is A Quiet Creature.

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“A Quiet Creature” (the hummingbird blanket) (60″ x 75″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

“In Argyle Style”

In Argyle Style

Today’s post will demonstrate my six degrees of separation from this blanket’s theme. From four different angles.

Today’s post is just silly.

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1. I am Scottish on my dad’s side — The argyle pattern comes from Scotland — The area of Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland, is the birthplace of the Scottish nation — From within Argyll comes the Clan Campbell, and argyle is their pattern — Unfortunately, I am not a Campbell.

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2. The sport of curling comes from Scotland — I’m a little Scottish, as I mentioned — AND I have been curling, once — My husband once worked with a manager, Ken, who was Canadian. Ken rented us some ice and split us up into teams so everyone could have a try — I was not very good at helping the stone along with my broom, but I had fun — I still accidentally call the curling stone a “kettle” because of that distinctively shaped handle on top.

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3. In the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Norwegian men’s curling team wore argyle — They did this, of course, because argyle comes from Scotland — As I have mentioned, curling comes from Scotland too — I am Scottish on my dad’s side — I married a Norwegian — We watched the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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4. I like plaid — When I was a girl, my mom made me a circle skirt made of plaid wool — Plaid originated in Scotland just like argyle — Those Scots have some mad fabric skills — I’m working on some fabric skills of my own — I may have mentioned: I’m Scottish on my dad’s side.

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Here’s what I hope you actually learn from this post (beyond exposure to my terrible six-degrees-of-separation reasoning): Joan finally made something masculine! This is large and manly, comfy, cozy and definitely big enough for two. And am I alone in thinking lovingly of Charlie Brown when I see that zig-zag pattern above?

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“In Argyle Style” (Size: 70″ x 86″)

(This is no longer available for sale.)

“The Pond”

The Pond

It’s true what they say about fish, I think, and about water and ripples and quiet babbling — babbling of the watery sort, that is.

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(I have been known to babble to myself on crazy-busy days at our rehab clinic. In our back office, we have 14 therapists and 2 student interns — plus SIXTEEN DESKS in a room the size of a large living room. It’s no wonder! That, however, is not the babbling I mean.)

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Fish and water are able to lend their sense of peace and calm, quiet and order to our racing minds and bodies. Contrast the soothing, gliding movements of fishthrough water to the hurried, harried, schedule-bound movements of us racing out the front door to our next important thing.

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I’m convinced I have a sort of homing device inside that is always seeking out calm: the quieter place, the isolated sunny spot on the grass, the good book to carry along. I fully believe that our minds and hearts and souls need it.

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So grab a blanket, find a pond — even an aquarium! — lay out in the grass or at home on your sofa and soak up the soothing calm of the fish and the water. You may find that a nap will be in order. That kind of peace is a godsend.

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“The Pond” (Size: 58″ x 72″)

 (This is no longer available for sale.)

“Visiting Grandma” c. 1965

Visiting Grandma

When I was a little girl in southern California in the 1960s, my parents would tuck me in to a makeshift bed in the back of their car and drive through the night across the desert to Tucson, AZ, to visit my dad’s parents. Driving through the night served two fine purposes for my young parents: escaping the heat of the day and making the trip go by quickly for me.

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Harold and Ruth, my grandparents, raised their family in Iowa. But after their three boys were married with families of their own, the couple retired to a teeny little house on the outskirts of Tucson. Their middle son (my dad’s big brother) and family lived in town.

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I loved Grandma and Grandpa’s place. If memory serves me well, it had two small bedrooms, a kitchen (with a big birdcage complete with screeching bird), a back sewing room with a big hot window, a screened-in front porch with a glider that made a scraping sound when it was in use, and a cautious but faithful road runner who would come to eat snacks Grandpa put out for him.

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Their place sat, with its small green front lawn and white picket fence, like a little vision at the end of a long, rut-filled, and dusty dirt road. Beyond the fence was one other house, a big green one where the kindly Flo and El lived (I loved to say their names!), and beyond that, long-thorned cacti and giant threatening jackrabbits. At least that’s how I remember it.

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The inside of that little house is somehow tied up with the colors in this blanket. Was it the linoleum in the kitchen? The ceramic tiles? The birdcage? Grandma’s dress? The fabrics in the sewing room? I don’t know for sure. But when I first put these sweaters together, before there was even a blanket in my head, I caught my breath — that’s like visiting Grandma and Grandpa! 

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 The blanket includes vintage buttons to go with the vintage colors :)

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I am one year old in the photo below, too small to remember much, but we made this trip many times until my grandma died six years later and Grandpa came to live with us. It’s amazing how much of my affection for the southwest part of this country grew up out of this tiny postage-stamp piece of land.

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I’m pretty sure the succulents currently growing inside my house in Illinois owe their little lives to my early and happy memories of Tucson.

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“Visiting Grandma”  (Size: 61″ x 82″)

This blanket is no longer available.

“Terra-Cotta Red”

Terra Cotta Wall

[Please visit my Etsy shop, The Green Sheep Studio, for purchasing information.]

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In the back of my mind, I always have an idea for “the next” Arts & Crafts style-inspired blanket I want to do. Two that have come to fruition are That 70s Throw and Ginkgo Leaves. And the same influence is visible in Life is a Gift (the poppies blanket)The Spruce Tree, and even in the flowers on Night Garden.

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This blanket is a little different. Terra-Cotta Red was prompted by a photo I have of an old terra-cotta wall with a fountain set into it.  It’s from a book about Craftsman-style homes.

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The  connection here to Arts & Crafts style is less about motif and more about the materials — particularly the earthenware tiles.

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The photo — and now this blanket — mentally transports me between Italy and California and back again. The reds make me feel the absorbed heat of the tiles and the dry Mediterranean air. The greens hint at the shade of towering trees to tame the heat. The sound of trickling water sweetens the setting. I imagine a worn wooden bench nearby where I can relax with a friend over coffees and conversation.

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It’s a bit of an anachronism to have this hanging on a picket fence in the Midwest’s thin spring sunlight. But hey. We do the best we can.

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“Terra-Cotta Red” (60″ x 75″)