“La Paloma”

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Several times in the past, I’ve come back to a “finished” blanket and taken it in a different direction with new appliqués. (I’ve written about that here and here and here.)

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It happened again. “Terra-cotta Red” has become “La Paloma.” I’ve known for a while that this was a clay wall in search of an ornament, but was never happy with any sketches I made. Then in a flash this week, I saw a dove perched on the edge of that fountain. 

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Reminds me of some of the brick work I saw at Mission San Juan Capistrano this summer, visiting my native California..although that particular place is known for swallows, not doves!

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La Paloma” (60″ x 75″)
This blanket is not yet available for sale online

 

The Mighty Five

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Art in the Barn is at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL, next Saturday & Sunday,
Sept 24 & 25, 10 am-5 pm each day.

I’ll be in Tent 21 near the north entrance (see map here). If you’re nearby, call up a friend, come on over, stop by Tent 21 and say “hi”! It’s a beautiful setting and a fun way to spend an afternoon. Any shopping you do supports a really great hospital. Hope to see you there!

That was my public service announcement :). Keep reading for a brief round-up of summer fun–

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My husband and I just returned from a two-week road trip out west to see friends and to tour southern Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks. It was an incredible amount of loveliness to take in all in one pass. Though I have many photos yet to sort through, for now I thought I’d give a quick overview … in addition to the reminder above about Art in the Barn!

Stop #1: Canyonlands National Park

Highlight: We hiked a 6-mile trail through The Needles section (from Elephant Hill to Chesler Park) and had nearly all of this surreal landscape to ourselves. There are no trail markers but the stacked cairns, often over rock and slate, to point the way through the “needles” and the “mushrooms.”

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Stop #2: Arches National Park

Highlight: In the same way the mind finds whimsical shapes in clouds, my imagination was triggered by the interesting shapes of this park’s formations. Do you see the elephant head below? (In the second and fourth photos below, of Double Arch and the South Window, look for the tiny people in order to gain a sense of scale.)

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Stop #3: Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita

Highlight: Through Airbnb we stayed in a home hand-built by a man who loves this land and loves puttering. In the evening we relaxed in his garden of thoughtful details and in the morning we awoke to sunrise on the bluff just behind the house. (Our hiking at Capitol Reef itself included the deep canyon of Grand Wash Trail.)517a430a596a 626a

Stop #4: Bryce Canyon National Park

Highlight: It was late afternoon when we finished our hiking in Bryce (Navajo Trail/Queen’s Garden loop). It seemed like the entire amphitheater was aglow in color!

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Stop #5: Zion National Park

Highlight: We climbed straight up the canyon walls, essentially, to gain an altitude of 1488 feet on a hike from the river at the canyon bottom to the top of Angels [sic!] Landing and back. In the first photo below, check out the steep switchbacks on the right. These were nothing compared to the next set of switchbacks, nicknamed Wally’s Wiggles. The second photo is of a broken-off branch of manzanita tree, I believe, that has been clung to by each and every passing hiker on the final steep ascent. Photo 3: my feet at the top of Angels Landing vs. the triangle of the park’s shuttle stop at canyon bottom. Photos 4 and 5: Zion Canyon and sunset.

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There you have it: my whirlwind summary. It’s a trip I highly recommend. We live in a country that has such interesting topographical diversity. With every curve we rounded in any road we were on, each mile looked new. (Well, maybe not in Nebraska. Sorry, Nebraska!)

“A Soft Answer”

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[The final blanket is ready for next month’s Art in the Barn! I will be displaying 5 brand new big blankets along with a handful of others, in addition to some baby blankets, Christmas stockings, and women’s mittens. Whatever doesn’t sell will go up onto my Etsy site when Art in the Barn is over. If there’s a particular item you are interested in, don’t hesitate to send me a message!]

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Recently I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Proverbs is known for its enduring wisdom, and each time I read it I find plenty to provoke my thinking as I view 21st century human behavior — mine included — through its lens.

Reading and designing meld together for me in mysterious ways, and midway through my work with these grays and blues, I realized this blanket was all about an axiom from Proverbs:

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

– Proverbs 15.1

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Earlier this year I landed in a situation with a friend where I recognized my response to their emotion would make or break our relationship moving forward. (Don’t wonder if it was you! It wasn’t!) I carefully thought through what outcome was important to us both and how I could help aim us there. My approach involved lots of soft answers.

And then there’s marriage. If 33 years of marriage have taught me anything, they have shown it’s wise indeed to keep my lips together, especially when they want to fly in action and articulate my flawless, clear-headed perspective (yeah, right). To make things worse, I’m a concrete thinker, which translates into direct talk, which can definitely come off as harsh. Not good.

The fact that I’ve learned this through trial-and-error does not mean I always get it right.
But I’m coming along :)

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For a great read on defusing a tough situation with an angry person, I suggest this brief article by Nadia Persun, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. I don’t know if she came up with the cupcake imagery herself, but it’s a great handle to grab onto in a heated moment. If you are confronted by anger, Dr. Persun recommends that you…

Give out an imaginary cupcake.

Cupcakes are sweet , peaceful, calming and smile-inducing. Raging people often are in dire need of an imaginary cupcake. A big part of their anger is driven by their belief or feeling that they never get any or someone stole or damaged their cupcakes. So, generously give them one or even a couple, even when they seem to be undeserving of any sweetness.

Despite the obnoxious behavior, loud shouting, screeching voices, clenching fists, pointing fingers, red faces and all, most angry people have a sad message. Most likely they are trying to tell you that they are feeling hurt, ignored, disrespected, unappreciated and unloved.

 [From How to Switch Off an Angry Person]

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Finally, Proverbs has a relevant postscript for us:

Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

– Proverbs 12.18

My best to you, fellow person, as you thoughtfully pass out cupcakes and soft answers!

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This soft blanket drapes beautifully. The blanket and bias binding contain lots of lambswool, cashmere, and angora. Its details include necklines, a small pocket, a button placket, a shoulder tab with an interesting button, and appliques of flowers.

“A Soft Answer” (Size 65 “x 81”)
This blanket is not yet for sale.

 

Art in the Barn Juried Art Festival — Sept 24 and 25

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I’m excited to announce in one month I’ll be joining 175 other artists at this September’s 42nd Annual Art in the Barn Juried Art Festival! It’s a weekend-long affair on a charming rural piece of land belonging to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois. It makes a fun show in a beautiful setting.

Today I browsed the listing of this year’s artists, planning who I’d like to visit when I can slip away from my own booth for a minute. (For instance! I’m a sucker for a ceramic coffee mug that settles its weight just right when I slip my fingers around the handle.)

pic of 3[Source for all Art in the Barn photos: www.artinthebarn-barrington.com

If you are local, please come out! You’ll find works in oil, watercolor, pastel, drawing, acrylics, fiber, glass, photography, digital media, jewelry, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, scratchboard, wood, and mixed media. There will be food, music, entertainment and, to make it fun for the entire family, a children’s art corner, art gallery, and petting zoo (it’s not called Art in the Barn for nothing!).

And you’ll find me at Tent #21 (click here for map) with several new big blankets, baby blankets, and some Christmas stockings and mittens for the coming season.

Finally, here is a sneak peek at the laaast blanket I’m getting ready for the festival. I’ll put this one up on the blog very soon!

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Would love to see you in Barrington in a month ;)

“Nap Hunting”

Nap Hunting

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Sometimes, when your eyes just want to close, there’s nothing for it but to close them. I highly recommend that, because putting it off can mess up a sleep-rhythm that knows what it’s doing.

In some circumstances, though, it can be highly inappropriate to simply close your eyes. In that case, I advise deferring temporarily and then going nap-hunting when you can.

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Of course, I’m talking about nap-hunting only in the most non-violent way. You can take your own nap, but never try to take someone else’s nap. That could be trouble. (Credit goes to Shel Silverstein for the taking-of-naps idea.) But even for your own nap, you generally need to hunt down the right conditions for it to happen.

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Once you’ve got the right conditions, interruptions certainly won’t do. The duck decoy? He’s there to lure others away so you can keep your quiet all to yourself.

Enjoy your nap.

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“Nap Hunting” (82″ x 70″)
This blanket is not yet for sale.

 

 

“Learning to Swim”

Turtle

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In June I had the pleasure of responding to a fellow wool-enthusiast by sending off a blanket for her expected grandbaby’s first shower. This customer, Lona, is previously known to me — and to you too, if you’ve been following my blog for a while. Lona and her husband own a small farm in Holland, Michigan. They raise sheep and now cows, beans and other crops, and in their “free time” process their wool to make and sell wonderful wool products. (Shop for their wool and beans here.)

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Their Shady Side Farm hosts an annual late-winter Shearing Day event, opening their doors to the public when they bring a hired sheep-shearer in prior to lambing season. My husband and I attended three years ago, and my appreciation for sheep, their amazing wool, and their patient handlers grew tremendously. (You can read my blog post about that exceptional day here, and I’ve added a couple of photos below.)

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Lona’s daughter Anne, the momma of the coming grandson, is a blogger and masterful do-it-yourselfer. The daughter of farmers? Of course she’s a DIYer! She’s the one on the right above, skirting a wool fleece freshly shaved from a sheep. Anne blogs about household projects and other interesting things over at Planting Sequoias. Her energy is inspiring!

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Grandma Lona’s one request for this new baby blanket: that it have an applique of a turtle. It turns out that Anne and husband Kenny’s backyard gently rolls right down to a lake with … turtles! I imagine turtles lined up like bumps on a log, stretching their pointy turtle-noses on their thin turtle-necks toward the sun — just as heat-lovers around the world are wont to do.

And that baby turtle?

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That baby turtle, of course, would be learning to swim.

Kenny and Anne, I wish you a sweet time of getting ready for your own little guy to break through to the surface and into this beautiful world.

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“Learning to Swim” (36″ x 40″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home.


“Summer Solstice”

Summer Solstice

[If the colors in this blanket make your heart beat faster, you may also like S.W.A.K., seen here.]

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Summer solstice.

The longest day of the year.

Luxurious, lazy, warm, seductive.

“Don’t you want to stay up late?” it whispers in my ear. “Don’t you want to eke every bit of loveliness out of this evening? You can!” When I was a young mom these summer days would murmur, “Of course you can feed your kids dinner at 8:30 p.m. There’s still an hour-and-a-half of light! They’ll be FIIINE!” (We lived in Michigan, where, thanks to hanging out at the western edge of the eastern time zone, we had light until 10 p.m. )

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I gave in to it then and I give in to it still. My (poor? lucky?) kids got to play outdoors way past a sensible bedtime. I was slow to call them in, slow to feed my family appropriately. But I think it was my way to keep summer summer, even after the time came for my husband and me to be adults, to go to work and be responsible and make money to, you know, live off of. It was a way to be a smidge irresponsible while generally keeping things together.

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Because I think so highly of this time of year, I recently gave myself an astronomy refresher to relearn what causes this delightfulness. (Wait! Wouldn’t “this lightfulness” be far more accurate?) Anyway, if you need a review too, allow me to give it a try–

Summer solstice marks “one of earth’s major way stations on its annual journey around the sun.” (From www.space.com.) Those four way stations are summer solstice (our first day of summer), fall equinox (first day of fall), winter solstice (first day of winter), and spring equinox (you’re on it, right?). For each one of those, the earth travels a quarter of the way around the sun. Earth’s tilt makes the sun’s rays hit at ever-shifting angles and levels of intensity.

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Note: Of course, the earth is the object doing the moving as it takes a turn around the sun, but since it looks to us like we are stationary and the sun is moving around us, our earth-bound terminology leans toward speaking as though the sun were running its course.

I appreciate this helpful illustration from timeanddate.com:

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In the drawing, see how the sun’s rays are directly shining onto the northern hemisphere? (Hint: Follow the direction of the arrows!) They are pointed at the Tropic of Cancer, 23.4 degrees above the equator. Earth’s angle of lean toward the sun creates summer solstice for us in the northern hemisphere. Hoopla! Merriment! Delight!

Now imagine Earth at its exact same tilt 6 months from now, on the right side of the sun in the drawing. Since Earth takes a year to move around the sun once, 6 months will take it halfway around. Imagine those arrows pointing directly off the right side of the yellow sun-ball — there they will be pointed at the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.4 degrees below the equator. Those rays will shine onto our southern hemisphere neighbors and it will be their turn to party while we are all battening down the hatches against the coming snow.

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For you wordsmiths: In Latin, sol = sun; sistere = to stop or stand still.

The summer solstice is the poetic p-a-u-s-e before the sun begins its travels back down toward the southern hemisphere. The sun will hang right there at its height–the closest it ever gets to the north pole–it will PAUSE, and then it will begin its southward trip until it crosses the equator (that will be our fall equinox) on its way to summer solstice for the other half of the earth.

Has anyone stayed with me here? If not, no biggie. I have enjoyed myself.

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One more tidbit. Did you know that the morning and evening twilight also last longest in the days around the summer solstice? They do. Just one more enchanting thing about this time of year.

To my northern hemisphere friends, happy summer solstice! Enjoy the gift of these long and leisurely days.

To my southern hemisphere friends, congratulations on soon confronting the shortest day of the year and winning! It only gets better from here.

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“Summer Solstice” (60″x78″)
A wonderful mix of lambswool and cashmere make this a very soft blanket.

This blanket is not yet for sale.

 

 

 

Redbud Joy

"The Redbud"

I so enjoyed the surprising greens and purples in “A Quiet Creature” (the hummingbird blanket) that I recently pored over my purple and green wools again. I designed this blanket as spring unfolded all around me here in northern Illinois, and I remembered a story…

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Nine springs ago I paid close attention to the flowering trees in our area. I wanted a front yard companion for our daffodils and tulips in heralding the coming of this long-awaited season.

Although I LOVE the wild, disheveled, excessive look of crabapple trees in full bloom, I did not know anyone who loved their (messy) crab tree after the glorious blooms were gone. I wanted a tree we could love year around. It turned out to be the Eastern Redbud: purple-pink blooms in spring followed by heart-shaped leaves through fall. Its shade is dappled and its movement graceful when stirred by a breeze.

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When fall came I went to a local nursery to pick out our own Eastern Redbud. My youngest daughter, then 15, came along. The staff helped us choose a well-shaped one with healthy leaves and asked if we’d like to have it delivered, but it looked so slight and manageable that I couldn’t imagine why we’d need to do that. And we were barely 5 miles from home — easy-peasy!

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One nursery worker used a mini forklift to transport the tree to my small SUV. A second nursery worker met him there to transfer the tree to the car. I imagined the graceful top of the lovely redbud brushing the shoulders of my daughter and me in our front seats. But as the tree neared my car, I got a new perspective on it. It wasn’t so small after all.

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I dropped the back seats flat and the two young men, struggling with the root ball, pushed the tree, canopy first, into the open hatch of the car.  The leafy treetop filled the passenger seat, curved across the dash and completely covered the windshield. I looked at my daughter, wondering how to get her home. “I’ll just lay beside it,” she declared. We rolled down the passenger window and stuffed as much of the tree outside the car as possible. That cleared a slice of windshield above the steering wheel so I could drive “safely.”

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There are no photos to commemorate that drive, but I wish there were. I couldn’t see anything on the right side of the car and of course both the rearview and passenger mirrors were completely obscured by those beautiful heart-shaped leaves. I didn’t even have a free hand to push over the top-most branches because, you may recall, I adore a car with a manual transmission.

Those were among the l-o-n-g-e-s-t five miles I have ever been responsible for.

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We made it — no police officers, no accidents. We have no idea about looks from other drivers because we couldn’t see them. Besides my sweaty palms and the twigs embedded in my daughter’s hair, we were not worse for wear. And we had a gorgeous tree!

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I’ll never know how she and I got that tree out of the car (I later learned the root ball likely weighed 500 pounds.) Our aging wheelbarrow sustained a very large dent from the root ball dropping over the ledge of the bumper into it; I thought we had broken it. We saved the rest of the planting job for my husband with help from the father and son next door.

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When the next spring came, my daughters surprised me with Mother’s Day photos taken next to our very own flowering tree. Here it is, eight years ago, maybe 8 feet tall.

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Here it is last month, just before a storm came through, nearly 20 feet tall. It was in full bloom just before Mother’s Day, when many of these photos were taken.

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And here it is as a photo prop, whether providing a leafy frame or dappled shade:

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So there you have it. I preeetty much love me some pinkish-purple and green. And I definitely love that tree.

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“The Redbud” (Size: 62″ x 76″)

This blanket is not yet for sale.

 

“Hope”

Hope

I saw this on photo Facebook recently. That “loading” bar — such a tease!

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The sign’s declaration rang true here in northern Illinois — until two days ago when driving to work I saw that the smallest branches of every tree were FINALLY outlined in green (…or pink, or white for the flowering ones). I had been waiting for this day.

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Spring has been so long in coming here that my flagging hope pressed me to make a blanket in honor of this much-anticipated event: the coming of spring.

I’m calling this one “Hope” for the wildly blessed whisper of promise that pulls us forward when the barrenness, the dark, and the chill stubbornly hang on.

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Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all.”

― Emily Dickinson


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“Hope” (Size: 60″ x 74″)

This blanket is not yet for sale.

“Love in the Rainforest”

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Dave wrote last year, asking if I could have a blanket ready for his wife’s February birthday this year. “Make it a birthday-slash-Valentine’s blanket!” he said and then left me with wide artistic latitude. I just barely managed to learn that Connie loves blues and greens.

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“Latitude” is a particularly relevant word for our two plucky world-travellers. Dave’s work, with Connie’s partnership, has taken them to some far reaches of our planet. And about the time I actually got started on the blanket, Dave and Connie were living at a latitude of 6°, very near to the equator’s zero.

They were in Guyana, up in the northern part of South America. The coastline of Guyana has beautiful broad beaches and a big Caribbean flavor. But inland, as the terrain approaches the Amazon River, the region is thick with forests, rivers, plants and wildlife.

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Blues and greens? The tropics? Was there even a choice left to make at that point??

I didn’t think so. And so, here for Connie is “Love in the Rainforest.” The deep red border encompasses a clear blue sky with a swift river below, forest greens with lotus flowers, and a sleek pair of macaws winging through the sweltering air. (Our thin northern Illinois winter sun  confounded my ability to convey sweltering very well for you!)

For atmosphere, here’s a scarlet macaw audio-clip:

(Credit: naturesongs.com)

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I have a smidge of rainforest travel myself, from a college trip to Guatemala. And from that trip, there is a notably distinct memory in which I clambered out of a small motor-boat along a black river’s edge in pitch darkness and discovered, standing there in my jeans, that I had stepped into the middle of an anthill of very quick ants.

And so. While I carefully chose soft wools for this blanket, there is one exception: the nubby, variegated blue below the birds. It’s from a gorgeous but brambly hand-knit sweater — like a tropical jungle, where beauty and peril can be hand in hand.

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But the heart of the blanket are the two macaws and the two matching blue squares — because seeing the sights, conquering the fears, sharing the beauty — it’s always better with two. Connie and Dave, may love forever sustain and uphold the two of you wherever your adventures lead.

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“Love in The Rainforest”

(Size: 65″ x 82″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

Cheer for February

Gray jacket

Gray jacket

I’ve mentioned before how I harbor a quiet affection for February, the month I was born. This is not a popular stance, but someone needs to take it. Two years ago, as a birthday gift to myself, I made this green birthday sweater-coat out of felted wool sweaters, just like I use for all my blankets:

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It was such a pleasure that I decided to do it again. I purchased Burda 7700, especially because I loved View E. View E is linen! Linen lassoes me in every time! I’m a sucker for it.

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You may expect, out in Internet-land, that since I sew a lot, I’d be pretty good at sewing clothing. That’s partly true; I don’t have a hard time with the sewing. The FITTING, however, is another story entirely. No matter how carefully I take those measurements, choose the corresponding pattern size, and adjust as needed here and there, I rarely arrive at the glorious product that I imagined at the outset. I’m used to it, though.

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In this case, the jacket turned out huge, partly because of the stretchiness of the sweaters and partly because of the aforementioned fitting issues. I spent two dark days feeling my failure while my subconscious brain worked on a solution. Then I dived back in and made a fix.

We will call this an adaptation of Burda 7700 :). It’s got the asymmetry of the original — and pockets!–, but a bit lower shoulders, a straight hem across the front instead of the points, a wider hood that appears even more cowl-like in the front, and more buttons. Because I used several sweaters, each piece of the pattern is made from a different but coordinating wool.

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*[Blurry photo included so you can see this jacket’s swing — one of my favorite aspects!]

And there you go. I encourage anyone up for a little sewing adventure to try doing a store-bought pattern out of coordinating felted sweaters. The sweaters should be of similar weight and drape. You’ll need to patch each sweater together into a large enough piece of fabric to lay out a pattern piece on it. I used the same sweater for my two sleeves; every other piece is of a different sweater: the hood, the left front, right front, left back, right back — six sweaters altogether.

If you need a place to begin, here are some more patterns that looked intriguing to use or adapt:

Burda 6986, Burda 7020
Butterick 5993, Butterick 6107
Simplicity 1251, Simplicity 1719
McCalls 6517

Of course, there are also the fantastical coats of Katwise, with patterns offered in her Etsy shop.

For the love of imagination

Princess & Sunny Day

Princess & Sunny Day

When I was young, I read a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that struck a chord with me. “The Land of Counterpane” is about a sick boy, confined to his bed, who relies on his imagination to entertain himself. (“Counterpane” is an old word for coverlet or bedspread.) 

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

When I hung up the phone from talking to the client who ordered this pair of blankets I’m about to share with you, I realized that Stevenson’s poem was vigorously stroking its way out of the depths to the surface of my memory pool. 

∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayNatori siblings

Anika Yael Natori contacted me last year to ask me to make blankets for her two young children. She had seen my work in person as she is friends with the owner of Calliope’s Castle and its coordinating pillow shams. Yael told me she loved the whimsy in those.

Yael has a fascinating story, which she shares on her Josie Girl Blog. She is the child of immigrants — her mom is from Mexico, her dad from Poland. She grew up in Eugene, Oregon, with her parents and brother (“A family of academics!” she says.) A creative family too. Yael tells me as a girl she liked to make dolls and clothes while her brother would sew beautiful quilts.

After college, Yael became an academic herself and taught math for several years. She continues to tutor. This post of hers about teaching gives a glimpse of her love and enthusiasm for life and people.

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Yael fell in love with and married her brother’s best friend, Ken Natori. Ken is the son of Josie Natori — fashion designer, CEO, and founder of The Natori Company. (Yael blogs for the company’s contemporary Josie collection.) As Ken is now president of the company, he, Yael and their children Cruz and Zoe make their home in New York City — but take lots of trips to Eugene, where Yael cherishes her roots.

Each time I interacted with her, I caught the mix of West coast and East coast, of country girl and city girl, of down-to-earth freedom to be herself combined with appreciation for New York’s insistence to take note of all things modern! stylish! intriguing! I have completely enjoyed working with this interesting woman.

And now it’s time to turn our attention to the kids, the blankets, whimsy … and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayUnder the Sea
Yael describes 6-year-old Cruzzie as a sweet, sensitive, inquisitive boy who loves to explore. Areas of interest: planes, trains, and everything underwater. She describes her 3-year-old daughter Zoe as a firecracker with big, luscious, kissable cheeks. Areas of interest: animals, princesses, blocks, and puzzles.

When I finished my phone call with her and Stevenson’s poem was surfacing for me, all I knew is that I needed to give each child a landscape of their own to fuel their imaginations.

Yael shipped me a box of her kids’ outgrown clothes of wool and cashmere (oh, to be related to someone in the fashion world!). I have to tell you how much this box of clothes warmed my (occupational therapist’s) heart — especially the worn-through knees in the leggings. The sign of serious play!

Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day

The scene I wanted for each child gradually came together. For Cruzzie, this is “Under the Sea”

Under the Sea Under the SeaUnder the Sea

…An underwater scene with turtle, seahorses, whales, the bottom of a boat, fish, rocks, plants, and starfish — all under a clear blue sky on a sunny day. From the Natori stash come the striped turtle and whale bodies, the rocks, the boat and its button-portholes, and the middle strip of turquoise blue with the navy neck and edge ribbing.

Under the Sea Under the Sea Under the Sea

And for Zoe, this is “The Princess and the Sunny Day”

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny Day

…A valley kingdom surrounded by hills, with a princess (with cheeks!), her animal friends (including a frog because — one never knows — he may have some royal DNA), and a river meandering through the valley for farmers. (Well, I made it as a river, but a friend who saw it imagined it was a road. That’s the thing here — you can make up the story.) There is also a bridge to cross for further adventures. It’s the same clear sky and sunshiny day that Cruz’s blanket has. Because they’re a pair!

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day
Here the Natori stash provided most of the browns, tans, grays and creams with all the sweet little details of small clothes: pockets, buttons, elbow patches, and necklines. The reds and pinks are also Zoe’s. I added sweaters from my own stash to both blankets to round out what I needed color-wise.

Natori siblings Natori siblings

Dear Cruzzie and Zoe: As you use your imaginations to play in your Lands of Counterpane, my hope is that you, Cruzzie, will “sometimes send your ships in fleets”, and you, Zoe, will “bring your trees and houses out, and plant some cities all about” … or whatever! Just enjoy. It was my pleasure to create these just for you.

[Postscript: Yael posted here about these blankets after she received them — with more pics of the blankets and her little girl too :). Thanks for the shout-out, Yael!]

Natori siblings

“The Princess and the Sunny Day” and “Under the Sea”
(each 43″ x 55″)

These are custom-ordered blankets.

Welcome, sweet one, to this amazing world.

Miri

Pardon me, I’ve been away doting.

Miri

Miri

Our granddaughter decided to make her way into the world on the iciest day of this winter season — thereby managing to keep her parents at home for the entire event. She is precious. She is beautiful. She is well-loved.

There are many things I will want to say to her, read to her, sing to her, and hope for her as she grows. But for the time being I simply want to welcome her to this amazing gift of a world which is now hers to experience.

Welcome, little sweet pea. We are so happy to be on this adventure with you.

 

The pregnant pause before Christmas

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Early this morning, sitting in my pjs in my favorite wingback chair by our Christmas tree, I read:

“The LORD is in his holy temple;
Let all the earth be silent before him.”

— Habakkuk 2:20

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It is 10 days until Christmas. Shopping is finished and gifts are wrapped. My hubby and I are driving to Michigan this weekend for a Christmas celebration with our kids.  I’ve just managed to get things done early and it dawned on me that I am feeling a quiet lull before Christmas. Honestly, it seems extravagant at this time of year!

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The sense of expectancy reminds me of the Christmas song “O Holy Night.” It tells the story of an incredible new joy dawning upon a waiting world:

O holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees…

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We as a family wait in anticipation of two things this year. We recall the waiting of Mary and Joseph and of the Hebrew people over two thousand years ago: a weighty expectation for the promised Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, all fulfilled in the birth of the child Jesus (Isaiah 9:6). And we also wait on the coming of a child — a little girl! — within our own family, just days after Christmas. She’s right here, so close to arrival, but still a mystery.

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I know the momentousness of these two births is very different, but the wondrous-ness is not. I praise God for them both, and feel that “thrill of hope” as we wait.

Merry Christmas to you all!

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[You may also enjoy reading earlier Christmas posts from The Green Sheep: “A very good gift,” “A Christmas message that involves sheep,” and “The sheep at the stable.”]

 

Thanks for the beautiful day!

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Well, the day was a little windy and cold and we had to regularly hold down the tents and our stuff, but what a fun day it was at the Whispering Hills Garden Center Holiday Market yesterday! Thank you, thank you, to all who came out and made the day a beautiful one.

holiday market 2a

The sun was strong all day, the traffic was constant, people were fun, friendly, and interactive, local musicians graced us with their music, and I had great neighboring vendors. Crescent City Cajun‘s yummy food, Pop’s Premier Kettlecorn, and Kiera Confections kept everyone full of tasty treats.

Silly me left my camera card at home and thus had to make do with some simple phone pics, but here’s a shot of the baby-blanket corner of the booth and part of the wall-of-photos.  As I mentioned in my last post, this was my first outdoor show and the whole tent thing was a bit intimidating. But the genuine offers of help from highly skilled friends and family set me free to just have fun. Thank you, everyone! Also fun: I wore the green sweater-coat I made for my own birthday a couple years back. It just makes me happy.

[Note the stuffed cat lying down on top of the basket. He kept falling over in the wind. One customer, after several unsuccessful attempts to get him upright, finally said, “I think it’s nap time” and just let him be :). ]

Holiday Market!

holiday market

holiday market

I’m spending today prepping blankets and props for a pop-up style holiday market tomorrow at our local Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center (8401 South IL Rte. 31, Cary — just south of Barn Nursery on the corner of Rakow and 31). I’m excited! It will be my first time setting up outdoors, with a pop-up canopy and all its accoutrements. My daughter Hope recently designed a great new banner for me (and two Vistaprint representatives happily modelled it).

TGS banner

The Green Sheep will be at Whispering Hills with 39 other vendors, including other Etsy sellers who live locally. Gah! That’s a lot of access to some wonderful and unique holiday shopping, all in one convenient place.

Please come out! There will be food trucks, music, door prizes and give-aways, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, November 14. Of course, the garden center has beautiful things of its own for decorating your home for the holidays. Here’s a quick little map: I’ve circled where I’ll be. Hope to see you there! And many thanks to Whispering Hills for the hard work of organizing this.

whispering hillsvendor map

“Mickey and Theo”

Mickey and Theo

Mickey and Theo

Baby Theo is lucky in a few ways: He has a great mom and dad. He has an entertaining big sister. And he has a grandma who likes wool blankets. (That’s fortunate for me too.)

Theo is lucky in at least one more way. He was born into a family that visits Walt Disney World every. single. year.

Mickey and TheoMickey and TheoMickey and Theo

Theo’s grandma Gloria said that Disney has been the right choice for them for more than the typical reasons. Within the extended family there are special physical needs that can make outings difficult and complicated — but they have found that the Disney folks put careful thought into accommodating guests with disabilities.

Mickey and TheoMickey and Theo

I believe Theo’s grandpa Mark is the benefactor behind these family trips. Yet he is one of the ones who battles physical difficulties which very nearly caused him to stay behind this year and miss out. In a nod to the huge heart he has for this family tradition, Gloria asked me to include wool from one of Mark’s jackets. All the black of Mickey’s body is made from that jacket. (And although the jacket was not a knit, it felted up beautifully and turned out very soft.)

Mickey and TheoMickey and Theo

This blanket is actually a partner blanket for one I made 3-1/2 years ago for Theo’s boisterous big sister. She was the inspiration for “I Love Minnie.” I gave Theo’s the same wide border but calmed this one down with vintage colors. I love the modest Mickey, giving first billing to Theo. (You can also see Theo’s cousins’ blankets here, at “11, 12, Dig and Delve.”)

Mickey and TheoMickey and Theo

Little Theo, I hope there are many more Disney trips in your future with your big, wonderful family!

Mickey and Theo

“Mickey and Theo” (39′ x 48″)

This is a custom-ordered blanket.

 

“Pink Posies” for Roselyn

Pink Posies

Pink Posies

Recently I opened my email at The Green Sheep to find this note:

“Hi, my name is Mandy. An amazing woman from my church gave us one of your blankets when my first son was born. It’s beautiful, and we show it to everyone. My mother-in-law, Sandi, was especially smitten with it and has custom-ordered two blankets from you since (‘G is for Griffin‘ and ‘The Sand and the Sea‘).”

This is so fun for me! I love meeting someone new through the connection of a blanket.

Pink PosiesPink Posies

Mandy was looking for a gift for her little niece and god-daughter, Roselyn. Instead of starting from scratch, I showed her some of the finished blankets in my Etsy shop. With the “Rose” in Roselyn’s name and the tiny buds on this blanket — along with the fact that her nursery is gray and pink (with elephants!) — this particular one, “Pink Posies,” was a good choice.

Mandy chose to add a monogram. I stitched on the “R,” packaged up this sweet blanket, and shipped it over to Michigan for its new owner. Keep warm, little Roselyn!

Pink PosiesPink Posies


“Pink Posies” (35″ x 36″)

This blanket is no longer available.

“Easy Together”

Easy Together

I recently got to make a blanket for a newly married couple. In a fun twist, I interviewed them after they’d been married a few months. They impressed me with how comfortable they were with each other and how much they enjoyed each other’s presence. Meet Steve and Kelly. They have a delightful, easy way together.

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Monograms on the blanket adapted from “Roycroft Initials” by Dieter Steffmann on dafont.com

Easy Together

Steve and Kelly went to the same high school but weren’t acquainted — until a few years later when Kelly’s older brother and Steve’s twin brother wound up living near each other. That’s when they found themselves coincidentally visiting their brothers at the same time — and looking forward  to seeing each other at least as much as to seeing their brothers. I asked what drew them to each other.

Kelly: “He’s funny! And he paid attention to me.”

Steve: “She was good to me, she always is. We just get along really well.”

Kelly: “We never fight. I don’t think we’ve ever truly had a fight. Or if we do, it’s like this– I say, ‘Shut up, Steve!'” Kelly says this last part very sweetly.

Steve smiles.

Easy Together

Easy Together

Kelly loves decorating the home they just bought. “I never really cared about decorating before because where I lived was never mine.” She reflects. “Well, I guess I did decorate my dorm room. I used gray and blue, just like now.” It appears this blanket may have staying power.

Easy Together

Easy Together

Steve loves sports. He grew up in a family of athletes — four boys and one girl who all have been serious in their sports. Now he plays fantasy sports of all kinds. He also loves golf. That comes up again later in our conversation.

Easy Together

Easy Together

I ask the couple if they have any advice about pulling off a wedding or about the early days of marriage.

Steve is succinct: “Don’t go to bed mad. Let her plan the wedding.”

Kelly continues: “Planning a wedding sounds so hard at first. Then you realize the main things are your date and the location. Once you choose those, the rest is simple.”

Steve adds: “We’re some of the simplest people we know.”

Kelly counters: “Well, except he likes to play golf. It’s expensive!”

Steve: “But that’s that only thing I do!” Kelly smiles.

Easy Together

Kelly teaches high school foods and loves to cook. “But I don’t really cook for Steve now because I cook all day at work. He cooks more than I do. Sorry, Steve!” she apologizes.

Easy Together

Easy Together

Can you feel it? So easy with each other. That’s why I added the pockets. Do pockets not make any article of clothing feel a little more relaxed and welcoming? And after I finished the blanket, I found that the placket of neckline and buttons under the “S” and the “K” reminded me of a comfortable, well-loved cardigan. A little Mister Rogers-like. Just right for these two young people, comfortable in marriage and happy with each other.

Easy Together

Easy Together

“Easy Together”  (60″x75″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

 

 

 

 

An Illinois Summer

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Emily Dickinson wrote in the mid 1800s:

“The last of summer is delight —
Deterred by retrospect.”

Right on, Emily. You said it so well.

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I love the days of summer. When it’s time for them to go, I get a little misty.

This summer held two really wonderful things: lots of people and lots of driving around our part of the Midwest. (And all this while I undertook the aforementioned painting project — silly me.) We loved our visitors, and if you weren’t among them, we would love to have you come sometime! And — embarrassing state politics aside — we also love this region we live in: the farmland, the space, the resourcefulness, the quiet, the creativity, and the blessed beauty of unending blue and green.

Illinois Summer

As I have been remiss in my blogging life these past two months, I’ll do some summer road trip retrospect right here, via a little narration and a handful of photos. Our wheels warmed up roads through Wisconsin and a slice of Minnesota, crossed Indiana, lingered in Michigan, and laid some new tracks in Illinois. Here we go:

WISCONSIN: On our way to and from our neighbors’ son’s Minneapolis-area wedding, we drove hundreds of miles through farmland early in the growing season. Rows of short corn stalks and bean plants seemed combed into order, with one field curving gracefully and the next lined up straight alongside the outbuildings. Lovely patterns. We also toured New Glarus Brewing Company, where owner Dan Carey says, “Some people paint, some sing, others write … I brew.”

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Next up, MICHIGAN , where we spent time in Grand Rapids (home of oldest daughter and husband), Holland (home of youngest daughter), and Traverse City, where the daughters and I had a girls’ weekend headlined by the lyrical musicianship of The Weepies in the cozy setting of The City Opera House.

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Just last week my hub and I celebrated our anniversary right here in NORTHERN ILLINOIS…in the historical Mississippi River town of Galena, where native Americans and new Americans skirmished over land, and where Ulysses S. Grant lived and worked in his family’s tannery prior to leveraging his military background to recruit volunteers for the American Civil War.

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Galena sits in a small triangle of land (touching Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois) called the Driftless Area because it was mysteriously untouched by the glaciers which wore down the hills and deposited their silt, clay, gravel and stones to form the corn belt. Cutting west through Galena across the ridges of hills reminded me of up-and-down driving in San Fransisco — what a surprise! And another: The bluffs above the Mississippi have created a dandy slope for some Midwestern snow boarding and skiing. Snowless now, we played on Chestnut Mountain Resort’s alpine slide and zip line, hitching a ride on the ski lift to get back to home base.

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I started this post with one poet, and I’m going to end with another. Philip Deaver’s line about the “slant of light and the swell of humid…summer” describe how I felt as a child when we drove from California to visit our Illinois relatives. His words settle in me even more deeply after 17 years of Illinois summers and neighbors, sidewalks, maples and peonies of my own.

Illinois by Philip F. Deaver

I recall a catbird on the wire
between my house and the corner pole
and the dense green maple leaves
and the grass growing fast below
and the peonies, tulips, the sidewalks
stretching down each block to my friends,
and from out of the houses, the voices
of neighbors camped nearby for life,
those close to us in spirit,
those held at arms length, and they us,
and I know when I recall this bird
dancing on our phone line and
singing upwards toward a mate
invisible in the waving treetops,
that it isn’t exactly the bird I’m remembering
but the slant of light and the swell
of humid Illinois summer
pressing in around her.

(Hankering to see other trips? Don’t miss: The Blog Tour, featuring pics from Italy; Tour de Fall,  What I’ve Done on My Summer VacationShearing in the Shade, and The Pacific Northwest and God’s Grandeur.)