“Nap Hunting”

Nap Hunting

IMG_6302bNap Hunting

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.

Nap HuntingNap HuntingIMG_6252b

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.

IMG_6286bNap HuntingIMG_6345b

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.

Nap HuntingIMG_6249bNap Hunting
“Nap Hunting” (82″ x 70″)
This blanket is not yet for sale.

 

 

“Learning to Swim”

Turtle

IMG_6202aIMG_6216c

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.)

IMG_6189c

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.)

070a014a

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!

IMG_6190c

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?

Annes lake IbAnnes lake IIaPhoto credit: Anne of Planting Sequoias. Used with permission.

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.

IMG_6191a

“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.]

IMG_5988a

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. )

IMG_6022aIMG_5970aIMG_5992a

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.

IMG_5997aIMG_5974aIMG_5996a

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.

IMG_5973a IMG_5983a IMG_6001a

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:

Illustration image

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.

IMG_6008a IMG_5965a IMG_5990a

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.

IMG_6023aIMG_5971aIMG_5958a

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.

IMG_6031a

“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…

IMG_5914aIMG_5905a

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.

010a042b

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!

011a054a

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.

032c036a

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.”

018b025b

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.

007b014b

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!

007a035b

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.

056b 036b

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.

IMG_5948b

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.

076b

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

Sealed with a KissFullness of PeoniesThat 70s Blanket

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

IMG_5916a

“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!

downloadspring

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.

040a037a049a

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.

059a045a050a057a

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


061a071a064a

“Hope” (Size: 60″ x 74″)

This blanket is not yet for sale.

“Love in the Rainforest”

040a

092a101a

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.

047a084a052a

“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.

097a105a089a

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)

039a133a054a

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.

090a079a099a

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.

060a

“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:

010b 008b

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.

003a 004a

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.

Gray jacketGray jacketGray jacket

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.

Gray jacketGray jacketGray jacket

*[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.

Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day Under the Sea

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

002a

002a

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

013b

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!

004a

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…

003a

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.

025c

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!

018a

[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!

holiday market 2a

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.

025b

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

103b

Emily Dickinson wrote in the mid 1800s:

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

Right on, Emily. You said it so well.

050a

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.”

Illinois SummerIllinois Summer037bIllinois SummerIllinois Summer Illinois Summer

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.

024a081a062aIllinois SummerIllinois SummerIllinois Summer

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.

Illinois SummerIllinois Summer009aIllinois SummerIllinois Summer040bIllinois SummerIllinois SummerIllinois Summer

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.

103bIllinois SummerIllinois Summer

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.)

 

 

 

 

“Summer Nostalgia”

Sing a New Song

034a

I detect a pattern. It hasn’t held true every year, but 3 of the past 5 springs I have created — without being aware of the repetition — a new blanket of orange, yellow, and green (see “Sunshine and Happiness” and “Marigolds” for the earlier ones). Those summer colors seep into my being long before they actually appear in the garden, and from the inside out, they warm up the chilly fissures winter’s strain has left behind.

044a

054a

That was certainly true this year. Every year I battle the changes caused in me by the darkness and the cold — and northern Illinois delivered a very cold winter this time around! As the seasons finally began to change, I have leaned eagerly toward the glow of the advancing sun.

038a

046a

My subconscious mind had been forming this blanket for several months, inspired by a page in one of the books I bought to train myself about color: “An Eye for Color,” by Olga Gutiérrez de la Roza. The strip down the left is (according to the book) a slice of Tapeten wallpaper. My bit of Googling tells me “tapeten” is “wallpaper” in German, but the book’s photo credit — “Tapeten, Cologne” — is no help in learning where this design actually originated. I’d love to figure it out!

009b

From there, I sketched my ideas in my idea book. The wallpaper is reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s; the border of the blanket acts like a sepia filter. Together they pull up a storehouse of summer memories for me.

005a

The six creamy-white “panes” complement each other: one pair is plain, one is lacy, and one is cable-knit. I chose the ribbon-like strips of a Nordic-patterned sweater for the perfect yellow-green in its motif.

045a

051a

This sweet blanket came to fruition in stages, around all the normal-life stuff that’s been going on around here :). Happy summer to you!

037a

047a

043a

“Summer Nostalgia” (57″ x 70″)

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and I’m not blue, Part IV!

kitchen

Three years ago, in spring of 2012, I started a simple kitchen makeover on a shoestring, blogging about it in three successive posts (here, here, and here) — all relevant to The Green Sheep because of the recycling theme, right? “Use what you have!”

kitchen

Over this stretch of time, we have continued chipping away at the following changes:

• painting the island a “greige” color
• hanging a pendant light above the kitchen sink
• switching out the linoleum for laminate flooring
• adding a back-splash made of ceramic floor tiles

…and IT FEELS SO GREAT. Done for now. (The lamp and tiles were from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Only the flooring was brand new.)

The back-splash was the latest project, completed this month, so I’ve got pics:

kitchen

kitchen

kitchen

Here’s the finished product — very subtle, just as planned:

kitchen

kitchen

kitchen

And here’s the full kitchen, as we use and love it everyday. You can see the pendant light, painted island and new flooring now. The cabinets are a bit worse for wear; I haven’t been incredibly impressed with how the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation product has held up. And yet! There’s no doubt in my mind these changes have made me a better cook ;). Also, there was no island prior to the start of this remodel. Of course, it’s now a favorite workspace and gathering spot.

045b

035b

032b

At some point, I will repaint and put up new art on the walls — as one of my daughters gifted me a couple of her paintings. Woo hoo!

As long as I had made a mess in one part of the house, I decided to keep on going. This past week I’ve been working on the back hall. It was one of the earliest-painted parts of the house when we moved in, late 1990s. In my desire for color, I went for green stripes. Although it made me happy, it’s now dated. The only pic I have is this recent one, once I started repairs:

kitchen

I now chose a very light gray for the walls (“Is it going to look white??” asked both a daughter and my husband separately) and painted the trim plain white. I’m going for peacefulness this time around. Here’s the same corner after patching, sanding, priming, and painting:

kitchen

kitchen

So there you go, an update. How about you all? Any other do-it-yourselfers who’ve got a project to report? I’d love to hear!

He gave her yellow roses

Yellow Roses

“Significance of yellow roses.” I typed this into my search bar as I worked on this latest blanket.

Yellow Roses

Personally, I lean toward less traditional flowers — the handful of purple wildflowers from the hillside near my college in southern California, the tangle of bright cosmos from my first garden, the graceful tulips I came to love after living several years in Michigan. But I gained a new tenderheartedness toward roses after hearing about Richard and Anne.

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

*
The meaning of yellow roses (from goldflorist.com):
• friendship
• a love that is familiar
• happiness with the domestic arrangement
• joy and happiness

 

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

When Richard and Anne met in college, he was on his way to becoming a dentist, she, a nurse. They married, settled down in Indiana and raised two daughters, now grown with families of their own. This last August, after over 50 years of marriage, Anne died. The daughters, grieving the loss of their mom and seeing their dad’s profound lonesomeness for her, wanted to have a blanket made for Richard from several of Anne’s sweaters. Lori, the oldest daughter, talked with me about her parents.

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

“Mom had a heart of gold,” said Lori. “Above all else, she loved being a friend. She liked to write cards to encourage people. She loved to get together with friends for lunch. She loved the Lord and she loved us. She was so sweet! We really miss her.

Yellow Roses

“Dad always worked very hard. He also enjoyed being an outdoorsman and hunting when he was younger. But after we were grown up, my parents had more time to travel. Myrtle Beach was a favorite place, and Dad loved to golf there. My parents completely enjoyed being together.”

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

“Oh!” said Lori, near the very end of the phone call. “Dad always gave Mom yellow roses! Would you put a yellow rose on the blanket?”

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses

I look back at the meaning of a yellow rose: friendship, a familiar love, happiness in a domestic arrangement. Those warm, sunny roses are perfect for this pair, on so many levels. I also read that yellow roses can signify spring and new life, causing this blanket, made in April, to be extra timely.

Last week, when the finished blanket was hanging over the railing of my loft/sewing space, the roses caught my husband’s attention. I told him about the significance of the flowers. My guy, tough yet tender, got tears in his eyes as he imagined the difficulty of losing a companion and friend of over 50 years. “You’re gonna make him cry,” he said.

Yellow Roses

For Richard and family, I pray this blanket can be a comfort to you all and bring a sense of nearness to your wife and mom. I was touched by the love in your family and am so glad to have had the chance to make this for you.

(For readers, here are some fun blanket details: The colorful sweaters belonged to Anne–the green, the blue, the mottled blue and the multicolored one. The buttons are from the green sweater, and I included two pockets of the mottled blue. In the end, Lori chose three yellow roses for the three grandsons whom “Mom thought the world of and who felt the same about her.” Finally, the bumpy tan under the roses with its braid pattern was difficult to sew over but I love the contrast it offers. As my husband pointed out, “It looks like brambles behind the roses” — those rough patches in marriage and in life that make the sweet part even sweeter.)

Yellow Roses

“Yellow Roses”  (58″x75″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

 

“Baby in the Badlands”

Badlands

It all started with their love of raptors.

Badlands

017a

Kristen and Lori, wildlife biologists, best friends, and now sisters-in-law (they ended up marrying brothers), met while working on a golden eagle project together in the Badlands of North Dakota.

008a

Badlands

When Lori got pregnant with her second child last year, Kristen (a Green Sheep blog lurker for over a year) wrote and asked me about the possibility of making a Badlands-themed crib blanket. Both families still live in North Dakota. Now, Lori and her husband are ranchers there.

Badlands

Badlands

The closest I’ve come to where these two met was the South Dakota Badlands on a family car trip in my early youth to see Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, Crazy Horse, and the Corn Palace. That was a long time ago! So I relied on Google Images to feed my imagination. Kristen steered me away from the stylized, filtered photos toward the natural ones. What an astounding landscape!

Badlands

Badlands

Kristen, who has been a sewer since age eight (“I learned from my mom and in 4-H!”), requested blues and browns to echo that landscape. I headed that direction and soon realized I needed to somehow represent the Badlands’ fascinating geologic formations. Two striped sweaters were perfect for the project. I also knew from the beginning that there must be a golden eagle coasting on the air currents above the land.

Badlands

Badlands

For Lori and Baby Owen, who arrived just last week, here is “Baby in the Badlands.” Welcome, little one! May you come to love the land and its creatures as much as your momma and your Aunt Kristen do. And Kristen and Lori, may your friendship continue to be a blessing that binds you and your families in wonderful ways :)

“Baby in the Badlands” (45″ x 52″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home