“Little Red Bird”

Four months ago (a week after my post just prior to this one), my husband and I drove to Michigan from Illinois to look at a house that had popped up on Zillow. The next day we placed a bid on the house and had it accepted. A month later we sold our own house. And a month after that, just before Christmas, we, with all our earthly belongings in tow, returned to Michigan after 22 years away.

Who ever knows what the future will bring? The short story is, our kids brought us back :).

When I finally caught my breath after this race again time, I texted my old friend Deb who had asked me about making a baby blanket for February; she and her neighbors wanted to surprise friends in their neighborhood who were expecting their second child. I was excited to begin!

That is, I was excited for the blanket…but pretty bummed about my lack of good work space. The walkout lower level of our new home has required some work, which means I haven’t been able to set up a sewing area yet. Worst of all, my many (many many!) bins of wool and related supplies are either difficult or impossible to access. The making of this blanket called for patience, persistence, problem-solving, and some jerry-rigging. (Much like pregnancy itself. Did you ever use a rubber band loop to close your pants fly?) Here’s my set-up, where I’ve appropriated the narrow space between our bed and bedroom window; and below that is the room that’s waiting to be turned into a sewing studio:

Enough about that. Back to the blanket! The thoughtful neighbors of the expecting couple stealthily gathered intel for me: mom Daphne is Swiss, dad Christian is German, and the couple lived in Germany prior to their move to the US. Their first son Simon was born on July 4 — which was no big deal in Germany, but now he thinks fireworks on one’s birthday is normal :). The family loves the outdoors.

I pulled together three color combinations and photographed them to show Deb and get a vote from the group. I was hoping for green (can you tell?), to bring the magic of outdoors inside for them.

And…the greens won!

It takes me awhile to work with the design of a blanket. First I laid out my strips on a diagonal. Then I decided I liked them straight. I found an interesting neckline and formed a pocket with it. Finally, I deliberated about what outdoorsy thing to appliqué on the blanket: a tree? an animal? In the end, I decided to go with both. (I’ve done one of these before!) I pictured a little bird on a branch, waking up his new friend with a song. But what shape and color of branch? And what should the bird look like? It generally takes me several iterations of a thing before I make my final decision.

The factor that eventually made the decision for me is the way the reds and greens fairly vibrate when they are against each other. The striped red made the best branch of anything, in my estimation. And once that was chosen, I needed a funky little bird to balance the joyful craziness.

AND, since this new little babe came in February, what could be more apropos for the pocket than a HEART??

Congratulations to parents and big brother! And welcome, sweet new one to this beautiful world, so worth watching, exploring, hanging out in and getting to know. May your little red bird help with introductions ;).

© Joan Olson
“Little Red Bird” (35×36)
Felted wool sweaters

17 thoughts on ““Little Red Bird”

  1. Looking at this beautiful blanket makes me think of one of my favorite Weepies’ song’s (Simple Life) first verse:
    “Can i get up in the moming
    Put the kettle on
    Make us some coffee, say “hey” to the sun…
    Is it enough to write a song and sing it to the birds?
    They’d hear just the tune
    Not understand my love for words”

  2. Miss you, Joanie! This blanket is SO lovely. You always amaze me with your creativity. Hope you are settling in. Can’t wait to see what you make next!

    • Oh Pam, I miss you too! Thank you for your sweet comments. We are s-l-o-w-l-y settling in, both because we’ve got a bit more to do around the house than we anticipated, and because this darn pandemic makes it trickier to spend time with neighbors. But still, so far, so good!

  3. I just love that little heart! Pockets are very popular around our house. We always need a place to keep our treasures. I emptied M’s coat pocket yesterday and found three stones of various sizes, one blue sequin, a piece of gold confetti, blue beach glass, a broken purple hair tie (not hers), a friendship bracelet (also not hers), and a crumpled piece of paper with a nonsense word we made up weeks ago. Here’s to full pockets!

  4. It’s so interesting to see the progress of the blanket, the thoughts and changes. THe result as always is just right and beautiful

    • Thank you, Barbara! It helps me to record the things I try along the way, and it’s interesting to think back to what takes me one direction or another. Definitely a process!

  5. Hello Joan, from snowy New Hampshire
    This blanket is wonderful! The ‘free’ heart is the best, A little one is going to love putting it in and out of the neck pocket.
    What a perfect use of that details, I am glad that this new house is showing itself to be a lovely place to sew, even before your sewing space is ready!
    I’m progressing on my huge purging as I prepare to move after renovations to our next (much) smaller home are completed.
    I want to thank you for the recommendation of the Swedish Death Cleaning, anyone who is facing such a situation should read this book 1st and start the task with a completely different outlook: one of revisiting memories of the past and really honoring the person who died by disposing of their things in the most thoughtful and joyful way possible.
    Best house warming wishes to you, Joan!

    • Thank you, Marina.Yes, the setting of this house just beside some narrow woods and a small creek are the things that called to me. The trees were dressed in full fall foliage when we first viewed the home. I step outside ALL THE TIME just to breathe it in. (Well, I did this at our last house, too, haha!) I agree the the Swedish Death Cleaning influence was beneficial! I look at objects I own with much less impulse to hold on to them just because *I* happen to love them. Someone else likely will love them too! My best to you with all your preparations and with a move <3

  6. Love this- such a pretty palette of greens.I love the branch and the bird. Welcome back to Michigan! Are you living close to your daughter?
    Sandi Roggow

    • Thanks, Sandi. I love these colors together too. Red and green together forever will stop me in my tracks. Thanks for the welcome back! Yes, we’re close to our youngest daughter here. Our oldest daughter married a wonderful guy from here, they’ve got two children, and they now live north of Seattle. But this is still home base for them, and will make visits easier once we all start travelling again. I remember something from an online conversation with you a couple years ago–were you headed toward a move too?

    • Thank you, Maureen! It’s fun to be just a few minutes away from Hope. Yesterday morning I ran over to pick up a book from her, and got to sit down for a few minutes over coffee. It’s such a treat.

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