“Wacky Pockets”

Argyle! Stripes! Patchwork! Puppy applique! There’s been a flurry of activity on the Facebook page where close to 20 creative women sewed their own sensibilities into felted wool blankets. I coached them with Green Sheep-style techniques and these sewists brilliantly took it from there.

We have been virtually planning, sewing, struggling, encouraging, and finally FINISHING our blankets alongside each other. I am charmed to see the beautiful work of these women and to imagine their gifts in the hands of youngsters around the world, via the simple shoe boxes we’re madly packing to be collected by Operation Christmas Child this week.

I made a blanket right along with the class, filming the process as I went. I made it for a boy this time, in the 5-9 age range. (I wanted to mix it up, as last year’s was for a girl.)

This blanket has cashmere and merino wools, a striped bias binding, and best of all, two pockets that button. I called it “Wacky Pockets” because one of the pockets is upside down.

Or maybe the other one is. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, it’s been fun to think about a little boy this year, especially for this mom-of-two-daughters. I enjoyed picking out small, interesting things to pack in his shoe box.

So much stuff can fit in there! Because I am a container lover, I bought three for this little guy. One for his soap, a lock-top one in which the socks are packed, and a round, screw-top one. The Slinky and some awesome rubber-tip clips (from the hardware aisle!) fit perfectly inside it.

And now it’s off. Wing your way, little box, to a precious boy who could use your stuff.

I’m pretty sure this wish is the same for all the other women in our class. May the kids be blessed as much as we have by this little project. ♥

©Joan Olson
“Wacky Pockets” (42×52″)
Felted wool sweaters

“Dory Finds a Pearl”

[Life has been full lately, and the fanciful world in which I am a prompt blogger is truly just imaginary. I actually finished this blanket in November and finally put together the photos. Better than photos though? I wish I could hand you this blanket to hold in your arms. It’s luscious!]

Faithful Green Sheep collector, supporter and Disney-devotee Gloria welcomed her new granddaughter Margaux last year. Margaux is French for “pearl,” and since she arrived in the year “Finding Dory” was released, it was a natural to pair Dory with a little pearl for this blanket. (This is actually the 12th Green Sheep blanket for this family! See their other Disney-related ones here and here.)

I decided to keep the water in true water colors and added movement with the diagonal stripes. For femininity, I included the lacy pieces of the green sweater and used pink for the border and in the oyster. I love that the blanket did come out with such a feminine feel! I also made this blanket large enough for a young child, so it can grow with her. (In fact, this blanket became the pattern I used for the Operation Christmas Child shoebox I packed last Christmas. The blanket measures larger than 3′ x 4′ and yet still rolls up and leaves room for lots of other goodies in the shoebox. More about that blanket here and here.)

Little Margaux, may you find lots of pleasure in using this soft, warm blanket over the years. And just as Dory, out and about on her adventures, happened upon the treasure of a precious pearl, I imagine you also will discover many fine pearls in life. And yet! There is one whose value is greater than them all (Matthew 13:45-46). Seek until you find, girl!

“Dory Finds a Pearl” (40″ x 49″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home.

Little Cherished One

I have written about sheep before at Christmas, here and here, and once at Easter, here. I’m at it again. (Honestly, I relate to the creatures: more timid and quiet than not, mildly inattentive, and never comfortable standing out in a crowd. But…enough about me. I’m getting uncomfortable.)

So. What follows here is a roundabout sheep-and-shepherd story in time for Christmas.

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Our granddaughter Miriam (a year old this month) was baptized in October. To note the significance of the day, I decided to give her a blanket as a gift. I hope I’m able to give her several more through the years! But this first one needed to convey something especially meaningful.

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As she and her parents marked the sign and the seal of God’s grace in her life through baptism, there was one message I really wanted young Miri to know: That when you stray, when you err, when you’re lost, embarrassed, in pain, you have a Shepherd. He knows you, loves and cares for you, and he will set aside his flock to come after you.

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“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” ’ ” (Luke 15:3-6)

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Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your birth at Christmas, for becoming a sacrificial sheep yourself, for living again as the Good Shepherd who looks after his sheep. And then! For chasing down an awful lot of wanderers and for celebrating each and every rescue. Happy Earth-birthday, sir!

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Little Cherished One (Size: 36″ x 37″)

Name That Blanket…Results!

Thanks, everyone, for stirring up your creative juices to help name this blanket! You guys are great. This is the blanket that got packed up in an Operation Christmas Child box a couple of weeks ago. But as I was writing the blog post about it, I suddenly realized it had been sent out without a name. But names matter! Many of you came to the rescue, adding ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and this blog. A couple of you emailed me.

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These are the wonderful ideas that came in. Making the final choice was difficult!

Blanket of Love
A Bright Beginning
Christmas Child
Promise
Pastel Peace
Colors of Love
Quiet Rainbow
Heaven’s Hues
God’s Perfect Promise
The Christmas Rainbow
A Rainbow of Love
Vibrant Love
A Box of Sherbet
Ribbon Candy
A Rainbow Promise Pocket

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After much deliberation, the WINNER IS…

    ♥ THE CHRISTMAS RAINBOW ♥

I realized I wanted it to be a name that worked from a child’s perspective, so I tried to think like a little one. “The Christmas Rainbow” rose to the top because 1) I could imagine a child thinking it; 2) both “Christmas” and “rainbow” hold all the significance of the promise within each one of those; & 3) the blanket is not REALLY rainbow colors or rainbow sequence, but it is unusual, like a rainbow at Christmastime would be. Credit for “The Christmas Rainbow” name goes to Melissa Dugan.

And now this blanket can find its proper place in the world, since it has been named :)

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[Click here for the full story of “The Christmas Rainbow.”]

A blanket for a stranger

(“Strangers are friends you have yet to meet.”)

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This is the final collection weekend for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. OCC is a faith-based global effort that sends off gifts packed in shoe boxes to children whose lives have been touched by disasters, war or poverty.  I’ve known about this activity for years; I even know two wonderful young adults who were significantly affected by the shoe boxes they received as children in a Russian orphanage many years ago.

But I sheepishly admit I never packed a box myself until two weeks ago.

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A few weeks ago, my church made available empty shoe boxes from OCC, and my small group (a baker’s-dozen of great women) decided to have a packing party of our own. We each volunteered to shop for 13 somethings–toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils, pads of paper, candy, toys, wash cloths, bars of soap, socks, cards and more–and bring them together to pack boxes. (I picked up some of Ikea’s colorful children’s tableware.) We were each to also add one “Wow!” gift to our own box. My “Wow” gift was a soft, sweet-eyed, stuffed-animal puppy.

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A few days before our packing night, both of our grown daughters (and 10-month-old granddaughter–gah!) happened to be visiting for the weekend. Saturday evening we popped in the DVD of a film recommended to me by a co-worker: The Drop Box. The seed for the film was planted when a young Los Angeles filmmaker (with Sundance aspirations) was eating breakfast one morning over the LA Times. On the front page, he read a story about a pastor in Korea who rescued unwanted babies by building a small warming box in the wall of his church, a “drop box” for newborns. The film is interesting, surprising, and to me, very moving. I came away with a renewed sense of the deep value of every single life.

As often happens in my brain, the experience of the film mingled with some other information up there in my head. In this case, I was thinking about a woman named Gift I’ve gotten to know a little this past year. Gift is from Zambia, and every year she raises money to send to her village for blankets for the women and children, who often do not have one of their own.

Sunday morning I woke up with one thought on my mind: I wanted to pack a wool blanket in my little shoe box, to let its young recipient know that she is one-of-a-kind in this wide, wide world, and someone somewhere was thinking about her.

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So that Sunday morning I pulled out my stacks of already-cut strips of wool sweaters, to see what child-friendly combination I could assemble. But it wasn’t working. I needed to start from scratch. With those bright Ikea dishes nearby, I chose a rainbow of saturated colors and got to work. I had just been working on a custom-ordered child’s blanket with diagonal stripes and decided to repeat the pattern. I love its youthfulness and sense of movement.

As I was limited to the interior of a shoe box, I knew this blanket couldn’t be thick, so I chose cashmere, merino wool, and lambswool. The result? It’s exceedingly lightweight and yet cozy and warm.

I hope it can feel like a cuddle to a little girl.

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I made our deadline and packed up my box. (In the photo, it looks like the blanket is taking up the whole box, but all the practical items are rolled up in the blanket.) Unfortunately, there was not enough room for that precious puppy. (Not for lack of trying, though! I even bought a bigger plastic box, but realized this would not feel fair to a group of kids on the receiving end.)

Of course, I likely will never meet the “5- to 9-year-old girl” this box is destined for. But I did learn from the woman at the collection counter that among the countries this batch of boxes is headed toward is Zambia :). Godspeed, little boxes!

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“A Christmas Rainbow” (Size: 40″ x 50″)
Named by readers in this post here.
The blanket has already gone to a good home.

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.

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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!

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

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…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.

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

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…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!

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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.

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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.

“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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.”)

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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.

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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!

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“Pink Posies” (35″ x 36″)

This blanket is no longer available.

“Baby in the Badlands”

Badlands

It all started with their love of raptors.

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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.

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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

Celebrating Ellie

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This week, I got to hold tiny Ellie. Ellie is just a newborn but she has already accomplished a great feat: she tenaciously stayed put through her momma’s 16 weeks (!) of pre-term labor — including DAILY contractions. She did her family proud by not appearing until well into Week 39 … on Thanksgiving Day. Amazing. For all this and more, I present —

 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\   a few celebratory chevrons!   /\/\/\/\/\/\ 

It just seems appropriate.

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[Hyacinth Quilt Designs was helpful to me in learning how to plan out the stripes for the chevrons.]

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Welcome to God’s beautiful world, little Ellie! And congrats and love to Lori, Steve, and Aiden :).

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“Celebrating Ellie” (~40″ x 40″)

This blanket already has a home.

A Beautiful Intervention

Tim and Stephanie were pretty sure they were finished having children. They had one son and one daughter — a comfortable family. And then out of the blue Stephanie had the distinct impression they should have a third.

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“Why don’t you pray about it?” recommended Tim, who places his confidence in God but was skeptical about another child. Stephanie’s sense about it only increased, but she knew that wasn’t what Tim was hoping for. One evening in front of television, Stephanie suggested perhaps Tim ought to join in on the prayer. Tim was respectful but still rattled by the entire idea. “Okay, I will,” Tim responded, “but I think it’s going to take a sign to actually persuade me.”

     “What kind of a sign?” asked Stephanie.
     Tim replied, “I don’t know — maybe a burning a bush.”

They turned back to the television and just moments later, big as day on the screen before them, was a bush consumed in flames. Tim couldn’t believe his eyes.

Before long, Stephanie was pregnant.

Early blood tests to check the baby’s health, however, indicated there might be problems. Stephanie was told to prepare for a possible miscarriage. On the day of her OB appointment to listen for the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, she feared there would be none. Stephanie paused in the parking lot to text a friend from her women’s small group at church. “Please pray. I’m going in to hear the heartbeat.” That friend started a chain to pass the request for prayer on to many more people. In the doctor’s office, Stephanie heard her little one, alive and well.

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At the beginning of her pregnancy, Stephanie was being followed by her regular endocrinologist for a long-standing thyroid imbalance. Although he was out-of-state, he knew her well and continued to monitor her meds from a distance. He told her it would be best to stay on her regular meds until the third trimester. But abruptly and confusingly, insurance denied medication coverage and Stephanie had to discontinue these meds much earlier than planned. With the change, Stephanie quickly chose a local endocrinologist to now follow her through the pregnancy.

At one appointment, the new endocrinologist felt something foreign in Stephanie’s neck and requested a biopsy. The test revealed two fast-growing cancerous tumors on her thyroid. Surgery could not be put off. So when the baby was at about 28 weeks, Stephanie — less concerned about the cancer (a very treatable kind, she says) than about the effects of the anesthesia on her baby — went in for the operation. She says there was a palpable, peaceful presence in the room; she was certain that God was caring for her and her baby. The surgeon removed the now-three tumors and some lymph nodes.

It is not lost on Stephanie and Tim that had she not gotten pregnant, had there been no need to see an endocrinologist face-to-face, this cancer would most likely have gone undetected until it was too late to treat it effectively. And the medication she couldn’t take because of insurance denial? It would have caused the tumors to grow even more quickly. In retrospect, Stephanie is incredibly grateful for the sequence of events.

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Several weeks after surgery, Stephanie began to show signs of pre-term labor. On her way to the obstetrician’s office one day due to early contractions, Stephanie once again paused in the parking lot to text her friend in the small group. The call for prayer once again went out to many. Within 6 hours, labor stopped and there was no dilation.

Finally, at 38 weeks, just as scheduled, little Noah was delivered. He was healthy as could be.

Stephanie, who has been telling me Noah’s story by phone, finally stops. “All of it –” she says, “It is a beautiful intervention by God.”

I have one last question for her, because I had heard bits and pieces of her story earlier through her women’s small group who ordered the owl blanket as a gift for her. On the phone I ask, “So, in addition to the burning bush…wasn’t there something about a rainbow?”

“Oh! There is!” says Stephanie. “At the beginning of the summer, before my surgery, we took our kids up to Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells. It’s their favorite place to go. At that point, we knew we were having a boy but hadn’t decided on a name yet. We asked the kids for their input too. They came up with some hilarious things! But while we were there, we settled on the name Noah. And as we drove home from that trip, we saw one, two, three, FOUR separate rainbows. Our kids were so excited about seeing the rainbows right after we chose the name ‘Noah.’ They told us: ‘It’s like a sign that our baby is part of God’s big story!'”

Noah, you certainly are part of God’s big story. Welcome, little guy, to this beautiful world and into your loving — and amazed! — family. Already, God has shown his faithfulness to you.

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“Whooo’s Sleepy?” (34″ x 40″)

This blanket already has a home.

“Baby Goes Hiking”

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In my (other) job as an occupational therapist, I have incredible co-workers. I have mentioned this before. Not only do they give their all for our patients, they do some pretty fascinating things when they are not at work.

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One of our physical therapists, Mike, along with his wife Annie, runs marathons, competes in Ironman triathlons, and flies to places like Vermont for long weekends of bike-riding in the mountains. These two love to be active. Their dog Maple goes along whenever she can.

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So, several months ago, Mike and Annie casually announced they were going to have a baby. (Honestly, they do all their spectacular things quite casually.) Then they painted their spare room with fir trees and forest creatures and things from the great outdoors. And in that span between announcement and baby, I could think of no better idea for this pair than a blanket with a tree, a path, and a puppy, all just waiting for baby to join them.

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On the day we had planned to throw Mike a shower at work — with a good three-ish weeks before baby was due to arrive — Mike was instead over at the hospital encouraging Annie through the last part of a very long labor. And that evening they welcomed little Owen into their family.

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Congratulations to Mike and Annie on the birth of your son! Maple, get ready for your playmate. May you four enjoy many, many amazing adventures together ♥ .

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 “Baby Goes Hiking” (37″ x 39″)

This blanket already has a home.

 

 

“G is for Griffin” — and gondola too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“G is for Griffin” (38″ x 35″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

Pillowcases for a Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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…making the pillowcases fully reversible.

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

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

the ballet slippers,

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the painter’s palette,

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

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

This is a custom order.

“Calliope’s Castle”

Last May I received an email that started a surprising and rewarding venture toward a blanket like I’d not made before. It opened like this:

“Hi, Joanie – I have an 8-year-old daughter and over the years she has accumulated tons of beautiful wool and cashmere sweaters. When she was four I asked Caroline Unruh to make a patched blanket out of my daughter’s old sweaters and the result was spectacular. I can’t seem to find Caroline now, but I found you! The next batch of outgrown sweaters is ready. Is this something you do? “

Since, as I wrote previouslyCaroline Unruh unknowingly gave me my start in sewing with wool, I considered this a huge honor! But there was that little question in the back of my mind: How does such a young girl end up with multiple cashmere sweaters?? I was soon to find out…

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The client and I began an email exchange followed up by a phone call, and I learned that this little girl is so fortunate as to have a New York fashion executive for her momma! Ah, the pieces fell into place. I soon received the client’s box. This is corny, but I felt like a youngster on Christmas morning as I opened it. I had never seen so many beautiful sweaters all in one place.

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Since I had several custom orders already lined up, I had to put this project on hold for a bit. But my mind was already at work on the puzzle before me: What to do with an entire rainbow of colors? I’m accustomed to working with 1 or 2 centerpiece sweaters provided by a client, but this was completely new territory.

One afternoon as I once again pulled the sweaters from their box and considered how to incorporate as many as possible, I realized that their colors reminded me of the illustrations in a book of poems I read to my daughters when they were little. I got out the book. I got out a couple other children’s books as well for inspiration.

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And when I got to this book of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by the wonderfully talented Lisbeth Zwerger, the ideas started triggering like explosions in a high-scoring game of Bejeweled. Especially when I saw the page below. For I recalled that Calliope, the young owner of the sweaters, enjoys making things by hand (a girl after my occupational-therapist heart!). And one of those things is CASTLES.

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Yes! A fruitful idea! I don’t know if Calliope’s parents chose her name for the Greek muse, but I did feel grateful that some muse had finally tapped me on the shoulder :).

As I worked on the blanket, I frequently recalled my own daughters’ imaginary worlds when they were young — “I wish I could live in the Berenstain Bears’ treehouse!” “Mom, will you build blocks with me? Let’s make a house with a zoo next door.” “I want to live in England someday!” Oh, wait. That’s what Daughter #2 says now.

Guided by a clear idea, I plowed ahead, working out what I saw in my head. It meant I had to devise some new ways of putting the wool pieces together to create the hills and the clouds. Thankfully, I hadn’t promised the completion of the blanket until fall.

I did make the deadline, although admitting to that suggests a certain amount of lameness, doesn’t it, since I didn’t post it until now. Ah, well.

I added Calliope’s initials to the castle doors just before sending the blanket to its new home. For the font, I adapted PR Celtic Narrow by Peter Rempel — appropriate for a castle, I think!

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Calliope, I hope you continue to use your imagination for years and years, all through your life. It’s a precious gift we humans have, one we should never outgrow!

“Calliope’s Castle” (86″ x 95″, for a queen bed)

[This is a custom-ordered blanket.]

A Little Lamb for Caroline

Is it the heat? the lack of routine? the pleasures of summer? I haven’t posted much, but I have been busy!

In July, a custom-made little lamb blanket went to baby Caroline in New York. It was a gift from her great-aunt, who became familiar with The Green Sheep through her neighbor, a friend of mine.

Hopefully baby Caroline is cuddling up on cool nights, lounging in the park,

and enjoying this soft little blanket, made just for her.

A Little Lamb for Caroline (~ 35″ by 37″)

This is a custom-ordered blanket.

“I Love Minnie”

When Gloria described her one-year-old granddaughter to me for this blanket, she used phrases like “full of life!” “a tornado!” “our little pistol!”. I also learned “A” loves Minnie Mouse.

I was able to meet her today for the first time when the family came to pick up the blanket. She was sleepy and laid her head on her grandma’s shoulder, and I had a hard time picturing the rambunctious little girl described to me.

But I was a mom of young kids once and so I believe it.

I worked toward a lively blanket to go with a lively little girl  —  with a busy border, the continuous movement of diagonals, and most especially…

…Minnie’s scattered items like toys in disarray.

It was 80 degrees here today! I hope we have a bit more spring so little “A” can cuddle up with her Minnie next time she’s feeling sleepy.

“I Love Minnie” (37″ by 46″)

[A custom-ordered blanket]

“11,12, Dig and Delve”

Gloria is the grandma of some very special grandchildren, two of whom are brothers. These boys –2-1/2-year-old Rex and his brand new baby brother Uriah — have already had more than their fair share of hospital time, and Gloria wanted a pair of blankets that could accompany them on those hospital visits. I asked about colors. Nature colors! said Gloria — brown and green and orange…and maybe some blue.

Initially, I puzzled some over how to make this combo look childlike. But then I thought about boys playing outside. After that, it got fun.

Can you picture two little boys daring to catch a frog and hold it in their hands?

Squatting in the garden dirt to examine a snail?

Sitting in a homemade sheet-tent under a tree and listening to the breeze in its leaves?

Squinting against the bright sun as they lie in the grass and look for cloud shapes?

Can you remember your own sense of wonder while exploring the outdoors?

1, 2, buckle my shoe

3, 4, shut the door

5, 6, pick up sticks

7, 8, lay them straight

9, 10, a big fat hen

11, 12, dig and delve.

Baby Uriah was just born in January.  This one is for him:

And little Rex is 2-1/2.  This one’s for him:

So buckle up those shoes and go explore God’s beautiful earth, boys.

“11, 12, Dig and Delve” (each blanket is 42″ x 50″)

Twin Lambs

Well, they’re not really lamb twins — they’re baby girl twins, and they are due to join Mom, Dad, and a big brother and sister in November.

But recently, Big Brother told his mom that these babies are Jesus’ little lambs.  I think that’s how the theme started for the nursery.

I was able to have two blankets ready for Susan’s (the expectant mom) baby shower.  In fact, several friends brought lamb-themed things.  That room will be a welcome place for these sweet babies, and a constant reminder of God’s loving care.

I wrote this Bible verse in the card I took to the shower  —

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.”  (Isaiah 40.11)

The last line of that passage has some comforting words for PARENTS  —  “He gently leads those that have young.”  Another friend at the shower commented, “It’d be nice if sometimes He would lead us more loudly and with clearer direction!”  Parenting is a challenge :).

[On a side note: Susan has been a huge encourager to me with The Green Sheep.  In fact, it was her request when she ordered a baby blanket for a friend last year that started me adding appliqués to blankets….

….She originally requested a turquoise-and-brown theme to match her friend’s nursery.  After I finished that, Susan asked, “Can you add a picture to it?”  That blanket became “A Happy Little Tune.”]

We all love you and wish you and your growing family well, Susan!

“Jesus’ Little Lambs”  (each is 35″ x 37″)

These blankets have already gone to a good home.

“Valentine’s Baby”

It’s nearly February!  I know, I know; you can point out that it’s cold and bleak and snowy, and those would all be true.  But I can point out that it makes a wonderful birthday month!  Maybe I’m just looking for the silver lining, but I think having a birthday to look forward to in February helps winter pass a bit more quickly.

Circle of Love, 36″ by 38″

So, yes, my birthday is this month, and so is my youngest daughter’s.  Not only that, but we are both Valentine babies: she arrived in this world on February 14th, and my parents brought me home from the hospital on the same date (of course many years earlier, and without a carseat!).

Circle of Love (handmade binding of red cashmere)

In Baby’s Garden, 36″ x 38″

Do you have a February baby of your own?  In honor of February babies everywhere, I’ve finished two new baby blankets from lovely recycled wool sweaters.  They are soft and warm, with lots of natural textures for baby to touch and hold.

In Baby’s Garden (handmade binding of soft pink merino)

I hope you find lots of things to enjoy about February.  And– Happy Valentine’s Day!

(These blankets have both gone to good homes.)