“Satin and Lace”

“How do you back your blankets?”

This is a question I am frequently asked! Actually, I leave my narrow seams raw. It means the back of a blanket is a lot like the inside of the shirt or jeans you have on. (Spoiler alert: This is not true for the blanket in the current post!)

(You can see my blanket backs in this previous post and this one and this one, for example. Scroll down in each post to look for a pic where the back is flipped up and exposed.)

Why do I do this? Two reasons.

Reason #1 I love the drape of these stitched-together swaths of wool. They’re malleable. They move with cohesion and lightness. They can do this because there is no back to impede this.

Reason #2 To apply a backing to the various shifting, stretchable knits (from a mixture of sweaters) that comprise one blanket requires a LOT of careful and precise stabilizing. Yards of hand-basting and dozens of safety pins come into play. Except it’s more workout and less play! It takes a strong back to hold, pin, and baste while leaning over the work surface for an extended period. The time needed to do this well translates into a higher cost per blanket.

In sum, if an appropriate backing does not spoil the drape and the hand of the finished wool piece, it can be a lovely thing. Yet its cost in time, money, and back wear is high. STILL! Despite my carefully studied conclusions above, I have a backed blanket to show you.

It happened like this:

My client wanted a wedding gift of a lap blanket for her niece and husband. Serendipitously, for a project I was experimenting with, I had recently assembled several sweaters into a piece in the very colors she desired. I showed her. Perfect! But the fabric was too lightweight to hold its own as a lap blanket.

This client has worked with me before—she’s my lap-size blanket aficionado—and knows I’m a no-backing kind of gal. But she asked if I’d consider putting one on this time. I contemplated. If ever there was a time to try my hand at this, it would be with this manageably-sized blanket. I said yes.

I chose a very soft cotton flannel for the back, keeping the blanket cozy and pliable, and bound the edge with cashmere. While I considered doing some fancy quilt-type top stitching, I don’t have enough experience to know how to effectively conquer the shift and bunch-up challenges caused by the knit. I instead stitched along the stripe lines of the blanket.

Mid-project, my client brought to me some pieces of satin and lace she had found from her mother’s wedding dress. Could I use them? If so, the niece would have “something old” from her grandmother’s wedding dress permanently part of this wedding gift blanket.

There was enough lace to span two long edges, and enough satin to sew up three bridal flowers. I love the touch of antique white and the family presence and significance that comes with it.

Congratulations, Erica and Brian!
Like lace, may your marriage be unique and ever-intriguing;
like satin, may it ever be deep and rich.

©Joan Olson “Satin and Lace” (37×57)
Medium: Felted wool sweaters
SOLD

“Thirsting for Righteousness”

Thirsting for Righteousness

[This blanket is available for sale in my Etsy shop, here.]

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
—Matthew 5:6

As far back as I can remember, I have done my thinking first in weight and image, in spatial impression and juxtaposition, in line and shade, and finally—at the very very last—in words. I can’t help it; it’s how my brain fires. (You can imagine what this does to having a conversation.)

I tell you this because this is how the images for each blanket in this series on the Beatitudes have come to me. I’m not researching the theme first, seeing what Bible scholars say about what Jesus meant, although I think that’s important. Instead, I imagine what might have come to me if I had been sitting on that hillside, listening to those words being spoken twenty centuries ago.

Last month I posted “Blessed are the Meek.” Now here is “Thirsting for Righteousness.”

The word righteousness in present-day usage can carry some negative stuff: a whiff of moral piety, a haughtiness, an outward appearance of being upright. But when I hear Jesus’ statement afresh, I imagine something different: a longing for right-ness, justice, fairness, deep caring, and the making of choices for the good of many, rather than the good of one. I think of humility, not pride.

Of course I don’t imagine those things in WORDS though! It was hard work to transform that last paragraph into verbal units for you!

Now I’ll forge ahead toward more words to attempt to convey how this blanket came to be.

The muted colors of the background are like daily life—lovely and comfortable, but not brilliant. In my mind, this background encompasses personal life, community life, life in our world. There are a few spots that stand out as highlights, but they’re still relatively subdued.

But then: those day lilies! When I look at them I want to cry. It’s that longing rising up—for justice, for caring, for goodness. The plant is not big, nor is it loud, but it stands in sharp contrast to what’s around it. It isn’t there simply due a will to do good or spread beauty; it’s there because of where its roots are.

The lily plant is rooted in a strip of blue, a nod to the prophet Jeremiah’s insight: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

I’m fairly certain the day lilies appeared in my head because of something Jesus said just upon the heels of his beatitudes. He addressed the topic of anxiety. (Apparently it’s not just a modern malady.) He pointed to the lilies in the fields near where his listeners sat, and noted that if God dressed the short-lived lilies so beautifully, he would care MUCH more fully for those who trust him (Matthew 6: 25-34).

So. Righteousness? True righteousness? I’m not capable on my own. But with my roots in the right place, amazing things can become possible.


“Thirsting for Righteousness”  (62″ x 76″)
This blanket is available for sale in my Etsy shop, here.

 

“Blessed are the Meek”

[This blanket is available for sale in my Etsy shop here.]

“Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”

— Jesus, in the book of Matthew

Just over a month ago I decided to try my hand at a blanket series, creating several large blankets around a theme. At that time, two friends and I had started reading and discussing the book of Matthew together. When we got to the Beatitudes in chapter 5, I knew I’d found my subject matter.

The word “beatitudes” comes from the Latin beātitūdō which means “happiness” or “blessing.” I remember thinking: what better attribute to imbue a blanket with.


May I set the scene for Matthew 5? Jesus is about 30 years old, he has recently left the home where he grew up and has begun to travel and teach in public places throughout the region of Galilee in Roman-occupied Israel. He has asked 12 men to accompany him and learn from him, like apprentices, which they do. Also, quite notably, Jesus has begun healing the people he meets of all sorts of diseases and ailments. Interest and crowds are growing. It is in this setting that he begins to teach, just as a rabbi would, and with an authority and credibility that surprise people, especially as he is a carpenter by trade, and from a small town.

It was on a hillside one day, surrounded by such a crowd, that he said (among many other things) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

What? Meek sounds so unflattering! I don’t know anyone who longs to be known as the meek one!

But over at Dictionary.com I learn this (with italicized notes in brackets added by me):

          Meek
          1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others. [Worthy traits!]
          2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame. [The “meek” we don’t think highly of.]
          3. Obsolete: gentle; kind. [Check out these older meanings! They’re great!]

And Merriam-Webster offers these synonyms: demure, down-to-earth, lowly, humble, modest, unassuming, unpretentious.

 Sheep of course aren’t ideal representatives for meekness, but they’ve got some fitting characteristics. They’re docile. They’re unable to protect themselves. They depend on their shepherd. Yet when they feel assured that the shepherd is watching over them and tending to their surroundings, they go about their day at peace.

However, they’re also not so smart. (Sorry, sheep!) But perhaps that keeps them humble?

If Jesus insinuated that meekness is a quality worth having, then I propose that it’s worth reconsidering how we think about it in our modern-day world, maybe in these terms:

gentleness
humility
kindness
modesty
endurance
patience
healthy deference
and even…trust.

Then there’s the last part of that verse—whoa!

What is the blessing that the meek will receive? They will inherit the earth. What can that even mean?? I don’t know, but it sounds amazing. Is it like a fairy-tale king entrusting to his beloved daughter a sound, cared-for kingdom, with peaceful people tending beautiful, full fields and lands? Even that picture is poor next to the possibilities contained in the blessing of this beatitude.

But someday perhaps we’ll know :)

“Blessed are the Meek” (62″ x 72″)

This blanket is available for sale in my Etsy shop, here.

“Family”

Little Nora was born this week. In old-school style, her parents decided not to learn her sex ahead of time. She, with emphasis on the gender, was a true surprise to them.

In line with that, I got to make a blanket that could work either way, for a boy or for a girl—another fun challenge in my blanket-making adventures.

Each parent had items to contribute (faithfully preserved by their moms), so we’ve got pieces of mama Lauren’s and papa James’ baby blankets (three of them) and a spectacular spaceship T-shirt here.

In a very special addition, Uncle Jon has a piece of himself here too. Marine Lance Cpl Jonathan Collins, older brother of Lauren, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 at the age of 19. He is a deeply beloved hero, and his family and our community meaningfully keep his memory and the memory of his sacrifice alive. Patches of Jon’s fatigues are part of this blanket, so little Nora can touch and love her wider family. As she grows she will learn the impact of all of her family members on her life.

(Yoo-hoo! You out there in your 50s too: is this the sort of stuff you ponder regularly?? The reach of generations and family web fascinates me with its breadth and impact.)

It wasn’t until I was laying the pieces out that I noticed a slice of the fatigues had “USMC” and the Marine corp symbol just along the edge. I’m glad it made it in —

It was a pleasure to make this blanket, commissioned by a childhood best friend of Nora’s maternal grandmother. See? More far-reaching impact of family and all who love them :).

Welcome, little Nora, to your dear tribe.
May you discover the wonders of it throughout your entire life.

“Family” (42″ x 41″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home

[Memorial Day is around the corner. Take time to remember and honor veterans young and old, especially those who have made an ultimate sacrifice. We really are in this all together.]

“Garden of the Gods”

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Two Christmases ago I gave my husband a card with a repeating pattern of camping tents on the front. Inside, I confidently announced my Christmas gift to him: a road trip to the national parks of southern Utah. It was on our bucket list! It would be our first road trip since our kids have grown up, leaving us on our own! We could start a new tradition!

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What I neglected to note as I wrote that card, however, was the actual fitness of my trip-planning skills to the requirements of the task. Was I confusing myself with someone else? Oh, THAT’S RIGHT. While this skill-set does exist in my household, it does not belong to me. It is my husband’s.

Hubby’s M.O: Go online and plan the trip.

My M.O.: Read a little, brainstorm (with hubby), go look up more stuff, bounce ideas (off hubby), write things down, float possibilities, write things down in multiple places, lose track, get overwhelmed, make impulsive decisions. Give hubby the impression that the plan is shaky. Does this sound even remotely Christmas present-ish??

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My guy was tremendously patient with me and allowed my slow, uncertain method to still be a kindness to him. I fumbled around just about as described in my M.O. above, with him providing only enough structure for my halting efforts to actually bear fruit. (I’ve mentioned before what a gift my husband is to ME.)

And in this manner it finally came to pass that we indeed took our two-week road trip to “The Mighty Five” national parks of Utah in September of last year. Two heads are better than one, and all that.

But about those parks! Have you been there? Do you live near there? IT’S MAGNIFICENT. The landscape makes you feel tiny but at the same time fills you up and enlarges you (somehow!) with its glorious spaciousness.

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In September I blogged an overview of the trip, including a handful of our photos. Then this last weekend we had some friends over for dinner and to see our pics from the trip (they’ve been asking!). And I realized I needed to share this blanket—a wedding gift and offshoot of our Utah road trip.

En route from northern Illinois to southern Utah, we stayed a night in Colorado (worth its own road trip, of course, but that will need to wait). We arrived at the end of a long day of driving, and our friends in Colorado Springs popped us into their car at dusk and drove us about a mile from their home to a favorite spot of theirs, the Garden of the Gods. It was our breathtaking introduction to the rich reds and vibrant greens we were about to see throughout the next 10 days. So as a very belated wedding gift to them and as a way for me to express our joy with the place and with them, I made a small throw/large lap blanket.

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My aim was to represent the land, the space, the juxtaposition of the brilliant colors that we stood over and under and among at all times. I experimented with some free-style stitching to capture the line and texture of the monolithic stones. And if you look just left and below the cloud, you can see my nod to Pike’s Peak, whose eminence is constantly felt in Colorado Springs.

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GO, friends. Look up The Mighty Five. Look up the US National Park Service. Look up AAA and get some old-school road maps that will rewire your brains. And if you need some trip-planning advice, you know who to call. I will hand my hubby the phone ;).

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“Garden of the Gods” (45″ x 55″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home.

“Happy Winter”

"Happy Winter"

Books have always been a big deal around our house. We spent a lot of time reading when our girls were little and certainly had our favorite books, as most families do. So when the calendar flipped to December, when winter winds shook the fir trees around our house and the snows began to come, a particular book got pulled off the shelf regularly. Titled “Happy Winter,” it depicts a day in the life of two young sisters who awake with a thrill to fresh-fallen snow. Author and illustrator Karen Gundersheimer captures the pleasures of childhood in a wintry climate perfectly: sledding, baking, playing dress-up, reading books, getting ready for bed in a warm house. We fell in love with “Happy Winter” because everything that happened in their fictional household also happened in ours.

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This past month I’ve been absorbed in thinking about moms and little girls and winter, as I worked with customer Elsa’s box of wool sweaters to make a blanket “big enough for my daughters and me to cuddle up under.” They know about wintry climates: they live in Minnesota. Elsa sent a gorgeous assemblage of her own bright sweaters—various reds, pinks, purples, blues and blacks. The sweaters presented LOTS of contrast. So lovely! So warm and welcoming! And yet I felt intimidated. I’m more in my wheelhouse working with lower-contrast colors. How would I bring these together into a cohesive whole?

I challenged myself to put as many of Elsa’s sweaters as possible into this blanket without launching chaos.

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To face this challenge, I did what I so often do when I feel at sea. I sit down with (what else?) books. In this case, I grabbed a well-worn one, “An Eye for Color,” by Olga Gutiérrez de la Roza. (Also mentioned here and here and soon in a forthcoming post.) The photo below, from the book, let me know I could be successful with the mix if I worked to rein the colors in by applying some order.  I plotted a beginning symmetry and then quickly laid out colors to balance each other.

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I focused on two common denominators in this collection. 1. Nearly every sweater is highly saturated with a strong, bold color. 2. Those colors sit in large part between red and blue on the color wheel.

After finalizing the pattern of strips, I needed to figure the sequence for sewing them together. Here’s my sketchbook. I referred to it constantly till the final border was stitched on.

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It worked. I love it. I love the strong red “figure-8” that runs diagonally across the surface. I love the sweet pinks in the corners. I love how the blues and blacks provide a weighty border while the raspberry binding keeps everything light-hearted. And I love love love the four landmark rectangles that center everything.

This blanket has necklines galore, buttons on the front of a V-neck pullover, an Abercrombie label, and three pockets for secret messages or for tissues during a sad movie. I had to swipe the pockets from other sweaters in my stash as Elsa’s didn’t have any. But pockets just seemed right for a mother-daughter blanket.

How did I do with the personal challenge? There are parts of 17 sweaters in this blanket, 13 of them Elsa’s. (The other four were for the pockets and for filling out the red figure-8.) Mission accomplished!

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Elsa, thanks so much for asking me to make this for you and your family. In honor of you and your girls and keeping warm together, here is “NIGHT,” the final chapter from Gundersheimer’s “Happy Winter”:

Happy Winter, evening time —
I like how little star-specks shine
Or blink and sparkle cheerfully —
They almost seem to wink at me.

And now switch on the bedside light
To shoo away the dark of night.
We read until we yawn, and then
With one last flick it’s dark again.

The big black night is soft and spread
Just like the quilt upon my bed.
I’m warm and toasty, very snug,
Then Mama comes for one last hug
And sings a winter lullaby,

“Hush and quiet, close your eyes,
The moon’s a night-light for the sky,

Where sprinkled stars are twinkling high
And far below, the deep drifts lie
‘Til Northwind spins and flurries fly.
A snowy blanket’s tucked in tight
And so are you, and now good night.
A happy winter day is done,
Now close your eyes and dreams will come.”

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“Happy Winter” (68″ x 76″)

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.”]

“Heart[h] and Home”

Early last year, in the middle of a terribly hard time in her life, Susan lost her mom to cancer. I honestly have no words to put to such a difficult thing. I love this friend and ache for her loss.

Time and the hand of God have been at work in the healing process, and last fall Susan called me after finding some wool sweaters of her mom’s. We met over sandwiches, Susan passed me the sweaters, and asked if I’d make two blankets — one for Susan and one for her sister Cathy.

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To help me with the design plan, the sisters shared particular memories of their mom, Chris: She liked to read. She made popcorn in a pot on the stove. When they lived in Westport, Connecticut, she packed picnic dinners for the beach. She planned many camping trips to Maine’s Acadia National Park. She loved her grandkids and got “grandma” time with all of them while her daughters worked. And she loved blue and green.

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Susan’s family moved several times in her growing-up years, and what Cathy and Susan remember above all is Chris’ devotion to her family and to making a home for them, wherever the family found itself. Susan noted, “She wasn’t exactly crafty, she didn’t really have hobbies, and — even though she loved having Thanksgiving — she wasn’t even a great cook. But she was always there for us. That’s what I think of when I think of my mom. She was there when we got home from school, every day. That was really important to her.”

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Chris kept her own wardrobe neutral, and such were the sweaters she left behind. Susan provided me with three sweaters in different shades of gray (one with sweet pale blue snowflakes) and a fourth one, cream, from Marshall Field’s that Susan recalls her mom wearing more than any other.

I decided to anchor those three grays at the heart of each blanket and surround them with Chris’ favorite colors. I would have the cream encircle and embrace the whole, like a mother taking a child in her arms. Finally, I would add a heart: such a simple symbol but unrivaled in representing the depth of love of a mom for her family. I laid out the two sister blankets as mirror images of each other.

And they were all ready in time for Christmas. For Susan and Cathy, with love ♥

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“Heart[h] and Home” 

Two blankets, 59″ x 76″ each

These blankets already have homes.

“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.

 

 

“A Pair for Notre Dame”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a custom-made set of blankets.

“Fullness of Peonies”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Fullness of Peonies” (55″ x 70″)

This is a custom-order blanket.

“Sunshine and Happiness”

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

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

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

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

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And shopping in a Mexican market.

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

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

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

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

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

This blanket is no longer available for sale.

“Rainy Day”

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

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

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

They said yes :)

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

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Hope's rainy day watercolor

“Early Spring”

(Painting reprinted with permission of Hope Olson)

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If Only

(Reprinted with permission of Grace Claus)

On a day like today,

inspiration is nowhere

to be found. It has stolen

like a fox into the woods

and has curled up beneath

a silent bush, damp but

asleep while the rain slaps

the leaves, weaves between

branches, slips down

trunks, shoots, roots,

and seeps into the soil.

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If only I were a fox

and could leave this stale,

drowsy house, sheltered

from the rain, and let

one immaculate drop

startle my shoulder,

bead against my fur,

and disturb my sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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“Rainy Day” (58″ x 74″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

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On a Day Like Today

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

“A Quiet Creature” (the hummingbird blanket)

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

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

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

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

This is a custom-order blanket.

“In Argyle Style”

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

Today’s post is just silly.

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

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

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

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

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

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“In Argyle Style” (Size: 70″ x 86″)

(This is no longer available for sale.)

“The Pond”

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Pond” (Size: 58″ x 72″)

 (This is no longer available for sale.)

“Visiting Grandma” c. 1965

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Visiting Grandma”  (Size: 61″ x 82″)

This blanket is no longer available.

“Terra-Cotta Red”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Terra-Cotta Red” (60″ x 75″)

“Sealed with a Kiss”

Sealed with a Kiss

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite places to visit was the stationery store. The stationer’s was a precursor of today’s big-box office supply store, but with a much narrower — and more charming! — set of offerings.

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One of the best parts was the near-complete lack of plastic packaging for all the delightful gadgets in the store. That meant if I were careful, I could handle them. Bliss.

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I hovered over the pencils, pens, notepads, and the stationery. Those papers enchanted me. Printed or embossed, elegant or sweet, they looked fresh and expectant, ready to be filled with a message and mailed to a lucky someone.

Sealed with a Kiss

I still love the physicality of this. Email is immediate and convenient. But a handwritten letter, packaged up in a sealed envelope, brings so much more of the sender along with it. Discovering it in the mailbox is like being caught off-guard by a surprise party. Opening it is like opening a gift. Is this old-fashioned now?

Sealed with a Kiss

Natalie (for whom this blanket was made) is a member of my extended family. And in my family there are several people who maintain this gratifying habit of writing letters — I can count them across three generations.  Natalie is wonderful in many ways. Yet when this blanket was ordered, what did I think of first? Her gentle notes and letters, so representative of her.

Sealed with a Kiss

The order was for a throw of pinks and pale oranges, so that’s where I started. And, as usually happens when I make these blankets, an unforeseen opportunity presented itself — this time, the possibility of a postage stamp :).

Sealed with a Kiss

What could be more fitting?

Sealed with a Kiss

With much love for you, Natalie, and with gratefulness for the way that you are ♥ — here is “Sealed with a Kiss.”

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“Sealed with a Kiss” (57″ x 76″)

This is a custom-made blanket.