“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.

 

“A Sunbeam to Warm You”

May God grant you always:
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering angel so nothing can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you,
Faithful friends near you,
And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.
—An Irish Blessing

So, Monday was the first day of spring :) And here I am posting snowy photos when snow is the last thing we want to see!

But I’ve got a blanket to show you, and I photographed it back when snow was on the ground. You can help me out by thinking of warm and cozy things.

This blanket was a custom order, a wedding gift to a young couple. In fact, this is the third wedding gift blanket within this family. What a privilege for me to part of these! (The earlier ones are “Easy Together” and “His and Hers.”)

The mother of the groom gave the sparest of a color lead: neutral grays and tans. I suggested throwing in yellow-gold for a warm accent and got the go-ahead.

Tucked away in my mind, I had a painting I’d seen in those same colors. The painting is in a favorite inspiration book, “An Eye for Color,” by Olga Gutiérrez de la Roza. (I’ve written about this wonderful book before, here, here and here.) The painting I had seen is part of a larger collage by Karen Stewart of  STEWART + BROWN. Here was my guiding image (see below), with sun, hills, water, and the sun’s reflection. It enchanted me.

There’s something about marriage in this scene. It has a sense of calm reassurance and stability, things a good marriage provides. But the sun’s reflection on the rippling water hints at the less-than-stable: the unknown ahead, new ventures, transformation. Just like life together.

I took the painting and abstracted it, maintaining the placement of sun, hills/woods, water, and reflection. I omitted the green to keep the entire blanket within a neutral range.

Although it’s hard to tell against the blue-white snow, in person the colors of this blanket remind me of late summer sun on a field of straw. Warm!

To Mike and Laura: I wish for you the words of that Irish blessing. May this blanket be with you through friendship and laughter, sheltering and prayers. May it bring you warmth, togetherness, a place to talk things over or maybe to take a nap…while you rest up for new adventures. Happy marriage! 

“A Sunbeam to Warm You” (65″ x 76″)
This blanket has already gone to a good home

 

“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.

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.”]

“Hope”

Hope

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

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

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

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

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

― Emily Dickinson


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“Hope” (Size: 60″ x 74″)

This blanket has already gone to a good home.

The Irish Trio

Irish Trio

In time for St. Patrick’s day: The Irish Trio.

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These three blankets belong to The Green Sheep Legacy Collection, as they commemorate the life of a loved one who has passed away. They are made in warmhearted memory of Mariclare  — with her great love of Ireland in mind — and will go to her two daughters and granddaughter, as a gift from her son John and his wife Maureen.

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Mariclare was actually a step-mom to the four children she raised, but I only bring up that small detail in order to tell you her story. Mariclare gamely married Jack, a widower with four children — two boys, two girls — between the ages of 7 and nearly 1. Jack had tragically lost his first wife to brain cancer on the very day she gave birth to their youngest, a baby girl. This was the needy young family that welcomed Mariclare. To these four children, all grown up now, she has simply been Mom. Her daughter-in-law calls Mariclare a saint. She may not have been as well-known as Saint Patrick, but she may have been just as crucial to one small family in God’s great kingdom!

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Mariclare’s family contributed a lovely cream-colored Irish afghan of hers for the blankets. That beautiful afghan shrunk to a very small size, causing me to cut its knitted cable and basket-weave stitches into long strips rather than the rectangles I usually employ for blankets. I added in a Celtic-design sweater I’ve been saving, with chains of Celtic knots, to tie the trio together as well.

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Here is “Irish Blue.” The cream pieces from Mariclare’s afghan are a geometric echo of the Irish knotwork against a rich deep blue background. Blue was St. Patrick’s color! —

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Irish Blue

Irish Trio

Irish Blue

Irish Blue

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Here is “Irish Cream.” In this, the afghan pieces– they are the ones that are contiguous from one edge of the blanket to the other — are part and parcel of the cream body of the blanket. —

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Irish Trio

Irish Trio

Irish Trio

Irish Trio

Irish Trio

And finally, this is “Irish Grey.” The creamy afghan stripes and the shamrock complement the subtle greys really beautifully. Very restful. —

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Irish Grey

Irish Grey

Irish Grey

Irish Grey

Irish Grey

For daughters Ann and Kathi and granddaughter Maggie, may these blankets be loving reminders of  your precious mom and grandmother. Your family is grateful to you for all the care you gave her.

The Irish Trio (each approx. 52″ x 68″):

“Irish Blue”

“Irish Cream”

“Irish Grey” 

The blankets have already gone to good homes

“Sunset with Flowers”

Sunset with Flowers

Sunset with Flowers

I’ve mentioned before here and here and here that you just never know how a blanket might change before it’s out my door. I’ve got another example of one today, with the change done at the invitation of a customer.

I originally made this as  “Box of Chocolates” (posted about here with unfortunately overexposed photos) and enjoyed the results with its unique abutted edge. Many shoppers have shown interest in it, but in the end I would generally hear something like: “I love it, but don’t know what my husband would think of the pink.”

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This recent customer was looking for an item for a February fundraiser and thought the colors perfectly appropriate. As appliqués are her favorite part of Green Sheep blankets, she requested one and left its subject matter up to me.

So now, shifting the scene from a box of candy to wildflowers at dusk, this comfy blanket has become “Sunset with Flowers,” giving it a welcome vibe indeed.  May it do its fundraising part this Friday for an organization important to many young lives (St. Peter Lutheran School of Arlington Heights, IL) and may it bless the new home where it finally settles :).

Sunset with Flowers

Sunset with Flowers

Sunset with Flowers

Sunset with Flowers

 “Sunset with Flowers” (55″ x 66″)

This item is no longer available for purchase.

 

 

“Quiet at Last”

Many times when I begin a blanket, I begin simply with a group of sweaters that look beautiful together. I know that in the process of combining them, they will inform me of what they’re all about. I love diving into a project, trusting the materials to lead me. At some point we become partners: if the end doesn’t immediately satisfy, I keep pressing until it does.

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I recently had several blue and gray sweaters strewn about my work area from the little boy blankets I’d been sewing. I kept thinking how I’d love a big blanket in those colors. So I sliced them up and started putting them together. These colors felt extraordinarily calming from the start.

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The blue and gray were nice on their own — but a little more drama was called for. I added the charcoal pieces and found a charcoal sweater in cashmere to make into the bias binding.

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Then I enclosed the blues and light grays by darker gray all around the edges. That’s when I felt it: You know that calm that falls at the end of the day when the kids are in bed, the house is nearly quiet, and you can finally think again? When the day and its din are drawing to a close? When your bed beckons to your tired body, and the blessed hope of rest whispers “Let go”?

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Of course, in a few more hours the next day will begin with its own needs — that is the rhythm of our lives. I suppose there’d be an element of boredom without that.

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But I’m eminently grateful for the rest in between.

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~
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“Quiet at Last” (54″ x 72″)

This blanket already has a home.

“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.

*

On a Day Like Today

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

“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.

“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.

Sealed with a Kiss

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.

Sealed with a Kiss

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.”

Sealed with a Kiss

“Sealed with a Kiss” (57″ x 76″)

This is a custom-made blanket.

“The Spruce Tree”

A blanket isn’t really safe in my hands until, well, until it’s out of my hands. Exhibit A:

I createdAsleep in the Meadow with a summer sun in the sky. It was light and airy.

As I pulled it out now, with thin autumn light at the windows, I had a completely different vision. I had to follow through. Let me introduce “The Spruce Tree.”

Evergreens have been a frequent backdrop in my life. I grew up in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains where we’d go sledding every winter – under the pines.

As a teenage counselor at summer camp, on another California mountain, the butterscotch scent of Jeffrey Pines intoxicated me.

Here in northern Illinois, a stately blue spruce on the corner of our house silently protects us in inclement weather. This blanket is in honor of all these lovely trees.

“The Spruce Tree” ( 54″ x 68″)

This blanket is no longer for sale.

J Loves J (and vice versa)

Some friends stopped over recently to choose a blanket for a wedding gift. They picked one they had eyed before: The Painted Piano. (You can see my first post about it here.)

They brought along the wedding invitation, designed by the creative she of this beloved couple, and on its cover was this sweet and simple declaration of true love:

J+J

How could we pass that up as the perfect way to personalize this blanket??

So congratulations, Jimmy and Jenny! May you have many wonderful years together! And while you’re at it, I hope you bring this blanket along to:

have a summer picnic upon,

cuddle under on a wintry movie night (warm it up in the dryer first!),

cover your honey when you find him/her napping on the couch.

I guarantee you: the longer it’s around and the more you use it, the cozier it becomes (kinda like marriage). ENJOY!

The Painted Piano, with monograms (51″ x 65″)

This item has been purchased.

“Butterflies”

~

Did you take General Psych in school? Do you remember Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development? As a sociology major and then an occupational therapist, I distinctly recall studying this several times. Now that I’m, um, older, I think I’ve found a weak spot in his thinking….

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[Source: Gathan Beaga]

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Erickson observed and described FIVE stages of development

to get kids from birth to the teen years

but tossed together a measly, vaguely-depicted THREE more

to take us from the age of 18 until death.

~

AH-HA-HA-HA-hahaha!

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[Source: Gathan Beaga]

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[Bear with me while I take a little license with Erikson’s model here — I know he had certain things in mind. But still, I believe my points are valid….]

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[Source: Gathan Beaga]

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Did Erikson take note of THESE milestones? — Figuring out how to live with the alien you promised your life to in marriage? Shakily acknowledging responsibility for your newborn when YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT THE HECK YOU ARE DOING? Learning from your mistakes? (Emblazoned on my memory is the time I went through the house slamming windows closed so the neighbors wouldn’t hear me scream at my 10-year-old.)

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[Source: Gathan Beaga]

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Or how about these — Discovering that raising kids to be independent is the right thing to do but hurts like the dickens? Realizing that you caused your own parents a boatload of pain and worry but they never let on? Seeing aging in a whole new light once age 50 or 60 hits? Wondering who will “go first,” you or your spouse?

And these are only the highlights. I personally think Mr. Erikson skimmed over way too much stuff.

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Erikson’s problematic schema aside, I am so thankful that we do change and learn and grow. Can you imagine how dull life might be otherwise?

~~~

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“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.” 

~Author Unknown

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Diane brought me a handful of wool sweaters from her dad’s closet not long after he passed away. Her parents had been married for 55 years and all too quickly he was suddenly gone. Talk about a new developmental stage! Diane said, “I’d love for you to make a blanket for my mom out of these sweaters of Dad’s.”

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A couple days later, Diane added: “And would you put butterflies on it?” Butterflies — to depict the unfolding days ahead for her mom, now no longer with her mate by her side, but with instead a whole realm of new possibilities.

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I used three of Diane’s dad’s sweaters:

In the photo above, 1) the brown patch that the pansies are on, and below, 2) the cream-colored stripe and 3) the “checkerboard” under the blue butterfly.

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His sweaters make a beautiful background for the new butterflies, just breaking forth now and finding their way.

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And back to Erikson — he lived until nearly age 92. Do you imagine that just MAYBE he had a couple more chapters brewing in his mind by then?

~

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Butterflies (Size: 57″ x 70″)

[This is a custom-ordered blanket.]


“Red and Green”

Over a year ago, Robin saw a photo of “Roasting Chestnuts,” one of my earliest blankets, and set her heart upon it.  Of course, setting her heart on it didn’t do her any good, for it had already gone to a loving home. But I did tuck away in my mind the colors that Robin liked. Did I mention that Robin lives in a charming log cabin home? Well, she does.

I didn’t hear anything more about it … until last fall when Robin’s husband emailed and said he wanted to surprise her for Christmas with a blanket for their king-size bed in their charming log home. Did I mention Robin’s husband is my cousin? And that he’s 6’8″? Well, he is.

I said “Yes, I’d love to!” and turned to the felted sweaters I had been collecting with Robin in mind “just in case.” I needed many more sweaters than I had been stockpiling, however.  This blanket was not just to top the king-size bed, but to drape over the edge all the way to the box springs. That’s huge — double the size of most of my blankets! This was a new challenge for me.

But, as always, it was an enjoyable challenge. And how could I not be inspired by picturing those beautiful log walls as the backdrop?

My schedule and the weather did not cooperate in my slim window between finishing the blanket and delivering it –I never got a good shot of the entire thing. I’ll have to leave you to your imagination with just these snippets :)

All folded up…

…and packed for delivery.  Robin, may you enjoy your Christmas gift from your great husband!

“Red and Green” (size: 110″ x 84″)

This particular item is not available for sale.

“Ginkgo Leaves”

I have a little obsession with design from the Arts and Crafts era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s the mix of wood, fabric and pottery, the nature themes, the importance of hearth, home, and handmade-ness that all appeal to me.

So, in making this fall blanket, I decided to use ginkgo leaves. It was the influence of Asia that brought the leaf into a little prominence during the Arts and Crafts period.

The ginkgo biloba tree (“biloba” = bi-lobed: the two halves of the leaf) has a reputation in Chinese and Japanese culture as a symbol of resilience, longevity, and hope.

My bit of internet research says that it’s one of the oldest living trees still on the earth. Apparently there are ginkgo leaf fossils over 270 million years old. Plus the sap has fire-retardant qualities that allow ginkgos to survive fires which destroy other trees.

And there it is: the resilience that leads to longevity that leads to hope.

These are great qualities!  But mostly I just like how graceful the leaf is.

And the fact that I got my daughter to model it :)

Ginkgo Leaves, 60″ wide x 84″ long

[This blanket has gone to a Craftsman home in California and is no longer available.]