cloaked in goldenrod

“She watched her little ones walk around their only world, the one that she was creating.  She hoped that the wars within her would not break upon their delicate shores.” ~Marie Mielke, Soul Gardening: Issue 18

I’ve always been a collector of quotes, but I find I am especially so just now.

Yes, I’m rather obsessed with the chickens.  But mostly I wanted portraits of each of them to include in my garden journal.  One of the roosters tried to crow for the first time a couple of weeks ago and let out this hilarious half-crow, half-squawk that made Elijah and I look at each other and burst out laughing.  It has improved since then….if you can consider loud, jarring noises…occurring regularly…. during the only hours I have a shot at sleeping, an improvement.  Seraphina’s crow is improving as well.  She hides her face in the hem of my skirt and, “ruh-rah-rah-rah-roo”s her heart out.  I don’t know why her face must be covered with my skirt to do this, but apparently it must. Mothers know so little really.

A single golden, glorious day, where, at least for a little while, all seven of us were together and well enough to be out and about.

Our new batch of sauerkraut includes both red and green cabbage, beets and carrots and looks like a big jar of confetti.  For a quick meal last week I seasoned ground beef, kind of as I would for tacos and served it over yams with fried onions, chopped cucumber, and veggie cheese.  That one is going on the meal plan, for ease if nothing else.  Though really it was quite delicious and hearty as well. Radishes, grated carrot, fresh herbs, avocado, all sorts of things could go on top.

Between us, we collaboratively made a new set of napkins.  There were five of us working on them in one way or another, but I think Iain ended up doing most of the sewing.  I have another set in a coordinating print all cut out and waiting for a rainy day.

Our back door has been broken for a while, but it’s now to the point where I can literally put my hand through to the outside.  I found a potentially beautiful wooden one to replace it, but it required a great deal of attention.  Every night for a week, while dinner cooked or the kids did their after-meal chores, I’d go out and work for 45 minute or so.  It’s nearly ready now.

Elijah is trying to grow a giant pumpkin.  It got a late and rough start.  While I don’t think it’s going to end up county fair worthy, it is filling out and shaping up to be the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever grown.

A new nature study necklace for my shop, which is now open, though I’m still in the process of setting it up.

I’ve made a reservation for two nights in November at a tiny lakeside cabin nearby.  It’s to be a big surprise for the children.  I don’t know when I’ve ever needed a vacation more.  I’m now eager to finish my sweater, as I picture myself wrapped in it while watching mist rise off the water, sitting on the cabin porch, steeping in the scent of pine trees, chilled damp earth, and wood smoke.  I only have one button band left to go.  And pockets.  I do believe it shall have pockets.

It’s such a hard season to keep up with posting regularly.  This happens every year around this time.  I think I usually get into a groove again in October?  Meanwhile, I find myself not getting around to it day after day and then putting out these massive monster catch-up posts every two weeks.  Such is life.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

Wrapped in Flannel: Part 2, now with words!

Iain took a stab at fixing the space bar and it now more or less works, provided you strike it just right.

And now for the items left unsaid on the last post…My second to last pair of pajama pants disintegrated just days before the big labor day fabric sales.  With the ability to purchase flannel at around $2.50 a yard, I thought it was time to treat myself to some new jammies.  But evidently my commitment was only tentative, because my shopping trip turned out much the way it usually does.  My plan was to make myself two nightgowns and three pairs of pajama pants.  Which seems reasonable enough.  But as I approached the cutting table, I started to get nervous about spending money at all and specifically on myself, so I decreased the amount of, or completely eliminated, the fabric that was slotted for projects for me, while leaving the fabric that was meant for the children.

The result being that when I got home, I discovered that this green flannel, originally intended for a nightie that I was really excited about, was the only length of fabric big enough to cut a pair of women’s pajama pants out of. So I made them, with a pang of regret for the much wanted, but less needed nightgown.  And as soon as they were off the machine, I slipped out of the tattered leggings I was wearing, depositing them directly into the trash, and slipped into these.  I would probably be wearing them still, if I hadn’t been called upon to leave the house.  And even so, I spent some time considering if they could pass for trousers.

The bottoms situation is getting a little dire.  By the end of last week I was down to this pair of leggings, the afore mentioned “last pair” of not-long-for-this-world pajama pants and this new pair of pajama pants.  Which does not quite seem to be enough.  In desperation, I did finally try to fix the waistband on the olive leggings and managed to put a few holes in them in the process.  Word to the wise: velour does not like to be unpicked. But they are more wearable than they were.

I think the problem is two-fold.  One: it’s much harder to piecemeal together pants from what one might have around and, as mentioned, I have trouble investing in fabric (or clothing) for myself.  Of all of my Handcrafted Wardrobe projects so far, I’ve purchased fabric for one of them.  And that felt like a huge, somewhat guilt inducing, treat to myself.  Everything else has been made from whatever I have around.  And two: pants are boring.  At least the pants I wear are.  And as much as I might need them, I’d rather dream up and sew a dress or a top instead.  All the same, I think it’s clear what my priority needs to be!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Fern Green

“…I must wander off here to remark on the self-hate involved in those descriptions of ordinary human body parts.  In primitive cultures people get old, and when they get old they wrinkle and sag and get wise.  And their wisdom is recognized as adding value.  And I’ll bet you that old women in those cultures don’t look at their upper arms and cry.”~ Excerpt from Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables by Joan Dye Gussow

My big boys surprise me with the first ferns to venture out of the snow each spring, like Jem traditionally bringing the first may flowers to Anne.  They know that by winter’s end I’m desperately craving green and growing things, so they scout out a little spot they know of, a sheltered space, tucked under a cliff.  When they were younger there were clumsy attempts at secrecy that left me surreptitiously averting my eyes and feigning obliviousness.  As they have grown in maturity and discretion, a vase or two does just appear for me, seemingly out of the blue.

This is not the first time that I’ve undertaken the making of a custom wardrobe for myself.  During my last pregnancy I worked to compile a nursing-friendly wardrobe.  The pictures in this post are from that time.  Keep in mind I am 3 and 6 weeks postpartum, respectively, so do be kind in your thoughts.

This shade of green was an experiment for me.  It’s not one of the usual core colors that I gravitate to, but I felt like it had the potential to be.  I didn’t think I could know for sure until I tried.  It’s a keeper!  Part of why I’m posting this now is that this shade is popping up in many places in my life right now.

Having done this five times now, you would think that I would remember that perfectly innocent tops very quickly become outrageous to the point of near indecency.  With Mairi I remember popping on a formerly benign dress, looking down, and feeling a bit scandalous, going to seek a mirror.  On my way I encountered toddler Galen, who looked at me with hands on his hips and asked, “Why your na-nas stickin’ out?!?”  No mirror needed!

This was the first time I wore this green dress after having given birth and I very quickly (though clearly not quite quickly enough!) realized that a camisole underneath was a must.

It was made just like this dress*, only longer.

Things I liked about this dress:  The color!  The length.  Ease of nursing.

Things I hated about this dress:  The 4-way stretch fabric!!!!  It was murder to work with.  I’ve never had such a frustrating time with cutting out in all my life.  And it shows every single little bump, bulge and roll, up to and including panty lines and every bit of that required cami.

I had enough of it left that I managed to eek out a second dress….

Which you can’t really see!  It’s just like this one, only green.  Both the blue and green versions succumbed to too many days working in the garden, but they were pretty much my summer uniform for two years running.

  Lesson learned; keep the color, ditch the fabric.

What’s your go-to color palette?  Do you ever try to branch out?

*Looking back at that post I am laughing at myself, having just gone through a phase where I was making everything in blue, followed by an all-brown run, followed by a splash of green.  Apparently I’m ridiculously predictable!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


By

The First Week of (Home) School

Homeschooling quote of the week: “I am not talking to myself, I’m hosting an impromptu parent-teacher conference”

We managed a little walk in the woods together, I believe for the first time all summer.  And a trip to the pond as well.  In a normal year we would go from the end of spring, through the beginning of autumn at least once a week for the better part of the day.  I think this was only our third 1-2 hour visit of the year, so it felt like a big deal.  The teeny-tiny people on the teeny-tiny island out in the middle there are my great-big boys.  We came home with a bucket full of treasures and much to detail in our nature journals.

I’m not squeamish about snakes, and I say this as someone who has been bitten by a snake- everyone present freaked out, I found it totally (perhaps morbidly?) fascinating (it didn’t hurt at all, it was crazy to see this thing attached to me and the fang marks on my arm were pretty cool).   Snakes don’t bother me, except when there is the possibility of an overlap between bare baby feet and poison/fangs.  Last summer Steve and Iain were pretty sure they spotted a copperhead sunning itself in our squash garden.  And while I don’t mind snakes, I’m also not particularly knowledgeable about them, though we all learned quite a bit in this last week.  So we were very cautious around and in identifying this neonate that we found on the driveway.  Thankfully, from what we can tell, this one appears to be a type of brown snake, and therefore harmless.  Unlike the poisonous “White Baneberry”, also known as “Doll’s Eye’s” (Actaea pachypoda) that we came across later in the woods.

My first batch of apple themed books came in from the library.  Emily of New Moon is not, in fact, apple related, but with the pretty apple speckled cover on this edition, it fit right in.

We started school a week earlier than usual this year, because there have been some big changed in our little homeschool.  With the intention of earning an official high-school diploma in a couple years time, Iain is now enrolled in a virtual high-school.  Classes started for him this week and I wanted to be sure we had a bit of time together, to ease into the school year, before so much of his day was taken up in a room closed off from us.  This is a totally new experience for our family.  So far it has been much more time intensive for me than I was anticipating!

Speaking of time, there is none.  Ever again.  In August I sat and got my homeschool binder in order and it seems our calendar is full to bursting, and still going strong three to four months out.  I refuse to look beyond that point.  I’m not sure how this is even possible.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Simplicity Seeking

First off, I want to say thank you for all of the kind comments on my last post.  I’ve read them all, several times.  And I wish I had the time to write back to each of you, but that’s just not possible right now.  I sincerely thank you for the words of comfort, encouragement and support.

This week I’ve been planning a handcrafted wardrobe on a smaller scale, for my dear Mairi Rose, who is very much in need of clothing for the autumn.  I came up with a pretty simple plan with just a handful of different patterns and shapes: a basic sweatshirt-tunic type thing*, a playdress, leggings.  I have a pajama pattern that I might alter to make her a pair or two of elastic waist slacks with elastic gathers at the ankles in a sturdy fabric for hiking and climbing trees and that sort of thing.  And I think I’ll do a basic, quick and easy peasant dress for nighties and maybe cut it short for a blouse or two.   I’m really proud of myself for keeping my plans minimal and reasonably do-able.

I realized that this sort of simplicity is really what I need within my own wardrobe making endeavors.  A set of capsule patterns for a capsule wardrobe.  Easier said than done.

I was once invited to join a group of dear women in encouraging each other to be creative.  While I was honored to be asked and delighted to be involved with these lovely women, I was totally baffled by the idea of needing encouragement in this area.  Frankly, if people really wanted to help me out, they would create some sort of support group that teaches people to resist creative urges.  Or perhaps find something that could just siphon off all those surplus creative juices that so often turn me into an inspiration fueled crazy person. Because, like so many other areas of my life, this is what happens when I come up with a good basic plan…. the “and maybe…”s start up.  And maybe I’ll make this alteration to that pattern and this one and that one, effectively turning into drafting an entirely new pattern, which is neither quick, nor easy, nor simple.  Or I’ll come up with a collection of basic patterns and maybe decide that I should just add in a few other ones just for fun and maybe a few to add interest, etc., and it snowballs.

Less stress, streamlined sewing, comfortable basics, these are really what I need right now, so I must find a way to gag the muse and get on with it.  Perhaps if I just keep uttering the words, “Keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple” over and over again?

Do you think you could come up with core patterns to be repeated for a basic wardrobe and stick to it?  What would you include?

*I now see that this pattern has been retired, so back to the drawing board on that one.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


By

Confessions of a Frazzled Mother

I was scrolling back through recent posts, looking for something, and I got drawn into reading a bit here and a bit there.  And all I could think was, “For goodness sake.  Out with it woman!  Come on now!”  How ridiculous it must be for you as the reader to be subjected to all of these posts with their little cryptic hints and glimpses.  So I gave myself a stern talking to in which I told myself to either explain the situation or shut up already.  In truth I didn’t mean to mention any of this here at all, it just somehow seeped into my writing unbidden.

My issues with sharing this particular subject are that I don’t think I can succinctly explain the situation.  There are matters of privacy and stories that aren’t really mine to tell.  And it’s just depressing, which is not what you come here for and not what I want out of this space.

The very short version is that one of our children has been quite ill, for a long time now.  Over a year now struggling with various issues, with the last six months being desperately intense.  Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of tests and treatments have not yielded much in the way of answers or improvement.  We know that Lyme Disease is a factor.  We know that EDS is probably contributing to the situation.  We know that there are some heart issues that may or may not have been triggered by Lyme.  But on the over-all picture, including why the logical treatments aren’t really having the desired effects, we’re still somewhat in the dark.

In the last 14 months, quite apart from on-going EDS/POTS issues, I’ve had two cases of lyme/babesiosis myself (If you’ve not heard of it, babesiosis is tons of fun.  It’s basically like having malaria).  Steve who is usually a rock health-wise has been dealing with his own complicated medical issues, also still unresolved.  That’s not even counting the constant barrage of minor issues that are bound to come up in a house full of seven people.

All of this comes after several years in a row of what felt like one endless health crisis after another.  Just to give you a feel, some of the highlights from last year alone included a stroke scare, worries over a potential aneurysm, three herniated discs, three members of the family requiring extensive cardiac work ups, followed by a recommendation of heart surgery for one, a sleep apnea diagnosis, concerns about a potential hole developing in a major blood vessel in my brain, and grounds for a dementia screening when a particularly fierce strain of Lyme went to my brain and I had trouble remembering what a month even was, much less what month it was.  Just to name a few.  Folks, I’m fried.  We all are.  It’s just too, too much.  And it’s been too, too much for too, too long.

What this means right now is that for three-four of the last six months I’ve had a child who can do next to nothing during the day and who is up literally all night, every night, in pain.  And by all night I mean until 5, 6, 7 am or later.  With the months on either end featuring maybe a good week or two where things seemed like they were getting back on track, followed by a decline ending right back where we started.  As the sole night time parent this means I’ve been up all night on every occasion.  Thankfully, Steve is able to take the early morning shift, from 3:30 or so on, on the weekends.  But with four other children, I can’t exactly sleep away the weekdays.  I’ve been tied to home, deprived of sleep, driven to desperation and frankly on the verge of collapse.

We’re in a “better” period just now.  Where I’m getting that last child off to bed once and for all by between 12:30 and 2 most nights.  With the child having a degree of wellness during the daytime that we can work with.  That picture above was taken just before two in the morning, when I finally had a chance to sit down to correct the day’s school work and prepare for, well, later that same, seemingly endless, morning.

I’ve honestly been very anxious, depressed and over-whelmed within this whole situation, though I am trying hard to fight it.

All the knitting and sewing and “where does she find the time?” projects?  This is what I do because I need to be near by, I need to force myself to stay awake, and I just don’t have the strength or brain power to do anything more.  And while my little projects are immensely comforting to me, I assure you I would far prefer a well child, a bit ‘o peace of mind and a good night’s sleep.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Refashion #1

Remember that lilac colored men’s sweater?  I didn’t want to do anything drastic with this one.  I wanted to use as much of it as possible.  And really all it needed to be wearable was a better fit and to be a touch more feminine.  It started out like this…

And became this….

Goodness that side view there feels a little scandalous!  Forgive me.  I was just trying to get a visual for you of the altered shape.

For those who are interested in clothing construction, or reconstruction as the case may be, I started by cutting off the sleeves and cutting down both side seams.  I used a shirt that fit well through the shoulders and bust as a cutting guide and sewed everything back together again once the excess had been removed.  I left slits along the lower portions of the side seams because I didn’t like the way it bunched and was gathered around the band at the bottom and wanted it to hang freely and also because it allowed it to drape rather than bag in the front.  I’ll probably be layering it over a long camisole or tank top, which I should have done here, but didn’t think of when I threw it on for these quick pictures.

Taking in the shoulders and bust meant that the sleeves were raised up and naturally became the right length.

And finally, I popped it in the dye pot because that lilac color isn’t really me and in this house anything that light would be stained within moments.

To dye it I used RIT Dye in ‘Wine‘ and the bucket method, which is incredibly simple. Instructions can be found all over the internet.  It’s less purple than it appears in some of these photos, in reality a true deep burgundy.  My only complaint about the color is that I thought I used 100% cotton thread, but I must have used a cotton/poly blend, which didn’t pick up the dye at all and unfortunately that shows a bit in some places, though I doubt most people would notice without it being pointed out.

Now what I really need are some pants to wear with it!  In these photos I’m trying to stand so that you can’t see the holes in my junky leggings.  For the record I’d rather wear this with trousers of some sort.  I don’t think I’d feel comfortable wearing it out in public with just leggings (but I’m willing to post pictures of myself wearing it that way, effectively broadcasting them to the entire world.  I know, it makes no kinds of sense.)  At the moment I own a couple pairs of the afore mentioned thin and holey leggings.  All of them have holes.  Terribly indiscreet holes.  I try to hide them with dresses.  Also a pair of ill-fitting, hand-me-down, sweatpants from Iain.  Also with holes.  And the velour leggings that I posted before, which I still haven’t gotten around to fixing the waistband on.  I think if I don’t come up with a plan on this front, it’s going to be an awfully chilly winter.

What is on your absolute must sew list this season?

Save

Save

Save


By

Holding and Held

What to say? Galen has started work on Christmas presents.  Cucumbers and zucchinis are coming in.  The chickens are getting big…soon there will be eggs. It remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to eat them. At a time of year when most other gardens, ours included, are a fiery mass of colors, our front garden is having it’s white moment. It’s calmly beautiful, though short lived.  My favorite crimson rose is about to bloom again.

I’ve barely been knitting at all.  My head is swimming with lesson plans and meal plans and sewing projects and cold weather house preparations to be made.  I’m envious of mothers that have childless periods of time in which to think and work uninterrupted.  I could be so much more effective if I had the mental and physical space to plan and prepare.

The chickens aren’t the only ones growing.  I’m keenly aware that not just one, but two of my children will be able to vote in not the current, but the next presidential election!  I have two high-schoolers this year.  Iain is actively working through the state required steps for getting his driver’s license.  This growing children thing is getting serious!

My “baby” is no longer a baby, but an extremely active, clever and mischievous young girl, perhaps the very 2ist two year old I’ve ever encountered.  Last week when she was doing something naughty and being quite cheerful about it, I told her it wasn’t funny and she looked at me and replied, “I laughin’…”

This week marked a right of passage for my oldest daughter as well.  After many months of comments like, “There are only two people in dance class who don’t have their ears pierced.  You know who they are?  Me and Galen.”  And being assured that having pierced ears makes for a loving sister, with a sunny disposition, who does her chores without complaint and always remembers to put her clothes in the hamper, etc.  We finally agreed to take her to get her ears pierced.

Not being one to take for granted that the conventional way of doing things is always the best way and feeling really uncomfortable with the idea of some random kid at the mall putting holes in my child’s body, I did my research first.  Based on what I read, I decided that a professional piercer using traditional methods (as in a needle, not a gun) was the way to go for our family.

I nervously gave her some relaxing and pain relieving herbs in the waiting room before hand. She didn’t even bat an eye.  She didn’t flinch or whimper or cry, her eyes didn’t well up…she was just totally chill.  That girl is pretty hardcore.  We’re using chamomile tea bag compresses now, in addition to regular saline rinses, to help with healing and reduce the risk of infection.  She’s pleased as punch.  I don’t think there has ever been a gift she’s liked so much.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

By

The Handcrafted Wardrobe: On Mothering Daughters and Self-Worth

‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia, because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’ ~Kate Winslet

I take this quote very differently from how I did the first time I read it.  I can’t say that I’m at a place where I’m comfortable walking around declaring myself a ravishing beauty, and I’m not sure that I would ever want to be.  But this much I know; I am now a mother of daughters.  They watch me and from watching me they are learning how to move through this world as women.  If I tell them they are beautiful while being harsh with myself, they will instinctively see beauty in their own children, but never in themselves.  If I say that I don’t like my smile or my waist or my hair or my thighs, that there are parts of me I am ashamed of, what will they think when someone innocently tells them how much they look like me?  I am proud of my body.  Against many obstacles, It has grown and nourished five unique and amazing people.  I don’t think I can ask better of it than that.

Long time readers of my blog may remember that in years past, I was virtually unseen.  I am 5′ 0″, maybe 20? 30 lbs? over weight at the moment.  I have thinning hair and more stretch marks than smooth spots.  I have crooked teeth and chronic dark circles under my eyes.  When I’m unwell all of my veins show through the skin on my arms and torso like some kind of freaky 3D diagram of the circulatory system.  I can be ghostly pale and often appear just plain haggard.  Growing up the message that I was given by society is that women like me do not deserve to be seen.  That we have to be altered before we are worthy.  Worthy of what exactly I don’t know.  Everything it seems.

I want to say that there is nothing wrong with me, but that would be an outright lie.  But the things that are “wrong’ with me are the makings of my own private struggles and manifestations of my humanity.  There is nothing about me that makes my image unfit for public consumption.

I knew that with this project I would be opening myself up to judgement.  And I have.  But I feel very blessed to be able to say that in over 10 years of blogging in this space I’ve only received one nasty comment.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life trying to find a comfortable and healthy relationship with the shape of my body.  And it has been a challenge because over the last 17 years of motherhood, that shape has altered time and again.  I have my set backs, but mostly I accept and embrace what is.  In recent years I’ve been caught off guard in finding that I have a hard time seeing myself look sick.  I find it upsetting.  It makes me feel fragile and I find myself avoiding mirrors and cameras.  In part this project is a way of forcing myself to face myself.  I’ve found that I have to desensitize myself to my own image.  And a couple of years ago I started consciously doing just that. To try to be comfortable with sharing a picture even if my hair is a mess or I don’t like the look on my face or the way an outfit fits.  To get used to being me in the world, with all of my flaws and imperfections.  For me to accept who I am without fear or concern about what others will think of me.  Because that is what I want to teach my daughters, in all of their flawed, imperfect, deep, and eternal beauty.  That is the gift I want to give to them.  And I am not fit for this work of going against the world and myself and all I’ve been taught, but I plan to keep on trying all the same.

Save

Save

Save

Save


By