Yarn Along: 11/11

Although Ginny, the creator and “host” of Yarn Along, seems to have drifted away from it, I’ve always kind of liked that weekly check in of reading/knitting, especially as a way of easing back into blogging after an absence.

There has been a shift in my knitting since I last wrote about it.  I’ve actually been knitting a great deal, just not posting about it.  My Ravelry notebook is woefully behind.  I’ve been working on a number of projects for my kids and feel as though I’ve comfortably settled back into the way things should be.  It would have been better if I was preparing for autumn, but I’ll settle for preparing for winter instead.  I’m currently finishing up the last strap on a romper for Seraphina, when I have the patience I’m working in the roughly eight-zillion ends on a sweater for Iain, and I’m well underway with a sweater for Elijah (pictured above).

I’m currently reading Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody with the book club for adolescents that I run at our homeschooling co-op and  The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl  by Timothy Egan with my high-school group.  The upside to leading the groups is that I get to re-read some fantastic books and share them with these children that I adore.  The down side is that it leaves precious little time for me to pick up a new book on my own!

These two actually have a great deal of overlap and relate to each other.  This was not planned, it just happened that way.  Both groups read at a different rate and they just happened to line up.  It’s been interesting for me to re-read the two of them together.  The first is the author’s memoir of  moving to and working the land on a ranch in Colorado at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It’s sort of like the Little House books, only rather harsher.  The second is a collection of information and real-life accounts of the brutal dust storms that absolutely devastated the high plains during the Depression.  Dust storms that were largely due to the settling and plowing up of the prairie sod in places like Colorado, where people where flocking at the turn of the century!  The politics throughout both are just mind-boggling; horrific in many ways and yet somehow not surprising.  Both books are well worth reading and sharing.

I would love to hear suggestions of your very favorite books for the 13-15 year old range!

 

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Halloween

Two bundt cakes stack bottom to bottom sort of make for a pumpkin shaped pumpkin cake.  We used carrot juice to color the icing and matcha green tea to tint the marzipan.

They were adorable, carving a pumpkin together.  She sings happy birthday to the pumpkin every time we light a jack ‘o lantern.

Elijah has started making Halloween costumes for his friends as well.  This is Gandolf the Grey’s staff….

and Gimli’s helmet…

A motley crew…

Indiana Jones

The Dread Pirate Roberts, a.k.a. Wesley

And my darling Anne-girl.

It was really nice of our neighbor’s black cat to drop by on Halloween for ambience.

Anne of Green Gables dress details:

I started with the geranium dress pattern.  I used the bodice extension and sash straight from the expansion pack.  I took the straight sleeve from the expansion pack and modified it for the oh-so-important puffs using this tutorial.  I made the sleeves first and she came in to kiss her puffs several times each day.  I took the hem band from the pack and made it 1 1/2 times longer and used that to craft the ruffle at the bottom.  The collar is an actual hand-pieced, antique collar.  After some repairs I added a button and bound button loop so it could be worn, but still remain a separate piece.  The rest is just trim.

   It is brown of course.  Because Mathew bought Anne a brown dress with puffed sleeves.  Mairi Rose was so offended when he gave her a blue dress in the movie!  This was hands-down one of my all-time favorite costumes.  I couldn’t stop watching her in it.  She’s like a china doll.  And that she picked Anne?  Oh my, well this mama heart couldn’t be happier!

This littlest one was seriously too excited to stand still for a picture.  All of these rather poor ones were taken in rapid succession over the course of like 45 seconds, which was way, way longer than she wanted to spend on it.  Which explains why you can’t really tell what her dress looks like in any of the pictures.  I’ll have to get a better picture of it at some point.  She informed me that she plans on wearing it everywhere so I should have plenty of opportunities!

Ever since we were matryoshkas together two years ago, Seraphina is convinced that we require coordinating costumes, which is how I ended up as a Mama Kitty last year.  And really now, how long is this last baby of mine going to want her mama to wear a matching costume?  Not very long at all.  So I humor her.  This year I was informed that herself, myself, Unicorn, and her doll Milky were all to be princesses for Halloween.  Sometimes I humor her a lot.  I asked her if it wouldn’t make more sense for me to be the queen and she assured me it would not.  I was the mama princess and her, Milky and Unicorn where the baby princesses.  End of story.  Yes ma’am.

Seraphina’s dress is also a geranium, with the gathered sleeves from the expansion pack.  The only modification I made was to add three large, lace trimmed ruffles in tiers down the skirt.  I was also told that her dress must be pink.  I had other ideas in mind, but set myself the challenge of making it entirely from what I had around the house.  Adjustments were made and this is the result.  She seems happy with it!

My dress is a heavily, heavily modified Darling Ranges dress, altered to the point of no longer being recognizable as such.  Mine was a freebie sew as well.  I found the material at our local fabric swap.  Since I was taking the time to sew it, and I happen to really need clothing, I was trying to make something that she would consider a princess dress, but that I could get away with for everyday wear.  I’m not 100% sure that I’ve made a success of it, it’s awfully red for one thing, but I’m going to see how it works out.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: The Etta Dress

Funny story: As alluded to, two or three months ago I tried making a big deal of getting all purdied up for Steve’s birthday.  We were planning to go on a date, just the two of us. I quietly worked on a new dress to wear, in a style he would appreciate, as a surprise. I thought it was a sweet idea, but suspected he might be less thrilled when he found out that Seraphina has been telling everyone we know about daddy having a “secret dress”.

It turns out he just laughed.  Which I knew he would.  But the story is funnier the other way.

So, I do this thing sometimes….just because we are totally weird…where I randomly surprise Steve for special occasions by dressing up in the style of a different era, complete with hair, make-up, etc.  And I direct your attention to our ’50′s Valentine’s day (yikes.  Kind of wishing I hadn’t looked.  4 years and baby #5 had some serious impact!).  No idea where this started or why (actually, after re-reading that post, I think it started then!  The blog is educational!).  Like I said, we’re just kind of weird that way.  In honor of his birthday this year, I went with the decade in which he was born.  I was going for a Joan from Mad Men kind of thing, but Christina Hendricks I ain’t!  What I am is a middle aged mother of five, so you basically get what you get.

Sewing a fitted dress when you are nowhere near an average size and shape??  Holy moly.  I shortened the bodice, the skirt and the sleeves….brought in the waist, let out the high hip, brought in the low hip….did a full bust adjustment…a slight sway back adjustment (should have done more!)…made it narrower through the shoulders…lowered the neckline by two inches when one of my two muslins felt too choke-y* and correspondingly altered the collar.  And probably other things that I can’t think of because I’m blocking out the trauma.

*Just for clarification, I don’t think this is a flaw in the pattern, it’s just that people with a history of breathing problems (me) tend to get freaked out by anything too close to their throat.

My darts are all….I don’t know…awful.  Yup, that’s the word.  Terrible, atrocious and mortifying would all fit as well.  Even though I know how to sew darts properly and I swear I did them the “right” way.  Somehow they are still totally wrong.  I want to blame the fabric, but I’m not sure that’s fair.  And I don’t like where they hit.  I think I should have altered that, but I double checked pictures of the pattern and that is where they are supposed to be.  Side note: I seriously, seriously, seriously need a pressing ham if I’m going to insist on continuing to make women’s dresses.  Seriously.  An invisible zipper foot would be good too.

I felt the fabric would be just perfect.  I was wrong.  It’s a stretch sateen….which quite predictably shows and amplifies every little flaw, both in my figure and sewing ability.   The dress looks ok (and only ok) if I am standing still having just straightened it, but the moment I move at all it shifts and bunches and clumps-clings in funny and awkward ways.  This is probably evident from the photos above.

So much work for something so horribly disappointing!  I think I’ll be sticking with super simple sewing for a while now.

But yes, he liked it.  Though I suspect he wasn’t actually looking at the darts, so I’m not sure how much his opinion should really count for.  Just sayin’.

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A sweater for Kathy

I’ve been very flaky, random, and unfocused with my knitting lately.  Usually I have very specific items picked out for the kids, and occasionally myself, which I faithfully knit through the summer, resulting in a relatively warm, woolen clad family.  But this year I’ve just been bopping around aimlessly from project to project.  I’ve mostly been knitting (and crocheting actually) blankets and shawls.  I don’t know what it is, but the three shawls I’ve made for myself in the last year are screaming that I’m in a rut.  The fact is, all I want to do is knit more!  For the longest time I had absolutely no interest in sweaters or hats or well, anything at all that couldn’t just be wrapped around you.  I think I must be going through some kind of withdraw due to not needing to knit any baby blankets lately.

So I’m arriving late to the cold weather knitting party, but I’m here.  I made a hat in-between shawls.  And I’m finally picking up a few sweaters that have long been wasting away on needles.  The one above is complete.  A friend who is relatively new to knitting started this project for herself, found that she was out of her depth and asked me if I would finish it for her.  The pattern is Lucy by c2knits.  I don’t remember what the yarn is off the top of my head.  She knitted the main part of the body of the sweater.  I picked up the stitches all the way around to knit the collar, hem, and front bands.  I told her this part had been fun and she laughed at me.  I also knit the sleeves and am happy to have returned it to her in wearable condition.

I still have several birthday sweaters from earlier this year to complete and several other ideas drifting through this brain of mine.  I think it’s time to get to work.

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a birthday date

Steve’s birthday just past and we made a long weekend of it.  Saturday an outing for just the two of us, Sunday a bit of a family celebration and Monday, by his request- trying and somewhat succeeding to do as near to nothing as possible.

I got entirely dolled up for our brunch outing (possibly more on that later).  It was a gift of sorts.  As we were sitting and eating I caught the eye of a beleaguer looking mother, trying to herd her young ones out the door.  The somewhat desperate look on her face!  It was like I could read her thoughts.  Because they have been my thoughts so many times.  It was a fleeting moment of mixed emotion that basically amounted to, “It must be nice to have the time, space, and energy for appearances.  I’d rather like that sort of luxury myself, but clearly that is not my lot.  I bet you take it for granted.” Just a split second, a glimpse of a thought, before landing squarely back in the world of, “No, no don’t run towards the street!”, “Please get that out of your mouth,”, “People don’t really like it when you bring sticks into a restaurant dear.”  In a way that probably makes me somewhat awful, it was rather flattering to be on the opposite side of this exchange.  Oh, but I empathized with her.  I really and truly did.  In my own jealousy (I guess that’s the best word.  Maybe envy is better?) it’s less about what the other person actually looks like and more about how they obviously took the time to care for themselves.  Which implies that they had the time.  That is what I find desirable and often unobtainable.  And I think I read more into it then I should about priorities and the ease of the other person’s life.  I wanted to go and hug her frazzled self and tell her that she should see me most days, carry a toddler and a bag for her and help with the door.

After brunch we visited a vintage clothing shop.  Which primarily consisted of us identifying articles that easily could have come out of the past wardrobes of our various relatives.  My trying on outrageous glasses and hats to make him laugh.  And my being made fun of for pseudo-secretly harboring an embarrassing desire to wear all of the pink chiffon garments that everyone else finds hilariously hideous.

We walked the sidewalk sale of a funky, artisan town and briefly visited an arboretum…sadly too late to tour the conservatories.  But that was lovely and I wish we had longer there.  Highlights for me included the immense Japanese umbrella pine that Steve is standing under in the picture above.  A big, beautiful 100+ year old ginkgo, and Cinnamon Vine (both pictured above) which I had never heard of before.  I found it by it’s scent which I trailed across the garden.  It’s this sort of intoxicating floral/cinnamon that had me vowing to add it to our own garden.  Then I came home and started to read up on it, learning that it’s considered invasive and you have to plant it every year and do special things to propagate it and so forth, at which point it all started to sound like too much trouble and I figured I’d just be better off occasionally sniffing a spice bottle instead.

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Wrapped in Emerald Green Silk…

Pattern: June Bunnies Shawl by Inese Andzane

Yarn: Luminance Lace Yarn, color: Thoughtful

Clarification on my last post: Most of it was written over a month ago and was accurate for that time, but doesn’t necessarily hold true for the present.  I’m feeling much better now.  I’m up and around, back to every day life.  Occasionally I’ll go on a bit of a coughing jag, usually triggered by singing or reading aloud at length, but most of the time the cough is completely gone.  I have to be careful to try to keep my seasonal allergies under control.  My stamina is not great.  By late afternoon I’m totally worn out.  I feel like all of my muscles have atrophied and I fear I’ll never get any strength back.  I’m soft and squishy, like a baby, only I don’t wear it nearly so well.  A month of inactivity, coupled with medications that cause weight gain and my none-to-perky metabolism have weighted me down, quite literally.  I’m still trying to get comfortable in my body as it is now, with its limits, sensations and appearance.

Every time I experience a health crisis it feels like a serious setback and I worry I will never fully recover the level of wellness that I had prior.  It’s a valid fear, as this has been my experience at times in the past.  Not every time, but enough to cause anxiety.  This feeling of forever loosing ground and never being able to make it up?  Not reassuring.  But I am doing what I can to heal under less than ideal circumstances.  I’m falling back on old herbal remedies, slowly trying to bring vibrancy back into this tired body of mine with gentle movement, and trying my best to hold on to hope.

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Starry, starry night…

Is it irritating for me to be so flighty about my future here?  I’m still laid up and according to the doctors will be for a while yet.  I’m in a good bit of pain, not really sleeping, dwelling on disturbing news and over-all feeling rather despondent.  And kind of lonely and isolated to be honest.  I still can’t talk long without going on a coughing jag.  So reaching out in an accessible way, trying to focus on the positive seems kind of right.  But no word from me for over two months, followed by an emotional possible farewell forever post, and another random post a mere four days later?*  Kind of obnoxious.

The quilt….it’s been in progress for years and years.  I believe I bought the owl fabric for Iain for his 9th birthday?  Maybe even his 8th birthday?  I thought I may have taken him to pick out the fabrics to go with it, but now I’m not sure!  Maybe I picked them out?  I sketched out layouts and ideas, which changed from time to time….there are several in my sketch book…picked out a thread color and then changed my mind…moved the box of “Iain Quilt” fabrics from house to house, taking them out to look at from time to time…and so it went.  In 2015, with his  sixteenth birthday on the horizon, I started work in earnest, wanting to finally be able to give him this long awaited quilt.  It was to be a surprise and every moment he was out of the house I worked away a square at a time.  Each square was pieced and then quilted onto a scrap of cotton fleece.  I used up all the bits of fleece I had leftover from other projects.  I gave him the quilt top for his birthday.

I added a layer of wool batting and a backing of thick chocolate brown cotton velour, for a luxurious touch, and hand tied it all together with deep red floss.  All of this was completed within maybe two weeks of his birthday.  Nothing but binding left to go…..and……it sat.  For over a year.  I don’t know, I had some kind of a hang up about it.  But it is now, finally, totally and completely done and in use.  It is, by far, the warmest quilt I have ever made.  I’m so glad to have finally finished it for him!

*Most of this post was written four days after the last one.  Then somehow it just sat around (quilt like), never getting finished, for nearly a month.  Which is probably a sign.  But I still don’t know.  I’m missing this space right now.  As another side note, I have no idea what’s wrong with the formatting on the pictures from my last post and I’m too tired to even look into it.  Also, I wanted to again mention that I am on Instagram.  Whether or not I get back to regular posting here, that is one way to keep up with us a bit.  I don’t believe you need an account to view photos on-line.  I don’t totally love Instagram, but a single photo and little caption posted once in a while seems more do-able for me right now.

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Hello friends

I started a post about Seraphina’s birthday, one about finishing a quilt for Iain, one about how I thought I was done with blogging.  Not a one of them ever went anywhere.  I know that some of you have been worried and for that I am very sorry.  Others have been sad or frustrated and I apologize for that as well.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I’m no longer in this space for good reasons or for bad and the frank answer is a little of each.

A few months ago we joined a homeschooling co-op.  We meet twice a week for two very long days.  It is both satisfying and all consuming.  I think that for Seraphina it’s like suddenly having 15 new siblings.  She always wants to go so desperately and when we are there it’s running from one thing to the next, all smiles for everyone.  Her current favorite game is to see how outrageously she can behave before Mommy will stop teaching to reprimand her.  When it’s time to leave she cries.  And when we get home, more often then not, she has a complete breakdown and spends the intervening days clinging to me like an infant.  It’s all mommy, all the time, making it pretty impossible to accomplish just about anything.

I’m co-leading a book club for the oldest kids (including Elijah and Iain when he has the time), where we’ve been reading the likes of Wuthering Heights and To Kill a Mockingbird.  And yes, I am  still not-so-secretly in love with Atticus Finch.  Fun fact: I attended the 7th grade book fair as the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw after having donned a lacy nightgown of my mother’s and powdering my face white.

I’m leading a book club for the next level down, including Galen, where we are just finishing up Swallows and Amazons, even though Galen has read it before.  That kiddo is a tough one.  It’s hard to find an appropriate book he hasn’t read.

I teach what I tend to think of as a small, mixed age, Waldorf kindergarten type class, which Seraphina has lovingly christened her “circle time class”.  I have a huge age range, with ten 1-8 year olds.  I lead a circle time with dancing, singing, story telling and finger plays followed by nature crafts.  We’ve made nests and nature weavings and played with snow dough, little clay pinch pots planted out with cress and more.

I’m also assistant teaching two drawing classes and helping out with a singing class.  It’s a lot.  With our dietary restrictions even just the food prep is an ordeal.  We’ve just shifted to a much more laid back, one day a week schedule, with lots of outdoor time and most classes being done until Sept.  I’ll be glad to take a step back and regroup.  Of course we have a singing concert, two performances of a play, an Irish dance concert and a ballet concert, with all the associated dress rehearsals over the course of the next three weeks, so we are still keeping quite busy, but things truly do ease up after that.

This is all the hectic but good developments.  Also in our world…

We were informed that Steve’s job of 14 years is moving several states away at the end of the year, and as we have made the decision not to move with it, there is a lot to consider.

Our ill little one, who miraculously and inexplicably grew well again around Christmas time, just as inexplicably began to decline again by Easter and we’ve found ourselves back in the world of long sleepless nights and seemingly endless worry.  I come unmoored at these times and loose all concept of time or priorities beyond what is in front of me.  I can’t even see beyond that.  It’s not even possible.  Full weeks just drift away without my being able to account for them.

Honestly, the only reason I am managing to finally post at all is that I’m laid up with “post vital cough syndrome”, Pleurisy (inflammation of tissue lining the lungs) and a resurgence of the RADS that hasn’t really given me trouble in over a decade.  In layman’s terms: whenever I try to move about I start coughing so hard that I see stars and feel like I’m going to vomit.

As to my future here, I truly don’t know.  Perhaps this post will be the catalyst that propels me back into regular blogging or maybe this will forever serve as my farewell post.  I feel like it could go either way.  There is so much up in the air right now that I have no idea what the future will bring.

No matter what, please know that this space and your involvement in it has been incredibly dear to me over the years.  Thank you all so much for sharing this little window into our life.  I’ve so enjoyed all of your comments and messages.

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