bundled

I’m currently reading The Bodies of Mothers: A Beautiful Body Project.  It is stunning, transformative, powerful and true…sags, bags, stretch marks, leaking milk and all.  There are essays and snippets of poetry, but most of the appeal lies in the stunning photographs.

As that is a big coffee table style book, not suitable for, say, laying and nursing, I am also reading Soul Gardening, which is a journal for Catholic mothers.  I am not Catholic, but I am a mother, a mother who is open to inspiration and encouragement from all sources.  This issue in particular contained so much goodness that I’m actually reading it through for a second time.

I don’t believe I ever officially posted about the blanket I made Seraphina while I was pregnant, though pictures of it showed up all the time when she was tiny.  I still love and use it.  As the weather gets colder she is wrapped in it more and more often, but I designed it to be the perfect sort of blanket for wrapping a newborn and this darling girl of mine is not getting any smaller.  And so I find myself knitting another blanket, in creamy snow white, this one a toddler sized blanket that she can grow into.  I don’t yet know if it’s to be a Christmas present or a birthday present.  It makes more sense to give a blanket at the beginning of winter rather then the beginning of spring!  But I don’t want to rush it just to finish in time.  I’m currently working on the simple garter center panel, making it just right for times when I want to be knitting, without paying the slightest bit of attention to my knitting.

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hand crafted

1&2: earth plastering a friend’s living room, 3: carving a snow gauge, 4: arrow making, 5: wood burning, 6: making cordage, 7&8: home made rope, 9: carving a spoon, 10: primitive tongs

It’s been really interesting to see how our concept of hand crafts has changed, grown, matured and adapted as they have.

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to frog or not to frog…that is the question….

Haste makes waste ~ proverb

I recently finished My Grandmother’s Knitting.  That sweater on the cover is fabulous, and the main reason I picked up the book.  It has me thinking about the history of knitting within my own family.  I don’t know of anyone before me who was a knitter.  My mother goes through periods where she crochets.  My children now play with the two cherished doll afghans that her grandmother crocheted for her.  And I guess that’s where she learned the art.  I had a great aunt, on the other side of the family, who crocheted me a blanket when I was 6, which I still use to this day.  But there are no knitters.  At least no one that I know of personally or have been told of.  I’m sure that same great-grandmother must have at least known how to knit as well, but there have been no stories or evidence of this in my own life.  I’d imagine you wouldn’t have to go back too far in our family tree, especially with our strong Scottish and Irish heritage.  It wasn’t that long ago that almost every woman was a knitter.  Going forward there is myself, both of my sisters and three out of my five children.

Christmas knitting goes not well at all.  This hat was supposed to be a gift.  For an adult.  Now I’m knitting baby things without even meaning to!  I quickly grabbed some supplies to start this new project as we were walking out the door.  I failed to pack my measuring tape to check gauge.  I also seem to have packed needles a size too small.  I could have sworn my pink metal circulars were a size 5…

When I finished knitting this earlier in the week I was much too close to all the work that went into it and I couldn’t see my way through to pulling it all back out.  But with the passing of time, I think I’m working up the nerve.  I don’t really need this little hat.  I do need the gift that it was supposed to be.  I would prefer not to buy new yarn.

After this colossal failure, I started in on another top-secret gift as a palate cleanser while I debated my options.  It was going wonderfully…beautiful yarn, lovely lacy pattern, row after row of flawless knitting.  In passing I kind of questioned the position of one of the button holes, but the whole things was going so well and I just assumed it was integral to the design for reasons that would be clear later.  I bound off, late one evening, with great satisfaction at nearly finishing one of my projects and with such beautiful results.  I laid it aside with plans for working in ends, sewing buttons and blocking in the morning.  The first email in my inbox that very next morning was a pattern update correcting the button hole placement.  I’m trying not to be bitter.  I would have to rip back well over half the project to correct that one button hole.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay as it is, but oh…it’s going to eat at me.

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costumes for the girls

Life with Miss Mairi Rose is often an adventure.  For months and months she told everyone who would listen that she was going to be a mermaid for Halloween.  After a while I, seasoned parent though I may be, even believed her.  This went on for at least 6 months and I started making plans in the back of my head.  A month before Halloween she woke up one day and announced she was going to be….

a coyote.

So she could play a joke on the neighbors and scare them (in a playful way).

Okay.  I’m flexible.

That lasted for a week or so until she heard of a different, better joke.  One that she could play on a lot of people.  She decided that she was going to tie a rope around her waist with the ends kind of picked apart a bit.  When people guessed what she was she would say, “I’m afraid not!” (a- frayed-knot).  She greatly enjoyed using that line for about a week.

“Guess what I’m going to be for Halloween!”

“Abraham Lincoln?”

“I’m afraid not!” she would glibly reply with great enthusiasm and much emphasis.

Elijah was aghast.  A chance for a homemade costume and that was what she was going with?!?  Several of her siblings tried to talk her out of it, but she stood her ground.  She was being a frayed knot.

One afternoon shortly before Halloween, when no one else was around, she quietly cuddled up to me and in a very little voice said, “Mommy, is it too late to change my costume?”

And so we came full circle, back to a mermaid…

A modest mermaid costume is a tricky thing to pull off.  I made the dress from some cotton velour I had about.  You know how I love my double duty Halloween costumes (Galen got a new pair of winter pants this year) and she is in need of cool weather clothing.

I strung a seashell necklace, she strung a seashell bracelet.  The starfish was needle felted with the beads sewn on after it was formed.  The tulle skirt is supposed to be the ocean.  I’m not sure if that’s clear, especially in pictures since you can’t really see the layered colors and wavy texture too well.

The tail snaps on and off so that the skirt can be used separately.  She’s forever looking for new costumes for the little shows she puts on and I thought it might be useful.

Our littlest love, as you well know, was a lamb. I knitted roving to form the bonnet, needle felting the ears.  The tights (see this tutorial) turned out so adorable and fit so well that I think I’ll have to make several more pairs.  The shape of the body was based on the Sis Boom Carly Baby Bubble, greatly modified to suit our needs.  I made it out of batting.

    She was born right in the midst of lambing season here.  Two of the lambs up the road share her birthday, with the others mostly being a day or two to either side.  For the first few days after she was born she didn’t cry, but made these tiny little bleating noises that made her sound rather like a baby lamb herself.  It seemed fitting.

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Those eyelashes are one of the wonders of the world.  I wish I could say that she gets them from me, but that is without a doubt all her daddy’s doing.  It’s been a rough week for this little one as tooth number four (the first one up top!) made an appearance.  I’ve never had a baby that suffered so with teething.  Though she now has four teeth before some of her siblings even had one, so perhaps it makes sense in a way.  She’s getting so efficient at her funny little scotching crawl, I fear she’ll never be motivated to learn to crawl properly.  Last night she walked herself up into downward dog pose and then grinned up at me, so terribly proud of herself.

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settling in for a long winter’s knit

Through the famously appley wood-smoked season that opens all heart’s doors into kitchen industry and soup on the stove, the signs wink at you from everywhere: sticks of kindling in the fire, long white brushstrokes of snow on the branches, this is the whole world calling you to take up your paired swords against the brace of the oncoming freeze. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Knitting Yarns

I’m currently reading various Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire books to see if and how they might fit into our studies.

The pink leggings, nee tights, are finished.  They didn’t fit right and I had to pull out sections of the legs.  Once the extra length was added in, there wasn’t enough yarn left for feet.  Honestly all I want to do is knit sweet little baby things.  She’s already well into toddler sizes and I feel like my window of baby knitting is rapidly closing.

My yarn came, a jewel box of colors waiting to be explored.  There is the muted variegated yarn in shades of deep autumn, a bright blue, rich red, pure creamy white, pale violet, deep plum and more.  Some of them are smooth and silky, some fuzzy, some a bit scratchy, for one reason or another, I kind of love them all.

I had thought I was in pretty good shape with my gift knitting.  I finished a hat each for Mairi and Galen for Christmas.  Mairi’s birthday sweater is completely done and I’m in the home stretch with Iain’s.  But when Steve and I sat to talk about what we were getting everyone for Christmas, the answer always seemed to be that I would make something.  You know how some people have delusions of grandeur?  Well I have delusions of productivity.  I don’t believe myself to be smarter, more influential or of more significance then others.  I do, however, persistently and with full knowledge of what I’m doing, grossly over-estimate my ability to accomplish things.  You would think the “knowledge of” would cancel out the delusions, but no.  I can give myself a stern talking to about how overly-extravagant and unrealistic my plans are and really just a moment later be thinking, “ooo, perhaps I’ll make this too…”

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costumes for the boys

We made wee pumpkins to package up treats in.  I traced a cake pan to get circles of orange tissue paper and twisted it all up with some green floral tape.  We made a couple of sizes to hold various things.  These are the tiny ones.

Legolas Greenleaf

He bought the wig and pin and sewed, gathered or constructed the rest.  We went to the fabric store and he picked out what he wanted, down to elastic (which he ended up not using) and thread without so much as consulting me.  Back at home and he started cutting and stitching.  I worried a bit about the many things that he might not take into consideration as a novice sewer, but bit my tongue and stayed out of the way and as you can see he clearly had it all well in hand.  The only thing he asked my advice on was the making of the gauntlets.  I talked him through drafting a simple pattern based on his measurements and he executed it perfectly.  I had absolutely no concerns about his ability to make his own accessories (a.k.a. weapons), which he carved and burned designs into.

The Jockey

Holy-moly.  This one almost put me in an early grave.  This boy and his ideas I tell ya!  Whenever I mentioned his costume plans to people, they always commented on how easy it would be, because surely he must have most of the gear already?  Nope.  You see, jockeys do not wear black britches, they wear white.  A plain riding helmet?  Completely unacceptable.  I was handed a sketch, which I then had to transform into a workable, wearable pattern…and then redesign when he opted for an entirely different fabric.  He did all of the sewing himself, down to the hand embroidered horse (amazing right?), with me talking him through each step.  It really was quite the undertaking.  But through it all I kept thinking, how often will I be able to help one of my boys with a dream sewing project?  I mean really now.

And our dear little Robin Hood.

Goodness he’s adorable!  But, eek, don’t tell him I said so!  I would be in an awful lot of trouble you know.  While making his costume, I took the opportunity to start teaching him a bit about using my machine.  While I did the majority of it, he did sew a couple of the straight seams himself.  He was mightily pleased with himself and is pushing for a new project that he can do all on his own.

Iain made the bow, quiver and arrows for him.  Actually he sold them to him for a very reasonable price.  There was a catalog and order form and everything, even a three cent shipping charge for carrying them downstairs.

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Our little lamb and her dear chicken friend on their first Halloween.

Seraphina: da-da-ba-bah-ba-ma-ma

Me (excitedly): Mama?

her (definitively): da-da

Me: Maaa-Maaa…

her (with a huge smile): DA-DA!

Me: Mama???

her: *much laughter*

This week the munchkin girl turned 7 months old.  Two days later she started to crawl…sort of.  She’s got three out of the four limbs involved figured out anyway and she can make it a great distance (you know, for a baby), it’s just not terribly coordinated.  It kind of goes hand, hand, knee…d-r-a-g the other leg, but in rapid succession.

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extreme pumpkin carving

He says it’s tradition.  I maintain that we are intelligent enough and creative enough to come up with better traditions…

I wanted a print of Seraphina’s hand for her baby book.  And I thought if it went well we’d do a print on her pumpkin as well.  Conventional wisdom is to try to get a baby’s hand print while they are sleeping.  I set everything up, down to putting her to sleep on a towel and rolling her sleeve up before she drifted off.  And of course she woke as soon as we attempted it.  squish, squish…green paint ooooozing.  She laughed when we rubbed it off and laughed when we painted more on.  Instead of hand prints, we got grab prints, and one smeared little foot mark.

Last year we grew our own Jack ‘O Lanterns.  This year I prioritized using that space for edibles.  Apparently my children have very expensive taste in pumpkins.  I’m planning on finding room for big pumpkins again next year! (we did grow lots of pie pumpkins this year and they are amazingly delicious)  We saved seeds from these as we carved, some to roast and some to plant.  I think we’ll try growing them around the edges of Sunflower Field.  That’s what we call our wiffle ball field, with the wall of sunflowers marking the edge.

There was so much flesh leftover from these big beasts that I made a batch of pumpkin butter.  We had a few warm nights where we huddled together under sleeping bags on the porch and read bedtime stories by flashlight and the glow of jack o’ lanterns.

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