Monday, April 27, 2009

Hidden In The Stitches

I write this bleary eyed, stooped, and feeling a bit puffy. No, I didn't overindulge in the Pinot or have my heart broken last night. I stayed up well past the witching hour to finish a book. I don't often physically read books anymore, I tend to listen to the audio versions so I can knit at the same time. This book, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, called out to me from the dusty shelves. There is lace and a craggy cliff/seascape on the cover, how could I resist judgement based on that? I popped it into the bag alongside my children's weekly haul.

This intricate story weaves around the lives of the Whitney women. There is a bit of everything in this book; thrills, mystery, religious zeal, mental illness, psychic abilities, intuition, centuries of abusive power, and the circle of life. All of these themes wrap and twist, seemingly disjointed and unreliable, but by the end, Barry knits them all together into a gossamer piece of lace that reveals the whole story connected in the patterns. The story can only be known when the single thread that makes the whole is finally bound off. Adding to the historical overlapping the modern arc of the setting of Salem is the coincidence that I am also listening to The Scarlet Letter on Craftlit. I recommend reading both for an interesting study in the layered lives of women.

I've been working on an odd little knit, inspired by this striking example. Worked in garter stitch increasing and then decreasing back to only 4 stitches, the finished result is a crescent shape with a triangular point midway, like a stylized number 3. I am knitting this with a particular person in mind, each stitch mirrors their exhaustive journey up hill and eventually, slowly, down. The lace readers in the book could see the past, present, and future in the lace patterns. I cannot read like those women, but I can knit with the intention of this person's life becoming whole again. I guess you could call this a prayer shawl, but as I am not given to traditional prayer, an intention scarf it is. Each stitch is a step in my life and theirs, an entwining of our days, a map of the need we have for one another right now. Eventually I will bind this off and cut the yarn. This act will signify the end of a mutual journey. Regardless of the outcome of my stitches or their test, the finished object will be a beautiful reminder of the belief in one another to make it to the next moment, stronger, wiser, and a stitch closer to complete.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Invisible Threads

I had hoped that I would be able to find an inspirational quote or passage to accompany this photo. I wanted a simple post, a quick post, an easy greeting for a Monday. I scoured my books and notes, even visited a few pop-up laden quote sites, all to no avail. I found beautiful poems and moving sentences in these places, but all of my efforts left my mind swimming in circles amidst a cacophony of other's words.

A few days ago I went for a walk by the pond, trying to quiet my roiling emotions. I had let the mixture of a lingering head cold and the demands of daily life build up in me to a point that I was mad at everything. Not that I was being unreasonable, but I found myself having to frequently apologize for strong words to the people who needed gentle assurances the most. I was, to put it in harsh terms, being pissy. I felt the kind of angry that subverts good intentions and eats at you all day long.

The sun was just beginning to set; my shadow stretched into the water beside me. I could hear the chorus of ducklings peep-peeping from beyond the bridge. The mother duck never made a sound as her noisy brood turned in wobbly circles, bouncing off one another like fluffy bumper cars. I watched as she would steer them as a whole by subtle shifts in her demeanor causing the ducklings to immediately follow her as if tethered by an invisible thread. Occasionally one curious paddler would stray outside the protective rippling boundary of his mother's wake. She gave him time to explore and patiently waited for the imprint instinct to kick in sending him splashing back to the group. I watched and listened until the sun had slipped behind the hill and the fisherman packed up their boxes. My anger, just a mask of feeling helpless and not in control of the week, subsided. The invisible threads of insecurities disintegrated.

Mother duck reminded me that when I am not in control of a situation the least effective reaction is to stop trusting in my capacity to be quietly present. She knew that duckling would stray but instead of raising a fuss, panicking the rest, and creating an even bigger mess that would take her much longer to fix, she just listened and watched and trusted he would come back around because he needs to know she will be there for him. I saw that instead of trying to fix things that go wrong for the people I love, they need me to simply be there, patiently listening and watching as they swim in circles, testing the boundaries of their own invisible threads.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fabric Trim Hem Tutorial

I was flooded with inquiries about the hem of my pants. Get it? Flooded... ha! Anyway, I did not make these, my generous Aunt Sandra found them while thrifting, but the construction seems pretty easy to accomplish. I am going to give my observations of the process, like a recipe. If one of the fantastic seamstress bloggers amongst you makes a proper tutorial, send me a link to edit into this post. Also, if you create a pair of these hemmed pants drop me an email so I can reciprocate the positive comment goodness. Please refer to my sidebar for fabric shop links.

The hem itself is actually a large panel constructed of a 1.5" width of grosgrain ribbon sewn to a 3" width of cotton fabric. The length will be equal to the circumference of the bottom of the pants leg plus at least a 1/4 of an inch for a seam allowance. You will be sewing through heavy layers so use a heavy duty or denim needle on your machine.

1) Decide where you want the bottom hem of the pants to hit on your leg, remember you will be attaching the fabric hem to the pants fabric itself so you can ultimately turn them up like I do in the first photo. For example, when I wear these uncuffed, the bottom hem of the fabric and jeans combo hits me at the ankle. So if you like this look, trim only enough of the pants off at the bottom to reach to your ankle. The important thing to remove in this process is the thick original hem of the pants.

2) Pin the ribbon to the fabric with a 1/4" allowance of the fabric behind the ribbon. (Fraying won't show) Run a seam straight across the bottom edge of the ribbon to attach these together. Place it around the pants leg to determine where the sides will meet, pin and remove from pants. Stitch this seam closed to form a tube.

3) Turn the pant leg inside out. Position your fabric panel tube so the bottom edge of the fabric (not the ribbon) lines up with the bottom of the pants. The fabric will be wrong side up. Pin in place and sew together with a 1/2" allowance. Turn the fabric tube outward and press the seam flat so you have a crisp edge of about 1/2" of fabric showing on the inside. For those of you who have sewn quilt binding, this should be familiar.

4) Now turn the pants leg right side out. Flip the fabric tube over the bottom of the pants and pin in place. Sew together with another straight seam across the top of the ribbon edge this time. The ribbon gives a stiffness and weight to the upturned cuff that you see in the first photo. Press to sharpen the edges and set the seams.

5) Enjoy your new sassy pants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Moss + Stone Socks

Pattern: my improv of the stitch pattern from the Birthday Cowl
Yarn: Madeline Tosh Hand Dyed Sock in 'lichen'
Needles: US# 1 dpn

In keeping with Project Spectrum's March color green I opted to knit up my much beloved hank of Madeline Tosh rich in greens and grays. The wool reminded me of the mossy stones around my town. The finished result with the pooling and biasing of the stitch pattern is just what I had imagined the socks would be. I do not usually like pooling and will rip and re-knit with adjusted cast on numbers, but these looked so authentically mossy that I couldn't allow my perfectionism to mess with the process. I have declared my love of this yarn before and this experience is no different. I'll be posting more pictures over the next couple of weeks that are chock (or should I rock) full of mossy, watery, stony, grassy goodness.

If you would like to knit this pattern, it is simple and can be carried down the foot as well.
I used a 64 stitch cast on, knit an inch of 2x2 ribbing and then repeated the next two rows to the desired length:
Row 1: *SSK, K4,YO,K2*
Row 2: K all

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April Moon

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
Rainer Maria Rilke

In each of our minds there is a special file for the words, pictures, and memories that make us feel most alive when recalled. I collect faded moons there among poems and quotes that attach themselves to hems of the garment of self. These bits of mental ephemera are like talismans that protect, inspire, remind, and assure. Rilke inhabits quite a large corner of this file. He wrote thousands of long letters and knew that one must surround themselves with loving people, but that nothing was more sacred than solitude. In the last week I've been very busy, happily so, but busy enough to feel like I haven't done one thing completely from beginning to end. No matter how many lines I drew through my list, each accomplishment felt empty. I blame it on that moon up there. What a doozy. I am confident I am not alone in feeling her effects.

The symphony of night was playing softly, the nesting phoebe on the porch rustling on her eggs, the frogs singing arias, the wind chiming the pine cones under the boughs reflected in the moon, and I was awed by it all. Clicking the shutter, I added another moon to my collection. This April moon will always remind me there is solitude to catch your breath and center your heart, even if only for a few moments. Finding it might be harder than you think, but recognizing you're experiencing it is a satisfying accomplishment; one to be savored completely from beginning to end.

Friday, April 3, 2009


It is only 10 am but I am declaring this a weird day. Thunderstorms pushed through yesterday leaving a damp morning here. I filled the bird feeder, assaulted by a bitter wind spicing the air with the aroma of a log fire. I had stepped out of spring and into fall. Very disconcerting. I can't decide if I want to go to the park or hide in the house. This Friday feels emotionally like a Monday. That isn't fair at all. Maybe if I stare long enough at my new print here, I'll get a boost of motivation. Or maybe, I'll just mope around and wonder what I am missing all day. Don't you miss out on printing your own motivation. Generously designed by moleitau to be shared. I turned mine orange in picnik. What color inspires you to create?