Archive for November, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all safe travels, delicious food, and good company…

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Momma, wake up! Winter is here!

Too early this morning, a sweet little bird of a voice exclaimed the arrival of winter. In my foggy slumber, I envisioned a light dusting of powdery diamond snow adorning the trees with glitter. Hardly. Instead, what we found was somewhere between 2 and 4 inches of pure cotton softness (organic, no doubt) blanketing our entire world. Out of nowhere! Taking us completely by surprise! Begging the question, “Do we even have boots that fit?!”

We’re likely among the few who’ve been taken by surprise – I imagine that anyone watching weather forecasts saw it coming. We’d neither seen nor heard nor thought about the existence of those forecasts lately, hence our surprise.

It is the blanket that I’ve been prophesying to Isadora. The blanket that will cover the gardens and plants and allow for a long winter rest, all tucked in and cozy. One and a half weeks ago, we set out in what I imagined would be the absolute last opportunity to tuck some garlic into this bed before the inevitable slumber.

The garden, if you’re liberal-minded enough to call it that, was a rather tangled mess of overgrown weeds and ditched efforts to establish order. The prospect of planting garlic amidst the chaos was one that required a full tank of energy. Energy – it’s a commodity that’s been completely consumed in the gestation of a baby, leaving little left for the previously-gestated little one, much less a menial task like gardening. But there was this garlic, and it was the fall, and garlic should really be planted in the fall, if there’s any hope at all of starting off next season’s garden on the right foot. Also, it was Grandma’s garlic, dug with care for me, with the implicit trust that I would plant it. Opportunities came and went, temps soared, guilt settled in. Then, one day in the midst of November, the stars aligned and we set out to create this bed of garlic.

And the timing was perfect. The air was crisp enough to welcome the body heat that accompanies undoing an entire season of prolific weed development. The soil was rich and inviting and not yet too cold. The Garden Weasel, shown above, was held in a new regard.

An auspicious spot was chosen to bed the garlic – a shorter row, so as not to overestimate the unusual abundance of energy. It was also the spot that successfully raised an abundance of carrots and parsnips, which accounted for the bulk of our garden success this year. We found that we had missed some carrots in our last harvest – luckily, the Carrot Boss was on hand to stow them safely until they made it into the house.

Regardless of what next year’s garden becomes, there will be garlic. A whole bed of Grandma’s garlic to keep the vampires, the sniffles, and tasteless meals at bay for months. It is indeed a hopeful start to the garden season.

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Have bag. Will knit. Must knit. Now.

And here it is, the completed, felted bag I’ve been working feverishly on for only about a week. That’s certainly a personal record for me, at least in the felted bag category, beating out the only other contestant by a good year or so. You may remember the bottom and middle stripes from their previous position: lodged between my big baby belly and some pugs.

There’s something about that big belly and the magic that it pumps through my veins that’s turned me into a knitting fiend. All I want to do lately is knit. All the time. Our morning vigils of Sesame Street have become infinitely more enjoyable for me now, with wool in hand, coffee on standby. And having been raised on a healthy diet of the Green Bay Packers, I’m ensured of a good 3 hour slot of knitting every Sunday. It was during the last installment, in fact, that this bag was finished. And there are plenty more stolen opportunities peppered throughout my week, which I’ve snatched up greedily, lending to the feverish pace with which I started and finished this bag which so captivated my attention. No small feat – that attention’s rather flighty.

After pulling it out of the washer and dryer to inspect the progress of the felting, I found it to be a wee bit sluggish. The lovely triangular shape that had drawn me to the pattern was all but lost in its poor posture, so I cut a piece of foam core to fit in the bottom and then sewed a sleeve over it to finish it off. Incidentally, the yellow plaid I used on that sleeve and on a zipper pouch to go with was part of the collection of old rags that I inherited from a family stash. Originally a dress, it was in rags when I got it and must be pleased now, I imagine, in its latest incarnation.

I think I would have felted it a bit more, had our water been turned on. Andrew had turned it off to work on a grueling plumbing project, drawing attention, once again, to the luxury that is running water in the house. In times like these, I’m forced to be thankful for the easy, carefree presence of that water that is so accessible at every other moment but the present. Accessible and handy for those little things, like washing hands in the bathroom, cleaning up potty accidents on child and floor, cooking an emergency hot dog and…oh yes…further felting a knitted bag that barely made it off the needles before racing to the washer. A pre-Thanksgiving meditation, perhaps.

And now I’m off to fill the bag with more wool. Will it be the so-soft-I-can-hardly-stand-it pale pink waiting to be spun into a hat for me or the wow-that’s-a-vibrant-color-and-so-soft red that will make its way into a Christmas hat (and maybe scarf too!) for Isadora? Anyone’s guess who will win that fight.

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Even the Boogeyman fears Chuck Norris.

It’s high time I dedicate a post to the latest resident of Five Green Acres.

Ladies and Gentlemen: There’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Chuck Norris.

He took over as Head of the Chicken Harem shortly after the passing of Dapper Dan, transferring from his post at a friend’s local coop to our humble congregation. The transition was smooth, albeit not without the requisite get-to-know-ya period for all of us. We approached each other with a modicum of caution, carefully circling the perimeter of each other’s personal space, trying to establish some mutual respect. After about a week, Andrew realized that his name could only be Chuck Norris. It was one of those realizations that hits you smack in the jaw, so blatantly obvious that it goes almost unseen. Of course his name is Chuck Norris. chuck-norris-400ds06201

For one, he’s not exactly a Spring Chicken. In the later part of his prime, he’s demonstrated himself as seasoned, calculated, and not quick to overreact. He’s red. He’s a good leader, with excellent communication skills and the ability to mobilize his flock. He’s gentle and kind. A nice guy, in fact, unless you pose a threat to his Ladies. This is where he shines, of course, transforming from Mr. Niceguy into Sheriff. He fights with his feet, his spurs, in a form of martial arts known as Ass-Kicking.

Thems fightin spurs!

Them's fightin' spurs!

And perhaps the most compelling fact of all: Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

We learned this and all sorts of other things about him from the website Chuck Norris Facts. Go ahead – arm yourself with the facts.

So we’re all sleeping a bit easier around here with him on the job. And waking easier too, with his early morning calls for justice.

Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.

Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.

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A warm belly and some wool.

We’ve been spending most of our mornings of late just like this…

…greeting the drop in the temperature with a nod and nestling ourselves between some wool and a warm place…

…casting on new projects with abandon, laughing at the memory (now faint) of the stifling knitting monogamy that no longer rules the creative process.

With plenty of company, I’ve started yet another project I didn’t know I needed to make. Thinking myself quite satisfied with four projects in the works, I spotted this aqua wool on the store shelf and lost myself completely. The outside world receded to a faint drone as I became immersed in the Carribean Sea’s likeness, spun into wool. So vibrantly beautiful, but abrasive as wool sometimes is, it could only be manifested into something not worn on the skin. Which leaves, of course, a felted bag. A knitting project bag to hold even more small works-in-progress. Flanked by colors on adjacent shelves, it would be striped. Perfect.

I’m now reminded of my studies in Florence, of Michaelangelo, and of the remarkable belief he held as he worked on his sculptures that each piece of marble already contained within it the finished design; his job was to merely recognize it and set it free. Of course, it’s entirely absurd to draw a comparison between the genius of Michaelangelo and the (not so innovative) decision to make a striped felted bag, but it was a little bit like that, in a less-spiritual, not-at-all-genius sort of way. Recognizing fully that knitting a simple bag from a free store pattern is not at all like transforming a slab of Carerra marble into a sculptural form so pure and celestial that those who witness it are often brought to tears. Even if I had to use a calculator to convert the gauge of the pattern to that of my yarn.

But the sculpture in progress in that belly? Maybe.

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Flannel Nightgown, please. Hold the ruffle.

Despite the last week’s record-high temps, (70s! In Wisconsin! In November!) the promise of cooler days is lurking around the bend. Today’s chilly rain and grey demeanor are further reassurance that I’ve spent my free time of the past week appropriately, sewing not one, but four flannel nightgowns for Miss Isadora. Think old-timey, ruffled, sleeping-cap-and-candlestick-bedecked, old lady nightgowns, and you’re right on the money.

Born partly out of necessity, partly out of perceived motherly duty, I thought it time for Isadora to enter the rite of passage for little girls known as The Flannel Nightgown. Shell-shocked by the whopping combo of a big, old house and the lightning-fast speed at which propane flies through the furnace, we’ve learned to keep the thermostat set at a cool 63 degrees. During the day. At night, it barely hovers above 50. Flannel is warm. Goose down might have been a more appropriate choice (picture that!) but she does get 1 pug to sleep with in our new-age version of heating the brick by the fire and slipping it into the sheets for a toasty bed.

Why make four of them? Well, making only 1 seems like inefficient use of time; two would take only slightly longer, employing an assembly-line process, which I’m a fan of. Four though, is necessary given our laundry impediment. Sometimes clothes stay trapped for weeks on end in the impenetrable laundry cycle and I find myself powerless to break the force field. Usually it’s in the Folded, Waiting to be Put Away stage that they become frozen in time and space, often rendered invisible to our human range of vision. Our only coping mechanism, it seems, is to have a healthy supply of the necessities. Anyone else experience this strange phenomenon in their house? Perhaps we’re located on an unusual magnetic field…

The flannel is nothing special; we picked it up at Joann’s in a hurry, trying to make the best of an assortment of cutesy designs. The pattern is Simplicity 3586. Turns out you can also make them without the candlestick, which was a relief.

pattern-3586I omitted the bottom ruffle on this first one that I finished, and it’s quite long enough. With glee, I found some soft fringe in my stash that finished the hem nicely and also happens to be Isadora’s favorite part.

Some revelations on the project:

Four really is a lot to make of the same thing at the same time. I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you possess a super-human attention span. Mine is more akin to the crow….ooh! Sparklies over there!

I still have 3 to finish up. Yesterday’s laundry emergency required a clean pajama option, so I ditched the assembly line to finish the first one. It was a real emergency this time, not some “laundry stuck in time and space phenomenon” scapegoat to excuse my poor upkeep. The washer had spun itself into oblivion yesterday, so I may be doing lots of sewing until it gets repaired….anyone have a good underwear pattern? Hee hee.

Another note, should you find yourself sewing lots of sleeves, big or little:

this little sleeve board was worth its weight in gold, even at today’s going rates.

So the sewing machine is in “standby” mode these days, ever ready to be put into service, with projects lined up like enthusiastic voters – around the corner with a looooooong wait. Truth be told, they’re facing some stiff competition from the knitting sector and the rainbow of wool and other fibers that have marched their way in here over the past few weeks. On the recommendation of so many, I’ve entered the world of Ravelry and have been taken prisoner.

But that’s a story for another day.

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We be harboring Pirates, Matey!

Drop your sword.

We’ve a pirate recipe to share with ye.

Ingredients

1 Women’s Corduroy Jacket, size 1X, 1980’s style, complete with Michael Jackson “Thriller” style shoulders

1 baby size romper, in purple velour (not pictured)

Magic sewing kit: scissors, sewing machine, pins, a bit of courage

Pirate Gear: hook, sword, eye patch, ratty black wig, skeleton fabric for head scarf

Red and white striped tights from Momma’s personal stash

Instructions

Velour romper: Cut top half off, reserve the ruffles and scraps for later. Make simple casing at the new waist, add elastic, sew. Pirate Bloomers: done.

Jacket: Fit on the pirate subject. Pin, cut, sew.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

(Best done with subject wearing Pirate Bloomers)

From scraps of jacket, fashion a fancy pirate ruffle for jacket waist.

In the same spirit of flamboyant pirate style, fashion some ruffle sleeves.

Add ruffles from velour romper to front of jacket. Fashion a skull and crossbones applique from remaining romper scraps for an unmistakable show of Pirate allegiance.

Garnish with remaining ingredients.

Set out to surrounding neighborhoods to plunder sugary loot.

Chef’s note: While this is my first commission from a pirate, it has ultimately been the biggest, most dramatic garment reconstruction ever attempted (and completed!). It will no doubt open the door to commissions from other professions, which adds some job security. Pirates are a shifty sort.

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