Tag Archives: winter

Where We’ve Been

Lately, we’ve been reading ALL the bad news.

I have been crying for all the sweet babies and other human beings in peril and deprivation.

I have been writing all of the angry letters to politicians and leaving all of the broken-voice messages with their staff.

We’ve been washing every handkerchief in the house probably once a week.

Each of us has had a whole day, minimum, when we just couldn’t do it.  Couldn’t get up, couldn’t wake up, couldn’t be brought to bear with the day’s work.

We’ve been running low on the resources that keep us from yelling and pushing and fighting among ourselves.

We’ve been eating ALL the comfort food: starchy, creamy, cheesy, oh yes.

Robert has been listening to people say they’re scared to come to school.

Robert and I have been sitting up until dawn, talking.  Angry.  Scared.  Sad.

I have been quoting The New Colossus and warning people that this is the moment.  This.  Is.  The.  Moment.  in which they can choose to collaborate with evil or use their privilege to agitate for what’s right.

Mostly, though, what we’ve been doing– what, I think, we’ve ALL been doing for the past few weeks, is turning to everyone we meet, holding up what we loved about our lives in this country, and saying “Fix it.”

When Númenor was a toddler, he would bring things to me and plaintively lisp out “Broken.  Fix it?”

That’s where we all are right now.

It’s broken.

Fix it?

Someone?

Please?

At least tell us where to start.

What glue do you buy to put families divided by immigration policy back together?

What stitch can we use to patch up our hopes for the future?

How would you break down dismantling the imbalance of power between the traditional checks and balances into easy weekend projects?

Which infomercial tells me about the space-age no-mess solution for getting back what little transparency and accountability our government had?

How can we restore life, re-build places of worship, un-do what just happened?

Ultimately, a society isn’t a toy, and no amount of clever clamping and wood glue will fix a government that’s cracked through.

But still we stand here, outraged and unbelieving, sad and furious and on the verge of a toddler tantrum, demanding that someone fix it.

 

That’s where we’ve been.

I think we might be here for a while yet.  And that’s okay.  But it won’t be forever.  Someday, we will find the way forward.  We’ll land on the methods of resistance that work best.  We’ll find a strategy, and identify a first step, and then another, and another.  We’ll crawl back to the light.

In the meantime, people may be a little quiet and a little fragile, me included.

So take good care of yourselves, folks.  And watch out for each other– sometimes people lack the good sense to come in out of the rain.

Spiced Citrus Beard and Scalp Oil

This luxurious blend of oils encourages healthy, supple hair and skin, supports new hair growth, and helps fight dry, itchy winter scalp.

  • 4g argan oil
  • 5g castor oil
  • 7g sweet almond oil
  • 8g extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 drops cedar essential oil
  • 6 drops bergamot essential oil*
  • 5 drops tangerine essential oil*
  • 3 drops frankincense essential oil

*citrus oils can cause photo-sensitivity, so please substitute these for another favorite essential oil (rosemary, sandalwood, or lavender would be nice) if your intended recipient will be getting a lot of sun

Weigh the carrier oils into a small bottle with a dropper top.  Drop in the essential oils, cap, and shake.

To use: apply a few drops (2-4) to the face at the roots of the beard or crown of the head and use fingertips to massage in a circular motion.  Best used immediately after a shower.

Too Much Jam

I have this heady fantasy that someday, while I’m browsing the shelves of a used book store, I will happen across an old, stained, turn-of-the-20th-century book with a title like “Too much of a good thing: how to use up an excess of anything.”

This fantastical book will have chapter titles like “What to make with too much ________” and “How to use up extra _______” where the blanks are filled in with those things I usually don’t have enough of, but sometimes manage to be totally buried in.  Things like milk, and little scraps of leather, and decorative rivets, and palm-sized bits of cotton calico, and those temptingly sturdy boxes fancy chocolates come in, and jam.

Yes, jam.

Right now, I have a scraping of raspberry preserves, a scraping of quince paste, two and a half jars of quince jelly, and about 3/4 of a jar of huckleberry compote all clamoring for my attention in the fridge.  And we *just* managed to use up a pint of strawberry jam, after I shamelessly instructed Ithilien to scrape out the last spoonful and eat it straight.  I know how this happened: we were out of jam at the end of the summer, so I bought a jar of raspberry preserves on special.  Then I borrowed some strawberry freezer jam from my parents to make Ithilien’s birthday cake.  Then I found a forgotten pint of quince paste from last time at the bottom of our canning jar stack.  Then we canned our quince jelly for this year, and had an awkward half-jar leftover, plus two jars that didn’t seal.  Then my dad got some huckleberry compote for Christmas that wasn’t sweet enough for his taste and I volunteered to take it home because, for real, who wouldn’t accept free huckleberry jam?

And here we are.

So I’m spending my new year making homemade Pop Tarts and Jammie Dodgers in the desperate attempt to turn the preserves that we use sparingly at breakfasts and on the occasional PB&J into things we can eat up right away without any particular effort.

Which I suppose bodes well for our new year, because an embarrassment of riches is an auspicious way to start anything, right?

Happy (and sweet and sticky) 2017 to you and yours!  May this year be as kind to us all as possible.

Cozy Like a Fox

A hot water bottle cover!  I made mine in classic red, for 16th-century warmth (did you know that Europeans believed that red cloth was warmer than other colors of cloth?), although a steely gray fox would be just as cozy.

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This cuddly guy is worked in the round from top opening to tip of the tail.  Legs are picked up and knit in the round from the body, but the head is knit separately in the round and sewn on once complete.

Materials:

  • about 125 yards of bulky yarn in red (I used Cascade Eco+ in 8511, Red/Valentine)
  • small amount of bulky yarn in black or dark brown (I used Cascade Ecological Wool in Ebony)
  • very small amount of bulky yarn in white or cream (I used Knit Picks Cadena in Natural)
  • stuffing (I used natural wool)
  • US 10 circulars, 16″
  • US 9 DPNs

Pattern:

Using size 9 needles and red yarn, CO 44 stitches.  Join in the round.

For the ribbed cuff:

Work k2, p2 ribbing for 3.25″

*k1, kfb* around (66 sts)

For the body:

Switch to size 10 needles and work in stockinette (knit all sts) for 10.5″

*k2tog* around (33 sts)

knit one round

switch to size 9 needles

*k2tog* to last st, k1 (17 sts)

*k2tog* 4 times, k1, *k2tog* 4 times (9 sts)

*k2tog* until only 4 sts remain.

For the tail:

*kfb* around (8 sts)

knit 3 rounds

*kfb* around (16 sts)

knit 3 rounds

switch to white yarn

knit 1 round

*k3, kfb* around (20sts)

knit 2 rounds

*k2tog* around (10 sts)

stuff the tail until plump but squishy with the stuffing of your choice, remembering to add an extra knob of stuffing if you’re using wool or another stuffing that is prone to compacting over time

knit 1 round

*k1, k2tog* 4 times, k1 (6 sts)

knit 1 round

*k2tog* around (3 sts)

Break yarn and thread through remaining stitches, pulling to cinch closed.  Secure the yarn end firmly.

For the legs:

Put your water bottle in your cover and mark the four “corners” of the cover with waste yarn or removable stitch markers.

At one of your corners, use size 9 needles to pick up 16 sts.

Using black/brown yarn, knit these sts in the round for 2.5″

Stuff the resulting tube until plump but squishy.

Divide stitches evenly between two needles and graft together (you can also use a three-needle BO if you prefer).

Repeat at the other 3 corners.

For the head:

The head is worked from the ears down.  Ears begin as I-cords.

Using brown/black yarn and size 9 DPNs, cast on 2 sts.

kfb, k1 (3 sts) do not turn

kfb, kfb, k1 (5 sts) do not turn

knit one row, do not turn

*kfb* to last st, k1 (9 sts) do not turn

knit one row, dividing sts evenly between DPNs to begin knitting in the round.

*kfb* to last st, k1 (17 sts)

knit two rows

Divide sts between 2 needles.

Repeat from I-cord start for second ear.

Using red yarn, knit across the front of one ear, CO 2 sts, knit across the front of the second ear, knit across the back of the second ear, CO2 sts, and knit across the back of the first ear.  (38 sts).

Place marker after 19 sts.

knit 2 rows

k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (34 sts)

k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain before marker, ssk, k2, k2, k2tog, k until 4 sts remain, ssk, k2 (30 sts)

k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain before marker, ssk, k3, k3, k2tog, k until 5 sts remain, ssk, k3 (26 sts)

k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain before marker, ssk, k4, k4, k2tog, k until 6 sts remain, ssk, k4 (22 sts)

knit one round

k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain before marker, ssk, k1, k1, k2tog, k until 3 sts remain, ssk, k1 (18sts)

Repeat this row 2 more times (10 sts).

Stuff head more firmly than you did the limbs, but leave some squishy-ness.

Leaving a generous tail, break yarn and attach black/brown yarn.

*k2tog* around (5 sts)

k2tog, k1, k2tog (3 sts)

Break yarn and pull through remaining stitches to cinch.

Finishing:

With a yarn needle, embroider two French knot eyes on the decrease ridge on your fox’s face.

Using your red yarn tail, sew the head securely to the topmost rows of the stockinette section of your cover.

Secure and weave in all yarn ends.

Fill with hot water, snuggle and be cozy!

 

 

 

Baby’s Oversocks

NB: Pictures are still in the works for this project.  Please excuse the plain text in the meantime!


 

I was browsing an archive of local historical photos of Native people recently and was struck by the way small children were dressed.

Babies old enough to be photographed alone, without a cradleboard, but still not of walking age were almost universally wearing some kind of soft leather boot or a knitted sock over all the other layers on their feet and legs.

This is a sensible garment, of course, because the cold draft that can sneak up into the gap between a baby’s socks and their pants is no joke, especially when baby is being worn in a carrier or riding in a carseat or stroller.  Wool, which is difficult to soak and does not become clammy when wet, will help deflect any damp from fog, rain, or snow.

So I thought I would make some oversocks, for a sweet little end-of-winter baby arriving any day now.

These are extremely simple, in an allover 2×2 rib for elasticity and reversibility.  One size should fit all infants from newborn to walking age– the cuffs may be folded down if they seem too long on tiny newbie limbs.  If you live somewhere very cold, you could make two pairs, one to be used as oversocks and one to be used as overmittens, and then you would have a toasty baby indeed!

Sizing:

I ended up with tubes about 1.5″ wide (unstretched), 9″+ in circumference when stretched, and 9″ long.  They fit my 0-3months size doll pretty well, going all the way up to the mid-thigh, and I think they should fit most babies birth to walking age.

Materials:

Pattern:

CO 40 sts, join in the round.

k2p2 around for 8.5″

k2p2tog (30sts)

k2p1 around

k2togp1 (20sts)

k1p1 around

k2tog around (10 sts)

Break yarn and draw it through all remaining sts (I like to do this twice for security), cinch to close.

Weave in yarn ends.

Repeat all instructions to make second sock.

Realism

It’s not my strong suit, especially when it comes to expectations for myself and my creative works.

I like to aim high and be profoundly disappointed in myself when I am, inevitably, not capable of being some unholy amalgam of Ma Ingalls, Maria Montessori, and the Yarn Harlot.

I’ve been watching the weeks tick by with shocking speed and looking at the dwindling but still ambitious nesting list and getting more and more frustrated with myself for not inventing a Time Turner and spending all my doubled days knitting and sewing and deep-cleaning the house.

And that is CRAZY.

So, in the interests of realism, here’s the list of things from the nesting list that I would most like to finish in the remaining time before the baby comes.  I’ve allotted myself one project per week until Christmas, because I know that there will be other things (like gift making for the extended family and baking bread and playing with my children) that will crop up as I try to go about my business.

Top-Priority Nesting List for the Next Six Weeks

  • nursing pillow cover— I have a new, experimental nursing pillow.  I designed it myself after years of struggling with commercially-available options that were either awkward to use, impossible to fit around a pregnant belly, or simply not tall enough for me.  But it needs a water-resistant cover because babies are leaky and it is filled with buckwheat hulls.
  • winter boots for Númenor and Ithilien— For years, we were devotees of Stonz booties, but my children have now outgrown their XL size, and I wasn’t very impressed with the redesigned versions anyway.  So this winter, they need new boots for snow and slush purposes.
  • winter bear bunting– This is one of the things that I added to the nesting list in a panic about having a newborn in the depths of winter and not being able to simply withdraw from the outside world like I did when Ithilien was born.  Babies need warmth!
  • dyeing for my petticoats and the faux Victorian gown– Simply put, dyework is NOT something I’m going to be able to do with a newborn in tow.  Whether I actually get these projects sewn up and finished is another issue, but the dyeing at least needs to be done before the baby comes.
  • Balmoral bootikins– I’m not sure what size these will turn out to be, so it’s important to finish them before the baby outgrows newborn-size things.
  • crib– This is truly the centerpiece of the baby’s space.  Baby clothes will be stored in baskets underneath it, the mobile may need to be re-positioned over it, wall décor will need to move around to accommodate it, and I haven’t quite figured out how or whether I’ll be able to put a dust ruffle on it.  So much depends on having it finished that it’s really not optional.

I may not be posting much as I try to get these things finished, since some of them are sure to take more than a week and I might be interrupted at any moment.

But I’m out there, somewhere, wishing I knew the charms and incantations necessary to be in two places at once.

WIP Wednesday

natural linen baby tunics piled up waiting for elasticstart date: 20 September 2015
time elapsed: 3 days
completeness: 98%

Among knitters, there’s a term for starting one project immediately after the end of the last one.  It’s called “binding off to cast on”.  That’s what my life has been like for the past several weeks as I look at the calendar and the nesting list and start to feel a little wave of panic rising in my chest.

I finished Númenor’s coat late one night, and cut out pieces of these shirts the next day.  I finished the last shirt this afternoon, and cut pieces for Númenor’s hoodie before dinner.  Back to back to back to back.

natural linen baby tunic in progress with sewing tools

In the pro column, I sure am productive these days!  In the con column, I’m feeling the strain.  And somehow every Wednesday seems to find me actively binding off to cast on, and therefore not really having a WIP to post about.  (Un)luckily, I have also outstripped my own ability to stock supplies, so I get to share these sweet little tunics while I wait for the elastic I need to finish them off.

Having had a springtime homecoming with Númenor (he was born in the winter but, as a preemie, didn’t leave the NICU until spring), most of our basics are for warmer-weather babies, and these will bridge the gap by providing an insulating underlayer for t-shirts and vests and sundresses and pinafores.

I’ve really enjoyed feeling the crisp linen in my hands as I worked.  There’s something about that fiber, especially in this undyed, unbleached state, that is ponderous with tradition, that hearkens back to earlier times and simpler needs and brings the primacy of preparing for a new baby into sharp relief.

sewing tools in the windowsill at sunset

I could have just three months left now before the baby comes.  And there are still a lot of things that must be done, which is a strange phenomenon when little babies (especially those with older siblings) have such basic needs.

Maybe it’s the basic-ness of the needs that I find so worrying: what if the baby isn’t warm enough, clean enough, dry enough, safe enough, snuggled enough, welcomed enough?

Maybe that’s why my head is so full of bees trying to ensure that everything is ready: while the baby’s needs are simple and few, they are critical.

pieces of new DIY hoodie piled up and ready for assembling/sewing to start

I’m trying to remember that just because it’s critical that the baby is warm doesn’t mean that it’s critical that I finish any particular blanket or piece of clothing.  We have plenty of warmth here already in hugs, and blankets, and a busy kitchen.  We have plenty of cleanliness, too, and, perhaps more importantly, not too much, either.  We have ways to get dry, even if I never re-hem that new hooded towel.  We are safe.  We can snuggle.

And I don’t think I’ve ever truly doubted that we would welcome this new life among us.


 

The fabric in the shirts is an unbleached handkerchief-weight linen I was given as a gift; if you’re looking for something similar, try this.  The pattern is a long-sleeved, tunic-length adaptation of Abby’s infant peasant dress, which I highly recommend, although I can’t speak to the construction tutorial because I’ve used my own techniques.  I have attached the sleeves to the bodice with a French seam and the sides are Elizabethan seams, for maximum durability.  The gray fabric in the pile at Ithilien’s feet is a seconds-quality cut of a long-discontinued organic sweatshirt knit from Organic Cotton Plus.  If you’re looking for something similar, try this.

January

This is a tough month for me.  I’ve heard people say that February is the hardest month of the year, but I really enjoy the brief and holiday-packed whirl through those four weeks.  January, though…January is hard.

It’s a long month of gray and white.

Winter is here, but the magical sparkle has worn off.  It’s far too early to wish for spring, but too late to be glad it’s winter.

After a busy Advent and frenzied holiday crafting season, there’s not much to do that really inspires me– I’m left with the mending, with its constant needling whine in the background, and the usual grind of household goods and foods and cold-weather supplies.

I tend to spend most of January in pseudo-hibernation under a blanket in a corner of my house, watching mediocre horror movies and eating chocolate-covered almonds.

It’s not until pretty late in the month– usually this third week, after Númenor’s birthday– that I start to regain my balance.

I’m rejoicing this week in some simple little gifts of these quiet winter days.  I can find joy in our little flock of pullets, who are just starting to contribute to the larder: two warm, honey-colored eggs every day.  I can find joy in finally making some new clothing for myself, and the serendipity of a newly-drafted pattern that fits perfectly on the first try.  I can find joy in watching Númenor learn what it is to be five years old and being grateful for his health, strength, and amazing growth.  I can find joy in planning for the growing season to come– matching the seeds we’ve saved to the space we have, and wondering if we might build raised beds this spring.

And I can bide my time until February.