For 18 years (and then another 62) we celebrated our birthdays together. Me on May 7 and Grandma on May 8. Some years, like this one, Mother’s Day is also in the mix. Twenty years ago, May 2 became our very own Gotcha Day and thus, with this celebratory triumvirate, John Lac and I continue the long tradition of angel food cake with pink buttercream frosting.
Being part of that generation that took up the mantra to never trust anyone over 30 I had trouble in the weeks leading up to that birthday but Richard (already in his fourth decade) smoothed the rough edges for me. Fifty was fun and 60 even better as I knew retirement was close and within a year I developed a detailed four-year plan outlining major tasks to be accomplished before May 2017. But 70 is being a bit of a mental challenge as I keep wondering how I suddenly got so old. I may just need more pink frosting.
Just in time for FOF, a second Little Gansey designed by Marie Greene is off my needles. This version in a deep blue green is for a new great-great niece born in December. The color gives a blended nod to my favorite color – blue and the second time parents who both love the color green. Knit in size 2-4, to let the little one grow a bit before donning this cotton, silk, bamboo, blend.
Our house was built in 1925 and moved in ‘27. We are only the second family to live here. In the 1980s, as first time home owners, we undertook a myriad of refurbishing projects. Our after work evenings and nearly every weekend were filled with stripping layers and layers of paint from wood trim or removing layers and layers of nicotine infused wallpaper, so saturated that when dampened the room smelled like an old tavern. For a few years, we tolerated ugly orange shag carpet in the former front bedroom, now our TV room, and then put in hours of scraping the black foam backing that had been glued to the maple hardwood floor. (Who glues down carpet, anyway?!?) For years, the re-telling of that year’s remodeling tasks was the biggest story in our Christmas letter. And then the house was finally ours and we were content for two decades. In 2008, we added the screened porch that is our favorite summertime room, a new garage was built in 2012 and a rain garden replaced the old narrow driveway, and our favorite builder performed a major bathroom facelift just as I was retiring in 2017.
Now, after so many quarantine days, we have decided 2022 will be a year of home projects as we replace the last of the single pane, double hung windows, remove the carpet and lay new hardwood floor in the living room, and re-finish the dining room and kitchen parquet. Unlike the 1987 remodeling when a construction manager organized the sub-contractors, these projects feel sufficiently discrete that we will coordinate the work ourselves. Although, as I continue to wait for a call back from the asbestos abatement expert, (damn that 7 foot x 10 foot section of porch linoleum under the living room carpet!) I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of this decision. I hope these blog posts will help keep me sane.
A retirement gift from my friend Amy, I re-read-Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes for this month’s Knit Camp Reads book club. This collection of travelogues necessitated a different type of discussion as we could not rely on old standby questions about character development, unexpected mystery twists, or conflict resolution. Instead, we talked about which chapter or chapters resonated with each of us. Mine were the chapters on New York and Iceland.
My visits to New York have been limited but each trip holds a Cinderella moment – meandering slowly down the grand concourse of the Guggenheim all by myself at 16, the breathtaking view at a top floor reception in the World Trade Center, my first (and only) taste of caviar in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom. As well as remembering that sense of relief when cresting the Hampton hills just north of Zumbrota on my homeward trek after a summer trip and seeing green which washed away the overwhelming vision of nothing by undulating yellow sheet metal racing and then screeching to red light stops.
Unlike the New York chapter where I could draw upon memories of real sounds and smells, Parkes’s description of her Icelandic fiber tour moved into the realm of wishful thinking but Covid dashed hopes. In 2019, I booked a Rowan Tree Travel tour to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands but the 2020 and the 2021 September trips were canceled and I eventually opted out of the April 2022 rescheduled tour. While I recognize Denmark and Iceland are distinct countries with unique cultural differences, they share a Nordic heritage and a deep appreciation of northern clime woolens. I could easily imagine myself with Clara visiting an Icelandic sheep farm just as I had hoped to spend a day in the home of a Faroese fiber artist with Rowan Tree Travel guides Heather and Suzie. I do have one tangible connection to Iceland in the form of four skeins of yarn purchased by Amy (the same person who gifted me this book) when she was in country for a destination wedding; yarn I later knit into a Solène Le Roux Cable Promenade Cowl.
As we slowly emerge from our Covid existence, I take to heart Clara’s advice: “There is a time for sitting at home in your pajamas, watching and clicking and quietly forming connections in your mind. And, there’s a time for getting out and being with others, for reaching into the picture and becoming part of it.“
Not everything is simply knit and purl stitches. Sometimes the fiber arts includes a field trip with friends on a rainy spring day.
After reading Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool by Clara Parkes, I had an ever so slight understanding of the intricate transformation required to place a skein in my hand. Yesterday’s visit to Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Processing in Hastings moved Parkes’s words from paper into real life. Our exploration began in the barn where I handfed corralled alpacas (no spitting allowed.) We ooh-ed and aah-ed the herd of goats and kids and then moved into the plant for a discussion of practical tasks like washing, before viewing the mechanical processes of carding, spinning and plying (all requiring lots of math, as well as physics.) We did eventually reach the shop where, yes, we bought yarn.
And, our fiber adventure was only half-begun as after lunch we visited MUSE2320 Fiber Co. and met Sara, an entrepreneurial color artist extraordinaire with ties to northern Wisconsin. Even though she was in the midst of dyeing hundreds of special order skeins following last week’s Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop, we chatted about color, yarn, the river, and the naming of her shop: muse – a source of inspiration and 2,320 – the approximate length of the Mississippi River. I am enamored of the MUSE2320 palate. This shop will definitely become a regular source of beautiful yarn.
Reminiscent of a walk along the beach collecting shell treasures, Marie Greene describes her latest design as “watercolor-inspired waves opening into shells and scallops”. Using a lovely merino wool and silk blend, TheAquarelle Shawl is my most recent mystery knit along (KAL) project.
Trusting the designer, I cast on in real time with other Knit Campers on April 1 (no fooling) and watched my project evolve without benefit of knowing a final design other than its crescent shape. The pattern was released over two weeks in four mystery clues and revealed shells constructed with yarn drawn over rows of stitches and then mirrored in lace. The long rows of garter stitch, which anchor the decorative design elements, remind me of tides lines lightly scored in water packed sand.
In addition to the fluidity afforded by the silk, the contrasting colors of the two skeins ripple through the fabric alternating between a solid rich teal and a complimentary fingering with ivory, blue and green tones. The colors flow quite like John Lurie’s watercolors on HBO’s Painting with John proving that The Aquarelle Shawl is true to its painting namesake, aquarelle – a “technique of painting in transparent, rather than opaque, watercolours” as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica.
I have fond memories of rhyming verses in Mrs. Miggawa’s third grade class. I wrote a published poem senior year in high school. (Although, to be honest, the small pamphlet printed as part of my Catholic all-girls high school curriculum had a minuscule readership.) And, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Coney Island of the Mind is one of my favorite books. But somewhere between early enjoyment and today, poetry assumed an impenetrable guise. I blame this on too many instructors asking “What does it mean?” then being dissatisfied with my blue book reply when the real question was “What do I believe it means?” and, having missed his, her, their personal interpretation, my exam response messed with my college GPA.
My version of The 100-Day Project with Suleika Jaouad will be to read poetry. It may be a single poem each morning but I want discover (or re-discover) a poet every day. I intend to banish the judgmental “What does it mean?” question from my vocabulary and let the poem simply rest on the page. The poet’s meaning may leap off that page or remain mysteriously obscure, either will be fine.
This time with a nudge from Clare at Clare’s Cosmos, here’s the last photo on my iPhone for this month’s “Last on the Card” challenge from Bushboy Brian without edits. And, just because I am the boss of my blog, a second snap two days later. #The Last Photo
A birthday post from 2020 introduced Knit+ Librarian as a new artistic outlet. In those early Covid days when we were wiping groceries before putting them on the shelves and quarantining the mail for four days before opening letters and bills, I took solace from reading Suleika Jaouad’s posts. She had just launched The Isolation Journals with a goal of kindling “creativity and connection in challenging times.” As someone who only dabbles in writing rather than breathing letters and words, then and now, I stayed on the periphery reading her weekly journaling prompts and writing only sometimes. Like a wallflower in a Julia Quinn ballroom watching the quadrille with curiosity but definitely not joining the dancers.
As Suleika undergoes her second round of treatments for leukemia, her latest inspirational endeavor is The 100-Day Project and she invites participants to incorporate one creative act into daily life, everyday; something small that gives joy but which may also blossom. Suleika will “paint one small, simple thing and call it a day—a flower, a palm frond, or a pillowy cloud.” As I already knit and read each day (Oh the joy of retirement life!), I am still contemplating what creative act I will undertake in solidarity with this courageous artist.
Synopsis – The novel is written from the perspective of parallel protagonists whose stories intertwine on a Pacific Northwest island – Mei Lein in the late 19th century and Inara in present day. While undertaking the restoration of an island cottage, Inara discovers a long hidden, intricately embroidered silk sleeve. As she explores its meaning, she discovers a hidden secret within her own family surrounding an unspeakable act which draws a full circle. Through Mei Lein’s voice we hear about her life in frontier Seattle, how she survived genocidal atrocities performed by Inara’s ancestors without repercussions under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and her life on a small, secluded farm during which time she artistically depicted her story through thousands and thousands of hand stitches, one silk stitch at a time so her son might know his ancestors.
This debut novel by Kelli Estes was the most recent title discussed with my library loving, book reading, wine-drinking group of retired friends dubbed The Directors. We felt it was a “readable” book although we each agreed that Mei Lein’s story was the more believable. Our next title has yet to be chosen but we are leaning toward non-fiction with a bit of oomph.