I use this site to post random bits of information about my life and to experiment with WordPress so I can help others learn to use it.

Bearly Making It

When I discovered this pattern, I knew I had to try it. My stash revealed a partial ball of brown yarn, so I went to work.
knitted teddy bear

Then in a recent clean-out I discovered a notebook filled with yarn color samples from decades ago. The company is no longer in business. This relic needed to go. The samples were not glued but rather looped through a punched hole with the ends pulled through. There were pages and pages of them. I decided to free them so I could recycle the card stock they were attached to. Then an IDEA struck me! I could recycle the yarn samples too by stuffing them into the bear.
stuffing a leg with yarn scraps

When the bear awakes from hibernation, I am sure it will find a happy home.

One fun project!

A Case for the Blues

Who could live without their blue jeans? But what about that blue? Indigo blue has been around for a more than two thousand years. But we still use it–a lot. Today I dyed some of my (white) handspun yarn with this beautiful ancient dye.

To extract the indigo from plants is not a simple process. It takes some chemistry that the ancients figured out and we now replicate with modern chemicals. Mainly we use synthetic indigo instead of the natural indigo that has been around for centuries. But natural indigo is still produced in many parts of the world.

In my trip to Guatemala and El Salvador in 2007 I visited an indigo plantation in El Salvador. It has survived, but barely, for several generations. You can read the story of Grace and her family and the road she has traveled to keep her heritage alive. In the pictures you can see the three huge cement vats used to process and extract the indigo from the plants. What a pleasure it was to be on that hillside looking out to the Pacific on a warm moonlit evening and to feel part of an ancient tradition.

Today I was not the only one using the indigo vat. Other members of Fiber Artisans, who meet once a month, use it regularly. It is a vat that has been kept “alive” for at least twenty years with additions of appropriate chemicals and a warm enough temperature to keep it “alive”.

 

For many years indigo good were prized. Indigo was expensive to produce. True denim is made by having two threads cross over one. So only the blue threads in the weft (the threads that go crosswise in a fabric) were blue. The other threads were less expensive white threads. This is why many jeans are much lighter on the inside than on the outside. It kept costs down by only having to dye the-thirds of the thread. So wear your blue jeans with a new pride. They  have a proud heritage and represent a great link to the past.

Box of Saratoga Chocolates

‘Tis the Season

I was recently asked a compelling question about an upcoming feast for family and friends. “Are you going to give us (please do!) some direction about gift-giving at this shindig?”

Ah, the gift dilemma!

The holiday season is here once again. It involves Christmas, birthdays, and the ever-present expectation that everything will be perfect. Here are my thoughts (and my husband asked me to say he shares them).

A little history:

In my family, in my childhood, Christmas involved giving gifts to children. Adults did not exchange gifts. Both my parents were raised from an early age by single widowed mothers. Money was tight but no one thought they were “poor”. It was a gift for them to be able to do something special for their children. Despite their circumstances at least one of my grandmothers, if not both, tithed and gave money to the poor.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression and learned to fend for themselves. My father attended the university by working nights as a janitor at the telephone company and joining the National Guard. My mother had no chance of going to college (nor did any of her three brothers) until two of her high school teachers, single sisters who lived together, paid her way. When my parents married, they immediately started saving so their children could someday attend college and have a good life.

My brother and I grew up having a carefree childhood. We did not want for anything, but learned we could not necessarily have everything we wanted right then and there. We lived in Iowa where there were lakes and ponds that froze over in the winter where people could ice skate. I had a pair of black hockey skates that had come into my life somehow so I could skate with my friends. (I was not a natural.) But I wanted a pair of white figure skates like some of my friends had. My wish was not granted, and I was gently reminded that  worldly goods were not the most important thing in life and friends don’t judge friends by the color of their skates. It was a good lesson.

Later I was married in the same town where both my future husband and I had lived most of our lives. Our parents knew many of the people in the town. My hope was to have a small wedding. I planned to make my own dress, a short one I could possibly wear later. This was not to be. So I borrowed a dress from a friend who had married the year before. Many people from the town who I knew only slightly attended. I particularly remember receiving a gift from a woman who I thought of as rich. It was a square cut-glass candy dish with a lid on a pedestal with red glass trim. I am sure it was expensive. I was at a loss with what to do with it as it did not fit my personality or lifestyle at all. I am sure it gave her pleasure to give it to us. It lived on a shelf in my parents’ basement for several years until I found the courage to give it away. For my second wedding, I had a chance to make my own dress.

Fast forward to the present:

I have an abundance of riches, with the perfect amount of food, clothing and shelter. There are many that do not. For me the best gift would be for everyone to have a life with an abundance of riches, whatever that might mean to them. I know that giving gifts is a joy. A gift to others is the best gift for me. So if someone wishes to give me a gift, it can take the form of giving a donation to organizations that help others.

I am not a shopper. My gift to others is a donation to their favorite nonprofit or money that they can use to acquire anything that gives them joy. I do not wish to guess what that is. If I give a donation in their honor, I get a tax deduction; but if I give them the cash with which they can make a donation, they get the tax deduction and it becomes a double gift.

Occasionally I happen on an idea for something that someone would like. I will joyfully buy it as a gift. (Saratoga Chocolates comes to mind.) They are beautiful, delicious, and support a local woman who personally makes them by hand in the village. I am not against gifts, but I personally want them to give joy to both the giver and the receiver.

A long answer to a short question.

 

photo of a rifle

Guns

This is about freedom–freedom to live without terror when you go to school, or when you go to a theater, or when you run or walk through the streets of a city or town. I am usually willing to keep my personal views to myself without trying to foist them on others. Until now. This is not political.

Who are we that sit and weep quietly by our TV screens when some other person’s child gets gunned down? We who pray that we are not shot for what we do when we leave our houses? We who live in fear of those who are lost and lashing out? It is time for us to do something to help both ourselves and them.

I grew up knowing about guns and what they can do. My father fought in a war. When I was six or seven I found a gun buried in a drawer in our basement. It was wrapped and hidden. I knew I was not supposed to find this and never told anyone about my discovery. I was terrified.

As a young high school teacher in Iowa, I had another encounter with the horror guns can wreak. In a water polo incident at the school where I was teaching, a student felt he had been kneed by another student while in the pool. The next day he brought a gun to school and shot that player while he was taking a shower in the locker room. The victim was paralyzed for life.

When my father reached his 80s and became unable to care of himself, that gun I discovered in my youth, which was from WWII, was found by my husband in my parent’s garage. When he showed it to my father, my father no longer had enough strength to pull the trigger. It was turned over by my mother to the local sheriff. My father discovered this and was agitated. We believe that not only was it a souvenir from his past, but it also was his solace and comfort in being able to take his own life if he needed to.

Guns can destroy lives in many ways.

My husband belonged to a rifle club when he was in high school. For many years, while we have lived in the mountains, we have had a rifle in the closet. It was secured with a trigger lock. Twice it was used with buckshot to shoot rattlesnakes that were close to the house. My husband decided to turn in our rifle to the local police department after the Columbine shooting.

Guns have long been accepted as being part of American life.

Why?

The infrequent rattlesnake leaves on its own. My father was no longer able to pull the trigger on his pistol. We are not hunters nor do we live in fear that we needed a gun for protection. Police now feel they must use guns to kill those who in the past could have been subdued by other means.

I can no longer keep silent.

I am not advocating an all or nothing policy, but I do believe the time is long overdue to take a hard look and get real. Enough! Let true freedom ring.