Monday, June 28, 2010


We recently gave our bathroom a makeover. It was installed when an addition was added to the house in the 1940's and basically hadn't been touched since. It is a small space; suitable for a sink and toilet, and barely one standing adult. It was entirely functional and useful so we didn't touch it, aside from a good cleaning, when we moved in. But when the toilet started leaking a couple weeks ago (no doubt spurred by my little ones' obsession with flushing banana peels) we thought it would be a good time to do a little updating.

We had hoped to upgrade to a water-efficient toilet, but wouldn't you know that historic charm and green technology don't always go hand-in-hand. So we kept the old one, and the old matching sink, and made cosmetic updates instead. New tile flooring, fixtures, a curtain and some artwork all made for a much cheerier space.

I sewed the curtain with fabric from the stash. I originally purchased the fabric last November in hopes of sewing some special Thanksgiving napkins, but never got around to it. Instead of keeping that project on my 'to make' list, I crossed it off and cut into the fabric for a curtain. Just a basic pocket curtain, no lining. But damn did it feel good to sew something again!

I also framed a Nikki McClure print for the wall. I know it's probably not appropriate art for a bathroom, but it makes me smile every time I look at it. And considering how much time I spend in that bathroom with my three little ones (washing hands and faces, hanging swimsuits, cleaning up) that can't be a bad thing, right?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seasonal Change

Photo of sunset at Buckhorn State Park,
taken on a camping trip last weekend.

It arrived later this year than years past, but my attention is shifting again.
[This year I knit through putting in our garden, which is growing beautifully thanks to a professional thinning and weeding by my brother in law!]

Not sure where it is all headed yet, but I need a break from the knitting needles. I'm in the mood for fabric and thread. And more reading.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

FO: EZ's baby surprise jacket v2 - worsted weight

Here is v2 of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. This version is knit in worsted weight yarns and made a much larger jacket than the previous one. I estimate this to be a 2T/3T, as it is just a smidge too small for my 4T-wearing 2.5 y.o. (she sure is taller than her sisters were at her age).

And what a great left-overs project! Much like my zig zag pram blanket, I rounded up misc. balls of worsted weight yarns and cast on for a colorful adventure. I kept my palate in the blue zone, sticking mostly to green, blue and purple yarns. But I took a little hint from my adventures in quilting and threw in one accent color. I used up a bit of a kettle-dyed manos del uruguay yarn - a yarn that was from one of the first hats I ever knit. I am so glad I did - it breaks up the colors just enough to give it some life.

The striping pattern is entirely random - I didn't follow a pattern or sequence. I'm on the hunt for buttons too, but it will have to wait until I have a recipient in mind.

It is quite likely that these balls of yarn would never have seen the light of day again, were it not for my stash challenge. They would have languished in the back of a crate somewhere and unearthed at some point in the distant future. Each ball was too small to do anything with on it's own, each 100% wool, and with new projects (and new yarns) constantly on the horizon I just never would have been interested in being creative with my left-overs. It just wasn't in my knitting nature.

But, designing and knitting this sweater was sort of like what I do when I am faced with a cupboard that is seemingly bare, and there are a mere 30 minutes until dinner. I make do. I get creative. And I fall in love the result. This is a can of tomatoes, with sliced brats, a head of broccoli, garlic, and chickpeas, all poured over pasta, kind of sweater.

The other thing that is cool about this sweater is the construction. You actually knit the whole thing in one semi-flat piece. Then with some strategic folding and seaming along the arms it magically turns into a sweater. Genius I tell you. Genius.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Barter Marketplace - Round 2

Here are the items I have available for barter. If you see something you like e-mail me. Thanks!

Vintage Coin Quilt
The one I make for you will be similar to the one in the photo, but smaller and with different vintage fabrics, depending on what I have in my stash. It is designed as a doll quilt, or wall art. I will include hanging pockets upon request.

Roomy Tote Bag
Fabric/color to be determined.

Homemade Strawberry or Tart Cherry Jam
Made with strawberries from a local farm, or cherries from the tree in our backyard. Jam will be ready after 4th of July and will be shelf stable for 12 mos.

Handknit Headband
One size. Limited selection of colors available. Button closure.

Handknit Earflap Hat
Newborn size only. The red is no longer available, limited selection of other colors.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marketplace barter received!

Look at what arrived in the mail for me last week!! It was a package full of goodies from my barter buddy over at This is Marzipan. In exchange for an earflap hat, she made me a lovely pair of felt baby booties. She also generously included a few other goodies: tea, thrifted yarn, a sachet. And just look at her embroidery! It's perfect in every way. Thank you so much!

Speaking of hand embroidery, I also scored an amazing strawberry tablecloth at a trash-and-treasure sale at our local church. It looks perfect on the backyard table - where we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every chance we get in the summer months.

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If you are interested in participating in a barter check here. I'll be posting my next round of items tomorrow.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In Awe

I am writing this in awe of the amazing comments I received on my last post. What I thought were some general statements - random thoughts I needed to write down because they were present in my mind on that morning - turned out to resonate with so many of you. I appreciate all the support, encouragement, resources and additional thoughts you posted. It is a great conversation, one that I hope we can continue over time.

Almost immediately I went to the nytimes website and downloaded the femivore article. I read it with a fervor that I haven't read anything in a long time. Then I e-mailed it. To my husband. And I started talking about it. With everyone (well, every adult that is) I sat down with for more than 5 minutes. While being appropriately critical, the article also identified a growing movement - among women, mothers, feminists - that is supported by a unique and broad spectrum of people. I fancy that I am on that spectrum somewhere.

And I agree with all of you about choice. I also agree that in exercising choice I have to be careful to not trip over the trope of privilege.

Lastly, there is a statement about consumerism in all of this musing - I think Mary Frances pointed it out most succinctly. I started to feel this tension, as it relates to my knitting, around the beginning of the year. Maybe it was the constant shopping: for food, for the holidays, for three growing girls (and the serious lack of garage sales in Wisconsin in January), or maybe it was simply a recognition of all that I already have. But the decision to not buy yarn for a year has been a small exercise in acknowledging my own self-indulgent conspicuous consumption. The very act of buying, or not, is a part of this for me too.

Now, don't get me wrong. I shop the non-union grocery stores, I sporadically feed my kids non-organic frozen pizza and cheetos, and you will find me mindlessly pushing my cart through the aisles at Target. But we also have a CSA, thrive off our local thrift stores, and I often bake my own bread. So I think that each purchase has to be balanced between necessity, desire and value - whether that be struck in favor of what is the least stressful, the most enjoyable, the most community-focused, or the most economical is up to each of us. Again we return to choice.

I will return to knitting shortly, but wanted to write this post in appreciation of your comments and consideration. At the very least I'm really, really happy to know I am not alone in my thoughts. The photo is of my youngest daughters hand, stained red from picking strawberries yesterday. I imagine it is also my hand outstretched as a welcome to all of you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The olden days, hand-me-downs, and some thoughts

This past weekend DH and I took a long day away. We did a similar trip last summer too - maybe this will be a tradition for us? This year we hit the road and went west, toward the (say it with me...) M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i River.

We made many stops along the way, but our destination was Stonefield, a historic site dedicated to re-creating the agricultural life that dominated southwestern Wisconsin a century and a quarter ago. We mostly explored the rural farming village, wandering in and out of the blacksmith shop, the carpenter/undertaker shop, and the general store. Then, a small shop caught my fancy - the millinery. I loved stepping inside and seeing the fashion of yesteryear. Animal ethics aside, what I wouldn't give to wear a hat with a big feather sticking out the top!! And just check out those hat pins too. I loved looking at all the supplies in the shop, along with the homesteading staples found at the general store. For info. on the history of Clark's Mile End check here.

The following day a neighbor brought over a big box of hand-me-down clothes and inside was a lovely treasure - a hand knit sweater. I promptly asked my neighbor about the sweater, certain that it was in the box by mistake and she would surely want it back. But no, it was actually a hand-me-down to her from a friend and she said her friend didn't even recall where she picked it up.

The individual that made this sweater knew it would be worn by an active child and created it accordingly. The fit is snug, but not restrictive. The yarn is a washable wool. The buttons are securely fastened. Whoever made this also knew a thing or three about sweater construction - the seams and button bands are lovingly perfect. The design details and color are nice too; especially on my purple-loving girls.

Amazing that it should come to us on a cool, breezy summer day - the sweater was immediately worn and loved.

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Some slightly incoherent, dis-jointed, and not necessarily on-point thoughts:

I could wax and wane here about the history of art, the history of craft, the handmade and homesteading. However, I think that in even considering these ideas, and sharing photos, I am saying a lot about what I value from the past and what those actions/ideas/lessons hold for us in the current day.

I don't knit clothes for my family because I have to; because my husband will get frostbite if he doesn't have decent wool stockings. I do it because it brings me joy and a sense of fulfillment. The same holds true in our home for woodworking, gardening, sewing and preserving. So why do we do it? Because the process of doing...making, making do, mending, creating...ties us to the physical process, and resulting tangible goods, from our predecessors. When we make it brings forth their art, which so often doubled as a necessity, and places it centrally in our lives.

Do I live a less 'authentic' life then they did? I think you could make the case that is true. I don't always wear/eat/use the things I create, which means I have time to make things I don't necessarily need. I do these things - the things they needed to do to survive - as a hobby and artistic expression. But that doesn't mean that I honor or enjoy them any less. Indeed, our life is the fuller because of it.

I remember sitting at our dinner table when I was a teenager and my Dad saying things like, "This broccoli [or insert any number of other vegetables here] is from our garden!" I rolled my eyes, smiled awkwardly, totally embarrassed by my Dad's happiness. What I didn't know! How foolish I was! Much to his dismay, I am sure, I am repeating his phrase at our own dinner table now.

Admittedly my contributions are small in comparison but I still can say, "This salad mix is from our garden" and it fills me with a similar sense of joy (pride?). I hope our girls will be spared my teenage ignorance. I hope they will come to value the handmade and handgrown that surrounds them. I hope they will understand that our society didn't spring out of nothing, fully formed, fully wired. That we are who we are because of those that came, struggled, persevered, and created, before us.

And lest I forget to mention it, much of what I enjoy, specifically knitting, has traditionally been termed 'women's work.' The kind of work that for generations has been considered oppressive and isolating, either due to the shear physical labor, or by the hidden and subjugated nature of it, by my academic colleagues.

And as a feminist scholar how to I reconcile the apparent contradiction in what I study and what I enjoy doing? I know there is a new movement underfoot, you can look here, here and here, and I think I am a part of it. But my scholarship and my craft don't intersect on paper or in my pocketbook; I don't write about my craft, nor do I profit from it. But I do both. I write about gender diversity, equity and inclusion, and I knit.

Melissa has also written about feminism and aprons. You can read her thoughts here.