Pearls slipping off a string.

I had a dentist appointment today, and I decided to make a day of it and get a sub. As I confided to a friend recently, I’ve been hiding in a sad little hole. “Time to peep out,” she said.

Indeed.

Maybe I do have a touch of seasonal affective disorder. (No diagnosis like a self-diagnosis.) But winter has been dragging me down.

Maybe it’s not the weather or the season, but rather other things that accompany this time of year. Second term—my school system operates on trimesters, of all things—is notoriously challenging: snow days that take away from instructional time, holiday breaks that repeatedly make students (and teachers) forget what it’s like to be on a routine, flu outbreaks, and just general dreariness and weariness on top of it all.

(I don’t know how I would survive third term if it weren’t springtime.)

And most bleak winters aren’t made bleaker by a series of school shootings and rumblings of weaponizing school staff.

But now that it’s almost March, there budding trees, blooming flowers, greening pastures.

And there is Anne Shirley.

I have, more than once, shut off my phone screen to silence that infuriating world of Facebook to replace it with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea.

I listened to the original Anne of Green Gables a few years ago on Librivox. I’ve watched Anne with an “E” on Netflix. And now I own the Anneof Green Gables box set, and like little Paul Irving, I’m absorbed in a book of fairy tales.

That’s what it feels like.

I know Anne’s mind imagines the world in such a more fantastical way than the more sensible around her see, but even plain ol’ Avonlea seems like a dream to me.

Sometimes it angers me that the reason Anne, her friends, and the people of her village are all a-fluster is a building that’s been mistakenly painted blue instead of green. Don’t they know there are far more tragical things in this world over which to become distraught?!

But then again, it is nice to escape to Anne’s one-room school house where the children aren’t in fear of being gunned down and the most this schoolma’am has to do to protect her students is speak to them with both firmness and kindness.

This makes me both happy and sad. But a least there is happiness to be had there.

And here, as I sit by my own Lake of Shining Waters at the city park knitting, reading, writing this, and sipping what amounts to a free coffee from the local shop. The man on the bench across the lake just caught himself a big ol’ fish. There is a breeze. Muted sunshine. Twittering small birds. Honking geese.

Just a happy day.

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Challenge.

I’m sort of superstitious about goals. Resolutions. Challenges.

Setting them, declaring them, participating in them almost always ends in disappointment.

I guess it’s all a choice: deciding to try something and deciding to feel like a failure when I don’t embody an arbitrary idea of success.

But still, I tweeted this.

Did I build in enough loopholes? I think I did.

During our recent snow-in, I bought this book on an emergency trip to the grocery store—obviously to buy pears—and promptly made the blingy little magnetic bookmark to go with it.

I’ve set a 52-book goal in Goodreads for 2018, one book a week. I don’t think I’ve ever read that much in my life, but so far I’m doing okay, thanks to abridged audiobooks of Sue Grafton’s alphabet detective series.

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  • B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
  • Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun
  • The Wonderling by Mira Bartók

(I highly recommend Jonny’s touching graphic book and his Twitter feed.)

I started listening to C is for Corpse, but when I finished weaving Sissy’s birthday scarf, I left off and never went back.

I’m not sure I can stick it out all the way through Y, but Kinsey Milhone is a narrator I’m willing to revisit.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is my current read. This will be at least the second—if not third—time I’ve read this one. I can never remember anything about it except that it’s good.

The yarn for Sissy’s scarf (Lion Brand’s Shawl-in-a-Ball in Namaste) is the yarn I’ve already bought this year, but I’m looking forward to getting intimate with my yarn stash.

For now, I’m working on a cowl.

The yarn was clearance at Sheepskein’s in Newburgh, Indiana—and purchased in December, for the record! It is Araucanía Aysén. The stitch is called Little Tents, something I found in Barbara Walker’s first stitch treasury.

For now, I’m quite happy with reading from my shelves and yarning from my stash.

New, again.

IMG_3370The gap between Christmas and the new year is always an interesting time. It is the lull after all the frantic holiday preparations—despite attempts at serenity—and before things return to “normal” with a whole new calendar.IMG_3299I like it…IMG_3442…mainly because school is still out, but the stress of the holidays is subsiding. But also, as I imagine most people do, I find it a time of both reflection and looking forward.IMG_3320Looking back on 2017, it is hard for me to put a finger on any one thing, any one feeling or event that defined it. I started out bitter and angry, and from that, this blog was born. Then in the spring, I found renewal and energy. I reacquainted myself with dyeing fiber and opened the Etsy shop. I introduced myself to embroidery. I worked almost maniacally churning out fiber goods, and then, the school year started.IMG_3360Being a teacher this year has been a whirlwind. During the first half of this calendar year—the second half of last school year—I became detached from the workday, which had become an existential drain on my psyche. That was a positive move. But when the new school year came around, I allowed it to require so much more of me. Yes, it was by choice. I began the year not detached, but invested. I went all in. And once you go all in with anything, backing off isn’t easy. And once you go all in with teaching, there is very little time for anything else.fullsizeoutput_183bSo the creativity and making—that which defined my springtime recovery—all but ceased.IMG_3361I did read a few books. These three very different ones come to mind: Stephen King’s IT, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, and Lindy West’s Shrill.IMG_3279Also, I did a little making in the form of these hats and mittens to donate.

(I know the hats are mostly not identifiable as such. I barely took progress pictures, much less ones of the final product.)IMG_3252IMG_3276IMG_2554fullsizeoutput_1839IMG_3388And then, when Christmas break snuck up on me, I threw myself into handmade Christmas presents.IMG_3414Felted coasters for my sister.fullsizeoutput_181bfullsizeoutput_181cHandwarmers for several.fullsizeoutput_1823fullsizeoutput_1818Woven scarf for my littlest niece.fullsizeoutput_1825fullsizeoutput_1824fullsizeoutput_181aCrocheted hats for my dad and brother-in-law.fullsizeoutput_180eCoffee cozies for my mom.fullsizeoutput_1802fullsizeoutput_1808fullsizeoutput_180cJumbo knitted blanket for my husband.fullsizeoutput_1863.jpegThen I found a new fun thing to do: LEGOS!fullsizeoutput_1812IMG_3519fullsizeoutput_180bAnd lastly, I’m going to try keeping a bullet journal in the new year. I’ve enjoyed setting it up over the past few days.fullsizeoutput_1811fullsizeoutput_180fIMG_3525See you in the new year!

The deep end.

Kinda went off into the arts & crafts deep end today, but I came up with—among many, many other things—these gorgeous embroidery books.

I’m all 😍😍😍 over here.

What Delilah Did Presents Secret Garden Embroidery

Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery by Trish Burr

Stitch-opedia by Helen Winthorpe Kendrick

Moonlighting.

Confession: I was worried that, after spring break’s total immersion of fibery fun, I wouldn’t be able to incorporate all that play into my regular work day. Yesterday was my first day back to work, and y’all? No worries.

I came home and hit it hard.

First, I braided up the two color studies I did on Sunday.

When I dyed the one on the left, I was looking for a color I could call “mint.” I know there isn’t a ton of variety across the braid, but I think I found what I was looking for. I was literally mixing and matching colors until I had six subtly different shades, which I then used to dye the top


The second braid was a little less what I expected. I was looking for pink, which I more or less found, but I ended up with more in the way of soft purples. When I was mixing the dye, it looked like I was getting a lot of pale red instead of pink (which I feel is somehow different) , and on a whim, I put some blue in. I know. Red + blue = purple. But I thought I liked what I was seeing, so I went with it. A little too capriciously, I added a dab of blue to all the jars—and got this.

There is pink in there. On the whole, this reminds me of the redbuds that are in bloom now. (Dogwoods have started peeking out, too. Have you noticed?)

I know that I could test these colors on smaller samples of wool—or hell, coffee filters—but I do like making a whole “colorway” out of it. Who knows? I might find a combination worth repeating!

After I braided those up, I grabbed the blending board and tried out the new finishing brush that came in the mail yesterday. As vicious as that brush looks, it’s the blending board that bit me hard and made me bleed a little bit. Ouch.

I put bits of luxury fibers like camel and tussah silk in there, along with wild strips of colorful merino and a base of natural, undyed merino. These fun little blending experiments are going into a bag until I get about four ounces of them, and then I’ll spin ’em up. I may get extra crazy and try some art-yarn spinning techniques.

I know. It’s insanity!

Speaking of spinning, I finally finished spinning the sienna-colored colonial, readying it to ply with the fiery Hunk a Burning Love merino/tencel.

I started plying those together tonight, and it’s taking forever. I’m trying my best to over-ply them a bit, but try as I may, I come closer to under-plying.

Anyway, I’ll let that yarn have its own post.

My point here is that I’m getting off to a groovy start with maintaining my fiber mojo when school is in session. (Even though I had to miss knit night at Maria’s studio tonight. We procrastinators finally filed our taxes.) With only six weeks of school left until summer, I think I will be able to ride this wave out to the end of the year. And then it’ll be summer-summer-summertime.

I know that I won’t be able to knock out three projects every single school night. I’m flying high on fiber fumes right now, but it’s good just knowing that I can remember to enjoy things.

As I spun up the last of that colonial, I picked up with listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, hence the quote I posted last night. It’s another audiobook I’ve been sipping on in small doses (like Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, which I finished at long last). The crazy thing about Big Magic, which is about allowing yourself to live a creative life, is that when I listened to it thinking about writing as my creative outlet, it made me a little anxious. But now, when I hear EG speak on creativity, I think of the pure joyfulness that comes from playing with colorful, fluffy wool. Or from tinkering with sticks and string, as Dale calls it.

I’m not saying that my writing days are over. (Obviously they are not, because here I am.) But EG talks about loving your craft and your craft loving you back. With writing, it is so often a love-hate relationship with me. There’s something about wool, though. I just love it—the look, the feel, even the sheepy smell. Does it love me back? The softness, the warmth, the explosions of color? Well, they all seem to point in one direction.

Frog, Toad, Wheel, and Willows.

If I angle my camping chair so I am facing just the right way, I can pretend I’m in a lovely park somewhere.


But alas, I am home. Camped out on the carport, I spent most of yesterday afternoon reading, and it was such a nice thing that I have dragged the chair and my bag back out here. Today, though, it is blustery, which is nice for drying my wet hair and freshly painted toenails, but I’m afraid it won’t be comfortable out here for long. I think it is supposed to rain soon.

The grass is the way I like it: full meadowy personality before the first mow. Birds are calling to one another. When I got home on Friday afternoon, I watched two male cardinals pursue a female in the branches of the foremost tree in the above picture. Yesterday, I watched robins hopping along in the grass. Just now, a bluejay landed on a tree’s limb back near the ditch, which I’d much rather think of as a creek.

I didn’t knit or spin at all yesterday. Instead, I finally finished reading The Wind in the Willows, which I started—as I seemingly do every spring—on Saturday morning over a late breakfast.


I never seem to get past the beginning of the third chapter. I tend to lose interest after Mole wanders from his hole, meets the Water Rat, and goes for his first boating expedition on the river. That first chapter is such poetry.


So much so that I can’t help but read it out loud,  as I did the passage:

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. (“The River Bank”)

I, like Mole trotting eagerly and enrapt along the river, want to hear more and more of this tale as Kenneth Grahame spins it so beautifully. But once Toad is introduced, I always lose interest. This time, however, I vowed to read on and on until the final page.

That’s how I ended up on the carport yesterday.


And sometime around 9:30 last night, I reached that final page. Now, I can say I have actually read all of The Wind in the Willows in honesty, but while I’m being honest, I would have been content to have just stuck with those first few chapters.

The story, which begins so quaintly with the adorable Mole, becomes centered around the foolish and conceited Toad, his obsession with Bigger-Better-Faster, his lies, and his kleptomania. More than once, I closed the book in my lap and shook my head at how much the boastful Toad reminded me of our current president.

“Ho, ho!” he said to himself as he marched along with his chin in the air, “what a clever Toad I am! There is surely no animal equal to me for cleverness in the whole world!” … “Ho, ho! I am The Toad, the handsome, the popular, the successful Toad!” (“The Further Adventures of Toad”)

On several occasions, he declares, “I always come out on top!”

Of course, this story is in many ways about Toad’s repeated downfall after his recurring pride, but I would much rather have more of Mole and Rat.

Another thing I noticed: This book doesn’t come anywhere close to passing the Bechdel test. There isn’t a single female—human or critter—even mentioned for the first eighty pages, until finally two little hedgehogs, whom we see for a few pages and then never again, reference their mother. Later, there are three human characters that are women: the jailer’s daughter*, the washerwoman, and the barge-woman. Toad encounters all three, and they are all a combination of a few of the following traits: old, ugly, fat, deceitful, or rude. At one point, Rat scolds Toad for having been tossed into the river, “by a woman, too!”

I’m truly not trying to tear this book, beloved by many, to pieces, but isn’t it odd that none of the main characters—a menagerie of woodland creatures-—are female?

Anyway.

A few fibery updates:


We finally bought a new battery for the scale. When I last weighed the remainder of the Frog Prince yarn at Maria’s, I had exactly two ounces left of the total four. I do believe when I finish this current repeat of Firebolt, I will begin the ruffles. Next time you see the shawl, I promise: there will be ruffles!

In spinning news, the brown-and-white BFL is coming along.


The Matchless began to squeak a little on Friday, so I oiled it a bit. It’s back to spinning beautifully.

I don’t have plans for this yarn, other than to make it into a neat little barberpoled two-ply. As far as knitting or crochet, I have no idea. There is nothing in the world but time for it to tell me what it wants to be.

*Grahame uses the British gaol, meaning jail. I had no clue what gaoler meant the whole time I was reading it, but I figured it was something like a guard. Then later, either Rat or Badger refers to Toad as a gaol-bird, and suddenly, I realized what was going on. I pulled up my Dictionary.com app, and behold

Of Firebolt and Offred.

I have just finished listening to the audiobook of The Handmaid’s Tale. Meanwhile, Firebolt grows.

As the Audible credits played, I worked on the tenth repeat of “broomsticks” in the pattern.


I was on a wrong-side row.

Something the narrator says in Chapter 45 resonated strongly within me. It is the last “regular” chapter of the novel, and Offred has just learned some unsettling news. Her own fate is soon to be questioned. At a figurative and almost literal crossroads, she grounds herself through breathing:

I breathe in, deeply, breathe out, giving myself oxygen. The space in front of me blackens, then clears. I can see my way.

I had to pause and rewind the audio. (Rewind. Isn’t that funny and so outdated? I guess reverse would be a better word. Truly: I tapped the counterclockwise arrow to skip backward thirty seconds.) I listened again. Giving myself oxygen. Breathing as a gift.

Suddenly, I became aware of my own breathing. With each breath, I give myself the gift of oxygen. I was reminded of the times when I have used deep breathing and meditation to calm and center me. Space does go black, and then the way before me does seem at least a little clearer.

Breathing in, breathing out.

Of course, I had to backtrack the audio again, as I was lost in my own thoughts.

Giving myself the gifts of oxygen and knitting, I listened through to the end of the novel. The main story ended unexpectedly soon because I saw there were more than thirty minutes left, and I was on Chapter 45 of 46. But Chapter 46 was really “Historical Notes,” which confused me at first because I was thinking this was an appendix to the novel, but I quickly realized that it, too, was fictional and part of the story.

To those of you who have not read The Handmaid’s Tale, I apologize for the following and will do my best not to put any spoilers here.

Those of you who have read it: Do you remember this sort of epilogue at the end?

I’m curious what others think about it. I am sure there have been—somewhat ironically—scholarly papers written about it, but I haven’t had the chance to look into those yet. For the most part, I am disappointed by its inclusion. I am not sure it has added anything that I might not have thought of on my own—with the exception of the Commander speculation, but I’m not sure I care. The rest of it, I could have figured out or speculated for myself. It almost seems as if Atwood doesn’t trust her audience enough to draw these conclusions ourselves. Am I missing something? The only purposesI can think of so far is that—minor spoiler alert!—she wants to make sure we know that the “Gilead regime” ends and is a thing of the past.

Still, I think the novel could have ended more solidly with Offred’s last line of narration.

That being said, The Handmaid’s Tale will likely rank pretty highly among novels I have read. It is difficult to say that I liked it because the entire listening experience was an uncomfortable one, and I assume the reading experience would be the same, though I believe Claire Dane’s performance added a fitting complexity to the text.

This story is one that I won’t soon forget, especially not now in our rapidly changing and politically-charged environment. It only deepens the chills down my spine when I see or hear Make American Great Again.  

In case it isn’t clear: I very much recommend Atwood’s novel. But it isn’t for the faint of heart or for anyone who is looking for a pleasant escape. It is, however, for those who worry—or troublingly, even moreso for those who don’t worry—about the direction our country has taken recently.

As for the knitting, I don’t think I am anywhere close to done with this shawl.

It began with one “broomstick” motif, and with each pattern repeat, there are three more in the row. Now, there are twenty-eight broomy triangles in the repeat I am on now.


Once I finished the novel, I decided it was time to upgrade the cable length for the circular needles. I could no longer spread the stitches out to see the whole thing in an uncramped stated. I think it was on a 24-inch cable.


I dug through my nest of interchangeable cables and found one that is suitable. I have no idea how long it is, but I know it’s long enough—for now.


As I slipped the stitches from the shorter cable to the longer, I couldn’t help but count them. Three hundred fifty-one. That didn’t seem right, so I checked the pattern and did the math. Yep, for the selvedge and edging plus twenty-eight repeats of the motif for that particular pattern row: 351 stitches.

Most rows are longer than the one before, considering there are yarnovers separating the three-stitch garter edging from the body of the shawl. However, there are some rows that contract the length with two- and three- stitch decreases. I don’t pretend to understand how this all works. (I mean, math. Duh.) But I am impressed by it.

Sooner or later, I will transition to the third phase of the pattern, which has ruffles. I know ruffles can double and triple the stitch count, so I need to be mindful of my remaining yardage. On someone’s Ravelry project page, I think I read that this part took 17% of the total yarn. Yikes.

Perhaps I need to introduce a scale into this process.

I am not a precision sort of person, but I would really hate to have to tink or frog because I just continued knitting in blissful ignorance.

•••

I think I will wait a while before watching the film of The Handmaid’s Tale. (Okay, like a day or two.) I don’t want my perception and processing of the book to be entirely erased by the movie, but I am also dying to see it interpreted on screen. Plus, I would like to be able to talk about it with the Husband, who I hope will watch it with me.