Reader-Inspired

I decided to take the time this evening to see why your blogs seemed to stop. I enjoyed them so very much. I sent you a note for information on the Tom Scott piece and you kindly answered so knitting that now. I have been taking care of things here as my 30-ish son had a heart transplant and thus lives here now with me forever. I have not had time for much else. I am heart broken because I now know why you have not done your fine blog now.I am so very sorry for your loss and hope you have managed to find a life without him.

What a kind message I received and what a motivation to get back to writing!

I have been struggling getting thought into words.  This is the longest I have gone without a blog post since beginning my website some 5 – 6 years, ago.  I don’t think it is necessarily that I am busier than I have ever been as I’m a girl who has always had a full plate.  I don’t think it is all the extra tasks I’ve had to take on running a household as one.  And, I have had knitting in my hands which typically inspires my writing.  I think it is just that thing they call writer’s block.  I’ll attempt getting back into blogosphere by sharing some recent goings-on.  In no particular order:

An impromptu presentation at the Buffalo Knitting Guild with my projects made from remnant stash

Habitat for Humanity activities and purchase (to support the cause)

Habitat for Humanity celebrates its 300 house at in the city of Buffalo at 42 Wende St., as well as welcome the Hissu family to their brand new, four-bedroom home, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. New owner, Awal Hissu is on the front steps of his home. He’ll be moving in with his five-year-old daughter Sumyen Ominew, videotapes all those at the ceremony. He put in 450 hours of labor on other habitat houses and then 50 hours on his own. This is part of the agreement for habitat home owners. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

I joined a running club

participated in activities with family

was shown fishing from boat side

took a trip or two to NYC for training with the Rochester cohort (6 week employment gig)

went to see Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin at the Blanton Museum with family

hung out with some pretty terrific neighbors

and got a hair cut.

Then there was this little house project.

Knitting, you might be wondering?  This Missoni, I call it Me-ssoni is beginning to take shape!

Highlights, Yes, there were some

The ending to this year was no different than the personal devastation I endured throughout this horrific year of 2017.  Bitter cold temperatures and wind prohibited the otherwise planned trip to be with family this holiday season.

aborted plane after waiting 2 days due to cancellation of original flight

It was to be that I was to spend this holiday alone.  As we all know, holidays are designed for family.  Period.  When you find yourself alone, you realize that more than ever (and a lesson to keep in your heart to help others who you realize are alone during a holiday season).  However, with a bit of perseverance (because I’m that way), do-over planning, and creative thinking, I have come to realize there were actually some highlights to this holiday season of which I am most appreciative.  Here are a few and may help you if ever . . .

Childhood ornaments ~ I did put up a Christmas tree.  Full size from floor to ceiling.  Preferring a real tree but knowing the handling aspects, the artificial had to suffice.  Having long passed along our family’s handmade ornaments, in conversation with my Mother, she offered the myriad of boxes of ornaments she had stashed in her attic, literally a plethora of vintage glass adornments from my childhood.  Boxes and boxes found themselves in my hand and eventually on my tree. This season, when I looked at the beautiful lit tree, Christmas memories of my childhood surfaced rather than the loneliness I was feeling.

Christmas cookie baking ~ Simply said, I made sure to participate in the annual Christmas cookie baking I had set up years, ago with family.  Even though I didn’t feel the spirit, something about the act of kneading dough is quite therapeutic.  The cookies turned out great and it was satisfying seeing the very happy faces of the others.

Volunteer Appreciation Dinner ~ Traveling with the crew of ladies I work with at Habitat for Humanity, dressing up so the men could see we do indeed clean up nicely, it was a lovely evening getting to know more personally those who are teaching me ‘construction’.

Birthday Dinner ~ Temperatures frigid, a beautiful winter scene, I was treated to a birthday dinner from Mom.  With lovely seating and a beautiful view, it was nice to return to a restaurant of ‘yesteryear’ (neither one of us had been there in years) and to a dinner that was warm to the heart and tasty to the tummy.

Dog Walking/Activities with Neighbor(s) ~ Every day walking the dog, taking in the fresh air is a pick me up no med could provide.  And, to be escorted by the neighbor who is just that kind of nice person is a special treat of comfort, kindness, and companionship.

shoveling snow into the air. Why? ’cause the dogs loved it.

Back on Treadmill/Orangetheory ~ Back on the treadmill, again of course, I will need time to rebuild the endurance and training I have lost, but how happy it feels to also be back in class at the local fitness studio (and please, no one look at my data).  I felt bonds of friendship I did not even realize were there until the warm welcome I received upon my return.

Race ~ Well, let’s just say, it was on my radar that day.  Wind chill in the negatives did indeed scare me away.

A Few Finished Garments ~ Believe it or not, even knitting requires endurance. I have turned (temporarily) to smaller projects, pictured here, again hoping to build my endurance of concentration and focus to the longer, more tedious projects I am used to.   I don’t have photos yet of the easy, fashion garments recently finished, but they are beautiful and ready for the wear whenever I am ready to wear them.

for charity

crocheted basket for projects

New Furniture ~ Yep, a fresh start needs a pick-me-up in the furniture department.  Mostly, the living room and bedrooms received the new pieces (area rug not in, yet).  Modern looks, clean lines, and neutral colors fill spaces otherwise filled with memories of recent loss of life.

Fix-its ~ Mostly, learning how.  Keeping water level where it needs to be for proper steam to warm the house, sump pump adjustments, endless plumbing understandings, door(s) removal, paint and staining here and there, becoming familiar with garage and its advantages, ~ all in a home owner’s day in a life.  But, it is feeling very different with the responsibility falling solely on me.

Making New Friends ~ Here is my new mantra.  It’s ok to make new friends.  Female and male.  Purposely going out even when it is dark and cold, signing up for activities never done before, getting together with friends of the past  and friends just met, finding and going to new places to dine trying out new foods (Octopus salad for me the other night), allowing myself to feel the companionship, warmth, and life of another is ok.

Was it a great holiday season?  No, not by a long shot.  Do I have living alone all figured out?  Hardly.  Do I feel guilty about simple pleasures, smiling, and enjoying life, again?  You betcha.  In reflection, these activities and purposeful moves helped me to cope with this holiday season.  I know I have a long road of recovery ahead of me.  I figure with healthy, intentional steps with awareness of the positives, this is an avenue that can lead me back into the game of life.

 

 

The Cardinal

Fly, fly said the mother
listing, fluttering
giving everything she had
One day, the wind at her back
off she flew.

Soaring slowly
at first
finding her way
nature as her compass
happily living her life.

Sensed danger
things not right
fearful,
fragile and unknowing
the worst was yet to come.

It happened.
off guard
unguarded
guardedly
not knowing where to turn.

Oh, a gathering
of love.
Unable to receive,
hawk talons mighty
like prison bars.

The sky turned
ever so slowly
the mist overhead
the cardinal was able
to catch a breath.

Fly, fly said the mother
listing, fluttering
giving everything she had
she is flying again
taking on new terrain.

A bit tentative
a bit wiser,
wanting to return
however realizing
it is to a new world.

Change

Who is he?

What does he know?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

While habits unfamiliar, we find our way

Each day different, “one day at a time”, we say.

like the crystals in a kaleidoscope,

one turn and the reaction

unfolds.

Silence from others, busily living as the world turns

we carry on

In case you were wondering, he is sweet and tender

as always, during this complicated

time.

Lizzie’s Love Letter

a re-homing letter from one who could not speak for herself . . .

To My New Family ~

I came into this world from a litter of 9. Summer is my canine Mom and Bono, my Dad. (The formal papers are attached). We were born in Cindy’s house. Ribbons of different colors were placed on my sibs and me, so we could be identified by name. Maybe, also to tell us apart as I do remember my sisters looking a lot like me. Summer was very patient with the 9 of us feeding from her and we thought nothing of kicking, pushing, and pulling each other before, during, and after Mom’s meals. When the door bell rang, Summer would jump up to gleefully answer the call sending us reeling into the air.

At about 8 – 12 weeks, cannot quite remember, I noticed people coming to visit. And, it seemed like when they left there was 1 less of us pups. It was at this time a couple came saying they wanted to adopt a yellow female. Cindy gathered my yellow sisters and me and we romped about to impress hoping to be the pick. I heard the visiting woman say she wanted a pup who might appreciate all kinds of tactile attention (otherwise known as loving) and Cindy pointed to me!

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My Sister

Today was my sister’s Memorial.  It brought family and friends together, Even friends from our childhood and colleagues from the past attended..  Sweet music, a quiet ambiance, and an Irish poem filled the air with remembrance of Emmy.  I wrote and recited this poem.

My Sister

As a toddler, I was told she was special.
Special? What does that mean?
I thought she was just like me.

So, of course as a child does,
I gave her dirty looks,
stuck my tongue out at her,
pulled her hair,
hit her over the head,
and ate candy out of her toys.

She was my older sister,
my only sibling, then.
Isn’t that what you did?

During our childhood years, Emmy
went away.
In those days,
it seemed the course of action.
Went to live somewhere else.

I didn’t ask too many questions comforted that our parents were visiting her.

Why did she leave us? I wondered . . .
but not enough to ask.

I didn’t think so much about my sister.

Emmy was coming home!
Change was in the air.
School for her like school for me
What was so special about that?

I found myself pondering,

What was different about her?
What was she trying to say?
Did she like me?
What was her favorite toy, color, food?

Inquisitive of her nature
my questions grew
Is that what they meant by saying Emmy was special?
In ways we sometimes
do not understand?

Emmy as inspiration,
I set out for some answers.
Spending time with her
in activities,
choosing teaching as a career.

In adulthood,
my sister once again
relocated permanently to a place she called “camp”.
“I like camp”, she would say.
A home, her home
One we felt might meet her needs.
friends aplenty
activities abound
She became part of a new family,
We so hoped she would be happy.

Now in reflection,
I ask myself,
What have I learned?

We are all special in one way
or another
Emmy, perhaps more . . .

Emmy was:

Someone who offered us life lessons that an entire Nation could learn.

Someone who challenged us, at times, to our wits end.

Someone who knew a language all her own,
and asked us to figure it out.

Someone who knew what she wanted and when she wanted it
even if it didn’t make sense the way we thought it should.

Yes, I finally knew what they meant.
Emmy WAS special.

Traveling through the years I’ve learned something else found right here
within my own heart.

To me, what matters most.

I know that I loved my sister.
And, truly what matters more than that?

 

We loved her smile.

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First Year Goal Check

Here I am, first year of retirement is in the books!  And, as my goal-oriented personality is reminding me, it is time to check in to see how I’ve done with the annual goals I set forth for myself.  The purpose of checking in is to see if these goals are still relevant and of interest.  Remember, in retirement each of us  is in control of our own destiny.  I will ask myself if I need to change any of them for the upcoming year, make any of them more challenging or less ambitious.  Have I put them into action?  If so, I will ask, “how is it going” and if not, I will ask myself “why not?”  Basically this is a review of where I am now in my thoughts, feelings, and well-being.  Another way to put it is, it is an effort to be the best me I can be.  There is no sense in posting goals if you don’t take the time to reflect, another reason why I am giving this some attention.  I will re-post my goals from a year ago and below each section, in pink, write a synopsis of success, failure, and thoughts.

Here is the blog post of goals and the how research I did to get them.  And, I DID say that knitting was only PART of the plan.  I broke my life into 4 categories:

PHYSICAL

  • running – minimum of running 10 miles per week
  • minimum of 3 (5k) running races this upcoming season, looking to challenge my own times
  • biking – enjoyment
  • snowshoeing – a new endeavor with hubby, to begin, enjoyment
  • ponder rowing for enjoyment, season is May – October
  • ponder skiing for enjoyment, weather and time permitting

There has been lots of good, healthy running this year.  I have either reached or surpassed the goal of running 10 miles per week.  Weather conditions are not stopping me/us.  We, hubby and I vary it up by going to the local track, park, and river.  

I am noticing an ever-growing love of running by the river with hubby biking alongside and around as I know he enjoys it.  Oh, dear . . . I did not participate in any races… yet however  I AM registered for the Turkey Trot in November and have my sights on the half marathon in May, 2017!  Registration is not yet, up for the half marathon.  I just looked.

I perceive biking as a sport in support of running.  We purchased a gorgeous new bike for me last summer and we’ve had many a splendorous outings together.  

Snow shoes were purchased for both of us last Fall and as much as we loved our times out, snowfall was record low, so our times out were minimal.  We will keep our fingers crossed for more snow this winter.  

Rowing is out.  There is not enough time to do it justice and the time frame for commitment does not work.  Skiing is out until we see where our snow-shoeing takes us.   

October 2016 I will begin classes at Orangetheory Fitness!  I have signed up for 1 class/week.  Orangetheory Fitness is a studio for classes of all types utilizing heart rate and data to grow one’s fitness. 

SPIRITUAL

  • knitting – choose projects from stash only
  • no purchase of new yarn through this year
  • plan, make, finish, and wear ~ VK’s mantra
  • attend churches for the purpose of familiarizing and ultimately joining to become part of its community

Ah, yes.  I do put knitting into the category of ‘spiritual’.  If you’ve ever knitted, you would see why.  I have completed 7 projects since January, 2016 utilizing much of my remnant stash and some from ‘project’ stash.  I did weaken, however and purchased some new yarn. Minimal bundles . . .  three.  But, for a full year and lots of temptation, I will pat myself on the back.

2016 collection  Honeycomb is in ‘photo shoot queue’.

Untitled (1)

 

Church did not happen, that is attending one or becoming part of a membership of one.  There has been lots of talking with hubby about faith, which location, the idea of membership at one specific church.  Sundays (assuming we would attend on Sundays) rolled in and out, 52 of them to be exact and somehow, we are only in the discussion phase.  I will need to study why I am not putting this goal into action.

MENTAL

  • write posts on Holly knits ~ for enjoyment
  • find and choose at least 2 other venues for writing, i.e. My View in the local newspaper
  • read blogs, articles, books
  • ponder accepting invite into book club

I have been quite regular posting on this blog.  And, I have found another venue for writing!  Wow, I really met this goal!  The other venue is another blog attached to the website called The Knitting Guild of Greater Buffalo.  

Not only will I write regularly there (1x/wk), I took the old website and re-configured it, organized it, updated it, and brought it to WordPress!  

My reading continues to consist of non-fiction, I do read lots of articles, and I did finish reading Knitting Pearls by Ann Hood.  I am not ready for a book club at this time due to time commitment it requires.

SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL

  • care take family members, as needed
  • join the local knitting organization 9/10/15
  • volunteer at least one task/job in that local knitting organization

Oh, it is fun to read goals written a year, ago!  Not only did I join the local knitting organization, I now hold the position of Vice President of that organization!  Yikes!  I believe by October I was Social Media Chairperson and my enthusiasm just grew and seemingly noticed by others.  What can I say?  

Regarding the care of family members is, of course, a more tender subject.  As we age, our needs change and sometimes our desires are effected.  The idea of housing, safety, and therapy are very much in the forefront of parent-care.  This is not easy, there are tears, and unwanted change is looming.  Retirement, by definition means the ceasing of.  Ceasing to work, ceasing to compete, ceasing to ______________ .  

Here are some images of family care of a loving kind.  circa 2016

I feel like I have met most of my goals.  In the next week, I will write goals for the next year or group of years, a decision I need to make.  I do not find this a chore, rather an opportunity to think deeply about who I am, who I want to be, and where I am going.

Blue Skies Trench

First and foremost in choosing a project, that project must be wearable in my lifestyle and go with the existing pieces I have in my wardrobe.  Of course, I am always looking at new trends in fashion, as I would like to think that even in retirement, I can continue on this quest of always looking fashion-forward.  But, what I have realized is that not all the pieces I intended on knitting are appropriate to wear in retirement and that I need to tweak my intentions for better purpose once knitted.   In an effort to get my yarn and pattern stash aligned to my lifestyle of retirement, I’ve had to do some reconsidering of patterns and re-shifting of yarns.  This has encouraged me to catalog remnants into their respective weights.  The more I play with my yarn, the more ideas I am getting and the more possibilities I seem to muster.   While this is exciting and certainly mindful of utilizing all of the materials I have here at home, I continuously need to remind myself to have patience and that I will eventually be able to act on many of these ideas.

This process has me researching in places I didn’t even know patterns existed.  Such places as VogueKnitting.com > free pattern tab or LionBrand.com > free  patterns.   Maybe, most yarn companies with websites have free pattern availability.  A function on Ravelry that has become most helpful is the pattern tab and its settings on the left-hand margin with specific criteria, being able to drill down to what you are looking for thus making pattern research more expedient.  Also, the function on Ravelry called queue has never been as helpful to me as it is right now as I can keep my pattern ideas listed there so as not to forget.   Well, one thing led to another and pretty much this is how I found ‘Trench Coat’ by Wilma Peers, a pattern from Vogue Knitting’s online pattern store.  Not a free pattern, but on sale.  I literally paid pennies.

I am drawn to the unexpected when knitting.  Or the juxtaposition of opposites which oftentimes leads to the unexpected.  For example a cardigan that can be flipped upside down or right side up or glamorous yarn knitted into a hoodie, or pleats in super bulky weight yarn.    When I think of a trench coat, I think of rain or wind and in a twill type of fabric.  So, the fact that this pattern was suggesting knitting a Trench Coat was highly interesting to me.  Hmm. . . I thought.  A trench coat for blue skies!  Complete with lapels and pocket flaps and what appeared to be a beautiful contrast edging, I had to go for it.

Then I noticed the suggested yarn.  Acrylic.  100% acrylic.  Oh, boy my mind began racing with all the thoughts of what could go wrong with this project in this yarn.  On the other hand, being so inexpensive I thought I would give it a try and when all fails, simply start over with yarn I knew more about.

So, I began and learned the half linen stitch.  This half linen stitch, formed with slip stitches and yarn carried on the outside of the work, creates a woven looking fabric.  Being of bulky weight (by title only as the yarn itself is as light as a feather), knitting the pieces really just motored along.  No button holes, no pockets (what you see are just flaps added on at the end),  this was really a breeze  to knit.  5 pattern pieces (back, 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, and the collar which is picked up from the neck and knitted) and it was time for my favorite part of any project, the finishing touches.   Bands were fairly easy to knit up the front however I had to readjust the number of stitches I picked up (way less than what was called).  And, for some unknown reason, the side seams were not cooperating as I felt they should.  A minor bit of blocking helped that matter and truthfully I was surprised acrylic even responded to blocking.  The collar edging as well as the flap edging was downright fun to do.  One has to pick up the stitches neatly as when the lapel is wide open flips to the front with the raw edge to the outside.

Well, I kept waiting for epic fail of this project.  I got to the end and to my surprise, I have what I think, is a beautiful, trendy trench that can easily be worn with today’s shapes underneath.

Cape as Finished Project / knitting notes

If you are a reader of Hollyknits, you know I’ve been talking about a wedding cape I recently made for a daughter of a friend.  Also, a former student of mine!  Since it is a high risk thing to knit for another,  I share tips on how to do so, here.   I talk about details of gift giving, here. This post, while on the same project is moving away from the event and focusing on the knitting of the cape, itself.

It is kind of funny how I am so opinionated about capes and shawls.  Some people interchange these words in identification.  I see such vast differences in them.  To me, a cape has coat-like qualities typically with closures, sometimes with slits for arms, sometimes as pullovers.  Shawls I see are more like a scarf, typically in a geometric shape like a triangle or rectangle and meant to be wrapped around a body.  Truthfully,  I have such a vast like of one and dislike of the other.  This is a picture that Mom, bride, and I initially saw of the cabled cape wanted for this wedding.

Designed by Michael Kors and found in Vogue Knitting, Fall 2007.  It is a pattern that is worked from the ribbing at the bottom up to the neckline decreasing along the way at key points along the raglan seams in both front and back.  All of us loved the pattern especially the cable texture and I particularly liked the double breasted closure.  I appreciate the detail of stockinette stitch around the neckline below the ribbed collar.  The ribbed collar, k1p1 is wider in back and is shaped using short rows.  The short row method I find easiest is called the short row shadow wraps.  Directions can be found, here.   The bride wanted a single row of buttons along the edge.  She knew she wanted the cape in navy blue.

The beautiful part about knitting a cape is that there are minimal measurements needed.  In fact, the pattern did not even have a schematic. When I perused the other finished projects utilizing this pattern in Ravelry, I noticed a wide assortment of yarn that was used from sport weight to aran.  This would significantly change the fabric, weight, and could change the size of the garment if you didn’t alter the stitch count.  The yarn that is used to knit the example in the image above was no longer available, however looking at the content of the yarn, considering the size garment we wanted, and the venue in which it would be worn, we decided upon this lovely DK, a blend of merino, silk, and cashmere.

I used as large a needle as I dared with a sport weight to create springy and stretchy qualities while maintaining a luxurious cabled fabric.  Being that I was fitting another, I felt the elasticity of the fabric would lend itself some leeway in fit.  Also, by being elastic, I felt the fabric might hold position better around the shoulders and be more comfortable for movement sake.

The pattern has a mistake regarding the placement of the markers.  When you become familiar with the cable pattern, you can see that the double decreases need to happen outside of the middle p2k2p2.   In other words, you need to place the markers differently than indicated in the pattern.  This is of utmost importance as all of the shaping occurs at the markers and the pattern of cables and ribs follow.

Minor alterations for a better fit was made for the bride.  Buttons were purchased by Mom, sewn on by me.  We discussed the ease of removing the pearl buttons and changing to a different button to give a more casual look for future wear.  I did use the one row buttonhole method and I did sew a snap at the collar and just above the rib along the bottom to hold the overlap of fabric in place and purposely secure to not dangle below the hemline.

My saga now ends, fulfilling in every way and clearly the bride and groom are off to a very happy start!

photo credit to Amy Paulson/photography

It’s Not Just About the Sweater

Part of why I write a journal is to reflect upon my knitting.  I find thinking about a finished project quite satisfying and informative.  It helps me to improve my knitting skills to think what went right as well as what went wrong with either the process and/or the finished project.  Viewing photographs of me in my knitting is also helpful to know what styles and designs look best on my shape and to compare what I see with how I feel about a particular garment.  This also drives future pattern decisions.  The reason why I write online is to share these thoughts thinking/hoping readers may learn from these experiences, as well.

Another reason why I write is to reflect upon the sites hubby and I travel to for our photo shoots.   There have been many.  I catalog these places on a page I call Fashionscape, here in The Blog.  Since this particular photo shoot also served as a trip down memory lane, I am writing about it here, too.  We continue to choose places that hold some kind of significance to us and this last photo shoot was no different.  Here we are at Chautauqua Institution, the furthest we have traveled yet for a photo shoot, officially closed for the season, however open for travelers who want to walk the grounds during the day.  Many of the cottages were covered in tarps, construction workers dotted the place doing off-season repairs, and you could see evidence of changes that are being made to the main structures of the institute.  In fact, you really needed to watch your step due to fallen debris of repair work.

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A New Skill Set needed for Knitting

How-to-Choose-the-Right-Digital-Camera-for-YouA new skill set was needed when I entered into the world of social networking to post my knitting.  It was called photography!  The how-to, what equipment, the where to go.  Questions were endless and thank goodness, so were the photos on Ravelry.  And by perusing, believe you me, you learn quickly how important this skill is!   You then find yourself in camera shops, thinking about white space, lighting, and angles.  All because of knitting.  Skim around yourself and you’ll see what I mean.   After drooling at the … photography  (I know, you thought I was going to say knitting), I picked my tongue up, turned to myself, utilizing the wonderful photos I was viewing as inspiration, and thought.. hmm… how could I present my works of art?

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