myself and strangers

When I first started writing this blog, I was a young housewife with two small (step)children, using the internet and the knitting community as a way to have contact with other like-minded adults. It was a wonderful introduction to a whole new world, and when my marriage came to an end, I relied on the kindness of so many of the stranger-friends I’d made to get me thorough some sad times.

And then I drifted away.

Life took over, work took too much of my time, and I was hesitant to publish my new life in such a public space.

This space has been silent for ever-so-long… I’ve often considered how to start writing here again, and what I could say to excuse or explain my absence; in the end I’ve decided that there is nothing I can or need to say. I was gone, and now I am back, and have done some growing in the time between.

I am still creating, still knitting (feverishly and fearlessly!) and for the first time in a very long time I am drawn, no, driven, to write. I jot things in a small journal that accompanies me everywhere, but I want something more… permanent? more thoughtful? more visible? Because it is too easy to write for myself alone, in pages that are never seen; Gertrude Stein said, “I write for myself and strangers,” and that is a feeling I can relate to. How comforting to write without fear of judgement from those close to us! Yet so often “strangers” become familiar names, sometimes they become friends with faces, lives, and writings of their own. I find that both intriguing and at times frightening.

So here we are again, and I don’t know how many old friends may stumble upon this place, or how many new friends will find it. I don’t know what value my words will have for anyone else. For now, I am creating a space to honestly record my thoughts, my creative endeavors, and to reflect on daily life; I am writing for myself. And for any strangers who want to read.Image


excerpt from a journal


I just finished reading “The Alchemist” (Paulo Coelho,) a quick read, engaging, though of course the story about the shepherd-turned-seeker is not the point of the book. I suppose it is, like so many other spiritually-themed books, meant to open the mind and spirit to greater understanding of universal truths… Not to sound snide or bored, I really do appreciate such writing… but I wanted something totally new; perhaps I feel the message is so familiar because I’ve read so much of it. It is a great story, and a beautifully-written book.

The new idea that stuck with me from this book, though, is that of the heart not as a part or extension of one’s own mind and emotion, but as a separate entity, a unique and actual extension of that universal spirit. The most pure essence of it, in fact, dwelling (coexisting) in this body with one’s own spirit/soul.

And as such, as a pure childlike-yet-wise, innocent being, I imagine it is one’s duty not to “harden one’s heart,” nor to allow callus to grow and “toughen” it, but to protect and cherish it. To indulge, even, as one would a favored child. To feed and nourish, to dote upon, and to enjoy a relationship with one’s heart.

And if the heart is capricious, whimsical, impulsive, if it takes risks in the name of following a dream, it is with joy; and what wonderful lessons and experiences we can be led to. But one (well, we know I’m speaking for myself) but I cannot allow others to misuse my heart, any more than I would stand by and allow someone to abuse or hurt a dear friend, a small child, or a helpless animal.

So. My heart, the small brown bird – and myself it’s wingless companion and protector. The heart will fly free, and sometimes come home frightened or confused, even missing a few feathers; but it is not some inanimate thing that has been “broken.” Hurt can be healed, troubles can be soothed.

I need to learn to listen, to care for, and to adore this little bird. And then it will feel safe to fly out and bring back the most amazing adventures and tales from the wide world.


Walk With Me • South Point Road

The weather is turning to spring – slowly, and we can still expect some nasty nor’easters to blow cold and wet across the island, but we have seen some beautiful sunny days with temperatures in the 50’s.

Perfect walking weather.

I got Rudy’s leash from the closet and we set out.

We started down South Point Road, an unpaved (but graded) road wide enough to accommodate cars (better have 4-wheel drive though!) The road starts just north of the village and winds through a couple miles of marsh to finish at the oceanside on the southernmost beach on the island. Driving the road is a bumpy but enjoyable way to get to the beach; walking it allows a more intimate view of the soundside and all the life there.

The sky indulged me by remaining brightlyand impossibly blue all day, with a generous swath of fluffy white clouds as decoration.

The lighthouse was visible in the distance, reminding me how small my island is. It stands on the harborside, on the opposite shore of the island.

I decided to take a detour – a side road that leads to a rough boat-slip on the soundside – in the hopes of seeing something interesting. Roads that curve off and vanish are often best.

I wasn’t disappointed. The view itself was breathtaking: sky and grass too wide to capture with a camera lens.

And then I happened upon this fellow:

I’m not sure what sort of bird he is, but he was well camouflaged in the grass and stood very very still while I inspected him. There was another nearby, hiding behind a thick clump of grass – his mate perhaps?

Walking on, I marveled at the harshness of the windswept marsh, grasses still leaning from a windstorm the week before, showing their silvery undersides. Amazing that trees root here at all.

We reached the entrance to the beach in short time.

Over the dunes were different sorts of treasures to discover.

I chanced to meet a friend on the beach, she was hiking up into the dunes to take some photos. Rudy waited patiently under a tree while I played model.

On the walk back I discovered a crabshell bleached from months or maybe even years in the sun.

Paused to talk to more friends who were out enjoying the day, and watched their children exploring the dunetops.

The shadows had grown long and blue, and the evening chill was coming to the air; we turned to walk home. A truly idyllic and satiating day.

All for now.

Island Lily

Did I say I’d write again “tomorrow?” Ha. Don’t you know tomorrow never comes?

I find I’ve been ridiculously (wonderfully and deliciously) busy this winter. I’m not working, the shop and restaurant are closed until March/April, but I’ve been visiting with friends, taking crafting classes here on the island, walking, and generally doing the things I love while trying my best to keep from feeling guilty about indulging myself so.

Maybe it would assuage the guilt if I bothered to share what I’ve been doing here… Alright then.

Every winter there is a course offered in a traditional handcraft, called the Heritage Workshop; the cost is minimal, because the Arts Guild of North Carolina helps fund the program.  I see it as an opportunity to learn something I might otherwise never get the chance to do. Last year the class offered basketry, and turns out I loved that, so I decided that I would sign up for the class each year regardless of the topic. This year the course was in quilting, taught by a local-ish (from Beaufort) instructor named Pepper Cory. She decided to focus her three-day class on piecing a traditional quilt block called the North Carolina Lily, and added a twist by asking us to incorporate plaid fabrics in the block because textile mills in NC were famous for their plaids.

Interesting enough historically, I supposed, but flowers? Kitch-y, old-lady flower blocks, and plaid??!? I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl, though mostly garments. The quilts that have interested me lately were more geometric in design, and definitely have a modern look to them. I went to class the first day willingly, but not feeling too enthused about the project. Ah well, it’s only three days, and I might learn something, and if nothing else I will have a present to give away when I finish my piece…

Pepper began class by talking about the history of quilts, specifically in eastern North Carolina, and showing us a number of vintage and antique quilts. It was fascinating to see the pieces, especially to consider the ingenuity of women making these beautiful useful objects from scraps and leftovers of their daily lives – feedsacks and worn clothing and old rags.

The prize of Pepper’s collection was an antique quilt (beautifully cleaned and restored) done in a version of the block we were to study. The quilt top was elaborately appliqued, rather than pieced from scraps, and the quilting stitches were minuscule and perfect. This was definitely a quilt from a wealthy home.

We discussed the block we would be working on, talked about fabric and color choices, and started rummaging through the fabric stash donated by the local Needle and Thread club. Some of the plaids started to look pretty appealing to me, and I liked the idea of using “what was on hand” to create something beautiful. Hmmm….

We selected fabrics and began cutting: painstakingly precise angles and straight lines, quarter-inch seam allowances (not much room for fudging!) and repeated trips back to the stash table to change out fabrics.

I chose to use plaids as the petals of my flowers, and soon had manages the tricky seaming to make the corners meet properly. I found I even liked my block (you can tell I look pretty miserable, huh?)

It was truly amazing to see the wide range of interpretations on the block from each member of the class. Every person made a block that was uniquely her own.

That’s my block, second from the left

The whole class (and a few visitors,) posing with finished blocks

By the end of the second day, I had decided that not only did I really enjoy the challenge of the project, I really liked the way my block had turned out – decidedly Spring-themed – and had cut out pieces for three more blocks (in Summer, Autumn, and Winter colors.) Meaning I would take my project home and work on it. I planned to make a wall-hanging sized piece (each finished block measures 15 inches square.)

I finished piecing together the top a few days ago, and even made a (more modern) back using scraps from the same fabrics:

I’m in the process of hand-quilting the piece, which is a slow and meditative process I am enjoying more than I expected. And I won’t be giving this thing away when I’m finished. I already have a prominent space to display it on the wall.

Huh. Who knew I could be converted so easily?

All for now.

Winter wonder-island

The snow was everything I wanted it to be… I’ll let my camera do the talking (flickr set here if you want to see more, or see them bigger.)

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Sorry to be all-show and no-tell, but I’m pretty busy right now. I’m taking a quilting class offered here on the island, and it’s fascinating but I’m out of the house all day. I’ll be sure to bring photos home from that soon, and I’ll be more talkative by then!

All for now.

snow day!!!

Anyone who knows me at all could guess how very very happy I am today, considering what’s going on outside.

When I woke this morning I could see the sky out my window, and thought, “Oh yes, that is a Snow Sky if I’ve ever seen one.” The storm started earlier than predicted, before noon. The wind has been blustering, banging the screen doors and the birdfeeder, for hours. And the snow keeps falling, in perfect, tiny flakes. The kind that stick.

Snow is so very rare here on the outer banks, partly because of our southern latitude, but also because being surrounded by water usually keeps us just a hair too warm for snow. We get lots of cold rain, and sometimes some sleet, but snow that sticks (!!!) is something to enjoy.

Once the wind dies down a little, that is. In the meantime, I’ve been indoors (though near the window) enjoying a bit of color-on-white.

I’ve finished the yoke of my Sugarplum Pullover (Rav link to my project page, where all those colors are listed in an organized fashion,) and have moved past the short-row shaping and the raglan-increases that add depth and shaping to the neckline. I’ve put the sleeves-to-be on yarn and joined to knit the body in the round, and so whee! Off we go in plain stocking stitch toward the hemline.

I’ve got some other projects brewing in the wings, I’ll share them (and maybe some more photos of the island blanketed in white!) soon. Keep warm, wherever you are!

All for now.

lazy day yarn

There has been a lot of this sort of activity around here lately:

I was on vacation last weekend, and though I took (way too much) knitting with me, I worked only three rows and subsequently frogged the whole project when I returned home. I had a “meh” moment and decided that the yarn and pattern were both great, but not so great together.

When I got home, I finished up some yarn I started spinning ages ago.

It’s a 50/50 merino/angora blend, dyed by Enchanted Knoll Farms in the colorway “Ursula.”
(if you had any idea how much EKF fiber I have stashed away, you’d be aghast…)

Of course, I didn’t bother to put a penny or a dime or anything into the photo to give a sense of scale. You’ll just have to take my word that this is some thin yarn – the skein weighs in at just over an ounce, and there are more than 300 yards of two-ply yarn. I think it will make a nice scarf-ette in the future.

Yesterday I decided to sit down with a pattern I’ve been wanting to knit for a long, long time. It’s the Sugarplum Pullover, from the book Holiday Handknits. It’s a basic sweater with a colorwork yoke, which includes both knit and purl stitches in a Bohus-style patterning.

As expected, I have made some adjustments to the pattern as written (can’t ever leave well-enough alone, can I?), the most significant of which is that I’m knitting from the top-down, and I decreased the number of stitches at the neckline in an attempt to combat the sagging, off-the-shoulder boatneck look. That in turn means I am doing some fancy footwork to make the increases work for the yoke, but I think it’s going well so far. I’m using Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK (in white) for the body of the sweater, and a virtual rainbow of Rowan Pure Wool DK for the stranded section. If it continues to cooperate with me, I’ll share more details in my next post.

All for now.


coming up roses

Thanks for the compliments on Ween! As far as I know, he’s still being lovingly mangled and slobbered on enjoyed at every opportunity.

Awhile back, (erm, last spring? ahem.) a friend here on the island gave me some yarn and requested that I make her a couple (or a few) berets/tams. Felicity has bouncy, curly hair that is adorable but often gets out of hand when she rides her bike, which she does nearly every day to run errands, get to work, etc. She has a battered tam that she has worn for years to tame her mane in the wind, and had planned to knit some similar items but never got around to it. She graciously told me that time was not an issue, so I am just now filling her request. Better late than never, hmm?

The yarn she gave me is Rowan Wool Cotton, various amounts of three different colors. For the first hat, I decided to make Ysolda’s Rose Red. I used the color yarn I had the most of, a discontinued grayish mauve, shade 902 “Pinky.” I cast-on late yesterday afternoon, and knit away happily while watching episodes from season 1 of “Tudors” on Netflix. (Yes, I’m totally addicted by now. Don’t know how I didn’t find it earlier; the “historical” context keeps me from feeling too guilty about enjoying the daytime-soap type drama.)

I finished this morning over coffee.

I knit the side medium, and I’m pretty certain it will be the right size. Because my yarn is not as “springy” as pure wool, I may insert some thin elastic along the cast-off edge (the hat is worked top-down) to make sure it stays put.

“Tea Rose,” Ravelry link

The pattern was a delight to use, clearly written and easy to follow. I was impressed that Ysolda included both charts and written line-by-line instructions for the entire piece.

And I think I may have to make another from this pattern, for me this time. After I finish Felicity’s other hats.

All for now.

o hai, i haz teh cuteness!

Happy New Year!

Meet my newest creation, la Criatura Chula.

"o hai! i ♥ you!"

This little critter started life as a cashmere sweater in a thrift store. I was in a mood to buy sweaters for felting, and couldn’t pass up cashmere for $2.00; into the basket.

I’ve been watching a lot of Studio Ghibli films lately (My Neighbor Totoro is my all time favorite, perhaps you can see some inspiration here?) and I have a lot of crafting time on my hands. I’m trying to branch out into other needle-arts besides knitting, for the mental variety and also to save my fingers.

"i can haz friend?"

Sometime back, I was perusing a book on embroidery (maybe it was Doodle Stitching?) and I remember seeing a little felt animal, with a pouch for a smaller “friend.” Since it is the time for gifting, and one of my favorite Short People, Thomas, has just celebrated his first birthday, I decided to try my hand at “softies.”

The bodies for both creatures were cut and sewn free-hand (the larger was machine stitched, the smaller by hand.) I used a bit of a felted sweater for the little one too, and stuffed them both with alpaca and wool “waste fiber” left over from when I was combing top for spinning.

I used bits of leftover floss for the embroidery, and some cute (but single) plastic buttons for one set of eyes. (And yes, they are sewn on very securely, and knotted to each other inside the softie’s head.) It’s my first real attempt at freeform embroidery as well, and I’m delighted with the results.

Of course, even wool-y toys need handknits to keep warm.

"i haz a cozy!"

The hat was actually worn by the just-turned-one-year recipient his first week in the outside world.The socks are new, of course.

As if I wasn’t already pleased enough with this little pair, Thomas’ reaction sealed the deal. He immediately snuggled, then licked, the creature; he paraded around in a circle holding it high overhead squealing and gurgling with joy; he introduced his other stuffed toys to the newbie, and seemed thrilled to discover that the socks and hat came off. His mother, my friend Carol, is an artist and crafter, and she was also impressed with Teh Cuteness (who has, spontaneously, been named Ween, to commemorate her son’s self-initiated accomplishment this week. Ha.)

So, perhaps more softies in the future… any of you have experience making stuffed toys?

All for now.