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

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.

 

John C. Campbell Folk School

This post is overdue, and regrettably short: I arrived home to a whirlwind of holiday activity and have now succumbed to a cold. Bleh.

I have found it hard to write about my experience at the John C. Campbell Folk School, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps because  it really seems like a world apart, so different from normal life that I find it difficult to access the same feelings now that I’m “back in the real world.”

If I had to pick one word to describe it, I would use “Nourishing.

Everything about the experience was perfect and wonderful and just what I needed. The natural environment, rustic and rural (I always find the mountains to be soothing to my soul.) The people, instructors and students alike (how often do you find yourself sharing space, 24 hours a day, with 150 people whose only goal each day is to be intensely creative??) The general atmosphere of exploration, curiosity, and openness…

Before I signed up for classes, I did a lot of research online, particularly looking for photos of the Folk School. I was surprised to find there weren’t all that many, relative to the number of people who seemed to attend classes. When I was there I found out why: there simply wasn’t time to be toting around a camera, snapping shots of everything! In the same light, it was (refreshingly) rare to see anyone there using a cell phone. I made a conscious effort to take a few, and in lieu of pages of words, which would probably not tell everything anyway, I have made a flickr set where you can get a taste of my week in pictures and a few words.

I cannot claim authorship for this quote, but it rings true for me:

“I always knew I marched to the beat of a different drum. I came to the Folk School and found the rest of the band.”

All for now.

quickie post, quickie pattern update

Hi all!!!

I’m back on the island after a fantastic time at the John C. Campbell Folk School (where I did not find time to post, I was enjoying myself far too much…) I will be posting photos and stories in the next couple days.

It was brought to my attention over on a Ravelry forum that the pattern I wrote a couple years ago for a sweater ornament was unavailable, or rather, that no one knew it had moved from Blogger to WordPress. Oops!

I’ve updated the Ravelry link and wanted to let you know it’s still available through the archives I moved to this site. I’m quite flattered that folks are still enjoying that li’l ol’ thing! I may have to make up a few more of them myself…

Tee-tiny Raglan pattern, available here, for free!

Happy knitting! All for now.

photo no go

The weather did not cooperate to allow me photos of my new sweater today, but it is completed and I will try again tomorrow.

I’m busy tonight packing for a trip – that’s right, I’m going on vacation! It will be the first time in over a year-and-a-half that I have spent more than one night off the island. For those who don’t know, the island I live on is about one mile wide and thirteen miles long; the cozy size is both a blessing and a curse, as you might imagine. I’m ready for some time away.

I will be leaving Thursday morning to attend classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in western North Carolina. I’ve heard such fantastic things about the school, both the atmosphere and the instructors (and the food!) and have been wanting to check it out for nearly a decade. Now seems to be the perfect time.

I will be taking a spindle-spinning course over the weekend, to hone my skills and correct some of my self-taught idiosyncrasies, and then a week-long knitting workshop. If my hands don’t fall off from all the activity, I hope to keep you all updated here on the blog.

Queries to you this evening: is it strange that the first things I packed (and re-packed, multiple times) are my yarns, fibers, needles, and spindles? And how much yarn is really too much to take when one is planning on doing little more than knitting for a week straight?

Until tomorrow, all for now.

nearly finished

Last year I started knitting a sweater, my first from all-my-own handspun (in adult size, anyway.) To make it more interesting, I decided to design it myself as I went along.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were some snags along the way, and I had to rip back from the first neckline all the way to the underarms. The sweater was then shoved into a bag and forgotten put in time out.

I pulled it out again a few weeks ago and slowly started work on the first sleeve… then on the second sleeve… then joined in the round for raglan decreases. Work picked up again and I had to leave the sweater untouched for a few days.

Today I came home from work on my lunch break to find:

Looks like the dang sweater is determined to be finished, even if it has to knit itself!

(Wouldn’t that be nice??? Hopefully I will have finished photos for you tomorrow ♥)

All for now.

hello again

Hello to anyone reading… it’s Loribird, and yes, I’m still alive…

Life has kept me pretty busy in the past months, adjusting to many changes and working my little bird-tail off. (Not kidding about that; I spent a good part of the summer doing 60 – 80 hour weeks at my three – count ’em, three – jobs.) The winter off-season has arrived on my island and I have time to start creating again.

It’s not my style to reminisce too much, and I hardly know where to begin anyway, so I’ll just cut to the chase and show you what I’ve made most recently. (And please do forgive the lack of details about patterns, yarn, etc. I’m just learning to use WordPress properly…)

Lacy Baktus; handspun EKF fiber, "Harvest Wild Card" batts

Lacy Baktus (ravelry link), done up in some of my own handspun, from Happy Hooves sock batts created by the ever-lovely Josette of Enchanted Knoll Farm. I used the better portion of the yarn for a pair of socks, and was thrilled that this pattern allowed me to use up every last bit of the remainder.

Next up is a scarf I knit, a real act of love on my part since I don’t usually enjoy the endless knitting required for scarf patterns. Two or three feet of patterning without any shaping is more than plenty enough for me, thankyouverymuch, and with most scarves that’s only the halfway point… but I had a special request, and nothing else would do but a scarf in the classic style, and so it was.

Irish Hiking Scarf; O-Wool Classic, color "Sumac"

I knit up an Irish Hiking Scarf (still a free pattern, I see. Hooray!) in the now-discontinued O-Wool Classic Aran, color Sumac. It took around 2.5 skeins to make a scarf about five feet in length. The intended recipient, my newish-boyfriend (five months now, my first real foray into dating since the divorce) was fascinated by the process and thrilled with the result, so the effort was worth it.

Not to mention, he looks pretty good in red. I might be a bit biased, of course.

So there you go: a bit of an update, leaving plenty of things to the imagination I’m certain, but a start nonetheless… Most importantly, I’ve figured out how to post photos and make links in WordPress. Expect to see more of me around here, I miss my blog friends!

All for now.