Hello from deep November, where I’m a little bit disoriented to find myself on the downhill slide of this month already.

In terms of the homestead, November means the transition from pigs to pork. We shared six months of daily banter with these guys and they were good company, hanging out with us here on their final morning. But after a wet fall, I was ready for a break from managing mud and hauling heavy buckets of feed.

And of course slaughter day is only the beginning of another long process. Cutting, curing, sausage stuffing, packaging… Nearly two weeks later, Dean smoked the bacon this morning, so after that is sliced and wrapped and into the freezer, I think we will be fully done. Phew. The upside, of course, is a freezer full of fabulous pork, and after several months without our own meat after the summer away last year, we appreciate it all the more. So far we’ve sampled the bratwurst (which we made for the first time) and face bacon and can report that both were excellent.

Deep fall also means more indoor time and I’ve got several new creative projects in process around here, including this quilt.

I started saving worn-out overalls at some point… not because I had any idea of what to do with them, but just because they seemed to hold so many stories of this place and these days of our lives. Then several months back I remembered the quilts of Gees Bend, and suddenly it was obvious what the overalls needed to become. I started cutting a few things without a plan and ended up creating the center panel. Then it had to sit for awhile before I was ready to start cutting into the Carhartts. There was more cutting without a real plan… I would work on it for an hour or two until I wasn’t sure what to do next then set it aside for a few days or weeks and when I returned, the next step was there in front of me.

And somehow it all came together into something that feels right. It’s just a completed top at this point, so I’ll have to figure out how I want to back and quilt it next. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it – it’s been both challenging and freeing to let the process guide me instead of my usual way of working from a pattern or clear plan.

There’s a metaphor there begging to be drawn out, but I’m going to leave it and just admire this bright and foggy November afternoon.


I took a broom making class through our local folk school this weekend. Everything about it was right up my alley – an old craft, simple materials, and a practical and functional product. I went in thinking it wasn’t likely to be a craft that I would do on my own after the class, but it would still be satisfying to do it once.

Of course, I liked it and started considering how many brooms I could use in my life. But we talked in class about how it’s a hard skill to maintain because it’s obscure enough that there aren’t instructional books or online videos to refer to when you are trying to practice.

Then, Monday afternoon I took an afternoon walk out the driveway. On my way back, I met a woman carrying a full armload of mostly-finished brooms. I stammered out a few questions and learned that she recently moved into a little cabin near the end of our driveway. And she happens to be a broom maker. Who makes using the same technique I had just learned.

Broom-making skill: too obscure for the internet, but available in my driveway. I love my life.


Good morning. This is how the sky looked just after I woke up this morning. After the long pause that is the weeks around the solstice, I can feel the light shifting toward autumn, just a little. Which feels a bit off, because July has been uncharacteristically cool and cloudy, so part of me is still waiting for summer to fully arrive. But then we have a couple of days like this last weekend, when it was 80 degrees and sunny and my bones soaked in the heat and it felt so good to get rid of the jeans in favor of a lighter layer. And I remember how there’s an ease and a sweetness that comes with the slightly shorter days, how the heat of the day gives way to a summer night. In early summer, I’m asleep before sunset but a summer night is something to savor… a reminder to savor it all, really.

I spent a good portion of this past weekend playing with natural dyeing for the first time. Equal parts thrilling and humbling, as I suppose any new craft should be. I experimented with two dye plants I could collect from our property – Oregon grape and rhubarb. The Oregon grape was my first experiment – the left half in the photo above. After producing a satisfying shade of yellow on my four mini-skeins, I tried a few modifiers to see what other shades I could create, and managed instead to turn three of them back to a muddy version of the natural I started with. Call it a good lesson in the effects of acidity.

Rhubarb root was my second attempt, on the right above. I got more of a beige than the orange I was hoping for from my initial dye, I’m guessing because the temp got too high. But a range of alkaline modifiers gave me orange and pink undertones to the beige, which felt like glorious triumph after the Oregon grape.

In other homestead news, the chickens are charming and full of entertainment and surprisingly difficult to photograph. Our most recent delight has been feeding them wild berries from the brambles around the edge of the yard. Potential egg-laying is still a few months off, but I have caught myself imagining the joy of our own eggs while I cook my breakfast in the morning, so it feels a tiny bit more real.

PS – For those of you who suffered the glitch of the last post publishing many, many times – I’m sorry! Fingers crossed that it’s sorted now.


Greetings from deep fall. Light is in short supply on these days of big gray skies and so I’m drawn to the half-light, wondering at how it can appear with so many subtle differences in the seemingly narrow space between gray and white.

It feels like an age since I last wrote here. I spent four weeks in retreat and have now spent another four weeks finding my way back to routine and forward into life after a seven-month-long sabbatical. Lots of reconnecting with friends and community. Lots of picking up little bits of my life and appreciating them with fresh eyes, or realizing that it’s time to set them down for good. Honestly, I’m not sure where this space fits. I feel like the things that are most interesting to me these days are things that I don’t know how to write about. Ideas that float by, ways of seeing the world just a little differently, all the feelings that are apart of this human experience.

But then I did a little rug surgery this week and snapped a few photos and thought, “I’d like to share this”. So here I am today.

In the earliest days of this blog, I finished a cotton braided rug project. It was my first go at rug braiding and it was perfectly serviceable and also a little wonky, just as you’d expect. But then at some point I washed the rug, and the “little wonky” became a persistent buckle. My best guess is that the the cotton twine I used to lace it shrunk more than the braided fabric.
I’ve been feeling motivated to do more re-making this winter. Mostly inspired by standing in front of a shelf full of hand-knit sweaters and thinking about the next one I “need” to make to have something to wear out. I want to try again on the collar that sits funny or the body I’m always tugging at to be an inch longer or whatever it is. Unravel a bit and re-make this thing I have instead of buying a pile of new yarn and getting entranced by the idea that this time I’ll pick the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn and knit the perfect sweater.

So in that spirit, I guess it’s not surprising that one evening this week I looked at the rug with the bump and grabbed a scissors and started unbraiding.

In the end, it was probably only an hour of work. I pulled out two rounds of braid, reconnected the strands with some ugly but hidden hand-sewing, and then re-laced it into the rug. The result is certainly not perfect, but it lays flat, and I’m pretty satisfied to have been able to make it better.


I got a burst of creative inspiration this week in the midst of so much doing very little. And this particular inspiration was very specifically about extemporaneous quilting. It seemed to come from nowhere, but I can trace its roots to the sentimental clothing retirements of late and thinking about reusing scraps in rag rugs or other projects.

I wasn’t willing to use any sentimental bits on my first attempt, but the bin of fabric leftovers and irresistible thrift store finds was generous. I quickly got sucked into the piecing and cutting and just seeing what would emerge next. Of course then I decided I could turn my playing into a throw pillow and that took several times as many hours as I imagined it would… but in the end, I replaced a generic Ikea pillow and sparked all sorts of ideas for future projects. A win from the week of doing very little.


Extra slow home furnishing

There is probably no more thoroughly documented rug out there, but here for it’s final celebratory appearance, is the braided wool rug project.

I love everything about the completed rug. I love how it’s thick and squishy underfoot, how it entices me down to sit on the floor, something I didn’t realize I didn’t do in our house until I suddenly started. I love that it’s sort of wonky but perfectly functional. I love the balance of tones and patterns. Most of all, I love the story of this rug.

I fell in love with the idea of making braided rugs years ago… probably 2009. Sometime after that, I started working on the shirt cotton rug, as a “practice” for the wool one I really wanted to make. And then my sister came across one of the all-time best thrift store finds, a giant appliance box full of wool, most of it cut into strips and sewn together and wound into wheels, all ready to be braided into rugs. So many hours invested in rugs that someone never got to make. She paid $5 for the whole box. We were still in the cabin, and storage space was in very short supply. So I jammed as much as I could into one Rubbermaid bin (a fraction of the box) and tucked it away in a back corner of our shed. After I finally finished the cotton rug, that bin found it’s way to the house just over three years ago. I braided the first few feet of it on the living room floor before we had any furniture in that room. I quickly realized wool was a different animal than cotton, and the glory of the internet introduced me to Braid-Aid folders and the braider’s table clamp. I made slow progress that first winter, but then it fell into hibernation. Last fall, I convinced Dean to make it a joint project. We rarely worked on it for more than an hour at a time, or more than a couple hours a week. But all winter and through the spring, one of us would ask “are you up for sewing this evening?” and we’d make a little more progress. Dean started out sewing strips into workable lengths from a few wheels that had no seams, then switched to lacing. I braided and braided and braided. And together, we made a rug.

It’s just a rug, but it’s a rug that is a story, and I am most at home when I’m surrounded by stories.

The making report, February 2017 edition

In rounding up the content for this post, I was rather surprised to find that I’ve made more in recent weeks than I would have guessed. Which makes sense, with this winter hanging on as tenaciously as it has, but it has all been a bit stealth, lots of bits here and there without a feeling of focus and progress on a singular project.

The closest thing I’ve had to that singular project is this hoodie for a certain friend aged 2 1/2 I started way back in November. It got set aside for December while I knit yulekuler, and then approximately every other week when my frustration with superwash wool overwhelmed my interest in getting it done. I still have to install a zipper and wrap up some other finishing details, but the knitting is complete and I’m feeling pretty relieved.

This is my very first garment for a small being, and I was pretty excited about the prospect of combining all the satisfactions of garment knitting with the speed of knitting them in mini. Of course I didn’t really get the “speed” part because I couldn’t help but choose this pattern that was full of details that I loved (and that would double the work). There are toddler-size pockets knit into the sides, that hood, and an i-cord edging around the entire front. But I had all sorts of time so I decided to go for it.

I’m not sure if I would do it again. Definitely not in superwash – somehow the process of making wool washable removes every property I like about wool and leaves you with this slippery, splitty substance that lacks any integrity. And there’s just no joy in knitting with it. I fully understand that parents don’t want to deal with a hand-washable garment for a toddler, but I might have to admit that my potential knitting audience is limited to those that love real wool enough to deal with its care requirements.

All that said, I think this is a pretty sweet little red hoodie. The color was surprising hard to capture, but it’s a classic bright red. (Honestly, this one got left out of previous reports just because the photos of it were always so crap.) Here’s one more attempt, included mostly because it was my first use of the blocking mats I received for Christmas and they made me very happy.

While I was taking breaks from the hoodie, I knit a few hats for my local knitting group’s charity hat drive. I used the opportunity to play with a hat pattern that had a lot of potential but had been a miss on my first attempt. After four goes, I think I’ve got the pattern modifications sorted to my liking. The colorwork still needs some help, but really I just need more contrast. I was knitting entirely from stash, and it turns out that I only ever choose mid-tone shades. So predictable, I am.

And here’s the start of my current project: a cotton baby blanket in a super-simple pattern. I had decided months ago that this baby would be welcomed with hand-knitting but not a blanket and then a few weeks ago I decided that it would maybe need just a little stroller blanket and then I cast on and knit a few inches and it is very much a full-on baby blanket size. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but given this little one is expected in just a few weeks, I should probably think about that while I keep on knitting.

And finally, a little evidence that the wool rug project continues on, ever so slowly, but onward nonetheless.

Wool news

In the thick of December making, I was full of daydreams about the projects that would emerge from the vast expanses of time in January. So far, though, January has produced very little evidence of making, let alone those mythical expanses of time. And the limits of January light means there is even less photographic evidence.

Predictably, as I was reaching the end of the holiday knitting, I desperately wanted to knit something simple and mindless. I rummaged through my stash and picked out a pattern and held on just long enough to crank out the last couple christmas balls, and cast on this simple ribbed hat as soon as the last one was off the needles. The color is impossible to capture, but it’s my favorite part. I used a skein of hand-dyed that was a little too bright and with the very short color changes you get with hand-dyed. So I held it doubled up with a plain light grey, which muted it beautifully. The effect is hard to describe, but somehow all the color changes just blend together in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.

I’ve also been making progress on a toddler hoodie for a pretty great two-and-a-half year-old friend. It’s very red, which is great for mid-winter knitting. It is also knit out of superwash wool and every time I knit something out of superwash I hate it and I swear that won’t do it again and then a little time goes by and I manage to convince myself that THIS version of superwash will be better. But I think, unfortunately, they are just all horrible. So the hoodie is progressing in fits and starts.

There has also been some mindless sock knitting and a charity hat knitting project, perhaps to be documented next time.

In other wool news,  Dean and I picked up the rug project after a long holiday hiatus, and it feels like we’ve made it over a hump of sorts. This is the whole pile of wheels remaining to braid:

And this, my friends, is the start of something possibly recognizable as a rug!

A someday rug

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This wool rug project has been in deep hibernation for about two years, a fact I know for certain only because this blog is now old enough to have documented my exuberant start before it disappeared into the depths. And by depths, you understand that I mean some horizontal surface in the sewing room where it doesn’t quite belong but stays for six months or so until it gets shuffled again. (See what I did right there? The guest bedroom just became the sewing room, which is great news for justifying its general state and less good news for future guests. At least the ghosts of unfinished projects are generally friendly.)

I never stopped liking the idea of this rug project, or wishing that I had the finished rug, but it was slow going and something else always seemed to be more urgent or more gratifying or just easier. Then this fall I had a stroke of brilliance. I realized that this rug was a two-person project, and I recruited Dean.

I braid, he sews. Sooner or later it will become I braid, he laces.

To be honest, the idea was initially more of a ruse to convince him to keep me company so that I would spend more time working on it. But it’s actually a really good two-person project for us, because there are so many little tasks that Dean can switch between and not get bored while I just keep braiding which makes for momentum and actual progress.

We still have a long way to go, I think we’re about 30% done with the braiding. There haven’t been any marathon sessions, just an hour in the evening here and there. I’m thinking that maybe if I don’t look it straight on, we’ll have a rug someday.

St John’s wort magic

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St John’s wort in olive oil, just after filling the jars

The same oil jars a couple days later, along with a jar of tincture (alcohol infusion)

The St John’s wort is in peak condition for collecting, just on schedule according to the commonly held belief that it is named after the feast day of St John on June 24. I filled my basket with bright yellow flowers twice in the past week.

The best part of infusing St John’s wort is watching the yellow and green tops magically transform the oil or alcohol into a rich dark red. It looks like alchemy, although if you take another look at the flowers above, you’ll see some hints of it.

This is only the second year that I’ve collected but it’s locally abundant and both the tincture and oil became fast favorites this past winter. Feeling rich to have those jars of midsummer healing on the shelf once again.

A bit scattered


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I had a birthday yesterday. A 39th birthday, to be precise. And I thought I might have something to say about that but none of my thoughts seem witty or profound or even moderately interesting. Maybe I’m getting some perspective on this decade of my thirties, the threads that run through it all and how it fits into this big puzzle. But mostly, the occasion of a birthday seems to have tossed me into the gap between my experience of how life is right now and how I imagined “the life of a 39-year-old” would be. And by gap, I mean the light years separating universes. To which you’re all thinking, “um, duh” or some much more articulate version of that.

So, moving along… how about a craft project update? I’ve been pretty scattered on the making front of late – my hands regularly doing something, but no one project or medium really inspiring or holding my attention.

On the knitting front, my striped tights stalled out again so I cast on a blanket project that has been sitting in my stash for years. I bought 10 balls of this Rowan Scottish tweed chunky (the color is gorgeous but it confounds my camera) on super closeout a few years ago and from the start it was a cozy lap blanket in my mind. The simple lace pattern I chose is excellent mindless knitting for busy summer days, which is good because admittedly the big heavy blanket is less good for warmer days. I haven’t knit much with bulky yarn but I see the seduction. It goes so fast! I’m just past the halfway point and feel like I’ve hardly tried.

I’ve also been doing more sewing of late. Last weekend when it was bucketing down rain again, I cut out a cross-back apron from this pattern. I’m learning that working from free internet patterns means the cutting process is a bear – all the measuring and drawing required makes me want to beg for a shape to just cut around. But after it was finally cut out, the sewing part went well and now it just needs a hem to finish it up. And you might recognize that I’ve had the clothesline out again as well for some mindless zigzag satisfaction.

Finally, I’ve been playing with herbs. The dehydrator has been on low more often than not, slowly drying down my regular little collections of treasure from the herb garden or wild surrounds. The calendula jar is slowly filling up with brilliant orange petals, and the chamomile is trickling in. I made a couple big batches of salve this week with oils infused from last summer’s St. John’s wort and the winter cottonwood buds, good inspiration for collecting as much as I can now while there is so much to be had.

Doilies for rocks


Look! I taught myself just enough crochet to have covered two rocks!

I’m completely in love with the whole concept of doilies for rocks. They serve no function, but seeing them makes me happy, which seems like more than enough reason to keep playing.

As you can see, I upgraded from leftover sock yarn scraps to actual crochet cotton. I also invested in a crochet hook of the size suggested by the pattern instead of the unlabeled one that I found in the bottom of a basket of yarn I picked up at an estate sale years ago. Both of these helped immensely but the process is still very much a mix of feeling reasonably competent and fits of cursing.

The thing that still throws me about crochet, more than anything else, is how you have to figure out not just HOW to make each stitch, but WHERE to make it, too. With a reference book on hand, the series of wraps and pulls that make up the how is pretty straightforward to me. But I twist and turn my existing stitches and can’t tell up from down or front from back until I finally just give up and guess on just where I’m supposed to attach the new stitch. And if I have to hook into a chain stitch (which seems like it should be the easiest option), I’m definitely in trouble. At which point it’s helpful to remember that it’s a doily for a rock.

In knitting news, the shawl is still unfinished. It’s been two weeks and I’ve managed to weave in almost fifty ends. Which means I have just under a hundred to go. It has spend most of the last two weeks in a ball shape in the bottom of my knitting basket while I pretend that the long johns I abandoned on the thigh of the first leg over a year ago are suddenly very exciting and require my immediate attention.



Do those jars not look amazing? I could stare at them forever, I just find them endlessly fascinating. That is fresh cottonwood buds in (l-r) alcohol, oil, and oil after it’s been steeping for a week.

I first read about cottonwood salve several years ago now and I have wanted to try my hand at making some for just as long. But while it’s a simple process, you need to source your own raw material. Fresh buds require locating the trees, visiting during winter or early spring, and then reaching them (most easily achieved by collecting branches after a good wind, cottonwood is brittle). A simple task once you get all the conditions lined up, but no mean trick to put it all together for the newbie.

About ten days ago I went out with a generous new friend and she showed me the ropes. We spent a couple hours pleasantly wandering a couple nearby parks and I managed to collect a nice bag full of tips which I trimmed up to fill the jar on the right. And I was really excited.

And then Dean and I stopped back at the park a week later and found that a couple of cottonwood trees had been knocked over. The very definition of a windfall. Trees covered in swelling buds, a whole crown full of them, all easily within reach. In half an hour the two of us collected enough to fill two more jars.

So now we wait, anywhere from six weeks to a year, for the buds to slowly give up their goodness to the oil. And then I’ll add in a little beeswax to get the consistency I like and I will have an excellent all-purpose salve, good for pain and soreness, minor cuts and burns, and the like.

It really is folk medicine at its best, which I think is why I’m so drawn to it. It’s simple to make but not exactly scalable to any level of production. It’s useful to have on hand. And did I mention how fabulous all that resin smells?

A man sweater


I finally finished the sweater for Dean! And I’m not sure which one of us is more relieved that it fits and is a generally normal-looking garment. Which shouldn’t be shocking, it’s not like I’ve never knit a sweater before. But this was my first sweater for someone else, and while Dean is a very gracious knitted gift recipient… he’s also particular about his clothing and especially how it fits.

I told myself all along the way that it didn’t matter how much I had to rip out and re-do, I wanted to make something that would actually be functional and not just keep the closet monsters company. And I know Dean was bracing himself for the fact that we was going to feel obligated to wear whatever I produced in all those hours. After the false start, it actually went pretty well. I added a few inches to the length of everything and modified the collar to fit his preference, but otherwise just followed the pattern and all went smoothly.

Knitting details are here on Ravelry.

And after three months of knitting on (mostly) one thing, I’m free to knit anything I want! Which means it is full steam ahead on this shawl that I just barely got a start on last fall before the sweater yarn arrived and it has been (mostly) sitting in the basket waiting ever since.


So far it feels like the perfect project – a bit more interesting than endless plain knitting but not so interesting that I can’t listen to a podcast or watch something while I work on it, big enough that the end result feels substantial but small enough that I can imagine finishing it. And a new shawl at the end. My go-to shawl started feeling a little… worn of late, which is probably reasonable given that I knit it about four and half years ago.

So it’s happiness all around in the knitting update (and yes I am choosing to be blissfully ignorant of the absolutely absurd number of ends to weave in on that shawl).

Start growing the willow


I just came in from digging holes in wet ground, planting basket willows. Yes, basket willow! The hope is that in a couple years, I will have four brilliant colors of willow shoots to twine into baskets.

Which seems like a bit of a leap from someone who has made exactly one basket in her life. One basket that is uneven in every way, full of inelegant transitions and signs of clumsy hands – everything you would expect from a first attempt. Honestly, I’m really not sure when I will get to a second. It may be a couple years from now when I have willow to harvest, or it may be in a couple weeks if I have a pocket of time and the motivation. Either way, I’m confident that there will be many more in my future.

Making this first one felt like waking up some very old knowledge in my hands. I hadn’t the slightest idea how to go about making a basket but each step just made sense immediately. And even when my hands were clumsy, I could see exactly what they needed to do.

Now it’s true that I’ve been in love with just about every archaic handcraft that I’ve ever met. And I have slowly come to accept that there may not be enough hours in this life to learn them all, and that I might actually get more gratification from doing a couple well than trying to learn them all. But basket making always felt like it would find me at the right time and apparently, that time was this weekend. So while I am fully aware that picking up another archaic handcraft is possibly the last thing I need in my life, I also accept that some things are inevitable.

So I may as well start growing the willow.

A bit of color

DSC_3145 DSC_3147 DSC_31502015-04-25 16.34.58DSC_3161A few new bits of color landed this week. Little projects that, like most things in our life, seem to hang out in the “in progress” stage longer than you thought possible but then sneak across the line to “finished” eventually.

We’re always on the watch for wall art Dean and I can agree on, and those posters were an emphatic yes we when discovered them at an art & craft fair back in December. We even managed to buy frames in January, and get the posters in the frames in March. And yet they were still sitting in the closet, waiting for final adjustment and hanging, a week ago. But they’re on the wall now, making the kitchen a little more cheery.

I also picked up the unfinished pine dresser from IKEA a couple months ago. But “reorganize closet” didn’t actually make the monster list of things to do this spring, it’s more of a side hobby, so about weekly I would give the box a pat to let it know it wasn’t completely forgotten and then go back to other more pressing tasks.

And as much as I enjoy closet organization… And I really do. Dean made the mistake of mentioning he was thinking of tackling his closet several months ago and I badgered him for ages to actually do it. When he finally did, we negotiated that I would sit on the bed while he did it but would not helpinterfere. I was happy there for hours. But I digress.

The exciting part of the dresser project had nothing to do with closet organization, but my discovery of milk paint. Milk paint! Are you familiar with this magical substance? It is an old fashioned, utterly non-toxic paint that comes in powder form, and you mix it in your own kitchen to your desired consistency, and then it creates the most stunning finish. It dries completely matte, almost chalky in color. But after a coat of oil, it has some depth. Lots of people seem to also apply a topcoat of wax and some distressing details, but I skipped all of that. I absolutely loved the process, and the final look. I’m enamored with this whole palette and was scheming ideas for more projects on which to use it the whole time I was working on this one. I’m pretty sure there will be more milk-painted furniture in our house soon.

Oh, and it seems that I’m not quite done with that rope basket sewing jag, either.DSC_3158

Instant craftification

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2015-04-22 06.37.10I try hard not to pick up new hobbies, especially of the crafting variety, because there are already far more things that I’d like to make than time for making. But I fell down on the rope baskets last week. And I don’t regret it. This may be one of the most instantly gratifying projects I’ve ever done. I invested 3 minutes in watching this video and a few more in reading a couple blog posts. And then I started stitching, around and around and around. It’s really quite simple and completely enchanting.

The small bowl and coaster were my first attempts, the larger baskets my next. Everything you see, plus another coaster that got pressed into service immediately, was made from one 200-yard hank of clothesline. And thread. A lot of thread. But I don’t even feel bad about that, because I have a habit of picking up bags of thread from the thrift store when I like the old wooden spools, but there’s a limit to how many jars of old spools I need on the sewing shelves. Or more accurately, I can love them just as much empty of their thread.

And who can’t find a use for a few new baskets about? Or maybe more…


December day

It was nearly 9p last night when I sat down for what felt like the first time all day and my first thought was, “maybe this is what happened to the whole first half of December?”

These have been full days, no doubt. The beauty is that by this point in life I have freely abandoned any holiday-related expectations that don’t work for me, so my days are full of too much of all the things I love about this time of year. So it was that yesterday I was hanging ornaments and wrapping packages in brown kraft paper in between making plum jam and screen-printing cards and tromping through the National Forest tree hunting. A very good day in my book.

I have also studiously avoided shopping of just about every kind (even online), a craft show last weekend being my major exception. And that sentence goes a very long way in explaining how I have learned to manage myself through December.

Before I give the impression that I’m a shiny example of sanity amid holiday crazies, let me assure you that is not at all where I’m going. It’s much more about choosing forms of craziness that best suit.

I spent many hours yesterday making plum jam. Back in August we gleaned some Italian prune plums but didn’t have time to process them so just stuck them in the freezer whole. I had a vague idea of holiday baking with them because the flavor reminded me so strongly of the prune treats at my Grandma Axtman’s holidays of my childhood. I didn’t have a specific item in mind so we poked around and plum linzer cookies were added to the short list of holiday baking projects.

Now I could have made the jam anytime in the last couple months, but I didn’t. So the day before I hoped to bake said cookies, I pulled that bag of still-frozen fruit out, inhaled the sweet smell of summer, and set about cooking them down. It took about twice as long as I had hoped it would, so yesterday’s candle-making project became this morning’s candle-making project. But our house smelled fantastic all afternoon and the candles will get made and maybe even while we are snacking on jam-filled linzers.

So it goes, over and over again. Days filled to the brim, and then just evaporating.

You can’t fight instinct

crafting 2014nov04It feels like some primitive instinct. The natural world mostly stops growing things this time of year and my urge to make things, all sorts of things, jumps into overdrive as if to compensate.

The knitting was the first outlet to fall prey, but I’m already in so far over my head there that I had to employ defenses. So I spent untold hours browsing patterns and scheming about the next sweater/hat/scarf (depending on the day), but I did manage to stop myself from actually casting on any new projects. I’ve decided instead that what I really need instead is to actually finish one of the projects I have going. It sounds very reasonable, but I did try to convince myself that I could just sneak in the rest of the pickle sweater last week. After the better part of the week spent on the upper back I came to my senses and buckled down on the baby blanket once again. Just one and a half balls of yarn left on it now, so maybe if I keep on it I’ll manage to wrap it up by the middle of this month.

And that would be totally reasonable if I was just working on knitting projects. But last Friday afternoon I was struck with the sudden (and brilliant) inspiration to relocate my sewing table. And it’s such a superior setup that I really want to spend time sitting there sewing. (I’m sure that watching back episodes of the BBC’s “The Great British Sewing Bee” for knitting company has only a little to do with this.) I told myself that I would just start on the backlog of mending projects but it was a matter of hours until I broke out the wool braided rug. Right before it went away for the summer, I had ordered some rug-braiding tools and lo! tools are helpful! So I’ve made some progress and more of a plan and I’m quite excited about how it’s coming together. Last night I did do enough math to figure out that I have about 10% of the braid done, so it’ll be awhile until I have an actual rug, but I’m plucking away on it anyway.

I’ve also been playing with some herbs and such again and over the weekend I made a batch of lavender soap. From infusing the oil and then making it up and now the curing, we’ve had the lovely scent of lavender wafting around for days and I have to say I’m really quite ok with that.

So that’s most of the making that’s happening around here these days. Now that I write it out it really doesn’t seem like so much. Hmmmm…