The road lace traveled

Hello friends, makers, and creators of WordPress. After a 3 month hiatus from blogging, I’m hoping to get a semi-regular posting habit going again. Although I haven’t been as active blog-wise this year, I have been reading and enjoying your posts. Your collective creativity sustained my imagination during my own blogging dry spell, and reading your stories and updates inspires me to come back to making, reflecting, and writing again — the lather, rinse, repeat of creativity (like, in a good way).

One happy update: earlier this summer, I tied the knot with my partner and best friend of 9 years! We enjoyed a sunny day and a simple, symbolic ceremony outside of Chicago on a grassy patch by a lake. We were grateful for fluffy clouds across a blue Midwestern sky and the loving company of close friends and family.

So. While planning, one thing I definitely wanted to do for the day was to wear a handmade garment. Having read about traditions of lace-making in The Book of Haps a year ago, my mind was full of lace-shaped dreams. I love the way lace catches light and drapes and moves and makes shadows. I was also resolved to take my lace skills to the next level. I decided, last Spring, that I’d make myself a bridal shawl.

I chose a sport weight baby blue alpaca (as my LYS-lady said, alpaca’s got a natural “glow”) and selected a pattern that looked challenging but also possible for me: Jessie Dodington’s Dinner in the Eiffel Tower shawl. It’s a beautiful crescent-shaped cover, inspired by the famous tower’s criss-cross lattice structure. I was excited, enthused, pumped on wedding-planning adrenaline, and on my way…

© Jessie Dodington

But, because mistakes are inevitable…

I realized, early on, that I needed to devise my own way of dealing with lace-making mistakes in order to avoid past (disappointing) experiences of frogging-the-whole-darn-thing. With the later rows reaching 265 stitches, this became all the more important! Since the lattice section of the shawl relied on a pattern that repeated every 7 stitches, I “pre-knit” each row by weaving a line of yarn in between stitches to mark every 7-stitch repeat. This marking method helped me to “see” where each repeat was going to occur before physically knitting the row out. When I did, inevitably, make a mistake, this method also helped me to see where in the knitting the mistake happened, making correcting it 1000 times easier. It was time-consuming, yes, but this method was my own little eureka! moment of lace-knitting; it got me through the project and showed me that, with a little extra planning, more lace-making is possible in the foreseeable future.

As usual, when the shawl first comes off the needles, it’s a crumpled up, non-shawl-looking thing. The structures of lace come alive on the blocking board.

Pictures!

On the blocking board.
Out where lace loves to live: under the sun.

Just revisiting these pictures from earlier this summer fills me with a sense of lace-lover’s magic all over again.

Ok. That is all the news for now. Wishing you a restful weekend and an exciting, productive week!

Foray into Florals

If you’re like me, you’re accustomed to always having a “thing” in progress – a thing on the make at home, in addition to other quick things you can grab on the go (idle bus rides and waiting rooms, no more!). As we know, hands love occupation. When I sprained my neck last month, however, my long hours at the work table and monitor had to give way to rest and recovery. Even “easy” knitting and crochet were out of the question for a while.

I learned 2 things: I’m a terrible rest-er. Or, I need and thrive on the colours and textures of my beloved media. I think with my hands, and they need to intermingle hues and textures on needles and hooks. Preferably, on a daily basis. It was tricky, that no-knitting thing.

Second, though, I learned that we can adapt, and that new loves are always just around the corner. In need of some creative time, I picked my brain for a gentler, less tensing activity than fiber art – one that would allow me to enjoy colour and texture and form, but without too much muscle-work. And I found it: florals!

I went to Trader Joe’s and picked out a few things that caught my eye: a bit of white freesia, a smattering of baby’s breath, some Sweet William (for that wonderfully kinetic purple), sea lavender, and some sunflowers. Saddled with my bouquets, I took the train home during rush hour; navigating the packed-like-sardines train ride was a bit tricky. I crinkled and smushed a few buds, but everything arrived intact overall!

I laid all the stems out and started to think. Assembling a bouquet is a wonderful and gentle process – one assembles with one hand, and holds the stems in the other (gingerly at first to keep things loose and adjustable). My goal wasn’t perfect symmetry (flowers teach that nature is rarely perfectly symmetrical) but the vaguer criterion of ‘balance.’ For me, balance manifests as a wide open feeling of “ahhhhhh”: a sigh, in part, in relief and, in part, in the marvel of a new revelation.

I started building my bouquet from the middle outwards, beginning with a central cluster of sunflowers and freesia. I discovered, in the process, that the smell of freesia instantly opens the spirit right up (it does just as its name suggests!).

I thought it would work well to add a generous bit of Sweet William to the cluster. The colours seemed to delight in each other’s presences – a sign to keep going!

The sea lavender and baby’s breath followed. I wanted to emphasize the natural twinkle of the baby’s breath, so I kept it around the edges of the bouquet:

Before long, my hand was full – my cue to wrap it up. I took an end of ribbon from my container o’ scraps, and a bit of twine, and tied the bunch in place. I also trimmed down the stems. Voilà, a handheld bouquet!

I love florals! Working with them is relaxing and peaceful and healing. It’s energizing to create something with living things – each stem brings its own particular colour and structure and feeling to the whole. Each has its own little but beautiful way of being with the others, and the process of putting it all together makes the heart sing.

Happy Thursday to you. 🎵

Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Moms – you make the world go ’round!

Here’s a handmade bouquet for mothers, mother-figures, and any and all of the maternal energies that sustain us. 🙂

(and more on my little foray into floral therapy soon!).

Have a beautiful day. 🌸

Crochet: hints from Spring

Greetings!

Pardon my involuntary blogging hiatus. I sustained a neck injury earlier this month that saw me take a trip to the ER, followed by a ‘minimal screens’ and ‘minimal crafting’ regimen for a while (as a craft blogger, understand that this was not easily done). Things are better now, and I am slowly and gingerly healing up and getting back into the swing of things (thank you, pain meds).

After a truly magnificent blizzard swept through the city two Sundays ago, Chicago, it’s safe to say, has finally settled into its proper Spring-time weather: the sky turns that optimistic and clarifying shade of blue again, the sun is back, and so are those little mottle-feathered birds that perch in the bushes and on the eavestrough and fill the mornings with chirpy musings.

The hands have been busy — with extra vigilance of the neck’s temporary limitations. As they say, absence make the heart grow fonder — not being able to craft for a while only renewed my craft-itchiness, and when the time was right, I got back into my hooks! I’m taking a hint from spring in my making: all hearts and flowers and silver linings. Very much wishing you the same!

Frost-land

Greetings from the polar vortex. If you are anywhere in or around the American Midwest or central Canada, then you know what this is all about. The last two days have seen the region clobbered by heavy snowfall, blinding snow squalls and freeway-whiteouts (imagine a dense, moving pocket of snow that clouds up your windshield), and of course, record-setting lows and their bitter, bitter winds. In Chicago alone, this early morning, lows dipped down to -28 C/-21 F (-39 C/-39 F if you happened to catch a side of wind with that). We were colder than parts of Antarctica, Alaska, and apparently, Mars.

What does strange Martian winter feel like? Frightening. It’s the kind of weather that hardens the world in ice, slickening the footsteps on past snows into unyielding, ankle-twisting formations. It’s the winter that will take the air out of your tires and leave you stranded a near-mile from home, just because (luckily, on the warmer of the 2 days, at -21 C). You’ll spend the afternoon re-heating at a strip mall sub and sandwich joint, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, and when it does, an exhausted mustachioed man in a blue sweatshirt lifts your felled car away and your heart sinks to know he’s been at it all day. You walk that near-mile home at your best speed, but the darkening sky and the growing sharpening in your knees suddenly reminds you that there are parts of your body that are made entirely of flash-freezable fluid.

On the way, passing 6-foot snowdrifts in pharmacy parking lots, you notice a curiosity: an abandoned bottle of perfectly good, uncorked Merlot is peering out of a snow bank. You try to imagine a scenario that starts with “purchase fancy wine” and ends with “leave fancy wine in the snow.” You wonder if you should adopt said wine. Then you fear it’s a trap! (and then you realize that, at this moment, the outside world is a trap). Hastily, you leave the abandoned wine in its place, but take it as incontrovertible proof that the cosmic order of things has shifted. Is shifting. The graininess of the picture of the bottle reminds you of UFO-sighting photography.

You arrive home safely — not frost-bitten but frost-nipped, a little reddened and unprepared for the sting of thawing out (ow!).

While indoors, the mind quickens and grows squirrel-jittery about staving off any incoming freeze. As the temperatures inside plummet along with the blustering world outside (an apartment built in the 1960s has presumably outworn some of its original insulation!), the utility of duvets is no longer theoretical. Alongside radiant heat, fleece, and woolen anything, duvets become the best thing ever invented and you spend the entire night rolled up in goose down, marveling at the small, storm-free world undercover. Overnight, as thick beads of ice form on the insides of the window panes, you consider the dual warming meanings of night cap. In the frigid 6 a.m. air, the wordplay makes sudden, amusing sense — and, come to think of it, also explains why your instinct, during the past 2 days, was to start knitting yourself a hat, in worsted weight on tiny #3 needles, so that the stitches pull in real close.

In other words, it’s been cold.

I hope you are staying warm and keeping safe, wherever you happen to be.