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Archive for February, 2012

I foresee a day coming when people will turn around and walk the other way when they see me approaching—for fear that I’ll corner them and start telling them about the Potato Chip Scarf.  They’ll say, “Yikes!  Here she comes, charging inexorably toward us with Potato Chips wound around her neck.”

Oh well, at the risk of driving non-knitting readers stark raving batty, I can’t resist posting my latest finished “masterpiece”—this time a Potato Chip not joined at the ends, so the curves and bends dangle and wave in the breeze.  A lampshade seemed like a suitable model. 

Obviously, when I latch on to a good thing, I just don’t let go.  Fashion scarves are so much fun, economical to make, and abounding in creative possibilities with all the gorgeous and funky yarns available.  I do not see any end in sight—except for that ultimate end!  I may very well have knitting needles in my hands and a ball of yarn dangling from me when the Lord takes me home!

Thinking of the scarves and shawls I hope to make, I recalled something from the 1940s which was “the latest thing” in the small town where I lived:  a lacy triangular scarf called a Fascinator.  These came in lovely pastel shades, and they were available at the dress shop in our town for the hefty price of $2.00 each.  Joe says that would be about $28.00 in today’s money.

I remember saving and saving to buy my sister, Ardis, a Fascinator for a Christmas gift.  I am not sure those small town doozeys were haute couture in Madison, where Ardis attended the University of Wisconsin.  But she was gracious about my gift, and I’m sure she loved the thought!  An 18 year old and a 10 year old are worlds apart in what they consider to be smart and chic apparel—at least that was the case back in 1943.

Just for fun, I looked up “Fascinator” on Wikipedia and learned the following:

“A fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery.  The word originally referred to a fine, lacy head covering akin to a shawl and made from wool or lace, but mostly feathers.  Today, a fascinator may be worn instead of a hat on occasions where hats were traditionally worn—such as weddings—or as an evening accessory, when it may be called a cocktail hat.  It is generally worn with fairly formal attire.

“A substantial fascinator is a fascinator of some size or bulk.  They have been mentioned in the press, due to Queen Elizabeth pronouncing new standards of dress required for entry to the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot.  In 2012 Royal Ascot announced that Women will have to wear hats, not fascinators, as part of a tightening of the dress code in Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure this summer.  In previous years, female racegoers were simply advised that ‘many ladies wear hats’.

“Bigger than a barette, modern fascinators are commonly made with feathers, flowers, or beads.  They attach to the hair by a comb, headband, or clip.  The fun, fanciful ornament is often embellished with crystals, beads, or loops of ribbon, and attaches via a comb or headband; some have a small, stiff, flat base that can be secured with bobby pins.  They are particularly popular at premium horse-racing events such as the Grand National, Kentucky, Derby, and the Melbourne Cup.  Brides may choose to wear them as an alternative to a bridal veil or hat, particularly if their gowns are non-traditional.”

So the 1940s lacy headgear sold in my small town dress shop was a replay of the age old Fascinator in one form.  I could easily knit something similar to what I remember giving my sister for Christmas.  But I have to admit that the spin-offs pictured above are also “fascinating” to me.  I probably would not wear one to church.  But I think it would be great fun to prance around at the local super market, or in my favorite antique malls, wearing a Fascinator that looks like a combination peacock in full dress and a hyper-active ceiling fan!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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 “I sometimes wonder, after all,
Amid this tangled web of fate,
If what is great may not be small,
And what is small may not be great.
So wondering I go my way,
Yet in my heart contentment sings . . .
O may I ever see, I pray,
God’s grace and love in Little Things.”

From “The Joy of Little Things”, by Robert Service

__________________________________________________

“I come in the little things, saith the Lord, 

Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat

That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod . . .

I come in the little things, saith the Lord:

Yea! on the glancing wings 

Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet

Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet . . . .”

From “I Come in the Little Things, Saith the Lord”, by Evelyn Underhill

____________________________________________________________

I will never be able to say enough, write enough, or thank God adequately for the Little Things.  I cannot begin to list them, because I haven’t enough years on earth, or hours in a day.  There isn’t enough paper on this planet to contain my list or record my appreciation for the Little Things.  But here are just a few:

The February sun streams in my window, flooding my keyboard.  Our corgi, Dylan, sleeps and snores on the floor beside me.  My husband watches a favorite sport and periodically makes a suggestion or voices a strong complaint, to the players on the screen. 

Snow falls.  Snow melts.  Today I heard the cardinal’s first “Cheer Cheer Cheer” of the season; his territorial assertiveness has resumed for another year.  We had breakfast at a local café which is alway packed at mealtimes—resounding with the happy clatter of dishes and ongoing congenial conversation. 

Our friendly 93 year old neighbor, Mike, drives off in his sporty new car, with his radio blaring Country Western tunes.  Mike is chomping at the bit for the next golf season to begin.  Another neighbor walks past our windows with a dog, and Dylan rumbles his “deep in the throat” message—broadcasting that he does not like other dogs.

Our granddaughter-in-law, Kelly, phones from San Diego and excitedly tells us about the sunshine—and the view of the ocean from their patio.  She tells us they are all happy—and that their sweet two year old, Cole, has a little friend to play with. 

I loiter in the produce department of our supermarket and marvel at the gorgeous shades of purple/blue in the eggplants.  I resolve to GOOGLE “Eggplant Recipes”, in order to justify buying one the next time I shop.  But I’ll probably sketch and paint the eggplant before cooking it.

Our Christmas cactus never bloomed at Christmas, but now it is sprouting pink buds—having saved its glory for the Lenten season.  As I water the plants, they say “Thank you” by exuding the heady fragrance of damp earth.

Now we have a lingering twilight.  I boil water and steep our tea until just short of battery acid strength.  Joe and I drink our tea while gazing out the living room window at the ambience of our patio garden in winter—and dreaming of the green explosion to come.

Tomorrow, in church, I’ll sit in our four generation family row—praising God that I can be the old great-grandma, enjoying beautiful younger people of all ages!  Some will visit in the afternoon, for Scrabble, reminiscing, playing in the doll house, or simply savoring the moment.

People to love.  Beauty to behold.  Endless delights to experience with the five senses.  Creative pastimes to enjoy.  We lack nothing.  We are complete.  We are abundantly blessed by The Little Things!

Contentment

It comes from viewing, with a certain mind,

a window full of plants in Winter

and finding rabbit tracks in snow,

from going to sleep while blizzard shrieks

and waking to a house that’s drifted shut.

It comes again in Spring when Earth is waiting

and the air has not quite turned to May,

in Summer at a pine-edged lake

where Time halts and the moment is enough. 

It comes in Autumn–with a sadness–

as fields are tanned and cider flows

and children’s noses chill at dusk,

and Earth spreads makeup on Her face

to hide Her age.

© Margaret Longenecker Been

 

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Last Sunday we took a nostalgia drive, down to Walworth County where we first see the redwings every year.  They always arrive at this southern county in Wisconsin before venturing up into our neighborhood.  We knew it was a bit too early in the month to hear that beloved “Oka-Reeeeee” resounding from tree tops and dried cattails, but we went anyway—eager to see some favorite country again. 

For twenty-one years we lived close to this region, and we traveled frequently to favorite restaurants there.  Since moving to the far north, and then home again to the northern reaches of Waukesha County, we have only been back to the Walworth area a couple of times—for apple picking in the fall and gleaning the first sight of redwings in late February or early March.

For a visitor from far off parts who had no idea of the luxuriant growth to come, our land would look like desert at this time of the year.  However, we natives know what lies ahead.  We know that in a matter of weeks we will be inundated with birdsong and those peachy green shoots that give way to deep forest green and more foliage than the eye can register, more than the heart can begin to comprehend.  Rivers will rush, clouds will scutter, and color will spring up everywhere.  But for now, the earth is still sleeping all over Wisconsin. 

Sleep is so precious—to the roots of trees, shrubs, and perennials as well as to most of animal and human life.  I love sleep, and I love to see the earth in its mood of repose, just before the GREAT EXPLOSION! 

Sleep!  As the Old Bard described it in MacBeth: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care”!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Potato Chip Scarf

Here it is, hot off the needles.  I joined the ends but a long, hanging scarf—unjoined—would display the potato chips more clearly.  Fun!

Margaret L. Been

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We are a bit short of two months since the winter solstice, and still more than a month away from the vernal equinox.  Cabin Fever can set in, but I refuse to allow that infliction to have any space in my life.  Late winter is a great time to add a decorative and creative touch to the wardrobe, at little or no cost. 

Pictured above are two accents I’ve banged off on my knitting needles in three days’ time, with about three hours invested into each item.  Each “scarf-ling” is knitted to about 36 to 40 inches long, and then joined at the ends with a twist before joining.  The garment is slipped over the head, and it stays on because the ends are connected—as opposed to actual scarves which fall off and fly all over the place.  The twist creates the funky look.  No matter how the garment hangs, it has a certain debonair attitude of panache and pizzazz. 

Joe says the scarf-ling looks like the collar on a draft horse.  I like that description, as I am very fond of horses.  Here is a shot of one of these creations, photographed in my bathroom mirror.  I’ve cropped off most everything in the photo except for the knitted piece.  ↓

These quick and painless garments may be made with any yarn, on any size needles, knitted in any pattern—with small dabs of yarn left over from larger projects.  It’s Knitter’s Choice.  I did K1, yarn over twice, repeated across a row, followed by knitting the stitches and dropping the “yarn overs” throughout the next row.  These two rows were duplicated many times—while intermingled with a mix of knit and purl rows accented with one of my all time favorite patterns:  P one row; K1, P1 in the next row; then repeating those two rows as often as desired.  Although the Purl row is normally presented as the right side in that sequence, both sides look good.  I use this pattern for a lot of scarves and shawls because they tend to get turned and flipped so that both sides of the work are exposed.

Since we have a big plastic bin of left over yarn stored in our garage, I hope to eventually make scarf-lings to blend with (or complement) most any shade or tint of sweater, blouse, or dress—in woollens and silk blends for winter, and cottons or fine acrylics for summer attire.   The next knitted delight (on the needles at present) will be in shades of aqua, green, and lime.  It will be a “Potato Chip” patterned scarf-ling.  For any knitters or just plain curious readers, you can GOOGLE “Potato Chip Scarf” in order to see what that’s all about—or simply wait awhile.  I may post the Potato Chip on this blog when it’s finished.

With so much fun, our winter “cabin” continues to be an enjoyable place.  Barring the possibility of attack from a virus or bacteria, the only “fever” around here will be Knitting Fever.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Today we are celebrating one of the best holidays, in my estimation!  Most every Valentine’s Day in recent years, my love has presented me with a hug-able Teddy, with the year imprinted on one of its feet.  This year’s Teddy is candy pink.  The bears line up in our living room, and overflow into the bedroom.  They always smile, and are far less mischievous than the live black bears we had for neighbors when we lived up North.

Today Joe and I are going to a local cafe for the best hamburger we know of—made to order.  We can get them rare, so it must be good beef.  Joe likes onions on his hamburger, and I love the Mexican HOT variety with peppers.

Here is my blog contribution to this day of ambience:  my very favorite sonnet.  It was also the favorite of Jane Austen’s Marianne in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, when Marianne was taken in by that rake, Willoughby.  Marianne went through a lot of trials and torment, before she realized her one true love! 

I have known my one true love for 61 years!!!

 Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Margaret L. Been

Note:  I cannot resist posting another photo of “lovers” given to us by our daughter, Martina, from her trip to Kenya:

 

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I wrote the following lines, thinking they might make a good epitaph:

I’ve always needed something in my hands . . .

a doll, a Teddy bear, kitten, puppy, infant,

new-born lamb, bread dough, yarn and knitting needles, 

a teacup, pen and paper, book, steering wheel, handkerchief,

a piece of quartz, an oak leaf, acorn, chestnut,

bouquet of daisies, dried hydrangeas . . .

EARTH! 

I’ve always needed something in my hands, and will

until You pry my fingers loose and lead me, empty handed,

HOME!

© Margaret Longenecker Been

Everyone knows I love words.  I never bothered to talk as a toddler, and until I turned two years old my parents were afraid I’d never talk.  Then I turned two, and my parents were suddenly afraid that I’d never stop.  I recall my mother telling someone: “Margaret can talk a bird down out of a tree”!

Shades of loquacity notwithstanding, what may be an even stronger trait exists in my DNA—the tactile gene.  This gene is an actual hunger at all times of the year.  Indeed over the winter holidays, when much of our time is occupied with pleasant social gatherings, the hunger intensifies to a point where I realize I HAVE to take my knitting along to group occasions in order to maintain soul balance—and also that I will not eat all the available goodies.  I must have something in my hands.

The hunger continues, rampantly noticeable, throughout the rest of the winter as I dream of the gardening season ahead—when bare hands in earth will be satisfied and filled with rejoicing.  Meanwhile, I repot houseplants—taking special care to get some of the soil under my fingernails while indulging my sense of smell in the heady fragrance of green roots in wet earth.  I paint with a paintbrush, but relish the traces of alizaron crimson and French ultramarine on my fingers.  I stroke my doggie’s back and pat his head, while revelling in the softness of his fur and the smoothness of his velvety ears.

And I knit!  Yarn has special appeal as each variety has its own texture.  Without looking I can differentiate between silk yarns, factory spun acrylic blends, and those precious yarns which I’ve spun from my own (long ago) sheep.  There is a distinct difference in sheep wools:  I still have a soft Shetland batt, and some Border Leicester wool which is lustrous and coarse—fine for my sun weathered skin, but frowned upon by many folks who can’t handle a bit of the scratch on their delicate bodies.

The first full blown realization of my abject need for tactile experience came to me over a couple of decades when I frequently attended workshops and conferences.  Many of these were focused on writing, and no matter how helpful and informative they were I would come home drained and stressed—wanting to scream but not knowing exactly why.  I may have been inspired and challenged, but I also felt kind of “ill”.  I was sick of words—and weary of the competition and drivenness commonly exhibited at conventions of writers!

Also in those years, I attended woollie gatherings—spinners’ conventions and knitters’ gatherings.  I came home from these occasions with an overflowing cup of contentment and well being!  The diverse textures of the subject matter were accompanied by the glorious scent of wool and high stimulation of COLOR—all set against a background of pleasant conversation.  To this day I feel healthy and strong in the wake of a spinners’ or knitters’ gathering—where all levels of “art” are welcome and respected, and participants are bonded in their shared love of a hands-on project.

Oddly enough, I can read a fine quality 600 or 700 page book (and often do) without that burnt out feeling that I get from a writers’ gathering.  Somehow, the aptly written word fulfills, challenges, soothes, and satisfies while building rather than depleting my soul.  So can words spoken by a teacher, preacher, or friend.  Quiet, one-on-one conversation with a friend or family member refreshes me.  And I can write volumes, with impunity. 

It is the cacophony of many competitive people talking that jars me to the core—along with the above mentioned drivenness that motivates (and sadly afflicts!) many writers in a group of their peers.  I’m settled and fulfilled whenever I have something in my hands! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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