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Archive for November, 2012

Some may be substituting knitting needles for their wintered garden tools, but I never quit knitting over the summer—although it was a challenge in the 90 plus degree heat we had.  From grubbing in the garden, to picking up my needles, the summer was wonderful.  Now the garden has retired, and the needles are clicking overtime.

Along with a precious Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Dylan, the above photo features a fresh-off-the-needles shrug which incorporates a pattern I created with easy lace stitches and beautiful yarn which I spun from a blend of three gorgeous rovings. The fibers are shetland and mohair, dyed and combed with a touch of glitz by Laura Matthews at Psalm 23 Farm, near Kiel, Wisconsin. 

The embryo stage of the shrug and a closeup of the yarn are pictured below:

It appears (and actually is true!) that my very favorite fashion statements begin with an “S”—Shrugs, Scarves, and Shawls.  I’m currently doing a potato chip scarf for a friend who loves a combination of blues and greens.  (I also love those analogous colors—actually, most any combination of colors—analogous or complementary.) 

Awhile back, I posted the next photo to illustrate how I now put a button hole and funky button in all scarves and shawls—so they don’t slide off shoulders and onto the floor (which I’ve always found to be very annoying):

Since anything to do with knitting produces a lot of hits on this blog, I have the audacity to post fiber photos again!  I think there are three re-runs on this entry!

Finally, here’s a sample of a button hole/plus button in a shawl.  The button hole discovery (so easy to do!) is turning shawls and scarves into comfortable, practical, and wearable delights—at least one for every color chord in my closet!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

NOTE:  Here is the potato chip pattern, courtesy of Ravelry’s free downloads:

Any size needles and any size yarn.  Any number of cast on stitches.  I’ll give the minimun, although I tend to include extra stitches at the ends, and decrease around the neck as the flare is becoming to most of us.  I like #7 or #8 (US) needles. My handspun tends to be quite fine, between sock and DK.  (Worsted is way too bulky for my taste, and I only use it for children’s outdoor wraps.)

I knit the Potato Chip in garter stitch, but that can be varied.  Some prefer the look of stockinette in this case.  Patterns would not show up very well, but they could fly if so desired.

Cast on 20.  Knit across row before beginning the curls, to stabilize the work.

Row 1:  Knit 8, Turn; Knit Back to Beginning;  Knit 6/Turn/Knit Back; Knit 4/Turn/Knit Back; Knit across entire row.

Row 2:  Same as Row 1, only from other side.

Knit the two rows (each one containing 3 short rows and 1 full row) back and forth, for as long as you like. 

End with 1 row of straight knitting to stabilize the other end.

For a button-hole and button scarf, I position the button hole a few inches from the bottom edge on what will be the right side of the scarf.  It’s fun and funky to make the left side longer than the right. 

Decrease however many stitches needed for the size button you have selected, and increase those stitches back on the needle on your return trip.  To employ a couple of silly clichés, a button hole is easier than falling off a log and the greatest thing since sliced bread!!!  🙂

Things to remember: 

1)  The curl doesn’t appear immediately; it takes from 15 to 20-ish rows to begin to discern a potato chip, as that many increases on the edges are needed for the waves to set in. 

2)  There will be tiny holes in your work, due to your turns and knitbacks.  At first this nearly drove me nuts, until I realized that the holes are uniform in their repeating sequences of 8/6/4—consequently a pattern is created by them.  So I got over it!

Enjoy your potato chips.  I guarantee you won’t be able to stop at only one scarf!

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Recently our daughter, Laura, shopped for upholstery fabric for her sofa.  Laura wanted a print which would incorporate the soft colors she loves, to accent the muted gold walls in her new home.  At her first stop, Laura was told emphatically that patterned fabrics are unavailable because they are “not in style”.  Only solid colors are “in”.

At the next store Laura was told that patterns were scarce, but the decorator/clerk was helpful and willing to look.  Amazingly, she came up with a print in a traditional design which contained all the colors Laura desired.  Both our daughter and the clerk were delighted! 

Since hearing Laura’s account of shopping for fabric I’ve been musing on the patternless trend in decorating.  Not only does a lack of pattern go against my grain—it seems totally unnatural.  Nature is full of patterns.  If we are observant we cannot look anywhere without seeing a variety of designs.  Even in vast expanses of sky and sea, patterns are evident in moving clouds and undulating waves.  And our personal lives overflow with patterns as well!

Not only do I love patterns, but I love to mix them up and feature them together in the smallest of areas.  How many patterns can you detect in the below photo?

In this room alone, I have counted at least twenty-two patterns—including those in furniture, throw rugs, table runners, decorative shawls, afghans, and pillows.  Not taken into consideration were the patterns in dishes on shelves and art on the walls. 

Quite obviously, eclectic decorating is (and nearly always has been) a dominating pattern in my life!  Back in the 1990s, I received so many comments (pros and cons) about my “style” that I recorded the following message on our telephone answering device:  “You have reached the Beens, and the headquarters of Outrageous Home Decor.” 

Unfortunately many callers failed to comprehend my funky brand of humor, and they registered rank confusion.  They just didn’t get it.  So we replaced that message with one that was thoroughly boring and “socially correct”.*

Returning to current decorating trends, there IS HOPE!  This week I went to TARGET, in search of towels for my bathroom.  We have two bathrooms in our condo:  a big one for Joe and and a sweet little one for me.  A private loo!  How wonderful is that?!!!  Having my own loo means it is ALL MINE, and I can decorate it however I wish.  At TARGET I found incredibly gorgeous towels in Southwestern-ish stripes of many colors. 

I bought several towels and wash cloths, and rejoiced all the way home with this amazing bounty for my bathroom which abounds in cowboy pictures, art reminiscent of New Mexico, photos of family members with horses, my Dad’s spurs, and glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western or Native American motif.  (Fondly, I call the loo my “Louis L’Amour bathroom”.)

I’ve been waiting for a grandson to come over during his school break, to paint the above described bathroom.  But hanging the new towels set an idea moving in my patterned brain.  Wouldn’t it be fun if . . . ? 

Below, you will see the fun (and funky) outcome of that idea:

When we moved here three plus years ago, the bathroom walls were already sponged with blotches of tan.  I added life to the room by charging the walls with blotches of vibrant color, plus a few of my favorite words. 

Having (just this morning!) added these fresh patterns, I guided my husband into the bathroom while instructing him to keep his eyes shut until we were in the room with the door shut for full effect.  Even in my wildest imagination, I wasn’t prepared for Joe’s response.  He broke into an immense grin and said, “That’s BEAUTIFUL!”

Then Joe added that instead of painting my bathroom we should keep my folk artsy walls this way, with the words and colorful blotches—while using the gallon of paint we’d purchased for my loo, for painting his den instead.  The paint is BRIGHT, BRIGHT RED!  That’s the result of nearly sixty years of happy marriage! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*We could only stand our generic, “socially correct” answering machine message for a very short time.  Finally we changed it to one that remains right up to this minute—and will remain:  “You have reached the LOVERS—Joe and Margaret Been.  Please leave a message, and have a great day!”

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At a recent social occasion, a young friend shared that she simply can’t stand the word “beige”.  She said it’s so “You know, beige!”  I agreed that “beige” is indeed a boring, generic word when one could qualify with something more colorful like “pale nutmeg”, “1/2 whole wheat,” or “overcooked chicken thigh”.

Anyway, I got to musing about words that I “can’t stand” (I say that instead of “hate” which my parents taught me never to say except when referring to major issues like war, disease, race discrimination, etc).  I came up with two words, and both of them begin with a preposition:  “update” and “downsize”. 

To me “update” is an unimaginative, harshly pedestrian word smacking of anything that would threaten to ratchet me from the 19th and 20th centuries where I felt at home, to the 21st where I live—although that hasn’t yet made a dent in me and I hope it never will!  And I knee-jerk even more, over that intimidating verb—“downsize”! 

Of course some downsizing is essential when it means moving from a large home to a smaller one (we’ve done that three times in thirty-two years—paring a bit here and there without diminishing our penchant for acquiring antiques and junk).  Lack of space is a valid reason to delete some of one’s stuff, to make more space for collecting at the other end!  Also, it makes sense to give our children and grandchildren some family heirlooms and perhaps some silver, china, or crystal—so we can see them enjoying these items before we depart. 

Obviously, when “things” or “clutter” become disorganized in a home—or when they prove burdensome and inordinately time consuming—then it’s good to take drastic action.  Also, we need to run an inventory if things are overly important in our lives.  We are never to idolize stuff! 

While appreciating these disclaimers, I pray Joe and I will never need to change our modus operandi!  I’ll continue to shout from the highest rooftop and scream from the highest mountain, “Bring on the stuff”.  You can downsize me when you lower me into my grave, because by then I’ll have left this earth for the best Home of all!  🙂 

The currently popular fad of downsizing may be partly due to that horrible contemporary lack of commodious attics in which to stash the extra detritus of bygone years.  What a loss to the human race and quality of living—although heating Victorian houses might not appeal to many of us. 

But I think the contemporary downsizing syndrome implies more than the lack of an attic.  Some late 20th century sterility has crept into the American pop mentality.  And by now, nearly thirteen years after the turn of the century (which to me will always mean from 1899 to 1900) our culture has degenerated full-throttle into the crazed concept that everything has to:  1) move fast, 2) be bio-degradable, and 3) be “easy” to maintain.

Those souls who simply cannot live with dust, rust, stains, or tatter, will definitely choose advancing into the 21st century—perhaps in tandem with some who can’t sit still or walk slowly, but rather need to be metaphorically catapulting from coast to coast with a brief lay-over in Minneapolis or Chicago. 

Fortunately, however, there are others who will always resist the latest trend.  We are those intrepid and dauntless anachronisms—suspended in time, while happily preserving the artifacts of other eras.  We anachronisms don’t care two hoots when our stuff gets dusty—although, because I enjoy the process, I actually dust (most) everything twice (or maybe three times) per year whether I need to or not! 

I love rust, the stains of antiquity (barring spilled food and dog messes), and tatters.  I do draw the line at mold, but only because I have a chronic sinus infection and asthma.

So while some may say (often a bit sanctimoniously, as if there were a “spiritual” aspect to downsizing) “I don’t do antiques shops and garage sales anymore”, my husband and I still hit them frequently whatever the season—antiques shops in winter and garage sales in summer.   (Remember, we live in Wisconsin.  That should explain the seasonal element.)

When we lived up north a woman came into our home, looked around, and made a classically caustic comment (get that alliteration—it’s the poet in me).  She said, “How can you do this to your children?”

Well, at least one granddaughter is very glad we are “doing this”!  Once again on this blog I quote our brilliant granddaughter, Alicia, who maintains:  “I know I can’t take anything with me.  That’s why I’m enjoying it all now!”

Above you will see a view in our current home which is much smaller than past digs, yet equally packed with fun and funky stuff—along with whatever heirlooms, china, silver, and crystal we haven’t yet given away. 

When it comes to plain old wonderful junk, and of course home grown art, the population is ever-increasing!  Our gardens and walls will vouch for that!  We are always “upsizing”!  I didn’t say “upscaling”—that would be stressful and no fun at all.  Just upsizing

Our rooms may diminish in numbers, but never in that overflowing variety of ambience loved by that unique breed of folks known as collectors!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012—yet fondly preserving slower years!

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