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Archive for the ‘Yarn’ Category

winter spinning wheel yes

Lest yesterday’s poignant piece leads you to believe that we harbor sadness around here, please think again.  I experience the poignancy of change, but always with gladness and appreciation of the moment and season at hand.  Each has its beauty and meaning.  Each is accessible when we have layers of wool, and I do.  Each has its unique message, new every year.  And due to God’s faithfulness, each season will return.  So I will take you on a photo tour throughout our home, which we dearly love indoors and out.  Indoors is especially cozy and inviting.

Above you will see one of my two highly efficient fine spinning wheels on which I produce beautiful yarn for knitting.  For 18 years I raised my own spinners’ flock of quality wool sheep:  Border Leicester, Cotswold, Romney, Targhee, Corriedale, and Shetland—plus Angora goats for mohair.  I still have some of my Shetlands’ gorgeous brown wool.  But being a color freak, now I purchase dyed fleece and roving from suppliers of which their are loads—readily accessible online.  The green wool in the baskets pictured here is Merino—the world’s softest fiber with the exception of silk which I also order and spin.

In this spinning wheel scene you can see some of our eastern exposure winter garden.  Here the fussy, shade lovers reside.  When we moved to Nashotah in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our violets did not enjoy our new home as much we did.  Here we have natural gas heat, and alas there is a heat duct blowing down over both of our winter gardens.

The succulents featured in the next photo do not mind hot dry air a bit.  But African violets are really jungle plants.  They thrive on the moist ground in the humid section filled with tropical trees and lush undergrowth in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes.  Now, after 5 years of prematurely loosing violets, I have installed them in Wardian cases (one of which is visible behind the wheel)—attractive little greenhouses patterned after an invention by a 19th century English doctor (Dr. Ward) who built the house-like glassed in shelters to protect his plants in his London home.

 

winter garden again yes

Above is a glimpse of our southern facing indoor garden replete with succulents.  These plants, along with my Louis L’Amour novels provide a western fix for the Colorado and New Mexico aspect of my life.

Winter shawls yes

Back to the fiber thread (pardon the pun), here are some recent renderings from my yarn baskets and knitting needles.  (Unlike many folks, I knit all through the summer, even outside on the warmest days.  That is called “being a knit wit”.)

On the left is a shrug in process, knitted with my handspun yarn.  Next is a finished fringed shawl, also in handspun.  The almost center garment is a cape.  I make loads of these, because they are so much fun!  As well as adding buttons for decoration, I include buttons and button holes so that the garment will stay on the shoulders with comfort.  On the right is a HUGE poncho, probably good down to 20 degrees above zero over a big wool sweater.  The cape and poncho are made from commercial woolen yarns with a few funky synthetics thrown in for fun.

winter soap yes

And saponifying—that is, soap making—another year round delight.  These bars, made just yesterday, look good enough to eat. But I wouldn’t advise that!

winter painting yes

And art making, also enjoyed year around but really beefed up on winter nights!

winter tea yes

And winter tea parties.  Of course I continue my beloved iced tea all year (I didn’t think I had any Southern blood in me, but that’s what friends below the Mason Dixon line do).  However, when company comes, it’s hot tea and a chance to show off my English tea pots.  Guests may pick their pot, and cup and saucer of which there are MANY.

Winter Patio

Finally, here is a shot from last year.  It’s coming!  I’m thankful for all of the above, especially for my family and corgi, and of course for books bending multi shelves and stacked like leaning towers all over the home!

When the sun shines again (and it will) I’ll try to get some shots of glorious color.  That’s coming too—hopefully before the above pristine stuff!

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

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Valentine bears etc.

1)  Bears:  In recent years I’ve received a Valentine Bear most every Valentine’s Day.  This year I decided to move the Valentine Bears from our bedroom settee to a living room sofa, to celebrate their day.  Well, you should have heard the hullaballoo coming from the Other Occasion Bears who were left in the bedroom.  “Unfair!  Discriminatory!  We are Entitled!”

So I promptly moved the Others to the sofa to join their Valentine friends, thinking they could all spend the day there and I’d move them back to the bedroom at bedtime.  Then Joe and I went out for a Valentine dinner.  When we returned home, we were greeted with a petition.  It seems the bears had a secret meeting while we were gone.  They unanimously decided to Occupy Sofa through next Thursday when a young man named Lucas is coming for wiener roll-ups, pop, and an afternoon of art.  Wisely, the bear contingent choose Senior Paddington Bear to present the request to me, as they know I love British accents.  And of course I caved in.  After all, that sofa is an extra.  We have plenty of additional places for people to sit.  And Lucas will definitely enjoy the bears.

Now, Dear Readers I know exactly what you are thinking:  “This woman is eighty years old, and the February Blaaaas have pushed her over the edge.”  Sorry, but I have news for you.  I’ve always been this way.

Shawls Galore

2)  A GOOD YARN:  My fellow Knitwits will love this one.  The stats always soar when I post a yarn and needles bit.  Above you will find a just off the needles shawl.  Who says old dogs (or people) can’t learn new tricks?  Up until a year ago I had Circular Needle Phobia.  But I have overcome, and now I can’t quit making shawls.  This one will go to our local Vince Lombardi Cancer Center, as my family members and friends are by now completely shawled, scarfed, and hatted out.  Note the colors.  They give you a clue as to what is frequently on my mind as I gaze out on our garden buried in snow.

Southwest

3)  FRESH DECOR:  It’s fun to greet a new season with a few changes.  For years we went to Colorado and New Mexico—often at this time of the year.  We love our old comfy couch (not the bears’ sofa, but the one Joe and I normally hang out on).  New fabric on the couch brings the Southwest right into our living room.

Taking a step

4)  THE BEST BLAAA CHASER OF ALL—A CHILD:  This is our littlest sweetheart.  A week ago last Thursday, Tuks came for an entire day.  She is eight months old, and has begun stepping between close furniture rather than dropping to her knees.  We had so much fun with Tuks.  She took good naps for us, and maintained her sunny personality throughout the eight hours.  She loves to eat, loves people, loves dogs, loves life!  Who can ever have the blaaaas with someone like that around?!!!

And here’s a parting thought to cheer you on:  In three weeks, DAYLIGHT SAVING!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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Brynn's art day 4

Featured here is our great-granddaughter, Brynn Daane, creating beautiful green art on one of our fun Art Days at the dining room table.  Green!  A wonderful color for art, foliage, gardens, cooked and buttered veggies, the Irish, frogs (I mean pond creatures—not French people), and Green Bay Packer uniforms.  Just as I do, Brynn loves to paint a green scene; in fact, she named her finished work “The Green Jungle”—and it’s a remarkable piece of abstract art!  BUT . . . isn’t there always a “but”?  “Green” can also mean “SICK”!

Many decades (actually I think it was eons) ago, in my “Live on the Edge Youth” I went by myself to our Wisconsin State Fair Park which was a short bus ride from our home in Wauwatosa.  Why did I do this?  I loved carnival rides, and there you have it.

After brushing up on the tame stuff, I went for the LOOP-O-PLANE.  (I think that’s sometimes called a HAMMER.)  On a tall vertical pole two units of swinging cages go back and forth, passing each other en route—higher/higher/higher until every passenger gets the delightful opportunity of hanging upside-down.  And, if that were not enough, each cage (containing two persons) has the joy of a suspended, upside-down pause in the altitude—at which juncture nearly everyone screams but some simply throw up.

After the LOOP-O-PLANE adventure, I made for that homebound bus as quickly as I could!  Perhaps the bus was green; I can’t recall.  But when I walked in our kitchen door, my mother looked aghast.  She said, “Margaret!  You are GREEN!  I don’t even want to recall what happened next!

So where are we going with this gruesome meander?  Right up to the current moment, when suddenly it seems that everything has to be GREEN!  By way of disclaimer, “Amen” to a sensible, balanced diet.  “Yes” to avoiding junky fast foods.  “Oui, oui” (now I am speaking of the French frogs) to recycling plastic bottles and tying the newspapers in bundles.  Those things are a DUH!  The DUH of the century—not even worth talking about, any more than I would go on about painting my toenails or blowing my nose.

Although I may someday be told that I “should”, I will not give a tiddelly hoot about whether or not my teeth might fall out from commercial toothpaste.  Nor will I fester in a frenzy of angst over the possibility that my skin will decay due to using some economically priced body lotion purchased at Walmart.  And, believe it or not, I still have a long, swishy, fairly respectable mane after 10 decades of commercial shampoos.

GREEN has gone too far.  Constantly I hear people say we should all get back to exclusively using only those good things God put on the earth.  Have these proponents of GREEN forgotten that the earth fell with Adam?  Well it did, and consequently there are lots of things in and on the earth that are not good—things like poison ivy and bad apples which make one really turn GREEN.

The GREENIES are rarely consistent!  Poppies grow in the earth; yet oxymoronically enough many GREEN addicts are obsessed with the idea that anyone (even happy, arthritic octogenarians) seriously needing a poppy-derivative prescription drug will end up selling pills on the street!

Some of the “Anti-Prescription Drug” ilk think it would be far better to drink booze and smoke pot!  Never mind that booze and cannabis will undoubtely kill incentive and ruin relationships—while by relieving debilitating pain, a well-monitored prescription serves to enhance one’s activity level and quality of life!

I am very sick (LOOP-O-PLANE level sick!) of hearing the word “GREEN”, and seeing it splashed all over the place wherever I go!  I am sick of hearing talk about what we should or should not put on our skin, or into our stomachs!  Like fake sugar.  Artificial sugar was developed/discovered/whatever, in the mid-nineteenth century, but it took awhile to catch on.  My dear father used fake sugar from the inception of its popularity—maybe back in the 1960s (?)  Dad remained healthy for three more decades till the end of his life, fake sugar notwithstanding.  But then, he only lived to be 102—so what do I know?

My friend, Karen, and I agree that what really sticks in our craw is how so many young folks are sanctimoniously (self-righteously!) preaching those very things that we grew up automatically doing.  But we didn’t make a big deal of it.  We ate a balanced (home cooked, at that) diet.  Yes we drank sugary sodas.  Yes we ate a plethora of sweets.  Our mothers baked them, and we gobbled them up after school before going out to play in 15 degree weather—and build snow forts until the dinner bell rang.

Then we piled indoors, draped our snow-packed wool wraps over the steam radiators—and thankfully sat down to eat a reasonable serving of war-rationed meat or casserole, plenty of veggies (home-preserved), a bowl of home-canned fruit, and Mom’s homemade bread or dinner rolls followed by cake, pie, or cookies.  It’s not too amazing that many of us are living happily ever after, and still knowing precisely how to take care of ourselves.  DUH!

Regarding the logical process of recycling, during the Great Depression it was common for women to unravel old sweaters, and re-knit whatever yarn was still usable into mittens or scarves.  We saved every string, every paper bag, every box, every glass bottle and jar, and every old piece of clothing for some form of a new life.  DUH again!

I have no complaint with anyone choosing to be frugal (in fact, I applaud that choice) but I simply cannot stand the supercilious attitude which pompously assumes “We are the only ones who ever thought of recycling, and we are going to save the world from all the stupid people who refuse to go around yelling, ‘GREEN!’ ”

Would these same arrogantly Green pontificators be able to march stalwartly through a Depression and two Great Wars like my parents did, or would they choke on their meager portion of lettuce while crying because they could no longer afford to update their electronic “devices”?

Give me a break!!!  Can’t we go back to that rational mentality where “GREEN” means a child’s painting, perennials popping up in spring, a dish of green beans (and they don’t have to be raw!!!), an Irish logos, a Packer uniform, or a terrifying trip on the LOOP-O-PLANE?  I am about to scream:  “RED LIGHT!  NO MORE GREEN!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

P. S.  The problem in America and around the world is not what we put into, or on, our bodies.  It is what we put into, and on, our minds!!!

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tall corn

↑ Taken a month or so ago, before the corn turned its beautiful tawny shade—this photo shows how bountiful Wisconsin has been in the summer of 2013!

Our littlest beauty!

↑ Our best summer bounty:  Adetokumba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, just 4 months old!

Our arbor

↑ I didn’t do any gardening after shoulder surgery, July 2nd.  But the garden “gardened” itself.  Our new arbor is a constant joy—a meeting place for sparrows, chickadees, goldfinches, and other feathered friends plus 2 chipmunks.  The hardy roses were here when we moved in 4 years ago.

The garden thrived 2013

↑ More patio garden.  The garlic chives, many perennials packed into the small space, and herbs/herbs/herbs thrived all summer (and many are still thriving) without a bit of help from a human gardener. 

Alicia and her beauties

↑ A family (among all of our children and grandchildren!) that knows how to live:  This one is Granddaughter Alicia with her husband, Dan, and their children left to right—Isaac, River, Cai, and Hannah.  Alicia home schools her young ones, and she puts  loads of creative ideas into motion.  She’s an amazing photographer—and I’m quite certain that Alicia tucked her camera into a tree (or plopped it on a stump) for an automatic “take” of this classic photo. 

And now for my fellow Knit-wits:  ↓

Another Prayer Shawl

↑ A triangular shawl—one of several which I’ve made in recent months.  The buttons are for decoration in this case.  They remind me of which is the “right side”, as the ends of the spliced yarns get tucked into the “wrong side”.  But I frequently make buttonholes for buttons which function, as well.  They keep a garment from sliding off one’s shoulders.

Rayon PC

↑ A rayon potato chip scarf—dressier than my past versions of this cutie, due to the elegant drape of the fine rayon yarn.  The button is a French import, a pewterish-looking rose—not just for decoration:  it works.

Lovely shell

↑ A very versatile shell of not-too-heavy and not-too-warm yarns.  A happy sleeveless concoction in warm weather, over just a cool cami— but it will double as a vest over a blouse in winter.

Shawl-ette Front

 ↑ A shawlette.  I love it!  It’s just the thing for a bit of extra shoulder warmth.  This is the front view.  The back is pictured below. ↓

Shawl-ette Back

This one was completed last evening, and now a similar version has hit the circular needle—in shades of coral and rose.  I’m incorporating “bubbles” by switching from a small to a large needle periodically, increasing stitches periodically for a few rows, and then decreasing—in a sequence of repeats.  Voilà, bubbles!  The border trim is crocheted.  It’s fun to include random pattern stitches, lace patterns, etc., while following the inspiration of the moment! 

Margaret L. Been, 2013

 

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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International Language of Textiles

Years ago I heard a rumor inferring that when people grew older their world shrinks.  Praise God, that simply is not true for my husband and me.  We are forever delighted with the way our world is expanding, and how we are learning and growing in the process.

Thanks to WordPress, my blogs are spanning the globe and being accessed in countries on every continent plus a plethora of islands—some that I have to research on GOOGLE, to locate.  We have a Nigerian son-in-law, and come September we’ll have a Mexican grandson-in-law.  How wonderful is that!!!

I love all manner of textiles, and we have a few in our home which reflect expanding horizons.  From left to right, and positioned on a textile map of the British Isles (purchased locally a few years back when couch throws were the thing) are: 

1) A basket made in India, given to me by a friend who travels there yearly, containing my current knitting project—a shawl requiring many balls of yarn which are happy in the commodious basket;

2) An elegant sari, presented to me by our grandson, Adam, who spent time in India a few years back;

3) One of two table runners (which can double as shawls) from our Nigerian son-in-law, Sanmi.  These gorgeous runners are Ebira Cloth, of the Ebira Tribe—woven by women in Sanmi’s mother’s village (Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria);

4) A dresser scarf hand-embroidered in Yugoslavia—a gift from our son, Karl, who spent a summer there in the mid 1980s.

If only the history of arts and crafts—including textiles—could be the predominant story of world history, this earth would be a more beautiful place.  And someday our world will be more beautiful, when people from all nations gather in Jerusalem and sing praises to our Lord!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

Note:  My project on the needles, tumbling from the India basket, is knitted from CASCADE® 220 Washable Wool—and it’s made in China.  That probably won’t surprise you!  🙂

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