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Posts Tagged ‘Spinning Wheels and Wool’

Treasure the Moment!

Leo 7 monthAlicia's wonderlandThree preciesrecent workIF

There is no room for naivité in today’s world.  All I can do in light of the barrage of news we receive is to go on preserving and treasuring the world I’ve always known.  Indeed, my insular world may last only a moment—so I treasure each moment as a gift from God.

Beyond a series of moments on earth lies an eternity of joy for the Christian believer.  Meanwhile my precarious earth moments are filled with prayers, family, friends, a corgi, music, paintbrushes, knitting needles and yarn, spinning wheels, gardens indoors and out, poetry, books/books/books, antiques, junk, never ending batches of soap from our kitchen, and a whole lot more.

A common thread connects the moments: BEAUTY.  I know I’m not alone in determining to pursue and celebrate Beauty—and to TREASURE THE MOMENT!

Margaret Been, February 2015

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Baby D again

Again Sweet Mia

knitters

Daane Boys

IF

T1

T2

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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.

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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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These two little guys are:  1) our son Karl, the one with the bare top, and 2) his boyhood friend, John.  The photo was taken in 1968.  I have an overflow of memories from those years, many fun (and some touching!) stories of all of our children.  One recollection that has surfaced frequently in recent years involves Karl when he was just a bit younger than depicted above.

He and another friend were busy in the neighbor’s back yard, piling up some rocks left over from a building project—when a rock slipped and sliced into Karl’s right hand.  The wound bled profusely, and required a dash to our local medical clinic.  Our daughter Debbie, then eight years old, was home recuperating from a flu bug, and she held Karl on her lap in the back seat.  (Obviously this was before children’s car seats were mandated.  Our children simply floated around in the back seats of vehicles, with their guardian angels on duty!)

I can still picture the scene I viewed in the rear view mirror as I drove:  Debbie in her pink and white quilted bathrobe, calmly holding Karl with his towel-wrapped hand pointing bolt upright in the air upon my request—in hopes of stopping the flow of blood.  Karl was just as calm as his sister.  We had kind of an unwritten policy when raising our children:  Don’t panic, don’t get into a flap!  Just do what needs to be done, as quietly and efficiently as possible!

Throughout the cleaning, stitching up, and dressing of the wound at the clinic, Karl never cried—in fact he scarcely changed the bland expression on his face.  Finally, when the job was done, the doctor said, “Okay, Karl.  You can go home now, but stay away from the rocks!”

At that, Karl suddenly burst into a deluge of tears and protested, “But I have to build things!” 

Today, at nearly fifty years old, Karl is still “building things”—writing computer programs for his life’s work, and singing in a chorus for a leisure-time hobby.

Karl’s rock story resonates with me, as I have always been a person who “has to (ardently wants to!) build things”—a home and family for my life’s work, and more leisure-time hobbies over the years than I have time to list at the moment.  Now that my body is aging and “glitching”, as many bodies do after decades of use, building something (a knitted garment, a hymn on the piano, a blog, a painting or collage, a bit of garden, a batch of soap, etc.) is more important and vital to my well being than every before. 

I’m realizing that creative interests are far more than entertainment, or a way to invest our leisure.  For me the creative occupations are a lifeline, a reason to keep on—a welcome and necessary diversion from whatever may be hurting physically or circumstantially!

Recently a friend, who has been blessedly healthy and pain free all of her life, discovered that she does indeed have a health issue which will need to be treated with surgery.  She asked me for input—knowing that I have “been there, done that”. 

In trying to encourage my friend, I mentioned the excellence of her medical resources and the fact that she would be kept as relaxed and comfortable as humanly possible during her hospital experience.  I stressed the benefits of her being able to rest and recuperate at home, while her diligent family cares for her—along with her involvement in post-op therapy.  

Finally I told caught myself telling my friend, “But for me the best therapy of all is making something.”  

I realize that my lifestyle of “making” is not for everyone, and I pray that I didn’t come off sounding preachy to my friend!  But that’s the chance we take, those of us who “have to build things“!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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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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Although we still spend a lot of time outdoors, especially throughout the beautiful Autumn, cooler weather draws us inside as well.  Joe and love I being at home.  There’s room for everything we enjoy doing, right here in the cozy corners of our little condo which resembles an English country cottage. 

I’ve switched from iced tea to hot tea.  An English teapot and cups and saucers are ever ready on our living room coffee table (where coffee is served as well).  I love to hostess tea gatherings, fiber sessions, poetry readings, and afternoons of book or art talk.  Joe and I thrive on lunch or dinner company as well, and our fall and winter soup* suppers are special.

Now that the heat and humidity are behind me, one of my spinning wheels is constantly before me—and I’m producing more gorgeous woollen yarn for wearable art.  How lovely to spin away a rainy afternoon beside the fireplace**, while drinking Earl Grey loose tea steeped in an English teapot!

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Dorothy:  “There’s no place like home.” 

So join me, for a mini-stroll through our “Heaven on earth”. 

My mother would be proud of me.  I practice nearly every day!

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My gallery of wearable fiber art is always available for viewing.

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Our pretty kitchen!  Lots of wonderful things happen here!

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Our great-grandchildren’s play corner features this gorgeous doll house which Joe built from a kit years ago.  Completing the doll house with all the individual “cedar shakes” took him longer than it had taken him to add a room onto our home.

The boys and girls love the doll house.  When they visit, it is theirs to arrange, rearrange, redecorate, or whatever.  Not shown in the photo is the rest of the play corner, with a farm and loads of animals which find their way into the doll house.  (My toy dog collection resides there all the time.)

Also in the play corner the little ones enjoy Lincoln Logs, play dishes, many Teddy bears, and loads of wonderful books!  Bring on the children.

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If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in for tea!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*For years when we lived up north, we dined at a restaurant which featured sweet and sour cabbage soup.  It was a thin dinner soup, and I purposed to concoct my own thick sweet and sour cabbage soup.  (I make the kind of soups you can almost prop a spoon in.)

By Googling “sweet and sour cabbage soup” I found the constants—the sweet and sour typical proportions for a medium sized crock pot full of soup.  But many recipes contain cider vinegar.  I wasn’t happy with inhaling vinegar fumes while eating soup.  Finally I latched on to lemon juice—the most wonderful “sour” of all.  Here is my sweet and sour cabbage soup:

In a crock pot, cook overnight (14 to 18 hours on low power) a boneless pork tenderloin or boneless beef pot roast in a cup of 100% apple juice, 1 or 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of chicken base, 1 tablespoon of beef base, plenty of white pepper (it has to be white pepper for that wonderful afterglow in the mouth!), salt, and a few shakes of MAGGI®.

The next day, tear the meat apart with forks until shredded.  Remove two thirds of the meat and freeze for a later meal of meat and rice, sloppy Joes, or whatever. 

Keep the remaining 1/3rd of the meat in the crock pot.  Add 3 capfuls of REAL LEMON®, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, more white pepper and salt, a bit more MAGGI®, about one third or one half of a shredded and chopped cabbage, some chopped up carrots, a bit of tomato (not too much—just enough for color and interest), and 3 or 4 tiny chopped up green onion heads.  Add 1 or 2 handfuls of noodles, or 2 or 3 cut up baby reds.  Cook on low power all day—at least 8 hours.

This soup, with homemade or RHODES® bread, jam or honey, and fresh fruit, is about as close to Heaven on earth (foodwise) as you can get! 

But I say the same thing about pea soup, bean soup, minestrone soup, and that amazing post-Thanksgiving turkey soup (made from the boiling the turkey bones, left-over meat and skin, etc.) which we enjoy all winter!  🙂 

**Our “fireplace” consists of 4 behind-the-scene light bulbs over simulated logs.  It glows and “flames” like a fireplace, and also has a heat setting for nippy early Autumn mornings.  These gems come in many sizes, and are available at Menard’s.  The one shown above has an attractive surround, with a mantle for my collection of interesting and funky clocks.

We have a smaller Menard’s “fireplace” in our dining area.  How mellow is that!

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August invariably brings a cool, rainy spell among the dry and windy days.  August rain jogs my memory and I relive an annual childhood event:  a trip to the Appleton Woolen Mill which was situated on the Fox River, about a 45 minute drive from our summer cottage on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

Since my mother and sister were knitters, it was a happy given that I would be a knitter as well.  I learned to knit on khaki yarn, supplied to patriotic knitters during World War II by the U. S. Government.  From this yarn, we made afghan squares for the U. S. Army.  My first squares contained numerous gaps created by dropped stitches, and holes where I had put the work down and picked it up again to knit in the wrong direction.

Gaps and holes notwithstanding, I learned to knit and cannot imagine life without yarn—especially wool yarn.  My love for wool is anchored in our annual trip to the historic Appleton Woolen Mill where we stocked up on a year’s supply of yarn for sweaters, scarves, socks, and mittens—plus yardage of beautiful plaid wool for skirts.  (My mother was an accomplished seamstress as well as a knitter!)

I will never forget the scent and sounds of the mill.  What is more wonderful than the fragrance of wool—be it in a skein of yarn, a bolt of fabric, fresh fleece in one’s hand, or in its most original state:  on the body of a sheep?  And the music of the mill echoes in my mind:  the blonking and jerking of spinning machinery, the clunking and banging of huge industrial looms.  To use a metaphor appropriate to the textile industry, I loved “the whole nine yards”!

I can still see those big cones of yarn.  I can still visualize the magnificent bolts of fabric lined up on a high shelf.  And I recall those rainy days on our cottage porch—following the trip to the woolen mill—when my mother, sister, and I sat contentedly clicking our needles and savoring the colors and textures of our newly purchased yarns.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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As you can see from the above photo, taken a couple of years ago in our up north guest house, our grandsons Joel and Nathaniel are fascinated by my beloved craft of spinning. 

The fact that I knit sweaters, hats, shawls, and scarves from my hand spun yarns (spun from sheep wool, llama hair, mohair from angora goats, dog hair, and/or silk) lends a practical purpose to this ancient but currently popular art.  The easy-to-comprehend mechanics of a spinning wheel add to the marvelous mystique of spinning:  engendered in those of us who were raised on the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm.

The wheel pictured above is one of my 5 spinning wheels.  It’s a replica of the Irish Castle Wheel, and it is the one I use most often as it’s easy to move from room to room—or out to the patio where I sit and spin on warm days.  The wheel’s main location is our living room next to the Saxony wheel which I also use frequently and love.  Both wheels (pictured below along with my yarns and some of the garments) have the same mechanism with exchangeable bobbins.  They are Jensen wheels—made in Lake Delton, Wisconsin—and they are “top of the line” in performance as well as exquisite beauty.

As I keyboard on my laptop, I can honestly say that I love old things best:  old appliances, old tools, old dishes, old artifacts of most any kind.  That may sound oxymoronic as I blog, gather information, and do most of my shopping online (with the exception of groceries).  Sometimes I even write letters on the laptop, although email is my least favorite computer function.  There is nothing, no nothing in the world like a real letter on pretty stationery.  The ever-escalating cost of postage will never dim my fondness for the U. S. Postal Service!

New things can be useful, even delightful—as in the case of favorite kitchen appliances like my BREADMAN, electric percolator, and blender for those refreshing smoothies.  I’m on friendly terms with a refrigerator, and an electric oven and range.  I have no desire to cook on wood, even though I’ve nostalgic recollections of my Grandma Rose doing exactly that.

We have a dishwasher, which we do not use—as dishes are too lovely to stash in a machine, and I get much pleasure out of washing them and seeing them lined up in the drying rack on a kitchen counter.  When we had little children and babies, I thought differently and did use a dishwasher.  Now the dishwasher is one of our resident “museums”.  It houses old kitchen gadgets, cookie cutters, etc. which were once used by departed family members—or culled from garage sales and antique shops.

Flush toilets and running water are luxuries I’ll never take for granted.  I love them and would not want to go back to using an outhouse, and pumping and hauling water.  It’s fun to recall the fact that we had only an outhouse (and slop pails for nighttime use) at our summer cottage in the 1940s—and that we hauled water for drinking, cooking, and washing.  But having “been there, done that”, I certainly don’t wish to return.

No!  Other than periodically eschewing a few things like email, I don’t want to go back.  But I do want to preserve, and whenever possible use and enjoy vestiges of the past through home arts such as spinning on my spinning wheels.

Why is preservation so important?  I believe that an appreciation of the past is a vital dimension of life in the present!  Quite basically, we have roots.  Just as a plant is nourished by its God-given roots, we are nourished by ours.  Roots are part of our down-to-earth quality of life, and they are instrumental in that profound pleasure which we derive from simple, everyday things.  Without an appreciation of our roots, we would be plastic people—sterile, robotic, generic, and boring! 

Family roots are vital but so are cultural, lifestyle roots.  I’m not alone in my passion for roots, as evidenced in the popularity of THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and the crowds that throng to living history museums.  Life is richer today when we know something about yesterday! 

Our home is blessed to be a mini living history museum, one in a constant state of production with spinning wheels, baskets of wool (still remaining from 20 years of raising my own sheep), a surplus of knitting needles, and a plethora of hand spun yarn and hand fashioned garments!

NOTE:  The 3 shawls on your left as you face this photo are some of many that I wove on my 24″ Baby Wolf Loom–one of 2 looms which are currently still up north due to lack of room for them in our condo.  Having only 2 hands, I manage to keep my fingers moving fast enough as it is with spinning and knitting. 

The “center stage” colorful striped scarf is one I knit over this past winter from yarns which I recently spun and dyed.  Embellished with funky beads and a crocheted border, the scarf is wide enough to double as a stole.

It always freaks me out, when people look at my spinning wheels and call them “looms”.  More education and advocacy are needed in the area of the fiber arts! 

Occasionally, I spin for public events.  People always cluster around the spinning demos, and ask wonderful questions.  How great to be able to promote an appreciation of this time-honored craft!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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I love to show off my beautiful homemade complexion soap.  The soap is everywhere, in antique bowls, on platters, and stacked on shelves throughout our home.

Our daughter Laura, daughter-in-law Cheri, and I are producing heart soaps for Cheri and Eric’s daughter Nicole’s August 7th wedding.  The soaps will be wrapped in pretty net bags, and placed at each plate for the reception which is to be held at Whitnall Park Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee.

Homemade!  There is nothing better!  We live in an age of communication via words–and quite frankly sometimes I’ve had words up to my eyeballs!  Literary words, as in classic poetry and novels, YES!  I can’t get enough of those words.  But today’s words–text messaged, emailed, and even blogged like my words–get old fast.  How refreshing to be still and make things with one’s hands.  I believe I could survive without talking (although some might doubt that!) but I know I’d go bonkers if I couldn’t make things with my hands.

At a ladies’ luncheon last week, we talked about how–when we were brides back in the 1950s–we embroidered our kitchen towels.  These bits of memory make my heart sing. 

Now despite all that is wrong with our culture, the magazine racks tell me something is right!  There’s a plethora of periodicals available on the subjects of knitting, crocheting, scrap-booking, quilting, beading, cooking, gardening, home decorating, etc.  I am not the only one on this planet who derives sustenance and life energy from making things.

The desire to create with our hands is part of our birthright, for we are made in the image of a creative God.  Whereas He created Heaven and earth out of nothing, we make things out of materials already made.  Yet the desire to create is evidence of God’s imprint on our lives.

Pictured below is our grandson Joelly, who cannot “play it straight” for a photo shoot.  (I love his silly faces!) 🙂 Joelly is wearing a scarf and hat ensemble which I made him for Christmas a few years back.

Hands that spin, weave, knit, and make soap (and many other venerable home products) are happy hands! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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more spinning

Next Saturday, God willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll again be demonstrating spinning at our town’s annual Czech-Slovak Fest, held on the third weekend of June.

Our community is proud of this cultural event, with good reason.  The Saturday and Sunday of Czech-Slovak Fest abound in music, dancing, crafts, and of course FOOD. 

But the festivities start out on a serious note.  Every year, on the Friday evening of Czech-Slovak Fest, a memorial service is held for the people of the Czechoslovakian village of Lidice where many of the population were executed by the Nazis under Adolph Hitler in June of 1942–in retribution for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi controller of Bohemia and Moravia.  Hitler’s order was given to “teach the Czechs a final lesson in subservience and humility.”

Websites and local records vary in statistics as to exactly how many individuals were slaughtered by the Nazis at Lidice.  But well over 1000 Czech civilians were massacred between that town and the surrounding area.  Countless more people died in prison or were deported to concentration camps.

During America’s immigration years, a good number of Czechoslovakian immigrants settled in Phillips, Wisconsin as well as in other areas around our county–and some of these individuals had family connections in Lidice.  In response to the 1942 slaughter, Phillips citizens built and dedicated a memorial to the people of that Czechoslovakian town.  In 2006, this memorial was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Lidice will never be forgotten.

There are some things that never should be forgotten.  I cannot foget our American Revolution.  I cannot forget our country’s Civil War and the issues involved.  I cannot forget World War I, as my parents spoke of it so often.  I cannot forget the wars that have occurred in my lifetime:  World War II and the Holocaust, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Iraq. 

What a privilege to belong to a community that will never forget the fate of a Czechoslovakian village in 1942!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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sheepy-days

Every year about this time I’m visited by The Ghost of Springtime Past.  It’s a happy “ghost”:  two decades worth of delightful memories–recollections of our sheepy days in the 1980s and 1990s, on our little hobby farm in Eagle, Wisconsin.

Actually, the sheepy days began in the 1930s when I was a kid.  My mother and older sister read fairy tales to me, as any good mom and sister would do.  But I was a strange child.  Instead of getting absorbed in the plots of these tales, or worrying about the fate of Briar Rose and that hapless damsel beleagered by a ruthless Rumpelstiltskin, I got side tracked on a detail which the stories have in common:  the spinning wheel

Wheels went around in my head as I listened.  I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than a spinning wheel, even though I’d only seen one in story books!

Like most youngsters during World War 2, I learned to knit.  Again, my patient mother and older sister presided.  They sat through my struggles, teaching me to knit and purl as I fashioned khaki wool yarn into afghan squares for GIs.

Spinning wheels!  Wool!  Those words were rooted in my soul!

Many years later, as a young mother in the 1960s, I resumed knitting–making sweaters and mittens for our children.  Still the wheels kept spinning in my head.  Then, somewhere in the 1970s, I learned that the spinning wheel was making a comeback.  New wheels were being produced by skilled craftsmen, as well as in factories.  People were actually spinning wool (and many other fibers) into yarn for knitting and weaving

With this epiphany of information, I awakened to a whole new world–the world of spinning.  In 1980 I bought my first wheel.  Shortly after that we bought our three acres in Eagle, and turned those acres into a funny farm which we called “Sheepy Hollow”. 

I raised a small flock of sheep–nearly twenty years of ewes serviced by rented rams.  Lambs cavorted around our place every spring.  Now that we are happily retired in Northern Wisconsin, our sheep live on in photos and memories–and of course in their wool.

My sheepy days will never end.  When we moved here, I brought bags of wool accumulated from two decades worth of shearings.  Even though I have been faithfully spinning over the years, the wool is inexhaustable.  I’ve shared wool with friends, and I still have enough to keep me spinning through the present millenium.  Maybe the wool is growing in the bags!

This spring I hope to buy a freshly-shorn fleece from a friend who raises Border Leicesters.  There is nothing like burying one’s nose in the fragrance of fresh raw wool, moist with lanolin.  Even when I simply think about that aroma, the Ghost of Springtime Past whooshes over me.

The experience of feeling and seeing the wool, as it feeds through my fingers and winds onto the bobbin, is just plain euphoric!  Sheepy days are a happy daze!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

P. S.  As a Christian, I believe that expressing our God given creativity in some way is terribly important!  There are so many options, one could never list them all–but every individual can choose to find joy in everyday life, and somehow reflect that joy.  We were made in the image of our Creator!

For more thoughts on creativity and the Christian, please see my current entry on http://gracewithsalt.wordpress.com/

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