I’ve been silent for the past few months. We were gearing up to move, again, and the stress and unsettled feeling of living out of boxes and suitcases left me with little time and emotional space to sit down and write.
We have moved three times in the last three years, and two of them were interstate moves. I use to move all the time when I was in my 20s and 30s. Moving around seem romantic, and the inability to stay in one place I took as a mark of my adventurousness and resistance to nostalgia. Now, all I want is to stay put and live in predictable familiar orbits. And, I think, for the next few years, we have found that. We have finally moved into a place we can all see ourselves living in happily for a few years. There is a large, private yard with large pine trees, and it is the perfect retreat from a long day at work. The house is spacious but cozy at the same time. It is just perfect for the three of us.
My spinning and knitting have also been disrupted by all the moving. I’ve been knitting in spurts, but the spinning has really declined in the past few months. Part of it is just the time it takes to look for housing, pack, unpack. And the other part of it is the tug and pull of work, and the urgency of the project that I need to write into being.
I hope that once we completely settle in, I’ll be able to direct my creative energies more evenly.
Now that Christmas is over, it’s safe to start posting some Christmas gifts. One project that we will definitely be making again is felted soap. Little A and I made these soaps for the teachers and staff at her school.
These soaps were felted with a combination of natural corriedale from Paradise Fibers, pink and orange merino from Opulent Fibers, and some unnamed fiber that came with the spinning wheel I purchased off of craigslist. I suspect it’s one of Ashland Bay Company’s multi-colored merino. What I love about this multi-colored merino are the stands of color surprise. The top was kind of brown but once it was separated and felted, you could see how the color was produced through the layer of multiple colors.
These rounded soaps from Sappo Hill were the perfect size for a soap felting project as it fit comfortably in our hands as we rubbed and scrubbed the fiber to make it felt.
I followed instructions from Thistlewood Farms, which comes fabulous instructive photos.
I think some of the soaps could have been rubbed for a bit longer to make sure the fibers really locked in together. And I would certainly recommend over-doing it rather than under-doing it. I was worried with all the lathering that my soap was shrinking under the felt. It seemed that there was a lot of room between the soap and the wool and that the felt would never shrink and tighten around the soap, as described by KariAnne of Thistlewood Farm. But when it dried, it tightened nicely around the soap so I was anxious for nothing. I guess I still need to learn to trust the process.
What I would try next time is setting up two basins of water, one super and one super cold. Part of the reason that wool felts, in addition to the friction that is necessary to lock the fibers together, is a sudden shift in temperature. I am hoping that in putting the wool-covered soap in the hot and then cold basins back and forth for a few times, this would cut down on the scrubbing that was necessary to felt the fiber. That scrubbing was the most tedious, and Little A grew tired of that quickly so I had to pick up the slack! Aside from that, this was the perfect project for us to do together!
For the past couple of weeks, V has been reading Harry Potter to Little A and me. We started with The Sorcerer’s Stone and then burned through The Chamber of Secrets. Little A draws while I knit. I can’t imagine life being better than this. And, if there’s one thing that V loves it is having a captive audience for his various British accents. He got into the character of Gilderoy Lockhart with a gusto that was both hilarious and slightly disturbing. After dinner, he would ask casually “So, shall we read Harry Potter?” so as to downplay the fact that out of the three of us, he’s probably J.K. Rowling’s biggest fan. He just happens to be very late to the party. (Those of you who have read more than a few of my blog entries will have noticed that we’re still living like it’s 1999.)
During our Harry Potter story time, I’ve been test knitting another pattern by Tin Can Knits, a lovely cabled cardigan that is full of texture and density. With its old school styling, this cardigan might easily have been a pattern from The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits. This is going to be a Christmas sweater for Little A.
I’m really enjoying this knit, and this pattern is fun and easy to memorize. The moss stitches and cables are a nice change from the all the stockinette I’ve been knitting. As much as I love knitting with handspun yarn, the ones that I’m often drawn to are colorful and barber pole-y, and they would have competed with the textures of a pattern like this.
I’m using Hazel Knits DK Lively in “Cherry Fizz.” As you can see, it has wonderful stitch definition and lovely depth of color. Hazel Knits is based out of Seattle, and I found these skeins at Twisted. Little A chose the color. It is 90% wool and 10% nylon which I think will add durability and help retain shape, or at least I hope so. The sweater is going to be quite heavy because though the recommended yarn for this pattern is a DK yarn, this particular yarn is a heavy DK and I had to go down three needle sizes from the recommended needle size to get gauge. I have a feeling that this sweater is going to stretch and lengthen because of its weight, but I’m hoping the nylon will offset this a bit.
Little A, how did this happen? How did you grow up so quickly before my very eyes? Did I not pay attention carefully enough? How did I let the busy routine of life distract me from seeing what a big girl you’ve become? This past weekend, we celebrated Little A’s sixth birthday with some good friends whose son, Little J, was born just one day earlier. They have known each other all their lives, and with the exception of last August when we were in San Antonio, they have also celebrated every birthday together. We stayed in a cabin in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about an hour and half from Portland in Washington. The cabin, nestled in a lush old growth forest, was once a guard station. There was no electricity and no running water, but no one seemed to notice. On the morning of Little A’s birthday, we went for a walk to a nearby waterfall. Little J’s sister, Little N, worked hard to keep up with the big kids. It took us about two hours to get to the waterfall, a 1.7 mile hike. There were some whining and grumbling along the way, but also shouts of awe and glee as we came upon gigantic slugs and beetles. This trip was not just a reunion but also a homecoming, a return to the landscape and a rhythm of life I missed. I know that this was not the kind of birthday celebration she had become accustomed to attending, as the parties in San Antonio had a lot of bells and whistles and often involved glitter, make overs and party favors. I hope that when Little A thinks back to her sixth birthday, she will remember it as the day she walked through tall and ancient trees to a waterfall, sat on a rock, and enjoyed snacks with her best friends as they took in the marvel around them. Postscript, written by Little A: she carried little n and when little n was crying little a would comfort her little j and little a would play with little n when she was sad
On the last day we were in San Antonio, after the movers had taken our furniture and boxes, after we scrubbed the apartment clean and loaded up our car, we went out to the little square that anchors the Pearl Brewery, where we spent the last 13 months, and took one last photo of ourselves outside our favorite cafe, Local Coffee.
So much distance and time to cover between this photo and the present. I may or may not try.