Archive for July, 2012

This week I have been working on what I am finding to be a necessary skill: knitting in the dark (aka knitting while not looking at my hands … though I have found myself actually knitting in the dark this week). My grandma and mom taught me to knit when I was young but I didn’t really start knitting in earnest until a decade or so ago. One of the things I remember about my grandma was her ability to hold a conversation and knit a baby hat while only occasionally looking down at her hands. My knitting at the time was sloppy and uneven and my stitches were always so tight on the needle that they never slid with ease, rather they grew more and more welded to the needle with each row until finally it became an effort to even get the knitting off the needles to rip it out.

I have since become much more fluid in my knitting, and I have enjoyed  knitting everything from a parrot to Christmas stockings to baby hats, of course. This week I made a concerted effort to knit by feel and it is incredibly fun to do. Sure, I occasionally knit into the wrong part of the stitch, split the yarn, or some other correctable mistake, but it is amazing how knitting by feel allows me to focus on aspects of knitting I never have before. It reminds me of a rowing drill we used to do; rowing with our eyes closed. All eight rowers rowing with eyes closed has the potential to do great things for the togetherness of the boat (or occasionally someone gets an oar handle in the back) because you are no longer focusing with just your eyes but you are forced to use all other senses to stay together.

I have been working on some simple kid-sized (they weren’t supposed to be kid sized but even when you knit a gauge swatch sometimes patterns are just like that) fingerless mittens in a bulky weight yarn with large needles. Next, maybe a hat knit in the round with worsted.

What skill have you worked on this week?


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Not so many years ago, I sold my car and used the money to buy a sewing machine. It is a fairly simple machine that I thought I would use to make pillows, curtains, and other things for the house (or apartment, at the time), along with some clothing for me. And I have used it for quite a few projects. I have made pillows, all of our curtains, I made all of our crib sheets, a skirt, some pants for a little one, bags to organize toys, and more; it is actually a longer list than I realize when I write it all down. The problem is that when I sit down to the machine, fabric in hand, needle threaded, foot on the pedal, checking to make sure I am sitting square to the machine, I feel tense. My shoulders tighten up, my blood pressure rises a hair, and I turn into the student driver of sewing. I cautiously start each project, occasionally swerve off onto areas of the fabric I shouldn’t, and, if my sewing machine had a speedometer, I would rarely make it over 25. So, I usually save my major sewing projects for when my mom visits. When my mom visits, she always asks if there is anything I would like help with and I usually drag out a sewing project because my mom is as comfortable behind the sewing machine as I am tense. She knows how to fix mistakes, she knows shortcuts, and she understand fabric. With my mom here, I know if I get stuck, make a mistake, or just get frustrated, she will help me out (or even finish up the last bit of a Halloween costume while I get dinner!).

Inexplicably, I continue to buy fabric, look at patterns, and plan sewing projects. My latest project was pajamas for one of my little ones. I had my instructions, we picked out the fabric, and then it sat there. We were in the middle of a backyard project and getting out the sewing machine kept getting put on the back burner. I thought I would get to it in the evenings but never did. So one day I decided to iron the fabric, just to have everything ready to go. After I ironed, it occurred to me that maybe I could hand sew one of the larger, straight seams … just to get the project started. I looked up “how to hand sew clothing” just to be sure I knew what I was doing, and I started working on the one seam.

After completing the one seam, I knew I was hooked. I could work on my sewing whenever I had a spare minute. I used safety pins for pinning instead of straight pins so I didn’t have to worry if one of my little ones decided to check out the sewing project. I also have always worried about losing straight pins in the rug (despite never having lost a straight pin, I always worry I will lose one and later find it stuck in a foot … perhaps a lingering fear from the time I took off my shoe to find a Fred Flintstone pin imbedded in my heel). It took me about a week to finish the pajamas without using the sewing machine and I enjoyed every minute of it. I even learned to hand stitch a hem here. Next up in the sewing queue is Halloween costumes.

What have you learned this week?

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The past few weeks I have found myself down the rabbit hole of genealogy. And, oh, the learning I have done! It is amazing what information is out there with just a few clicks of the keyboard, a phone call, or a written letter (yes, snail mail!).

I have done some research before in this area and it has always been fascinating, but this time … this time I am in it deep.

My binder is full of newspaper clippings, census information, yearbook pictures … the list goes on. But what amazes me most, and what I have really learned while doing this, is that people are so willing to help and to share what information they have acquired. Genealogy is not about collecting information in a vacuum but about the sharing of information; it is about making connections, both past and present.

One interesting bit of information that I learned just yesterday … funeral homes also typically ran the ambulance service. These days I think that would be considered a conflict of interest but in the not-so-distant past, it was all part of the undertaker’s job. How did I come by this information? It all started with an ad in the newspaper for a funeral home that listed both funeral and ambulance services.

What has been holding your attention lately?

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