Archive for the ‘Needlework’ Category

“What is your favorite way to recharge when you feel drained of energy?”

There’s a reason this blog is called “Muttonings,” and there’s a reason I post as “Mrs. Mutton.”  It has everything to do with sheep, to wit:  Somewhere around 1977, I suddenly got into knitting in a big way.  Up to then, I had divided my time fairly evenly between knitting and cross stitch, but in 1977, my daughter was two, and the thought of those little fingers and eyes around sharp, pointy objects was too horrific to entertain; so I turned to the less-sharp pointy objects known as knitting needles, and for many years afterwards, knitting was my sole handwork.  In fact, my son, born in 1979, has never known me to do anything else.

In 1982, I became acquainted with the knitting philosophy of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  The woman was an utter genius at combining art, math, and practicality, and her chosen medium was wool.  Not just generic yarn – wool, “from the simple, silly sheep,” as she put it in one of her books.  It was largely due to her influence that I gradually became a Wool Snob, and began accumulating wool yarn to such an extent that my family teased that I was becoming a sheep.  These days I have stuffed sheep, pictures of sheep, sheep calendars, books about sheep…well, as you can see, the thing has taken on a life of its own.

So I am “Mrs. Mutton” (actually, that is the name of one of my stuffed sheep, who began life as “Ms. Mutton” of the famous brokerage firm, E.F. Mutton, until my husband rescued her from a life of Ms.-ery), and the odd pronouncements I mutter to myself have become known, locally, as “muttonings.”  All of which I offer as background to my favorite way of recharging when I am drained of energy.  Which is only partially with knitting.

There actually is something very, very soothing and mindless about repetitive hand motion.  Mind you, there is nothing relaxing about learning to knit; like any other unknown activity, it’s very stressful to learn.  But the rewards of sticking with the effort are completely disproportionate to the effort involved in learning the craft; you can actually knit your way to lower blood pressure.  And while your hands are occupied, and your brain either goes blank or focuses on the intricacies of, say, Aran knitting, other, more convoluted knots are unraveled.  I daresay that many a mental-health issue could be successfully treated by teaching patients to knit.

But as I say, recharging my personal batteries is a two-pronged process.  Knitting – or counted cross-stitch – is one prong, having something to occupy my mind that is completely unrelated to whatever it is that’s sapping my energy.  The other prong is classical music.

I’m not talking about the Bombast, or the Searching-for-the-Lost-Chord kind of cacophony that has become associated with classical music.  That stuff has its place (I guess), once you’ve become accustomed to the very different tempo of classical music, so much slower and more thought-infused than what currently occupies most space on the airwaves.  But if you want to relax, or if you’re really new to classical music, you want Baroque – Vivaldi, say, or Handel.  Or Bach, who wrote the music that is the title of this post, Sheep May Safely Graze.  Bach’s music covers every range of emotions, from utterly sublime to rollicking fun to just plain funny (his Coffee Cantata begins with a father grumping, “Ain’t it a fact that our kids give us a hundred thousand different kinds of heartburn,” or the eighteenth-century Germanic equivalent thereof).  And Vivaldi is such easy listening that a friend of ours once joked that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 425 times,” there being 425 works listed in the “Ryom Listing,” the most commonly used catalogue of Vivaldi’s compositions.

Knitting to the Oldies.  Works every time.

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Well.  It has been a long time since I last blogged.  In between has been mostly Church or family matters:  the celebration of Pascha (Easter), different church projects I was involved in, preparing for a visit to my favorite music school (my trip was cancelled at the last minute); our son began a new job as engineer on a railroad that takes him right through a neighboring town, so we’ve been spending a lot of time Waving at the Engineer, like a pair of “foamers” (railroad slang for extreme railfans).  And, as always, the daily round of housework, medical appointments (thankfully routine), and family visits.  Not a lot of time for blogging.

However, this month I have signed up for NaBloPoMo’s daily post.  Heaven alone knows if I will actually get to do it daily, but I have promised to make the attempt.  This post is a trial run focusing, at least partially, on their theme for August:  Sweetness.

One of the sweeter aspects of my life is cross stitch.  Not those wussy, cutesy little things, but fine-art cross stitch, the kind that takes up at least half a yard of fabric and involves covering every square inch of it with stitches.  Colors up the wazoo:  my current project has 120 colors, and I pared it down from 208.  In retrospect, I should have left it at 208, since paring it down does affect the detail.

But there is still plenty of detail, and the upshot is, I am actually learning about Art:  how artists perceive the interplay of colors, shapes, details as part of the overall picture – things that never struck me before.  The painting I am working on isn’t tranquil or inspiring, at least, not in the ordinary sense:  It’s a painting entitled Boyarina Morozova, by the Russian artist V. I. Surikov, and it depicts a moment in Russian history that was full of turmoil.  If you’re into the 6-6-6 thing, this event took place in 1666, which is suggestive.

A project like this takes pages – 48, in this instance.  48 pages of little tiny symbols that represent the different floss colors, and – thanks to whatever genius applied his computer-programming skills to needlework – come together in a reasonable facsimile of great art.  As I’m working on it, the same thing occurs over and over:  I work in a ten-by-ten grid of symbols, and as I’m working, I keep thinking, “What the heck am I looking at here?!  This can’t be right!”  I grab the printout of the painting and look at the area where I think I’m working:  Does it look anything like what I’ve just stitched?!  Then I look back at my work, and, given a little distance – yes, it does.  It really does.  What looked like an amorphous blob of color as I was working on it has transformed, with distance, into the face of an old man with a beard, a very lifelike face with contour and shadow.  How do artists do this?!  How do they see these contours and shadings?!  Me, I can’t even draw a straight line, and Surikov, and those like him, see an entire “snapshot” of history, thanks to an eye fine-tuned to color and its nuances.

This particular piece, as you will see if the photo ever finishes uploading – if not, you can look up Boyarina Morozova on Google – is tough to look at, tough to think about:  a noblewoman who has been tortured and starved, and is being dragged out of Moscow into exile (ultimately, she was starved to death) for bucking the powers-that-were at the time.  Why choose such a gruesome project?  Originally, I chose it because it’s a very famous painting in Russian culture, and I had hoped to donate it to the Russian Department of our local university.  I had visions of its making a Statement to those Classics weenies who share space with the Russian Department:  Enter at Your Own Risk.  I’m not sure that’s going to happen now; for some reason, the two professors who teach there aren’t talking to me anymore.

There is another reason:  As a Russian Orthodox Christian in a post-Christian era, I’m painfully aware of the persecution that Russian Christians endured during the Soviet era of Russia, and I hold my breath as, little by little, I see signs of the same thing occurring in the United States.  This painting reminds me that Faith comes with a high price tag.  This woman, Boyarina Morozova, paid it.  So did countless other Russians of the Soviet era.  I hope I can show the same courage when my turn comes.

So…what on earth is sweet about this topic?!  Admittedly, not much.  But I must say that I’m enjoying, enormously, my belated Art education.  Color, line, perspective.  Shading, detail.  After a lifetime of wondering how people actually see this stuff – I’m learning to see it, too.

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In a previous post, I said that I would never knit another Aran.  I don’t know why Arans irritate me so, but they do.  The last Aran I knitted, for myself, was my fourth, and I have cursed over every single one of them.  (Three were for my husband.  I figured it was about time I cursed over one for myself.)

Socks, on the other hand, are…I don’t know.  The ultimate crowd-pleaser?  I think so.  They’re a bit more complicated than mittens, but there’s just something about warm feet.  And they are so customizable, as I am proving with the pair I am currently knitting.

The important thing is to get the gauge right.  I worked this out so many years ago that I no longer remember how I came up with the magic number of 72 stitches on a set of size 1 (2.25 mm) sock needles, for my husband.  For my son it’s been a bit dicier; for one thing, his feet are big.  Size 15.  For another, because he works outdoors, his socks have to be knitted in thicker wool, so I usually choose Ragg wool, and that entails larger needles – I think I used a size 4 (3.5 mm).  The good thing about knitting socks for my son is that by the time his feet got so big, I’d begun making notes on all my projects, so the next time he needs a pair of socks, I can just consult my notes.

The current pair is for my husband, the original Wearer of Socks.  When he shovels snow, he wears a pair of work boots that’s a little loose on his feet.  Regular dress socks, even doubled, don’t do the job.  Thick work socks are too thick.  Somehow, the socks I knit, of fingering-weight yarn, fill the bill perfectly.

But you have to be choosy with sock yarn.  I once knit a pair of socks out of bamboo yarn, and the darn stuff was so slippery that it was forever falling off the needles – and these were wooden needles, which had been specifically recommended for working with bamboo yarn.  Never again!  The original yarn, good sock wool, is still the best, in my book.

Then, because it’s for socks, it should be machine-washable.  The doyenne of knitting, Elizabeth Zimmermann, knitted socks of regular wool, and often wrote about the desirability of hand-washing handknits.  I will thank her forever for getting me out of the plastic-yarn groove I was in; I religiously handwash all my handknitted sweaters; but socks, I’m sorry, is pushing it.  I need to be able to throw those puppies into the machine and have them come out looking civilized.

Yarns come and go at an alarming rate.  When I first began knitting socks, some thirty years ago, I stumbled across the Absolutely Perfect sock yarn, a Swiss brand called Arwetta.  No sooner had I laid in a good supply than the business folded.  Then, about ten years ago, I finally found a similar yarn, Froehlich Wolle.  How can you resist a sock yarn called Happy Wool?  Especially since, like Arwetta, it came with its own card of reinforcement yarn (Arwetta had a spool of reinforcement yarn, but it’s the same principle.  Since the stuff is as scarce as the proverbial hens’ teeth, it’s a selling factor).  Note the past tense.  Happy Wool, unhappily, is no longer available, either.

My current hope, as I work my way through my last skeins of Happy Wool, is for Jawoll.  Ha, ha, very clever – it’s pronounced Yah-voll, and means Yes Wool.  Whatever.  It looks like an acceptable substitute for Arwetta/Froehlich Wolle, right down to the reinforcement yarn, and the colors are suitably conservative for a pair of stick-in-the-muds like the hubster and me.  However, my next pair of socks is going to be for me, and I might want something a little more adventurous; Sockalicious, maybe?  It doesn’t come with reinforcing yarn, but I can buy a card of that from the Local Yarn Shop – when I pick up my sock yarn.  I do try to buy local, and discerning blog readers will note that my yarn links all reference a yarn shop in New Hampshire, where I live.

Here’s the thing about knitted socks:  You can really personalize them.  Most patterns will start you with a knit-one-purl-one or knit-two-purl-two rib; I’m not especially impressed with the elasticity of either one.  My current favorite is knit-two-purl-one, and I defy anyone to find a more elastic ribbing.  Holy cow.  27 rows of that, and those puppies will stay up but good.  (The 27 rows came from a now out-of-print book about Maine mittens, Fox and Geese and Fences, and apparently, all Maine mittens begin with 26 rows of ribbing.  It seems like a workable length of ribbing, and you don’t get too sick of it before it’s time to stop ribbing; somehow, my brain added an extra row of ribbing.  Whatever works.)

Now, 72 stitches on four sock needles works out to 18 stitches per needle.  They used to sell four needles to a set, three to hold the stitches and a fourth to work with, but German needles came five to a set – four to hold the stitches and one to work with – and American needle manufacturers seem finally to have cottoned to the idea that four needles make a perfect circle, whereas three needles are tight to work with.  Anyway.  Eighteen stitches per needle.  Or, nine times two.  Nine times two works out to a very serviceable rib of seven knit, two purl, which keeps a purl-hater like me from going completely crazy, but still keeps the socks up on the leg.  I used always to change to stocking stitch after the initial ribbing, but the socks don’t stay up all that well without a little extra encouragement; knit seven purl two works out very well, in terms of Encouragement.

So!  I’ve cast on, using the “long-tail cast-on” method, because it’s nice and elastic.  I’ve got my 27 rows of knit-two-purl-one, and six inches of knit-seven-purl-two.  Now I add in reinforcing yarn, and knit the heel flap.  There are a couple of ways to do this, and one of these days I promise I will try Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Afterthought Heel (if you can get your hands on a copy of Knitting Without Tears, the best heels are all covered in it, including the Afterthought Heel); but for lo these many years, I have knitted her turned heel, and it works well for me, especially since you knit the first four and last four stitches of each row, thus producing a garter-stitch edge that just look spiffy and is easy to pick up stitches on, when shaping the heel.

I won’t go into the actual heel-turning, but I will say that I leave the reinforcing yarn in for the entire process, including the instep of the sock.  This is what I mean about completely customizable, since the hubster desires a little extra padding in this area of his boot, and the reinforcing yarn supplies it nicely.  If I weren’t going to pad this area, I would leave in the reinforcing yarn for the heel and snip it as I came to each instep, joining it back in while I worked my way down the heel.  When I am done with the heel, I like to knit in a strand of a different-color thread on just the heel stitches; this way, when the heel wears out, I can rip it out without having to replace the whole foot.

(I once did try out Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Totally Refootable Sock, from Knitters Almanac, and didn’t like it.  But that’s just me, Traditionalist to the end.)

Once the heel is turned and the side stitches have been gobbled up so that I again have 72 stitches on four needles, I knit straight, stocking stitch on the sole of the foot and my weird 7-and-2 ribbing on the top of the foot, for another four inches, and join in another strand of contrasting yarn, this time around the whole sock:  I will be padding the ball of the foot and the entire toe with reinforcing yarn, and since these areas also wear out quickly, I have planned ahead for this section to be replaceable, too.  This time, I don’t carry the reinforcing yarn around, but add it in as I begin the sole and snip it when I get to the top of the foot.  After a final two inches (six inches in all to the foot, measured out from the garter-stitch of the heel flap), I work the toe, entirely reinforced, and when I’m down to five stitches per needle, I work them off in Kitchener Stitch.

A couple of years ago, I took a class at my Local Yarn Shop on toe-up socks, and the selling point for them was that you didn’t have to work Kitchener Stitch.  I like the idea of toe-up socks because you can just finish the sock off when you reach the end of your yarn – theoretically – I mean, you still have to leave some yarn for knitting the ribbing and binding it off, and then, as it turns out, if you want a bound-off edge that doesn’t cut off circulation in the leg, you have to use a bind-off that resembles – whaddaya know – Kitchener stitch.  I’d rather work Kitchener stitch for ten stitches than for 72.

The big disadvantage of socks is that having knit one, you have to turn around and knit another.  There’s a technique out there for knitting two socks at once, on a cable needle, from the toe up.  Aside from my grumpy objection to toe-up socks, I just don’t like socks worked on a cable needle (the class I took in toe-up knitting was worked on a cable needle).  I like socks knitted on sock needles, thankyouverymuch, and I like them knitted in the traditional way, top down.  And if that means I have to work a second sock, well, so be it.

However…Leo Tolstoy wrote, in War and Peace, about Anna Makarovna’s [sic] Secret Socks:  Apparently, this peasant woman had developed a technique for knitting one sock inside another, and when she was done, she pulled the second sock out from the first.  I think I know how it’s done – I’m thinking a kind of double-knitting technique – but I can’t think how I would keep the ribbing straight.  You’d have to cast on with two separate balls of yarn and knit one stitch for the outside sock and one for the inside sock, then another for the outside sock and another for the inside sock, and then how would you bring the yarn forward for the purl stitch on the inside sock??  Too confusing.

So I’d best get back to my knitting because – I’m still on the first sock.

Reblogged to my knitting blog, Being Woolly-Minded

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I think I’ve always had knitting in my bones.  It’s the only reason I can think of for the fact that essentially, I taught myself how to knit.

Living in Germany was a great help in that regard.  When I was living there, I think every woman in the entire country knitted.  You’d see them everywhere:  in the train station, on the train, in the park, sitting at picnic benches in the forest, at the laundromat, knitting, knitting, knitting.  I knew how to crochet; crocheted granny-afghan squares became very popular when I was a young teenager, and even my mother, who hated needlework of any kind, learned to knit those.  I made my first afghan when I was twenty.  But nobody in Germany crocheted, that I could tell; everyone knitted, and as I had always considered crochet a poor substitute for knitting, I wanted to knit, too.

On one of my rare forays to the Base Exchange (the Air Force equivalent of a department store), I spotted a magazine, Somebody-Or-Other’s Fall Knits.  (I don’t think it was Vogue.)  The front-cover pattern was exactly what I was looking for, a matching cape and skirt in a rich autumnal brown color.  And it looked like a fairly easy pattern…if only I knew how.  I picked up the magazine and browsed through it, and there in the front were…instructions.  Oh, heaven.  I bought that magazine on the spot, and the next day, went to the yarn shop in town and bought several hanks of rich brown yarn and a pair of suitable knitting needles.  And when I got home, I taught myself to cast on.

Now – knitting takes patience.  Lots of patience.  Casting on, the means by which you get the foundation row of knitting on needles, is especially tough to learn.  I didn’t even know how to make a slip knot.  And of course, what I cast on was so tight that there was no way to get another needle into the loops to form a second row of knitting.  I must have ripped that thing out a dozen times before I got a selvedge I could work with.

Then there was purling.  Knitting was pretty easy, once you got that first row onto the needles; you stuck the working needle into the stitch from front to back, wrapped the yarn around it, and pulled through.  It was just a question of getting the yarn to stay on the needle until it pulled through.  Did I mention that knitting takes patience?  But eventually, there was a fairly tidy second row of knitting on my needle.  And then came real hell, because I had to stick the working needle into the stitch from back to front, wrap the yarn around it, and pull it through again, and this time, that yarn would not stay on that needle!  This is where an experienced knitter would be jumping up and down, saying, “Garter stitch!  Garter stitch!” meaning, you knit every row.  I thought about it.  I think I actually did it.  But need I point out that garter stitch looks nothing like stockinette stitch?  I wanted stockinette stitch.

So I persevered, and after probably about two weeks, I finally had a row of purl stitches on my needle.  Turn it around, knit another row, yay, I get to knit.  Turn it around, phooey, I have to purl another row.

Believe it or not, I actually did finish my skirt and cape in time for winter, and wore them with great pride.  I’m sure they looked as if they had been knit by an amateur; after all, they were.  But I did it.

That taken care of, I returned to my first and favorite needlework, cross stitch, and didn’t pick up knitting needles until five years later, when my daughter turned two.  Just the thought of little fingers and eyes around sharp scissors and needles was unbearable, and there was this cute jacket pattern I had seen in yet another magazine, so I packed away the cross-stitch stuff, bought gorgeous pink yarn, and cast on again – much more smoothly this time.  And this time, I didn’t stop knitting for 25 years.  Sweaters, dresses, socks, I made ’em all.

It was in 1982 that my knitting life really took off.  That was the year when, living in Massachusetts, I walked into a yarn shop in Lexington and found Knitter’s Almanac, by the doyenne of the knitting world, Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted to buy this book; it looked so Advanced, with no real patterns in it, not like anything I could do.  And we really couldn’t afford it.  But there was a chapter on Nether Garments (September), for knitted leggings.  “I first saw this practical garment in Germany,” wrote the Master (Mistress?), and I was hooked; that’s where I first saw it, too.

I never did make the Nether Garments, but – well, have you ever read anything by Elizabeth Zimmermann?  The woman is impossible to resist.  She charms you into thinking you can actually do this stuff, design your own patterns and make things without magazine patterns, knit in the round instead of flat pieces that you have to sew up, actually do math.  The scary part is – you can.  I did.  Fair Isle vests, Aran pullovers – argyle socks! – Icelandic pullovers, you name it, I did it.  Despite what people have been led to believe, federal civil-service workers actually don’t make megabucks, as I know from personal experience, and one of the ways I stretched a buck was to purchase one skein of sock yarn, cut the worn-out feet off my husband’s socks, and knit new feet onto them.  I still have some of those socks.  The yarn was pretty horrible – it pilled like crazy – but they are still wearable.  I wear them now.

My crowning achievement was my daughter’s wedding veil.  This was not without struggle.  I knew what I wanted to make; I had the pattern for it; I was able to purchase lace-weight wool; but never, repeat never, try to tell a non-knitter that you are knitting a wedding veil.  They can’t conceive of such a thing.  Both my mother (the needlework-hater) and my daughter’s future mother-in-law thought I was knitting a granny afghan!!  And it took me a year to knit the Shetland shawl I had envisioned; but she looked lovely in it, and it made a wonderful christening blanket for her two sons.

After that, I put my needles away and got back into cross stitch.  Until my son, who had only ever seen me knit, suggested to his then-girlfriend that something knitting related might make a good Christmas gift.  The girl bought me the Never Not Knitting calendar by Stephanie Pearl McPhee, who should seriously consider changing her middle name to “Purl” – it was like the rebirth of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  The woman literally laughed me into picking up the ol’ needles again.

I still cross stitch, in the daytime, when the light is good.  At night, with nothing but artificial light at my disposal, I take out my knitting.  In the past two years, I have knitted two Aran sweaters and a hat (and I swear I will never make another Aran again), and am currently engaged in a pair of socks for my husband.   The next pair of socks is for me.

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This is an old question from the Post-a-Day crowd.  I hung onto the ones I liked best, in hopes of using them for filler on days when the question was one that was less inspiring, and this, I thought, was right up my alley:

“What non-exercise activity do you wish would keep you fit?”

Since the death of knitting guru Elizabeth Zimmermann, in (I think) 2001, there hasn’t really been anybody to take her place.  She had the most creative mind, and inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of knitters to reach beyond pattern books and design their own knitwear, by sheer dint of her skill and wit.  When she died, I gave up knitting altogether — until an ex-girlfriend of my son’s gave me a knitting calendar.

Never Not Knitting is put out by a Canadian, Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and comes pretty darn close to the Zimmermann magic, in terms of wittiness.  And one of Ms. McPhee’s observations, in 2009, was along the lines of, really wishing that she could count knitting as a form of physical fitness.  I think she even tried to make the case that it was a form of exercise, since your arms were constantly occupied with the movement of knitting needles, and if you added a rocking chair into the mix, your legs got a workout, too.  Let no one say that knitters lack creativity.

I am so There.  One of the more irritating aspects of my admittedly sedentary lifestyle is the number of people who think of “couch potato” as someone who sits around all day watching soap operas and noshing on bonbons or chips, and the most exercise they get is clicking the remote.  I always think, What about artists?  What about musicians?  These people aren’t out there training for marathons, either, and a professional musician will spend six to eight hours a day practicing his craft.  And a painter just sits there all day with his easel and brush — but in both cases, the mind is going non-stop, discerning forms and patterns and colors (yes, music has “color,” too) and interpreting them into something that will please the eye or ear of the general public.  Yet, by the general definition, these people fit the mold of “couch potato,” because they Sit Around All Day.

Phooey on that.  I think we need to lose this phrase out of the general vocabulary and replace it with something more specific, like “TV devotee” or something that indicates a level of true laziness.  Because for me, anything that involves art of any kind will never qualify as Couch Potato material.

And that includes knitting.  Gotta keep those forearms toned.

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Question:  What would your profession be if you didn’t need money?

My first reaction was, That’s easy:  I’d be a professional  musician, of the classical variety.  I love classical music, have done since I was twelve or so, and would have loved to study it.  But with seven people living in four rooms, there wasn’t a lot of room to spare for a piano, and Catholic schools weren’t teaching flute or violin or recorder or any of the nifty stuff that public-school kids get to learn; they were afraid that musical accomplishment would lead us into the Sin of Pride.

So I did what I could.  I joined my high-school glee club and learned choral singing.  Then, upon graduation, I did what any other girl of my class did:  I went out to work to help support the family.  Took my secretarial skills and built a fairly successful career for myself, one at which I turned out to be rather good and which I have always greatly enjoyed.

But if I hadn’t had the threat of Earning a Living hanging over my head, definitely, I would have gone to college to learn real music.  I don’t say I would have had a career in it, but my life would have been infinitely richer.

Or maybe not; it might be that the adversity of my circumstances have given me a much deeper appreciation for music, overall, than I would otherwise have had.  I think it’s for sure that I would not have gone so deeply into the riches of Orthodox Church music, if I had been a professional musician.

The other field I would have liked to explore is nowadays called “textile art.”  I’d love to be able to design my own cross stitch, put together lines and colors in the kind of fantasy that real designers of cross stitch do.  A quick look at my Lust List will show you what I mean.  As it is, having devoted 30 years to the practical skill of knitting, I’m just now learning how painters get those spectacular color and light effects in their art – learning it through fine-art cross stitch.

So there you are, fine-art cross stitch and music.  Professional dilettante, that would be me, if I hadn’t had to earn a living.  So it’s just as well that i did.    😉

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5 things I was doing five years ago:

Trying to get used to the idea that my son had moved away from home
Working on an analoy cover for church
Trying to get used to the idea that I was actually a grandmother
Anticipating a new daughter-in-law (the less said about that, the better)
Having my kitchen redone, which was not nearly as bad as it should have been, mostly because my contractor hooked up the stove and sink every night so we could use them — I hope God has a special place in heaven for him

5 things on my to do list:
Talk to my priest about Jordanville (he was out of town last week)
Cross stitch (always, always)
Update diary
Pay parking ticket    😦
Find laminate flooring at Lowe’s for my porch

5 things I would do with a million dollars:

Pay off the home-equity loan that we used to have our front porch redone
Establish a perpetual trust fund for my church
Buy a vacation home in Germany so I could park dh there while I visit Russia
Hire a full-time maid
Install a floor to ceiling bookcase in the living room…and in each bedroom…and in the basement…and then I’d open the Gonic branch of the Rochester Public Library.  Heck, we have enough books to do it, anyway.

5 places I have lived:
New York, New York (well, Queens, actually, but it is part of NY)
Moerfelden-Walldorf, Germany

Morgantown, WV (ye gods and little fishes)
Greater Boston, MA

Gonic, NH

5 things I want to be doing in 5 years:

Being alive would be nice (I’m at the point where I read the obits every morning to make sure I’m not in there)
Still stitching
Teaching Typicon to members of my parish
Being part of a start-up Russian parish in Seacoast NH
Enjoying my finally tidy house, which at this moment is alive and well in Fantasyland

Thanks, Mimi!

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I got this idea from Philippa, and have been wanting to do it for some time.  So!

From The Simple Woman’s Daybook:

FOR TODAY, January 26, 2009…

Outside my window…  It’s pitch black, not unreasonable for 4:45 am on a January morning.  (I couldn’t sleep.)  Over the past two weeks there was a lot of snow, and the resulting scenery looks like the proverbial picture postcard — or, as my husband put it, considering how difficult it is to move such a volume of snow, the Postcard from Hades.

I am thinking…  of all the things I have to do just to get the house in order before leaving for work.  Does that count as real thinking??

I am thankful for…  the phone call I had with my son last night.  He is a truly good person, and I am increasingly grateful for his presence in our lives.

From the learning rooms…  I have an opportunity to take a writing course that, while not a guarantee of publishing, will show me how to contact publishers and present my work.  It isn’t cheap — what in education is? — but I do have my husband’s agreement that I can spend the money on this course, so I think I will go ahead with it.

From the kitchen…  the kitchen, at this moment, is as dark as the rest of the house.  On tap for tonight — not sure, it depends on communications from my husband.  Either Shepherd’s Pie, or Brunswick Stew.

I am wearing…  WARM CLOTHES.  Specifically, a dark-brown ankle-length skirt, lighter-brown turtleneck sweater, and a taupe cowl-neck sweater over that.  Sub-zero temperatures are a royal pain.

I am creating…  a revision of the third novel in my series.

I am going…  to work, around 10:00 am, as I do every Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

I am reading…  about three books at once.  Seriously, there’s Watching the English, a book about the idiosyncrasies of English behavio(u)r; The Englisher, the second in Beverly Lewis’s Amish series, Annie’s People; and Bread and Water, Wine and Oil, a (thankfully) simple book about the importance of sacraments in Orthodox worship.

I am hoping…  that the noise I am hearing coming out of my stove isn’t a squirrel or a rat or something equally awful — but that’s one ghastly grinding noise, and I can’t think what’s causing it.  My husband heard the same noise over the weekend.  Thing is, the top of our stove is sealed, so we can’t lift the lid to see whatever there is to be seen.  Suggestions??

I am hearing…  See above note.

Around the house…  Best described by a plaque I once saw in a friend’s house, “This house is protected by killer dust balls.”

One of my favorite things…  Cross stitch.  See photo below.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Conquering Mount Washmore (if I thought I could get away with it, I would seriously have engraved on my tombstone the thought from The Cloister Walk, “At last her laundry’s done”); keeping up with the house as best I can, especially since it’s That Time of Year again (when the priest comes to bless the house); hopefully, continued work on Maryland Mountain Express (photo below).

Here is a picture thought I am sharing…

cross stitch from Candamar Designs

cross stitch from Candamar Designs

This is a project I’ve been working on for my son for about three years now — Candamar put it out as an embellished cross stitch, but I decided I didn’t want to give my son a picture full of little holes (in embellished cross stitch, you only stitch certain parts of the painting, not the whole thing), so ran the photo through a cross-stitch program and am now working it as a full cross-stitch.  I am 20 rows shy of being 60% done.

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As of September 7, 2008
As of September 7, 2008 – Halfway done!

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Yesterday I returned to work. Nothing radical, it was just that the Sunday bulletin needed to be written, and that’s my job, and I was up for it. I still can’t drive, so Fr. Costin picked me up and drove me in to church. I must say, he was flatteringly ecstatic at the thought of not having to work up the bulletin himself. I can’t think why, it’s a boilerplate job; but maybe that’s because my talent is secretarial, and his is sacerdotal. (Like that one?!)

OK, so we get in to church, I get down to work, and so does he. He has phone calls to make, and a couple of visitors, and pretty soon I’m as done as I can be without further input from him; but he’s still in his office with a visitor, and can’t be disturbed. This has happened before, and I always end up checking e-mail and playing card games and other useless stuff. Not yesterday. Yesterday I grabbed my project bag, which was kitted up with Teresa Wentzler’s Needle Guardian.

I had a little piece of tail and part of the bottom chain done when Father came out, escorted his visitor to the door, and came back. “What are you doing?” he said. He knows I do cross stitch, and appeared intrigued by the variety of colors and the bag I had all my materials in. I explained it as quickly as I could — like most craft people, I can talk for hours about my favorite topic — and then he said, “And what are you making?”

Well, when I showed him the little dragon, and the saying next to it, he burst out laughing, then said, “I could use something like that for my diocesan vestments. When we all serve Liturgy together, we all wear the same pattern, and everyone’s vestments are always getting mixed up.” “What,” I said, “‘Fr. Costin’s vestments — touch ’em and you’re toast’?” “No,” he said, “more like, ‘touch them and you’ll have to answer to Meg.”

What could I say — I just pointed at him and said, “You got it.” To be honest, I rather like that idea. Now, what do you all think of vestments covered with glowering little dragons? 😉

(By the way, I tried twice to add an image of the pattern, but this thing won’t let me add any more images — I don’t know why. Very frustrating. Just click on the link, or up top, where it says, “Needle Guardian, by Teresa Wentzler” — you should be able to get there just fine. It is a cute pattern.)

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