Monthly Archives: January 2013

Keep Those Wagons Rollin’

This strange little countertop, tucked between the dining room and the basement stairs, is at the geographic center of our house.  When we first moved in, it was a handy place to keep all the tools one needs for getting settled:  hammer, screwdrivers, tape, pencils, tape measure, assorted screws and nails, sketches, and all the  stuff you don’t know where else to put.DSCN1665

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But when we invited a Feng Shui consultant over to help us figure out how to arrange the furniture with our quirky floor plan, she told us that the geographic center of the house is the most important location for something truly meaningful, something that reflects our values.  So we cleared away the tools and have tried to make this little spot into something artistic.  There have been a few holiday scenes, an arrangement of fruits and vegetables in a cornucopia, and now this.

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A wonderfully talented artist (go here to see some other pieces of her work, and scroll down to the July 16, 2012 post) in our former congregation gave us these figures and the covered wagon at our retirement party.  After all, we were moving to Oregon; what better way to commemorate this move than to create an image of the Oregon Trail?  (Which ends in Oregon City, just down the road from where we live now.)

Side note:  did you know that Conestoga wagons were originally built along the Conestoga River in Conestoga Township, Lancaster County, PA?  That was right down the road from where we lived in Carlisle, Cumberland County, PA.  I’ll bet some of these wagons came right through town and down the street we lived on.

So here they are, these intrepid wayfarers westward, camped out for the evening after a long day on the trail.

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There are always animals in the scenes our artist has created.  One fellow has a dog literally attached to him at the hip, and the other one has befriended an owl.

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The third fellow is preoccupied with cutting wood for the fire.  (That’s a log to his left, and although the axe has a skinny handle, it is mighty!)

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Look!  Their hats come off!  And the fellow on the right even has a little hair.

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A real Conestoga wagon would be pulled by as many as eight horses, but these two guys are terribly strong.  AND they’re really good friends.

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Look at the faces on these two!  Wouldn’t you love to ride across country on a Conestoga wagon with them?  Oh, the stories they would tell…

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The children try to stay as close to the food as possible.  It’s hungry out there on the trail.  Their mother bought a whole bolt of that blue cloth, so they are always dressed in the same color.  One fellow has a pet bunny, and the other seems to have made off with a bowl of potatoes.

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Now that they’ve made camp for the night, these guys have gone off to chop wood…

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…while the women get ready to make dinner, and the dog has the good sense to stick around nearby.

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The children play among the rolled up baggage, and this guy just sits around curling his feet up and holding his owl.    He’s not good for a lot of help along the way, but he has something special to offer to everyone at the end of a long day.

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The Great Baby Blanket Event

When I learned last April that my daughter Katy was pregnant with her second child, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect occasion to knit a blanket that I had been lusting after for years, Shelly Kang’s Sock Yarn Blanket as described on her blog.  (Look for All About the Blankie on the right.)  If you are considering making this, go to her web site for excellent detailed instructions; I just want to chronicle for you my own experience with this really fun project!   #1 May 4  It took Shelley Kang two years to make hers the size of a double bed; surely I could make a baby blanket by mid-November?   Here I was on May 4, off to a good start.

It was super time-consuming, and super-fun.  Because every block is different (or can be), I found myself thinking “just one more” and continuing to knit for hours at a time.  By May 15, when this photo was taken,

#2 May 15I realized that even though I had MILES of leftover sock yarn from making zillions of hand knit socks over the years, I wasn’t going to have enough.  So I sent out an SOS to all of my friends who I thought were or might be knitters, explaining the project and asking for any scraps they could spare.  (Each completed square weighs only 3 grams, so even the tiniest scraps could be put to good use.)

For a few weeks after that, it was like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one!  Packages of yarn arrived nearly every day, some of them containing extremely generous gifts of full skeins of yarn!  In those cases, I checked with the donors to be sure they wouldn’t mind if I made a complete pair of socks from their gift rather than adding it to the blanket.

I put out a similar request on a neighborhood List-serv, and got a response from a woman who signs her e-mail messages “Molly Weasley.”  (If you don’t get it, you haven’t read Harry Potter.)  She gave me an entire bag full of self-patterning sock yarns left over from her own projects. We now meet for coffee and knitting every 3 weeks or so (and she has inspired me to get serious about lace knitting.)  Another time, I met a perfect stranger who lives a few blocks away when we were out for a walk one Sunday afternoon, and after chatting for a while I asked her “You wouldn’t by any chance be a knitter, would you?”  Indeed, she was a knitter, she was generous with her yarn, and we now have become such good friends that she came to our house for Christmas dinner.

#4 June 16By June 16, I was starting to realize that summer is not the ideal time to be knitting a wool blanket.  But I soldiered on, because I was getting nervous that it wouldn’t be finished by the time the baby was born in November.

#5  close-up  Here’s a close-up so you can really see the colors.  This is not your average pastel baby blanket!

Weaving in the zillions of ends was clearly going to be a problem if I didn’t get them under control.  (Raise your hand if you love weaving in ends.  I thought so.) I knew that if I left them all until I was finished knitting, I would throw the whole thing into a corner of my closet where it would languish for all eternity.  So I developed a system.  When the ends started to look overwhelming, I forced myself to weave in six ends before I was allowed to start another square.  (6 ends = 3 squares)  #6 back After a while I would be caught up, and I could knit with abandon until the ends started looking overwhelming again.  There’s no mistaking the back for the front, but it does look pretty tidy.

I decided that it was finished when it was about 45″ square.   I have no idea what size a standard baby blanket is, so I just tried to make it big enough that this little boy (yes, by now I knew that he was a boy) would keep it folded at the end of his bed for the rest of his life, or use it as a lap robe when he got chilly.  The knitting was done some time in October (deadline approaching!), and then began the tedious job of going all the way around it with a 3-stitch attached i-cord edging.  It was very fussy and slow, but the end result was great!

Clearly I was not the only one in the household who thought it was terrific!  Here it is being blocked on two beach towels on the den floor, the only low-traffic space in the house that was big enough.

#7 done & blocked

 

That beautiful baby was born on November 16, and two weeks later we traveled back east to meet him and congratulate his older brother on having such a fine new baby in the household.  The blanket was received with all the awe I was hoping for!

#8 Frank

 

I had made a smaller version of the same blanket for Older Brother’s doll, whom he named Hidgery.  He was quite delighted with his very own blanket for Hidgery-of-undetermined-sex, and immediately had to try it to see if it fits.  It does, because when I was visiting them in August I measured Hidgery when no one was around, just to be sure.

#9 Hidgery

 

And finally, the image I had in mind all along.  With every stitch and sigh, with every decision about which color came next, with every end woven in, I imagined this beautiful, healthy baby lying  under the blanket I was making for him with so much love.

Note that he is wearing a hand-knit made by his mother.  The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

#10 Aengus