Archive for August, 2007

Mossy Ferns

Socks I love:


Baudelaire by Cookie A is a beautiful toe-up lace pattern, elegant and easy to memorize. It was a joy to knit through and through. I loved this pattern for the gorgeous lace vine that drew the admiration of onlookers. I loved the instructions for a sewn bind-off; no more do I struggle to get my toe-up socks over my heel because the super elastic cuff stretches and then snaps back.


Yarn I love:


Fleece Artist Basic Merino Sock in Moss. Soft, supple and not splitty. The color variation was interesting without varying too much. Plenty of yarn for my size 8 feet, with enough to spare for an infant hat or two.

The best part was starting these socks on one vacation in New Hampshire, and finishing them on another vacation on Keats Island. Lovely.

Knit Silver Wire Bundles

Last month, Marysusan of All Good Girls Are Marys issued a collaborative challenge: she expanded on a design I created and posted the illustration on her blog. I loved her idea, but being separated from my tools and materials, I was forced to sit on my hands until I returned to Seattle. While at Keats, I combed the beach looking for interesting morsels to dangle.


As soon as the dirty clothes were sorted and fresh fruit on the counter, I pulled out my needles. My first prototype was knit with 24 gauge nickel-plated craft wire. This resulted in a clunky heavy bundle without much definition. It will be perfect to hang from my rear-view mirror, but not from the neck of any human I know.


The next two were knit with 28 gauge dead-soft sterling silver wire; this means the wire is extremely malleable and very fine, resulting in a much lighter little package that may bend if abused.


The last package was strung up on wax-coated cotton cord with 24 gauge half hard sterling silver wire and findings. The difference between 28 gauge (the thinner wire used to create the pocket) and 24 gauge (the thicker wire used to wrap the cord) is noticeable in the picture below.


If you are interested in trying this project, I would recommend working with half-hard sterling silver wire instead of dead-soft, unless you plan to create a production line knitting a never ending string of chain mail. Half-hard wire will make your hands sore after a while, but it is worth it in the ultimate durability of your finished product.

Big Green Island

There is a place that lives so large I have a hard time describing it to people. Keats Island is in Howe Sound, where the mountains seem to plunge into the ocean; the sound is visible from the highway that runs between Vancouver and Whistler.

My parents bought a long, narrow sliver of paradise in 1981 for $11,000; for their dollar they were given the key to a 10×10 plywood shack with rotten floorboards, 6600 sq ft of ferns, big leaf maples, douglas fir, ferns and blackberry bushes so dense they covered the front of the property, obscuring the view of the shack and completely obliterating the road.


Our first summer, we camped in the shack while building an A-frame cabin with the help of friends and a couple of my mother’s brothers. They hired a builder brimming with enthusiasm who had never built a house. I can still picture his rusty truck with no floorboards; he had to fill the radiator with a gallon of water each time he stopped.


Part of what makes Keats Island so magical is its inaccessibility. To get there, you need to take two BC ferries, or a water taxi. Should it be necessary to get building supplies, appliances or a backhoe on the island, you have to rent a barge and be in the good graces of someone who owns a truck on the island. Most people opt to hire one of two contractors if they want their project finished in less than three years; some opt to do it piecemeal, spending their weekends and summers carrying up laminate flooring and tools by hand on the Stormaway, a thirty passenger aluminum charter boat, pictured above, that serves the island twice a day.


There is no licensed commerce on the island, so groceries have to be carried up, and all garbage is packed out. The exception is Barnabas, a Christian family camp located midway across the island; they have a small general store, open three hours a day, that serves espresso and ice-cream.


Both of my parents worked in the school system, so we spent most of our summers at Keats when I was growing up. These were formative years, shaping my love of the ocean, and also my expectations of summer leisure. We were never a family of hikers or mountaineers, nor did we camp. Why would we when there was ‘Twin Maples’, a cabin built to provide just enough comfort to keep us warm? Until my parents renovated this year, we always relished the sense that we were roughing it.

Our cabin is located amidst a small community of cottages in Eastbourne; there are roughly 150 families on our end of the island, though no more than one third of the homes are ever occupied. ‘Who’s up?’ people ask as they get off the ferry at the government dock, wondering which of their friends might be staying that weekend.


My closest friends were Amy and Laurie, sisters who lived two cabins away, just close enough that we could stand on our front porch and yell ‘Kayo’ to see if chores were done and they were free to play; their family bought an old cabin the year before we did, so they already knew the Grays, sisters Tara and Alana who lived near the path to Maple Beach. Alana and Laurie were ‘up’ last week with their children; our children played together just like their mothers did so many years ago.


The family who owns the cabin across the road from ours have four children, gifted with inventive spirits. Perhaps it is because they have been renovating their cabin for eight years, a heritage relic of the early years, their property is the defacto depository for all things potentially useful, while not immediately obvious to the adult observer. The favorite toy was a go-kart built out of a rusty tricycle, a handtruck or dolly and a boogie board.

Summers are about families and children falling all over each other; the headache that comes from swimming in the Pacific Ocean for more than fifteen minutes; pooling the last egg, cup of milk and three slices of bread with homemade blackberry jam for a shared breakfast on the patio, the freedom to read a book while your children are playing somewhere, and serenity of a long walk in the woods.

Letterboxing: A New Trail

Since there isn’t a lot of time for crafting at home, but I’m still full of stories from our summer in New Hampshire, it seems appropriate to share some of those tales.


One cool morning, when we had no visits planned, and the kids seemed like they would benefit from a little one-on-one attention, Sophie and I kayaked across Thorndike Pond to visit our friend Emily, a retired kindergarten teacher from Rhode Island. Several years ago, she built a nature path through the woods next to her cabin, stocked with tchotchke you wouldn’t expect to see in a woodland setting. Sophie and I thought it would be fun to create our own letterboxing trail on Emily’s path for other children to visit.


If you’ve never heard of letterboxing, it is a scavenger hunt that leads to a buried box where adventurers collect a stamp on their notepad and leave a stamp, signature or note in the trail box. The creators of the trail return periodically to see who has left their mark in the book and to check on the supplies. There are letterboxing trails all over the world; you can look up a list of trails for your next hike or walk, and if there are none registered you can create your own.

We found a plastic deli container in the kitchen, filled it with a stamp, a small inkpad and a notepad. Starting at the end of our trail, we buried the container in some loose dirt under a tree. Then we went back to the beginning to create the clues that would ultimately lead to the letterbox.  


The first clue was left with Emily. It directed adventurers to the birdhouse where the second clue was tucked in the fin of the wicker flying fish. And so on and so on.


Thank you Emily and Rosie for sharing our enthusiasm, and to Kristin for introducing the idea to our preschool class. 

Worms For Sale

My children learned their first lessons in marketing and economics today. While working to turn our vermipost, my children noticed just how much the red wrigglers had reproduced while we were away. They scooped some out for a closer look and a little play. When Sophie was done, she suggested scattering them in the garden; my son remembered a story he heard about his great-uncle who sold nightcrawlers to fishermen when he was a boy forty years ago. “We should sell them,” he piped up, “to fishermen going to Green Lake”.


Before long, they had scrounged some recycled yogurt containers from the kitchen, poked air holes in the lids and counted out their stock. They decided on prices, made signs and moved a table from the patio to the street.


Their first customer was our regular postal carrier. “Worms? Don’t you have lemonade? I don’t need any worms right now”. Two more cars stopped to ask about lemonade before we decided to provide what the market was demanding. We made bigger signs, and the kids took turns dancing around the table with their signs held high to attract attention. Sophie stayed at her table for 2 1/2 hours, bringing in $6.05 in lemonade sales; the worms have been relocated to a larger container for safekeeping.

At dinner, we had an extensive conversation about the endeavor. How much can you charge for homemade lemonade? Is it worth the higher material cost to make it from scratch? Should it be listed on the poster? Do cookies provide a good return on your investment? I charged 10% of their profit for the materials that went into today’s lemonade, plus my dishwashing service since we were using our own cups and they didn’t want to wash them. If they put the stand up again tomorrow, they are going to pay for the sugar and lemons out of today’s profit. Now, about those worms…


One lovely Saturday in August, I visited a small fair in the town of Dublin, NH. I was delighted to meet the woman who sold my mother-in-law six skeins of yarn last year, which I used to knit my Rogue vest.


It turns out that the yarn is not homespun, as I had thought, but Fisherman Yarn by Bartlett Yarns of Maine. This woman sells the wool from her sheep twice a year to the mill, and they give her yarn in exchange. I was so pleased to work with this mulespun yarn that I bought another six skeins for a future project.

On Thorndike Pond

Our glorious vacation on the pond is quickly coming to an end; Friday we fly back to Seattle, leaving our summer in New Hampshire behind.


We’ve had buckets of fun doing lots of nothing: mostly swimming, kayaking, digging and carving rivers on the beach in front of Michele’s house, my mother-in-law who has so graciously tolerated a month-long house invasion. There has been plenty of rain, but it hasn’t slowed anyone down; you can still play in the pond, or the forest, or go to a fair in the rain since it rarely lasts all day, and a little moisture doesn’t really hurt anyone.

I could write pages about the places we’ve been and the people who have filled our days, but since my intention is to write about creating and inspiring art, suffice it to say that the beach has kept me far away from the computer for any meaningful stretch of time.

One place I make sure to visit every summer is Harrisville Designs, located in historic Harrisville, NH. Walking into their retail store fills me with such a warm feeling that I have a hard time leaving; when I visited last week, I stayed for three hours, browsing, reading and chatting with the customers and staff. There is something about the restored 18th century brick mill with its gently sloping wide pine floors, straddling the river that fills me with nostalgia.


If you have ever knit with their yarns, or seen them up close, you’ll know what a beautiful way they have of blending colors that aren’t really a tweed, but still have bits of color that stand out as the yarn passes through your fingers.


To my delight, I noticed on this visit that they sell their dyed fibers as batts. There was no way to choose a single color; lucky for me they sell the roving by the ounce, so I could take a reasonable sample of many colors.


After looking at the bags of wool next to my bed for six days, I couldn’t resist them any longer. Yesterday, we milled a little goat milk soap from the farmer’s market in Henniker so we could start to play. Can you imagine a more beautiful place to felt than in the shade of an old beech tree, at the edge of a pond?


These little balls of goodness will end up strung together as a necklace, or zipper pulls, or Christmas ornaments at some point. In the meantime, they will sit on my desk reminding me of summer on Thorndike Pond.

Flickr Photos