Saturday, May 31, 2008

Women's Group UFO

"Who knows the thoughts of a child?" (American poet Nora Perry)

I have been part of a women's spirituality group for over a decade, and these women are some of the most important people in my life. In fact, I just got back from one member's wedding in California. (That trip partly explains my absence on the blog lately.)

Anyway, the women's group has a reputation for UFOs: Unfinished Objects. We often get together for major life transitions (weddings, children etc.) and do cool rituals that include craft projects that never get done.

Last year, I hosted a shower for Karen who was adopting two twins from Ethiopia. During the shower, each woman drew on a fabric square an image representing what they hoped for Karen's children. I was supposed to embroider them and make them into a wall hanging.

I'm sure Karen thought I had forgotten. Well, tonight was a party for her kids' fourth birthday and one-year anniversary of bringing them home. So yesterday I decided to finally make this thing.

I stitched each symbol (most with basic stem stitch, but check out that satin stitch rainbow!) on the solid color squares.

Then I pieced them together with these coordinating African-themed fabrics (bear in mind that I've never pieced or quilted anything in my life) and quilted them "in the ditch" with a layer of wool blanket.

Then I made three tabs for the top and stitched a back of the solid orange and turned it inside out and finished it like a pillow.

Perhaps my women's group friends can help me remember what all these symbols meant? I know the Ethiopian cross was mine and meant "faith."

I was so excited how this turned out--exactly how I imagined it in my mind. Don't you love when that happens? And it feels good to have this done--finally!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our big news--finally!!!!!!

"We are made to persist. That is how we find out who we are." (Tobias Wolff)

Despite my creeping depression and increasingly frequent tears, I continued to knit a few things for the children we hope to adopt someday. I made this teddy bear from some Lions Brand Polarfleece from my Aunt Pat (horrible to knit with but super soft) and I'm in the process of an off-white baby sweater of bamboo yarn that I plan to keep for Sam and Sophie.

Maybe, even though my head and heart were losing hope, my hands were holding onto my last bit of it by knitting these items. Because Friday morning we got THE CALL. Yes, the call saying we have been matched with a 7-month-old boy from Ho Chi Minh City. We are excited, somewhat stunned, and a little cautious, since he must pass one more investigation from the U.S. government before we have permission to travel to go get him, hopefully sometime this summer.
Read all about it on our adoption site.

I also had knit an extra knitted rat (while making one for Jennifer) just in case our child was born in the Year of the Rat. But Sam was born last year, which was the Year of the Golden Pig, an especially lucky year, according to the lunar calendar. So I guess I need to find a knitted pig pattern. (Knitted and felted one here and a sewn one from Wee Wonderfuls here.)

Meanwhile, I've been collecting some patterns for cute knitted toys to knit for Sam and eventually Sophie. Feel free to make any recommendations to add to the list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Felt food

"I have on my office door these words from an accomplished Indian yogi: 'Before speaking, consider whether it is an improvement upon silence.' " (Philip Simmons in Learning to Fall)

Nothing says spring like fresh strawberries, and I have been eating a bunch in the past few weeks. But look closely: these aren't real! I have discovered felt food and I'm in love with it! Looking to make something besides another flower pin to include as a little gift to my etsy customers, I decided to try a stuffed strawberry. I based it somewhat on Martha's pincushion design here, but changed it a bit (rolled a felt rectangle for the stem, added beads). Aren't they so cute?

I know many crafters in the "softies community" have been making these for years. Just search "felt food" in etsy and you'll see so many cute options. Many of them are marketed as creative toys for kids (much better than plastic food!) So now I'm on a roll and want to whip up a whole (play) kitchen's worth! Next up: probably pears.

I'll start a list here of cute felt food on the internet:
I also have some patterns for knitted food, so between the two media, I should be able to make a whole grocery store's worth. I hope to have some more to post soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Civics lesson

"Don’t ever forget that we have a choice in this country – that we can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together and solve the problems we’ve talked about all those other years in all those other elections." (Barack Obama's victory speech in North Carolina, May 6, 2008)

This is a horrible photo, but it's the only one we've got. My sister, Amy, her daugher, Clare, and I were so busy GOTV-ing (Getting Out the Vote) that we forgot to take photos, and this one at the end of the day in the garage was overexposed. The three of us got up early on Tuesday and drove to Hammond, Indiana, where we got our assignment to knock on doors in nearby East Chicago.

My sister took her daughter out of school, thinking it would be a good civics lesson (and it was) but it also was a great lesson on poverty in America, as we were sent to the projects right next to the steel mills. At one point, Amy was a little afraid to be doing her side of the street alone, so I went with her. (My experience as a city dweller and as a reporter makes me much less hesitant to just walk in and talk to people, even in the 'hood.) I have to say, everyone was completely nice and very supportive of the Obama campaign, including the two convicted felons who seemed pretty educated on the issues and tried to offer us a $2 donation, since they can't vote.

The crafty connection would be our matching T-shirts, which you can't really see. We did the iron-on thing with a photo of Obama and the words "Vote Today" on the front, then added, "Yes, Indiana can!" on the back with Bubble paint. We got lots of positive comments on them!

I want to thank all the people I know in Indiana who voted for Obama. In the end, it wasn't about winning the state, it was about winning delegates, and about it being so close that it changed the "narrative." Nearly everyone agrees now that he is our candidate. It was great to be part of that history. And to those who have supported Hillary, whom I greatly respect (though I have been frustrated with her tactics in this campaign), I say please join us and welcome aboard. We have a lot of work to do to help fix our country after 8 years of George Bush.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State, the official totals were:

Hillary Clinton: 643,797 50.5%

Barack Obama: 629,310 49.4%

The difference: 14,487 1.1 %

And to make up for that awful photo, here's a nice one of the three Aurora University employees in our family--Amy, librarian; Andrew, provost; and me, associate professor--in our regalia on graduation day. It was a picture-perfect day and a beautiful ceremony and ritual. Four students from my class graduated, which was really touching to see. It's been surprising to me how much I really love teaching. Whodathunk?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Knitting needles

"Surrender has a lot to do with it, saying 'Yes' to the Big Adventures, not acquiescing or giving up." (Sister Helen Prejean)

The majority of knitting needles I own are from my mom, who passed along doubles of sizes that she had. I've bought a few, especially circular ones in sizes I needed. So when I saw an ad a few months ago for an estate sale that promised "rooms full of yarn and other knitting supplies," I was sure to get there early. A lot of the yarn was acrylic and most was gone by the time I got in, but I found a TON of knitting needles in a box in the basement. Most are straight aluminum ones (perfect for the knitter's wreaths I've made!) and almost all matched up. It's great to have some sizes I didn't have before. And isn't that plaid purse cute? I think I paid a couple dollars for all of these. (Photo is of them before the big sort.)

Speaking of knitting needles, I recently was given a really, really nice pair. These aluminum Size 8's are made by Boethe Associates in Racine, Wisconsin, a machine shop that makes steel parts but started making knitting needles on the side. (Great article about the company here.) They are really works of art. While at our neighbor's Cinco de Mayo bbq, I met a woman who was friends with the Boethe family. When she learned what an avid knitter I was, she went out to her car and gave me these. Isn't that sweet? They retail for $24-$28, so it was a really generous gift.

Speaking of works-of-art needles, I bought this pair of hand-carved needles made from "found wood" (either scrap lumber or sticks) from a guy at my parish craft fair last Christmas. They are almost as smooth as the aluminum ones, believe it or not. I have yet to use them, to be honest. They are displayed on my stack of old suitcases/coffee table in my living room. (Pardon the dirty rug I photographed them on.)

I've never knit with the famed Addi Turbos that so many knitters swear by. But these are other favorites: A pair of of metal Size 7's with a kind of plastic coating on them. (Mom, I think you knew the names of theses?) and a pair of beautiful Brittany hardwood Size 8's. Both are from my mom. Incidentally, I store most of my knitting needles standing up in a big flower vase.