Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gearing Up for Holiday Projects!

I love the possibilities of this time of year.  There are always so many different projects I want to do--some knitting, some crocheting and some sewing for the holidays.  I'm already working on a crocheted scarf pattern I found in the book Knit Local by Tanis Gray.  I think all of the other projects in the book are knit, but this beautiful pattern, Wildflowers Scarf designed by Linda Permann, caught my eye.  I'm using some yarn I got last year at the Hill Country Yarn Crawl at The Tinsmith's Wife in Comfort.  It's a fingering/sock weight yarn hand dyed in Austin by Bronotta Yarns named "Citadel" in the color Sargasso.  It's a beautiful mix of green to teal that is gorgeous as the pattern begins.

It started out with 340 foundation crochets.  I wrote about taking a class with Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby at Stitches Texas in the technique, and I really, really love it!  The scarf is crocheted the long way, so there's only 12 rows in all.  I'm almost done with the fourth, and the lacy flowers it's creating are wonderful.

Yesterday I was texting with one of our nieces and found out she likes gold, so she's getting a knit cowl from the pattern Kate Atherley is sharing on the Fall Knit Along on Craftsy.  It's a fairly simple knit lace pattern, and best of all one of my friends and I are going to have our own Knit Along and work on it beginning at the end of the month.  The KAL has a hat for November, but not sure I'll get to it this year, but did get enough yarn that I could.

My two gymnast granddaughters are going to be getting leotards sewn by me.  I have a great source at Needlenook Fabrics in Wichita to get the type of fabric needed for them.  It will be nice for them to have something that no one else has, and each will be different.  I have a few more doll clothes they might get, too.

My other sewing project will be for DD#2 and her husband.  They're opening a Montessori school next year, and I'll be sewing several things for the school when the remodel is finished.  I don't have a list yet of what she needs, but am looking forward to helping her with this.

The only grandson will get a GREEN knitted jacket.  He's going to be 4 soon, but think I'll knit a 6 so he can use it for a bit.  Green is his absolute favorite color, and I also found a really nice, 70% off, backpack for him with his beloved Ninja Turtles on it.

Miss V will get a new charm for her bracelet--haven't been to pick it out yet.  Saw her wearing it when she went to her first-ever school dance not long ago.  Made me smile.  Her Mom and Aunt loved theirs as well at that age.  I'll be giving her something sewn specifically for her, but haven't decided what yet.

Not sure what else will be on the docket.  I always think about the kids first, and quite frankly, there will probably be someone who gets a box with a partially (hopefully mostly) finished project in it that I'll complete after Christmas is over.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Great Time At Stitches Texas!

I learned to crochet when I was a kid from my grandmother.  While I was in college I taught myself to knit using the English or Western method, which means I was a thrower.  I did both when the mood struck until around '85 when I went back to grad school and something had to give.  I stayed with the sewing, but the fiber arts went by the wayside.  During the last three years, I've picked them back up again--first knitting, and last fall crochet.  It has truly amazed me how much everthing's changed about the crafts, from the yarn to the needles and hooks to the methods, and what hooked me on working with them again was the math that is used to create things to actually fit.  That said, I want to continue to grow in my knowledge of these particular fiber arts.

A week ago I attended the second Stitches Texas at the Irving Convention Center.  Last year I took two days of knitting with Andrea Wong, and was hoping she would be teaching her knitting socks using the Portuguese knitting method, but when the classes were announced, she wasn't there.  I looked through the offerings and decided to do a beading class with Judith Durant, two crochet classes with Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby and two classes with Gwen Bortner.  I picked wisely--there wasn't a single class I didn't gain from!

Beading with Judith Durant:  We explored five different methods for inserting beads into our knitting.  Not all are equally pleasant to do, however!  Spending close to an hour on threading beads probably won't ever be my idea of fun, but the results are pretty spectacular.  As a result, I bought her book Knit One, Bead Too: Five Techniques for Knitting with Beads. We worked on all five, and there's an amazing scarf in the book that I hope to get done up for someone special's birthday soon.

Gwen Bortner:  I took two classes from Gwen--one on working with non-wool fibers and the other on how to knit backwards.  The non-wool class was the first one I had and the knitting backwards was the last.  Gwen is extremely organized and has great notes.  She had a lot of information to share about non-wools, both animal and plant based.  I needed some information on linen as I have some waiting to become a shell, and she was most helpful with that.  The knitting backwards class was taught in an amazing manner, because she didn't show us a thing, but had us learn to think about how we would hold our needles to do a stitch, then what the motions would be to accomplish that on the back side of the knitting.  It's going to take practice, but I think I'm really going to like working with this for short rows of all kinds!

I already had several of Shannon Mullett-Bowslby's  Craftsy classes, and really have enjoyed watching them, but honestly, haven't taken the time to practice.  I took an amazing class in Foundation Crochet, and the things I learned there are going to revolutionize my work!  I hate to chain stitch--yes, I know that's how you start.  Maybe I should say how you USED to start!  I can't even imagine doing that anymore, and to practice I'm working on a different scarf from the one mentioned above.  The first row is 340 double crochets--yes, 340.  That would mean 343 chains.  I don't know about you, but my nightmare is not doing enough and not discovering until I was almost done.  In foundation crochet, you actually create the chain and the accompanying stitch at the same time.  Genius!  I absolutely LOVED that class, and already have over 120 double crochets on my foundation chain for the scarf.  I also took a class he entitled The Joy of Ribbing.  He wasn't talking knit ribbing here--it can also be done with a hook.  We learned several different ways to do it, and that, too, I'll have to practice.  '

The company that sponsors these events is branching out next year and expanding the offerings at their events.  They have one next spring, I think on the East Coast, that will include other crafts, like quilting and sewing and other things as well.  I hope it goes well because it's an amazing idea!  The only problem will be deciding just what to take.  I do love to learn!

Friday, July 29, 2016

It's Just Around the Corner

My last set of grades are turned in, I have to meet someone to go over one last set of paperwork, and then I'll be officially retired at the end of August.  Forty-two years is a long time to teach, but I can remember clearly my first day as a teacher.  I think I had more butterflies than my future students that morning.  Something saved me, though.  This is that story.

My first teaching position was that of a fifth grade teacher for an entire rural town whose only big industry was a gravel pit.  The town was surrounded by farming country and it was 40 miles from where I lived.  Teaching jobs were hard to come by then as there was a surplus of teachers.  There were actually five of us making the commute, so I only had to drive one day of the week. The rides to school were usually quiet as we had to leave so early to get there by 7:30. We saw many a sunrise as we headed east out of town to our destination, and were always glad when we got to turn north so the sun was to our side instead of in our eyes.

I don't actually remember much about the ride to school that day.  I know I didn't drive as my day wasn't Monday.  We'd been coming the week before getting everything ready, and as you looked at the front of the two-story, red brick building built in the early 1890's, I occupied the upper right corner room.  Across the hall was the sixth grade, with the reading room, an empty classroom, the art room and the library on the same floor.  Grades K-4 were on the first floor and the basement held locker rooms complete with showers and a large gymnasium.  As most buildings of that age, it had originally been the town's high school.

The building was so old it had steam generated heat.  I'd chosen to put up colored burlap on the bulletin boards in fall colors, and had decorated the room with live flowers in pots on the large windowsills. I had geraniums, ferns and a cactus that actually bloomed each winter I taught there. The warmth and moisture from the heater was amazing.  Each desk had a 3-D name=tag attached as I anxiously awaited my students.

The night before the first day I could hardly eat or sleep.  My stomach was tied in knots with worrying about whether or not I could really be the teacher I wanted to be.  I knew I was going to have 32 fifth graders and I knew from one of the other teachers whose son I was to have that they had fired the fourth grade teacher from the year before for incompetence.  That was scary, but I really didn't realize all of the ramifications from that until the year got underway, but that's another story or two.

The town was quite hilly, and the school was actually built on top of one of the hills.  Thee were two sets of steps leading to the front door, and it was the town's tradition that the students lined up single file in the front of the door, which meant that the line snaked down all of the steps and continued down the hill along the sidewalk.  Even looking out the window right before the bell rang you couldn't see all of the kids.  The line just went on and on.

It was that line that saved me.  You see, I'm the oldest of five kids, so have always had younger ones in the family, and I took care of them and babysat for others a lot.  When I looked out that window, what I saw were "just kids."  That sight calmed the butterflies, I stood there gazing at the line and they just went away.  I've always been glad I had those fifteen minutes before my students entered the room.  They gave me the opportunity to cross the line in my head and heart taking me into my future as a teacher.

The last 32 years of my teaching career, I've been involved in teacher education.  Oftentimes when I work with student teachers I'll relate this story.  It's important to picture yourself in the role you've worked hard to acquire, and understanding that the students in your classroom are amazing individuals who will give you opportunities to grow as you in turn assist them as they learn and grow.  Visualize yourself as the teacher you want to be, and you'll be a step closer to becoming that person.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016!

It is so hard to believe it is the first day of a new year--and what a year it will be!  Retirement looms in the future this year, and that is such an exciting proposition!  Retirement also means moving from a place we've lived for 27 years closer to family, and that's really something I'm looking forward to!  It will be wonderful to watch the grands grow and have a bigger part in the things they are involved with.

The three granddaughters spent a few days with us between Christmas and New Year's.  Since the twins recently turned 8, they got to sew on a regular sewing machine for the first time, and a great time was had by all.  The first day they just practiced sewing straight lines by watching edge of the fabric along the edge of the presser foot.  Day 2 brought their first pillow making experience.  K said she couldn't understand how you could take something 2D and make it 3D.  (Yup, they cover that in second grade now)  She was so excited when she sewed the seams, then turned her pillow and poked stuffing down into it. Ditto for E.

Big sister V didn't have a chance to sew this time, but she found a skirt she wants to make for her newest American Girl doll.  That will be in the works in the near future.

I'm really looking forward to helping them develop the love of creating things.  That's a true gift to give!

Sunday, December 6, 2015


There are some really great things that happen in December, and a couple of not so great things.  We have a lot of family and friends'  birthdays this month including a new little great-nephew born today.  Throughout the month,  it is always heart-warming to get together to celebrate all of the wonderful traditions we've come to associate with December.

December is also the time when the semester ends, and as a teacher of 42 years, that can make it a really hectic time. Classes ended Friday and tomorrow marks finals week.  I also have to visit several of my students in their classrooms for one more official observation. That part I love.  It's such a gift to get to spend an hour or two in classrooms full of children.  I'm going to miss that next fall--the paperwork, not so much!

I'm a sunshine type of girl, and that means I find December's weather, and winter weather in general, to be something to be endured.

The pluses outweighs the minuses, though.  Bring it on!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Holiday Crafting Update

Well, the sweater from the last post has the back completed and the two sleeves are on the needles right now.  They are about half done.  I like knitting both at the same time as they will truly be the same!  I'm putting the front off until the end--haven't done intarsia before, but am going to attempt it.  In fact, the original design had a frog on it, but O likes dinosaurs better, so a brontosaurus he gets.  Had to get out my cross stitch software to draw one out and make sure it fits the front.  Hope he enjoys it.

I discovered Tunisian crochet last month.  Oh, my.  Blame Craftsy--they let met have a month of any classes I wanted to watch and I only had to pay $20 for the month.  Got to see some awesome things, but I got hooked (hee, hee) on Tunisian crochet.  Jennifer Hansen and Dora Ohrenstein both have amazing classes that I watched.  I actually have Addi crochet hooks that you can attach to the circular knitting needle lines, and away I went!  I got a spa cloth done, and now probably need to do a couple more for the girls.  Maybe we can do a spa day over the holidays.

Last, but not least, I also watched several crochet classes and decided V, E & K need new hats for Christmas.  The nice thing about crochet is that when you have to take something out, you just yank the yarn back to where you made the error. Tuesday I started a hat for Miss K, and finished crocheting on Saturday.  OK, so maybe there's something else I adore, like how quickly small projects go!  Anyway, I decided it needs some embellishment, so I see a flower or two on my hooks this week. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Time to Think About the Holidays!

Every year I have really good intentions about making most of the gifts I give.  Some years I actually do it and others maybe not so much.  This year I'll probably be somewhere in the middle.  You see, the trouble with making gifts is that you actually have to plan far enough ahead to get them done.  I keep thinking this will be the last year I'll have trouble doing  that, because come next fall I'll be retired, but people keep telling me I'll be busier than ever.  I hope not.  I've always said the first year I'm retired I'm going to live in my pajamas and do all of the things I haven't had time to do while working.  I'll only get dressed to visit family and go out to eat!  I'm sure you're grinning now.

I did start a sweater for my grandson this evening.  Got about 3" knit on the back.  He's small enough that I think I can actually get it done in time for him to wear and I'm making it on the big side so he can wear it two years.  It's easier than knitting socks on tiny needles, I can tell you that much.  Sometime in the next couple of weeks I have to finish the ribbing on my second sock so I can actually have a pair I've made.  Back to the holidays.  I have doll clothes knitted for two of the granddaughters, and just need to do one more.  I think I can get that done, too.  The daughters got shawls last year, so if I get that far for them it will be something smaller.

Hmmm, do you notice how I wander from topic to topic in this post?  That may actually be part of my problem in getting my projects completed.  I tend to wander from sewing to knitting to embroidery to cooking and even sometimes cleaning, but I always come back and eventually it gets done.  Just not all at once.  Maybe I should adopt the little engine that could's motto--I think I can, I think I can and I will.