Friday, April 26, 2013

Held Together by Knitting

Last week was horrific: bombings, explosions, the death and maiming of innocent bystanders and volunteer firefighters. On top of it, the weather was dismal—grey for days on end, nearly 5 inches of rain in 24 hours resulting in flooded homes, and north of us there as a snow storm. Nature didn't offer the respite we needed after days of manmade horror.

I was supposed to go to my aunt's house for her 87th birthday, but decided to put it off until the weather was more favorable. It's not as though I didn't have plenty of work to fill those delayed days, and not as if I didn't know that it was unhealthy to watch the endless news coverage on television and online, but I found myself drawn in. I heard the media's reports on the dance instructor, the recently married couple, and the two brothers who'd lost their legs. I saw the images of the Boston bombing repeated in a continual loop. I listened to stories about the volunteer firefighters who rushed into the fertilizer plant in Texas and perished. I even thought of the sorrow of the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers. So many lives damaged. So many lives ended.

And through it all, I knit. I knit back and forth on an Elfin Baby Bonnet in pale pink. I repeatedly knit rows of the 208-stitch-long Dovetail Cowl. When I finished it, I started another. It seemed to be one of the only things that made sense. Creating something in the face of so much destruction brought a modicum of comfort. When so much of life seems so far beyond control, I knit. It's not all I do. But it's what I did last week.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Trifle for Saturday Morning: My Knitted Boyfriend

Yes, I am currently knitting-obsessesed. Blocking my Dovetail Cowl and knitting another Elfin baby bonnet. Stumbled across this this morning. If you need about five-and-a-half minutes of distraction from the events of this crazy week, settle back with your cup of coffee to view one woman's solution to finding a man who will never leave you:

MY KNITTED BOYFRIEND from Noortje de Keijzer on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the Road, Again

Phew! I'm a bit discombobulated right now and I haven't finished half this month's comings and goings. But suffice it to say that I'm a little bit here and a lot there—there being Virginia, Minnesota, and Chicago. I love to travel, but I'm also a real homebody and so there's always a little conflict in my soul when it's time to head out. There's never a trip I'm sorry I made, once I've made it, but I always resist going away...always!

My most recent venture was to Virginia, for my niece Anna's vocal performance senior recital. For an hour my sisters and I and our husbands and my nephew, Anna's brother Karl, sat dumbfounded as we listened to Anna sing. I don't see her often and was in awe at the growth in her vocal abilities and at her stage presence. Even her parents and brother were left with their mouths hanging open. I loved the way her friends pitched in and performed parts, both from operas and musicals, to add fullness to the evening.  (That's her to the left, wearing a honey cowl. She's so gratifying to knit and sew for: I've made her two Birdie slings  —here and here—and she's used them until they fall apart. This time she opened the honey cowl and immediately put it on and wore it all afternoon.)

Photo courtesy of VA Quilt Museum
While the event was lovely and it was fun to be with family, Virginia itself was a real highlight. Daffodils, forsythia, and budding trees gave me hope that spring might eventually come. We wandered through the farmer's market, sampling doughnuts from Mennonite bakers and locally roasted cups of coffee. We took a little hike along a rushing stream, where bloodroot and May apples pushed up, through the forest floor. And we even stepped inside the Virginia Quilt Museum for a look at Material Witnesses, an exhibition by the Manhattan Quilter's Guild of New York City. There were also a few Civil War quilts—so graphic and so amazingly preserved.

VA Quilt Museum civil war display—hexagons have a long history!
Heading out to MN tomorrow for a weekend with my aunt, in honor of her 87th birthday. I delayed my trip by two days, as we've been having torrential rains and flooding and she's getting snow. But she says it's for the best, because there's a quilt show there this weekend. I'll try and take a few photos!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Color and Texture: Spain

Walkway in Ronda
I had the great good fortune of accompanying my husband to a meeting in Southern Spain last week. We spent nine days visiting Malaga, Seville, Granada, and Ronda (part of that was meeting-time, of course, but I didn't have to go to the meeting). The opportunity to go on these trips reminds me of what's good about freelancing and a flexible schedule...

Dresses in the Paul Nunez shop in Seville
The Moorish influence in this region (Andalusia) meant lots of beautiful tile work that I knew would remind me of quilts. What I didn't know was that the streets and sidewalks would all be beautifully patterned with rocks. Seriously, I don't think I walked on a solid surface the entire time.

Sidewalk in Nerja
 The other thing we didn't know was that it was Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The frightening-looking costumes belong not to a race-based organization, but are Nazarenes. The other stunning thing were the floats featuring life-sized, wood-carved Biblical scenes decorated with incredible silver and embroidered textiles, that were carried through the streets, sometimes for hours. The young man below is one of those carrying a float.

Hope you enjoy these!
Float carrier takes a break during a procession in Malaga
Nazarenes in Malaga procession
Nazarenes in Malaga procession
Float of the Virgin Mary being carried through the streets in Malaga
Malaga float detail
Will it rain? Float carrier in Malaga wonders
Nazarenes in Granada
Detail from the Alhambra in Granada
Arches in the Alhambra in Granada
View through the Ronda city walls
Granada windows
Shawl shop in Seville
Traditional Spanish dresses in Seville shop
Shawl detail: hand embroidered
Sevilla detail 
Sidewalk in Seville
Floor in Seville
Seville garden
Seville tile