Saturday, May 7, 2016

Grandma's mittens

On April 23rd my family gathered at the cemetery to reunite my grandparents after 17 years apart. We chose their anniversary to do so. Both had been cremated and the boxes containing their ashes stood side by side, reminiscent of my grandparents. Grandma's ashes were in a small cherry wood box, significantly smaller than Grandpa's oak wood box. Along with them six roses and an old peanut butter jar from 1964 filled with rose petals from each year of their marriage to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Grandpa gave her 6 roses (one for each child) every year of their marriage (60 years), a tradition my mother would carry on after he passed away. 

The boxes containing their ashes and the jar of rose petals were placed in the ground and their children began to fill the hole. When it was nearly filled their grandchildren got on hands and knees and filled on the rest patting down the dirt and replacing the grass.

We returned to my family's home and looked at old photographs, laughing as we retold old stories and shared some new ones. At the end of the evening I asked everyone there to trace their hands. Grandma's mittens were ever present in our lives. There was always a pair available during the long cold New York winters, or if little girls were playing dress up and inexplicably needed a pair of mittens to complete their outfits. 
Grandma's notebooks were filled with tracings of kids hands which she used to size the mittens, and there always seemed to be a pair in progress on her favorite hook.

This project is my version of a memorial to her. With what she taught me I hope to remind my family of a love which, though it may not have been conspicuous was perennial.

My grandmother had six children, 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. I have quite a few mittens to make before we get together again in about six months. It will just about be mitten season by then.

If you would like to share the love with your family you can download the pattern here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

You might say I had a wild hare

This bunny blanket beckoned to me from a bag a fuzzy discounted yarn purchased at a bin sale. It's cuddly cuteness factor is off the chart, if I do say so myself. I made it for fun, with no one in mind. I've been told by the recipients and fellow baby shower goers that I should sell these on Etsy. Maybe if I make enough... Or maybe more commissions...

Saturday, March 12, 2016


After finishing this hooded dragonfly baby blanket I couldn't help but imagine all of the improvements that could have been made. But the woman who commissioned it was delighted, so I guess I am content.

I did try to record the pattern, and did manage to get as far as the leaf before giving up in order to finish on time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Working on commissions

love a commission because it gives me an idea to work off of. Sometimes it is a specific request, like make my kid a rainbow Halloween costume.
Or maybe it is more vague, like - the Deputy Director of the museum is going to be a father can you make something for his new daughter? 
Incidentally the museum was about to open a Monet exhibition at the time.

Other times it is a specific request that inspires even more, like a request for a simple pillow of the Twin Peaks mountains that lead to a log to keep your secrets in.

I'm nearly finished with yet another commission, which I hope to share here soon. I was given a specific theme, which is both helpful and challenging. After that I will begin on another, this one is more vague of a request- in fact the request was "whatever you have lying around" but where is the fun in that? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thank you, Grandma

My grandmother passed away at the age of 99 in her own room on the day after Christmas surrounded by family and so much love. Her passing had been incremental. Over many years we lost little bits of her, aging is a cruel and merciless process. Even so, Grandma always maintained a bit of herself and would shine through for a moment which caused both joy and sorrow as we were all reminded of the formidable woman that she had always been.

Grandma was the matriarch. She had five sons and my mother. Each boy (save for one who is gay) married a woman not unlike my grandmother - strong-willed, intelligent, and powerful. I suspect that we saw less of our aunts because they were all of those things, and that made it difficult when they were with her. We did see our uncles quite a bit, because they adored their mother. She was called Shorty by one (which was fair enough, as she couldn't have been much more than 4 feet tall. We all towered over her, even as children.) Another called every Sunday, which she looked forward to. For so many years she kept a notebook of the weeks events by her chair to share with him. When he came out of the closet - when he was well into his later adulthood my grandmother sat next to him, rubbing his back and simply said, "We knew." It was ok, she was always ok with the people that we were. She kept a gift from my uncles long time partner in her bedroom, right up to her death. When my mother asked if she could get rid of it my grandmother was indignant, "No, Andrew gave me that." Andrew had passed away in 1989.

Grandma saved things. As we began to look through her possessions after her passing we found notes in just about every knick knack. They told of who gave it to her, or how much she paid for, and when it came into her possession. She had items from the early 19th century from family who had first settled in the same town we all lived in. Every piece of glassware and furniture told a story of eight generations of our family. Her home was a place filled with art painted by my great grandmother and my uncle, and furniture designed and built by my great grandfather (a man she always called Daddy). Creativity was valued and encouraged. She taught me to crochet. She and I made my prom dress together. I enjoyed spending time with her, even if we just sat silently together.

When I was a teenager or young adult I asked her if she had any silver to polish. I very much enjoy polishing silver, but I also wanted to spend time with her. Both were a little like unearthing treasure. I recalled this as I helped to clean out a cupboard for my family and held the silver tea set I had polished all those years ago. "She would want you to have that," my mother told me, "she always talked about how you would come over to polish her silver." I am glad I did. I will think of her every time I polish that silver, just as I think of her every time I pick up a crochet hook.

For years at the end of a visit home I would hug her and say, "I will see you later, Grandma." Near the end I would say it thinking that maybe, through some sort of magical thinking it would keep her alive until I could come back again. So on the day after Christmas as the undertaker waited in the other room and we said our final good-byes I leaned down and gave my grandmother one last hug, and said, "I'll tell you what I always tell you, I will see you later, Grandma." And I will, in my own idiosyncrasies born of her, in her hand writing as I follow her patterns, in the paintings and knick knacks I took home from her collection, in the craft books she let me have, and in the memories that sneak up and make me smile, and fill my eyes with tears. I will see her.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Foxy Baby

I've been experiencing a dry spell, which for me means that I have not crocheted any major projects for a while. I've worked on a tablecloth, made several hot pads, a mat for my cat, cat toys, used scraps to start a blanket, frogged that blanket and started another, and futzed with various other unfinished projects. So when a friend and co-worker requested a baby blanket for an upcoming shower I was grateful for the challenge.

I crocheted a dragon for my friend's baby shower, and had set the bar pretty high. I searched for patterns in hopes of fining at the very least inspiration. I came up short. I took a chance and bought some yarn. She had requested a fox themed blanket, so at the very least I could start with the right colors.

I began the project with no plan. I followed no pattern. The fox, not unlike Michelangelo's David just emerged from the raw materials. One day I might have to sit down and transcribe the patterns I divine, but until then- here is another one of a kind creation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Crocheted Colorado Stripe Afghan

In an earlier post (Breakfast Scarf) I wrote about my mentor. About a year ago she contacted me via Facebook asking where her crocheted gift was. I assume she was joking, and possibly inebriated. I thought, I may as well make her something, after all she did have a significant impact on my life. I asked her what she wanted and she. She did not know, but suggested something with her mother in mind. Her mother had recently passed away unexpectedly. I enquired further if there was a place or color that reminded her of her mother. She told me Colorado and Yellow, and then she had to run.

I began working on a blanket. Actually I began looking for something to work on I googled "crochet" and "Colorado" and eventually came across a pattern for a Colorado Stripe afghan. It was from a book called The Great Afghan Book. I ordered the book, and began to follow the pattern once it arrived.

The book was one that my grandmother had referenced in her notebook. The first pattern I ever followed was from this book. I was glad to buy it, and am sure that I will end up using several of the patterns.

I worked on the blanket sporadically, and eventually set it aside as other projects grabbed my fancy. Finally in that in between period where my fancy lay dormant and I had nothing else to work on I remembered- I need to finish that blanket some day! And so I set to work, and when I finally tied off and wove in the last strand I thought briefly of keeping this for myself, but instead took a picture, shared it and tagged my mentor, "It's yours if you want it"

Now, I just have to make sure I mail it before another year goes by!

Follow the simple pattern below to make your own!

* * *
Crocheted Colorado Stripes
Worsted Weight Yarn (any two colors)
Size I hook
Make this as large or small as you like, I used about 6 skeins for this particular blanket.
With color A – ch 194 loosely. Work in pattern stitch as follows.
Row 1 (foundation row): Sc in 2nd ch from hook *ch 3, sk 3 chs, sc in next ch, rep from * across
Row 2 (patt row): Ch 1, turn, sc in first sc, *ch 3, scin next sc, rep from * across
Rows 3-5: Rep row 2, 3 times. At end of Row 5 change to color B in last sc.
Rep Row 2 in the following 12-row sequence
2 Rows B
1 Row A
1 Row B
1 Row A
2 Rows B
5 Rows A
Rep 12-row color sequence until you are satisfied that the blanket is big enough! Weave in the ends and border as desired. I sc crocheted around once and finished with a scalloped edge (*ch 1, sk1, 4dc in next ch, sk 1, sl st in next st, repeat from * around. Tie off and Weave in ends.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Gorgon Medusa

Every now and then I leaf through an art book, looking for inspiration. I had imagined that I might find some gory painting of a saint. Saint Sebastian will some day rise out of a skein of yarn, I swear. But this time I was inspired by Caravaggio's Medusa (painted in 1597). It is a haunting image of the Gorgon frozen in the moment when she sees herself as what she is. It is horrifying and tragic.

I had no plan (or more specifically, no pattern) for how I might pay homage to Medusa, and obviously I could not hope to replicate the mastery of Caravaggio. I also culled inspiration from Ray Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans, and as I worked I played Clutches "Release the Kraken" repeatedly in my head.

And when it was all said and done, I am pleased with the results. Behold, the head of the Gorgon Medusa (as held by the hand and forearm of Perseus).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monkey and a banana

It is summer, and who wants to make blankets in the summer? But due to all the babies made during the winter I feel I should make something to celebrate their birth. And so I set to work on a monkey.

It sometimes happens that when you start a project without a pattern the end result might be a different size from your original idea. Upon completion of this particular project it was requested that I hide it, as it caused undue terror every time either my roommate or I wandered into the living room and saw it there. Giant monkeys can be unnerving, even if they are adorable.

The monkey was good, but there was something missing. After a discussion with a co-worker it was determined that it was a banana. The monkey needed a banana. So once again I took up hook in hand and got to work.

I think I needed to make something that was cute enough to counterbalance the Medusa head I've been working on. I think I may have succeeded.

And just in case the monkey and the banana were not enough, I threw in some bunnies for good measure.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Inching into spring

Living in Buffalo makes spring one of the most precious seasons of the year. While it seems like the rest of the country bursts to life in verdant brilliance we inch slowly towards it with one crocus at a time. The sight of a daffodil has been known to inspire squeals of glee. Though I have not seen the official sign that the season is upon us, that being a shirtless man doing yard work or riding a bicycle, I have heard the tell tail warnings. There may be one warm say (highs in the low 70's) and a without fail some one will say, "I don't know if I can take this heat". Fear not, because the next day it may well, and did, snow.

Not much changes for me, except maybe the colors and themes of what I am working on. Since winter ended I have finished a few projects but am largely in that in between place, much like spring itself. No particular project has seize me and thrilled me. More babies are on their way, the staff art show looms on the horizon, and several projects lay dormant - set aside in favor of some other endeavor.

My plastic bag yarn continues to proliferate. I made "the perfect crochet beach bag" from a pattern found on Pinterest, and I mailed it to a friend in a gift basket, which included one of the four fat adorable Easter bunnies I made using no pattern. Plastic bags were also turned into nested baskets through crochet alchemy. I converted a pattern for a shirt into a dress, which I may or may not wear to an event at work...or ever for that matter.


I suppose that even for a dry spell its still pretty prolific. I better get back to work, there are still projects that need to be realized!