Friday, May 29, 2015

Iris and Columbine and (a Few) Things Accomplished

This morning I had a terrible dream. I dreamt it was the last day of September, and that October and autumn were upon us. "It can't be almost October," I wailed. "I don't even remember having a summer!" What a relief to wake up and find it was still only May after all.

But the dream was nonetheless symbolic of how I feel about the year. It's spinning by too quickly, and I don't feel I'm accomplishing much. I had great hopes of Memorial Day weekend: I saw myself completing several sewing projects, writing a blog post or two, taking several long bike rides, and working in some crochet time. But when the weekend was over, most of those things remained undone.

So this post is a reminder to myself of the few things I have accomplished recently. (If it seems to you like a desperate attempt at self-reassurance - it is.)

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But first, the promised iris and columbine, both of which are blooming against the garage wall right now:

The columbine is wild and volunteer. I don't know how it came there, but I am so grateful it did - especially as I haven't spotted any on my rides yet this year. It seems to be missing from all its usual haunts.

The irises too were a gift, left over from the previous tenants. They've had their ups and downs over the years (the iris I mean, not the tenants): divided and replanted by me, they sulked for a season then bloomed furiously and in beautiful profusion for some years. A few summers back about half of them died after being accidentally sprayed with something caustic by the man of the house (grrr). The next fall the leaves of the survivors were mowed down by ignorant landscapers before they had a chance to die back (double grrr). The irises very reasonably took umbrage at this shabby treatment and for a few years refused to bloom at all, but now they've bounced back and are delighting us with their lordly beauty and beguiling scent.

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Something attempted, something done: I re-webbed an old beach chair. Before and after photos:

I'd been putting off this project for years, and it turned out to be so much easier than I thought, thanks in great part to this video tutorial.

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I altered a pair of jeans - another long-deferred project. (No "before" photos on this one, I'm afraid.) This is the one sewing project I did accomplish Memorial weekend, and though time-consuming, it was very worth it.

The jeans fit through the hips, but that was about all. Everywhere else they were an exercise in frumpiness. The waistband was too big in the back, the front crotch depth was all wrong - both waistband and crotch sagged in front - and the legs were floppily shapeless.

So I took off the waistband and beltloops in front (leaving the button and buttonhole intact); took in the top side seams; drew a new, lower front waistline, staystitched and cut off the excess fabric, altered the waistband to fit the new waistline, and re-attached it by simply topstitching around the waist curve.

To avoid multiple seams at the side, the waistband alterations were made closer to center front, under where the front belt loops should go. You can see the seamline in the photo below:

Some tiny darts in the back waistband and yoke solved the rear waist gap. Then the legs were taken in from the ankle up, tapering to the crotch area:

The jeans fit much better now, and have gone from frumpy and saggy to well-fitting and moderately stylish in cut.

No, I'm not going to model them for you. :)

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May can be stormy in Wisconsin, and Memorial Weekend nearly always ends with a day or two of rain. This year was no different, but I did manage to squeeze in two short rides.

What red-twig dogwood looks like in late spring as it flowers:

Another type of dogwood (Alternate-Leaved Dogwood, I think) is blooming right now:

While taking the dogwood photos, I happened to look down and see a large stalk of wild asparagus. A few minutes' hunting produced enough to fill our next morning's omelette:

This is why cycling jerseys have rear pockets. :)

Cattle resting in the shade on a hot day (with one brave bovine working on her tan):

A few days and storms later, the skies cleared long enough for an evening ride....

I fell in love with this little barn:

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What else have I been doing lately?

Admiring the rain on the chive blossoms:

And making the first cherry breakfast focaccia of the year (which we enjoyed with our wild asparagus omelettes):

What have you been up to this week?

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flowery May

The Wisconsin spring is following its usual rollercoaster course of temps - 80º one day, 40º the next. Between the hot spells, we've had freezing nights, weeks of chilly rain, and some icily windy days. Though the weather sites say it's been a warm spring, the overall feel has been chilly. (Perhaps this is the psychological effect of being cold when we were expecting gentle heat?)

But the wildflowers are up and out in force - many of them early - so maybe spring has been warmer than it seems. Here are some photos taken on last weekend's (mid-May) rides....

Saturday: Honeysuckle is everywhere, pink and white and pink again, smelling engagingly sweet:

This pine has burst into knobbly bud:

Some miles later, while scanning a ditch for flowers, the Micawber eye spots something white. Closer inspection reveals it to be what I think is wild strawberry:

I'll have to keep an eye on this ditch. Maybe I can catch the fruit when it's ripe. :)

A patriotic barn quilt:

Honeysuckle aren't the only things blooming right now. Of course we have plenty of these:

And by default, these:

Notice the bike in the background :)

Whatever lawn-lovers may say, I like dandelions. They're the first bright spot of colour we get after a long drab winter, and their cheerful sunniness lights up many a waste space that would otherwise be dull brown-green. And they're a good source of food for bees and other wildlife.

Lilac time is drawing to a close. Last weekend, you could already see the blossoms beginning to rust:

("Ahem," says Tallulah. "Weren't you going to say something about how well I match the lilacs? Some witty remark about turtle camouflage, perhaps?" "Sorry, Miss T," say I. "You certainly do blend in well, except for the helmet and shell cover. Just try not to get any brown spots, okay?")

Around the corner from the lilac stands a Favourite Tree in all its glory of delicate spring leaf:

At the willowy bend a few miles on, I see two families of Canada geese. One pair has seven goslings, the other six. The seven-gosling family scrambles messily and hurriedly into the water, refusing to pose nicely. But the six-gosling group lines up obligingly:

The young 'uns are out of the tiny fluffy stage and just entering their gangly pre-teen days. But they're still awfully cute.

Down the road and around another corner, I find a new-to-me wildflower. The blossoms look very like forget-me-not, but copious research reveals them to be Greek valerian or Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum):

As I squat in the grass taking photos, a cyclist pulls up and says, "I'll bet you know where you are, don't you?"

"I do," I say. "Do you?"

Turns out she's out for a long morning ride (about 90 miles - what a gal!) and has missed a turn somewhere. She asks if she can ride back to town with me, as she can find her way home from there. I warn her that I stop for wildflowers, but she's fine with that, so we take off together, talking as hard as we can. It's rare that I get to ride with anyone, so it's a great pleasure when I do run across a kindred spirit.

At the crossroads we say goodbye and wish each other good riding. Perhaps we'll meet again sometime on a winding country road.

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Sunday: Thunderstorms have been forecast, and I sit around all morning waiting for the heavens to open. In the afternoon I fall asleep, and wake a few hours later to blue-and-white skies. Hooray!

I do like a late-afternoon ride, when the sun shines levelly across the fields, lighting up the trees and barns.

Dame's Rocket is already out in force - about two weeks earlier than usual:

I've set myself a goal this year to record every wildflower I see - with photos where possible, but otherwise as a written list which I'll combine with this year's Riding Diary. (I've missed logging some of the flowering trees, but hope to do better from here on.)

The first Canadian anemone are beginning to peek up like stars from the shady verges:

Here are some unknown tree buds about to burst open:

(When I see the blossoms a week later I realise it's probably dogwood.)

Today I discover a tiny clump of another new-to-me wildflower. It's Blue-Eyed Grass, a beautiful, miniscule member of the iris family:

Each blossom has a lime-green flower-shape at its center:

Two new wildflowers in two days - excitinger and excitinger! (I need to get out more.)

Golden Alexanders are just coming on, those tiny yellow first umbellifers of the year:

And the Wild Geranium is just beginning to spread its rosy loveliness in the shady ditches:

At the top of a hill, I see another new flower:

These are found on a tall tree-like shrub with leathery leaves and an abundance of creamy blossoms. I have no idea what they could be, though the leaves make me think of bay. An arduous Internet search Sunday evening finally yields a name: Autumn Olive or Spreading Oleaster (Elaeagnus umbellata). Another invasive plant with lovely flowers - and later in the year it will be covered with dark-red berries.

Shadow shot:

Miles on, these sweet-faced creatures watch placidly as I stop to take their photo:

I think they're Jersey cattle - not a common breed in these parts.

Up hill and down, past the first barn quilt I ever photographed years ago (and still a favourite):

Fields and trees bask in the warm sun under wide spring skies.

What a blessing to be able to ride out and see all these things. The year is a banquet of beauty, with new courses appearing continually on its table. What will it serve up next week?

Something lovely, I'm sure.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just Published ~ Daisy Chain Shawlette

This post contains affiliate links.

Where has the year gone? It seems only yesterday that I was posting pictures of snowy landscapes, and suddenly it's mid-May, with Summer crochet magazines appearing on the bookstore shelves.

And I have a pattern in one of them:

Daisy Chain Shawlette, Love of Crochet Summer 2015

The Daisy Chain Shawlette's stitch pattern was inspired by the Solomon's Knot technique, but uses chains and tall stitches (rather than tall loops) to create the allover flower look. Daisy Chain was made with Done Roving Yarns' Frolicking Feet, a beautifully sproingy fingering-weight yarn with a wonderful twist that holds up well to crochet work.

Daisy Chain is worked from end to end, and can be easily widened or lengthened. The stitch pattern creates a natural bias, which is reversed at the center to give the finished shawl a slight v-shape:

Daisy Chain blocking on my living room floor, December 2014

The border is worked in sideways rows, using tall stitches highlighted with back-loop slip stitch to give a "pleated" look:

The Daisy Chain Shawlette works well with 2 or 3 colours of yarn. Here's the original swatch I submitted to Love of Crochet, showing a 3-yarn combination:

Summer is the time for lacy crochet, and Love of Crochet Summer 2015 is full of lacy loveliness. Check out the entire issue!

If you'd like to order it online, here's a coupon (which is also good for anything in the Interweave store):

Save 30% at Interweave Store with Offer Code JUSTBECAUSE

Happy crocheting!

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P.S. Many thanks for the kind and encouraging comments on my last post. Your wise and funny and sympathetic words made me laugh and cry all at once ... further proof that those pesky hormones have a lot to answer for! :)

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