Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas

It's been a cold, sunny day in Wisconsin. Mr. M and I are celebrating Christmas by ourselves this year. We're talking to family members by phone, enjoying food and warmth and shelter, and feeling blessed.

An old gift still in use

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a postprandial walk....

May your day be merry and bright!


P.S. Thank you for all your kind comments on my last post. They were very much appreciated.

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Dear Amy

Amy and me at Chain Link 2017

Some of the best friendships in my life have started online. My friendship with Amy was one of them.

We "met" on Ravelry in 2014, when I was looking for a roommate for the the CGOA conference. Vashti Braha gave me Amy's name, thinking we would get along well. Turns out, Vashti was right. Although Amy already had a roommate lined up, we kept messaging each other on all manner of other topics. Soon the conversation moved to email, and as our friendship flourished, we agreed to room together whenever possible at a future CGOA conference.

Fast forward to 2017. The CGOA conference was scheduled for Chicago, just a few hours away from where I live, and Amy was planning to come. Finally we would meet in person! She flew in to Madison a day early, spent the night at Micawber Towers, and we drove down to Chicago the next day, talking as hard as we could. I introduced her to Culver's frozen custard. She entertained me with stories of her former jobs with the National Park Service. We talked about beading, crochet, theology, scenery, wildflowers, travel, yarn, pattern-writing, and more. The friendship born online had translated seamlessly into real life, and we were enjoying every minute.

At the conference, Amy seemed to know everyone. Wherever we went, there were happy cries of "Amy! It's great to see you!" She loved people, and people loved her. And no wonder: she was kind, funny, and smart, with an astringent sense of humor, and a wonderfully down-to-earth outlook on life. Being there with her was like being absorbed into a ready-made circle of friends.

Clockwise from front left: Tamara Kelly, mystery crocheter, Jessie Rayot, Pia Thadani,
Andee Graves, Amy, me, Amy Shelton, Kathy White.

Crocheting in the sun with Edith from the Chicago-area guild

To borrow a phrase from Donne, Amy was "involved in mankind". She cared. She volunteered; she made things for charity; she taught at her church; she mentored; she was active in local stitching groups. She loved listening to podcasts and interacting online with the podcasters and other listeners. She was a vocal, cheerful presence in many Ravelry groups. As a cancer survivor, and perpetual cancer patient, she sympathized with and encouraged other cancer patients wherever she found them.

Amy loved cats and birds, trees and flowers. She was a fearless crocheter, a talented designer, an inspired beader, a meticulous craftsperson, and an excellent writer who understood the importance of words. She was also a careful tech editor, and helped shape the pattern language for my book. Without her continual input, feedback, and encouragement, I would never have finished that years-long project.

Portland, 2018

Amy and I were roommates again at the CGOA conferences in 2018 (Portland, OR) and 2019 (Manchester, NH). We hoped to meet at a future conference, but cancer put an end to those plans.

She passed away last week. The world is a poorer place without her.

Manchester, 2019

Goodbye, dear Amy. When we meet again in heaven, I'm sure I'll find you making something beautiful, and talking away happily to whoever is blessed to be sitting next to you.

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Friday, December 4, 2020

Working Live Loop Cables in Back-and-Forth Rows: a Video Demo with Tips

To get the most from this material, you need to be familiar with basic Live Loop cable and Live Loop stitch techniques. For an introduction to Live Loop techniques, see this video, or purchase the book Live Loop Cables in Crochet here.
Video Demonstration

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Here's a more in-depth look at some of the things addressed in the video.

Important Fundamentals of Live Loop (LL) Cables

Every LL cable loop has a right side (RS) and a wrong side (WS). The RS of an untwisted cable loop faces the same direction as the RS of the fabric, when the cable loop is held parallel to the fabric face. To prevent twisted cable loops, always insert your hook from RS to WS into an untwisted cable loop, whether you're working a RS or a WS row.

But what if your loops don't sit parallel to the fabric face? Unsecured cable loops can twist, and loops placed on a holder actually sit sideways. How do you tell which is the RS?

Practice is key. The more LL cables you work, the better you'll get at recognizing the RS of a loop. Understanding how yarning over vs yarning under affects loop orientation can also help.

To Hold or Not to Hold - and When

After pulling up your cable loops, you can put them on a holder, or leave them loose. (Another way to secure loops is detailed in the book, but not addressed in the video or this post.)

If you do use a holder, you can:
  • Insert it while the loops are still on the hook. This will preserve the loops' initial orientation.
  • Insert it after you remove the hook. This gives you the option to change their orientation.
This post shows the results of inserting a holder while the loops are still on the hook.

Yarning Over/Under and Loop Orientation

You can yarn over or yarn under when pulling up new cable loops. It makes no difference to the finished cable, as long as you insert your hook into each cable loop from RS to WS on the following row.

However, yarning over/under does affect the new loop's initial orientation.

RS Row Cable Loop Orientation

Here's what happens when you yarn over or yarn under while working a RS row LL cable, and insert a holder while the loops are still on the hook:

If you're working in back-and-forth rows, this means:

  • Loops pulled up by yarning over on the RS row will face away from your hook hand when you work the  following (WS) row.
  • Loops pulled up by yarning under on the RS row will face towards your hook hand when you work the following (WS) row.

WS Row (Inverse) Cable Loop Orientation

Note: I call LL cables worked on a WS row inverse cables, because they are worked with the yarn held in front and the hook in back.

Here's what happens when you yarn over or yarn under (as illustrated below) on an inverse cable, and insert a holder while the loops are still on the hook:

If you're working in back-and-forth rows, this means:

  • Whether you yarn over or yarn under, if you do it exactly as shown above, loops pulled up will face towards your hook hand when you work the following (RS) row.

This was a bit of a mind-bender for me. I had to test this over and over before I grasped the results. Just call me spatially-challenged! :)

Hook Insertion Tip for Inverse Cables

When working inverse cables, if you find it awkward to insert your hook, try catching the near leg (the leg that connects to the stitches nearest your hook hand) with the lip of the hook, then sliding the hook tip through the loop.

In the video, you can see me do this starting at the 2:03 mark.


For successful LL cables worked in back-and-forth rows: always insert your hook from RS to WS into an untwisted cable loop; if you place your loops on a holder, note which way they're facing, and make sure they all face the same way. This will help you identify the loops' RS when you work the following row.

When working inverse (WS row) cables, move your yarn to the front before working the cable, then to the back before working the LL stitch after the cable. (Remember that front and back refer to whatever side you're working on right now.) As you complete the LL stitch, keep the cable loops to the back (on the fabric's RS).

You can yarn over or yarn under when pulling up cable loops, as long as you keep it consistent within each cable, and insert your hook properly on the following row. I like to yarn over on RS rows, and yarn under on WS rows; you should do whatever works best for you.

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Thanks for viewing and reading this post. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

Happy crochet, and happy cabling!

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Monday, November 23, 2020

November Walks and Rides

It's hard to believe November is nearly over, yet here we are in Thanksgiving week.

The month, like the year, has so far been marked by waiting: waiting for an election; waiting for votes to be counted; waiting for resolution; waiting to see what the virus would do. And with the waiting, hoping: hoping for clear outcomes; hoping for peace and stability; hoping for truth to be proclaimed and recognized; hoping against hope that leaders would lead, and put people before politics or profit; hoping that hospitals would not be overwhelmed, nor medical personnel swamped, by a rising tide of illness.

While humans fret and fight their way to the end of this seemingly endless year, the earth, thank God, keeps turning. The seasons roll onward, and their ever-changing beauty provides solace and distraction from the affairs of men.

(How's that for a cheerful opening? The rest of the post will be better, I promise.)


For me, November began with a walk in the cold clear air. The bright leaves of October had faded, and soft neutrals prevailed on this trail through the trees:

In defiance of the weather, a shivering mullein still bore one blossom:

On the other side of the woods, seedpods of white wild indigo stood out darkly against the prairie:

And tall grasses provided a pop of rusty red and white:


The next day brought a stunning sunset of violet and rose:


The day after that brought a ride! (And an election. But that wasn't nearly as much fun.)

In what felt like a measure of extra grace during a time of national stress, November warmed up for one golden week. On two days of that week, I was able to ride to work.

On the way in, I saw sandhill cranes biding their time in a field:

And on the way home, enjoyed the reddish light cast by the setting sun over river and lake:

The shorts and short sleeves are proof of just how warm it was:

What an unexpected treat in November, and what a great distraction from political events (or non-events).


During the warm spell, I took another walk to the prairie restoration project. The temperature may have been summerlike, but grass, tree, and flower told a tale of fall:

Bird on a wire:

Sunset over the marsh:

The warmth lasted just one day longer before reverting to more typical November weather: cloudy, rainy, and cold. Many days passed before I took out my camera again.


Last Friday I walked to the park, where oak leaves and dried grass made a pleasing contrast to the dark blue waters of the pond:

I stopped for a photo of a mysterious dried flower (possibly prairie onion?):

A few steps away was a flagpole, and on it the Stars and Stripes - tattered and tossed by conflicting winds, but still flying bravely:

May the nation she represents be governed by truth and characterized by courtesy, kindness, and concern for life at every stage.


I've been working on some crochet tutorials which I hope to post soon. My crafting mojo is slowly wakening from its post-publishing dormancy, and I have several techniques to share. :)

Wishing a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving all who celebrate it! I am grateful for all of you.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Golden Days

October started out chilly, with several frosty nights. On Sunday the 4th, I took a walk to the prairie restoration project to see how the woods and fields were looking in their autumn dress.

Oak leaves carpeted the start of the path...

...which then skirted a cornfield, all dry stalks and tassels rustling in the breeze:

After crossing another field, the trail led through a second small wood before opening out onto the restored prairie:

Dried flowers stood amongst the native grasses:

Frost-proof asters were blooming in pale lavender...

...and deep saturated purple:

A chestnut tree (I think) shone softly bronze:

Mysterious seedpods stood up from the dried grass:


The next day began a balmy period of sparkling days in which the very air seemed golden, as if filtered through the deepening yellow and honey of aspen, oak and walnut leaves. Sugar maples, not to be outdone, held up branches like flame against deep-blue autumn skies.

On Thursday the 8th, I rode my bike to work on the kind of morning that gives October a good name. The church on the corner was flanked by maples dressed in scarlet and orange:

Outside of town, birch trees shimmered under a pale half-moon (which looked much larger in real life):

I took a little detour to visit a favourite stretch of maples:

When I reached the river trail, the wildflower killer mowing machine was hard at work on the wide verge (alas for the last blossoms sheltering in the tall grass!):

Hours later, I captured my shadow on the ride home:


On Saturday I walked downtown to pick up our weekly consignment of eggs. The maple trees on the corner were still ablaze:

Back at home, I lingered outside, enjoying the sunshine on the gloriously golden walnut tree towering over the garage:

A sparrow landed on the roof and posed for a photo:

And I couldn't go in without snapping the bouncing patch of volunteer marigolds next to our door:


On Sunday, the sun disappeared behind a thick blanket of cloud, taking my cycling mojo with it. Instead of riding, I took a walk to the park, along sidewalks covered with a confetti of leaves:

This superb aster was blooming at the lake's edge:

At the park entrance, mums were glowing in yellow and apricot:

A few steps farther on grew bright Virginia creeper:

Our village park sits on a small peninsula, with a lake around it and a pond in the center. The edge of the pond has been planted with native wildflowers, including milkweed (gone to seed here):

And aster, purple and white:

Maple and pine trees line the park road, making for lovely autumn collages like this one:


This week has been rainy and windy, tearing much of the color from the trees. The walnut tree behind the garage is now bare:

Geese and sandhill cranes are gathering on local lakes and in harvest fields, preparing for the long flight to come. The balmy air is gone, and there's an icy bite to the wind.

Tonight we are forecast for below-freezing temps and widespread frost. Earlier in the month, I covered my tomatoes and herbs on frosty nights, hoping to keep them going for a few weeks longer. But now it's time to yield to the inevitable.

This morning I picked all the remaining tomatoes, harvested what I could of the chives and thyme, and heaved one last sigh for the lost summer.

Any ideas for using these green tomatoes?

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