Sunday, May 9, 2021

Flowers for a Friend

This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Teresa Kasner: artist, illustrator, designer, craftswoman, generous contributor and volunteer, avid collector, loving and beloved wife, mother, grandmother, blogger, and friend.

Teresa's blog was a lovely place, full of warmth and life. She enjoyed chronicling the doings of her family and pets, her meetings with friends, the scenic beauty of Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge, her ongoing craft projects, and her amazing collections of antique glass and furniture. The flowers and trees that grew on her farm, and her beloved red barn, were frequent and familiar sights to all her blogging friends.

I'll miss reading Teresa's blog posts, and seeing her cheery comments on mine, often adorned with flourishes of type that reflected the season or holiday or simply her happy love of decoration.

Thank you, Teresa, for adding so much beauty to the world. These flowers are for you.











Lapel pin designed by Teresa. She
brought it as a gift for me when we
met in 2018.

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Friday, April 30, 2021

April Sights and Sounds (and Crochet)

April in Wisconsin is a changeable time, when spring plays tug-of-war with a winter reluctant to yield. From brown fields still patchy with snow, and bare-branched trees standing sentinel over the dried stalks of last year's plants, the month progresses to a glory of vivid emerald grass under mists of soft-tinted baby leaves, with the first wildflowers advancing on meadow and wood.

The air of April is full of sound: the whistle and creak of frogs in the marsh, the eerie cry of loons on the lake, the strange ululation of returning sandhill cranes, and, over all, the sweet piercing song of red-winged blackbirds.


Birds are everywhere, in fact; flying, darting, swooping, stalking, and perching:



April skies can be sunny and blue, scarfed with cloud and edged with budding trees:


Or lowering with the threat of rain (and sometimes snow):


All sorts of things are sprouting and growing, like fungi: 



Scilla:



And soft flowery catkins:


Leaves that are but a tiny thought at the beginning of the month...


... thicken to a carpet in a matter of days:


Larches begin to think green thoughts:


In the marsh at their feet bloom the first kingcups:


Lambs appear in the fields (though they're a bit hard to spot in this photo):


And violets peep from the grass:


The winds of April can be cold and northerly, or soft and southerly. Either way, it's a wonderful time for walks and rides:


For pausing on bridges to admire greening banks and smooth mirror-like water:



And spying with delight the first blossoming trees peeping out from the edge of the woods, like serviceberry:


And wild plum:


Best of all is scanning the verge with the eyes of memory and hope, and seeing old wildflower friends appear in their accustomed spots. Here is one of my very favorites, Greek valerian (or Jacob's ladder):


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This April has seemed colder than ever. We had a taste of summerlike warmth on Easter weekend, but since then there have been more clouds than sun, with plenty of freezing nights and days of chilling wind. The violets in the yard are a bit pinched this year, but I still found enough for a mini bouquet to adorn the dining table:


(The tiny doily under the flowers was a gift from Kay many years ago. Thanks again, Kay!)

~

April has been a busy design month for me, both at work and at home. I've been developing a Milflores Shawl variation with a deeper neck curve, and testing the pattern changes with this gorgeous 875-yard gradient cake:

I call this project A Plethora of Peonies

All that remains is to write the expanded instructions. If you already own the Milflores pattern, you'll get an automatic update that includes directions for the optional new shape. If you'd like to purchase the pattern now, and receive the update as soon as it comes out, visit my Ravelry store here. (Note: Some Ravelry users have reported visual stress, eyestrain, ocular migraines, and other neurological reactions since the site's redesign last year. If you are prone to any of these, please be careful.)

~

There's also a new shawl design in the works. One sample is done, and the second should be finished this weekend. Here's a sneak peek:


Watch for a new pattern release in the coming week!

~

In other news, we've had our first vaccine shots (yay!) and are scheduled to receive the second round next week. I had a definite (but brief) reaction to the first one, while Mr. M noticed very few symptoms. We're hoping round two goes well.

How has your April been?

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Monday, March 15, 2021

A Foretaste of Spring and a Blogiversary

March can be very changeable. Today is cold and grey; snow is falling thickly, and the newly-budding trees are shivering in an icy wind.

Last week, however, we enjoyed a glorious foretaste of spring, with blue skies, sunshine, and a few days of temps in the 50s. You know what that means for this blogger....


The first ride of the year was, as always, a compound of sheer delight at the freedom of the road, and an uncanny sense of collapsed time, as though the four months out of the saddle had never been.

What a treat to wheel past trees and fields I hadn't seen since November:


Spot pigeons in a row on a barn roof:


Pause for photos at a favorite bridge:


And watch Tallulah get creosote on her feet as she walked across a sticky piling:


Magically new and comfortingly familiar (the ride, that is, not the creosote).

~

The next day I rode my bike to work.

Blackbirds fluttered at the edge of the river trail:


Much of the river was still frozen, but some stretches were open to the sun:


Hello, cycling shadow! Nice to see you again:


~

In other March news, I completed a pair of socks! With sock yarn!! On size 1 knitting needles!!! (Please pardon the excess of exclamation points; this is big for a serial crocheter like me.)


I wore them to work one day last week, and felt ridiculously proud every time I caught a glimpse of my ankles.



~

Ten years ago this month, I published my first blog post.

At the time, I had no idea where blogging might take me. My original plan was to write about frugal living, with plenty of recipes and green cleaning tips, but along the way the focus shifted to crochet design, cycling, and chronicling the changing Wisconsin seasons. Who would have guessed that between then and now, I'd sell numerous crochet patterns and articles to magazines, travel across the country multiple times to take part in benefit bike rides with fellow bloggers, and write and publish a book?

Better still, who would have guessed that through this blog I would make friends with wonderful people all over the world? Meeting you online, and in real life, has been a joy and a privilege.


Thank you for reading all these years, and for enriching my life with your comments, emails, and friendship. I am so grateful for you all.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Forward Loop Box Chain: A Stretchy, Elastic Foundation Row for Crochet Projects

Hello fellow crocheters! Here's a technique I developed a couple of years ago, but never got around to posting (too distracted by the book, if truth be told).

This technique has now been used in several projects, with excellent results. So, without further ado, I happily present the:

Forward Loop Box Chain is a variation of the Forward Loop chain, but with much greater elasticity.

As its name implies, Forward Loop Box Chain has a boxy shape. It looks like a chain on three sides, and like a row of bumps on the forth. When worked with normal tension, it makes a subtly handsome foundation row. If worked with a loose enough tension, on a project of some weight, a row of decorative eyelets may appear between the chain and the first row of stitches.

Where to Use the Forward Loop Box Chain

Try the Forward Loop Box Chain as a foundation row on:

  • Mitts
  • Hats
  • Top-down tops or ponchos
  • Top-down socks
  • Any project that needs a stretchy foundation edge with good recovery
I've used the Forward Loop Box Chain on bottom-up mitts and top-down socks, and it's held its shape well through many wearings.

Forward Loop Box Chain foundation rows

Forward Loop Box Chain Video Tutorial

(This video is for right-handed crocheters. For a left-handed version, click here.)


Forward Loop Box Chain Photo Tutorial


1. Start with a slipknot on your hook.
2-4. Make a forward loop* on the hook above the slipknot. 
5-6. Make another forward loop (3 loops now on hook). Yarn over, and pull through all the loops on your hook. (If it's hard to get the hook through the loops, gently grasp the base of the loops and pull downwards/away from the hook, as in Photo 9 below.)

(*How to make a forward loop: Keep working loop on hook and working yarn draped over forefinger, from front to back. Lift forefinger slightly to form 2 vertical strands of yarn, one in front and one behind finger. Place hook behind the back strand and use hook to pull strand towards your hook hand. Slide hook up through the loop that forms. Yarn should look like a letter "D" (for right-handers) or "O", with the tip of the hook pointing up through the hole. Remove forefinger from yarn while keeping hook in the "hole". Gently pull on working yarn to tighten loop until it is snug against the working loop.)


To continue:
7-8. Insert hook into the farthest of the loops you just pulled through.
9. Make a forward loop on the hook (3 loops now on hook).
10. Yarn over and pull through all the loops on the hook.

Repeat Steps 7-10 to desired length.

For a firmer chain: After inserting hook into the farthest loop, tighten the working yarn before yarning over and pulling through the loops on the hook.

Working Into a Forward Loop Box Chain

Note: For maximum elasticity, work only into the bumpy edge.

Before you work the next row, turn your Forward Loop Box Chain so that the bumpy edge is facing you. Stretch the chain, then let it spring back to shape. You should see a row of longer bumps alternating with tiny bumps. When working into a Forward Loop Box Chain, use the longer bumps, and skip the tiny bumps.

To work the next row: Chain 1 (or an appropriate number for the stitch you plan to use). Insert hook into first longer bump, make desired stitch. *Skip the tiny bump, insert hook into next long bump, make desired stitch. Repeat from *.

That's it!

Tip: Be careful not to let the box chain twist as you work into it. Check often to make sure you are working into the long bumps, and not into one of the chain loops.

~

If you have any questions about this technique, ask away in the comment section below, or contact me in Ravelry (where I'm MrsMicawber).

I hope you'll try the Forward Loop Box Chain for yourself. If you do, let me know how it works.

Happy crocheting!

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