Yes. Spring has finally graced our little corner of the world. It seems overnight we’ve gone from snowblowers and parkas to throwing all the windows open and ferrying ladybugs out to safety. Thick winter boots have been traded in for muck lucks to traverse wide swathes of mud. And who could stay holed up in the studio when the landscape is finally inviting you to be part of it again. Certainly not me and my ever faithful crew. The front stoop become the official hookery of the day.
I’ve been having a hankering for some color work knitting lately. Just to mix things up, I think. And me being me, I was suddenly possessed by the need to try my hand at dyeing with natural plant materials. The web is great for instant gratification, and I quickly dug up everything I needed to know to dive in completely unprepared. Whims are like that. Among the list of typical dye suspects of onion skins and beets, there was avocado. I’m not kidding. Again, me being me (and it being a darn cold winter), I descended on the compost pile and started chiseling out all the frozen pits and skins I could find. I didn’t count, but I apparently found enough, because the wool ended up the most lovely shade of muted dusty rose.
In cooperation with The Syria Refugee Mission of the North Shore the next Bee in the Barn at Todd Farm will be be a collection site for donated handcraft supplies to be contributed to NuDay Syria’s frequent shipments of humanitarian aid to two refugee camps in Syria. These are communities of primarily women and children who have very little opportunity to build a better life. Textile and handcraft tools and materials will provide these women the ability to develop a vocation and a means of support for themselves and their families, as well as the much needed supplies to enrich the lives of a community teetering on the edge of sustainability. Sewing Bees have a long tradition as community gatherings for a common goal. In that spirit, at the next bee we will be accepting donations of any handcrafting material or supply you would like to contribute.
When: March 19th, 1-4 pm.
Where: The Barn at Todd Farm, 275 Main Street, Rowley, MA
What to Bring: A handwork project of your choice and a friend! This is a free community gathering open to all with a love of handcraft and community.
What to Donate: Any handcrafting material or tool, including fabrics, sewing supplies and notions, yarn, knitting needles, sewing machines; to name a few!
NuDay Syria is a 501c-3 non-profit dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians. They are particularly focused on creating safe environments and opportunities for single and widowed women and mothers. For more information, visit NuDaySyria.net .
For more information, please contact Jess@jwrobel.com.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
― Elie Wiesel
And let’s not forget the animals, our planet, our communities.
Scrolling through my drafts, I found this piece from over a year ago that never got published. I’m not sure why. But for some reason reading it today gave me great comfort. My now dearly departed Zoey lived six months past the writing of this, surprising us all with determination to live on and love well past her expiration date.
The New Year is always a time of taking stock, regrouping, making plans. This year is more poignant than most. We have numerous life transitions going on, but the most important may be that our 16 year old dog is phasing out. She came to us as a 13 yr old whom we thought we’d have a couple of months, at best. Almost three years later, she is our shadow, our hipbone, our much loved and constant companion. And now she is dying.
We first realized how her ailments were outpacing her in early November. We didn’t expect to have her for Thanksgiving. Her appetite waned (usually the kiss of death for a lab!). She slept longer and deeper. We were preparing ourselves.
I thought we’d be burying Zoey at Christmas, then again after she got to see her favorite people, then New Year’s. She eats sporadically. I’d do anything to help her, but she confuses me. She is skinny as sin, refuses to take any of her medications, but she is the first dog to meet me at the door with wagging tail, loves to go for her walk (aka put-put), can’t wait for a car ride, dozes peacefully touching one of us—tucked on top of my foot, curled into the the crux of Dave’s arm. We swaddle her in love and sweaters. Gauging her happiness and comfort is a minute by minute task. We wish she could talk to us.
Our life is moving in big, bold new directions. It saddens us that Zoey won’t be on that journey with us. But what she has brought to our lives, and (we hope) we have brought to hers, is an immeasurable gift. In the meantime, we are gathering the strength to help Zoey with the best path for her final days, stunned with the knowledge that her only goal seems to be to let us know how much she loves us.
The sounds of my home waking up in winter are quite different than the warmer seasons when the windows and doors are thrown wide open and we are roused by the birds and the wind. In the colder months, we are closed up and tucked in, insulated from nature’s alarms. When I wake before light to start my day, our winter home offers the comforting morning sonata of the gurgling coffee pot, the furnace kicking in followed by the soft whir of the blower, and the gentle snores of my dogs (and sometimes husband) as they all linger in dream land. It is this winter soundscape that will always be audible memory of writing this pattern. Up before the rest of my household, my knitting would expand with the growing light.
As winter projects go, there is none better than this alpaca throw. Steaming cup of coffee beside me, I’d work tucked beneath the warmth of my work in progress watching the sun burn the mist off the field outside my window. Core spun alpaca is a sensory joy too work with and it’s working weight would gently nudge my sleepy muscles to wakefulness. Finishing up at over 6 lbs, this throw is a physical project with big broad movements as undulating cables are manipulated and the throw is rotated from row to row. Back and forth. The greatest pleasure may be rewards of seeing such a large project work up so quickly. Knit on size 50 needles, progress is swift. Cast on today and you will be snugly tucked in beneath your completed blanket in no time.
This past year that we are tucking into bed for its final slumber, has been a notable one for us. For our family, we had some very hard and sad losses. But we also achieved great milestones and took wild leaps of faith together. We stirred the pot and sometimes marvel that we had the courage to do so. Change is unsettling. Change can be downright scary. Yet life is change and to both enjoy and share that joy with others requires an embracing of this force that can sometimes cower us and at other times empower us. During this year of endless challenges, we’ve learned to turn our faces to the wind. Whether biting or balmy, there is always something to be learned and an opportunity to be a better version of ourselves tomorrow.
As we prepare to wake to a new baby year, I wish for our family an ability to hold on to the lessons of the year in our wake and to carry them forward. We wish for ourselves and everyone the ability to be brave and outspoken, even if the only audience is yourself. From our home to yours we wish everyone the silence of peace and the roar of change.
It’s a bitter day out there. The wind is whipping. The sun is even intermittently hiding. My dogs steadfastly refuse to go outside and are equally unanimous in that the beautiful color coordinated tartan fleece jackets I got them make them all look like dorks. Stogie seems to lose his ability to move in his and starts to moan. Shmoo hides and hangs her head in shame. The girls are blind, so don’t experience quite the same level of mortification, but the point is made. I’m supposed to be hooking and writing out a new knitting pattern, but I’d rather be baking, and I really want to see high tide. I forced us all out of our comfort zones — they into their plaid, me into my oompa-loompa coat that I can’t move my arms in, and marched us into the cold.
A number of years ago I came across a pattern for a simple baby kimono. There were a lot of things I liked about it, but there were also a lot of things I didn’t. I’d been brooding over how a kimono I designed would differ for quite some time before I finally put pencil to paper and needles to yarn. The beautiful Cumbria by The Fibre Co helped spur things along. As soon as I had sample in hand, my head started whirring with the possibilities. Finally, after many stops and starts. Knits, tinks, knits, tinks, pencil scratches, recalculations, tear outs it has all come together and my newest pattern is now available in my shop.
I’ve always been a texture girl, and Cumbria excels in its stitch definition. I really wanted to create an interesting visual and I’m a sucker for a YO. After much fiddling, I devised an all over eyelet pattern I was happy with. The other thing that I really wanted to achieve with this piece was beautifully finished edges that did as they were told. No rolling or buckling or bad attitudes. I-cords came to my rescue at every start, stop, and turn. From the cast-on, certain bind offs, and all along the neckline I-cords were my design friend. It took a bit of re-work of the traditional I-cord edge to accommodate the quick decreases along the neckline, but tiny little short rows did the trick. I really couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing came out and am already working designs for companion pieces and variations for different skill sets.
I’ve also stocked my shop with three beautiful shades of Cumbria to get you started knitting right away!