Saturday, April 30, 2011

One Vest Leads to Another

  One Vest Leads to Another

The Lady-of-the-house was sweeping the walk a couple weeks ago. It was the cool of the evening. How refreshing it felt to be in bare feet once again. The leaves on the trees were still only the size of mouse ears but the grass was already as green and luscious as it would ever be.

That same day William enjoyed chasing soap bubbles on all that green grass in what he calls “feet-feet.” (His bubbles provide this post with a foreshadow.)

Untwisting some hand-dyed yarn the Lady-of-the-house made it ready for winding. All the day’s green made her remember a story she wanted to share with you about a green vest. The story takes place six years ago but she decorates it with photographs of another vest in-the-making, one knit recently for William. She decided to put wishbones up the center (filled with seed-stitch). The Man-of-the-house says they look like horseshoes. Anyway, as you scroll to the end of the story you will eventually see Nigel in the green story-vest. 

                     A True Story of Mother Culture
The washing machine had conked out. The Man-of-the-house was busy on his computer researching the newest models. For a week he searched websites and read user comments. After deciding upon a machine with the least amount of electronic do-dads – one more easily repairable - he announced, “I found it.”

The Lady-of-the-house, who was bent over the sink with sudsy water up to her elbows, stopped her sloshing about for a moment and said,  “Oh goodie.”

Like the natural salesman he was, he went on to describe its features. “It’s a simple front loader with two dials and a toggle switch. It uses less water than a top loader. 

“Sounds sensible,” she said. 

“The website says the new model should be available in a couple of months, maybe six weeks,“ he added. But it’s a machine worth waiting for.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” was the simple reply of Lady-of-the-house. She had mixed emotions. She was grateful for the investigating the Man-of-the-house had done as well as his laborious decision-making. But she couldn’t help feel a little crestfallen.

That is how Tuesday became her washing day at the laundry-mat. She wanted to make the best of it. Therefore, not only did she fill the car with baskets of washing, she also brought along the basket that held her knitting.

Mondays are traditionally washing day. “That explains it,” the Lady-of-the-house thought to herself as she sat alone in the laundry mat. If, on a Tuesday, another laundress did show up, she stuffed a few machines or a dryer and left. “Peace and quiet,” sighed the Lady-of-the-house. It was a different sort of quiet for the humming of the machines did not seem like noise to her.

Undistracted and uninterrupted she cast on her stitches. When the rows of ribbing were completed, and all her quarters were slotted into the dryers, she marked were she wanted her cables to go. She was making a vest in green Donegal Tweed. She had designed it carefully herself. It was for her son, then a young man of sixteen.

More than a month of Tuesdays passed. It was on a Tuesday that, pulling into the driveway with a car full of clean wash, the Lady-of-the-house was met by the Man-of-the-house. “I’ll unload the car. Come inside. Come see our new machine. Sorry you had to wait so long.”

“Never mind,” she said sincerely, “Today I turned a broken washing machine into a vest. All I need to do now is sew on the buttons.” Quite happy, and before setting her eyes on the machine-worth-waiting-for, she gave him a hug. The End.
                                  Six years later Nigel still wears that vest. 

The Lady-of-the-house is becoming more intrigued with self-stripping yarn. With self-stripping there is no need to break the yarn, weave in the ends, and start a new color like she did with the striped vest here. (It is best to weave, never knot, when attaching yarn). 

When asked his opinion on what color a new project should be Nigel said, “Stripes in Western colors.”

Although the project was an interesting challenge, she prefers not to knit a random stripe again. It took two hours to weave in the stray ends. The decision hasn’t hindered her needles, however, from clicking together on other compelling projects.

What projects do you find compelling? 

Thank you for visiting,
Karen Andreola

Thursday, April 21, 2011

He is Risen

He is Risen

Do you remember the snowdrops I was anticipating in February? They are usually grown in clumps like groundcover. One, solitary – all by its lonesome snowdrop, out of the twelve bulbs I planted, is alive. It is the tiniest of our Easter blooms at our back door. I placed a wooden robin’s egg of accurate size, in the picture to give you an idea of just how tiny this flower is. I may not have a green thumb but I keep my hand to the trowel anyway.

 The lilacs and bleeding hearts have soaked up the rain and are poised for warmer days.

I began my punched paper project last week. It felt good to have an embroidery needle in hand again.

The satin stitches make the picture go quickly. In eight sittings it was made ready for Easter Day. I placed it on the cupboard in view of our dinning table.

Holding each Kodak slide up to a bright window, I squinted through a box of slides taken by my parents in the 1960s. Who is this handsome man? He is my father. My brother and I are beside him. Do you see the nifty station wagon in the background? 

A few years later my sister joins us. The photograph got me thinking. My earliest memories of Easter are of form and beauty. There seems to be a low opinion of anything formal these days. But to be "in good form" (a British expression) was at one time a compliment. As a child I had no sense of social convention as being stiff, stuffy, extravagant, or ostentatious - although there was little “casual” about our Easters in the 1960s. In my memory I see a happy traditional day unfold. I see flowers, Easter baskets, jellybeans, smiles, colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies. I see hair set the night before in hard plastic rollers, white gloves, hats, bow ties. I see our 100-year-old church so full the wooden floors creaked under the strain. The organ prelude sounded more intricate. The congregational hymns sounded more jubilant. Lilies lined the windowsills of tall stained glass windows.

 My brother is dressed “sharp.” This is the term my mother used. It meant the opposite of sloppy. My little sister is wearing my pink hand-me-down spring coat. I’m the big sister in blue. "You are as neat as a pin,” my mother told us. She was happily satisfied with her efforts.

Sunday dinner was at my grandparent’s house just ‘round the corner. Even though there were as many children as there were adults the long table was set with pretty china, silverware, stemmed glasses and cloth napkins. Roast beef was served on a large oval platter on top of a white tablecloth. I savored the melt-in-your mouth dinner rolls imitating the adults by keeping my roll on its own individual bread plate. A pat of butter was added to the plate with a funny shaped butter knife.

A rumble of adult voices, the clinking of dishes, washed by a pair of sweet but ancient great-grandmothers in aprons over their lace collars and cameo pins, signaled it was time we cousins played outside - without getting our Sunday clothes torn or soiled, we were warned. But we felt the special-ness of the day and managed to obey the order with no trouble. We mostly ran up and down the metal cellar doors.

It was Easter Day, a day of form, a day of remembering our Ps and Qs, a day of beauty and cheer, second only to a wedding. And all to honor the remembrance of our Lord who loved us, gave Himself up for us, and rose again. 

Please excuse the fact that my token antique silver butter knife needs polishing and isn’t in top form. 

Comments are Welcome.
Karen Andreola 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Not Less a Miracle

Not Less a Miracle

In Pocketful of Pinecones Carol writes:

"The robins are back. I awoke to their twitterings and the sound of the soft spring rain. You can’t keep a robin down. His sings in the rain and is always cheerful. If only I could be more like that."

Carol’s sentiments matched mine exactly these last two weeks. Life brings trials. A mother can have a heavy heart. But listening to the birds is a reminder to rejoice in the Lord. How I’ve been anticipating their enthusiastic notes all winter long. Now with my bedroom window open I awake to their twitterings and the sound of April raindrops just as Carol did. 

Did you know that Pocketful of Pinecones is published in the South Korean language? Home teachers in South Korea are keen on Charlotte Mason’s method of education. I like what they did with the cover although the color choices are curious, aren’t they?


The ornamental tree blossoms are so pretty in town. I’ve also been keeping an eye on the wild woodland trees outside of town, too. The maples have tiny red flowers at the tips of their branches like the ones drawn in Yolanda’s nature journal in 1999. Click to read her entries if you like.

While driving past the post office I checked the color of the tree flowers of an age old shade tree that I remember seeing all ablaze in autumn. My suspicions were correct. Its flowers are spring green – a clue that it could be a sugar maple. That explains why it flaunts New England orange while the modest maples that dot the woods do not.  

Now and again I like to share with you a paragraph from Miss Mason’s books. The middle of page 148 of my Philosophy of Education is boxed in yellow pencil. Miss Mason is so congenial and matter-of-fact on some pages that the profundity of her statements can be overlooked with too swift a reading. Therefore I am always happy to hear that highlighting, underlining, and the general marking up of passages, is being done by C.M. readers. 

“Children should be brought up to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle’s eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not the less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them. No doubt so did the people of Jerusalem when our Lord performed many miracles in their streets.”

When I was indoors reading up on trees during our April showers, I stumbled upon one of our old picture books. It has so thin a spin that tucked between its shelved neighbors it is easily lost. I covered it with clear contact paper years back, something I used to do when a book was repeatedly enjoyed. A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry stayed parked next to the rocking chair in Nigel’s room. I read it aloud to him at bedtime for a string of evenings when he was two-years-old. This month my baby is twenty-two. My, where do the years go? A Tree Is Nice won the Caldecott Medal in 1956 and so I’m guessing it can be found in most libraries. It is a simple introduction to the appreciation of trees in all seasons. I placed the book just outside our front door during one of our April showers to photograph it. 

Old hymns sometimes use the word “tree” referring to the cross of Christ. This thought occurred to me this week with my mind on trees. I ended up humming the tune of the following chorus (adagio) while doing the housework.
Lift high the Cross, the love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world adore His sacred name.

Near the end of the afternoon I overheard Dean singing it as I passed by his office. It’s catchy. The tree is in verse three:

O Lord, once lifted on this glorious Tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw men unto Thee. 

(John 12:32)

Thank you for visiting.
Karen Andreola 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chocolate & Roses

Chocolate & Roses 

She sauntered the isles of a fabric outlet. Looking for drapery material for the family room something caught her eye. “Hmm, red roses on a chocolate background. How irresistibly charming,” smiled the Lady-of-the-house. “It will go nicely with our red check sofa,” she reasoned, feeling more rationally headed at that moment than the Man-of-the-house would recognize. 

The fabric was a discount remnant. The yardage was sold as-is. There was plenty on the bolt for the possibility of making a few accessories. “Still, one mustn’t act on impulse. I’ll sleep on it.” 

This done, she returned in the morning with milk chocolate and red roses still tantalizing her imagination, and made her purchase.

Now she had her work cut out for her. The project consisted of making one wide panel per window - to be swept up to one side. It was a simple Colonial style. 

Yet, no project fit the description of simple if it meant setting up the sewing machine. It always seemed that as soon as the machine was threaded and its temperamental tension was adjusted, bobbin wound, a few seams under way, with the usual set backs due to the necessary use of the seam ripper, it was time to put dinner on the table. “I’ll return to it when I can,” she reassured herself. “Tomorrow is another day.”  

This was how she managed to complete so many things in her life; a couple unhurried steps one day and a couple unhurried ones the next. Even if finding time meant once a week at her machine, eventually a project was completed.

A day after her homemade drapes were hung something looked odd. She figured out what it was and with chagrin said to her adult daughter, “Look, that window’s drape is a bit longer than this one. How on earth did that happen?” 

 “Mom, I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out,” her daughter told her, calmly.

The Man of the house was just as calm. He had the last word. He laughed quietly to himself and said, “No one’ll notice.” It was the same masculine opinion the Lady-of-the-house was used to hearing upon completion of other projects - for she was given to consulting him. 

You see, it wasn’t uncommon that after all her careful sewing, imperfections were noticed in the final product by the Lady-of-the-house. As time passed, however, imperfections became less glaring. More time and they weren’t glaring at all.  Her conclusion?

Anything worth doing for Mother Culture 

is worth doing imperfectly.

She made this one of her mottos. If a project ministers to the feminine soul, satisfies a desire for gift giving, if it adds a little touch of beauty to the home (such as sprucing up a twelve-year-old sofa) it is very worth doing – even if the end result is somewhat “homemade” and imperfect. 

Decorating this post is a rose bag, made from leftover fabric, a gift to her daughter for carrying cello music. 

The blue book bag was made for a friend. The Lady-of-the house lined both bags with a soft plaid and semi-secretive lace.

While ironing fabric for piecing her pillow she was met with a surprise. She read -Wuthering Heights  - in the margin and her fancy was tickled once more. 

She likes this fabric so much that she hopes to use it again with the blue stripe for a different pillow.

Do you see the brown piping at the base of the ruffle? Adding this to a seam with gathers was a challenge. But the puckers where the piping overlaps itself is an imperfection that is no longer glaring. The Man-of-the-house is right. No one will notice.

Perhaps she decided to her make her ruffled pillow after being impressed with this painting by George Goodwin Kilburne. 

I don't know how this post's fonts got jumbled. 
Until we meet again,
Karen Andreola