Monday, December 16, 2013

Gettin' Giddy in Goodwill

I have been on a quest.

And apparently so has everyone else.

Ugly Christmas sweaters...the latest fashion craze...are getting harder to find.  That is not to say that new ugly sweaters aren't being created, but those classic, vintage atrocities are pretty darn rare.  Having been a young twenty-something in the late eighties/early nineties, I will admit to having purposely purchased said articles of clothing.  Shoot, I even went so far as to have a goal of acquiring at least one Christmas (seemingly gorgeous at the time) sweater for every work day of the month of December.  Naturally, these artistic pieces were coordinated with similar socks and velvet flats.  What can I say?  It was the thing to do...right up there with spiral perms, freeze hairspray for you giant do and Glamour shots.

Fast forward to the present time and my pressing need to acquire multiple ugly sweaters for an upcoming trip and planned "awkward family photo."  Last week I scoured several Goodwill Stores in my area.  Nothing.  It was as if some marketing genius had an inside track and was hoarding them to open his own Ugly Sweater Store.  At the last Goodwill I stopped in, I half heartedly perused the 50% off racks hoping against hope, when my hand grasped something that can not be described.  It was so soft, it can only be experienced.  Checked the label, snatched it off the hanger and proceeded to mentally do my own Lord of the Rings impression..."my precious."  And what to your wondering eyes do you think I read on that label?  Cashmere.  100% two ply cashmere.  Women's size 1X.  Do you know what this means?????  (insert cheesy game show music while I wait)  As a spinner that recognizes and honors the concept of reusing, all I could see was the hundreds and hundreds of yards of fiber that I could unravel, give a little soak, and ply back into a thickness of yarn I wanted...perhaps over-dying the yarn if I so chose.

As if that was not incredible enough to make me want to hop around and break out into my own Fiber Freak version of "Thrift Shop," it then dawned on me that I had just pulled this off the 50% off rack...thus making this pile of sinful softness a whopping $2.30.  Yes, you read that right.  SCORE!

Tonight, I stopped in at one more Goodwill Store on the way home, hoping against hope that maybe the sweater gods would shine on me and gift me not only with hideous apparel but mayyyybbbeee another cashmere piece of fluff that would want to come home with me, get all unravelled and transform into something else.  I got half my wish...

It should be noted that there are varying degrees of quality of cashmere and these two sweaters demonstrate that difference.  The pink one is infinitely softer, which tells me there is a definite difference in the micron count of the staple fiber, thus leading to difference in quality/softness.  I.don'  I bought hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of yards of cashmere yarn for less than a total of $8.00.  Unravelling will be a bit tricky to get started, but every fiberist knows that undoing goes so much faster than the doing.

Ugly Christmas sweaters?  Found those too, but that triumph pales in comparison.   So, I leave you with this:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Breakfast with Granny

I have spoken often of my Granny Grammer.  It was by her side that so much knowledge of homekeeping was transferred from one generation to another.  Those many, many hours serve as the basis from which I draw all my homekeeping designs.

Looking around the world today, it is apparent that I am an anomaly that was born in the wrong era.  Either that or today's society has veered off the path in such an enormously detrimental way.  It is sad when today's children have no concept of where food comes from...thinking the grocery store can or box is the only way to cook.  And don't forget the requisite microwave.  I got rid of mine several years ago for a few important can do your own research...and shockingly I am still able to cook .  However in the world did our ancestors survive without this contraption?  I'll tell you...with REAL food...ingredients that came from their gardens, or that they put up, or that they purchased fresh from the grocer and prepared on their stove or in the oven.  This point was really driven home one day when my step-daughter peered into the pantry and exclaimed, "there's nothing to eat in here except ingredients, why can't we be like everyone else and have boxes and mixes?"  The answer, of course, is because I CARE about what I feed the people I love!  The concept of mass production farming, by way of GMO seeds, brings up the hot topic of yes, farms are able to produce exponentially larger yields...but at what cost?  Study after study has delved into this atrocious "raping" of God-given perfect the way they are foods.  But that topic is a hot button for many, so I'll leave it at that.

Back to this morning.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went back to my hometown for some much needed Daddy time.  We popped over to my Grandparents home that is currently being used primarily for storage until decisions are made regarding what to do with it.  The main reason for popping in there was to gather some ancient Mason jars Daddy thought I would like to have.  YES!!!  Standing in the kitchen brought back a flood of always does.  As we turned to leave, Wes spotted the cast iron skillet.  Oh my goodness!, the number of meals that thing has produced is mind boggling.  "Daddy, can I have it, please, please, please???"

So, this morning as I am frying up some bacon to have with breakfast and to crumble on our lunch of corn chowder...Granny was in the kitchen with me again.  But this time, she is by MY side...always in my heart and in my hands as I care for the people I love.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hooking some Chucks

A few weeks ago, one of my sons posted a picture on Facebook of some slippers he saw and wanted me to make.  Have to admit, they are pretty darn cool!  Apparently others think so, as I am now in progress on the third and fourth pairs.

It wasn't all sunshine and roses getting the first pair done.  After some searching for a pattern and coming up empty, I broke down and did what tech-savvier individuals would have done in the first place...throw the image link into Google and watch what happens.  Bingo!  Found a pattern, sort of.  Turns out the original was written in Finnish and it did not translate into English very well.  At all.  Plus, these are crochet.  My hook skills are limited at best, but I was willing to give it a whirl...bizarro language barrier translation and all.

The first four mock ups were ridiculous.  The combination of translation and my skill set made for quite the comedy.  Finally, I broke down and enlisted the help of a Crochet Genius Friend.  

All was good in the pattern world.  Or so I thought.  The first "official" pair was done and mostly to my liking.  The second pair did not turn out like the first at all.  What can I say, except a squirrel must have run past me causing me to lose my place.  They were exponentially better!  Gave those to the other son that requested a pair (because of course, no one requested the same color!) and went back to rip out and re-do the first pair using the distracted pattern.  So, now the first pair is done and is in a box headed towards Sonny Boy.  The third and fourth requested pairs...they are my most pressing WIP.  Thank goodness they are really quite fast to crochet up.  My elbow is not happy at the prospect of continuing the crocheting (hubs says I have Hooker Elbow...he is weird), especially in light of the baby blankets in my stack still to finish putting a simple crochet border on.  

It may not look like it in the pictures, but once on the foot, it stretches out and fits very much like in the inspiration picture.

The location of the pattern from which I started this slippery slipper slope can be found here.  

What finally worked for me is:     ***disclaimer:  I stink at crochet patterns and this may or may not make sense to someone that actually knows what they are doing***

---I used worsted weight Red Heart Super Saver yarn (because I know what is going to happen to them and they need to be able to withstand an Apocalypse) and a 5.0mm/H hook---

1.  Chain 3.  Join into round and do 12 HDC into the middle of the circle.

2.  2HDC into each stitch (total of 24 stitches)

3. and 4.  HDC into each stitch (24 stitches)

5.  Change color and HDC into each stitch.

6 through 9:  HDC

10.  HDC 8 stitches.  In next stitch, 3HDC.  HDC for next 4 stitches. 3HDC in next stitch.  Chain 2 and turn work.

11 through 20:  HDC each stitch (10 stitches).  Chain 2 at end of each row.

21 and 22:  1SC, HDC x2, DC x5, HDC x2, 1SC.  Tie off.

At the base of the flap, connect yarn again to begin the foot.

1.  In the first and last stitch, increase by doing 2HDC in each of those stitches...doing HDC between those stitches.  At end of row, chain 2 and turn.

2.  HDC across, chain 2 and turn.

3, 5, 7, and 9:  same as row 1 of foot.

4, 6, and 8:  same as row 2 of foot.

10-16:  HDC, chain 2 and turn on each row.

Tie off.  Seam up the back.  Lace up with a shoe lace and watch the people you love smile as they put them on and do a happy dance.

Sorry if this makes no sense to seasoned crocheters, but it worked for me.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

December Thoughts

We are entering a time of year that, according to what we are told, should be a time of joy, love, celebration and quiet peace with reflection. What is it really like for most people?  Stress, fatigue, feelings of low self worth, and many other negative notions.

I'll admit to having been victim to the stranglehold of commercialism that runs rampant in our world, but over the last several years that has been changing.   Enter today's post with a few confessions. 

First, I don't do cards. Now, let me step back and say that sometimes I do send cards because I wish to connect in a way that leaves tangible words that can literally be held in both the recipients hands and heart. But, really, think about it. I honestly have no desire to send or receive cards from people I do not connect with at any other time of the year. The argument may present as "I send cards to update people about my world" or "it's nice to be remembered with a card" or the ever popular "I don't have any other way of keeping up with people".  

I would challenge each of those statements with one comment, you keep up with those you really care about. You pick up the phone, you Facebook, you text, Twitter, or Instagram....or, better yet you take time out of your perceived busy day to actually go see them. I'm sorry but names hastily written in a cheesy card is not communication. Nor is the ridiculous "family letter."  Here is where there are a couple of caveats, I love love love cards from my sister because she always picks the most beautiful and glittery ones and there are a few letters I look forward to because they are better reading than any TV sitcom or reality show...they really provide a glimpse into the unreal. 

Let's talk about gift giving for a minute now.  I'm not a good gift receiver. But, I think I'm a good gift giver. When my boys were young, I stood steadfast to the idea that if three gifts were appropriate for One, then why should my children be different. They never lacked for gifts, however those were not what it's all about.   I have to include a confession that my gift receiving difficulty likely stems from some  unfortunate repetitive circumstances that may have left me a tad bit jaded. For example, nothing says I love you and I pay attention to what you say when you are asked what you would like for Christmas and you show the individual the one and only thing you would really like to have (which was in the store they worked at) and then receive a $50 bill wrapped up in one of your textbooks because they were too busy to go down that aisle. Or, when you receive jewelry every year because it's easy to stop in the store in the mall and grab something...sounds sorta good until you receive the exact same pair of earrings two years in a row. Tip of the iceberg, but you get the point. 

I love buying gifts for people I care about. Just not necessarily for one specific day of the year.  Do we really even need to talk about the excessive nature and commercialism??? I see it all month long in December, year after year and it is sad.   I can count on my hands (actually one hand) the number of store bought gifts that my children have given me for my birthday or Christmas, and while some parents may get their nose out of joint about this and throw guilt trips back at them, it does NOT bother me. My boys are my gift from above. Time spent with them in person, by phone, by text or Skype is more precious to me than anything found anywhere on earth.  Do others feel the same, nope and it's their loss. 

These are a couple of points that gnaw at my heart. It seems only fitting to air them on the first day of December as a, maybe not so gentle, reminder that regardless of what "holiday" you celebrate, remember what the REAL reason is and embrace that throughout the year, not just when standing in line on Black Friday or fretting about what to get that hard to buy for individual. I dare you to not give anything, but instead give them what humans crave the most...the gift of love from your heart that is freely and openly given to everyone. 

I triple dog dare you. 


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