Category Archives: knitting/crocheting

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More like Autumn Browns…

More like Autumn Browns...

So, I whirled through the local Goodwill for about twenty minutes and came up with a pretty decent recreation of my Autumn Gold Fall 2013 outfit. The bag is Worthington. The boots are Franco Sarto (never heard of ’em). The dress had the label pulled out of it, leaving a tiny hole near the neck which I can easily stitch together. All that remains is for me to knit a red and orange scarf. Or a poncho. Which is lucky because I just ordered a kit from that microbusiness here in Maine I was telling you about last week, Darn Good Yarn. Click here to see the poncho kit details: http://store.darngoodyarn.com/products/knit-cowl-neck-poncho-kit

Darn Good Yarn: A Growing Micro-Business

Dear Reader:

In discussing things like individual freedom and sustainability, sometimes there seems to be a disconnect in people’s minds, as if using the word “sustainable” is a sort of code word for “socialism.” Frankly, that confuses me.

Handmade socks

Handmade socks

In fact, why can’t a business be both sustainable–eco-friendly even–and still be a capitalist enterprise? Is Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur necessarily an oxymoron?

Because this has been at the forefront of my mind, I was thrilled to come across an article about a Maine company called Darn Good Yarn. The owner, Nicole Snowe, had an idea to create a micro-business out of her home, a company that uses recycled waste silk from India and Nepal to create one-of-a-kind yarns. Darn Good Yarn was born. And it is thriving.

According to the company website, the workers Darn Good Yarn employs receive a wage that “not only allows them to survive, but to thrive.” At the same time, the company is growing. This is not a charitable enterprise but a micro-business with a profit-earning motive. I say BRAVO!

Ms. Snowe exemplifies for me that ideal Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur I imagined–someone with ethical business practices, entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success, and awareness of sustainability issues I believe will weigh more and more heavily in our hearts and in our marketplace. Darn Good Yarn is a darn good example of how things can be done.

Read the Bangor Daily News Disruptive Growth Blog article “Through the Eyes of the Entrepreneur: Nicole Snowe, CEO of Darn Good Yarn” here. http://disruptivegrowth.bangordailynews.com/2013/09/08/through-the-eyes-of-the-entrepreneur-nicole-snow-ceo-of-darn-good-yarn/

I Wear Double-Knit

Goodwill Fashion Dec 2012

Goodwill Fashion Dec 2012

Dear Reader:

So, I was sort of making fun on my mother a little while ago because back in the 1970’s she sewed a gown out of mint-green double-knit polyester. It was for a church choir concert.

“I thought that dress was pretty,” she said.

“I guess it was,” I said. “But double-knit polyester?”

If you were born after 1980, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Click HERE to see some examples.

As you, my dear readers know, I am trying to buy all my clothes locally this year. Since I am frugal (cheap), I don’t get to the specialty shops in downtown Portland or Falmouth too often, but I DO frequent the Biddeford and Gorham, Maine Goodwill stores. Amazing to me, I am finding a new willingness to go out on a limb, fashion-wise, since the clothes are so inexpensive, the stuff you find in there is eclectic to say the least, and I have fun shopping. I never used to have fun shopping. This is a revelation!

Today, for example, I bought vintage double-knit slacks. At least, I think they are vintage. They are constructed differently than today’s pants, the stitching seems different, too. They are stretchy, high-waisted, and comfortable with a “made in the USA” label on it. I’m guessing 70’s, but they are in good shape so who knows.

Not a bad fit, huh?

Not a bad fit, huh?

I think they make my butt look fabulous!

After deciding “yea” on the pants, I went over to the sweater rack and found the perfect Croft & Barrow sweater in burnt orange. If you are suspecting a mini-cable sweater trend here on Localista, you are correct. I seem drawn to these this year. I now have one in medium green, electric blue, and now the orange.

Burnt Orange Bonanza

Burnt Orange Bonanza

I am envious of some fashion bloggers out there who have access to photographers with really great cameras. I make-do with the Teen’s bathroom mirror and my ten-year-old camera. But you get the idea how the outfit looks on me.

Knit Hat by Sandi

Knit Hat by Sandi

I think this handmade knit hat by my friend, Sandi, is perfect with the outfit. I also added the Vera Bradley bag purchased at a nearby consignment store. See blog post Wedding Card, Ralph Lauren, and a Little Black Dress.

Tommy Hilfiger Clogs

Tommy Hilfiger Clogs

To bottom it all off, I pulled out the Tommy Hilfiger leather clogs I picked up at Goodwill a couple weeks ago. That makes this Burnt Orange Bonanza outfit 100% locally sourced. Except for the lingering scent of Goodwill on the clothes, I couldn’t be happier. Nothing a little wash in the machine and maybe a spray of Chanel No. 5 can’t remedy!

Off to write my newspaper column. Do you have some fab local shopping finds you’d like to share? Send me a link to your blog or a photo or simply write me a note. I’m especially interested to see if Dear Reader Mary Ann finds a dance bag! Happy shopping, everyone.

Easy Weekend Cable

Dear Reader:
Quick post to share my localista find of the week, a Jordache faux fur coat from Goodwill for $20 from the Biddeford, Maine Goodwill store.

Faux Sure I Have Style

And then, of course, I had to go to Polyvore.com to see if I could create a similar look. Maybe I can knit a cable hat in this gorgeous wine color?

Easy Weekend Cable

It’s Electric!

Here is my question: Would you pay $.99 to download a short story to read? Would your decision depend on the length of the story? Or the reputation of the author? Would $.99 be a more likely price-point for a book-length piece?

I have never purchased an electronic document. I HAVE ordered a hardcover children’s book through lulu.com, and it wasn’t so different from ordering a book on Amazon.com or anywhere else. I don’t own an e-reader yet . . . but I’m getting closer. Even when I have finally snagged a Nook or a Kindle, I’m not sure how many short stories I would purchase–although, when you think about it, I pony up $4 for a latte on a fairly regular basis, so wouldn’t a dollar for a story be a bargain?

There are authors on some of my online writing lists who are self-publishing in this way and finding it rewarding. I’m undecided about whether or not to try it myself. I welcome your feedback.

What would entice YOU to pay .99 for a e-pubbed piece of literature–a snappy description, a known author, a good cover picture?

If you are a writer, have you or would you publish electronically? If so, what have been your experiences?

As we head off into this brave new world of electronic media, I find myself drawn to older things. Perhaps it is a way of keeping balance. Publish an electronic story in the morning and whip up a batch of blueberry jam in the afternoon. Watch a video-streamed movie Friday night and put on a pot of baked beans and knit up a dishcloth on Saturday. Today, I’m going to publish this blog post, and then put on a bandana and some Patsy Cline (click HERE to listen to “Crazy”) and start my spring cleaning.

Drop me a line . . . Outside the Box.

Slippery Details

Cool Pool

Details. Description. This week, prepping for my Teen Writing Class on Wednesday, I’ve been inhaling writing-craft books one after the other, trying to get a handle on this most slippery subject. Why slippery? Because just when you step onto what you think is the firm footing of “add sensory details to make the story more vivid,” the slickness of “but don’t overdo it; don’t let the description get in the way of the story” causes you to slide right into a pool of cold, deep panic.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but I’m beginning to see why I’m not a critically-acclaimed literary writer. I have trouble concentrating on the nuances of the craft. I’m in awe of Monica Wood, a Maine author, who happened to write a book, DESCRIPTION, as part of the Elements of Fiction Writing Series put out by WRITER’S DIGEST magazine. I’m tempted to just tell my students to purchase a copy of this book and study it. There is everything here they will need to know about using detail and description to create vivid stories, to move the story forward, to develop character and setting.

But I’ve made a commitment to teach this class. I can at least share what I know and give some encouragement. Gasping, I hold my breath and swim for shore, one stroke at a time. “You don’t have to grasp every single concept all at once,” I tell myself. “You don’t have to teach all the material in a 170-page book. Start simply. One stroke at a time.”

This is good advice for any craft. When you are learning to knit, you don’t try to create a multi-colored sweater with intricate cables the first day you pick up the needles. Instead, you learn to cast-on a row of stitches. You learn how to slip the loop in a knit stitch and then in a purl stitch. You make a scarf, row after row, serviceable and simple. You focus on not dropping or adding stitches. You bind off.

In my class this week, I will focus on adding sensory details. Sight, yes, but also touch and smell and sound and taste. I will caution against overuse, but will tell the students to err this week on the side of overabundance. I will talk about simile and metaphor. We will practice. We will talk about looking at their now vivid description with an eye to the “telling” details–which details resonate with the theme of their piece (Is the story about despair? Which details reinforce that theme?) or the development of the character (Is she confident? Which details “fit” a confident character? Or maybe a shy character will discover confidence. Is there a telling detail that hints at such an inner strength?)

What I realize most about this process of preparing to teach is how much I’ve relied on “instinct” in my own writing; this is the reason why “read alot” is one of the cornerstones of all writing instruction (the other being “write alot). When you read good writing, you pick up the techniques almost by osmosis, but I’m beginning to suspect that a more rigorous and systematic program of study would be beneficial to my own writing if I am going to continue to develop my craft.

The old truth bears out, I guess. If you want to learn how to do something, teach it.

Day 60 and Beyond: Life After D.C.

or Welcome Home to Maine

From the U.S. Botanical Garden

Dear Reader:

I’m sure you’ve figured out that this isn’t REALLY day sixty. I’m definitely into the “beyond” portion of the title, typing from my own cozy office with a window looking out over the encroaching wild blackberry brambles, the downed pine trees rotting on the forest floor, and the still-green leaves of immature maples and oaks struggling to grow beneath the evergreen giants. No more view of the blue roof of the Nordstrom’s across the street at the Pentagon City Mall or the gothic spires of the National Cathedral poking up from the far-distant D.C. skyline or the planes circling around toward Reagan National one after the other after the other as the day closes and the sky turns first pink and then dark and the lights begin to glow in all the windows of the high-rise jungle around me.

Flower Tower

The Teen and I spent our last day in the city in a whirlwind tour of the United States Botanic Garden, a must-see for any of you who may visit the capital city in the future. The day was hot, but dry and sunny, and the plantings absolutely amazed this neophyte gardener. I loved the outdoor gardens, especially the giant wooden towers planted with different types of heat-loving plants and flowers.

Orchids

Inside were tropical plants, a children’s garden,endangered plants, and an area dedicated to “useful” plants either for food or medicine. We spent a few hours browsing around in the cool, moist environment before heading over to the Museum of the American Indian to finally catch lunch at the cafe, something I didn’t want to miss on this trip.

Southwest Native Foods

The cafeteria is set up to offer foods from all the different American areas. I was tempted by the northeast section with its roast turkey and cranberry preserves, but I figured there would be time for that around Thanksgiving. Instead I went with southwestern spicy rice, an enchilada of sorts filled with roasted or sauteed squashes and onion topped with a tomato paste and cheese, and the most delicious sauteed red cabbage. I ate the entire plate, and the light vegetarian fare left enough room for a dessert of bread pudding studded with raisins.

The Teen had chicken fingers and fries.

Revived, we hiked up the hill so the Teen could visit the Library of Congress. After oggling the beautiful space for an hour or so, we strolled next door to the Supreme Court where two demonstrators stood mute with duct tape over their mouths. I’m still not sure how they expected to get their message across as they carried no signs, but it was probably something to do with freedom of speech.

(Here’s an idea: if you want to protest something, communicate somehow!)

Tired and hot,(did I mention D.C. afternoons are scorchers?)we sat beneath a shady tree in front of the Capitol Building for a few minutes, listening to a couple of security police chatting with each other, and then we chugged on down to 7th Street for a cup of iced coffee at the corner Starbucks one last time.

Moongate Garden at Sackler Gallery

We fueled up on caffein and sugar–enough mojo for a quick swing through the Castle for souvenir shopping, the Museum of African Art, and finally a super-quick breeze through the Sackler & Freer Gallery of Asian Art.

Sunset at Gravelly Point

Our last evening in D.C. we ate a picnic supper at Gravelly Point while watching the planes take off right over our heads, knowing that in less than 24 hours we’d be on one of those aircraft.

The next day and at the airport waiting for our flight, we felt the building shudder, stop for a minute or two, and then begin to shake and shiver in earnest. The television monitors were already tuned to CNN, and we soon learned about the fairly major earthquake rolling beneath Virginia, D.C., and outward. I said, “I guess D.C. is just so sad to see us leave.”

We were on the plane only an hour behind schedule.

Before sunset, we looked down on the dark green of Maine’s coastline and spotted a large crescent of pale beach and a light-green swath behind it. “I think that’s Old Orchard and Pine Point . . . and the marsh!” I said. Soon we could see Portland, South Portland, and the airstrip–an hour and a half and a world away from metropolitan Washington D.C.

Welcome home to Maine!

Pine Point

The following days found us hanging out at our usual spot on the beach at Pine Point, school shopping, and acclimating ourselves to life in the slow lane again. A day went by with a grand total of TWO cars passing my house. The skies clouded over. My allergies and asthma returned with a vengeance. Hurricane Irene hit on Sunday and knocked out our power for four days.

Welcome home to Maine.

I don’t mean to sound as bitter as a garden cucumber grown over a dry summer. I’m feeling less claustrophobic every day. I have my kitchen back. I’ve been to Marden’s and Goodwill and the Limerick Supermarket and Hannaford’s and the wonderful farm-stand near the Waterboro Public Library. I’ve checked out a couple of books. I’ve been to the yarn shop and the tea house with my friend, Sandra. On another afternoon between appointments in Biddeford, friend Donna served me a wonderful green salad with slices of roast beef and crumbled feta and dressed with olive oil and balsamic viniagrette. Heavenly!

I have bought yarn for a hat and a bag, have lugged home pickling salt and spices to try my hand at pickles with the cukes my parents gave me from their garden (not bitter), and while up visiting parents and collecting my much-missed pooch, Delilah, my dad bought me a lobster roll and my mom baked me a blueberry pie.

Welcome home to Maine. For real.

February Whiteout

My New Best Friend--The Shovel

Dear Reader:

I’m going to blame it on the weather. Outside The Box has been as blank and white as the snow-covered Maine landscape this month. I’m still finishing up the second January sock (just the toe to finish, thank goodness), and I did buy some soft pink yarn for February’s footwear. If I really put my mind (and fingers) to the task, I may be able to finish this month’s and next month’s socks by the end of March. In the meantime, I’ll be wielding a much larger tool than my double-pointed needles.

Need I say it? The shovel.

On Friday, the snow began falling before daylight and continued until dusk. Our community “plowguys” barreled through at regular intervals, keeping the roads clear and wide, and as I watched the white stuff pile up at an alarming rate all day, I scowled and daydreamed about moving to Hawaii. Then I washed laundry and did the dishes. Finally, around noon, Dear Daughter and I began watching back-to-back episodes of LOST on Netflix and trying to find clues that would back up my theory that the Island is a metaphor for purgatory, a holding place where the characters are forced to face their bad choices and inner demons and make restitution before moving on, so to speak, off Island. Since I seem to be living in a Miltonian icy rendition of hell here in Maine, Purgatory In Paradise offered some psychological relief from the mid-winter blues.

“Anything but shoveling” became my motto of the day.

I realize I could have been finishing the socks instead of numbing my brain on now-defunct television shows and idle thoughts of emigration to tropical paradises. I am, if nothing else, adept at procrastination on many levels. However, despite my not inconsiderable shirking skills, I finally conceded to reality and donned my new ski pants (bought at 75% off at Levinsky’s, a family-owned, Maine surplus store which opened in Portland in 1919 and is now located in Windham. Click HERE to read more about this local gem!) and headed out to shovel, scoop, slide around on the underlying ice, and curse Mother Nature and her evil spawn, Snow.

An hour or so later, the area in front of the garage was clear, the end of the driveway passable, and my clothes and boots and hair were soaked from the wet, heavy precipitation which still continued to fall from the dark gray sky. The plows had given way to the sand-trucks. Kicking off my boots and throwing my wet outerwear into the clothes-dryer, I contemplated the pros and cons of living in this condominium-on-steroids homeowners association in which I live.

Red squirrel eating apple in tree

Lately we have had a marked increase in community activism. A facebook page was created. One hundred-fifty community members signed up. There has been discussion of road maintenance, clubhouse oversight, neighborhood crime watches, possible creation of a dog park, and renewed interest in a community garden. More people than usual attended the latest monthly Board of Trustee meeting. People have expressed willingness to serve on various committees.

I see all this as reason for hope. Together, we can make a more vibrant, sustainable community within our larger town communities. As part of an association, we accept an added level of responsibility (including extra fees) along with our added benefits. And while it is important to strengthen our association, we also should remember that there are great opportunities for service and fellowship outside our gravel roads and wooded house lots, over the river and through the woods to our town Main Streets. As townspeople, we can support our local library, shop at our local stores, have lunch at our local restaurants, and join our local civic organization. Since we aren’t zoned for business, it is important to support our local town businesses as much as possible. Greater outreach and cooperation between the “sister” towns and our association can only be positive for everyone.

Nothing is ever perfect, weather or culture or community. Sometimes we need to take a little break, hole up in our houses, and retreat. Eventually, though, the time comes to pick up that shovel and get to work, because there is always work to be done . . . Outside the Box.

A Day Late and A Sock Short

January's Striped Wool SockDear Reader:

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that part of my “living locally” philosophy includes going back to some of the traditional skills, means, and ways that have been shoved into a dusty, hard-to-reach corner of our hot, flat, and crowded world. (See Thomas Friedman’s book HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED.)

I’d like to see the world get a little rounder again. I’d like us to live in our own communities, not simply sleep there. I’d like us to buy bacon from the farm just outside of town, to shop at a food co-op set up in an old convenience store that’s been shuttered for three or four years, and to browse the weekly craft/farmer’s market for locally produced veggies, fruits, bread, jam, cheese, and wine along with hand-knit sweaters, locally-made floral bags and sundresses, maybe even furniture. I’d like us to head down to the old town hall to see a community theater production of a play written by a local author rather than drive to the nearest cineplex to see the latest 3-D extravaganza offered to us by Hollywood. Or maybe someone could open a small movie theater right on Main Street.

Well, a girl can dream, right?

Because I don’t have the energy to make my own crafts, create a food co-op, open a farmer’s market, start a community theater, AND open a movie house, I will stick to what I can do right now. Buying locally when possible. Shopping at locally-owned stores here in town first and then widening out to the larger community. Experimenting with jams and pickles and traditional recipes. Knitting.

Which leads me to today’s topic: January’s Sock of the Month. I realize that today is February 1st. I am also sad to report that I managed to finish only one sock of the pair. The other cuff has been started on my teeny-tiny double-pointed needles and will go faster as I’ve already gone through the directions once.

For this pair of socks, I chose Patons “Kroy Socks” Jacquards yarn in blues, browns, green, and cream. www.patonsyarns.com. The yarn is a soft, washable wool/nylon blend. I’m hoping that the nylon will help prevent the socks from wearing out on the bottom, something that annoyed me when I made slippers out of pure wool.

I already had a sock pattern from the Plymouth Yarn Company called Happy Feet (#1311) for textured rib socks and fingerless gloves. I’d made the gloves in black for my daughter last year and found the directions clear and easy-to-follow. The cuffs are a basket-weave sort of design which paired with the self-striping sock yarn makes for pretty, patterned footwear.

For those of you who think, I could never make a sock; too complicated, let me reassure you a bit. I’m not an expert knitter by any means, but once I learned how to divide the stitches onto three needles and use the fourth needle to do work the stitches, knitting in the round on double-pointed needles required only the most basic skills: knit, purl, knitting two stitches together, and slip slip knit. That’s it! As in cooking, following the directions step by step will lead to success . . . and warm, toasty toes on a cold January (er, February) day.

February’s socks will have to be rosy-hued in honor of Valentine’s Day. If you have a fool-proof sock pattern that would look pretty in pink, drop me a note. Better yet, I challenge you to knit up your own pair of Valentine-inspired socks and send me a picture to post Outside the Box.

Saving the Harvest

Saving for a Rainy Day

Dear Reader:

We are about to celebrate to bounty of the harvest and all the blessings that have come to us throughout the year. Traditionally, this is the time when the fruits and veggies have been collected and stored. Instead of eating every bit of the garden produce, we try to grow extra and save it for the long, cold, unproductive (gardening-wise) months ahead.

In days of old, many people lived a subsistence lifestyle–growing their own food, making their own clothes from fibers of animals they raised, creating their own amusement by telling stories, singing songs, and playing games. In that kind of life, it was very important to plan ahead and save.

Today, if we are able, we also try not to spend every penny we make, putting some aside “for a rainy day.” It’s been more difficult to do that in the present economy, but we continue to try. Here is a question though: Where is it safe and ethical to store your money?

A friend and I have been engaged in a conversation of late regarding the banking system and usury (see Into The Black parts I and II to read the comments and replies). Today she pointed out that the first definition of usury is “lending money for interest.” Not exorbitant interest. Not really high interest. Just plain interest. Her point is that when we put our money in the bank and earn interest on it, that is usury. When we invest in the stock market so that banks can borrow our money and we earn interest on it, that is usury. So who am I to point fingers (first, second, third, forth, or thumb) at the banks for doing what I also do every day?

Devil in Disguise?Are we all just devils in disguise?

Once I got over being defensive, I had to ask myself, “Okay, so if I do business with the banks and I put my money in the banks and the stock market and I expect to earn interest on my money, I am part of the problem. So now what do I do about saving for that rainy (snowy, sleety, hurricany, tornado-y) day? Do I stuff money in a safety deposit box? In a hidden safe in my house? Do I just stockpile stuff?

I don’t believe there are any easy answers here. I’m a big believer in putting money in the bank, but I’ve also accepted the current reality that you might as well stuff it in your mattress because inflation rises higher than the interest rates in the bank. Hence, investing in the stock market is one financial option that must be considered since the rate of return has been historically higher. Except when it isn’t.

I’ve briefly (and only playfully) considered taking my 401 K and using it to buy up a stockpile of yarn. Yarn is actual. Real. Something of value that could be traded for something else. I could open a yarn store, for instance. I could plant bamboo on my front lawn (it’s a grass!) and make bamboo knitting needles for sale. But, of course, even a dreamer like myself sees how ridiculous this sounds as a way of saving for the future.

Are we stuck with banks as they are? Are there any options out there?

One option is a credit union. These are non-profit, democratically-run banks where members can save money in accounts and take out loans. Some are federally insured while others are not. They are rated by an organization called the NCUA–National Credit Union Administration who evaluates the credit union for soundness. Click HERE to read some FAQ’a about credit unions.

I also like the idea of doing business with local banks rather than large multinationals. These banks lend to homeowners and local businesses, keeping the money in the community.

However, interest IS paid on these accounts, and even though you are supporting local business, local banking, and local people, you would also be profiting from your investment. Usury. Sigh. Perhaps I should take another look at alpaca farming . . .

Any ideas on how to save money Outside the Box?