Fall Excitement


The Hawkeye Healing Shawl , my new essay for Lion Brand, marks a beginning. Now I understand a little more about the black and gold, the Hawkeye team colors. Last week, I discussed this with my neighbor and friend Ed ( Ed’s Hat). He told me how he became a Hawkeye fan. And then, he invited me to be his guest at a game in the fall. I'm looking forward to that. I hope I can bring my knitting.

I am also waiting with eagerness and excitement for this fall to read my pal, Anne Ylvisaker’s newest book, Button Down. The second of three books about Iowa's Button family.  Button Down, will be out just in time for football fever. Button Down follows Ned Button, a character inspired by Grant Wood's Plaid Sweater (above), in his quest to see the 1929 Hawkeyes play the opening game in their new football stadium.

Stay tuned. There will be more about news about Button Down. And even a contest.  You’ll have a chance to win a autographed copy. In the meantime, check out the book that started the Button series, Luck of The Buttons.

Happy reading.

Lilac Blooms

Back in September, I wrote about my lilac bushes. How they didn't bloom last spring. A kind reader (thank you, Rach!) suggested they might be sulking. Perhaps they were. But they are over it now. They have forgiven me for the very short haircut I gave them. The most severe of trims. An unintentional violation.They are budding and fragrant. Abundant. Hurray! Hurray!


Little Victory Chart Guy

I almost lost him, the Little Victory Chart Guy. I found him late yesterday afternoon nestled deep inside a folder backed up on my eternal hard drive. I never did quite catch on to this back-up system. Not with ease. And yesterday was my day of reckoning, the device was full.  The time had finally come for me to enter the dark hole where my files had been sent and see what was there.  Deleting and consolidating both the old and new took much of my afternoon, and in the process, I found this guy.

The Little Victory Chart Guy is a knitting chart for the simplest "v". I drew him while writing the pattern for Victory Scarf and Wristers in A Knitter's Home Companion.  You can insert his "V" into a washcloth, Warm-Up America square, healing shawl or sock top.



Congratulations to Kris at Light and Texture, Sometimes Sound.  Her comment on knitting and empowerment was chosen as the winner in our International Women's Day contest. Kris, please contact me through the email form on this site -- Open Road Media has an e-copy of A Knitter's Home Companion for you!

A big knitterly thanks to all who of you shared your knitting experiences. If you haven't read their comments, scroll down and enjoy. And if you haven't already, join in the conversation. I love reading about your knitting lives, and I'll be checking for new comments.  Take the time to visit Kris's website/tumblr-- Light and Texture, Sometimes Sound . It's a lovely place.

Iowa March


Who would have ever thought that a phone could help you remember your morning walk?  I'm still amazed that as I move past pastures and housing developments, pet the neighborhood dogs and occasionally moo at the cows when they are out -- I carry my phone with me. I can stop and email if I'd like. Or write a note to myself. I skip the music part, although I know it's available. I not tempted to watch TV from the park bench in the middle of the field. But I do love taking pictures of what I see and how it changes with the seasons.

A bundle of thanks to  104Reviews and Joyfully Retired for their lovely reviews of A Knitter's Home Companion.


Women's Empowerment and Knitting

On March 8th, how will you be celebrating International Women's History Day?

Along with many knitters world wide, I'll be thinking about the women who influenced me and my knitting. Like my friend Isabel Nirenberg, who came to the rescue when the curse of the boyfriend sweater hit my needles. She dedicated a long afternoon to my wooly woes. And during that time, we drank tea and talked about more than just the sweater.

That boyfriend left my life a long long time ago. But Isabel and I are still friends, and I still have the graph paper she used to help me understand and pinpoint a sweater solution.

This year's Women's History Day theme is  "Women's Education ­ Women's Empowerment".  

How does knitting empower you? Do you have a knitting mentor? Share you story (in the comments section below) and you may be chosen to win a free e-copy of A Knitter's Home Companion.


Downton Abbey and The Academy Awards

Last Sunday night, my husband Rody and I bid farewell to our friends at Downton Abbey. We were relieved that Mary and Matthew’s romance is now on the road towards marriage. That is what their people do, right? We are pleased that Sybil is pregnant with the Earl and the Countess of Grantham’s first grandchild --  a commoner? And that Daisy has found peace and family with William's father. We are worried about Bates, of course, but we will have to wait for next season to find out what happens to him, and ultimately, to his relationship with dear Anna.

This Sunday night, we'll take our seats in front of our television again to view another special show, The 84th Academy Awards. It is our first time watching the annual event. Rody’s good friend, David Shamoon will be there and we are thrilled for his recent film success. David wrote the screenplay for In Darkness, which has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year - Poland.  In April, it will  be showing in Iowa City. Meantime, we read all the articles and accolades and await Sunday Night. I even have my knitting planned, a healing shawl, the pattern memorized. I can easily drop my knitting when it's time to applaud.

Movie Notes:

Watch  In Darkness trailer

Read more about David F. Shamoon and the story behind In Darkness here and here

Knitting Notes:

I am knitting the healing shawl in The Boneyard Shawl Pattern by Stephen West .  A free Ravelry download, it’s lovely and simple with a great drape. Since the shawl is for a special football fan, I’ll be making the Hawkeye version of it, in gold with garter ridge in black

The Valentine's Day Mailbox Mystery


   The morning after Valentine’s Day, I found our garage door opened, and from there, I saw our mailbox door was opened, too. Unusual, but not alarming. So heading out on my morning walk, I planned to close both. That’s when I discovered the package in the mailbox. A Valentine’s gift for me and my husband, Rody. Two Iowa-sized pecan sweet rolls and a handmade card with two sheep. Unsigned.

   "Look what was in our mailbox!” I said to Rody. I put the package on our kitchen counter. “For us. A Valentine.”

   “Who’s it from?” he asked.

    “I don’t know.”

   The weather had changed from wintry cold to warm spring. The morning light bright and yellow. Inviting. I was anxious for my walk and work. And so after slicing  off a sliver of sweetness, I left all my valentines in our sunny kitchen.

   As I walked, our surprise snagged my thinking. Who was this kind soul? Did they know how hard this year has been for us? A list was started as I passed  what just a few months ago was a farm and is now rapidly becoming a  housing development, the first of two on my walk . With each step forward, a new name was added. So many possibilities, so many good kind friends. Anyone of them capable of such thoughtfulness. But why not let us know? We could thank them.

   Walks are an excellent way of figuring out life’s deeper meaning. The longer I walked, the more I  thought about my friends and their generosity, and the more grateful I felt about my life and my community. Another gift. A great one. And not just for me, but for Rody, too.

   Our gift was on the counter, alone in our kitchen. I was out on Rochester Ave, Iowa City, Iowa. Rody was probably in his office, checking emails.

   Gratitude. Had we forgotten how to enjoy a gift?

   With a cell phone,  the day’s direction was altered.

   “Would you start a pot of espresso?” I asked Rody. “I’ll be back soon.”

   Wednesday morning I was late getting to my studio. Relishing the mystery, grateful for our good fortunes and our unexpected morning delight.

   Thank you.


For my Valentines fun, check out STC Craft Blog to see my three funny valentines!

Hereville Contest Reading List



We have a winner. Eric will be receiving his copy of Hereville soon. Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Hereville Giveaway Contest. I was truly touched by your comments and how passionate you are about the books in your life. For fun, I have assembled a reading list from your favorites; it is available below.  Many of the books mentioned are ones I have overlooked. I’ll be taking the Hereville list with me to the library today.

Happy Reading! Strength to your Sword Arm!!


Hereville Giveaway Contest Reading List

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (audio book)

Away Went Wolfgang by Virginia Kahl              

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Skinnybones by Barbara Park.

Harry Potter (series)  by J.K. Rowling

Bartimaeus Trilogy (series) by Jonathan Stroud.

The Earthsea Trilogy (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin         

Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Pfeiffer

A Hole is To Dig: A First Book of Definitions by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.

The Chronicles of Narnia (series)  by C.S. Lewis

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake

The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien  

The Pussycat Tiger by Joan Chase Bacon

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (series) by Robert C. O'Brien.

Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli

Little Women, Eight Cousins and their sequels by Louisa May Alcott

The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (with the Tasha Tudor illustrations, of course)

Anne of Green Gables (series) by L.M. Montgomery

The Chronicles of Prydain (series) by Lloyd Alexander

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge

The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper

Wrinkle in Time trilogy Madeleine L'Engle (yes, I know, but it was only a trilogy back then)-reader’s comment!

The Children of Green Knowe (series)by L. M. Boston's

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Swallows and Amazons (the first two, and "We Didn't Mean to Go To Sea")by Arthur Ransome

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (first four in series) Joan Aiken

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

The Protector of the Small Quartet and other books by Tamora Pierce

Mr. Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, (series)by Cynthia Rylant

Picture books by Jan Brett

Time for Bed by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jane Dyer;

The Waterhole by Grahame Baes

Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White and illustrated byMegan Lloyd

The Midnight Farm by Reeve Lindbergh and illustrated by Susan Jeffers

All-of-A-Kind-Family (series) by Sydney Taylor

Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright

Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett

The Cat in The Hat by Dr. Suess





Slippers and the Studio Campfire

This week a bitter cold settled over Iowa, a cold that seeped through my studio floors, freezing my feet. So my evenings have been dedicated to knitting and felting the ultimate slippers. My favorites so far, Duffers in  Lion Brand Alpine wool.

All week, the setting on the Presto Heat Dish in my studio remained on High. Wherever I went--  from the writing table to the drawing table, and then, over to the computer--it went with me. From outlet to outlet. Yesterday, I got to thinking about exploring my electric campfire’s other possibilities. Maybe adding a little summer fun to my studio rituals with a pair of chop sticks and bag of marshmallows.

News and Notes:

Duffers are on the  Knitting if not Eccentric blog. They are very fast and simple to make. Check out the revised pattern here.

The Hereville contest ends on January 22. There’s still time to enter. I ‘ll announce the winner on next Friday’s blog.

Red Knees and Snowflake Knee Socks

In my grammar school days when the dress code was understood and obeyed without questioning—no pants for girls—tights and knee socks were our cold weather essentials. All my knee socks back then were machine made in some acrylic blend, not very warm, really. My favorites always were the ones with the snowflake pattern. I loved wearing their Nordic look.

In those days before down jackets and other forms of lightweight warmth, we piled on layers to stay warm. Our parkas were sturdy and thick. Often I wore a wool coat instead. I  remember being cold on the walk to school or waiting for the bus. And I remember my red knees, how the cold ached above my snowflake socks, which were better suited for cool fall days.

Thursday morning we were hit with our first real winter weather. Snow and wind and cold. I headed out for my morning walk dressed in my best cold busters; polar fleece sweater and leggings, smart wool socks, Gore-Tex wind breaker, hiking boots, handmade merino and mohair hat and mittens.  As I trekked over to Hickory Hill Park, I saw him, a junior high boy, running from one of the cul-de-sacs that feeds into our street. He cut across backyards, seeking the fastest shortcuts.  A few minutes later, I watched his sweatshirt flash up the hill by the park's entrance. He was still running. No hat. No gloves. And of all the wintry attire impossibilities, he chose shorts. Khakis. And red knees, I'm sure.

News and Noteworthy:

Remember the Hereville Contest is on until January 22. Click the share button on the contest post and help spread the word. For your 2012 reading pleasure, when the contest is over, I'll post a pdf with all the favorites.

My new Lion Brand essay, The Sartorialist Mittens,  appears iin today's, January 13 newletter, The Weekly Stitch.

 If you live in the Iowa City area, I hope you'll join me in and others in clebrating children's books at The Children's Book Festival this weekend.  Do stop and enjoy an author reading.

  • 9:00am - Claudia McGehee - Where Do Birds Live?
  • 9:30am - Dori Hillestad Butler - The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy
  • 10:00am - Wendy Henrichs - I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT: A Japanese Legend
  • 10:30am - Tess Weaver - Frederick Finch, Loudmouth
  • 11:00am - Kathryn Erskine - Mockingbird
  • 12:00pm - Michelle Edwards - Chicken Man
  • 12:30pm - Jeni Reeves - Pocahontas (Illustrator)
  • 1:00pm - Jill Esbaum - Tom's Tweet
  • 1:30pm - Linda Skeers - Tutus Aren’t My Style
  • 2:00pm - Ana Merino - Hagamos Caso Al Tigre
  • 3:00pm - Linda Gerdner - Grandfather's Story Cloth


Winter Cottage and The Shoemaker's Hat

Favorite children's book. The Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink. The Shoemaker's Hat from Clara Parkes. Hereville giveaway. Living crafts blog.

The Cat in the Hat


"Look at me!

Look at me now!" said the cat.

"With a cup and a cake

On top of my hat!

I can hold up TWO books!

I can hold up the fish!

And a little toy ship!

And some milk on a dish!

And look!

I can hop up and down on the ball!

But that is not all!

Oh, no.

That is not all ...


Little did know that when I wrote the Hereville contest entry qualifier—posting your favorite children’s books— that I would receive a chorus of interesting responses. Honestly, I worried a bit. Did anyone read blogs over the winter holidays? My blog? Would anyone reply? A hearty thank you to those who took the time to share.  The contest isn’t over until January 22, so keep your replies coming in.  

The wonderful book list that’s growing on the Hereville post got me thinking about my favorite book, The Cat In the Hat, who turned fifty in 2007. Random House left up their The Cat in Hat birthday website, with all the bells and whistles, cool music, and coloring card page still in working order.  If you are a Doctor Suess fan, be sure to check out Suessville, the complete Dr. Suess site. Of course, nothing beats holding The Cat in Hat in your very own hands and reading it aloud.


Happy Holidays and Hereville Giveaway

Let's celebrate with a contest! Thanks to the generous folks at Abrams, I have a copy of Barry Deutsh's Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword to give away. All you have to do is name your favorite children's book in a comment on this post before January 22nd, 2012.  I’ll pick a winner at random.


In case  you missed the buzz about this wonderful middle grade graphic novel, ignore the tongue and check cover claim. Hereville's heroine, Mirka, is not "yet another troll-fighting 11 year-old Orthodox Jewish girl." But Hereville is what  the respected and very perceptive children's book reviewer Elizabeth Bird wrote --"A remarkable little book and, I guarantee, like nothing else you have on your bookstore, library, or personal shelves. " 

Good news! Barry Deutsh is working on Hereville, Book Two.

Read Elizabeth Bird's complete Hereville review.

Listen to School Library Journal's  Interview with Barry Deutsh

Visit Barry Deutsch's  Hereville website.



School Glue in Glass Jars


I didn’t see any at Dick Blick when I was there the other day. They did have Martha Stewart glitter. I’m told it sets a new standard for glitter. Pens were in abundance, too. I snagged a couple Coptic Multiliners, which come in the most amazing colors- wine, sepia and  sky blue. Blank books, ones I dreamed they would make back in the day when sketchbook choices were limited, filled display cases. I bought one of my favorites, a Beinfang hybrid called NoteSketch book, which pretty much defines how I will use it. I scanned the glue aisle, studying the offerings, hoping I might find it there. But even in this age of reverence for all things vintage, a glass jar of glue remains a memory.

Back in the 60’s, our school glue, the consistency of today's Elmer’s school glue, came in glass jars, with a brush conveniently fit in the center of the lid. Used for all our grammar art projects, we lathered it on construction paper leaves and feathers. The plastic jars, and the plastic spatula replacing the brush, came later. They contained paste. A sticky concoction that had a distinctive sweet smell. Sweet enough for a subclass of the student population to indulge in more than just a taste. The glue eaters. They probably got hooked early on with school glue’s close cousin--play dough.

Glass jars of glue. Brush in lid. Perhaps somewhere, in a cosmic corner of our new global retail structure, there’s a stash. Till then, we are stuck with glue sticks.


Googling hopefully about for this product from the past, I did find a source for glue jars with brushes. Plastic, of course. But they are sold by the dozen, and you could make your own glue and pour it into the jar. A sweet hand drawn label on the front, a block of construction paper and some decent scissors would make a nice holiday gift for a young and old alike. I know I’d like one.

Mittens Lost in the Woodlands


They have started to appear again. Rescued, they are hung on a branch, slipped into a fence post opening, or draped on a park bench. Sometimes a scarf, but more often than not, it's mitten. Usually child sized. Tossed from a stroller, dropped from a back pack; there are many ways to lose one.

Children's book writers and illustrators like to imagine what happens when woodland animals find a wooly curiosity. In The Mitten, Jan Brett's re-telling of a Ukrainian folktale, Nikki's new white mitten lands on the snowy ground. In  Pobble's Way, a book by Simon Van Booy and illustrated by Wendy Edelson, Pobble's fuzzy pink "cloud" mitten, slips out of her pocket. In both books, knitters will delight to see how their hand work is pondered by woodland creatures.

Knitters will also delight to know that after reading the mitten books, there's more fun to be found.

Jan Brett offers many great downloads, on her website.

Flashlight Press is celebrating Pobble's Way with a mitten pattern and a contest.  Written by Bev Qualheim of Bev's Country Cottage, the two needle mitten pattern is an easy one to master. Give it a try. And when your mitten is finished, send a photo of it to the friendly folks at Flashlight. You could win your very own copy of Pobble's Way.

Updates: Red Scarf almost done. A few more rows, and then, blocking.

My new essay, Fledgings, in this week's Lion Brand Newsletter. Happy Reading!

The Red Scarf Project

Last night I cast on a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I heard about it a few weeks ago when I spoke to a great group of knitters at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa. It's their 2011 service project.

The Red Scarf Project is part of the Foster Care for Sucess Project which helps young adults who have aged out of Foster Care. They offer all types of support ranging including mentoring, academic coaching, internships. To cheer students on in what can often be trying times, they send care packages and "volunteers across the country knit and crochet red scarves, which are traditionally included in the FCS Valentine’s Day Care Package along with chocolate, cookies and handmade cards. The Red Scarf Fund was started by knitter Norma Miller as an emergency fund to help students pay for urgent expenses such as medical bills, transportation or housing."

The submission period for the next Red Scarf initiative is set for September 1, 2011 through December 15, 2011

Send scarves to:
The Red Scarf Project
21351 Gentry Drive
Suite 130
Sterling, VA 20166

Notes: I will be knitting the Victory Scarf pattern from my book, A Knitter's Home Companion.

Check out the Red Scarf Project's pattern suggestions. Consider adding an encouraging note and a gift card.