America. We Need To Talk.

This past week I intended to parade more photos of blocked finished objects on the blog.  Instead, I spent the week mourning the deaths of citizens and police officers.  I’ve had to take a break from Facebook and only visit in short periods, preferring the eye candy of Instagram, after the first three days or so of responses.

My take on all of this is, America, We Need To Talk.  Seriously.  We need a literal or figurative Coming To Jesus about this issue of racial violence perpetrated by the State, and the perceived need for retaliation.

Can we acknowledge that despite our country being birthed in a spirit of Some Animals Are Created More Equal Than Others (according to George Orwell), the time has come to move past this premise?  Can we acknowledge that many of the current laws, law enforcement cultural conditioning and assumptions were birthed in a time when slavery was not long past and women may or may not have yet won the vote?  These assumptions are outdated, but they survive.

Can we acknowledge that we as a society are divided and wounded, and that it will take deep cuts to reach the poison, but that this is the only way to heal?

If we cannot acknowledge, and believe it when we say it, that we do not yet live in a post-racial society, that the echoes of a history of slavery still reverberate, that people are still afraid, which is irrational, so difficult to counter, and yet unwarranted, then we cannot move forward.  If we cannot look at the cold, hard, facts and say This is Unjust: the disproportionate police stops, frisks, imprisonments, and deaths of people of color; if we cannot know and understand that laws governing drug arrests and sentencing were born out of racial stereotypes and perceived threat to white women (property of white men), and stand up and say This is Unjust; then we are destined to fail as a society.  We are destined to fail to heal, fail to understand, fail to excise the poison, and fail to thrive.

I am tired on behalf of all of us that have ever felt the need to protect the feelings of someone more privileged in society, be it based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, or wielding of financial and political power.  I am tired of protecting the privilege of those that have always had more power.  I am thankful for white male allies that do not accept the current patriarchy as the only possible paradigm.  But I am also tired of the surprise each time some horrific event transpires (or some event that turns into three – or more – awful national events in one week) and the cycle of acceptance and exhaustion that leads us to ultimately tune out and attempt to move on.  I’m tired of the nay-sayers of white fragility that have chosen not to develop the compassion necessary to be shocked when they learn of others’ experiences, and due to discomfort or perceived threat choose instead to silence the other.

The fact is, nothing has truly changed if we only react with a sad-face on Facebook.  The most important communications I’ve seen this past week have been the lists of concrete actions we can take to change the manner in which law enforcement is implemented in our local communities.

And – we need to have more discussions about the underpinnings of our laws.  Is it still assumed that black men consume coke and, on it, are a threat to white women (property of white men)?  Is it assumed that Mexican men consume an outsized quantity of marijuana and (see last sentence)?  Is the law still on the books in the state of Ohio, for example, that assumes women are the property of some male family member by categorizing rape under property law and damaged goods?  Is it still legal in Texas for a man to rape his wife?

We need to talk about colonialism.  We need to talk about slavery.  We cannot look at the current state of our society, from either the perspective of the minority or that of the privileged, and say this has not influenced our thinking, our behavior, the very assumptions upon which our laws are built.  We are not “colorblind.”  We are not “post-racial.”  We need to decide whether we care about our neighbors, about violence in our communities, about what it means to continue to tacitly permit extrajudicial beatings and killings in a country whose privileged masses collectively think we are the greatest democracy in the world.

When we hear the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” it should not engender a vision of the antebellum South in which white men had the weapons and wielded them over their women, children, and slaves.  It ought to be a phrase that begs a vision of a freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, as it says in our Declaration of Independence. We ought to assume at this stage that “all men” refers to all humans, and reassert that the purpose of government is to protect our “unalienable rights.”  Let us recommit to that ideal, while understanding that the road is long, the night dark, the struggle has not ended, but that so long as any of us is in virtual or actual shackles, none of us is truly free or safe.

Happy July 4th!

  1. Pendant Stole
  2. Garden Shawl
  3. Fountain Pen Shawl


I don’t have anything special planned for today, and it has been a particularly wet weekend here, so I haven’t joined any of the community outdoor activities either.

But I began watching the “John Adams” miniseries, and while I don’t often feel particularly patriotic, the luxury of living in a free nation I suppose, it makes a big difference to watch a version of history that makes it real.  I feel more connected when I can connect to historical figures through their characters as they are represented on the screen, and to understand the reality of their daily circumstances in the months and years leading up to independence from Britain.

Of course, every account, especially one presented on the screen, is biased and fictionalized to some extent, but I believe that we can learn a lot from fiction, too, and many fiction writers write to teach and to convey a message.  In this case, it is to understand in a way that allows me to put myself in the shoes of some of these historical figures the reasons that they needed to express in a document the truths they held to be self-evident.

Having lived in countries in which people are less free, I know the struggle is important.  In this day and age, we as Americans are still struggling to ensure that these truths, about the rights of humans, that our forefathers held to be self-evident, are manifested in each citizen’s reality, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

So it seems a little disingenuous to me to say “Happy” July 4th, but perhaps “July 4th observed and the struggle continued” is more appropriate to echo my sentiments.  Not as catchy, I realize…

Are you celebrating the 4th?  How are you connecting with the historical significance of the day?


Dew Drops Shawl in Freia Handpaints Ombre Lace

Process knitter is the term people use for someone like me, I guess: I love to knit, but sometimes the finished product is not the motivation.  So, at any given time, I have 5, 10, or 20 projects on the needles, all in different stages of completion.  Over the past few months I have not been very disciplined in completing projects that were not intended for special events or holidays, but I’ve been on a tear recently to make some projects that had reached the bind-off stage actually wearable.  This past week has resulted in the blocking of four projects already, and there is a fifth underway.

Today I want to show you the project that made me fall in love with Freia Handpaints laceweight.  Originally I saw the Dew Drops Shawl worked up in the lichen colorway at Looped DC.  Sadly for me, Lichen was not available, so I chose South Beach instead.


Ravelry project link

I really love how this turned out.  The yarn feels magnificent, stretchy and cozy all at once, but also substantial: I’m not worried about wearing this shawl out and about because I know it can stand up to the wear.  It won’t have to be a special occasion item.  There was so much stretch that I could have taken the top border beyond the edges of my blocking board if I’d had the space.  As it is, the top edge is about 68″ across, and the point of the triangle is deep enough to cover my back, which will be fantastic for any trips to drafty or high-AC restaurants.

As I was knitting, my cat spent a lot of time with me.  I would gaze into his eyes to reassure him of my love – because after 11 years, he’s still a little insecure at times – and I realized that this colorway mirrors his face.  He has an orange-pink nose, blue-green eyes, and light- to medium-grey stripes.  People often comment on his beautiful markings, but he hasn’t let it go to his head because he’s the sweetest cat ever.


Sharing the family stash

Over the winter I was recovering.  The past three years were stressful and traumatic for reasons I won’t go into now.  Suffice it to say, recovery for a knitter involves an awful lot of time in the kitchen or living room starting new projects.

I worked on some lace, including a feather-and-fan throw blanket, one of the few projects I picked up consistently while binge-watching whatever I could find on Amazon Prime, and knitted till it was done, unlike the pile of WIPs in my basket.  There were no seams or buttons to stymie me, so it was an easy win.

Ravelry project link

This blanket came from a batch of yarn my mom’s cousin sent me.  Like many of you, I don’t need any help collecting yarn, but I know her good taste and couldn’t refuse when she offered to send me two boxes of her stash.  There were six pairs of wool and mohair skeins, which seemed like they were destined for a specific project, but she could not recall what.  The yarn was familiar to me: we had purchased some together in New Hampshire ages ago to make these longways garter stitch scarves with fringe automatically included:


Ravelry project link

It didn’t click until I was halfway through the throw that each yarn pairing was intended for a scarf!  I have about half the yarn remaining, so maybe P will get a rainbow throw one day as well.

Most of what she sent was too fine for her to knit, since she has struggled for a long time with rheumatoid arthritis.  There were a few patterns included, so I have offered to knit some up and send them back to her, including this Cable and Lace Raglan from Willow Yarns.

The yarns from the scarf and blanket are from Ward Brook Farm in Candia, NH.  I couldn’t find a website for them, but the Seacoast Harvest Local Food Guide website says this about them:

Sheep farm with a menopausal flock of retired laid back ewes that give wool. The wool is used for spinning supplies, yarn, dyed and spun. Dyes yarn in rainbow colors – the kind you can’t get in a yarn shop.


One skein of Freia Handpaints Ombre Sport will get you…

I’ve knitted a shawl and a couple of diagonal scarves in Freia Handpaints that will appear here post-blocking, and now I tried the Ombre Sport for the first time with the Lunar Eclipse pattern.

I think this is the sixth version I’ve knitted so far, and the first one with shifting color.  The arc gives it the familiar stripe going in one direction, shifting from top to bottom, and the edging turns that perpendicular so the shifting color direction is more side to side (sort of – with a crescent shape, all bets are off, as anyone that has tried to drive around New Orleans without a map can tell you!).

Here is a gallery of photos of the hottest off the needles Lunar Eclipse!




Dyeing a little inside

The other day I attended a workshop at The Scrap Exchange, with artist Katherine Soucie, who specializes in (among other things) acid dyeing pre-consumer industrial waste.  I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but essentially we ended up with a giant pile of white nylon hosiery in various manifestations that we tied, scrunched, clamped, and otherwise threw into dye pots of all colors of the rainbow.

We learned how to mix up our dye solutions from powder and water and a little bit of Synthrapol (industrial soap), heat up our dye pots, and watch the magic happen in a no-waste method including re-using dye pots multiple times for different colors.

Fortunately other workshop attendees were experienced creative types that pulled out PVC piping and tie-dyeing techniques to produce some really interesting results!


The artist dyed a wall full of industrial waste fabric in the week leading up to the workshop and used it to create an exhibit in the Scrap Exchange’s Cameron Gallery.

I’ve been intrigued by her use of this material as fabric from which she has created amazing patchwork fabrics that have been sewn into wearable fashion.  Check out some of her fashion portfolio here.

Lunar Eclipse – free pattern download!

Over the past few months, I’ve been working off and on on this pattern, Lunar Eclipse, which has been a really fun exercise in what to do with one skein of luxurious yarn.

From the Mountain asked me to design something with a skein of their worsted weight cashmere, which is hand-spun in a fair-trade agreement with Afghan women.  The stuff is beautiful.  It is a soft, two-ply fiber in a variety of natural colors, including ecru, grey, and several shades of brown.

The final result was this initial offering:


And then Abby asked me to add two additional edgings:

You could add your own edgings to this template – we’ve offered it in three charted patterns, two originally from Barbara Walker and one from Book 4 of The Stitch Collection by Lark Books.

This is a free Ravelry download, so feel free to share, and please post your final project photos!

Finances and the stock market for the rest of us

Over the past three months, I’ve been meaning to come back here and talk a lot more about knitting – and I will get back to that, for sure!  (See end of post, OK?)

In the mean time, I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about personal finance, and beginning to get serious about learning about the market and keeping tabs on what I need to know.  I thought I would share a few simple points here for a general audience, such as my friends and colleagues who usually look at me with a blank face when I bring up the market or investing or retirement.  Hopefully you as that audience will keep in mind that I am just a layperson reading my magazine, tracking updates online, and listening to podcasts.

Correction or bear market?

The main thing I’ve learned is that right now, the market is in a corrective phase, which means that people and corporations predicted much higher future values of companies and commodities than have actually been born out.  Now, the market is adjusting itself downward to reflect the true value of many of these stocks.  If it stabilizes around a 10% loss, it will be termed a “correction.”  If the market continues to fall toward 20%, we will hear economists and commentators talk more about a “bear market.”

I just learned that we are a couple months shy of what is considered a very long “bull market,” almost seven years, with unprecedented highs and increases in overall numbers of shares purchased.  So it should not be a shock that some adjustments are now in play, particularly given global volatility, including in China.

Playing it safe

Because continued volatility is anticipated for 2016, I’m hearing and reading a lot about putting investments in cash or cash equivalent funds to ride out the market’s downward trend.  This could be a money market account, a short-term CD, or a short-term bond fund.  I have just moved around 60% of my total investments into money market accounts, and I’m considering moving the rest.  With my retirement accounts, which include an employer-sponsored plan and a Roth IRA, there are some restrictions in movement.  I’m not forbidden from taking funds out of the money market accounts and putting them into new funds, but I am forbidden from putting that cash back into the previous funds for one month.  This doesn’t worry me, because I think we’ll be seeing volatility for some time.

I’ve recently seen a ~9% downturn in my investments, so I want to halt the loss at that point.  Overall, I’m confident that I’ll regain that money, but I don’t want the loss to continue to 20%  before I have a chance to see the market turning around.  Given my age (late 30s), most of my investments were still in relatively high-risk funds.  So, I’ll sit on cash until the signs point up.

What are bond funds and why do I care?

One really important point, especially for older investors, is to consider and reduce how much of your money is invested in bond funds.  I’ve been hearing and reading about this on various fronts, including in a Suze Orman book published in 2012, so it is not a new concern.  Even I have been socialized to assume that bonds are “safe,” but “bond funds” are not the same as bonds.  The only recommended investment that I’m hearing about now is in short-term bond funds, and only if an emplooyer-provided retirement fund doesn’t give us money market accounts as an option, because otherwise there is a significant probability of loss on investment in longer term bond funds as interest rates rise.  We are finally seeing the Fed indicate increases in interest rates, so it is pretty much a guarantee that you’re set up for future loss if you have substantial investments in bond funds.

[My brain has not solidified the “why” of this argument, but I’m sure there are lots of online resources that can explain it.]

The other really important point about bonds is that if you continue to invest, in addition to looking at short term bonds, high quality is essential.  High-yield is not the same, and basically means that the price of those bonds is falling – which, if you do the math, means you’re going to be losing.  (The price is lower, and the earnings may be stable, so when you divide the earnings by the lower price, the yield comes out higher.  This doesn’t say much about the overall value of the investment, which could be plummeting.  One source said that “high yield” is simply a way of saying junk bonds.)  High quality bond funds usually explicitly have “high quality” in the title.  They may have a lower yield, but are overall a safer bet because they are stable.

Don’t take the easy way out – do a tiny bit of research

I found out that I was invested in bond funds through my “Target” retirement fund.  It’s worth making the effort to find out what is included in these packages of investments with an attractive title that are easy to plop our money into without thinking.  I’ve already taken 75% of the money that was in my “target” fund out, and put it in cash, and may do the same with the remaining funds.  When the market turns around, I will probably still look to be well-diversified through an easy “fund” investment, but it may be one that represents the overall stock market, like S&P 500, rather than one that is sort of hiding bond fund investments from me through my own lack of research because I wanted the easy way out.

I’ve gone on for a while now, but this is really essential stuff for anyone that works and puts their hard-earned cash in any investment, i.e., somewhere that isn’t only a savings account at the bank.  We need to be informed enough to preserve those investments and protect our future to the best of our ability.

The Knitting Portion of the post

Now, knitting porn:


Ravelry project link

Washcloths made with Fibra Natura Flax yarn, to go with holiday gifts of locally made soap and lotion.  I like to stick with stockinette stitch, because it doesn’t feel as rough on my face as some other stitch designs involving purl bumps.  But I tagged them with a little cable design in the corner.


Generally speaking I am not on the cutting edge of the new patterns that come out.  Occasionally I will finish something within a month or two of its release, but that is very rare.  This hat is not an example of one of those rare occasions.  “Shwook” came out in honor of the 2014 Shetland Wool Week event, so probably all the other Shwook knitters posted their goods long ago.  Lately Ravelry has been filled with the new 2015 pattern, which is adorable and features sheep.

I am thinking now that I should have looked up what a shwook is before posting this.  Any guesses?*


This hat is using overly-long-stashed yarn in colors that probably went out ten years ago.  At one point, I had an online sale problem and purchased yarn willy-nilly with no project in mind.  In time, with experience and a non-shrinking stash, my habits have changed.  But this yarn was still hanging around: Rowanspun 4-ply, in Sugar, Stone, Squirrel, Temptation, and Turkish.  The yarn was thinner than required, but the end result is a perfectly-fitting beanie.


I think this is only the second stranded hat I’ve completed.  And it’s definitely the first time I’ve blocked with a dinner plate.


How do you like that?  Makes the center cap portion look mighty fine, if I do say so myself!


More specs on my Ravelry project page.

I have almost 600 yards of yarn left (of around 810 total), so I’m now making a garter-stitch shawl that I’ll edge with feather-and-fan.  I’m using the lighter colors for the main garter triangle, and the purples for the edging.

* OK, my curiosity got the better of me and I consulted The Google.  If you want an answer before guessing, visit this link

Still knitting

I’m thinking about making a blogging comeback.  My last post here was over three years ago, and I miss writing and interacting in a deeper way than is possible through Ravelry.  My Facebook interactions are of a different nature, not really the place I feel comfortable waxing poetic about animal and plant fibers or cable and lace designs.

In the interim, many things have happened.  I met my husband; reorganized my life to go back to the international health focus I had recently left behind; moved to a French-speaking African country with him and his daughter, found out he was a narcissist (you may not have any idea how scary this can be – just click on any one link from a google search…), and struggled to separate my life from him while finishing an overseas contract.  The day-to-day of getting through life has meant a lot less energy for maintaining my blogging presence or social media contacts.

But I’m about to leave all that behind and relocate back to the U.S.  And I have missed posting here and carrying on discussions with you all.  Many of you may have moved on to Facebook and Ravelry forums, but I for one think the blog has some staying power and offers different opportunities for sharing and exploring.

Plus, I am definitely still knitting.  Of all the coping mechanisms to get me through relocating internationally (and returning), trading the single life for a nightmare marriage (and returning), and a generally high-stress professional situation, it is the meditatively healing qualities of a good knitting habit.  I can’t say I’ve been a great finisher, but I have maintained a steady increase in starting projects, learning or solidifying techniques, and I have also been teaching my neighbor to knit.

I’ve also tried some new yarns, and done a bit of dreaming, sketching, and designing.  One of my goals for the coming year or two is to complete the many half-baked designs in my sketchbook and knitting basket.  I would love to share some finished patterns with the world.

To leave you with some appropriate eye candy, a melange of African sensibilities and knitted design, here are a couple of photos of musician Stromae’s line of knitted clothing in graphic designs inspired by African print cotton cloth.  I guess this isn’t cutting edge news, but I’m into it!  Click to see larger versions.

Mosaert stromae-MOSAERT-clothing-line-capsule-2-polo-green-1