Monday, December 31, 2012

"It's in the singing of street corner choir..."

             And suddenly the pressure is gone. My shoulders are light once again and there’s no nagging thought in the back of my mind that I’m wasting precious time that could be spent making Christmas presents. Last night concluded the marathon of Christmases that involved five different family get-togethers and spanned almost six days. It was fun, it was busy, it was stressful at times, but it is always worth it. I didn’t knit presents for everyone in my very large family, but I completed almost nineteen gifts, a couple of them given away to friends long before Christmas day. The answer to your question is yes, I am crazy.
             It all started the night I arrived in my hometown of Marengo, Illinois. The house was warm and cozy, a fire burned in the fireplace, and I dragged my ridiculous amount of luggage into the house. In my defense, most of it was Christmas presents and knitting material for the few projects I hadn’t completed yet. It was December 23rd. Two of my best friends came over that night to sit by the tree and drink hot chocolate, catching each other up on the events in our lives and laughing together like the old days. We exchanged gifts with each other and two of my hand-knit pieces were given to their new owners: a scarf/shawlette for Missy and a cowl for Caitlyn. After that relaxing evening spent with friends, the days leading up to the holiday were filled with activity. Amid the hustle and bustle of getting the house ready for guests and baking batch upon batch of Christmas cookies, my hands were hardly ever still; in any free moment I had I was knitting. I’ll admit that I had thoughts of serious doubt as to whether I would finish what I needed to. And then the panic would catch up to me and I started to scold myself for taking on more than I could handle. But I calmed down quickly enough and moved my needles a little bit faster.
              On Christmas Eve, my immediate family in Marengo sat down together and opened our presents with the Christmas tree shining and the fireplace blazing in the background. When it was time for them to open my hand-knit items I became more excited than if I was opening a gift for myself. A hat for my brother-in-law (knit in Winona State colors since he is an alum as well), a cowl for my sister (something she can wear to keep warm or to accessorize), a nice warm wool cowl for my mom, and a pair of socks (my first handmade socks) for my stepdad. I was so proud of all my pieces, but I couldn’t stop smiling when Mook (strange name, I know, but it’s a childhood nickname that has stuck) opened his present and saw his socks. Since I started working at Yarnology almost two years ago, Mook has been teasing me and asking me why I haven’t knit him any socks. Well, he got his wish. Knit two-at-a-time from the toe up, they’re soft and beautiful in shades of green and brown with some red thrown in. I really enjoyed making them and showed them off as much as I could to my friends at Yarnology. But when they learned that they were not intended for me they gave me a look like I was crazy. “You mean you’re giving these AWAY?” Yes, and I couldn’t be happier about it. :-)
            Christmas morning started early and saw my family once again in the kitchen preparing for the crowd of people that would be coming to the house midday. Mook’s family, the Kundes make up about half of Marengo and it was our turn to host the annual Christmas lunch. Mook is from a family of nine kids who all have kids; he’s one of the youngest, so most of his nieces and nephews have children as well. To be brief, somewhere between forty and fifty people came over to celebrate, eat, open presents, and play games. Though it was a job to keep everything going smoothly, it was beyond worth it to have cousins, aunts, and uncles wherever you look enjoying the day and being together. The party lasted until evening and drew to a close with coffee, cookies, and a few of Mook’s siblings sitting around telling stories about their childhood in rural Marengo. We fell into bed a few hours later, exhausted but happy with the success of the day.
              Alright, so that’s two Christmases down, three to go. On the evening of the 26th, Mook and I drove the half hour to Crystal Lake where one of my uncles on my mom’s side lives. It was time for the Driver family Christmas, a large group, but not even close to the amount of people from the day before. Jill and Nathan met us there, but my mom had to stay home. She started fevering early in the day and wasn’t up for going. We later found out that she had the flu. Not really what you want to get over the Christmas holiday. We did what we could to make her feel better and took on the responsibilities of food and presents that had to be transported for the party. It was a fun time even though we were missing my mom and my cousin Sarah. My sister and I are extremely close to our cousins, having grown up with them living only ten minutes away. I have no younger siblings, but they make up for that and I love them like they were my little sisters and brothers. When we get together there’s always good food, good drinks (we tried something called a Jack Frost Margarita and it was delicious!), and plenty of noise. After the presents were opened and thank-you’s were said, most of us migrated to the basement where we had some rousing games of Catch Phrase. By the second game we usually end up shouting out answers, jumping up and down, and screaming when the buzzer goes off. Whether or not it’s traditional, we’re definitely not afraid to have fun. :-)

            I had a few days between my Illinois Christmases and the one I would have up in Sparta Wisconsin with my dad and stepmom and that side of the family. On Saturday morning, the 29th of December, I hurried north to my waiting family to celebrate a belated yet joyful Christmas. My dad and stepmom, Erynn live in a large brick house built shortly after the Civil War. As I drove up the street it greeted me with electric candles burning brightly in the windows, the sun glinting off of icicles, and cheery looking pine branches adorning the pillars on the front porch. This house radiates tradition and it dresses up quite nicely for the Christmas season. After dropping off some luggage, hugging my parents, and having a much needed cup of coffee after my drive, I headed to my Oma’s house where my aunt, uncle, and cousins were staying. Like on my mom’s side of the family, I am very close with my cousins Lisa and Erik; so close, in fact that I call Lisa’s two children my niece and nephew and they, in turn call my sister and I Tante Jill and Jenn (the German title for aunt). As I walked through my grandmother’s front door I was hit with memories of childhood and of past Christmases gathered in my Oma and Opa’s old house in Illinois. Many of the old decorations were up, the miniature Christmas village in the living room, the Santas cross-stitched and sew together by my Oma, the scenes from old Christmas cards painstakingly cut out and glued to pieces of wood by my Opa years ago. And many pairs of eyes looked up as I walked in, voices calling out hello. But my gaze fell on the empty red arm chair, my Opa’s arm chair and I took a deep breath remembering that he would not be with us to celebrate this year. This was our first Christmas without him and though the busy nature of our holiday together distracted us, I believe we all had our moments of missing him and again feeling the loss that his death brought to our family. It hit me again a few months ago when I was making my list of what Christmas presents to make and give away this year. I felt like I was missing someone and suddenly realized it was my Opa. I’ve come to terms with his passing, but that doesn’t make missing him any easier.
         When our dinner of ham, red cabbage, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole was over, we gathered around Oma’s living room to open presents. I was lucky enough to get some amazing gifts, most of them book themed, but there were also some really creative homemade gifts and a donation in my name to the Great River Shakespeare Festival, one of my absolute favorite organizations. I love all of my presents, but I was most excited to watch as one by one my family members opened their knitted gifts from me. A pair of mittens for my Oma and Tante Margie, a hat for Onkle Joe, music themed mittens and fingerless mitts for Erik and Lisa, a scarf for Lisa’s husband Adam, a hand-knit dress for my niece Lena, and some knitted animals for my nephew Carl. Though I really try to be modest, I do love when my family exclaims over their gifts; it makes everything worth it just knowing that they appreciate the hard work and the thought that went into them. Lisa right away put Lena in her dress, though it’s a little big and will fit her much better next fall, and Carl grabbed his dog and cow (part of a farm set that I will be adding to on other holidays), cuddling them and giving them names. These things are what I remember when, in the months to come I will start making next year’s gifts, and even though I swore to myself they would be less challenging, less personalized, less complicated they probably won't be. I love the feeling of giving someone something special. Something that has meaning.

            Last night I concluded my Christmas giving with two pairs of slippers for my dad and Erynn. The five of us, my sister and Nate included, gathered together in our library of a living room and exchanged presents once again. This year almost all of the gifts to each other were handmade (with the exception of a few books and a new set of flannel sheets for me that I’m way too excited about :D), and it gave the holiday a wholesome, homey feel. We sipped tea, talked and laughed until the whining of our dog Dervla convinced us to join her in the kitchen. It was a lovely way to end the holidays and to remind me that Christmas isn’t just a day, it is a frame of mind. It exists whenever we are together with family and friends, remembering those who have gone before us, and sharing our love and appreciation for the birth of Christ. To quote Muppet’s Christmas Carol, “It’s true, wherever we find love it feels like Christmas”.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Time is Here Again

          As if you all didn’t know, Christmas is only a short time away. On the one hand I am excited beyond belief, I always am during the Christmas season; but on the other, I’m more stressed than I have been since I graduated college. Optimist that I am, I thought I would have no trouble finishing the long list of Christmas presents that I have written in the back of my journal. Check marks have been drawn next to names slowly over the past few months, but there are still blank spaces and they are what haunt me. As many of you remember from an earlier blog post, I lacked motivation to start early on these gifts and now I am paying the price. Though many of them are completed, folded up, and tucked away nicely in a drawer, I still have a large amount of knitting to do in the next week and a half. Which is why I haven’t been writing, reading, eating… well, that last one isn’t necessarily true. There have been lots of holiday treats and sweets here and I, like most people, cannot resist them. Don’t get me wrong, in a way I love the mad dash that most knitters and crafters participate in at the approach of the holidays. As frantic as it can make me feel at times, I relish in it. And it doesn’t take any of the joy out of the festivities. Quite the opposite. But that’s just me. Plus, it gives me an excuse to stay home at night, cozy in my apartment with the Christmas lights on, watching movies and knitting. Not a bad deal.

            This means, however, that I don’t have much time to dedicate to this blog. I’ve wanted to write another post for some time now, but I haven’t been willing to give up those extra moments of productivity. There have been several exciting events happening at the store and in my life and I felt the need to share those with all of you. Among other things, Steven Be, local celebrity and designer (featured in countless knitting magazines this season) came to the shop and gave a wonderful talk about inspiration and yarn selection, AND I am the proud new owner of a spinning wheel! That in itself deserves its own post. But, alas, sitting down and taking a few hours to write was, and is, out of the question. When the holidays are over and the hand-knit gifts are given I promise to sit down and write a post that’s actually worth reading. I’ll post pictures of the gifts I’m making and write all about family get-togethers, food, traditions, and all that lovely Christmas-y stuff.

            But now, as I resist the urge to break down the remaining days into hours in order to budget my time, I will only wish you a very merry Christmas (or Hanukkah or any other holiday that you celebrate, I’m not picky), and a happy New Year.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Birthdays, Bathrooms, and Anniversaries.

Last week was a flurry of activity at Yarnology. It seemed that every day something exciting was happening, something that required us to forgo our routine and celebrate.

            It all started on Wednesday, the 14th with Gaby’s birthday. Gaby is much more than just co-owner of the shop; she’s a friend, a teacher, and an ever-present voice of reason whether you need advice on knitting or life. Wanting to do something special for the occasion, Kelly, her business partner came up with a brilliant idea of what to give Gaby for a gift. For quite some time now, she’s been eyeing a certain pair of shoes that Kelly and many of our customers now own. You see, these shoes are kind of a big deal. Not only are they from the popular company Dansko, but they have a knitted pattern on them in bright fun colors. Every time another customer came in wearing their new Danskos, inspired by Kelly and her flashy knit shoes, Gaby would jokingly go into a jealous rage leaving no doubt in our minds that she wanted a pair for herself. The staff of Yarnology decided that if we all contributed a little bit of money, we’d have enough to buy them for her. I wasn’t actually present when she opened her gift, but I’m told that her excitement escalated to a happy dance around the store in her new shoes. I’m just happy we were able to be a part of making her birthday special.

            Birthday festivities were just a prelude to the gathering we would have the next day to celebrate the completion of Yarnology’s new, beautiful bathroom. Yes, that’s right we had a bathroom warming party. Ever since Yarnology moved to its new location in June, we’ve been anticipating the renovation of the basement where we planned to have a brand-new bathroom and kitchen area. The progress on that project, however, was much slower than we would have liked. Customers and staff alike had to resort to using the building’s original facilities which resembled a closet rather than a room. I never minded that much, except for the fact that the only sink was a large (and rather worn out) utility tub. So when the news came that things were good to go in our new and improved restroom Gaby and Kelly thought that we should share our excitement with everyone who would benefit from this reno.

We love to do this last minute at Yarnology, and we didn’t make an exception for our bathroom warming party. Just a couple hours before our guests were expected, Gaby, Kelly, and I were madly running around trying to put the finishing touches on our new lower level. Pictures were hung on walls, the floor was swept, cheese, crackers, and wine bottles were taken out and placed in our “kitchen” for our visitors to sample. The Thursday night regulars who sit, knit, and chat together were already there and quickly gave us their stamp of approval while munching my homemade oatmeal cookies. Soon others arrived to ooh and aah over the bright green painted walls and the funny sign that says “Knit or Get off the Pot!” (you’d think we’d be sophisticated at a yarn shop… ha!). My favorite part of our little shindig had to be the cocktail naming game that we challenged our guests with.  Gaby mixed a few things together and made a refreshing drink all her own, but it needed a name, one that related to our shop’s primary focus: yarn. Many suggestions were made, most of them silly, but my favorite would have to be a contribution from my coworker, Blandine: d2tog, or drink two together (for those of you who are non-knitters this may not appear very funny, but in knitting patterns there is an instruction to k2tog, or knit two stitches together; clever, no?). We wrapped up the evening on the couches of our “living room”, knitting and laughing, a common occurrence at Yarnology.

Saturday dawned and again we scrambled around the store, cleaning and putting everything in its place. We anticipated some big crowds due to the annual Art Walk around Winona, and we were not disappointed. The wonderful thing about the Art Walk, besides giving local artists and crafters a chance to showcase their material, is that people who don’t knit or crochet, who would never walk into a yarn store normally, come to check us out because we’re listed as a stop on the Walk. Then they realize that we have much more than just yarn. Our SmartWool socks were a huge success giving customers a chance to have quality wool socks without having to knit them. The lotions, purses, and bags we carry were also popular and I remember ringing up quite a few for crafters and non-crafters alike.

It was a great day for seeing friends and catching up with acquaintances as well. At any given time I could look around the store and see familiar faces talking and laughing, admiring handmade accessories, comparing schedules for their busy days, or giving opinions and advice about colors for a new knitting project. Shortly into the busy morning we were treated to an unexpected surprise in the form of former Yarnologist, Amanda. After moving home at the end of the summer, Amanda hasn’t had much of a chance to come visit her “family” at Yarnology. But without warning she walked through our back door ready to spend the day with us, and even take her place back behind the counter a few times. She is one of my best friends and having her back in the shop made an already good day great.

It just so happened that last Saturday was also Yarnology’s unofficial two year anniversary. The date didn’t quite line up, but two years ago, on the day of the Art Walk, Yarnology opened its doors for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, Gaby, Kelly, and a few family members bravely took on the crowds of people that inevitably showed up. I visited the shop for the first time in January, just a few weeks before I started working there, so I wasn’t an eye witness to this historic day, but I’m told the line of customers reached to the back of the store. To those of us who can’t picture Winona anymore without Yarnology, this comes as no surprise. But it must have been a shock to suddenly realize that this little local shop was a huge success and would continue to be for the next two years and on into the future. It’s hard to say how many people have visited, how many people we’ve met, talked to, connected with over the years, but I’ll say for certain that at least a few lives have been changed, mine included, because of this unique little business. And today, which happens to be Small Business Saturday, I encourage everyone to consider how important local businesses are to our communities. So please show your support to those of us whose lives would be significantly different if these places didn’t exist. They are much more than mere stores. They are our livelihood and, for me at least, our favorite place to be.

Thank you to everyone who made last weekend and the last two years special!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Knit the Vote

          Today, as everyone knows, was a very important day in America. It was a chance to experience democracy first hand; to see in effect what the men and women of the Revolution fought for. Early this morning I stepped out of the house, coffee in hand just in case I had to wait in line, to register and cast my ballot. The weather was cold, rainy, and thoroughly depressing, but my roommate Elizabeth and I didn’t mind. We wanted to get in and out before the rush. Though I voted in the 2008 election, I was still excited to be a part of the democratic process. It was very satisfying filling in that bubble and then putting my ballot in the counter. I wore my “I Voted” sticker all day at work and was happy to see most of our customers and other passersby proudly sporting red stickers on their jackets and shirts too.

            Though I won’t go into my political views (I have strong ones, but I don't want to offend anyone) I will say that this election makes me very nervous. I know the stakes are high, and I’ve been anxious all day to find out what the results will be. There are so many controversial and important issues on the line, and I just pray that this election will end in a way that’s best for the American people. My uneasiness over this whole process has not gone away throughout the day and it actually may have increased now that I’m home from work and watching CBS’s live coverage. Elizabeth is napping on the couch, preparing herself for a late night watching results and I’m listening intently while I type, catching the latest breaking news in respect to the election. Soon I’ll have to take out my knitting so I can relax and keep busy while waiting out the next few hours. I’m experiencing a strange combination of excitement, unease, and dread thinking through the possible outcomes. Maybe all of you are experiencing similar emotions, though I’m sure we don’t all share the same political views; at least we can rest assured that we did all we could to influence the result.

            Sitting here thinking about it, I really wouldn’t be surprised if I finished a record amount of knitting tonight. I will be furiously moving my needles either in frustration or excitement. Whichever way, this election will definitely result in personal productivity. :-) Good luck to everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Taste of Saturday

          When I tell people that I usually work all day on Saturdays, most look at me with sympathy thinking that I must be sacrificing a lot by “giving up” my weekend. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I recently spent a weekend away from Winona and though I enjoyed the time I had in my hometown with my family, I felt a void from missing one of the busiest days the shop experiences each week. It is a time when those who can’t visit the shop during the work week stop in to chat and catch us up on the goings on in their lives; it is a day when laughter can be heard from our couches, advice is exchanged both on knitting projects and life, and new things are learned by teachers and students. It is a day of happiness and camaraderie.  

            Today was a Saturday much like the one described above and though I left Yarnology quite tired at 5:00, I had spent the day smiling with friends and working with some people I truly love. I had the opportunity to teach a private lesson to two great ladies this afternoon (we made felted clogs, a wonderful project I have made many times and will again), and as I sat at the table in our “classroom” I couldn’t help but overhear some of the things going on in the rest of the shop. Our “living room” was occupied by some long-term friends and a few of those people who only get to the shop on rare occasions. Sitting on our second-hand floral couches, they had some surprisingly deep conversations for that sunny Saturday morning, swapping parenting advice and sharing personal stories. Though we often refer to knitting as therapeutic, this description became literal; it’s much cheaper to spend an hour or two at the yarn store than it is to pay for a therapy session.

            It’s always fun when you witness new friendships being made and with all the people who come and go on a Saturday, this happens often. An acquaintance of someone’s will come to sit, knit, chat, and drink coffee and in the process create new connections with others who have come to do the exact same thing. While bonding over their shared passion for knitting or crocheting, they will most likely find more common threads that exist between them. Without this yarn store many friendships would not be in existence, including some of my own, and Saturdays are the perfect time to strengthen or renew them.

            Some of the new visitors that we receive on Saturdays are parents or family members of students that go to one of our town’s colleges. Unfamiliar with Winona, they often wander downtown to see what it has to offer and we’re happy to be one of the places they stop to check out. Even if no one in the family works with yarn, Yarnology captivates their attention with its vibrant colors and interesting displays. I love hearing family members brag about their student, the happiness at being reunited with them evident. With my family far away, I know how much it means when someone you love comes to visit. It’s always a goal of mine to show visiting families and friends that Yarnology is a safe and fun place for people of all ages. I feel that we represent a piece of Winona, and I want to do this wonderful town justice.

            While my students were busily counting out stitches and rows, I became inspired to share, from my point of view, my favorite things about a Saturday at Yarnology. I quickly pulled the blank side of my pattern towards me and jotted down a list. Though I’ve just written about a few there are many more to share. It would take much longer for me write (and for you to read) all of them, so I’ll put the rest in list form, just like my untidy scribbling on the back of that pattern. So what do I love about Saturdays at Yarnology? I love…

-           parents visiting their children and discovering us for the first time.

-          teaching wonderful people something new and watching them succeed while they create something useful out of nothing.

-          seeing red-cold faces fresh from the last farmer’s market of the season.

-          people coming in with hopeless mistakes only to be reassured by the Yarnologists that actually, we CAN help you, do not be discouraged. We’ll work through this together.

-          listening to knitters talk through their Christmas knitting lists, planning special projects for special people.

-          hearing knitters say things like “I’m anti-gauge swatch” and “we have twenty four sheep” and not batting an eyelash.

-          forming and renewing connections; it’s what our store thrives on.

-          drinking 3:00 coffee with my coworkers.
-       knowing that I truly matter to so many people at this shop and assuring them that they matter to me.

           Do not pity me for having to work Saturdays. I confess if I wasn’t on the schedule I’d be down there anyway. Any day inspiring and being inspired is a day well spent. And I always leave smiling. That in itself is worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Windows, Brick, and Mortar: Shop Local!

          As many of our customers know, Yarnology takes its window displays seriously. We usually switch it up and create a new display every few weeks. Kelly, the mastermind behind them, researches on Pintrest and Facebook, and scopes out ideas from other retailers all to gain inspiration for the front of our store. In the past we’ve had balloon animals, miniature motorized vehicles, creatures made from hanks of yarn, and (my personal favorite) a Christmas tree and fireplace last winter to encourage holiday cheer and warm thoughts on cold days. In our new building the front windows are much smaller compared to our last location, and we don’t have as much space to fill. This is both a blessing and a curse. The big ideas have to be scaled down, but we no longer have to stretch our resources and ideas to fill up large windows.

            One of Kelly’s more recent creative brain surges resulted in dozens of Trolls (you know, the ones with the crazy hair!) set up to catch the attention of passersby. Kelly incorporated the trolls into a fiber holiday that we celebrated at the shop on September 15th: National Spin in Public Day. Dyed roving (wool before it’s made into yarn) connected the brightly colored hair of the trolls and was then fed into an antique spinning wheel to make it look like the little creatures were all spun together. That display was cute and quirky, so much so that we would often have families stopping on their way down the sidewalk to examine and exclaim over the trolls’ endearingly funny faces and clothing. Throughout the three weeks that the display was up we even had several people come in and ask if these vintage toys were for sale. Sorry, we had to tell them, they’re not even ours. A few of our wonderful friends and patrons lent them to Kelly so her vision could be realized.

            Just like she is known to do, Kelly came to the shop a few days back and told us that she had another great window display idea. To go along with the October theme of “You don’t have to travel far… Shop local!”, she decided to put a rickshaw in the window. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what that is, I only had a vague idea myself. A rickshaw is half bicycle and half carriage. You always see people in big cities, at least in movies and TV shows, being driven around in these things. To make all of this cooler than it already was, the rickshaw that is currently featured in our window is pink. Yes, a very awesome, attention grabbing, “big girl” pink. Since it went up last Wednesday the 3rd, I think we’ve had several comments a day on the “bicycle thing” that’s in the window. Sometimes I think we have the most unique front windows in all of Winona. And then I think about how cool that is.

            Like I said earlier, our theme for October is “Shop Local”. I feel strongly about this cause not only because I work at a local independent retailer, but also because I’ve seen the damage that can come to a small town when residents go elsewhere for their goods and services. I am originally from a small town in Illinois called Marengo, where the majority of store fronts are vacant and dark. Once a booming railroad town, Marengo has slowly declined due to economy and outsourcing. It really is heartbreaking to go home and see “for sale or rent” signs in window after window while walking down the main street. A large part of me believes that a community can help put a stop to declining local business. Instead of going to a big box store or ordering right off the internet, visit some of your local retailers and find out if you can give your business to them instead. It might take a few more minutes or a couple extra dollars, but I don’t think that’s a bad price to guarantee that our towns will be thriving, productive places. I totally agree that deals and sales should not be passed up, but there is a way we can all help without breaking the bank.

In our most recent Yarnology newsletter, Gaby wrote about something called the 3/50 Project. This is a movement encouraging people to sit down and think about the unique and essential local businesses in their towns. It instructs everyone to choose three businesses that they would miss if they suddenly went under. Then, try to spend at least $50 a month there. According to, “if half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue”. There’s more information on the website and I encourage everyone to visit and become inspired to shop locally! So much good can come of having a strong local economy. As the holidays start arriving, think about what shopping you can do at some of your local specialty shops (like a yarn store; hint, hint) or any independent business, and give them your support! You never know, you might see some fun and unique displays in their front windows.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky..." ~Percy Shelley

         Apple pie, cinnamon/vanilla lattes, spiced cider candles, leaves in a wildfire of color, crisp breezes, and warm blankets. Hot cups of coffee and cozy wool knitting projects. What do all these things have in common? They’re a few of my very favorite things about this new season we’re heading into. Although it’s only the first official days of autumn, I’m already preparing for everything that goes along with it. Most of the leaves are still green here in Winona, but they will soon be lit up in oranges, reds, and yellows, coloring the bluffs and riverbanks. The air will get colder making the warmth from a steaming cup of coffee that much more appreciated. I look forward to going to the apple orchard with my family when I make the trip home to Illinois in a few weeks. Edward’s Orchard is a family tradition and the hot apple cider and donuts we get there are beyond compare. In my opinion there’s no better feeling than curling up under a blanket and reading a good book or watching a favorite movie and knitting.
          Speaking of knitting, it has been evident in the amount of visitors we’ve had to the yarn shop that other people are feeling the need to prepare for the colder weather. There are those who don’t like to knit in the summer months and are now picking up their needles for the first time in a while, needing a new project to occupy the increasingly long evenings. The rest of us who never really stop knitting… ever… can turn our attention to the much needed sweaters and mittens that, not long ago, made us sweat just thinking about. Personally, I am excited to wear the few warm garments that I made this past spring. I finally made my first sweater and it’s definitely a warm one. The yarn, shipped out of Japan is made up of wool, silk, and mohair. It was a bit of a splurge on my part, the yarn being a tad expensive, but was well worth it. It was very fun to make even though I knew I had to wait a few months to wear it. Now the time has come and I’m so excited!
           I also have a softer than soft poncho that I was cajoled into making by a good friend and coworker at the shop. Karina has made several of these herringbone ponchos and swore that I just HAD to have one too. She has since left for her first year of college down in Kansas and I promised her at the start of the year that I would make a poncho before she left Winona. Knit out of baby alpaca and merino wool, this thing will keep me warm all winter long. It’s incredible how soft it is and will be perfect to snuggle up in when the snow starts to fly. I’m in no rush for that though. Autumn can take as long as it likes to pass.
          I think that it’s only right for me to honor the first day of fall and this deliciously brisk autumn night by brewing myself a cup of tea, settling under my Milwaukee Brewers blanket, and creating something warm as the sun goes down. I'll be happily anticipating the lovely things that come with the change of seasons and appreciating the warmth and comfort that I am blessed to have. There's something about this time of year that makes everything seem a little sweeter. At least that's this Yarnologist's opinion. Happy autumn everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's In a Name?

         My creative juices have been flowing a lot more lately and my knitting has benefited from it. Not only have I been taking up and learning some new techniques (my first color work project is underway and looking better than expected!), but I’ve also had a few patterns of my own in the works. Last spring I decided to knit a cowl out of the Be Sweet bamboo yarn that we carry at Yarnology, but as I began work on the pattern I had chosen, I realized it wasn’t going to turn out the way I had hoped it would. So instead of searching for a completely different project, I modified the one I had started and created something totally new. Now, a whole summer after knitting that first cowl, I’ve altered and improved the pattern and have made quite a few as gifts for my friends and family.
         This being my first original design, I was surprised when several of our customers, after seeing one of my cowls, asked for the printed directions. I happily obliged and am proud to say that a few copies of my pattern are now floating around Winona. It was such a great feeling, sharing my idea with other knitters that I decided to try it on a wider scale. So I’m putting the pattern directions up here on my blog for any one of my followers to use. I’m hoping it will be the first of many that I share with all of you.
         As I thought about what I would write in this post, I encountered a problem: my cowl really didn't have a name. I think each time I printed out a copy for someone I changed the title, not being completely happy with what I had landed on the last time. In my opinion, a name has to fit something perfectly and I really had trouble coming up with anything. Last night, however, while I was trying to fall asleep I began to think about the blog post I wanted to do the next morning. The lack of a good pattern name had been bothering me for a long time, so I was brainstorming. Suddenly it hit me that the stitch design of the cowl looks a little like the lattice you would find on a trellis or fence. And thinking of a trellis made me think of summer, with flowers and vines growing and thriving in the sunlight. My cowl is a light one, made more to be an accessory than for warmth and it can be worn in the spring and summer months as well as fall and winter. Everything fit together so nicely that I realized I had just officially named my pattern: The Lattice Cowl. I confess I was quite excited that I finally came up with a good name for my first original design.
          I hope that anyone who makes one enjoys it! Let me know how it turns out or if there are any problems with the pattern.


Lattice Cowl
  Designed by Jennifer Georgieff

Suggested yarn: 2 skeins Be Sweet Bamboo
Needles: size 9 in 24 or 32 inch circular

Cast on 200 stitches
Join in round. Place marker at beginning of round and knit 4 rows in garter stitch.

Work in lace pattern as follows:

Row 1: K2, *yo, K2tog, K1  repeat from * to end of row.

Row 2: Knit

Row 3: *K1, yo, K2tog  repeat from * to end of row.

Row 4: Knit

Row 5: *K2tog, K1, yo  repeat from * to end of row.

Row 6: Knit

Repeat rows 3 through 6 until the width of cowl measures 4 inches.

Knit 4 rows in garter stich.
Bind off loosely and weave in ends.
Block the cowl to achieve a better stitch definition.

This might give you an idea of what the stitch pattern looks like:
It's long, but can be twisted around your neck a second time.

This is one of my best friends Missy wearing the cowl I gave her for her birthday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." -Jane Austen

         Wow, it’s already the end of August and school is once again in session. This time around, however, I am not joining the throngs of backpack clad students who are swarming the WSU campus. As you all know from my earlier posts, I graduated this past May and am now a part of the working world (though my job rarely ever feels like real work). When I really sit and think about how I won’t be attending classes anymore, I get sentimental and quite sad. I love to learn and I really enjoyed being in the kind of academic atmosphere that my classes provided. On the flip side, when I remember that there will be no more papers and projects and other stressful things that come with college, I breathe a sigh of relief. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
         Yesterday, a friend and coworker of mine asked what I would do on the first day of fall semester, the first day that I did not have to attend classes. She suggested that I do all the things I never had time to do during school. That got me thinking; what did I have to sacrifice during my college years due to lack of time? Well, for one thing I was never able to read all the books I wanted to. As an English major I always had a stack of novels and short stories that I was required to read. I ended up enjoying most of them, but reading a book out of requirement is different than just picking one up of your own accord. There’s always a bit of resentment attached when you have no choice about your reading material. Since my shelves are packed with books waiting to be read or reread, I’ll have no problem making up a long list of titles to occupy me in my newly acquired free time.

           It will come as no surprise that I’m also looking forward to knitting more than I could while in school. This summer I was able to accomplish quite a few projects despite my phase of low motivation, but usually knitting would be put on the back burner at the start of school. Now I can continue with all the projects I am currently working on and those I have been contemplating for a time. There are a few pattern books on my shelf that I am just itching to work from and now I hope I will be able to. The Jane Austen Knits magazines, chock full of literary inspired knitting projects from her novels and time period, have been calling my name for months now. I received the first one as a Christmas present from my sister and brother-in-law last year and practically jumped up and down when I saw how it was a combination of two of my favorite things: literature and knitting. Unfortunately, time really does fly and suddenly it was six months later and a new Jane Austen Knits was being published and released. Of course I had to buy that one too. I have the best of intentions and hopefully I will be able to use them before the third edition (yes, another set of Austen inspired patterns comes out in the fall) is on magazine stands. I confess, I plan on collecting all of these publications whether or not I end up knitting everything in them. They’re just fun to have. Jane Austen is one of my favorite novelists and I've either read or seen adaptations of almost all of her books. There's something comforting about sitting down with a good Austen romance, a cup of tea, and the sun smiling on your face (I recommend reading Jane Austen on a quiet sunny day, perhaps in a garden or on a front porch; this will guarantee a full experience of her work). Just thinking about that makes me want to knit up a few shawls or stockings. And I think I know of a good place where I can find a few patterns. :)

           And so, as I wrap up writing this post, my mind jumps to the students sequestered in classrooms, busily scribbling notes or typing away at laptops. I can’t help but smile in both relief and longing. Part of me is wishing I was there with them, but the other part is doing a cartwheel, thrilled with the feeling of freedom that I now have.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Red, White, and Yarn

            As we all know, the Olympic Games are a big deal. Athletes train their entire lives just to have a chance at competing. The strength and ability that the participants have is astounding, and for a little over two weeks, the world is enthralled by the talent they display. This year the games were held in London, a city saturated in history and exuding tradition. For those en route to England, it was the chance of a lifetime; for the rest of us, it was an opportunity for diversion from the typical. Life’s mad dash slowed a bit as so many focused their eyes on the world’s youth, living vicariously through their quest for glory.
            I cannot be excluded from that group of people who almost constantly tuned in to the excitement that is the Olympics. Though I always prefer the winter Olympics over the summer, I eagerly anticipated July 28th, the day of the opening ceremony. Not only was I excited to cheer on our U.S. athletes, I was also eager for the kickoff of the Ravelinic Games. The Ravelinic Games is a knitting event cooked up by the social media website called Ravelry. This site is dedicated to knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, and other fiber freaks. Here we can share the items we’ve made, find patterns, discover new yarn, and connect with people who share our passion. A few years ago, when a different Olympics was on the horizon, an inspired member of Ravelry, along with those who run the site sent out a challenge to their fellow fiber-loving friends: create something special, something that challenges you, something that will show off your skills while the athletes at the games show off theirs. At this time, the event was called the Ravelympics. The name was changed this year due to controversy over whether or not using the name “Ravelympics” was a mockery of the real Olympic Games; the dispute was resolved after an apology letter was sent from the U.S. Olympic Committee to appease outraged Ravelry members.
          While many on Ravelry created teams and competed in actual “competitions” (like sock knitting, afghan making, etc.), we at Yarnology decided to take the casual route. We told our patrons that if they would like to participate all they had to do was cast on a project the day of the opening ceremony and cast off the day of the closing ceremony. Many chose something that they had never knitted before, thinking this was a good chance to challenge themselves; some decided to finally make that piece that had been calling their name for so long; others took this opportunity to use up some yarn in their stash and finish a project that they had been putting off. I did a combination of the three.
            A while ago I purchased yarn to make a skirt out of one of my lace knitting books. Though I sometimes claim to be a lace knitter, I’ve really only knit a few lace projects, which is certainly not enough to be considered an expert. I looked forward to the time when I could complete this skirt and display the work that went into my handmade piece of clothing. That was, however, about a year ago… The yarn, wound and ready to go, sat patiently inside a brown paper bag waiting to be turned into something beautiful. When deliberating about what project to make throughout the two weeks of the Olympics, I remembered my blue yarn that was meant for that lace skirt and I dived right in. There were a few moments when I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to get that project done in time, but remarkably I did. I bound off my last stitch two minutes before midnight on the 12th of August, just hours after the closing ceremony was complete. I confess that I felt a huge sense of accomplishment; nothing, I’m sure to what the Olympians were feeling at that moment, but great nonetheless.
            Last night, Thursday August 16th, a large group of knitters gathered at Yarnology to show off what they had completed and admire each other’s items. Amid the talking and laughing, the Yarnology staff passed out “medals” to those who had participated and gathered. Our quirky awards were things like “The Michael Phelps Award” for most projects completed or attempted, “The Katie Ledecky Award” for newest knitter, and “The Gaby Douglas Award” for smallest project. It was such a blast not only to see the projects our friends had made, but to gather and share something in common with everyone else in the room. I suppose that’s what the Olympics are all about: coming together no matter what differences exist, and sharing a passion with those around you. I’m always sad when the Olympics end, but in two years there will be another set of games with different events, new athletes, and more knitting projects to enthrall us.

My blue lace skirt:

Some of the wonderful people who came to celebrate the Ravelinic Games with us at Yarnology.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Half Baked

         This past Sunday I was on a hiatus from my usual post at Yarnology in order to visit my cousin Lisa’s family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kelly graciously gave me the day off and I ventured down in my little Chevy Malibu to join my other cousin Erik, my sister, and my brother-in-law at this little gathering. Kenosha, as most people know, is right on Lake Michigan and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore a little down by the marina. The weather was cooler than it had been in weeks and all of us relished the feeling of the breeze blowing in from the dark expanse of water. It was picture perfect, the sailboats bobbing lazily in the distance while close to shore waves slapped against rocks. Though we all knew that Michigan existed on the other side of that blue horizon, it felt for a time as if we had been transported to some ocean coastline with only the promise of foreign lands looming in the distance. The magic of the moment had to come to an end as we turned our backs on the lake and headed home for some pizza and cousin bonding time. Though there are only four cousins on my dad’s side of the family, our group has grown considerably and now includes my sister’s husband Nate, Lisa’s husband Adam, and their two children Carl and Lena. Now that we’re all grown and living in different cities and states, getting together is certainly more challenging. But when we do have an opportunity to visit one another, it’s as if nothing has changed. Our sibling-like relationships have stayed intact, fueled by the memories we have of growing up together. My mini road trip came to an end on Monday afternoon as I drove home to Winona. I rolled down the windows and cranked up the music, taking pleasure in the wind whipping my hair from its ponytail and the sun shining in through the window. It was an enjoyable drive. But then I got home and looked in the mirror, only then realizing that my left arm and thigh were burnt to a crisp while the right side of my body remained pale and healthy looking. I’m attempting to view my uneven coloring with humor, but I confess it looks slightly ridiculous. There’s no way that I can get it evened out before work tomorrow, so anyone who comes in to Yarnology try not to laugh too hard even though I look a bit like a half-cooked lobster.
          Though this post doesn’t have much to do with knitting or my job as a Yarnologist, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad thing to write about other parts of my life. There is more to me than yarn and needles, as ludicrous as that sounds. Yarn didn’t completely leave my mind during this little vacation, however; I did try to go to the Kenosha yarn shop while I was in the area. Unfortunately, Fiddlehead Yarn is closed on Sundays and I was unable to check it out. They should really follow Yarnology’s example and open their doors on Sundays for yarn loving tourists like me. :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


You know how they say that life imitates art or art imitates life? I feel like I’m the living embodiment of that saying right about now. My life, while wonderful, is at a bit of a crossroads. I’m making the transition from dependent student and child to a self-sufficient working adult. Or at least attempting to. Currently I find myself in limbo, trying to push forward yet hesitating. There is a part of me that is dragging its heels, unwilling to wholly let go of the convenience and safety of childhood. But this is warring against another, bolder side that’s ready to take on the challenges of life, no matter how much adversity I am faced with; it is she who is responsible for my staying in Winona even now after my college career is ended. Instead of moving home to my sleepy Illinois town of Marengo, I decided some time ago that I would continue enjoying everything that Winona has to offer: the theatre and film festivals, the coffee shops and museums, and river and bluffs we’re surrounded by, and of course the little yarn store I just happen to work at. While the decision to stay was a relatively easy one to make, the means on which I’ll be living are a little more… how can I put this poetically… ambiguous. At the moment I have enough, more than enough even. I’m happy, healthy and in the scheme of things I don’t have much to worry about. But I confess that I lie awake sometimes while my mind creates countless scenarios in which I fail to accomplish the things I most want to do, and therefore fail in providing for myself. The morning brings a clear mind and my usual sunny self, but the shadow of a doubt always exists even on my brightest days.

But how does this deep, pessimistic chatter relate to art, you ask? Well, this limbo I’m in has begun to extend past my circumstances and into the pieces that I’m knitting. In all of the projects that I’m currently working on I’m stuck. In my defense, I’m waiting for back-ordered yarn to arrive to continue with one of them, but I have no valid explanation for halting my progress on the others. For some reason, my feet are dragging and I find myself unwilling to work on or finish the things on my needles. Yes non-knitters, most of us crazy yarn people have upwards of two or three projects going at once. I have attempted to explain my procrastination with several unconvincing excuses such as: this project is too boring, I really hate this pattern, it’s too hard, this is taking too long, and (my personal favorite) I just got this new yarn and I can’t wait even the smallest amount of time to work with it. So yes, I have completed several other things during my time of project stagnancy, but those unfinished items are still there quietly mocking my success. Alright, I might be getting a little carried away, but my frustration at their unfinished state is growing. And unfortunately I only have myself to blame for this. Mirroring my attitude toward my transitioning life, I want to move on, but my other less logical side is unwilling to take the necessary measures.

Limbo really isn’t the best place to be. I’m hoping that I’ll soon snap out of it, finishing and figuring out what I need to both in knitting and in life. It will take planning and determination, but I won’t stay in a state of unknown and immobility my entire life. There are so many new patterns to try, yarns to create with, and experiences to have. Possibilities stretch out before me and while it’s a little frightening, my heart also leaps with anticipation. I can only hope that soon my two warring sides will come to terms with one another and then I might be able to move from this place of limbo and settle into the life I will create for myself.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Christmas in July

          It’s the first day of July and I’m trying desperately to figure out where exactly time is flying to. Despite the 90 degree weather, it seems as if this summer has barely gotten underway. The long list of things I was planning to do hasn’t shortened much, and I am all too aware of the upcoming school year. With its commence our peaceful, picturesque Winona is changed into a busy college town. Why haven’t I taken advantage of the quiet coffee houses, or spent time on the practically uninhabited campus of Winona State? I can feel my window of opportunity for enjoying summer pastimes getting smaller as the days tick by.
           Part of my “problem” (which in the grand scheme of things isn’t much of a problem at all) is that I’ve been spending too much time in that darn yarn store. Not only do I have to work there (the horror!), but I find myself stopping by while doing errands, driving down to visit coworkers, being pulled in with the temptations of new yarn and possible projects. And it doesn’t even end there. I take this addiction home with me. Instead of taking a walk around the lakes or laying outside with a book, I end up spending many evenings watching How I Met Your Mother on NetFlix and casting on with that new yarn that just HAS to be knitted with right away! It’s a rough way of life; not everyone could handle it, but I do what I can. : )

            Last summer my knitting mainly consisted of Christmas presents that I was getting a head start on. It was the first Christmas since I started working at Yarnology and I was excited to be able to create handmade things for my family. I was a little ambitious, deciding to give a knitted gift to over 20 people, and I got started right away. There was a list, a plan, and I ended up finishing all of those projects, plus a few others before Christmas while working and going to school as well. At times I was stressed, worrying whether or not I would finish everything in time, but it was fun and gave me an excuse to buy yarn. This year I feel unorganized. I had the same plan: I would decide what to make for everyone, jot it all down in a tidy little list, and get started so I could have gifts stockpiled by December. There was just one problem: I got distracted. I procrastinated a little bit and then the store relocation was happening, new projects caught my eye, and before I knew it thoughts of knitting for other people were pushed out of my mind. Suddenly, I was making things for myself (shocking, I know). My Christmas knitting has taken a backseat, and though the holidays are still almost half a year away, I’m feeling a little guilt. Knitting for other people, finding the perfect project for someone I love, is one of my favorite things. But, I confess my motivation is severely lacking. Perhaps I’m being too ambitious, thinking I can top the gifts I gave last year. They were well thought out and made with consideration. I know that if I give myself a chance I can really do something special, but as the summer slips away I feel increasingly behind schedule. Inspiration comes when least expected, as I have learned in the past, and I’m hoping that it will again. Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me to get outside and enjoy some sunshine before the snow starts to fall. And here in Minnesota that will happen before we know it. : )

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Operation "Yarnology Relocation"

         The past few weeks have been… interesting. They’ve been stressful. They’ve been exciting, exhausting, hectic, nerve-racking. And fun. What is the reason for all of this? Well, I’ll tell you: Yarnology is moving locations. A few months ago, our wonderful Gaby (part owner of the store) and her husband bought a building in downtown Winona, just a block and a half from where we had already set up shop. Since that time there has been some major work done inside and out and it is finally, FINALLY coming to a close tomorrow!! All of the hard work has paid off; all of the support from customers, friends, and family will be evident in this amazing place that has been put together in hardly any time at all.

            June 8th, just this past Saturday Yarnology was pretty much the same as it always has been. Any customer that walked in would have seen Gaby, Kelly, and myself calmly knitting and crocheting in our “living room”. They would have heard Mumford and Sons Pandora radio playing quietly in the background, and seen the confident and calming colors of skeins of yarn resting in bins around the room. What they would not have realized was that the three quiet crafters were secretly bursting with anticipation for the clock to strike 5:00 p.m. Saturday was our last day open for business in our old location; the minute that OPEN sign came unplugged it was go time. Yarn came off the shelves at a record pace and was loaded into clear garbage bags to be transported down the street. Mannequins were disrobed and stored away to be moved last when everything else is in its place. Books were packed to capacity, snug in boxes waiting to be taken to their new home. Overall it was quick work. Besides the three of us there were several other Yarnologists and friends who had volunteered to do some grunt work. In two hours we cleared all the shelves, cubes, hooks, and whatever other means of displaying yarn we had contrived. Things were certainly packed up, but the space was still filled with things waiting to take the journey down the block. It seems that you never truly realize how much stuff you have in one space until you try to move it all. Sheesh. When we finished all the work we were able to do that day, it was a bit overwhelming, looking around and seeing how much more we had to accomplish. But luckily we had fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream to comfort us (thanks Donna W.!!) while it sank in that this was just the beginning……

            Today marked the second day of operation “Yarnology Relocation”. The action started before I arrived (you might not believe this, but I’m not too handy with the power tools or the very large, heavy furniture. I know, shocking. Ha) and when I walked into the new space most of the shelving units were already in place just waiting for fluffy, colorful things to fill them up. Though the weather was hot and the air conditioner decided to stop working a couple of days ago, the volunteers that were busy putting things in their places didn’t seem to notice much. It was so exciting to watch as it all came together. Little by little we unloaded pick-up truck beds and vans filled with boxes and furniture. Back and forth, back and forth we went from one block of 3rd street to the other. Now that I’m looking back on the day, I can’t help but think about all the wonderful people who gave up their time and energy to pitch in with this move, and it just makes me grin. These of course include some of our loyal customers who came by to help us move the 100-some bags that we had filled with yarn! I’m sure it was a sight to see, a dozen or so people lined up from the van/SUVs we loaded up to front door of the new store, handing down bag after bag of yarn until it came to rest in a pile of its companions. Many hands make a quick end, a lesson my mom has always taught, and today I was able to see that in action. It truly is amazing how much we were able to do in one day. And it’s all because we came together and worked hard for the love of this store and its people. I truly felt blessed and proud and humbled to be a part of it and to be able to call a good many of those wonderful people my friends. I’m sure you’ll get tired of hearing me say this, but this job means so much more to me than the paycheck I receive every other week. Don’t get me wrong, that’s nice too. But I know I still would have been one of those pairs of hands, passing yarn down the line even if it wasn’t my job. Being a part of something special makes you special, right? (Wait, did I just quote Glee? haha Oh well!) And that feeling is pretty great.

           We officially open the doors of our new store location on Tuesday, the 12th. We have A LOT to do, however, before that happens. I confess, thinking about that list of to-dos makes me a little anxious, but like I’ve been taught to believe, many hands make a quick end. And it helps when laughter, smiles, and coffee are shared throughout the day. Wish us luck in the last stage of moving. And come visit us once we’re settled in! All of us at Yarnology are looking forward to it!

                             Gaby and Jeannine next to the MOUNTAIN of yarn we packed up.

Bags of yarn!

The store's empty... almost.

Our yarn train in action. :)

So many bags of yarn!!

And here I am after all the hard work, posing with our Noro wall.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Car Trouble

          Prior to 8:00 p.m. tonight, things were going just swell for this Yarnologist. After a fun day shopping with Amanda, I worked a four hour shift at the store where I was able to chat with the wonderful people who came for Thursday night knitting, help pick out colors of yarn for a project one of our regulars is going to start, and seam up the poncho I’ve been working on for a couple weeks. I felt happy and productive. Listening to our knitters talk and laugh while making progress on their needle work is one of the best and most amusing parts of my job; our Thursday night “group” never disappoints. This all changed, however, when I got to my car… which refused to start. At this point in time we’ve decided it’s the battery (maybe??) and my dad is coming up to Winona tomorrow to help me. As we walked home from the parking lot outside of Yarnology, Amanda, friend/ follow Yarnologist, and I determined it’s ridiculous that we know nothing about cars. Seriously, why did I not pay attention when my dad or step-dad or uncle was tuning up my car or checking it for something? My dad has tried explaining certain things but I end up nodding in false concentration while making a list of things I like more than cars. Stupid me. And now I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs and waiting for my daddy to come rescue me. Those early feminists are rolling in their graves as I type.

            So I’m frustrated and worried about my car and trying to decide whether or not to eat or knit my feelings away. Why can’t everything just work out the way I want it to? ‘Cause life just doesn’t work that way. I’m learning this very quickly. I confess that while I was sitting there in the parking lot, attempting to coax my car to life, I was tempted to pull out the yarn-bombed jeep we have in the back of Yarnology and drive that home. I’m sure it works better than my car does right now. Can you imagine me cruising down Main Street in that thing? Ha! Yeah, that would be pretty awesome.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When in Grief...

           Knitting is comforting. I’ve said it time and again, and wholeheartedly believe in this philosophy. When we’re stressed, anxious, sad, or frustrated the repetitive nature of knitting can relieve some of these feelings, taking our minds off of the things that are troubling us. And I always love seeing my project grow and knowing that I’m being productive; I’m accomplishing something even when other things just aren’t going my way.
          This past weekend, however, was a rare occasion when my philosophy failed me. On Saturday morning, the 26th of May, two of my dogs had to be put to sleep. The days following have been very difficult as I’ve been feeling some guilt and sadness over what had to be done. The shock of the whole situation hasn’t left me. Both Saturday night and Sunday I sought comfort in my work and attempted to lose myself in the back and forth, in and out motion of the needles and yarn. But before long the images of my poor puppies came back to me and I couldn’t to continue. It seemed I couldn’t find peace of mind anywhere. So instead of trying to distract myself, I thought I’d write a little in the attempt of coming to turms with their passing.
            Schissy, some mix of herding dog breeds, was almost sixteen years old and had come to our family when my Dad and step-mom still lived on their dairy farm. We no longer live there, but moved to Sparta WI after struggling with the many expenses that can crop up on an old farm. Schissy belonged to a neighboring farmer who had inherited her from an elder family member. He chained her to a tree day and night and couldn’t seem to understand why she was barking and howling all the time. One day she got loose and for some reason or other ran straight to our farm. She immediately hit it off with the dog we already had and they became fast friends. When the neighbor farmer’s wife came by to pick Schissy up she asked if we would like to keep her. The lady’s husband was getting so sick of all the noise that he was going to shoot her. We didn’t hesitate and soon she was a part of the family, sleeping in my parent’s bedroom and awkwardly herding cows in the wrong direction. See, deep down she knew that she was supposed to do something with those big black and white things, but she had never been trained and just sort of ran them in whatever direction she felt looked best. After returning to our barn one day covered in cow manure my dad laughed and said she was a little schissy (the German word for… well, sh**). The name stuck. We firmly believe that our dogs only understand German (however broken mine sometimes is), and so our dogs aren’t really dogs at all, they’re hunde. We always referred to Schissy as the “tante hunt”, or aunt of the rest of our dogs. When our first dog had a litter of puppies, Schissy had as much or more to do with their bringing up than the rightful mother did. She scolded, herded, licked, and protected those puppies like they were her own. Down to her very last day.

          My Schnappi was one of those puppies that Schissy bossed around. The baby of our first dog, Schnappi has been mine almost since she was born. My sister and I visited my dad on the farm a few weeks later and we were given the opportunity to choose our very own dogs out of the ten that had survived. At that time we thought that Schnappi was the runt, though she grew larger than many of the others. She was brindle in color, like her mom, but had a thicker coat almost like a German shepherd. I can remember holding her in the palm of my hand and gently rubbing her tiny silky ears. Even then they were a little too big for her head. She never grew into those big floppy ears. It was one of my favorite things about her. Schnappi’s name was originally Maxine Anne (don’t ask me how I came up with that at the age of nine; my cat, adopted around the same time is Agatha Jane. It seems I have a thing for old names… haha). When Schnappi got a little older we noticed her doing something strange when she was excited or happy: she would snap. Never maliciously done, these snaps, or schnaps in German (are we noticing a pattern here?), were her way of saying “I love you”. Eventually, her nickname trumped the one she was christened with in the beginning. Schnappi spent the first few years of her life on the dairy farm running with the other dogs through the woods to chase coyotes, playing with us outside in the summer, and curled up in front of the wood stove in the winter. Though I only spent every third weekend with my dad during that time, Schnappi never forgot me or the fact that she was mine. We had an understanding; I knew that dog like the back of my hand. After twelve years that never changed. Schnappi was one of my best friends and will always be my baby. Which is why, when I got the phone call that she needed to be put to sleep, I didn’t hesitate to go and be with her. She needed me there as much as I needed her to know I loved her and hadn’t abandoned her. When the moment came I laid down next to her and told her how she was the best girl, the best baby and that I loved her so much. I talked to her until she was gone and then I buried my face in her fur and let go of all the tears I had been holding in. I confess, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but I don’t regret being there for a second.  

         Though it’s been a few days since my hunde slipped away to the big farm in the sky, the sadness is still there and will be for quite some time, I’m sure. Eventually I won’t feel the sharp pang that comes when I think about them and the memories won’t be bittersweet but will only make me smile. And of course, my knitting will once again provide solace.
        This is Schissy in better days. She used to be quite the chubber. :) But SUCH a loving dog!

My beautiful Schnappi.

Schnappi and I cuddling a couple years back. :)

My dad on the farm with our dogs.