lest we forget

better world, experiences, family, just a thought, knitting, quilting

Greetings from Normandy, France where it’s D-Day.

Our family is here visiting Bill’s sister and her family. When Bill asked what I wanted to see in Normandy, I immediately responded, “The Beaches.” As the grand-daughter and step-grand-daughter of two admirals in the Navy who fought against Japan in WWII, I wanted to see where those thousands of brave soldiers landed and how they made history.

In the preceding weeks I showed our young daughter pictures, maps and diagrams of why WWII started and what the Normandy invasion was all about. We went to the First Division Museum in Cantigny, Illinois and I told her, “We’ll have lots of fun in France, but I want you to take 10 minutes out of your happy life and think about what those soldiers did in the name of freedom.”

We knew that we’d be going to the cemetery as well so we bought small American flags for each member of the two families. When we got there I offered one to everyone in the group suggesting that if they wanted they could find a tombstone against which they could put their flags. I gave no directives, just a suggestion that we think about who we would want to honor with our flags.We commented as we walked at the diversity of the names on those tombstones.

I chose the unknown soldier above. Another chose a nurse, while others chose soldiers with names that matched theirs or ones that had no particular significance but just felt right.

In the guest book I wrote, “With admiration and gratitude.” Others wrote simply, “Humbling.” It seems like so long ago and yet when you’re here, it’s hallowed ground. It was a glorious day without a cloud in the sky. We stood in the bunkers and thought about all of the bravery, leadership and vision that it took to turn the tides of that sad war.

So here’s my plan: I’m starting to knit a superwash wool neck gaitor for a soldier fighting in Afghanistan which I will finish by the end of the summer to get it there in time for winter. I’m also going to make a quilt for Quilts of Valor. I hope you too will do something to honor those who serve our country.

On this auspicious day I’ll be thinking about the inspiring words I read on the entry to the Omaha Beach Memorial:

‘You can manufacture weapons and you can purchase ammunition but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.” – Sgt. John B. Ellery of the US 1st Infantry Division

scarf blocking 101

design, just a thought, knitting

While living in Japan in the late ’80s I contracted the chicken pox on vacation in China. I was 28 and it hit me hard. For an entire month I was confined to my lovely apartment in Tokyo with little to do but sleep and wait it out. I didn’t even have the energy to make anything.

During my long hours lounging under the kotatsu (it’s a heavenly piece of Japanese furniture  that looks like a coffee table with a blanket sandwiched between the legs and top but underneath there’s a heating device that keeps your lower body toasty) I began watching Japanese daytime TV. There would be segments on talk shows about the skills one should have to be a good housewife. These segments were very informative and I learned a lot from them.

One that was particularly interesting was the segment on the proper way to hand wash wool sweaters. Up to that point I had always filled up the sink with cold water and some Woolite or Ivory or something and dumped the sweaters in. I swished them around a bit, kneaded them and then rinsed them out. I would roll them in towels to gently extract the extra water and lay them out to dry on a flat surface.

According to the Japanese lady with the lacy apron, all fibers are at their most delicate when they are wet so you should always keep the desired shape of the sweater, even under water. Then she took the sweater folded up as it would have been in the drawer and plunged it underwater without unfolding it.

This made a lot of sense to me because I had on occasion had sweaters that seemed to have longer arms after a washing or sometimes more narrow sleeves than they had before the washing. The lady said that long thin parts of the sweater are especially prone to losing shape during washing.

I took her advice and began to apply those principles to blocking handknit pieces as well. Scarves in particular can be hard to shape if you just dump them in the water. Below is the step-by-step process I use for blocking scarves. It may seem like a lot of extra steps but think of all of the time you put into that scarf. One of these days I might buy those fancy interlocking blocking pieces but for now, it’s a beach towel on the dining room table.

Fold the scarf like an accordion making sure to  straighten out the rolled edges, if you have any.

Gently place the scarf under water.

While it’s under water, gently unroll the rolled edges so they lie flat.

Keeping the accordion shape in tact, drain the water and rinse the scarf. Then carefully roll it out on a large towel.

Starting at one end of the scarf, roll up the towel and scarf together like a jelly roll.

Place your hands on the roll and squeeze out the excess water.

Carefully unroll the scarf onto a dry towel on a flat surface. I like to use striped beach towels for scarves because I can align the edge of the scarf with the stripe to the scarf dries straight. Place the scarf right side up to force any curls on the underside to flatten as the scarf dries.

Leave the scarf flat on the towel while it dries.

last call for 2009

better world, design, general crafts, knitting

Starting this blog was one of my favorite parts of 2009. I’ve so enjoyed reading your comments and finding out what’s of interest to you. I have a lot of tutorials and free patterns on deck for 2010 and would love to hear about which topics you’d like me to write about.

For all you bloggers out there, for Christmas my husband Bill thoughtfully used Blurb to compile my first year of posts on craft nectar and have it printed into the printed book shown above. It’s kind of fun to see a year’s worth of posts all in one place.

I bid a very fond farewell and give thanks to Warm Woolies, which ceased operations last week. Warm Woolies delivered hand-knitted wool clothing to orphanages around the world and I was delighted to have knit for the children they served. I’m saddened not to be able to get more orphaned children the warm clothing they need but understand that the logistics of distributing clothing around the world is complex indeed. My next sweater will go to a child in Afghanistan and will be distributed through Afghans for Afghans, another wonderful organization that distributes clothing to needy families. I’ll also be making some wool neck gaiters for US ground troops serving in Afghanistan that will be distributed by theshipsproject.com. Small acts with great love is how we change the world right?

Several of you have requested a tutorial of our one-step machine binding method featured in the Modern Quilt Workshop and that is on deck for 2010. One reader requested that I post the list of ways to troubleshoot tension problems on a long-arm quilting machine. I’ve found a link to a list that is similar to the one we had.

At the end of each year I always try to set aside a little time for daydreaming about the upcoming year. It’s not so much resolutions as planning for me. I dream about things I want to accomplish professionally and things I want to work on to be a better person but I also think about what I can do to keep myself inspired. In the coming weeks you’ll see posts about how I organize my lifestyle and my time so I can be as creative in my work as possible. I invite you to share your ideas for how to be creative and productive when all of the details of life sometimes distract you from what you really want to be doing. My favorite book on this subject is called The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and if you’re looking for a book to give you ideas on how to be more creative in 2010, look no further.

I’m ready for a new start. A new decade. New adventures. Come on 2010! I can’t wait!