It All Got Started…

…when I hung some curtains, well, I suppose, they are sheers. Well, they’re not exactly sheers either… they’re cotton swiss dot… uh… things to hang in a window that prevents everyone driving by from looking in when your daughters are putting on yet another two hour dance show. And now I’m in the throes of moving things all over the house.

The Sheers or Something

But we started with window coverings. And look! It worked! Privacy that doesn’t exclude the pretty, pretty light! Unfortunately, all that nice, filtered, soft light made it obvious the rest of the room needed some work. Or maybe it was all the piles of stuff in the shelf and under and beside the bed that I had managed to ignore before that sent me over the edge.

Old Bed Arrangement

Old Dresser Position

We’ve shifted the girls around a bit in the past few months, to try to align sleeping with room arrangements, one moving into her own room and the baby into a new room and a new bed. It’s been going… uh… it’s been going… hmm. I guess it’s been going. Eventually we want all the girls to be in the same room, but we couldn’t quite wrap our head around how to arrange the beds. with all the windows and doors. So I decided I would try to fit a bed where the dresser was, and move the dresser in front of the window.

Dresser in Window

It was feeling a bit cramped. But I persevered!

And yes, before we go any further, you’re right, there is a significant amount (nearly all of it) of IKEA furniture and other fixin’s in here. Ah… IKEA… we have flipped and flopped with our decisions to add more of their products in our home. I think it will likely always be a mix of their pieces and old vintage flea market finds for us; IKEA is practical, their manufacturing processes are economical, and their environmental practices are a far cry above others, and honestly, you pay the right price for what you’re getting. I find most furniture stores offering similar quality pieces for a significant percentage more and paying all that money for something the kids will only need/use/want for a few years boggles my mind.

Flipped Around

But back to the arrangements, I surprisingly liked putting the beds in front of the window, flipping them with the dresser, the pushing the youngest’s bed closest to the wall. And now it’s obvious the third bed can easily fit!

Different Angle

The Rug

All the past week (I started with a bang, then the schedule overtook us all) making changes in the room, organizing the stack, tossing out things that were beyond broken or were no longer useful, moving furniture from other parts of the house, refinishing some pieces, dusting everything and scrubbing baseboards, packing up small clothing sizes out and bringing in things that fits… there has been a lot of work here, but it’s still not done. I’ll show you more as things settle and plans are made.

One thing that’s absolutely certain? This rug has gotta go! I think I’m going to sell it, but NOT to someone who has small children who enjoy legos. Or beads. Or playmobile… or anything small, plastic or wood, with sharp or pointy edges. Well, not unless they sign a waiver. Stepping across this rug in bare feet is both brave and stupid… and I don’t want to be held liable for someone else’s pain and suffering.

Yeah, it started with the sheers, and now I’m knee deep in the thick of it all over the house. Hopefully I can dig my way back out this week!

International Knitting :: The Tan House Brook Shawl

As many knitters understand, deciding what knitting to bring along for an extended trip is something that deserves a fair amount of thought. Not only do you need a pattern that is relatively simple (traveling, I’m afraid, isn’t a great time to whip out your heirloom lace knit… well at least not for me), that doesn’t take a large number of skeins (luggage size/weight limits are unmoved by pleas from desperate wool lovers), is rather compact (some passengers on an overly-cramped, international flight might frown upon being occasionally poked by knitting needles), but you also need something that will hold your interest and not be complete before your trip back home is over. In addition, it also behoves one to learn of various airport regulations regarding the allowances or prohibitions of getting knitting needles past security—Charles du Gaulle, for instance, does not permit knitting needles on the plane—so you’ll also need to carefully consider which equipment to take or leave at home or pack in the checked bags as appropriate.

Casting On

Equally important, of course, is the choice of yarn. Because you can not bring your entire stash with you, it is necessary to take some time to consider where you’re going and what you’ll be knitting. I would strongly advise against selecting black, worsted wool for a summer vacation in Greece, or a fluffy glittery angora for your eight hour flight. You might think, as a knitter might, that one can obtain yarn almost anywhere in the world and that a yarn shopping excursion sounds like a wonderful use of down time while on vacation, but the sad truth is that even yarn shop owners like to take a break every now and then. So you may just find yourself standing in front of the singular yarn shop on your beautiful get away island staring at a “gone fishing for August” sign in deep despair. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.

My Own Yarn

Which is how, upon the wise recommendations of my most experienced knitting friends, I found myself winding up my very own hand-spun for a beautiful shawl the day before I flew out. Socks and shawls, they told me, are a knitter’s best friends for long, uninterrupted expanses of travel time, shorter lay-overs, and slowly swaying train rides past fields of golden sunflowers. This was the first time I wound my own yarn for an actual knitting project. I’ve been slowly collecting skeins, eking out a few moments to spin here and there, and the collection has outgrown it’s designated spot. It was just about time to find some way of using what I’ve made. I wish I could tell you more about the fiber—I had it all carefully recorded, the weight, the dye house and colorway, the yardage—but other than the blend (panda roving which is a lovely mix of merino, bamboo, and viscosemy favorite spinning fiber thus far), I’m afraid all other info is lost. I’m hoping the band will pop up as I get the house cleaned up, but for now, it will have to remain a mystery.

On The Med

One of the other bonuses of having such wise and experienced knitting friends, is that a few of them are designers! One of my newer knitting friends, Jennifer Lassonde of Down Cellar Studio, offered up her absolutely lovely Tan House Brook Shawl pattern, which fit all the considerations for the right project perfectly. I waited to cast on until I arrived in Frankfurt, trying my best and utterly failing, to sleep on the flight over in attempts to mitigate the effects of jetlag. And I managed a few rows there as well as the subsequent flight and layover to Athens before arriving in Crete, where I discovered much to my delight, that the hotel room my friend and I were to share, had an absolutely stunning balcony over looking the Mediterranean, perfect for sipping coffee, knitting, and napping!

On The Plane

The Tan House Brook shawl is a lovely, lovely knit, just what I needed for both the trip and my second shawl. Rows of soothing ole’ stockinette to help me recover from nearly 20-some hours of travel, before getting into a perfect little bit of textured stiches, just in time to keep my interest while waiting for the flight to land in Paris. I am sure the passengers next to me are also unknowingly thankful for Jennifer’s pattern, since I managed to leave them in peace instead of asking “are we there yet” the number of times I would have if left unoccupied.

And it was a great companion for our train ride across France and into Germany where we met up with my husband’s relatives for their annual family reunion in his hometown.

 

On The Train

I was hoping that I would finish it while I was away, but unfortunately due to the regulations at Charles du Gaulle, where the belief is that knitting needles are weapons of mass destruction and terror and not the tools of peace and charity, I had to pack it in the checked bag for the flight home. I was a little worried about what I was going to do with all those hours of sitting without some knitting within my hands, but that was before I remembered about the in-flight entertainment system and all the movies I haven’t been able to see in the past two years. But I am hoping to finish it up in the next week or so as I find myself sitting on the sidelines watching a few kids kick a ball back and forth for the next few weekends.

And if you do find yourself so very anxious regarding the sitting on a plane for nine hours without anything to occupy your hands, you may find that a skein of sock yarn and a few bamboo double pointed straights mixed in with all your pens and pencils in the pocket of your purse do not seem to cause any alarm, concern, or the forcible removal of said items from your cold, sweaty-palmed hands. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.

 

 

Squam :: Of Pathfinding and Salt and Hay-Scented Fern

During the summers when I was a small child, we used to drive several hours to my grandmother’s camp nearly every weekend, to a small, no-longer-mobile home placed on a small, cleared piece of property up a hill from a not-so-small river. There were, on any given weekend, a range of five to ten adults and seven or more of us little cousins. I remember that time more as a vignette than a storyboard, an abstraction of knees and heels and elbows, sharp angles and unfiltered energy covered in mosquito-bite scabs and sunburns; sweaty, our hair plastered to our foreheads as we lay on the floor of the back bedroom, a jumble of blankets and pillows, too excited to sleep, each of us filled with whispers and summer songs and scary stories.

Memories of a River

There are a handful of particular moments that rise above the din, but for my purposes here, it is the gestalt where I am finding my thoughts drawn. It is difficult to describe this phenomenon fully, what I picture is more of memory of a memory, a trace left behind of what has been forgotten. I believe these are the roots of nostalgia, a longing to capture those wispy threads and weave them into something more than a few frames of a short movie clip, a desire to process their meaning into something relevant to our lives as we live them now so we can preserve the ephemeral and transform it into what we believe is more concrete.

Sitting on the Dock

It is within this space where I am now processing the past week spent at Squam. I have been trying to write about the experience for the past three days, but haven’t found the right way of stringing together the words to properly convey and commit those moments to the meaning I intend. I find myself thinking about the pleasures and taste of salt, the difficulties of describing that intensity, the brightness, complexity mixed with desire, and somehow an understanding of how it all comes together without the ability to call it anything else than by what is already known. There are no simple words for it, and using metaphor is the only clumsy way in which I can imagine it might make sense.

Little Bits of Work

On Friday morning I found myself a tiny bit lost in the woods of New Hampshire, not realizing I was on the incorrect path until I found myself at the far edge of the camp. I wasn’t truly lost with the lake on my right, and I didn’t have a particular schedule so I felt little need to continually compare the forks in the road with the map I carried along. I was trying to find a way to capture the beautiful paths that led through the woods through the lens of my camera, paths that were hard to find and impossible to photograph while looking ahead, yet magically appeared under your feet with each steady-paced step.

Hidden Path

That walk was so very evocative of the woods in the backyard of my childhood and the entire placed smelled like my grandma’s camp. “Hay-Scented Fern,” my cabin mate Ivy pointed correctly toward the lacy green covered ground, but she didn’t know what she was missing in her description; she carries none of my memories of elbows and summer scabs. Her nostalgia was fed by the sounds of squeaky sliding summer doors. Olivia, by thoughts of screened-in lake-view porches for a summer’s worth of writing. Or Jenn, by the paths left on her body mapping her entry into motherhood. Only short, shared glimpses of a whole that is difficult to see, capture, or describe fully, but imbued with meaning none-the-less.

Hay-Scented Fern

And so it is with Squam. A collection of amazing women, in an incredible setting, exploring our creativity, and restoring our spirits. Each of us finding and losing and finding once more our own paths, intersecting with others, connecting through experience and stories over smoky camp fires in rustic cabins, coffee served in thimbles, and meals announced by the ringing of a bell carrying clearly over the still waters of the lake. Words that describe only the vaguest sense of what the experience actually meant to those who participated. And therein lies the crux of my problem; I am grasping at all the threads gently drifting on currents of thought, trying to tie together that which is amorphous and unwilling to be shaped by restrictive constraints of words falling inextricably in line to explain the entirety of something too abstract to properly convey.

Process Piece

Squam is the path; impossible to see beyond the length of your step or to capture through the limitations of any lens, but unfolding steadily as it was always meant to be. And we are the salt; a richness, a point of saturation in sensation, an experience that defies description, but is instantly understood by all who know it.

Be Back Soon

This is an incomplete and unworthy metaphor, this talk of salt and paths, but it the best I can manage. Perhaps the words will come to me next year—and yes, I will absolutely return—when likely I will once again find myself following an unexpected trail with an unknown destination. I will think of the friends I made; fellow mamas who pack up all the belongings and move themselves and their four children on a boat to set sail to far away islands; women who feed the hungry of their community every Tuesday for eight years with soups and salads and twelve loaves of the bread they make each week; two women who maintain their cross-coast connection through Squam every year but are willing to open their arms to welcome new friends; vibrant women who have already written two books before they’ve reached mid-life, and who will share openly their passion and talents and offer honest advice; women who are our personal icons who teach and nurture us along this path and share themselves and open their hearts (and studios) as the most amazing resources…

And I will be sure to think of salt once more.

Of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Start Where You Are

Start where you are.
Use what have.
Do what you can.
—Arthur Ashe

It has been a long, drawn out, tumultuous sort of year for us, full of surprises—welcome and not so much—where most energy has been sunk into getting through the days with as little drama as possible.

Slowly, though, the tide is shifting, and the art of surviving is taking less of my focus and the daydreaming and wishful thinking displacing the strain is making me hopeful that time for creating won’t be too far behind.

The Baby’s Room :: Dressing the Windows

I’m making progress, one slow little baby step at a time, on the littlest one’s room. I’d really like to have it “done” by the end of the week, but the more time I spend in there, the more ideas I come up with, which isn’t helping with the whole let’s get it done mentality.

One of the things I worked on this weekend was dressing up her bare naked windows.

Bare Naked Blinds

How do you feel about window coverings? There were sheers and curtains on nearly every window in each room in the house when I was growing up. And my mom still feels like a window without a curtain is pretty close to a criminal act. But I’ve got to tell you, here in this house, we hate the though of covering any little bit of the view out of ours. It might have something to do with how dark our first house was and how light-starved we felt, or possibly it’s how sometimes we have to pinch ourselves just to make sure that view is real life, or maybe it’s just that I’m too cheap to buy large swaths of fabric that do so very little other than look nice. I do have to admit there are certain windows that needs some sort of privacy covering (bathroom, anybody?), but I still have trouble finding anything I want to put up.

Whatever the reason for our window covering hesitation, we were incredibly thankful that the previous owners had installed room-darkening roller blinds on all the bedroom windows. Our kids go down incredibly early every night (5 pm for the baby and 6.30 for the older kids) and those room darkening shades certainly help in the spring and summer months when there is more light in the evening. I have to tell you, I am not so enamored with the brown/tan/taupe material used to make each one. The good thing is, when they’re down, it’s too dark to see them, and when they’re rolled up, you see only the tiny bit of the topper. But, those few inches really aggravated me.

I had a little idea, and thanks to ebay, a little box arrived in the mail a few days later. I found a sweet lot of delicate white handkerchiefs, which I thought would work nicely laid across the valance (how do you pronounce this… VALance or vaLANCE?) helping me achieving the vintage feel I’m trying to create in the room.

Handkerchiefs

When I opened the box, I caught the faint scent of a delicate perfume. The handkerchiefs themselves were in beautiful condition and the handwork blew me away. Tiny little knots, crocheted lace, hemstitching, embroidered details, super fine fabric; all of it reminiscent of another, more genteel time.

Not So Naked Anymore

I’m happy to report that this idea came together very easily and just as I imagined. The fabric is so airy light it is very nearly transparent.

Little Details

All those beautiful details are even more pronounced when the sunlight filters through and it doesn’t feel like we are blocking any of our spectacular sea view.

Hemstiched

Handkerchief Valance

Beautiful Hand Embroidery

The best thing about this? It is completely no-sew. They are simply folded and tucked into the crevice between the topper and the window frame. And when they get dusty? I can just give them a little tug and throw them into the washing machine.

Beautiful Borders

Such Detail

Crocheted Edge

They cover that rather indelicate brown/taupe/tan valance with just a hint of girliness.

Quite the View

Well, that was pretty easy! Now, onto a few more changes before the week is out!

The Baby’s Room :: The Dresser

A few weeks ago, the baby turned two. I took this as a sign that I really should get moving on finishing her room, you know, before my husband takes it over as his office sometime in the next few months. A few weeks before her birthday, the dresser we bought from IKEA met an untimely and unfortunate death (well, at least the bottom drawer did) which has had a rather devastating waterfall effect on the state of her room. If there’s no place to put the clothes, they stay in baskets, until she decides it’s time to empty said baskets of course. It was time to get things cleaned up.

Enter this lovely.

Naked

A friend of mine has been moving her house around and decided to get rid of a few pieces, this one included.

Dresser Before

The dresser was a tad dusty, the top had a bit of water damage, and needed just a tiny bit of TLC, but otherwise, it was a beautiful piece. So I got out my sander, some paint and wax, and this is what I came up with.

The Dresser

It fits in the corner perfectly, and since the side panel is the view I see from my perch on the rocking chair I decided it need just a little touch of something extra…

Side View

a touch of hand-painted pattern, wiped away and slightly distressed.

Top Corner

I was hoping it would look a bit like old and faded wallpaper. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the result.

Pattern Detail

It was a bit gut-wrenching to go at the pattern with a wet cloth and sand paper, but I went slowly as I built up my courage, and I think the end result was worth the distress.

Dresser Front

The front panels of the dresser seemed to be in pretty good shape, but was feeling a bit rough. I can not believe what a difference 320 grit paper and some dark wax made. I tried the Howard Restore-A-Finish, but I have to say it was the dark wax that made the biggest difference.

Bottom Corner

I painted an undercoat of Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg Blue, touched it up in a few places in with a bit of petroleum wax, then painted a top coat of Annie Sloan’s Provence Blue. A bit of sanding, the pattern painted on top, then a coat of clear wax and a few touches of dark wax to age it ever so slightly.

Dresser Top

The top was sanded down to bare wood, then stained with two different colors of minwax Sedona and Mahogany Red (straight up stain without the poly) with two or three light and buffed coats of dark wax. It’s hard to describe just how much the new top glows.

Booties

And last but not least, the pair of teeny tiny booties I knit for her, which evidently, I have forgotten to write about. You’ll see the sweater in a later post about her room, once I finish up another wall.

Boy I hope I get this room finished up soon!

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Have you visited these awesome sites where I’ve shared this project?  ::  Miss Mustard Seed  ::  The Shabby Creek Cottage  ::  The Handmade Home  ::  Funky Junk Interiors  ::  Finding Silver Pennies  ::  Under the Table and Dreaming  ::  Today’s Creative Blog