Rippling Along

Ripply

“Like a blanket to wear around your neck,” we agreed. I’d been chatting with Melissa, who owns Seaside Yarns–the lovely little yarn shop here in Juneau. We are both crocheters from childhood and we have strong associations with granny squares and the popular zigzag patterns of the 1970s. My house has my grandmother’s scrap blankets on various beds and couches. We reach for them when we’re chilly or just need to feel comforted.

Missy and I wanted to have a fall project that would be soft and meditative, comforting. I had seen someone crocheting a ripple-stitch baby blanket the other day out of fingering weight baby yarn and that gave me the idea for a scarf. We settled on sock yarn–fine, washable, generous put up. And we picked a simple two-color stripe. It was serendipity that Missy had just gotten a new sock yarn into the shop–”Nordly’s Superwash” from Viking of Norway is a single-ply 75% wool, 25% nylon yarn with long color repeats that just begged to be turned into a stripy, ripply scarf.

Ripple yarn

So, join us, if you will, in rippling. You can use any yarn and hook you like. I’m using a US size F.

This is a one-row pattern that takes no time to memorize, so you’ll be rippling meditatively as you contemplate the color changes in your scarf or the ones out the window. Or, like me, you can listen to a book “on tape.” Mine is yet another vampire novel that I’m listening to via audio-book (A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, 1 thank you, Marly Bird for the recommendation).

Abbreviations:
sc-bl = single crochet in the back loop of the stitch. This makes the yummy, scrunchy ribbed texture of this scarf that compliments the undulations of the ripple.
shell = 3 sc-bl, or 3 sc in the foundation row, in the stitch indicated. After the foundation row, the shells will always be worked in the center stitch of the shell from the row below.

The pattern is adapted from Jan Eaton’s wonderful resource 200 Ripple Stitch PatternsIt’s a multiple of 11 stitches +10. You can make yours as narrow or as wide as you like. I began with a chain of 54, (i.e. 44 +10)

How to Ripple:

Foundation Row:  sc in 2nd ch from hook, and each of next 3 ch, *[shell in next ch, sc in next 4 ch, sk 2 ch, sc in ea of next 4 ch.] Repeat from * to last 5 ch, shell in next ch, sc in next 4 ch, turn.

Pattern Row: Ch 1. Skip 1st sc, sc-bl in the next 4 stitches *[shell in next st, sc-bl in next 4 sts, sk 2 sts, sc-bl in next 4 sts.] Repeat from * to last 6 sts, shell in next st, sc-bl in next 3 sts, skip 1 st, sc in both loops of final st, turn.

Repeat the pattern row to grow your scarf. Change colors every two rows carrying the unused color not too snugly up one side of the scarf. 2

Work the ripple, as Elizabeth Zimmerman might say, “until you can’t stand it any longer,” or until the scarf is generous enough to make several warm wraps around your neck or until you run out of yarn. I picked one multi-colored stripe and one semi-solid, and I’m already enjoying watching the shifts in color and the variations of contrast happening with my scarf. Yes, I’m easily entertained. Will we decide to add an edging or a fringe? Only time will tell. Let me know in the comments if you decide to join our ripple-along.

Notes:

  1. It was with this book that I discovered Amazon, who owns Audible.com now has the option of purchasing a bundled audio and kindle version of certain books, you can start reading, listen a bit, then go back to reading and your location is sync’d. The weird thing is, it’s cheaper to buy the kindle edition first and then add “voice narration,” than it is to buy the audiobook and subsequently add the kindle version.
  2. A little note about changing colors: when you reach the end of the second row of a color finish the final stitch by pulling up the last loop with the new color. That way your turning chain will be in the new color.

A Slice of August

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First published in The Cordova Times, 8/31/2012

A couple of weeks ago, I took the kids on our our first pilgrimage “down south” since 2010 to my family’s tiny cottage in Northern Wisconsin. People from my dad’s side of the family have been spending the summer in those woods on Lac Courte Oreilles for a century. I didn’t grow up in Wisconsin, but I grew up riding in the back seat of one tiny car or another from Upstate New York, through the homes of various friends and relatives, to our cottage, where we’d spend a couple of weeks each summer. The cottage is one of those places that feels like home: the smell of the pine, the stark white of birch trees against the green of the rest of the forest, the buzz of dragonflies and mosquitos, the way the grass feels dry and prickly underfoot in the August heat. So it was a surprise to me this summer when I realized there are many ways I don’t know the place at all.

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I know a tiny August sliver of these woods, but I know them the way a child would. I know not to touch poison ivy, to chew but not swallow wintergreen leaves for a treat that tastes like Life Savers, to canoe in the morning or at sunset when the lake is calm. I know that the land where we have our cottage is in traditional Ojibwa territory. I don’t know The North Woods the way I was beginning to learn my way around Cordova-the way, after three trips through the seasons, I was beginning to absorb the rhythm of the foraging year, from fern fronds and fireweed stalks to devils club buds and spruce tips, berries and mushrooms.

This year, we were at the lake a little later in August than usual, and I noticed that under those tasty wintergreen leaves there were bright red berries. Are those edible? (They are, and they taste minty like the leaves). I’m not the only one wondering. There was a book lying on the table in our cottage titled, “Jiibaakweyang,” which means, “We are Cooking Together,” in Anishinaabe, the language of the Ojibwa. The library at the local Ojibwa Community College collected the recipes and published the booklet. The members of the Ojibwa Community are actively working to learn and preserve their language and record and revitalize the traditional knowledge of the place where they live. Here’s an excerpt from a traditional recipe for Wintergreen tea:

“One woman’s handful of wintergreen leaves, 1 quart of red maple sap. Rinse the leaves if you have doubts about which beings have walked over them. Strain the fresh sap thru a cloth to remove bits of bark that would flavor the sap in ways you don’t want. Put the leaves in the sap and cook them…until almost boiling-not quite.”

I’ve never been at the cottage in sugaring season, so I’ve never tasted maple sap fresh from the tree, but it sounds delicious.

I subscribe to a food magazine called Lucky Peach. The magazine is usually filled with chefs like David Chang and Anthony Bourdain writing about eating too much in exotic places like Kyoto or Copenhagen. This quarter they produced an American Food issue, and in the middle of loud pieces on Kansas City pork barbecue and San Francisco seafood a more reflective essay caught my attention: “No reservations-The Hard-won Nourishment of the Ojibwe Tribe,” by David Treuer. Following his people through their history as a coastal tribe living in around the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway, through their migration to lake regions around the upper midwest, he searches for the culinary traditions of his people disrupted by war, westward expansion, and resettlement in reservations. He shares his family’s love for maple syrup, wild rice and fresh fish.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever know more than that late summer piece of what life in The North Woods is like, but I’m paying more attention. And I’m enjoying the bounty of a hot summer that can be elusive for us as Alaskans: fresh corn on the cob, vine-ripened organic tomatoes, and enough watermelon to make a small boy’s belly burst. Here’s a recipe for my family’s take on German Potato Salad. It’s something we can make year-round and anywhere in the country to remind us of summer meals on the screened-in porch-grilled bratwurst, Wisconsin beer, and a table overflowing with food grown nearby.

Cookie Buschmann’s German-ish Potato Salad

2 pounds small red potatoes
1 cup diced dill pickles
1 cup diced sweet onions
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced

Dressing

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T sugar
1 T stone ground mustard
1 t sea salt
1/2 t cracked pepper
Chopped fresh chives and parsley if you have them

Wash the potatoes and trim off any bad spots. Do not peel. Boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender. Drain, and allow to cool slightly-they can be warm. When they are cool enough to touch, Dice the potatoes in 1/2 inch pieces. Mix in pickles and onions. In a small bowl, whisk together, oil, mustard and vinegar, add sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in herbs. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture, then stir in the chopped egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Alaskatarian

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might have noticed that for the most part, my recipes are vegetarian, and often vegan. I stopped eating meat in 1996, and I was vegan for several years. I worked as a vegan chef in North Carolina, I was the nutrition editor of a vegan magazine for parents, I volunteered for the Earth Save, a vegan organization in Seattle. So, I wasn’t just a little bit vegetarian. When I moved to Alaska, my diet shifted. My politics didn’t. I still believe strongly in all of the environmental and ethical reasons for being vegetarian that I did before. I just found that in Alaska, I could eat wild game and fish that was sustainably caught and hunted by friends and family. Many Alaskans naturally live a lifestyle that enlightened city-dwellers elsewhere aspire to: they eat locally, they live with less stuff, they think carefully about their consumption. I made up a name for my family’s style of eating: Alaskatarian.

Recently, I started writing a column for The Cordova Times about food and life in South Central and Southeast Alaska. I used the same name “Alaskatarian” for my column. I’ll be cross-posting those pieces here on the blog from time to time, and I’ll link to the columns from this page. The recipe for the Salmon-Feta Savory pies you see above was in my first column, below.

A Fine Mesh

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I’m spending twelve days in Anchorage for my MFA residency. All the folks in the UAA low-residency masters in creative writing program gather once a year in July. We spend the day attending talks about the craft of writing and discussing one another’s work. It’s inspiring and exhausting. It’s one of my favorite times of year. There is a lot of sitting. I bring knitting or crochet along to keep my hands busy and focus my attention on the speaker.

I didn’t have too much time to plan projects, so I grabbed some yarn and hooks, and decided I decided that to revisit double crochet mesh. It’s airy and summery; mesh fabric grows quickly and drapes beautifully. I can crochet it without much thought. I’ve finished a scarf, and I’ve just started this little triangle shawl in Kauni. I love seeing the subtle shifts in color. I started this shawl a few times yesterday playing with where to place the increases. I’ve settled with edge and center increases in each row, and I like the winged shape that is forming. As I crochet the simple shawl, I’m meditating on what kind of edge might look nice.

The Birth of a Cocktail (with recipe, of course!)

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Yum!

Somehow over the course of a couple of days, we got from this:

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To this:

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Well… I blame Rebecca, who said this:

shooter

See… On Sunday, my birthday, the kids presented me with a homemade marshmallow “shooter.” They made some for themselves too. After the kids went to bed, we adults tried them out. I have to admit they are fun. The photo (above) on Facebook was proof.

Rebecca glanced at my caption before looking at the photo and thought I was talking about some kind of mixed drink. I saw her comment and thought, why shouldn’t there be a drink too? So, I mused on it a little, and chatted with my friend Stacy and bought some supplies… And last night we experimented a little coming up with…

The Marshmallow Shooter

Ingredients
Bourbon
Marshmallows
1/2 c. Chocolate Chips
2 Graham Crackers (crushed)
Shot glasses

Crush the graham crackers (we did it by hand)
Melt the chocolate chips (we did it in the microwave)

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Dip the shot glass in the chocolate (I was pretty generous with the chocolate), and then coat with graham cracker crumbs. Toast your marshmallows. (We didn’t have a fire or hot coals, we used a candle, which doesn’t really toast the marshmallow–but it got the edges crispy. I think it’s better that the inside of the marshmallow is not melted).

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Fill your shot glass with bourbon.

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Put the marshmallow into the glass and let it soak for a minute. Take a bite of bourbon-soaked marshmallow, and then a sip of burbon with the coated rim. Enjoy! (Warning: This type of deliciousness has been known to lead to repeat consumption, and even rare cases of ukulele playing.)

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Painting with Wool

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The last time I taught my Sweater Reclamation class (up-cycling old wrecked wool sweaters into fun felted projects) my students really got into the little needle felted embellishments that we were adding so I promised them I’d offer a needle felting class. Tonight we met at The Canvas–which is a wonderful non-profit art studio in Juneau–and I taught needle felted landscapes. Or at least, that’s what I called it so folks would feel like they had a purpose… Really, we were just playing with wool. The instruction part of this class takes about one minute, and then we chat and trade colors and share ideas and “crunch, crunch, crunch,” stab wool into wool to make a picture.

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“This is really relaxing,” someone said just a few minutes into the process. We kept our projects pretty small so we could finish in the three hour class, and most of us did.

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People brought inspiration photos and artwork. Two people brought their visiting moms to take the class with them! I love how in the photo above, one artist is using a postage stamp as her inspiration.

It’s not often I get to play along with my students, but I did get to tonight. My attempt is the one at the top of the blog. This photo I took on one of my walks was my inspiration. I was inspired to add the raven by a greeting card that another artist brought.

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I love the variety of pieces that people created. This deep blue background in this one made us all think of Henri Matisse.

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In keeping with my affection for up-cycling, we used old sweaters as our canvas, and this artist let the sweater become part of her piece. I love how she used  dyed mohair locks for her fireweed blossoms.

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The final landscape was created by a children’s book author. She’s writing a story about loons and we all thought she should illustrate it herself with needle felted pictures. I love how she blended her colors.

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Spitfire

I’ve just gotten back from a long weekend on “The Spit” in Homer, Alaska attending the Kachemak Bay writer’s conference.  As keynote speaker Barry Lopez reminded us that “the first rule of writing is to pay attention,” I realized that I want to return to blogging as part of my writing practice. I have neglected this blog over the last year or so because I’ve been focusing my writing time on my MFA. But I miss blogging. Some of what I like about blogging I find on Facebook and Twitter, but here I can talk about things that take longer to say. The thing is, I want to write about things that go beyond yarn and crafts. I want to write about writing itself, write about the books I read which aren’t always about knitting or crochet, write about life. I’ve thought about starting a new blog to do this, but I’ve decided to start here. I hope you don’t mind the change of subject. I’m sure I won’t get away from yarn completely, or food, or bears.

Lots of things caught my attention at this conference. First and foremost, the people. Writers, faculty, and staff have a generosity of spirit that you notice in their warm greetings, their eagerness to share the successes of writer friends, and their humor about living the writing life in Alaska. Alaska writer laureate Peggy Shumaker is the epitome of  this generosity. It seemed almost every sentence she spoke was extolling the wonders of another writer. I told her she is my favorite book evangelist, and she said she’d wear the title proudly.

One of the wonderful things about my trip to Homer was the lodging. My friend and fellow student Judith Lethin lives in Seldovia–across the bay from Homer and off the road system. She and her husband keep a little RV over in Homer and we stayed in it–parked right on the beach next to the conference hotel during the conference. Here’s the view from my bed:

View from my bed in the RV

There were so many great classes offered that it was hard to choose what to take at each session. I decided to go for stuff I wouldn’t get in my residency–I went heavy on poetry and learned to write a Pantoum–one of the “obsessive forms.” (I’m quickly deciding that poets get to have all the fun).  I met another Alaskan O’Neill–Dan O’Neill who talked about what it’s like to write about Alaska for non-Alaskans and entertained us all with stories of convincing editors that yes, all that stuff really happens up here.

I got a book I’d been waiting to read. Steam Laundry, by Nichole Stellon O’Donnell is a novel in poems (and letters, receipts, pictures, historical documents) about the sixth woman to move to Fairbanks, AK during the gold rush. I started it on the plane home and I was immediately hooked. It is captivating and beautiful to read.

If you want to know more about the conference please read one of the great write-ups by blogger friends, Theresa, David, Nichole, Linda, and Erin.  I was inspired and refreshed–I saw old friends and met new ones. And as Theresa says, the conference ended with a bonfire and sharing music–I got out the ukulele, Theresa played her fiddle, new friends TJ and Ed joined us on Banjo and Guitar. Whiskey was had. There was harmony. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. (Photo swiped from Theresa, who got it from our friend Nichelle Seeley.)

 

New Pattern on CRAFT: Crocheted Mobïus Cowl

This pattern sat and hibernated by my desk for some time before I got a chance to publish it. Now that it’s out there, I’m thinking it might be fun to make another. I’m contemplating scrounging about in my stash for some complementary colors (it can be made with practically any yarn), but first I’ve got to finish an essay for a school deadline this Friday. No crocheting for me this week!

One of the fun things about moving is meeting new people, and I am exceptionally lucky here in Juneau to have Stacy La Mascus for a neighbor. She’s a teacher in Jay’s school, she plays the baratone ukulele and has a beautiful voice, and she’s a super-fun friend who indulges my occasional need for bad late-night TV. On top of all that, she’s a professional photographer, and she agreed to do the shoot for this new pattern.

Cowl 2

We had fun down at one of my favorite spots near my house, Sandy Beach. It was chilly, and I would not advise wearing high-heeled leather boots in the sand. But we had a good time trying not to be too silly or too serious.

This cowl is one I love to wear because it’s so versatile. I usually wear it doubled around my neck, but I love that you can wear it pulled over your shoulders or even, as Stacy dubbed it, “babushka style,” pulled over your head.

Crocheting the cowl is simple and meditative once you get beyond the initial chain and mobïus join.  One of the fun things about the project is the fact that it grows out from the center, so you get symmetrical stripes when you change colors. Play with the stripe sequence to come up with an entirely different look.

Book Review (and Giveaway!): Seamless Crochet

 

I always get excited when there’s a new crochet book to explore, but the ones that really catch my fancy are about techniques. Kristin Omdahl’s new book, Seamless Crochet: Techniques and Designs for Join-As-You-Go Motifsis not just a technique book, it’s a technique new to most American crocheters. Lately, with the help of Robyn Chachula and other innovative crocheters we’re learning that motifs can be joined as you crochet them. There are a lot of benefits to joining as you go. My favorite is having a completed project once the motifs are done. Kristin’s book takes this concept one step further by using a special starting chain technique to create each motif without cutting the yarn. Not only do you join as you go–you avoid having thousands of ends to weave in. Of course, the book is not about saving time, it’s about making the most of this new technique to create beautiful fashionable garments.

The cover project, “Blissful Flowers,” is possibly  my favorite. Kristin, who lives where it’s warm, is a pro at creating designs with gorgeous drape and textural interest. I love how the joining points create a beautiful structure and geometry. The “Eden Tile” wrap looks like a perfect project to try first: simple motifs that create a stunning finished scarf. Kristin explores how to use the technique with shaping to create garments and how to use solid motifs to make warm projects like a hat and a blanket.

Because I’m a bit of a technique geek, my favorite part of the book is in the back where she carefully explains how the technique works, and how you can use it to create your own designs. One of the things I’m most excited to play with is using the technique with color-changing yarns. Since you’re not breaking yarn between motifs, the projects in the book are are all of one kind of yarn each. I’ve got a skein of Kauni that is destined to be a shawl from the book. The book comes with a video of Kristen skillfully demonstrating how seamless crochet works.

You can play too! Leave me a comment here sharing how you’d like to use Seamless Crochet to create something new and you’ll be entered to win a digital copy of the book from Interweave. I’ll choose a winner at random on February 16th.

 

My crocheting hits the wires…

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen.

James has been in Nome for a bit over a week helping to coordinate the delivery of a Russian fuel barge that was led by a Coast Guard ice breaker. You may have heard about this story because it’s been in the news almost as much as the snow in Cordova, the town we left this summer. James’s project in Nome is exciting and cold work–he had a near injury when he absentmindedly stuck his keys in his mouth in 30-below temperatures! Yesterday, this picture of James smashing ice with a sledge was run by the Associated Press and his picture ended up in a little under 500 newspapers! In what to most of the world is a side note, he’s wearing a hat I made him!

Here’s the hat close-up on a warmer day:

I’m glad to be present and helping to keep him warm in some small way while he’s up there in the frozen north. Speaking of frozen, it’s quite cold here in Juneau this week, 5-10 degrees, so I’m glad to be making a pair of fingerless mitts for the class I’m teaching this Thursday night. When I’m sitting still at home, despite the heater and my cup of tea, my hands get cold. The mitts are a big help.

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