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Archive for October, 2008

A Gorgeous Perfect Day for Halloween

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I just went outside in a sleeveless dress, barefoot, and swept all the fall leaves off the back steps. It is 68F (room temp) and the sun has been shining for more than its usual 10 seconds at a time. Someone is mowing the lawn.

I’ve been dyeing yarn, now I’m shifting gears so we can sing tonight in Pontiac. All is right with the world.

Meet the Artist: LynnH Yarns at Rae’s, Sunday

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

colorjoybasketyarn16.jpgI am preparing for a big, fun event which will occur Sunday. At Rae’s Yarn Boutique in Lansing, Michigan, we are having a “Meet the Artist” event this Sunday, November 2, from 11am-3pm. I am dyeing all sorts of lovely yarns in preparation for the event.

This week’s yarns can be called my “Sea and Sky Collection.” The dyes I have been attracted to in my studio are mostly cool… from green, through turquoise, indigo, cobalt, royal purple, and plum. There is at least one raspberry as well, but the majority of the colorways thus far are cool and refreshing like a dip in the still lake. I think you will like them. (Photo top right is from a previous batch of yarns, all sold.)

I will have a large stock of my longstanding signature yarn, Cushy ColorSport. This is a DK weight yarn (the manufacturer called it Sport, thus the name), a gorgeous machine wash/machine dry merino wool, which feels like it is made of springs, it might as well have lycra content but it does not. Great stuff.

The ColorSport comes in 1/2 pound skeins, two skeins make a baby blanket, and can make a sweater in several sizes. DK yarn is thinner than Worsted-weight yarn, which means you get more square feet of knitted fabric for the same number of ounces, but this is dense enough to be warm with less thick fabric.

I will also have some Funky Felty, a yarn I released less than a year ago for the first time. It is an Aran/Heavy Worsted, which can substitute in favorite patterns for Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted (though it has a multiple-ply structure so it feels lighter).

And the big excitement? A cashmere-blend yarn intended for socks. This is thicker than standard fingering-weight sockyarn, it’s looking like a DK weight from its specifications. It’s squishy and soft and pettable. Lovely stuff. Rae has a skein of this for pre-display at her cash register right now, in a colorway I’m calling “Purpleberry.” (My dad always said blueberries were not blue, they looked purple to him… this colorway is several variations on purple plus a wonderful rich purple-blue.)

If you are in town and interested in wool, yarn or knitting, I hope you will be able to make it to the event. It will be something of a Party, with prizes. If you buy $40 in yarn you get a free pattern which will work with the yarn you purchased. Please consider stopping by!

Halloween: The Fabulous Heftones in Pontiac!

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I received an official notice today from Maggie Ferguson of Live from the Living Room, announcing our Halloween concert this Friday. Here is what she wrote:


located in the atrium of
7 N. Saginaw St.
Pontiac, MI

Admission: $5.00/person
8:15 pm to 10:30 pm

With your hosts:

Happy Halloween!

This week is our big Halloween Spooktacular.

Dennis, Annie, Denise, Marilyn, Andy, Jack and I are going all out to bring you a very cool, haunted event! Our special guests will be THE FABULOUS HEFTONES whose vintage music will make the event particulary reminiscent of the Golden Age of Halloween – the Roaring Twenties!

Treats! Frightful Decorations! Costumes! Tricks! Prizes!

The Living Room believes in a kinder, gentler version of Halloween. No blood, maniacs, chain saws, or severed body parts will be present (unless you bring them yourself). For our part, we’re planning a good old-fashioned haunted Halloween party!

Costumes are encouraged, but not required.


MAGGIE FERGUSON and DENNIS KINGSBURY open the show with several of their own compositions as well as a few interesting covers.

Now featuring the music of FoxFire with Maggie Ferguson and Denise Marie Stein.

Special guest appearances by Marilyn and Andy Mather!

THE FABULOUS HEFTONES – “perform love songs and novelty numbers in the genre called “Tin Pan Alley.” The music was mostly written in New York City in the 1920’s, though they play music anywhere from the late 1800’s to the early 1930’s.

– Lynn plays a fun upright acoustic bass that looks like a large banjo. The instrument is called a Heftone, and it was invented/built by Brian’s father, Larry Hefferan. A friend named our band after the bass many years ago, and it stuck.

– Brian plays a mean ukulele, and we both sing and whistle. Brian also vocalizes in a style which can substitute for a trumpet solo. This style of singing was very common in the 1920’s. One performer who sometimes sang in this way was Cliff Edwards, otherwise known as Ukulele Ike.

If any of you will be in the area and looking for some fun, I am absolutely sure you will find it here. There will be many prizes and lots of good times. Please consider joining us!

A Chat About Stripes and Changing Colors in Knitting (long)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

A Great Question
I got an inquiry from someone who bought my Chippy Socks for Kids pattern. She wanted to know if she could use the pattern just for the structure of a sock without changing yarns.

Of course, the answer is yes. She could choose to find a yarn with the same gauge (DK, knit at 6.25 st/inch) and knit the same structure.

In fact, one person on Ravelry has knit these with one color for the foot and cuff and another color for ribbing, heel and toe, with excellent results. If you are a member of Ravelry, you can click this link to see her project.

Changing the Look of a Pattern

The writer was wanting to use a self-striping yarn, and wondered how that would work. It would also work fine, though it’s a bit hard to find a self-striping yarn in DK weight.

However, there are all sorts of solid sweater yarns that work, including Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Cascade Fixation, and a number of Rowan yarns. More UK-based yarns are called DK than those from the US, and in Australia they call it 8-ply (even if it has a different number of actual plies in the yarn).

Changing Yarns

And actually, one can hold two strands of fingering-weight standard sockyarn to get a DK gauge. So holding two sockyarns together and knitting my Chippy socks without following the charts would make the right gauge. Consider one solid and one self-striping yarn.

Changing Yarns Mid-Project

I think, though, that the inquiree and many others may be intimidated about having two or more yarns going in one project. This is too bad, because color brings such fun to a project. Stripes are the easy way to start.

I find that people cut their yarn often. In so many cases, this is just not necessary! They often cut the yarn tail so short that it is nearly impossible to thread it into a needle and work it in. Or they tie knots, which would make an uncomfortable sock.

Here is the essence of what I wrote to the woman who asked (about using self-striping yarn with the Chippy Socks for Kids pattern), with a few extra paragraphs for you in blogland:

Yes, you can get nice results with the Chippy Socks pattern as a standard sock pattern for any yarn, striping or solid. The yarn specified is DK weight; the gauge I expect you will get with that is 6.25 stitches/inch.

Most self-striping yarns are either fingering (for socks) or worsted (for sweaters, not as common). Fingering is smaller yarn and will bring an associated smaller gauge. However, choosing a larger sock size from the pattern, with that smaller yarn, could get you something in the ballpark.

Customizing to Make it Fit

If you are trying to meet a specific size for a particular kid right away, you will have to figure out how many stitches per inch you are getting. You want the gauge (in the round) times the number of inches the child’s foot measures around the ball, times .9 (which is 10% smaller than the foot measurement). A sock should be a little smaller than the foot to make it stay on snugly. Sometimes adults go to .8 or 20% smaller, which I personally prefer, but for growing kids go with the conservative number.

(If he has a foot that measures 5″ around the ball, and your gauge is 7 st/inch, 5 x 7 is 35, times .9 gives you 31.5 as an ideal stitch count. Typical sock patterns require a multiple of 4 stitches, so for a standard sock pattern you would cast on 32 stitches to get that size.

Since this pattern was designed for 6.25 st/inch and I tried to match kid shoe sizes at that gauge, there is no size specified for 32 stitches… you would have to choose 28 or 36 stitches. Most times for kids, you round up so they can grow into them, so you could start with the sock requiring 36 stitches as the cast on.)

Changing Colors Can Be Simple

Even if you wanted to just change colors for heels and toes, it’s not a big deal. Just literally pick up a new color and start knitting with it, leaving maybe a 4-6″ end to work in later with a sewing needle on the inside. Stripes are really easy, just leave the yarn you don’t need hanging where you will pick it up later, pick up the new yarn color and start knitting.

Only cut yarn when you will not be knitting with it for quite a distance. Then leave a nice long tail for sewing later.

Preventing Gaps at the Color Change

When you are changing yarns, here’s what I do to keep it from gapping open a little hole at the change-over. When you are done with a color, drop it down and to the left, and then pick up your new color from the bottom and up to the right (or think counter-clockwise if that works better in your mind).

Each time you change, always drop left and pick up from right. This will twist the yarns together just a little. Make sure to keep a little tension between the two yarns when you start with a new color. That will make the change less noticeable.

If you don’t make stripes more than 3 rounds wide, you do not have to cut any yarn when you change stripe colors. Yes, there will be a slight jog where the colors change. The jog will go up a straight line, usually at the very back of the foot above the heel.

The Jog: No Big Deal

This jog does not bother me at all, though some people have tricks to make it not show as much. I figure it’s much less obvious than a sewn garment’s seams, and we accept seams as normal. It’s just part of the structure of knitting in a tube. For those who are wearing the socks, they won’t even see it!

Working in Loose Ends

I like to work my tails in on a diagonal, so that the fabric stretches well. If I’m working with a contrasting color that may show through, I use a sharp needle and actually split the yarn on the back side of the fabric as I work in the ends. That way, the contrast color is less likely to peek through.

If you work maybe 4 stitches in one direction, then make a u-turn with the yarn and head back parallel to the first diagonal, that u-turn will work like a knot. If you want a second u-turn for slippery yarn, you can do so.

The biggest thing about working in ends is to be sure you stretch the fabric a bit while you work to be sure your sewing is not going to be tight and pucker the front of the fabric. You want the fabric to always act like stretchy knitted fabric, even with those ends on the back.

Do not Let Knitting Scare You

Changing yarns need not be a big deal. However, if you want to just focus on one yarn while you learn the structure of top-down socks, Chippy Socks can be a good pattern choice.

If you ask me, this (Dutch) heel turn is a little easier to do than the one used in most top-down socks with a heel flap. I like it a lot, both for looks and ease.

I also like the four-part toe for new socknitters, it is easier to understand when you are learning. And it’s lovely to look at, not a compromise at all.

Whatever you do, dive in and have some fun with it! Make the learning process be a bit of fun and that will be worthwhile.

What About Two Colors in the Same Row?

If you want to do stranded colorwork (as in the cuffs shown here) rather than just stripes, that is a different technique. When you knit with two colors in the same row, you need to make your stitches more loose than you think is normal.

Note: There are maybe more ways to hold the yarn during this sort of knitting, than there are knitters. If you know how to hold one yarn in each hand, you may want to try it. If you only hold yarn in the right hand, just drop the yarn after each color stretch and pick up the other one.

If you only know how to hold yarn in the left hand, try both there but make sure that your yarns feed through different fingers or the yarns will tangle. I put one yarn over my first finger and one yarn over both first and second finger.

The less you worry about how to hold the yarn the better. Less worry, more fun, right? Nothing feels normal the first day!

Think Loose, Loose!

With two colors on a row, the yarn you are not using stretches taut behind the stitches you knit. That horizontal piece of yarn is called a strand, and it can not stretch as well as a knitted stitch. Many people need to go up 2-3 sizes of knitting needle to make up for this lack of stretch, and they still may need to remember to knit loosely.

Choosing a stitch pattern that has no more than 2 stitches in a row with one color, will help you achieve a stretchy fabric. In the Chippy Socks pattern, that would include leg Charts 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7.

I stop every dozen stitches or so and stretch the just-made stitches on the needle. That way, I can see if I made it stretchy enough to go over the heel of my foot.

The Reason We Knit: Fun!

Knitting is about enjoyment. We all know we can purchase socks for less. Making socks is a creative pleasure. The colors and the yarn should be a joy. So dive in, and have a wonderful time with every stitch!

Mid-Project on the Ballet Tee

Monday, October 27th, 2008

ballettopbeforeripping.jpgI started the Ballet Tee to have a quick project. I did finish it in a day and a few hours but I decided I wanted it to become something it had not been intended to be. (It was designed as a very short, cropped top, and now I want mine to be a tunic.)

Since I’m on my own from this point on, I have to figure out how many inches I want the piece to measure around my hips. In the bodice, it is much smaller than my body and it stretches to fit. This is good, it looks as it was intended.

My hips are curvy though small… I am grateful. I also have a curvy belly as women are intended to have… it’s small, but this society does not want to notice it, period.

(For the record, I was not always this size. In 1977 I was on Weight Watchers. In 1980 I lost something in the ballpark of 55-70 pounds through a lifestyle change rather than a diet, and it has mostly stayed off. I am grateful.)

I need to increase the piece beyond merely the measurement difference between my waist and hips. I need to increase until there is wiggle room, which is called “wearing ease” in fashion design.

I did not want the front hem to dip at an angle any further, so on my first attempt I increased only at the hips from about belly-button level and below. I unintentionally made the “skirt” cling to my belly curve, and determined that would not be wearable.

So I pulled out the needles, and I went around the garment inserting the needle in the last row of knitting that I felt was correct (see top photo, taken in terrible lighting, at that point). Then I ripped/frogged it and made a nice big fat ball of yarn with the resulting mess.

I started back on knitting the skirt part. I again increased at the sides/hip, but also kept increasing at the front line. I stopped increasing in the back, because I hballettophiplength16.jpgave no curve there until much further down… this is where my back is relatively flat.

I have not recovered all the yarn that I ripped yet, but I’m about 3 rounds from finishing it up. I still have more yarn after that point, which I think I probably will use. My favorite sweaters are really long, so longer will probably be better. I can’t know until I give it a shot, in any case.

Right now it’s a longish top, not all the way to tunic yet. I’m happy with the shape it’s taking now, though. It has enough ease around the belly/hips that it looks decent for wearing in any public I choose. Score!

If I ran out of yarn right now, I would like the top. I’d have to wear it with a skirt, though… and I prefer to wear it over snug-fitting cotton/lycra leggings, almost tights, for winter weather.

If I can get it long enough for that (aiming for length to provide modesty), I will surely wear it a lot this winter. I picture it in my mind over a turtleneck and with knee-high or thigh-high legwarmers.

Not done, but you might as well see the photos I have at this point. Both images are pretty blurry, but the bottom one at least is about right in color.

Project Gutenberg: Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank, 1917

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Oh, wow. Diana found a good one, on Project Gutenberg.

Woman as Decoration, by Emily Burbank

This is a book mostly about clothing styles, put up for the world to see. It was web-published through Project Gutenberg, including photo scans of illustrative plates. Images of women back to Queen Elizabeth (I) and especially at the end, styles of 1916 and 1917 (just before irenecastle25.jpgthe bulk of my favorite vocal music was written). The book is in the public domain, and how lucky that is for us!

I particularly love the photos of “Mrs. Conde’ Nast” which really foreshadow flapper attire (including a photo of a fortuny tea gown), and the photos of “Mrs. Vernon Castle.” Irene Castle was a dancer who with her husband influenced fashion, musical styles, dancing styles, and had a great influence on popular culture outside of NYC in the years 1912-1918.

The Castles were important in the Ragtime culture, and danced the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear (scandalous), the Tango, Foxtrot and many others. She bobbed her hair ten years before flappers made the style commonplace.

The photo here is Irene Castle in an impulsive moment in front of the camera. Wonderful, no? Woman as decoration, for sure.

But I digress. There are never enough photographs for me, in any book. However, for a book of 1917, this one has some real gems. And the talk about recognizing the line of a garment and knowing which lines flatter the self, is modern. She speaks of finding lines that transcend fashion and fad. Those ideas are good in any age… even 90 years after the words were written.

I’m grateful for access to this book. Perhaps you’d like to check it out yourself.

A Quick Photo: Pair 163

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Quick, quick… will have a day to work at home Monday but almost no time to blog now. Here’s a photo of my 163rd pair of socks since spring 2001, bound off on October 5.

I used my First-Time Toe-Up socks pattern. I randomly striped between Noro Kureyon Sock and solid teal sockyarn, I think it was Special Blauband. Size 6 narrow US.

Love ’em. They are very comfortable as well as cheerful.

Knitting for Fun and Speed

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

I did it again. I held together a zillion strands of yarn (actually merely four) to make a knitted item (a top) which has a huge gauge (2.5 st/inch) because I needed an instant-knitting fix.

Apparently I’m really into knitting and into finishing… not quite as much into wearing what I made. I sometimes finish a pair of socks for myself and don’t wear them for a year. I can knit a garment and wear it twice a year. So I don’t need to find the item practical to be absolutely passionate about the process of making things.


I would have sworn I was more into the finished item than that sounds. Actually, I do wear things I knit all the time, especially socks and wraps, and wristwarmers in cold months. And I do finish a lot of things, sometimes after stopping and starting many times. I don’t abandon most items very long unless they have a real problem and need to be ripped out. (Those need to age before I reclaim the yarn or figure out how to make it into something that I like better.)

I need to admit I’ve been fascinated by Teva Durham’s Ballet T-Shirt (from the book Loop D Loop) for a while. I say it’s a tank, not a tee, but this is what it’s named.

I liked the idea of shaping the garment at the mid-front rather than sides, while peeking through the book when it first came out. I checked it out on Ravelry, where I read the input of a lot of folks who started the project before I did. There are 275 projects for this pattern on Ravelry, astounding.

ballettopbefore16.jpgOne woman said she took 5 hours to knit this project. One said 7 hours. Well, I cast on after dinner one night and bound off before bed the next, and in between was a work day.

I took photos. I liked the shape of it, and it feels good and fits snugly with nice curves, as designed (maybe a little more snug than the photos, but her models look miserably sad and anorexic and I don’t want to look like them anyway).

Almost everyone said they liked knitting this project. A percentage said that they were not flattered by the style once they finished it.

In my case, I like the neckline and the sleeve style a lot. I need a good supportive bra to defy gravity and support my curves at a pleasing place in the short, cropped garment,. I find that no real problem.

The thing that I did not see coming, was that when you do your increases at the center front, you will have a bit of a point in the hemline below the tummy. I don’t mind that shaping, but because this is stockinette without any edging other than binding off, the fabric begs to roll up. Having a point lower than the rest of the hem makes it harder to tame.

The yarns I chose were 2 strands of Elsabeth Lavold Silky Wool in turquoise, one strand of an ancient predecessor of the current Socks That Rock yarn (it has 200 yards per skein, was DK weight, and was at a time when the company offered only one kind of yarn, I got it at Bloomiefest 5 years ago), and also I used one strand of Mississippi 3 baby/sock yarn in cotton/acrylic, in hot green.

ballettop50bsm.jpgThe fabric this made is just incredible. It’s stretchy, sproingy, a little spongy, soft, comfy, lovely. And mostly turquoise, to boot!

I decided I would single-crochet the edges of the neck, sleeves and hem, in one strand of Silky Wool. I really like the dark edging, and the neck does not roll as much since I did that. It looks more finished.

However, even after crocheting it twice on the hem edge (ripping out in between tries), and really trying to loosen it up, I still found it pulled in and worked its way up to my natural waist, making a sort of pooch in the fabric at the belly. Not good. I ripped out the hem crochet but left the neck/arm crochet which I still really like. I have not taken photos after I did that.

I could say this project is done now. It fit, for goodness sake, and I actually wore it to work one day. But I just do not feel as comfy in a cropped top as I would like. I have almost nothing to wear with it.

I have enough of the four yarns to make another complete top exactly like the first. The pattern only specifies about 51 rounds if I remember right, and I knit about 60 before I ran out of yarn. I can do that number of rounds again.

So I un-did my bind off and put the stitches back on needles. Then I wound my remaining skeins of yarn and dove in.

I am doing the final sets of increases on the hips rather than front/back, so I can even out the hemline a bit. I have decided to knit until I have a tunic or dress, either until I run out of yarn or until I like how it looks at a new lower edge.

I wear tunic-length tops almost every day in the cold season. I picture this as turning into a Twiggy dress or a Star Trek or Retro or Jetsons-shaped top, perhaps with slim turtleneck underneath. The fabric is really structural, which is good for these things.

So I have knit a few inches and I already like it better. I may take an extra week to make it some way that I really like. Until then, I get to knit with this incredible mix of yarns again. I am loving that part!

Stay tuned. Here are photos of 1) the beginning/yarns, 2) immediately after binding off but with rolling neck and no crochet, and then 3) crochet on all edges including hem. I will take more photos as I progress further to the longer silhouette. You haven’t heard the end of this story!

Ann Arbor: Crazy Wisdom Teahouse with Sam Corbin

Friday, October 24th, 2008


Brian and I (as The Fabheftonescrazywisdom2-16.jpgulous Heftones) performed in Ann Arbor last Friday night. We had not played in that city since 2006 for some reason, and it was good to be back.

We played the Crazy Wisdom Teahouse which is upstairs of the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore. Our friend Sam Corbin arranged for us to share a show with him. (Thanks to Sayre for taking the photos of us performing.)

We went down early, took the back roads to see the colorful leaves. Then when we hit town, we wheftonescrazywisdom1-12.jpgent directly to Zingerman’s Deli. I love that place! They have all sorts of food I can eat, even with my huge list of allergies. They can find out the ingredients in anything if I ask, and they are really cheerful about it.

I had a wonderful salad and some great tea. Brian had a farmer hash (it has sweet potatoes and I really wanted some, it looked great), and some bread and coffee. All top notch quality. Not cheap, but worth every cent.

Then we went to Crazy Wisdom where they invited us to eat dinner. Whoops! We got more excellent tea, in any case.annarbor1.jpg

When we got to the concert, it was great to see the place fill up. It is not a huge space (a turn of the century storefront on Main Street, with tin ceilings and the works) but thannarbor2.jpgere was standing room only for part of the show.

Some of our uke festival friends came out. Annette did a special emailing to her Ann Arbor-area ukulele friends.

And Wool & Chocolate Leeann came, too! We had never met in person. How fun that was.

Ann Arbor acts like a big city. It is not as big as Chicago but sometimes I get a similar street vibe, the good kind.


I took a few photos out of the 2nd story windows behind the stage area. I could not resist.

It was another concert where there were several knitters in the house. I love it when that happens!


A Delay

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

I will be happily distracted through Sunday, and those who won prizes will have to wait for me to mail packages until Monday. Just so you know nothing bad has happened.

I’ve pre-loaded posts for every day till then, so keep tuning in. Seeya.

Cold Snap

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Tuesday night it got below freezing here, in Lansing, Michigan, USA. I brought in the smallest tomato plant and covered the other two. I hotchocolate.jpgthink they are shocked enough to stop growing anyway, and I will have to give up on the smaller fruits. There are some that are large enough they will probably ripen on a south windowsill, and I will give that a try.

I don’t like cold weather. I’m a summer girl through and through. Actually, it’s not summer as much as heat that I crave, because spring and autumn are equally beautiful (though full of allergy problems for me). I like how they look, but not how they feel. I’m not warm until it hits 80F, and am happiest at 84 or 85 (that would be 26 – 29C for those outside the US).

But I try to find joys in the simple things. Life is full of small things; big stuff is a rarity. So the quality of anyone’s life, if you ask me, is paying attention and really appreciating the small stuff.

If you have read this blog a while, you know I have food allergies. For some reason, they are sort of a moving target, they change over the years.

I could not have dairy products for 5 years. Then last March I got re-tested and I could take dairy again, as long as it’s not aged/fermented like yogurt or cheese. Milk is fine, and so is whipped cream if I whip it myself (the canned “real” stuff is full of additives that I don’t tolerate well).

This means that I have been able to eat certain ice creams (Stonyfield Farms, no egg or xanthan gum) this year, which was really a joy for me. And now that it is getting cold? Hot chocolate. I got some powdered cocoa mix from Green and Black’s Organic chocolate company, at the local health food store. It cost just short of $6 for one can, which looks like it will give me 7 or 8 mugs of hot chocolate. I’ve already had five in the last week.

And I bought myself some organic heavy whipping cream. I put some in a tall jar and whipped it with my little stick blender with the whipping attachment. It was really easy… whip cream, add sugar, whip a little more. I remembered it being more difficult as a child. Very cool!

So here it is in its glory. Made by me, for me, as comfort. It worked.

Mt. Hope Cemetery in Autumn

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

cemetery132sm.jpgCan I possibly be caught up on my photos? I think I am. How refreshing!

Saturday I took a half hour out of my day and detoured through the Mt. Hope Cemetery. I think this is my favorite place in Lansing in the autumn.

It is just across Aurelius Road from the Fenner Arboretum which I also like… but I think I like Fenner better in the spring (I like the noisy frogs in the stream) and Mt. Hope better in the autumn. I don’t know why, but since when do preferences need to make sense?

Lansing is a city which is pretty much flat. We have little inclines here and there, butcemetery124sm.jpg unless you are from the plains of Southeastern Minnesota where my parents were raised, this town looks dead flat.

But for some reason, there are a few areas in the Lansing area that are hilly and also are cemeteries. Maybe they chose hilly spots that were not good farmland back in the day, who knows? But I swear the hills stop the minute you get out of the cemetery grounds.

And yet there is one drop that is several stories high between the edge of the cemetery and the golf course next door. Just in the last few weeks, they have opened up an extension of the River Trail at the bottom of that drop, between the two municipal properties (golf course and cemetery). I got a good photo of some bicyclists down there to show the distance.


I love the hills, the trees, the old headstones (many go back to the 1800s), the green grass, the quiet. I was raised with my back yard touching a cemetery, so this feels comfortable and right at home to me. I realize this is not true for everyone.

My poor late Grandma Ruthie had to get out of our house before dark for years, bless her. For her, cemeteries were more like chatterboxes than quiet places. But to me? Just right.


My friend Kristi and I used to meet here with her baby twins and go for long walks. She would push two kids in a stroller up and down those hills, and I was huffing and puffing just me, solo. The place is huge, so taking the outside path around the perimeter can take a good long while while you are chatting with a friend. Life changes and lately we meet in other ways, but those were good times.


I’m putting a few photos here, and a few thumbnails. You can see a collection as a Flickr slideshow if you click right here! It is only 7 photos over there, but the ones at Flickr are large enough to get true detail, if you are so inclined.

cemetery87sm.jpg cemetery105sm.jpg cemetery103sm.jpg cemetery130sm.jpg

Photo Catch Up: A City Garden

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

citygardena.jpgNear Rae’s yarn shop, there is a wonderful nook which has been made into a small city Eden. The man who lives above a storefront has maximized his farming ability with almost no soil at all. It is inspiring.

In fact, I saw this garden about 4 years ago and saw the beautiful red tomatoes, shining colorful globes decorating the cityscape. I decided then that I would also try tomato gardening in containers at my house. I don’t really like fresh tomatoes, although I love them cooked. I didn’t care, the look of the plants was all it took to convince me. I have really enjoyed my tomato plants over these last years!

One day I was going to Rae’s on a Sunday and got to talking with the gentleman who has created this lush space. I was with Melinda, and he gave her a few peaches (yes really) he had just picked, and gave me a generous handful of grapes.

Igrapes.jpg boiled the grapes in water (they are small green ones that smell like concord, but with big seeds so they are not pick-and-eat grapes). I then crushed the grapes, strained out the fiber, and made a sort of gelatin dessert with it. It was light and refreshing.

The grapes grow up the handrail on the second floor; the peach tree looks like half a tree, squooshed up against the wall of the next building next to another fruit tree. At the point I took these photos, all the tomatoes for this year were already gone and things were starting to slow down or wilt.

I think it’s an amazing artform, this niche in the middle of a parking lot, which is now a lush Eden for one man and lucky acquaintances passing by. Isn’t it wonderful?


Just for reference, here is my own back step garden. The three pots at right are tomatoes. To their left is a sage plant that was given to me but which never was very happy there. At the very left in the colorful pot, tomatoesseptember.jpgwas a cilantro from seed that only grew about an inch before being drowned in rainwater. I also have a small plot next to the garage which does well with parsley and nearly nothing else, though I tried basil again this year.

And there is always the rhubarb! Plants with ancestors on the Minnesota farm where Mom grew up always do well, the others struggle and never quite die but never become strong enough to pick for pie.

I have a lot more soil than this man, but I can’t compare. He just has the touch.

A Birthday Concert

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008


Friend Sam Herman had his 21st birthday in style last Thursday. He gave a concert for himself, in so many words. He knows a lot of folks in overlapping creative communities. I see Sam a few times a week these days. This party/concert was crowded, and many of my most prized friends were there.


It started as a solo banjo concert. Then Sam played a few numbers on a ukulele. Then friends joined him.

lynnwithannasm.jpgHe did duo numbers with Carrie Potter, Doug Berch (see photo above), Brian Bishop and Hanno Meingast.

Whew! Serious talent. And then? Well, there was a short break for birthday cake followed by ensemble numbers. There was a group of old time fiddle/contra dance musicians.

There was a lot of knitting going on, as well. Everyone in Sam’s family knits at least a bit, and then many of us in the crowd also knit. Young, old, male, female… all knitting. Yeah!

And the rae12.jpgfinale? Eight musicians, seven banjos of different sorts, and a bodhran drum (basically a banjo without a neck and strings). There was a ukulele banjo, a guitar banjo, a mandolin banjo, a Heftone Bass banjo, and three five-stringed banjos if I accounted properly. And the bodhran. It was much fun. We played Oh, Susanna! Yup, a lot of fun.

The finale photo here was taken by A., my young knitter who happens to be related to Sam. In Lansing, every creative person is connected in multiple threads to every other creative person. Or so it seems.

As my Brian would say: “Banjo Mayhem!”