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Archive for July, 2009


Friday, July 31st, 2009

An Ending for Me

My knitting friend Ewe-kniss posted a little while ago (July 11) that she was making a multicolored entrelac blanket/throw. It was intended to be baby/smallish and use up her leftovers of a cotton-acrylic yarn she had in her house.

As things happened, the project was more beautiful than expected. It talked to her (I swear sometimes projects do this) and now it wants to be something bigger. She asked if anyone in the Lansing area had any Cotton Plus yarn? The newer colors available now apparently do not go well with the ones she has.


I did not know about Cotton Plus yarn, but I looked it up (love the Internet). It sounded about the same fiber blend and gauge as Cotton-Ease. I bought a bunch of that yarn in medium/light turquoise, when I heard it was going out of production. Why does that sense of impending shortage push our hoarding buttons so much??? I mean, it is not the sort of yarn I normally like to knit, though I do have a big weakness for anything in turquoise.

Turning the Luck Around

I did make an attempt (we are talking at least 2.5 years ago) to use the yarn. It was a project I made on my knitting machine which I don’t know much about, but I gave it a go. Unfortunately, it was too boxy, too big, and too thick of a project to look like it even belonged to me.

I tried to fix the thing by crocheting multicolored handpainted yarn on the armholes, to make it a vest (rather than the sweater I’d intended at first). If that had looked fine, I would have made a matching edging for the neckline.


I’m sorry to say it just looked worse. On the website Ravelry, they would call this an “Ugh.”

The crochet was a thin yarn in many colors, the knit was fat yarn in a single color, and the project went totally “south.” I put it aside for later.

It’s later. Ewe-kniss needs some yarn. I offered it to her. She accepted, and even offered to frog (rippit, rippit) the project for me. I’m so happy it is going to be in a lovely project for a friend instead of a loser project in a box in my storage area!!! Score.


I’ve been working on a computer project like crazy this week. One day I did not knit a stitch. The next day I didn’t knit anything until about 1:30am. This is how it started:


I am very happy to have a second project to alternate with my Zauberball Sunset Square Stole. I’ll show you more when there is more to show.


A Sidewalk Container Garden

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Most Tuesdays, I go for a walk in Old Town Lansing with my friend Cynthia. Often we end with tea or lunch at Mama Bear’s Cafe‘.

On the way back to my car/her work, we pass by October Moon, a truly wonderful shop right next to the Robert Busby memorial bridge. In spite of the minor detail that there is no soil or grass in front of the shop, there is a wonderful (container) garden surrounding the doorway.


Since there is no shop to the river side, the garden spills over to a spot over the river. It is a wonderful, happy city view.


I love Old Town more, every time I go there. I love my city every day that the sun shines and the grass grows. Winter is rough for me, but memories like this help me through the frozen months.

Go, October Moon!

Polymer Clay Class at Threadbear

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

polyclaytbear072609b-400.jpgI taught a Polymer Clay Jellyrolls, Bullseyes & Checkerboards class at Threadbear Fiberarts last Sunday, to seven enthusiastic folks. We had a wonderful time!!!

Notice that even though we all used essentially the same techniques, the way each person used the information turned out differently. The colors chosen by each person were different, but also the way folks combined motifs, sometimes shared motifs with neighbors, made some elements large and others small, changed the look of each piece.

I love teaching. There is no way to have a polymer clay class go anything but great. There is no way I can explain how wonderful I feel when a class like this is done. Aaaahhhh….


Jan’s Maxi ZigBagZ

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

You know, I design patterns because I have a picture in my mind of something that does not exist yet, and I want it to be real. I make a sample of that something, I test it a bunch, and knit samples or have wonderful folks knit them for me. At the end I write it up in pattern format, and my job (as a designer) is theoretically done.


My patterns then go out “into the wild” and I never know what will happen. In Lansing, Eileen (may she rest in peace) got all excited about my Maxi ZigBagZ pattern last year. She made a Biggie bag (large purse/medium knitting tote).

Her bag was wonderful. She carried it with her to every knitting gathering, every shop, and showed people how wonderful it was. Eileen’s bag was a true success. I’m very happy she got so much joy out of it.

The next thing I knew, I had a ZigBagZ class with five people in it (I attribute this primarily to Eileen’s enthusiasm). Jan was one of those people.


Jan made the first bag shown here in that class. After she finished it, she was not done yet. She started, and finished this pictured second bag. She says she made it mostly with leftovers from other projects. I think it looks great!

Both are planned as gifts. I think that is a really wonderful sort of gift, don’t you??? Jan, the bags are great. Congratulations.

Food/Plants as Art: What is This?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I went to the Allen Street market last Wednesday and purchased a number of wonderful fresh foods. The dark cherries were the best I have had in years.

I got fresh beets with the greens still attached (had the roots one night, the greens another). I purchased kohlrabi, that cabbage-family quiet cousin which looks like it came from mars, and I got two sorts of greens. Mustard greens we have had before, but I also got the ones pictured here.


These greens are so beautiful, you might think they were for looking at rather than eating. I tried a leaf fresh, and it was pungent and a little bitter but intriguing. The vendor suggested soup. I put it in chicken-based broth soup and it softened up and became darker, and much more mellow. It’s lovely stuff.

Does anyone know this plant? I bought it from an Asian vendor who did not have an English word for it. I am thinking this is the same green a young Vietnamese teen told me once, was her favorite vegetable. She also suggested it in soup.


I love it when foods are beautiful *and* tasty. It reminds me of the Buckminster Fuller (humanitarian/ scientist who created the geodesic dome) quotation:

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Traverse City View

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Brian and I went to north lower Michigan (Leeland) for one night, last Friday. We had a reunion of our Abbott Brothers Band there. We ate great food, took a walk to the lake, and played music until the wee hours.

Unfortunately, we had to wake up too soon and run back home to Lansing to work on Saturday. It was worth the trip, no matter the hassles involved.


This photo was taken from a scenic neighborhood road in Traverse City. We found ourselves on the top of a hilly area and could see just about forever. Brian likes to take the scenic route and you can see why, right here.

Strike a Pose

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

isabelposing33.jpgWhen you ask a 5-year-old child to pose for the camera, this is sometimes what you get (at least, if you are me and the 5-year-old is Isabel):


Business and Relationship

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby and nonconformist entrepeneur (is that redundant?) has a great website full of opinionated articles holding excellent advice. Mostly he’s preaching to the independent/indie musician crowd. However, what he says often rings true for any self-employed person.

OK, so I’m opinionated and so is he, I naturally sometimes disagree with his opinions. Normally, I tend to think the guy is brilliant in an area I can find little good advice about: very small/one person creative businesses. I’m grateful to have his resources at my fingertips.

I was poking around in his archives and found an interview he did with Tom Williams, who was fourteen when he was hired by Apple. The whole interview is pretty interesting, about a person who just has more focus than I do, and who enjoys working and thinking and growing. I had never heard about him before, so the story was fresh to me.

You can read the whole interview here. However, one part really struck me. I have said for years that my own industry is all about relationship. Knitting and related work tends to be a business of mostly women, and women need connection and trust. I work hard at building relationship with both those who buy from me and those who hire me.

I am imperfect at the process, but I believe it is essential to my own success both personally and professionally. I love being with people and I enjoy the people I work for, so my interest in the folks around me is real.

If I am going to go into business, I am going to make human connections with colleagues and customers. It is how I approach life. This was true even when I was a computer consultant, emphatically not a female-dominated field. It is just part of who I am and how I approach my life.

So this quote, pulled from the middle of that interview, really stuck out for me. If you find the time, you may wish to read the whole article.

It was about relationships, first and foremost. If people like you, they want you to succeed. If they want you to, they will help you succeed. It has to be genuine.

A lot of people approach their relationship-making as mercenary transactions. As much as you appear very genuine they can see your endgame. Take the time.

Earlier this week, I was traveling back home with my Mom and we agreed to take a particular ferry home, which would allow me about fifteen minutes of face time with a friend and mentor of mine.

She said: “Why bother if it’s just fifteen minutes?” I said, “Well, because it’s face time, and that fifteen minutes should be spent building and strengthening the relationship.”

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes? Nothing other than strengthening the relationship.

Recognize that by being useful and good to others, you will eventually build a very strong team of supporters. They’ll lift you up to new heights and protect you. If you falter they will be there to bring you back up and support you.

I think it’s one of the most overlooked components of business. Simply, we’re always able to say that at the end of the day, all you have is your friends.

Focus on the Good Stuff

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


Today, I’m feeling gratitude.

Summer Abundance

It is a great time to live in Lansing. The fresh food available here right now is wonderful. I got Michigan black cherries, several types of greens, fresh beets, and a kohlrabi at the Allen Street Market yesterday.

Brian chopped up mustard greens and kale, plus sweet onion and red bell pepper last night. We added some canned beans he got at the Mexican (?) grocery store, and it was a really satisfying dinner.


The cherries are so perfect, there is not a bad one in the bunch. The day before, I got fresh organic strawberries. I am allergic to a lot of fruits, but strawberries and black cherries are A-OK and I’m grateful. Usually I buy them frozen, but right now the fresh are abundant and good.

You know, the best summer dessert in the world is just fresh strawberries cut up and layered in a tall glass with organic, home-whipped, whipped cream. Sweetened with light brown sugar rather than white!

Big yum. I missed dairy the 5 years I gave it up. However, giving it up that long meant that I could eat it again, and I appreciate it even more now.


evartannastage.jpgAnother blessing is my current set of friends. I once had friends who needed me to give more than they did, to make me equal. Those are gone (the loss was painful at the time).

Replacing them now, are friends who see me as equal though different. Friends who help me out and who I help when I can. Friends who do not have big expectations, who do not keep score. This happened subtly and slowly, but I feel the change in my life every day.

My friends are all ages, male and female, and from many different backgrounds. I am rich for their presence in my life.

My Life Partner/Husband

And the last (but not at all least) great thing in my life? My husband, Brian. He continues to make my life more pleasant all the time. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

Really, I was very happy single, but this is ten times nicer. We don’t argue; not because I’m not a piece of work but because he doesn’t try to correct the errors of my ways. If I act crazy, he steps aside and waits for me to get sane again. There is a lot of adult-ness in that, and I can not express the depth of gratitude I feel.


Family/Today’s Work

I’m working on my Mom’s books today, finished placing all but 2 of the images (where did they go… must scan them in again) in book 3.

She has written 4 books (they help children start to read). Two are pretty much done. The third can be printed out with all the images and text, but tweaking and proofreading is yet to come. The fourth has all the words in there but none of the images. It’s coming. Off to deal with more images…

The photos are from ODPC Funfest, the Dulcimer/acoustic music festival in Evart, Michigan where we were last week. These are photos of the stage… open mic, kids’ concert and in the case of Doug the main concert on Saturday night.

In order, you see The Fabulous Heftones (me and Brian), Doug Berch on Mountain Dulcimer, A. on her gorgeous fiddle, and Sam Herman on old-time banjo.

Hands-Free Gardening

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Eunice sometimes says she likes photos of my garden. I thought of that this week when I realized I had basically not done any gardening at all. I have not weeded since April and have not pruned anything in 2009, period. Even though my plan was to really hack back on the climbing roses that are truly wild.

I have been very busy indoors and with my work. This is what the garden did without my help (the roses here are fading, they were hot magenta five days before):


I did buy a few plants this year. When I remembered to tell Brian I’d purchased them, he put them in the ground for me. The plants in the ground have had to survive on rainwater, I have not used a hose yet.

I usually purchase geraniums and other small plants, and pot them for by the back stairs. This year I bought two large potted geraniums and stuck them, in the store pots, in the right spot. No contrast or variety this year, but a bit of color. No impatiens in the front this year. That’s how it goes.

Friends gave me 3 tomato plants of different kinds. I did water those small pots until I could put them in regular containers. I did the container thing in early July, much too late to have expectations of fruit. In spite of me, the smallest, a patio tomato, made two marble-sized fruits in its tiny temporary pot, and has bloomed again.

The largest is supposed to be an early tomato. It took about 5 days to realize it could set out good roots, and I do carry water from the kitchen to water it and the others when I happen to be in town. That early tomato is already three times its original height, and may do something before frost. I like watching it grow, even if we don’t harvest anything.

The house came with many plants which flower on their own. The climbing roses are the most obvious, but we have a white hydrangea, peonies, and a lot of tiger daylilies. When we had the front porch replaced, the ancient bridal wreath bushes went out and were replaced by hosta and coralbells, which do fine on their own. Thank goodness.

What amuses me is that I have tried to plant/grow smaller flowers in the back yard (where the photo was taken) in the past, with bad luck. So what happened this year? We got what look like blackeyed Susans, obviously planted there by nature thanks to the birds who like to hide in the rosebush above. You can see them at the center of the photo.

Mom calls unexpected plants like this, “volunteers.” This volunteer is sunny and gorgeous between the rose and hydrangea on the east side of the garage. Go figure.

So here you are, all. A photo of a garden left to its own devices. Brian planted some swiss chard plants there for me, and one small parsley plant. Nothing else has been touched this year.

It is growing in spite of me. It looks, though, like hair blown about in the wind or slept on all funny. I think I’ll forgive it. The colors are cheerful enough to work magic on my mood.

It’s Enough: My Choices (Long)

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Musings on Art as Vocation

I just got back from Wed-Sat at a music festival. People often ask me if music is our primary income. I tell them no, music is my “night job” and I’m a knitting teacher/designer for my primary work. This usually results in nods of approval. Folks love the idea that a person could make creative work their vocation.

I love this job, I love it more than I thought I could love any work. In my mind, both knitting and singing are one job, the job of “Artist.” I use my creative abilities to pay my bills. I feel as though I was born to do this.

lynnhphotobysharonpeditedforknitcast.jpgBut at this point, if something happened to Brian I probably could not continue this lifestyle. You see, he has a job with insurance. He pays for mine, but it would cost a lot more if I had to get insurance without a full-time employee attached.

My fiberart teaching career is still expanding; I am working to grow my work to a point where I could pay for my own health insurance again (I did so when I was a computer consultant). Though that is in my plans, right now it would not be possible.

Awareness, Balance

My mother was widowed at age 38, my brother was widowed at age 30. This means I’m the only one in my family who has never been widowed before 40, and I’m 50 now.

Statistically, this means that it probably won’t happen to me at an inappropriate age. However, it also means I’m aware that life can change on a dime. I am appreciating every single day as it is.

Often, Less is Better

I have been clearing out things in my home, things I don’t use any more. It started when a rack which was screwed into some wood, became so overloaded that it pulled out of its anchors and fell on the floor, a couple-dozen skirts crumpled on top of it. The skirts had to go somewhere, but I could not find any place to squeeze them in. The rest of my closet room was terribly overstuffed.

In total, I think it has been about 3-4 weeks of intensive letting go thus far. We have filled a total of 10 city garbage bags full of things not nice enough to give away. I think we are up to about 21-23 paper grocery bags full of items, mostly clothing, given to charity.

A friend who sews but has few financial resources, got three boxes of fabric and an unused ironing board which had been left in this house by the previous owners. Another friend got a feather bed pad and down comforter (in perfectly good condition, but I’m now too allergic to feathers to use them).

The result in some areas of our house is astounding. The attic is more navigable than in years. The closet holds everything even when all laundry is done, and there are always enough hangers. The boxes long stored on the floor in several rooms are no longer there.

It’s amusing that even though the attic, closet and bedroom are noticeably clearer, it’s not obvious to a guest. My office is just full of things I need to keep but don’t know where to store. One minute at a time, I guess.

Space Choices

Our house is not large by current Lansing standards (whatever that means). It is more than enough for two people without children or pets. You see… part of the reason I can do the work I do, is that we have made choices about what is enough… even, as Goldilocks says: “Just right.”

We live in a smaller home with smaller yard compared to many friends. We have no pets, no houseplants, no TV/movies/cable/DVDs, and two paid-off cars both over 10 years old. All these choices support the work choices I’ve made.

This work can be my primary job both because I really do spend full time on it and am good at the work, but also because what I see as “enough” is not what someone else would find enough for themselves.

For the record, friends with larger homes find ours absolutely charming. It is not a lesser choice. It is a different one.

Travel Choices

We camp in a tent, not an RV or even pop-up. There are many more costs involved with more solid portable quarters. I do not enjoy tents, but I love the savings we achieve by not buying something else (and insuring, maintaining, storing it). Our savings is both time and money, and I’m clear about that with my choice.

I actually did purchase myself a plane ticket to go to Portland, OR for the Sock Summit (socknitting conference). Socks are a huge part of my career (and my joy) and I made a lot of choices in order to make that happen.

I’m staying at an International Hostel and taking the subway to the convention center. I get to see the city a bit on the way to spending a day in a huge box full o’people. Since I collect subways and love cities, this really makes me happy.

I also save about $100 a night by staying in a room with a few other folks and doing a bit of a commute. It is not like I will stay in my room and hang out, anyway! Usually I’ve met fascinating people when I’ve done this in other cities.

Career/Lifestyle Choices

I have held office jobs with excellent pay and benefits in the past. I spent that fine income on stuff (mostly clothing, some of which was in those bags sent recently to charity) to help me feel happier. I left my last day job in 1999. Funny how now I don’t need to buy expensive suits anymore, which helps me live on a more modest income.

I gave up the credit cards in 1991 and live in the present now; I don’t buy anything if I can’t pay immediately. Often I wait or do without. Not everyone would make these choices. For me, the results have been rewarding.

Often people in solid, well-paying, insurance-rich jobs sigh when they hear I teach knitting as my day job. They wish for a time when they can leave their current work and do creative things for a living.

But for many of them, the tradeoff is too dear. If you have five kids as one friend does, you work the job that takes care of the seven in your home. You find something joyful to do after work until those kids are safely on their own.

I have made a series of choices that have allowed this lifestyle. I don’t have children or animals to support, for example. Not everyone would feel right with my choices. Each person has their own balance to find.

What is Enough?

Each person has their own version of what is enough. We have a young, single relative who has an efficiency condo apartment in a large metro US city. Her expenses are much higher than those here in our home which perhaps has double her floor space. However, her chosen field supports a lifestyle that she enjoys. What else could a person want?

Another friend made family most important. Her kids are grown and still enjoy her company, so she did a great job keeping that priority clear. She has worked a day job she was very good at but does not enjoy, long enough that she can retire soon.

She made the choice to have the income and benefits provided by that work, so that she could make sure the family had income, insurance and other resources. She’s a happy homebody. She likes to go home at 5pm and not think about work until the next morning.

This friend’s life has focused on the non-work part of her time. Nights, weekends and vacations allow her to build connection within her family, and that is her version of “enough.”

The young urban relative’s work requires a large city to support it. My work can be conducted in large part through the internet and occasional commuting to large fiber festivals (for knitting) and music festivals (performing).

Pure Luck

I am very lucky to be in Lansing, MI where it is accepted that I would definitely teach for more than one local-area yarn shop. This is not a common assumption in other areas with multiple yarn shops. Because shops here are willing to share teaching expertise, there are several of us in town who teach locally *and* on a national level. I believe we’re all richer for sharing.

Between blogging, the online knitting/crocheting community called Ravelry.com, and now twitter (sigh), I can reach an international clientèle from my home in a city with a low cost of living. This could not have happened even 15 years ago. I am deeply grateful.

Blah, Blah, Blah…

lynnkooky2isabel.jpgWhy am I going on like this? For one, I have been getting rid of unneeded things. For another, I spent so much time when I was a bit younger, buying things (and making myself unhappily in debt from it) which made me feel happy for a while.

Now I make clear choices and feel powerful by knowing I chose. There is such power in being an adult!


Derek Sivers wrote a short column, his take on “Enough.” Perhaps you would like to read another person’s perspective on this same topic. Or maybe you have read enough about the subject for now! Thanks for sticking with me, if you got this far.

For the record, I admit that some people do not have the basics. Some do not have enough food, in an obvious example.

Yet I live in “American” society where we have dollar stores. Folks go to the dollar store to buy something new and fun, something they do not need other than for entertainment. Shortly that something ends up sold at a garage sale, to someone else looking for entertainment. This is the sort of society I am in, and this is what spurred the thought process which began this long column.

More Squares

Monday, July 20th, 2009

My Zauberball mitered-square stole is looking lovely. zauberballwrapc12.jpgI knit a lot on it while we were at the music festival, and in the car on the way home. It did get a lot of positive attention at the festival. It seems like I am on the right track.

I have figured out that it takes me about 22-25 minutes to knit a square starting with 31 stitches on the starting edges. It should have about 150 squares when I am done, I figure. Since I have 30 squares, I’m 20% done.

(I will decline doing the math for how many hours of knitting that might be! After all, most of my knitting happens while I am waiting in line, not just sitting still.)

No matter, if one can imagine the finished item, usually one can get through all the stitches to actually finish. It is pleasant knitting. This yarn is soft, yet spun well enough to decrease easily, and the color changes keep me enthralled.

I can definitely picture myself wrapped up in this one. It is like a sunset you can snuggle.


Sunday, July 19th, 2009

What a lovely day. We got home from the music festival Saturday night rather than Sunday night. Brian went on a long bike ride Sunday, as he likes to do when he has a day free. I had a quiet and wonderful day off.


I tend toward overwork. Perhaps I am not efficient, but I make up for it by loving what I do and sticking to it almost any minute I’m home. This is the good and the bad of having your business office in your house, but I like the lifestyle just fine.

The last many weeks I have been cleaning and tossing and working really hard at home, doing that thing we call “Simplify.” Pretty much every chunk of time I have been alone at home, I have been almost obsessed with letting go and getting rid of things I don’t use any more.

A Slow Day for Once

But my friend Sharon P/Knitknacks made a point long ago which I have not forgotten. There are three kinds of days off: 1) Social interaction (parties, weddings, tea with friends), 2) Getting personal things accomplished (gardening, housework), and 3) Taking it easy, relaxing (what one friend calls a pajama day).

I almost never get pajama days. I had one today. I can not tell you how lovely it was. I don’t feel guilty for not working, at least not right now. We will see if I have regrets later, but I think I needed this rest in the worst way.

I woke up a bit early, made great pancakes and put a little ice cream and a lot of strawberries on them. I read a little bit, answered a couple of emails, took a long and lazy nap, and finally got dressed around 5pm. I went on a brisk walk, did some knitting. Now my hammock is hung up on the porch and I plan to knit there until mosquitos invade the space at sundown.

Life is good to me, my friends. What a gift today has been, and it is not done yet!

(Photo: Sunset in Evart, Michigan, USA, on Friday night.)

Offline for a While

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

What a busy summer I am having! Five out of six weekends in a row I’m out of town for a night or more, sometimes with Brian and sometimes alone.


This weekend, more sleeping in a tent. They expect scattered showers. I hope that means no floods in the tent. I don’t like being wet, I don’t like being splashed at all. Very hot baths I like, lukewarm-to-cold showers are not my cup o’tea.

But this weekend I play music with Brian and meet up with friends we sometimes only see once a year. I will do my best to turn off the three-year-old-whining child inside of me, and have a grown up lovely time. We will see how I do!

Meanwhile, if I do not update as often as normal until mid-August, you will know that I’m fine, but just away from the keyboard (AFK) again. All is well.

(The photo? My bags on the table as I was packing, preparing to schlep music and yarn and clothing north. My normal, everyday stuff. Clearly I’m not one who thinks I should limit the number of handknit things I wear on one day. After all, I knit things I can’t get by purchasing them in the store! I think this shot should be called “Still life with Turquoise Yarn.”