The Littlest Sleepy Elf

(Wow, two posts in two days…. And it isn’t even a Writers’ Challenge Month! I hope you all will bear with me as I write again about my knitting.)

Once upon a time, there was a tiny little baby. Like all babies, he was the sweetest, cutest little thing. Mommy, Daddy and a host of grandparents and aunts and uncles were very enamored with this little ball of love.

It was decided that he needed the perfect little cap to match his sleepy little self. Thus was born the Sleep Elf. His very talented knitting aunt scoured pattern books, websites, Pinterest and finally came to the conclusion that she was going to have to improvise. ย She liked using a smaller gauge yarn than most existing patterns and she had the perfect yarn already in mind. So she sought to start with the basic stocking cap and elongate it into the perfect combination of cute baby and old-fashioned sleeping cap.

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Now isn’t that the sweetest little Sleepy Elf you’ve ever seen? Suddenly, other babies wanted their own cap!

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Who can resist a face like that?

After several iterations, the cap idea gave way to matching baby socks. Eventually, it was deemed that this little ensemble should be put on paper and made available to others who wanted to make their very own Sleepy Elf.

If you’d like your own Sleepy Elf, the cap – complete with matching booties – can be purchased in a variety of colors from my Etsy shop,ย JS Textiles and Designs. ๐Ÿ™‚ The pattern has also been published and is available on my Ravelry Pattern Store, Jennifer Stegmann Designs. ย (Note, sweet babies not included.)

I hope you enjoy this little bundle of inspiration as much as I do!

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A Symbol of My Freedom… and A Bit More Inspiration

So, my gun-toting, Republican brother posted another Meme of Brilliance today. Sadly, I’m sure he found humor and truth in this picture:

I grew up around guns. I even learned how to shoot. And because of my family’s choices, and my subsequent life experiences apart from my family, I can see both sides of many perspectives. I am rather happy to have found freedom in other choices. I don’t have to live constantly on the defense and crippled by stereotypes because my choices and habits allow me independence of mind and body.
With that background, let me me share a symbol of my freedom:

So what is that? An incomplete sock? Those five little U.S. size O double point needles, to me, symbolize a skill of independence, a tradition of artistry and self-reliance, and a small way for me to separate myself from the Corporate Monster that forces us to all wear the same things, eat over-processed foods that kill us, and give up our ability and thought. 

I can spin my own yarns (although I did not make the yarn pictured), take a few measurements, and create something I need and will use every day. If I see a pattern in nature while I hike, I can translate it to yarn and carry that moment of joy and inspiration with me every time I wear that pair of socks or gloves (for I use these needles for both types of projects).

While the yarn pictured makes an interesting fabric due to the way it is dyed, the real interest for me is on the other side of the sock:

I really want to name this pattern “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, but I’m afraid that name might be taken. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have said it before, I am a girl who likes dirt, plants and the great outdoors. I got the idea for this pattern after seeing a rattlesnake slithering along the ground at one of my former parks. Diamonds don’t have to be set in 14 karat gold to be special. And lots of folks like many types of diamonds.

I haven’t bought a pair of readymade socks in 15+ years. But I have a rainbow of pairs of socks that reflect my travels, observations, and experiences. Freedom of creation and supplying for my needs. 

My kniiting needles are indeed a great symbol of freedom.

Warming Up For Winter

A selection of gloves and wristwarmers from previous seasons.

A selection of gloves and wristwarmers from previous seasons.

Winter conjures up all sorts of pictures and thoughts in our minds. My thoughts naturally go to three topics:

  1. Where are my best wool socks and gloves?
  2. How can I bake pumpkin into every cookie and scone I make?
  3. When will I see some snow?

After 15+ years of knitting my socks, gloves, scarves and sweaters, I have quite a collection for myself. But those gloves pictured above are not in my collection. They were special orders or items sold at a local artisan store over the last 3 years. My gloves are sold under the moniker of MountainWoolies, and have found homes in 17 states so far (that I know about).

If you see a pair you like, or even a style you like, feel free to leave me a message – I’m always taking orders. I knit with, unless otherwise requested, 100% wool yarn, and I can accommodate most color preferences. I have sizes available for children, women and men.

It is my hope to have my Artfire store open within a week, and I’ll post a link to that when it is available and updated.

30 Day Writing Challenge — Day 18: Your Favorite Color and Why

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I am not sure I have a favorite color. Rather, I think I have lots of favorite colors, depending on the season and mood.

I lived in Colorado for years, and the combination of gold aspen and blue sky really grabs my attention. It’s as though the landscape is screaming, “Hey! Stop what you’re doing! This is what the world is supoosed to look like!”

At the same time, the tiniest splashes of color on the alpine tundra catch my eye all summer. The littlest flowers often show themselves in the brightest blues, pinks and purples, and they equally demand our attention.

Color is meant to make us stop and look again.

I love blues, reds and purples, but I also wear a lot of brown in the winter. As I have worn a uniform of browns, greys, and greens much of the last few years, I subconsciously look for other colors when choosing my civilian clothing, some of which I make myself. Choosing colors is one of the best, and most maddening, aspects of making your own clothes. I really have trouble deciding on what color yarn to knit with, because I really want that sweater in turquoise and cranberry!

I think one of the best aspects of fair isle knitting, as pictured above, is that it allows me to play with color and combinations of color. The ice blue is a great blue for winter, because it reminds me of the sparkles we see on fresh-fallen snow up in the mountains.

And I love dark cherry or cranberry reds in the winter. For some reason (maybe the holiday season?), I always want to knit red sweaters in November.

30 Day Writing Challenge โ€” Day 9: Your Feelings On Ageism

Ageism sucks.

It makes me roll my eyes and stick out my tongue at those who tell me I am too young.

Really, the problem is that I look younger than I am. Ok, so that isn’t so much a problem for me, but for those who judge me.

It’s the worn-out stereotypes that are associated with specific ages that really irk me the most.

Just because I can my own tomato sauce and am a master knitter does NOT mean I need to fit some “crazy old cat lady” stereotype like you see on TV or in the movies. It just means that you underestimated me. Congratulations.

I don’t really like house cats. They irk me too.

So get over the “Don’t old ladies do that?” garbage and learn a skill. You might find something to make yourself proud. And you’ll never have to wear crappy Hanes cotton socks again.

Places, Part 1

It’s hard to put into words what I have been feeling this last week. So many different thoughts, feelings and emotions. Fear of the unknown. Naive surprise at how things got so out of hand. Joy to see friends supporting small businesses and farmers’ markets in Ferguson, not afraid to walk down the streets and be a part of a community that needs strong people who choose intelligence over brawn.

Some of it felt very surreal to watch, especially from two states away; the violence and destruction so close to a city I know so well. Or KNEW so well. But I’ve been gone a long time, with only brief visits back and even then, only to key landmarks and events. It left me wondering……

Do I know this place?

As a ranger, I often talked to park visitors about a sense of place. Maybe not in those exact words, but we would talk about how the park made one feel โ€“ how the experiences in a National Park made you feel like you were connected to a magnificent landscape, the furry creatures that called it home, and generations of travelers that went before you, sometimes leaving their history behind from which we could learn truths of our own present lives.

So I found it interesting that my mom asked me the other night whether or not it was weird (or maybe even bothered me?) to see her living in a home other than that in which I was raised.

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Dad on a tractor? Seems familiar.

At first, I didn’t know how to answer this question. They still own the house I was raised in, however, my brother and sister-in-law live there at the moment. My parents have moved around a bit in the last 10+ years, following Dad’s jobs, and I guess my Mom was wondering if I really felt like there was a stability in the concept of ‘home’.

But I’ve moved around a lot too, and I’ve lived in a few pretty spectacular locations. So it really didn’t faze me that my parents have moved. The people stayed the same, and that is the key.

The landscape is a setting. And that setting is constantly changing. Even out in our parks, where we see timeless iconic images all around us, we just need to sit and watch. Wait for the daylight to change the shadows. Wait for the sky to become cloudy or snow to blanket the ground. Things change every moment of every day.

There is so much more to glean from any given landscape than just the immediate first impression. We need to spend time, get to know the land, learn to read the natural cues around us. The people in our lives are the more constant element; it’s up to us to get to know the rest of what the world is telling us, so that we form a connection to these places.

To that end, I’d like to introduce you to a project I’ve been working on, now and then, over the last 5-6 years. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote about a similar idea here just this week, and it brought a smile to my face to see another artist making similar connections.

I love knitting my own socks. There is something about warm wool socks that comforts me. And not just because I get cold easily, but because there is comfort in taking care of yourself, spoiling yourself just a little, and reminding yourself that you are worth the effort. Time spent knitting yourself a garment that will last and be used for years is never wasted.

With socks, you can add little details without needing oodles of extra time and materials. That is just what I started doing. Plain socks are ok, and they will keep my feet warm, but handknit socks can be intricate scrapbooks of my travels. Each pair of socks has a stitch pattern reflective of a place I lived, worked, or visited. In this way, I’m reminded of the majestic landscapes, the tiny berries, the flowing rivers and lights that made each ‘home’ unique.

To date, I believe my collection encompasses five original patterns and places in four states. I have 3 other patterns/pairs lined up still waiting to be brought out of the depths of my imagination. Eventually, these patterns will be published together in book form somehow; I’m hoping that part of the project will be done around Christmas 2014. We’ll see; it might be more than I can accomplish in the next 3.5 months.

Without further ado, here is the first (and most recent) pattern: Alaskan Skies. The pair is still in progress, but the stitch pattern reminds me of the way the aurora moves and waves and streaks across the dark northern winter skies, patches of color seemingly popping out of the darkness and fading away just as quickly.

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If you get a chance, visit the north country in the winter and look up. The dark sky often doesn’t stay dark for long. The twinkling of the stars and the movement of the aurora will mesmerize you.

Surrounded by my people

Sometimes, I would much rather be on my own. I relish a day alone in the mountains to soak in the grandeur, listen to the birds, find the beautiful details in the tiniest pink alpine flower, and watch the clouds pass slowly overhead.

If I could, 6 out of 7 days each week would be spent in such a manner. Some weeks, the ratio would be 7 of 7, even in weather.

But since that isn’t possible right now, tonight was a more than acceptable substitute.

It is always so refreshing to be surrounded by creative, skilled, like-minded people. And when we get to listen to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee tell her humorous yarns of misunderstood knitters, horrifying dentist visits in the Dominican Republic, and “bacon powder”, we realize just how great this community is.

I am very lucky. Whereever I go, I find people with whom I have an instant connection. It usually goes a little something like this…

Me: Is this where the line ends? I got here early to get a seat.

Fellow Knitter: Hi! Yep, you’re next in line! I’m Angela. What project did you bring to work on while we wait?

Me: Oh, I’m just knitting a pair of gloves for a friend. And you?

Fellow Knitter Angela: Those are cute! What pattern did you use? Can I feel the yarn? Oh, that wool is so soft!

Me: I love wool. Half my wardrobe is wool, I think.

Fellow Knitter Angela: Me too! (giggles) Oh! Check out her scarf! (pointing to another lace knitter who just joined the queue)

Instantly, I am surrounded by skilled artisans who get it.

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Tonight, while waiting in line for the book reading/signing, I saw two very different pieces of lace that I envied. The pictures simply cannot convey the skill, patience and aptitude it took to complete the projects.

First, a wedding shawl (I wish I’d taken a close-up of the detail):

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Next, I believe the pattern is Michael West’s 2013 Mystery KAL (you can look it up on Ravelry):

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From this angle, it looks like a triangle scarf or shawl, with a grey body and pink border. But wait until you see the whole thing….

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Holy cow. Pink and three shades of grey/charcoal. Asymmetric and triangular, but certainly not in the expected way. Can we say, AMAZING?!?!?

I LOVE evenings like this, shared with other creative folks. It is always so inspiring. It pushes me to work harder, watch the details, and take pride in my craftsmanship. This is not at all easy. In fact, the woman with the second project described tears and throwing the unfinished project in the closet out of frustration. But master artisans never settle.

It was an inspiring evening among my people. And to top it off, I got a couple of very humorous books signed.

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