Saturday, January 31, 2015


Though I purged my books mercilessly a few months ago, I had another look the other day. I was able to part with about a third of what remained. Now I have around 80 books left.  There were a couple that survived to round two merely because they bore an inscription. This time, I decided to document the writing and say goodbye to any volumes that I didn't absolutely need to keep. 
I wrote the above inside a book of short stories by Roald Dahl, which Pete and I both felt comfortable discarding.  I should add that I did not sort his books--only those I considered my own. If I came across something we shared, I consulted him before tossing it.  He has been a good sport throughout this process and often has added an item or two to my donation pile.
This book, which I never read, was incredibly precious to me because of what he wrote inside.  I hope someone will find it and finally read it, as it deserves. And I hope they won't mind our little scribbles on the inside covers.  

Friday, January 30, 2015


I boxed up lots of shoes.  Many were a half-size too small, which I rescued from my sister's cast off pile but never really wore.  There was a pair of generous flats I wore at the tail end of my pregnancy with Lucy, which never fit properly again.  And heels, such gorgeous heels, that were mouldering away in the closet of a 5'10" mother of two.  I love it when tall girls wear heels--and I want to be able to pull it off!  But I just wind up loping around awkwardly, or barreling around at a 90° angle, so I can snatch up a naughty child more readily.  Right now, I value practicality and comfort, with style as a bit of an afterthought.  Observe:
black galoshes
casual knee-length brown leather boots
brown shearling boots 
(soon to be replaced with proper winter boots that don't go all soggy at the first sign of slush)

tobacco birkenstock sandals
tan closed-toe dressy sandals
red rubber flip flops for the beach

black croc flats suitable for dew-soaked playgrounds
tan flats

tan shearling-lined loafer slippers

What do you think?  Am I missing anything obvious?  Is there anything superfluous here?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clothing for special occasions

 Getting rid of my wedding dress wasn't hard for me.  In fact, I did it a few months ago.  I have decided to keep the shrug I knit though.  I have only worn it once since our wedding, on a particularly icy Pascha, but had to remove it because the church was so crowded and overheated.  It is surprisingly toasty and the angora sheds all over everyone.  But it still makes me tremendously happy.
 I ran my red suede shoes completely into the ground, but have been hanging onto them anyway.  It was easy to say goodbye finally because I got so much out of them.  Tomorrow I'll talk more about the rest of the shoes I have culled.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Yarn Along: Steek Preparedness

My handspun owls sweater is zipping along!  I finally joined the sleeves and body and have been working on the owl cables this week.  As I plan to steek it open into a cardigan, I spent some time reading the excellent tutorials by Kate Davies.
That led me to her brand new book, Yokes, which has been incredibly inspiring and informative. I've settled on the steek and button band from the Epistrophy cardigan. It's such a clean finish, with ribbon sewn over the steek edges. 

Because this is my second steeking project, I'm not anxious, but I do get a pang of guilt at the thought of cutting through all of that handspun.  There will be no going back after this. It's fitting fate for fiber that was prepared twice, spun up, then knitted into a complete sweater, only to be frogged back into yarn without being worn much. I think it deserves to be irrevocably finished, once and for all. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


It's so easy to get rid of the lone earrings that have been on their own for years, the rings that don't fit, or the broken bangles. But I found it a bit harder to say goodbye to my college jewelry. The artsy, interesting earrings, the chunky necklaces I loved to wear with button-downs.  I said goodbye to an era, a version of myself.  I've outgrown that stuff and hadn't worn it in years, but it still felt strange to bag it all up for the thrift shop. 
One bit of college jewelry stayed behind though--my green jade ring, which I bought at a street fair the day I met Pete. I told him about it after we had been dating for a while. He snuck it out of my jewelry box one night and on a whim used it to propose.  It's too tight now, but gives me a little glow whenever I see it. One day I'll let Lucy have it. 

Monday, January 26, 2015


This one was easy.  Perhaps too easy.  I tried to complicate things a little by including project bags, tote bags, grocery bags, and luggage, in addition to the obvious purses.
I am down to one purse.  I am not a huge fan of it, to be honest.  It definitely does not spark joy.  But I need something to carry around until I find my dream bag.  I've given some thought to what it should be.  Cross-body option in addition to handles that are long enough to go over my shoulder.  It must be lightweight and versatile, so black or brown or a combo.  Big enough to fit the essentials, plus a diaper or two and the obligatory knitting project.  It should zip closed.  I thought Longchamp might be it for a while, but now I wonder if some variation of this bag might be better.
In the meantime, my old beater will have to do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

craft closet

The other day I went into the walk-in closet where I keep most of my craft supplies and began sorting through things, only to realize that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  The kids were melting, I was beginning to crash after a long day, and I couldn't think clearly enough to make the tough decisions.  I put nearly everything back and resolved to try again later.  I will just stick to the order laid out in the book from now on.  First clothing, then books, and so on, leaving craft supplies for last, as they carry so much importance.  They're more similar to mementos, at least for me.
I was able to purge lots of odd balls of yarn, random needles, and stitch markers that are no longer to my liking, which I plan to pass on to a little girl at church who is already an accomplished knitter.
Then I set aside nearly all of my lace weight yarn for my friend Nina. She is a genius at Tunisian crochet, which has the look of knitting, but is slightly bulkier, so fine yarn is a real must. She came to visit the other afternoon and brought along this amazing shawlette she had just completed out of stunning green mohair. It positively danced before my eyes.
She has this uncanny knack for finding exactly the pattern that will make a given yarn really shine.  I remember this particular lace weight alpaca in various shades of purple that I found at a farmer's market years ago.  It used to puzzle me.  I knew there was a risk of horrible pooling, which intimidated me.  I finally decided to let Nina have a go at it.  She came up with this very open crochet pattern that was just the right fit.  Rather than causing the colors to pool, the pattern made each shade of purple look like facets of an amethyst.  (How's that for purple prose?)
With this in mind, I brought out my delicious lace weights. As beautiful as they were, I had no desire to work with them.  Perhaps someday it would click, but it didn't seem fair that the yarn would have to wait around until then, wilting on the shelf.  It felt like such a waste.  So to Nina they will go!
Farewell, all you fine yarn.  I can't wait to see what you become!

Saturday, January 24, 2015


In the linen closet, there were two sets of sheets for beds we no longer owned, just in case I ever came across a single bed that needed sheets, I suppose.  There was also an excessive amount of bath towels.  Really--it was surprising how many I had accumulated.  Maybe six or seven nude-colored towels, an entire set of blue towels we were given as a wedding gift, and a few odd orphan towels from here and there, were all stashed in there.  All these towels for two adults and two small children!  In nearly four years of marriage, it had never occurred to me that this was an obscene overabundance of towels.

I looked at those sad nude towels as if for the first time, and realized that I had never liked them.  Nude towels completely defeat the purpose of using a towel at all, since you just look naked anyway. Why had I hung on to them for so long?  NO MORE!

Goodbye, depressing nude towels!  Thank you for drying my babies, soaking up spills, and helping me block my knits.  You were never much to look at, but you got the job done, albeit redundantly.

Enjoy the great towel rack in the sky.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Who knew that folding could be so satisfying?  My clothing now fits comfortably in three drawers, a small crate on a shelf, and a thin slice of the closet.  I have empty drawers that I don't know what to do with.  Can barely fathom that.

It became abundantly clear that handmade clothing gives me the most pleasure.  I love slipping on a garment I brought to life myself.  For the first time it seems achievable to have a mostly me-made wardrobe, full of natural fibers.  Think Alabama Chanin jersey skirts and dresses, handknit sweaters, and wool socks.  Thrifted Pendleton wool pleated skirts that I have mended and let out and hemmed.  Lots of boatnecks.  Lots of stripes, polkadots, and appliqué.  I am so happy at the thought.

And yet it has been freeing to let go of some of the homemade stuff that I have moved past.  Here are the chunky leg warmers I knit out of pea-green Peruvia that made my legs look like Oscar the Grouch's--if he had been brave enough to set foot outside his garbage can.  Serious cankles.
Farewell, jolly green leg warmers!  You kept my shins warm through many a Jordanville winter, where my skirts were long enough to hide you.  Maybe someone will find you at the thrift shop, unravel you, and make you into something better.  Maybe someone will actually want to wear you--as unlikely as that seems.  Or maybe you will become insulation at a fiber recycling plant.  You served me well.  Thanks for the laughs--often at my expense when I wore you.  My heart will go on.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

After reading Marie Kondo's book and several accounts of those who put her ideas into practice, I have been itching to get started in my own home.  I want to keep a record of the process here.  Maybe then I won't bore my husband and sisters with all my yammering about this project.

I have always been acquisitive. My natural tendency is to stockpile. Perhaps it is because I come from a large family.  I hate running out of ingredients, for instance. It's far more likely that I have two more jars in the pantry of whatever is required.  I keep a bale of toilet paper in the house at all times.  Now, a certain amount of stockpiling is necessary when you live in the middle of nowhere.  But in her book, Marie Kondo points out that extreme stockpiling of an item that takes months or even years to use up is a terrible waste of space. The pennies saved on the bulk purchase are nothing compared to the inconvenience of living with the excess for so long.  In any case, I realized recently that I have lost all sense of proportion, if I had ever had any to begin with.

Just as I always seem to make enough food for 10, which we then have to eat for several days in a row, I have been living in a house jammed with far more than my small family needs.  Our tiny house has very little storage, which I have bitterly complained about in the past.  Yet as I have begun this process, I have been shocked to discover that it has more than enough room, once I started getting rid of all of the things that don't speak to me.  For years, I have been storing things I don't need or even like.  It stops now.  In the coming weeks, I'd like to share some of the ridiculous things I've excavated.  Stay tuned!