Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Frances, the Magical Snow Elf

It has been a wonderful year, filled with dolls and teddy bears. And my all-time favorite, the one that truly put me into the Christmas mood is Frances. Francis the Surprise Knit-Along snowman turned out to be Frances the snow elf. Deena Thomson-Menard, the designer extraordinaire, really surprised us this time.
Once I finished her I took Frances everywhere, to Christmas in the Park, to coffee shops, even to the movie. I had planned to give her away if I found somebody who really wanted her. Well, that didn't work out; I found all sorts of excuses to keep her. She is my little mascot, at least for now.
Merry Christmas Frances!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Knitter

Knitting has been very meaningful so far this month. My daughter gave me an Advent candle which I light every evening for about fifteen minutes, and while I "gaze" into the light I reflect on the day's news, activities, and impressions. This keeps me from reacting to the stress that the holidays usually add. Of course knitting further deactivates negativity. How can I be stressed while creating a happy monkey? The pattern is Annita Wilschut's, available on Ravelry. I added a red skirt and Santa hat to make it a little girl monkey. As can be seen from the photo, I finished her on December 6.

I wasn't going to participate in my Ravelry group's Knit Along for December, but couldn't resist once I saw all the wonderful snowmen that were being knitted. On the 8th I began mine and have been blissfully happy seeing him grow. Well, actually, by clue four it became evident that he would be a she. Deena Thompson Menard revealed that Francis would be Frances as she added a dress.

In between clues, on December 11 I started another project. Many years ago my ex-husband had given me a gingerbread doll and I always thought that she evoked the best Christmas spirit in me. She reminds me of my early childhood and I can almost smell the Lebkuchen, the ginger bread, when I look at her.

Ginger is getting on in years and so I decided to clone her. The skirt was the hardest to reproduce; plaid requires much attention. I decided to make all parts from yarn in case Ginger II became friends with a little girl. Therefore the buttons are crocheted and embroidered.

Monkey girl and Ginger are finished; Frances is waiting for the last clue. Speculation is that she might get a hat and scarf. While I wait I am working on a rather bulky present for my daughter. For obvious reasons this project will not be revealed in pictures today.

The Advent candle has brought light and reflection into my living room and into my heart and I am grateful for the many hours of knitting that have resulted.

I wish all my friends a very Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous New Year!

Gisela, the Happy Knitter :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sister, Sister - Bears from 321 to 332

Bear 321 Margaret
Bear 322 Catherine
Bear 323 Beatrice
Bear 324 Elizabeth
Bear 325 Rebecca
Bear 326 Nena
Bear 327 Joan
Bear 328 Carolyn
Bear 329 Bernie
Ber 330 Sandy
Bear 331 Roseanne
Bear 332 Judi

Sister, Sister, Your Light Shines Brightly -- Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt.

November 30, 2014

Candles are perfect for the holiday season. Whether sitting solo on the kitchen table, or in the company of their sisters clipped to an Advent wreath, or lined up with others on a menorah, or spread in multitude across the outer limbs of a fir tree, a candle brings warmth and light, and enhances the art or spiritual reflection.
Of course the days of my childhood trees are long gone, and with them the small, red candles my stepfather would light on Christmas Eve. Grown older and wiser have the innocent eyes in two little faces who made the season so precious during my mothering days. Even my grandchildren have matured into adults, no longer sitting beside me, waiting for a candle to be lit. The candle and I are alone in our relationship now. Face to face. Flame to flame.

I look at the candle my daughter Patricia bought for me in Solvang. Made in Germany. I test-light it and take a picture to post on Facebook. A few days ago I promised not to write a single negative sentence during the holiday season. I want to strengthen my resolution. The candle that shows the numbers one to twenty-four, like an Advent calendar, encourages daily lighting, daily reflection. Daily shivers of recognition.
Yes. Recognition.
Recognition of simple truths. We, as a whole, we the people, we have to be more compassionate. I have to be more compassionate. And I need to be more reflective.
One group who seems to be very much in tune with this demand on our humanity - the practice of giving of the self - are nuns. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for instance.
I got my first understanding of this when my daughter posted the picture of a pink, tie-dyed t-shirt online. Two of her students had given it to her, because she had not been able to participate in a Brest Cancer Awareness activity, in which she had wanted to color a shirt for me, the survivor. We both responded to this act of kindness with great joy.

When I wanted to thank the students for their compassion I didn’t know how, at first. But soon it came to me. Pay it forward. Maybe pay it backward at the same time?

First I wore the shirt, took a selfie, posted it on Patricia's page. Then I knitted until twelve teddy bears were ready. I asked my daughter to give me the names of twelve nuns who instill such good will in young people. Some of the Sisters she knows from teaching at the University in Belmont. Some she met in Nicaragua. Some became friends while she spent Christmas in Kenya last winter.
There are twelve bears with the names of twelve Sisters. These bears will travel to Minneapolis from where they will begin their journey to Africa to become the companions of twelve children affected by HIV/Aids.
I took a picture of the bears as a group, carrying candles – though these candles are lit by batteries; it makes for easier photographing. Then I printed twelve copies for holiday greetings, to be sent to the twelve Sisters. On the inside of each card a bear stands alone, labeled as gift in a short explanation, and identified by name: Margaret, Bernie, Roseanne, Nena, Joan, Carolyn, Judi, Catherine, Beatrice, Elizabeth, Sandy, Rebecca.
Finally I printed one eight by ten for my daughter to take to her students, to show them how their good deed has been rewarded, indirectly, just as the Sisters’ good deeds, indirectly, caused me to express myself through teddy bears for Africa.

Tomorrow will be the first of December. I will light my candle until the number “1” has been consumed by the flame. I will reflect on the generosity of spirit in the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I will reflect on young people who show the grace of compassion. And I will reflect on the smiles of children whose lives will be brightened by a small sign of love from afar. After that, I suppose, I will begin to knit another teddy bear.

Bear Count Update

I haven't blogged about my activities lately - life got in the way - but I would like to update my Bear count since this is how I keep track of them.

Bear 317 Katy

Bear 318 Connor

Bear 319 Rausch

Bear 320 Kenny

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bears 307 to 316 moved on without being noticed

Ten Bears have been sent to Minneapolis recently, without being properly documented here. They are Bears 307 to 316. Five pairs, sets of twins, as far as clothing is concerned. And here they are.

Bears 307 and 308 - Efua and Kofi

Bears 309 and 310 - Roberta and Montgomery

Bears 311 and 312 - Scarlett and Hunter

Bears 313 ad 314 - Ashraf and Mohamad

Bears 315 and 316 - Alanis and Wade

As their group photo indicates, I spent roughly 67 hours on them.
My Mandela Day project for 2014. I love you Madiba!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


When finding and testing a particular crochet stitch becomes all-consuming I usually just smile.

"A little weird! It's o.k! Nobody cares!"

But when I suddenly become aware that this stitch is meant to indicate a narrow, grassy border to a road on a Fairyland landscape, the underpinnings to a tree stump, some flowery cushions, and five rainbow-tea drinking fairies, whom nobody knows but me, I halt my search for green novelty yarn and a loop stitch, and sit down to document this slightly insane urge to build yet another island community that, upon completion, will be rolled up and stuffed away in my storage shed.

I had done this with close to 100 stuffed rabbits and one teddy bear, years ago, displayed them at a country fair, then shelved them in six or seven big boxes, until, one Christmas, I gave the complete set-up of caroling, baking, tree decorating bunnies to a homeless shelter. I assume eventually it all got mixed up in their mass of decorations and give-aways.

Two years of hard work had gone into that project; luckily Fairyland is just a summer fling, a knit-along, which, theoretically, only asks that I knit or crochet one fairy, with a name based on my initials, created by a fairy name generator computer program.

My initials are G.F. My fairy is Columbine Beamspider - she brings light and enlightenment. She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows. She can only be seen when the dry seed caps pop. She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers and has bright lemon-coloured wings like a cicada.

Number two is for my mother. Her fairy is North Windshimmer. She brings gentle breezes to change the weather. She lives where the Celts and the Norse people live. She can only be seen when the first flowers begin to blossom. She wears pure white and has silvery lilac butterfly wings.

I am working on my grandmother now - a devious spirit - Ember Agaricglow - she brings hallucinations. She lives where fireflies mate and breed. She can only be seen in the light of a full moon. She wears dresses that glow with fiery colors and has russet-colored wings like a brightly coloured butterfly.

I gave her black wings instead. She deserves to be a bit sinister.

After that my daughter and granddaughter will have their fairies produced, then the big task is the ground they occupy. I have already made a tree stump for serving tea, a mushroom house, some cushions to sit on, a flower meadow, and parts of the basic ground. Right now I obsess over the little country lane that cuts through Fairyland. It must have a grassy edge to define its outline.

I have calmed down, turned off the news channel that tells me about wars around the world and makes my crocheting questions seem silly. I realize it is my coping mechanism that lets me drift into something beautiful; I am grateful for yarn and hook and fairies and the image of a tea party. It doesn't seem so crazy any more to want tufts of grass sprouting by the wayside.