Tag Archives: nostalgia

A mostly 1970s quilt…

It’s hard not to call this ramble something like “that ’70s quilt” or “talkin’ bout my generation” (even though that was the ’60s and has nothing to do with fiber) – something overstated but understood, jingly and annoying but common and somewhat comfortable…

But that somewhat encapsulates my feeling of the whole decade – it causes me equal parts discomfort and nostalgia.

I hated the 1970s because I hated polyester, stale cigarette smoke, musky perfumes, mustaches, “me,” disco (I kinda like that now), cheesy love songs, feathered hair, giant cars (El Caminos excepted), tube socks (I kinda like those now), my bible-beating public elementary school, my ignorant small town, plastic toys, Vietnam-damaged fathers and uncles (I didn’t have one, but most did), high-waisted clothes, acrylic, popular colors of pus, piss, and poo, the stench of leaded gasoline, dusty scents from too much unwashed macrame and houseplants and pillows and tapestries, halter tops on women and girls, too much wood, terrible architecture…

But I loved typewriters, lower-waisted clothes, back to earth movements, interpretations of 1920s and ’30s revivals, funk, longer hair, afros, craft revivals, interesting food, fantastical fiber creations, and a bunch of other stuff – mostly wrapped up in nature and creativity and the lovely analog life…

It sort of all started with this fabric. It might be older than the ’70s, but the calico and earthy colors reminded me of rustic quilts in mountain cabins comforting those who played banjos, wore patched corduroy, and brewed dandelion wine. I suppose that is more Appalachian than the ’70s, but since my parents moved us to the country to get back to the earth then, and I had a musical family who partook (and still partakes) in old time music and dance, my association is personal, though part of a definitive ’70s cultural movement.

1970s baking fabric

The fabric came from an antique mall (I think), and it’s a massive amount – some 10 or 13 yards, and it had to have been priced at $15 or less, so I bought it without a specific quilt in mind, but with the thinking that any cheap large amounts of cotton fabric = quilt backs. At the time, I also had a cousin who lived in an old house and participated in old time life whose wedding was a few months away, and I had grand ideas of making a massive rustic quilt for the couple. But that thought was short-lived – I never thought about what the top would be, and our own old house didn’t yet have a kitchen and sewing machines were packed away, and I essentially had stopped making quilts for anyone, or any bed-sized ones at all…

Fast forward a few months ago when I was unpacking and organizing my fabric stash, I found that fabric again, and also pulled out the tiny bit of my mother’s leftover stash that I’ve keep separate for fear of forgetting what was from my own past and what was from someone else’s.

1970s home fabric

Some of these are are a little earlier too, and I remember the top blue covering a chair seat likely done in the ’60s… and I vaguely recall the black or navy used for a piece of clothing for me. A bit more of this sort of calico found its way into the treetop of this piece.

Birdscene

And my old bonnet – which still fits…

(Remember the ’70s aslo had that patchworked and bebonneted character of Holly Hobbie and the resurgence of Sunbonnet Sue – I’m not sure which inspired my mother to sew a long dress with matching bonnet and white eyelet pinafore for a xmas outfit for me…)

1970s bonnet

But the fabric is awesome – baby chicks, scarecrows, kittens… I don’t want to cut this up though, so bonnet/artifact it will stay.

1970s bonnet detail

I also kept a terribly sewn dress that I remembered hating to wear because the neck or the empire waist, or something about it was too damn tight, and it was a baby style sized up to my girl frame, though I was forced to wear it around the person who gave it to me, and clearly it is faded so I must have been strapped into the thing often – or – the fabric was lousy and faded on the clothesline quickly. I think the fabric is a Liberty of London? And I have no idea why I kept it except for evidence in a child torture suit? Because I like brown?

(As an aside, I don’t get the hullabaloo about Liberty – sure, I appreciate the historic factor, but where is the fabric made? England isn’t known for its cotton crop, so it isn’t really made there, just printed. And though some of the patterns are lovely, some are a bit too romantic and twee for me, and some are just plain frumpy and if not in the know, would appear to be something that came from the big box…)

So I have no qualms about cutting it up – and I had it stored with an unfinished felted bag with pinks and browns, so it still could become a lining.

1970s dress detail

And finally, I remembered an aunt’s homemade skirt from that time – a mountain dwelling dancer whom I looked up to – I don’t know why I ended up with her skirt, but I was a tall child, and it fit me with the aid of a safety pin and I remember wearing several times when I needed to look “old fashioned” for some school pageant or living history sort of thing.

It still fits, but is nearly a foot too short for being the maxi-style skirt it is supposed to be. I am very hesitant about cutting it up, though I truly want to have less in my life – perhaps I’ll consider shortening it a bit to wear as a skit again, and then have the scrap to use, or perhaps I want to make a smaller wall quilt just out of it alone….

1970s-skirt detail

Though my thinking about ’70s fabric mainly revolved around brightly colored calicos and decisively shunned other fabrics of the decade, my mind started to wonder/wander about “cheater” cloth and if I shouldn’t just get several yards of the stuff and only add my own patch to it here and there.

I found this awesome hex pattern online and snatched it up…

1970s cheater fabric

It reminded me of my old pants.

1970s pants

(I’d like to think I caught Patches the cat leaping through the air in a trick feline circus move, rather than I’m probably squeezing her, or him? to the point of torture).

But that awesome mustard fabric is more of a canvas, there’s only a yard or less, and I think I’d rather make a tote bag out of it, so my focus returned.

I looked around for some more bright vintage calicos and was rather disheartened by the prices online – I’m used to picking up second-hand fabric (at least stuff that’s less than 50 years old) for a song…

But then this stuff is now “vintage” after all – I often think the ’70s was only about 18 years ago…

1970s cut fabric

I found a good deal on some pre-cut patches – normally I hate the pre-cut stuff because I like to use every last scrap of fabric and I mourn for the jagged corners thrown away, but I wanted some variety and this fit the bill.

And then I found a few larger cuts – the one on the left has a pleasing brown background, and the one on the right has a coy bird…

1970s bird fabric

(One of my online orders reeked highly of dryer sheets or some other synthetic stench. I can appreciate the need to scent the stash to deter fiber-munching predators, but if you sell it to others, please don’t use these chemical bombs – lavender and other herby sachets and naturally scented soaps and such work just as well and don’t cause respiratory distress in others as much… Better yet, send it out once it has aired and smells of nothing at all…)

And then I dug through my regular stash and found some prints older and newer that fit in well enough – most of these are scraps and fat quarters from the craft supply thrift store (usually 4 or 5 for a dollar), or in grab bags at antique malls, so all told, I spent less than $30 on my new old acquisitions to scratch my ’70s itch – not too overboard, but still fabric in, money out, and nothing to show for it….

1970s random scraps

But I don’t really like these colors – too primary with searing reds – I like that they’re warm and happy, but I don’t want to see them every day and I don’t want them in my bedroom with its calm and soothing hues. So perhaps it was enough to just gather my thoughts a bit and collect these few more fabrics – the total lot doesn’t take up much room and I’ve yet to lay it out or calculate to know if I even have enough for a quilt – a throw size definitely, which is perhaps what I’m leaning towards if anything at all…

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String me up…

Gift knitting is wrapping up, work has been extra workful, I’m making a point of spinning for a little bit often to strengthen my wrist, and I feel like I’m not making enough progress in anything even though many things are finally getting my attention…

The mild winter had me fooled that I would be puttering about the yard now thinking about landscaping, digging some new beds, and playing with some of the great rocks we’ve unearthed around the property. But frigid temps, frozen ground, massive mud pits, and all around unpleasantness except for some brilliantly sunny days have kept me indoors and driven me partially underground to the basement.

Two more pieces of our Heywood Wakefield set are now refinished. Two more to go – the biggest and heaviest – two dressers – but those might have to wait until better weather so we can work on them outside, or at least with the windows wide open.

basement-refinishing heywake

And I’ve got these boxes and tubs still to unpack, redistribute (though there’s really no more room elsewhere), be rid of, or re-packed more efficiently and stored in a location I’ve yet to find or create. In our last house, the basement consisted of two rooms of piled boxes and tubs from hasty moves, art school crap, parental home downsizings, and childhood nostalgic detritus. We weren’t there long enough to deal with them, and now, though other things need to be done, I’m feeling done with them and have finally begun to tackle the heap.*

basement-unpacking

They’re full of art supplies, real photography supplies, rocks, shells, vintage tablecloths, a couple of washed fleeces, vintage dishes, paper making supplies, a few duplicate kitchen supplies, that blasted punch bowl, old rusty crap, sewing tools and notions, things from childhood, pots and plates I threw but don’t use but can’t get rid of, and a few more boxes of books outside the frame that I am able to cull without too much pain, as well as some giant photographs and paintings I just can’t figure out…

But with every one, surprises lurk inside.

basement-spools

In a tub that also contains chopsticks, drink stirrers, hanging hardware for picture frames I no longer have (or maybe re-stored in my folk’s basement?), clock parts for the clocks I used to make and sell, pez dispensers (why do I have so many fucking pez dispensers?), detached butterfly wings plucked from car grills, a series of vintage plastic robots, dried up tins of adhesives, glass bead making tools (some of them, others I gave away), the screwdrivers I’ve been looking for for two home renovations and was convinced I left in the old house, another staple gun (I think that makes 4 in our house now), tea balls, plaster tape for casts or sculpture, and finally a cigar box of old thread and trimmings from an estate sale, and a shoe box full of little spools of tatting thread from my once beloved thrift store.

basement-tatting

The contents of the tub indicate it was thrown together in 2008 – kitchen materials mixed with tools and craft supplies – place it in my old apartment’s kitchen/dining room/hall closet area, an s-curve shaped space of quirky lets-carve-an-apartment-out-of-this-grand-old-home because it’s the depression and we got killed in the market architecture. Perhaps I dug around in it once since then, but mostly it stayed in our old basement, then the storage unit for a few years. I knew I had some collections of old spools of thread, but I thought I had them all with me already – I had no memory of having this much more. And the tatting stuff? Completely forgot, though now I remember I wanted to frame some of them…

basement-thread

I’m on the fence a bit about using vintage supplies – on the one hand, they are supplies, meant to be used and used up, and I have no qualms about using a few inches of thread here and there to to make repairs on like-colored clothing or for a pop of color on a button or something, but on the other, they’ve become artifacts. But in the case of the tatting thread, it’s an all-out stash in itself or hoard… I don’t plan on tatting or crochet, at least at these fiddly gauges and I don’t do much embroidery, so I do need to purge it – sell it, likely and not think about if someone uses it all up on their own ghastly craft project, or squirrels it away again, or actually makes something beautiful or appreciates them as artifacts as well…

basement-tape

And then I found my stash of deconstructed VHS tape that I meant to make into an “art” piece, but I can’t stand to touch the stuff, and I’ve yet to don a pair of gloves and see if I can handle it that way… and I’ve forgotten about it, so why the hell didn’t I chuck it yet?

*So this was a bit of a pre-written post – I’m back to ignoring the emotionally overwhelming contents of our semi-subterranean floor…

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Quilts and blizzards

There was a whopper of a blizzard when I was a child. Right smack in the middle of it, my siblings (including some sulky tweens) and I all had chickenpox (I still have a scar on the bridge of my nose like a drunkenly placed inverted bindi), the power was out (including the water), the snowdrifts were so high that the pony* walked up and out of her corral, and our smallish house still lacked the addition that came a year later that made it much more livable – and survivable with a serious Nordic wood stove.

If I had been my mother, I’d have abandoned us all (perhaps first letting the chickens into the house so we’d have something to eat – actually they may have already been in the garage).

Instead, she made a quilt for me.

childhood quilt

The fabric, unfortunately a cotton – poly blend, and now very faded in in parts, came from a fabric store a few towns away that had been devastated by a tornado a few years earlier – you could still see its path a decade later. The colors matched the wallpaper in my room that I think I hated for my entire childhood (early on I saw faces in it, later I thought too many of the colors were too close to excrement, snot, and sickness, and I was over the moon to be able to finally tear it off for my 13th birthday, but in hindsight, I think I like it now – I kept a square of it, but I can’t find it at the moment). The paper was mostly greens and blues and sicklier shades of yellow and brown, and my carpet was a green and blue berber, so it was a tight color family in there. But I still really like green, and I liked the outdoors and my parents moved to the country when I was an infant to do that back to earth thing, so the colors of earth and sky were good ones to have overdone.

childhood quilt-poultry

The embroidery was the best part, and unfortunately most of it has worn away and neither of us remember what all was there. Certainly most of it contained scenes and icons of country life – our country life.

childhood quilt-blue eyes

Although a few oddballs cling on – like this solid-blue-eyed blonde floating head. I think it was supposed to be me, but I had green eyes and auburn hair and pupils – I’ll just pretend the blizzard kept her from obtaining the appropriately colored floss…

childhood quilt-house

And some of the applique and its puffy stuffing has literally held on by a thread…

childhood quilt-cabbage

A bit of the fabric was also on this piece and retained its deeper color.

So during this blizzard nearly 40 years later, and several states away, though nearly the anniversary to the day, I repaired it.

childhood quilt-repair

I’d like to re-create some of the missing embroidery, but knowing what it was is impossible… though I’m pretty sure this was the dedication square and the sun I sewed back on had rays…

childhood quilt-inscription

Or perhaps just leave well enough alone…

And enjoy its warmth (although stuffed with poly) during this stupid blizzard slamming into and darkening the windows while I try to knit and ignore the howling wind and my fear of loosing power (mostly because of the water).

sugar & chick snow

*Sugar the pony with a feathered friend.

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Summer craft

We’re unpacking boxes again. Some of mine haven’t been unpacked since a very sudden move in 2008, and a few from my childhood home decades ago that were only opened to toss more things in rather than weed and remove.

I found a whiskey box with a great wad of crafty jewelry that dated c. 1980-1991. It was a time of equal-opportunity counter culture decor for me – vintage hippie beads, new age crystals, punk rock chains and pins, beads representing bleeding-heart worldliness from Africa and South America, and crafty bits from midwestern 4-H camp.

camp-wad

I remember making most of these things in the summertime – embroidery floss taped to my knee while I sat in the hammock or under a tree – or else they were worn more in the summer with their nautical vibe (and my winter clothes tended more goth and grunge and gender-bending…)

camp-bracelets

I made possibly hundreds of these things and gave away many.  This was also before the overpopulation of Jesusfish due to global warming melting out the rightwingedchristiandom crazies, so some of these are patterned with fish just for fishsake…

camp-friendshipbracelets

And I remember trading these beaded safety pins in elementary school – the bead colors meant something, but I’ve since forgotten (and this was before gay rainbows too, but yay for gay rainbows)!

camp-safetypinbeads

I had a bead loom – up until recently, I think – I think I gave it to one of my siblings before the last few moves…

camp-beadloom

And I’d like to think I was one of the “cool” camp counselors, evidenced by these gifts from my campers. Plaid Maggot was the secret real name of our two-year award winning (of the camp talent show) jugband whose real name was something gentle and new age and asinine like Lunar Rhythms or Earthstrokes…

(I think another counselor reported me for my non-censoring leatherwork class, but secreting these quickly away and playing dumb actually worked out for all involved that time…)

camp-leatherwork

I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of summertime crafting this year. I most like sitting outside to unravel sweaters or card wool so the sneezy bits fall on the ground rather than the rug.

unwinding-outside

But I only got in a couple of unwinding sessions so far…

unwinding-cicadas

But there are still a few months to go before the nasty white fluffy stuff comes back, right…?

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On getting rid of things, part II – of prom dresses and punch bowls

prom dress detail

I still have my prom dress.

I still have two of them actually, but the other one is a very basic and classic black crepe cocktail dress that still fits and no one is the wiser that it’s over 20 something years old – I was a practical, though still obnoxious, teen.

But I really don’t have a really good reason for keeping this one.

My prom wasn’t magical – my date wasn’t my teen heartthrob soul mate (though he was very nice guy), I don’t even remember the venue or the dinner, I’m sure too many country ballads were played followed by metal ones – especially the kind that had a confusing beat of neither slow nor fast, or started slow but ended fast…  And I’m pretty sure I was still suffering from an extended bout of mono, or pneumonia, or other disease that would have finished me off had it been a century earlier.

I remember getting the dress at a small department store, and it was certainly on sale – I wanted something vintage-looking, and I can’t remember why I didn’t actually wear vintage since I had a few 1950s party dresses, but maybe it was because I’d already worn them to other mediocre small-town high school dances?

I considered myself of the counter culture and was non-conformist, so I’m not sure why I didn’t go in drag – I had a lovely old tuxedo from my great uncle Oscar and a sleek pair of grandpa’s wingtips that my freaky feet and lanky frame filled out sufficiently.  But I think I wanted to do something a little more classy – a little more normal – which was abnormal for me.  But then again, this was the ghastly time of the giant hair and jarringly bright, or sickeningly pastel colored gowns, so a black and white dress was different…

But, I’m wrong.

BrenKellyCamera

Apparently, it’s damn close to the most popular prom dress of 1991 thanks to Beverly Hills 90210.

But, in my defense, I never saw the show, and I doubt many others in my ass-backward town did… And I think my dress was from the year before anyway?

So I’m not sure why I still have it, or what to do with it – it’s not the style of teens today, nor does it scream 1980s to allow for ironic wear – and simply dropping it off at the thrift store hasn’t happened. I don’t have the desire to wear it while vacuuming, or cut it up for a satiny small quilt, or buff the car with it, or line a dog’s crate, or wear it as a Halloween costume of myself in my youth, or save it in case one of the nephews might be inclined to wear it fabulously, or modify it in some way to make it acceptable formal wear again…

In the meantime, I’ve been using it as padding wound around an old punch bowl – something else I haven’t used in over a decade…

And an update to part I:

dictionaries - Copy

I still haven’t decided whether or not to get rid of my print dictionaries, but I see that others have…

(And you gotta love a thrift store that actually categorizes their books!)

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[Jet] lagging…

I made it to 5:12 a.m. this morning and feel triumphant!  Then I realized it was daylight savings,* so the jet lag beast has been tossed a scrap and is still pacing a bit around the room.  No more middle of the night pancake dinners/breakfasts though, but the last one was quite tasty with the last of our White Mountain edible souvenirs.

pancakes

My brain is still buzzy and unfocused and my body mildly flu-like.  I came home with mountain legs as firm as two well-aged prosciutti, but now they’re returning to their younger non-dead jiggly piglet state.  My body and mind are out of synch with my reality and just want to put one foot in front of the other until a pleasing distance and vista and lunch spot have been reached.

murder on the mountain **

I know it is incredibly pretentious, but I feel more culture shock returning to the U. S. rather than being outside of it (at least in the European bits).  Americans weigh too much, they are sick, they are loud, they drive enormous machines, they wheel enormous luggage, they can be demanding of bedraggled clerks and service workers, their children are wild, and worst of all, they build and live in suburbs – vast expanses of land without sidewalks or farms – utterly purposeless and ugly.

But this is where I was born and legally reside and thanks to N we can leave it once in awhile.

But I’m also just another American wishing she could eat, pray, love (mostly the eating part) under the Tuscan (I’d prefer Abruzzo) sun.  But there are a few things in Italy (and probably Europe in general) that are downright magical that even more increase my desire to stay.

  Dairy.  I have dairy issues in the states – I don’t know if it is lactose or casein or something else, but even when I get the organic grass-fed hoity-toity localish stuff here, I can have problems.  I can tolerate milk, ice cream, cream, etc., about 15% of the time here, so I usually just forgo anything not aged or fermented – cheese and yogurt are ok-ish.  In Italy, I have about a 99% tolerance rate – the only bad dairy experience I’ve had there was from a mediocre cream-based pasta sauce at an even more mediocre tourist trap restaurant in Rome a few years ago.  So I load up on the stuff while I’m there – cappuccino, gelato, cream sauces, oh yeah!  And of course cheese – I especially love the sheep and goat stuff – pecorino dolce, ricotta di capra, caciocavallo etc., etc., etc….

 Allergies.  I barely have them there, and leave behind my constant ropey mucous companion dangling down my throat here.  That probably has a straightforward reason about the different climate and fewer useless expanses of lawns and less proliferation of non-native species with their companion herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

So now that I’ve established that my brain is broken, my body atrophying, my nose dripping, and I’m suffering from a vague yogurt induced gut cramp, I must mention fiber – specifically my travel knitting.

I started the first pair of socks since my sock knitting debacle months ago.  Again, my sock mojo is off – I used a bit bigger yarn on my preferred shorty wood needles with my 64 stitch vanilla pattern, thinking it would firm things up and be ok, but they’re big – baggy ankle big.  But I don’t give a damn and still have to finish the leg parts, so I can firm up the upper ribbed section.  I’m constructing them in a strange fashion, but it makes sense in my head and should allow me to use up all the yarn.  I’ve dubbed them my “Nostalgia Socks” as the color reminds me of old quilts, 1970s sweaters, and now my trip.

sock in progress

The colors in this pic are wrong, but accurately portray the weak blue light that just barely stretched down to our nearly subterranean Italian apartment.

nostalgia socksThis is how the color should look – and if you look closely you can see one of the two knots I’ve found so far.

And remember my giddiness over Pigeonroof Studios Mimsy BFL roving?  And even more over the Hitchhiker pattern? I can call it a finished project now since I shoved it in my bag at the last minute.  It was one of those that ended sooner than I was ready to finish, and previously I only let myself knit a few rows here and there as a reward for meeting some goals on my portfolio pieces.  Ok, I may have over-rewarded myself, but this is my favorite handspun yarn to date – the softness and drape are wonderful (if I do say so myself) but most of that is due to the inherent qualities of the fiber itself.

Mimsyhiker on wall

My yardage was less than the suggested amount and I used bigger needles, so I didn’t quite make it to the original 42 points.  Mine is 41 1/2 – instead of a half a point, I just made the last one wider.  I watched 42 on the plane over and hoped I could have that numerical reference as well, but I didn’t quite make the team.

Mimsyhiker & acquedotto

Mimsyhiker & biscotto

I finished it in the first few days we were there, so I was able to wear it again and again and again – it’s finally taking a rest drying from a light blocking to stretch it out a little.

As for acquisitions, I bought some cheap (but ugly) sock yarn, and some cheap (but lovely) mohair in the market.

But of course I bought more of the real thing.

yarn-laquilana

It deserves a post of its own next time.

* Daylight savings happened in Italy last weekend.  We spent a day wondering why none of the cafes were opened when they should have been, rushed to return the rental car when we didn’t have to hurry, and even left for the airport an hour before we needed to – but none of it was the problem it would have been in the spring.

** I love this picture that N took – in the camera it appeared that I had been steamrolled, but now it looks more like a Nancy Drew book jacket for “Murder on the Mountain.”  I love sleeping on mountains – some bedroom designer should get on that – forget beds – rig up a soft inclined meadow and mimic warm sun and chilly breezes in a room instead.

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In praise of first things…

I just unpacked my woolen winter things.

I’ve gotten rid of, or ripped out, a few of my early knitting projects, but I kept my first scarf.

It was also my very first actual project after practicing with a few useless squares of nasty acrylic yarn in a pleasing shade of grey.

firstthingsscarf

I bought the yarn for this scarf in a long since closed LYS in the Midwest.  It is 100% alpaca, in probably a light worsted or sport weight, yet I’m positive I used size US7 needles since they were all I had.  After knitting a few decadently smooth rows, I convinced myself that my life had to become that of an alpaca farmer.  I joined mailing lists for breeders associations and farms, I read up on the fleece colors and textures, I learned that they don’t need as much land as sheep and could even be transported in a minivan, and I may have even looked at acreage for sale.  However, at that time I was in graduate school and living in a squirrel-infested apartment and eating from bulk bags of dried beans and rice (I cooked them first, of course).  But I thought that perhaps the fiber-bearing-animal-farmer would be a possible life for me in at least five years or so.

(It’s now fifteen and even less possible).

firstthingsscarfdet1

The color of the yarn is bit of a dated 1990s sage green, but the drape and softness are lovely, and I still wear it.  It has a couple of mistakes, but nothing that overtly advertises it as rookie work.  And despite alpaca being less elastic than wool, it has not become misshapen, nor has it become full of pills.

firsthingsscarfdet2

It’s strange to think in person terms, this scarf could now be licensed to drive.  After its journey from the back of a warm animal in Peru, it has lived in a few apartments and houses, been seen and touched by many people – yet only been worn by me, survived the devastating moth attack of 2002, been crumpled into plastic bags at the end of every season since, traveled around the country yet not left it again, worn willingly on odorous public buses and dim slushy streets, accepted accidental nasal drips, held ice crystals on its finest fibers from my breath, blown and flapped against several coats – some puffy and some wooly cousins, and has remained loyal and comforting to the slowly loosening neck underneath it.

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