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When the cheerful need cheering

thank you ecard LisaAllenLambert

It was one of those lunch dates that, once the day arrived, I really felt as though I shouldn’t leave my desk. My mind was busy with voices saying fingers should stay on the keyboard, be productive not social, etc. But this was to be an unusual celebration: a friend from one facet of my life had posted on facebook that her daughter was going to be spending a semester in Switzerland and in desperate need of a place to live. Immediately, I responded to her plea, tagging another friend who had  lived for years in Switzerland.  One facebook message led to another and within days accommodations were found and new friends made. Voilah!  Our lunch date was an opportunity for everyone to meet face-to-face and too special an occasion for me to miss.

We had a grand time, laughing together like old friends. By the time I was back in the car, my mood had lifted, returned to that place that sees the glass half full. A thank you was in order. And the best way I know how is with a picture.

The vintage roses are from a free graphic shared by Karen, the Graphics Fairy (don’t you love that moniker?!), that I customized with a few words and a heart using picmonkey, an online photo tool.

Perhaps you’d like to send someone a thank you, too? I’ve posted this card here (until Sept. 1). Send as many as you like, as many as you need.



Mitered Crosses Blanket, finished!

web_signed Mitered Cross on sofa_July 2013
I am savoring the satisfaction of checking off an unfinished object from the list, reveling in the sense of completion.
web_signed Mitered Crosses Blanket on sofaI don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the British drama import “Call the Midwife.” I catch up on back episodes on my laptop while chopping mountains of vegetables, now that I’ve re-embraced a veggie-dominant regime. It was during season 2/episode 8, that I felt a special kinship with the residents of Nonnatus House. In companionable silence and over the course of a a day or so, they crocheted an entire blanket — a prayer blanket, I think it might be called — for one of their own who was experiencing a difficult and life-threatening childbirth.

Knitting for hours on end became a sort of meditation for me in April, immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings. Hundreds of border stitches and a 48″ needle carried me through that turbulent and tragic week, and brought my Mitered Crosses Blanket to a finish.

web_signed Mitered Cross Blanket on Adirondack chairAnd here, the requisite garden glamour shot. Woo-hoo!

Pattern: Mitered Crosses from Mason-Dixon Knitting (see top-right of web page)
Yarn: NORO Silk Garden, various colorways. Basically warm tones for the crosses and cool tones for everything else.
Needle size: 5
Finishing: Nothing special – no blocking, due to its size (about that of a twin bed).





Playing Dress-Up with DIY Ombre

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 Welcome to my new bathroom!  Thanks to the straightforward DIY instructions in a recent West Elm catalog, walls that were once a neutral beige are no longer. Hello, fun factor!

web_bathroom ombre wall DSCN0583.jpg

Here’s the how to do it yourself from West Elm:

1. Pick your palette. Choose three shades of one color. (I chose the two lightest and the very darkest of Benjamin Moore #2031).

2. Start out light. Cover the entire wall in the lightest color, then paint the bottom fourth of the wall in the darkest shade.

3. Go tonal. Mix a new batch of color using the middle and darkest shades, then paint a band just above the bottom section. Above that, apply a section of only the medium hue.

4. Blend the borders. While the paint is still wet, use a dry paint brush to muddle the bands of color, dabbing the borders between each shade until they blend into one light-to-dark work of art. (suggestion: have on hand 3-4 dry brushes so that you have one for each color blending area.)

Additional notes about the ombre experience: I used Benjamin Moore’s ‘Aura’ paint, specially formulated to tolerate the dampness of a bathroom. However, after experiencing frustration with how quickly it dried — seriously interfering with my mushing together of the different color layers — a quick google search revealed that this paint finish is designed to dry faster than others. So, if you’re taking your bathroom space into the world of ombre, you may want to consider a satin or eggshell finish instead. If you simply must have more than one color in your ombre, try a multi-color combo. Directions from West Elm are here.


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When in doubt, Knit

web_blanket 1st assembled.jpg

Knitter/Designer Kristin Nicholas’s post today captures my thoughts exactly. In response to her question, nothing soothes me faster than making something with my hands. This week, the solution was knitting, which also means I am  charging forward towards a finish (remember my 2013 commitment?!) on the Mitered Cross Blanket in Noro’s Silk Garden wool/mohair/silk yarn. Interestingly, this blanket pattern was born from another tragedy, the 2011 tsunami in Japan. All pattern sale proceeds have been donated to Mercy Corps relief work. My purchase was a small but countable contribution towards helping.web_blanket progress with needle.jpg


web_blanket 1st look on rocker.jpg

After assembling the strips, I wanted a sense of what the blanket would look like draped. (Thinking about a finished-object glamour shot!) My ex-husband refinished this Mission-style rocker and had it upholstered in cotton velvet — my favorite fabric of that time — as a pregnancy congratulations gift twenty nine years ago. The persimmon-coral color works perfectly with the blanket’s crosses, doesn’t it?web_cora on blanket squares.jpg

While I was out scouting for a 48″ circular needle for knitting the borders, Cora nestled into the soft fuzziness. She was careful and didn’t knead before napping.web_hands knit blanket border.jpgHundreds of stitches must be picked up for the blanket border. The weight of the blanket feels so cozy and keeps me warm during late-night knitting.

Do you like novels that involve knitting? I’m always curious about them. I think it’s tricky, trying to spin a story, sustain an entire novel, around a crafty passion. Two of my favorites are Anne Bartlett’s Knitting and Ann Hood’s Circle of Knitting.

By the way, all of the pictures here were taken with my little Android phone’s camera. It’s not as fancy as its Apple competitor, but I’m eager to push its limits. A very reasonably priced ($5!) ‘Phonography’ email course from Photojojo has been encouraging and instructive. I’ve been playing with Instagram (it’s addictive!), too. You can find me at: lisaallenlambert. The site is like a completely different club house and I check in several times a day. Let me know if you’re posting there, too.


Maeve’s Village in my Dreams

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Did you know that books can be a competitive sport? I’ve never been a successful competitor type, but I did take a chance during a professional dinner last summer. One of the publishing professionals at the table asked what everyone was reading. When it was my turn I gulped, held my breath, and blurted, “Patrick Swayze’s, The Time of My Life — he was an incredible renaissance man. Did you know?” There was a batting of eyelashes and an uncomfortable pause before someone rescued my confession of such pedestrian reading and shared that a friend of hers had been the book’s agent; she concurred, as well, that Patrick was not only an actor, but an amazing dancer, athlete, human being. So you might be able to understand why my love for Maeve Binchy‘s novels is a little secret I’ve kept under wraps from my reading-and-writing colleagues. Her popularity is a given, but there are those discerning souls who would never include it in a canon of literature.

After finishing her non-fiction The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club, a book that was “inspired by a course run by the National College of Ireland,  comprises twenty letters from Maeve, offering advice, tips and her own take on life as a writer, in addition to contributions from top writers, publishers and editors,” I searched out her mailing address, jotted it down on an index card, and kept it on my bedside table with plans to write to her a fan letter ‘some day.’ And then she died. Suddenly. Another reminder of that adage, “do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” I berated myself for procrastinating, sad to have missed the opportunity to let Ms. Binchy know how much I valued her advice to up-and-coming writers, about the hours of relaxation and pleasure her novels have given me.

Maeve completed the manuscript for A Week in Winter shortly before her death. The day publication was announced on her facebook author page, I joined the library loan queue.

During a recent sun-filled morning, I joined Corabelle on the loveseat, A Week in Winter and fresh cup of decaff in hand. As I read the final chapter, swirling in the back of my mind was the question  “What is it that I love about these stories so much?” In the village lifestyle of my childhood on Nantucket Island, one could manage without a car and walk or bicycle anywhere. I think I’ve been craving and searching for that way of living ever since.

Nantucket sighting

Nantucket Main Street

This is what I find it in Maeve’s novels, what keeps pulling me back to them. There’s a sense of a village amongst each book’s cast of characters. A restaurant or bed-and-breakfast or neighborhood center, pulls everyone together, whether they are related by blood or not. I simply love being there with them, watching their lives unfold.

So there. My secret’s out. … What are you reading and loving right now?


Seasonal Shift

goodbye winter, hello spring!For weeks I have resisted relegating the gingerbread house to the trash. But with spring arriving today, it had lost its holiday shine and was starting to look like disorganized clutter on the dining room table. So late yesterday afternoon, with the day-before-spring snowflakes still falling, I put it outdoors as a wildlife donation, and hope that the squirrels will have a feast.




Happy Colorful Progress

african flower hexagon crochet blanket afghan
So far so good with my new year’s commitment to finish all UFOs lurking in tote bags and hanging from door knobs. Only four more African flower hexagons to crochet. Once everyone is attached to one another, I can begin the border, which I am imagining to be about 12″ deep all around and done up in assorted colors using single rows of double crochet, similar to Adaliza’s “Gypsy Rose” beauty.

african flower hexagon blanket
And Corabelle, my assistant.


Saturday sound check

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It seems there’s been a glitch in my blog post delivery system. With a bit of luck, I have now checked the correct setting options to remedy the problem. (Any self-hosted WordPress gurus out there?!) If you have a minute, would you leave a comment to let me know you’ve received this? Thanks so much. … by the way this little vignette is in my laundry/bathroom.


A Crafting Theme for 2013

2013 year of the finished object welcome

 knitting – crochet – sewing – photography – writing

These are the kinds of unfinished projects hanging around my place. The charm of a new project is almost irresistible, but the fact of the matter is that I simply cannot function amidst clutter. Too many incompletes distract me mentally, keep me from optimizing a new idea. So my intention is to develop the habit of referring back to my new theme for 2013, The Year of the Finished Object, before taking up yarn, needle, fabric, camera or keyboard.

What unfinished projects are you itching to complete? Any strategies to share?

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times square at night
Smack-dab in the heart of New York City’s Times Square

debbie bliss lecture
thousands of knitters and fiber enthusiasts converged for this year’s Vogue Knitting Live 3-day event. There were free lectures, like this one with Debbie Bliss, who described how to create flattering knitwear for all body shapes. To be honest, since my bust inflated from menopause’s hormonal havoc, blankets have become my favorite kind of project. But maybe there’s fresh hope now that I’ve learned a bit about how to customize a sweater or jacket’s contours with increases and decreases. By the way, there was a complimentary Fitting Booth in the Marketplace area, in which brave souls surrendered to a stranger with a tape measure. This would be the sensible route to take if one were going to implement Ms. Bliss’ techniques. For now, I took a ‘pass’ and will stick with hats, scarves, mittens, and domestic accessories.

knitting hands
Knitting was a very public activity throughout the hotel.

"Lisa Allen Lambert" "Vogue Knitting Live"

There weren’t many men, but this fellow drew a crowd with his color work.

VKL entrelac workshop
But how does any of this tie in to my memoir?

old friends reconnect
In the 1960s an accomplished needlewoman from NYC was invited to teach crewel embroidery to a group of women on Nantucket Island. The intention was that, under her tutelage, the islanders would equip a restored historical hotel — The Jared Coffin House — with period reproduction interior treatments. This woman would return to the island many times, and because she had developed a friendship with my aunt (one of the island’s prominent craftswomen of the time), she would sometimes stay at our house, too. In 1969 she invited me to NYC as her live-in mother’s helper. … This was none other than Rosemary Drysdale, the instructor for VLK’s Entrelac Workshop! How quickly do you think I registered for her class?! (She is now an editor at Vogue Knitting and Knit Simple magazines, and the author of Entrelac, a gorgeous and comprehensive tome on interlace knitting.)

My stint as mother’s helper did not last more than a few months, but because the memoir I wrote for my MFA thesis captures my high school years, it includes a chapter about Rosemary, her daughter, and their Greenwich Village apartment. Meeting Rosemary again last weekend was nothing short of thrilling!

When I last saw her in 1969, Rosemary was off to Portugal with a bundle of rug designs under her arm, bound for overseas cottage industry production. What seeds of creative possibility were planted during those months on Bleeker Street? Is influence measurable? Impossible to say. But I am certain that although decades have since passed, part of who I am today is rooted in what I experienced then.

Reconnecting with Rosemary was the high point of VLK for me, but the remainder of the experience did not disappoint.

workshop knitters

The weekend was all about group knitting.

nicky epstein edgings
In Nicky Epstein‘s workshop we learned how to manipulate the simplest of knit-and-purl to make ruffled edgings, hand-held bobbles, and all shapes of flowers. I have long admired her books and it was a privilege to attend what may be one of her last workshops of this type.

mitered sweater
Many attendees were decked out in their handmades. I love this mitered sweater in graduated squares. (Am guessing the yarn is Koigu.)

Trending alert! Oversized is ‘in’: needles, hooks, and fiber. The lady on the right offered 5-minute Tunisian crochet instruction from her bench. That was fun.

hotel elevator
And then it was time for hotel check-out and a mad dash to the East Village for a box of Italian pastries, and a train ride back to the country. Whew!

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