Lost and Found


I got lost on the way to Clifty Cemetery last Thursday. Of course I did. I’d only been there once before, maybe 15 years ago. But that’s where Dad wanted to go, so I loaded him in the back seat and settled Google Maps Girl in the front. She told me it would take about 45 minutes and gave me turn-by-turn directions. A full tank of gas and I was ready to roll.

I got most of the way there when Google Maps Girl decided to take a nap without telling me. Dad was no help at all. I had a feeling I wasn’t on the right path, but I was in no big hurry, so I just kept driving. The country in east Tennessee is beautiful. The barely two-lane road was overhung on both sides with branches full of giant green leaves. Lush, verdant, jungle-like almost, then suddenly a break in the foliage gave way to a sun-sparked panorama that wouldn’t be believed if you painted it. I took a photo or two, but then decided I didn’t want to record it. I wanted to be in it and remember it.

People often ask me why my parents chose to retire to rural Tennessee from suburban Chicago. I say, “It’s a milder climate, they still have four seasons, cousins in the area, the taxes are cheaper.” But really, I didn’t know why until last Thursday.

As I drove up and down those hills, I found myself rooted to the landscape in a way I haven’t felt since my childhood in West Virginia. A feeling of belonging to that place filled me up with contentment. I wasn’t just a grieving daughter, a big sister, an unemployed copywriter. I was there, really there, and it felt good. The way it was supposed to be. The way I was supposed to be.

When I was ready, I woke up Google Maps Girl and she got me back on track. Clifty Cemetery was just over the Caney Fork River in a sunny little spot along Clifty Road. I pulled over, got Dad out of the back seat and walked around until I found the other Rackley graves. Hmm. Two James Rackleys, both died in the 1950’s. Which one was your grandfather, Dad? Then I remembered a photo from that long-ago Clifty Cemetery trip. My then-tiny nephew balanced on top of the bigger gravestone that marked my great-grandmother’s and –grandfather’s resting place.

Well, I couldn’t put all of Dad’s ashes around that one marker, so I scattered them here and there, in front and behind all the Rackley markers. I never heard Dad say there was a relative he didn’t like, so I hope he’s OK with that. I spent some time looking at the different family sections, wondering if the Hodges and Van Winkles and Brooms and Lewises did the same when they came to pay respects or bury another family member.

I walked around and around, reluctant to leave a place that I knew I’d never see again. But the sun was getting lower and I knew I had to get back to the house and finish packing the car. I thought I was just doing my duty when I spread Dad’s ashes in the cemetery where our ancestors were buried. Now I know he was doing me the favor of connecting me with my forebears and reminding me of who I am. A Rackley.

Vested success

One great thing about being unemployed … you have plenty of time to work on UFOs. I’ve finished two vests that have been languishing for 5 and 17 years respectively.



This vest, loosely based on the Einstein Coat by Sally Melville, languished because the armholes just looked weird. I was disappointed that I didn’t have enough yarn to make the long sleeves, which would have made a dolman-like sleeve using the large armhole. Luckily, Maxine helped me analyze the problem — that the sides needed to be seamed in closer to the armpits. Once that was accomplished, I ribbed around the armholes and voila! I will make a matching polymer clay shawl pin the next time I get out the clay, but for now, the wooden shawl stick is working nicely.


This vest was started in 1998, and heaven knows why I put it aside when it was 3/4s done. All I needed was to finish the top of one of the fronts, block, assemble and reverse single-crochet around the edges. The original design had a ribbed edge all around and buttons up the front. But since styles have changed in the last 17 years, a looser hanging-open style is just the thing.

Why you knit an afghan for a teenager


The Hue Shift afghan was meant from the beginning to be a gift for my niece, Catherine. She began her sophomore year at college in Florida last August and I wanted to give her the afghan to take back with her. My grandmother gave me an afghan to take to college. It always felt like a hug to wrap Gram’s afghan around me. And sometimes when you’re away at college, you really need a hug from someone who loves you.

Surprisingly, I got a lot of pushback from people about giving such a time-intensive project to a teenager. “You should keep it for yourself.” “She’ll forget to bring it back.” “She could never appreciate it.”

I finished the afghan at the end of June and gifted it at the beginning of July. Catherine sent me a wonderful thank you note saying that no one has every done something so special for her, and she will treasure it for her whole life.

And that’s why you knit an afghan for a teenager.

Fallen off the wagon

I haven’t posted in a long time because with Christmas crafting and birthday gifts, I haven’t been doing “regular” crafting for a while. Therefore, I had given myself permission to not work on UFOs. I started a knitted afghan project in November and am really loving it! Normally, afghans quickly become UFOs because they get a little boring. This one, Hue Shift, is really keeping my interest. Every square is a different color combination. I’m making it for a special person in my life who is in college, and I think it will be great for her dorm room.
There’s one UFO I would like to finish soon. A few years ago I started an Einstein coat, but there wasn’t enough yarn for the sleeves, so it was slated to become a vest. The armholes were awkward and needed to be modified — the vest became a UFO — and has been languishing ever since. It is in a beautiful variegated cotton, blue-purple, that is perfect for spring. I may soon dig this out and finish it, but one new project has to come first. Income tax is a project that simply cannot enter the UFO Initiative.


Accountability is for accountants

I heard a friend telling someone else that “the purpose of her blog is to keep herself accountable about her crafting.” No, it’s not. It’s just to keep track of my crafting, to remind myself to finish or make significant progress on an unfinished object before I start a new one, and to celebrate a finished object.

Speaking of which, here’s my newly finished Gewgaw sweater made with Berroco Maya in color Norte. The yarn is very pretty, lightweight and comfy, but it snags on everything. The yarn construction is called chainette, meaning it’s a very small knitted tube made out of threads. The threads catch on jewelry, coat buttons, pens and just about anything else I come into contact with. I will keep that in mind when yarn shopping.

I usually don’t make trendy patterns like this poncho-esque design, but I fell in love with the pattern and wanted to make something to go along with jeans.


Part of the inspiration for The UFO Initiative was that I was making only little projects, so I could start and finish a project and not have it become a UFO. One of the negative effects of having a closetful of UFOs is the unwillingness to start something big, because then I would have yet another UFO if I ran into a problem and had to put it aside. Now that I intentionally finish a UFO every so often, I felt free to embark on a sweater project, and I was motivated to finish it … because I really loved it and wanted to wear it now.







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My crafting caught fire in October, though I can’t cop to being 100% loyal to the UFO Initiative. I think I worked on one UFO, and didn’t exactly make “significant progress” unless you count two additional hairpin lace motifs for a kimono sweater that isn’t even close to done. But that’s probably more hairpin lace motifs than you made in October, so I’m going with that.

First project started and done: a pair of earrings for a birthday gift. Rose is a good friend at work and I really wanted to make her something special. These are vintage jet crystals with seed bead bezels. She liked them.


Next, I wanted to make Stephen West’s Akimbo Shawl from a kit I purchased at Stitches Midwest 2013. That’s right — this yarn only aged for two months before I used it. I was a little nervous about that but it turned out fine. And in a nice twist of fate, I ordered a turquoise sweater that matches the accent color perfectly and fits nicely. How weird is that.


The photo is certainly nothing to write home about (and don’t write to my mother either. She gave me a nice digital camera for Christmas a couple of years ago, and this is the best I can do with it). I hope to make a shawl pin for this piece soon, and then I’ll take a better photo. Or maybe I’ll have someone else take it.

Now I’m working on a lacy batwing sweater than might turn into a pterodactyl wing sweater. It’s huge. (Yes, I did a gauge swatch and the sweater matches the gauge. So can I blame the pattern?) I have about half a sleeve left to knit, then I’ll sew it together and see what it looks like. Then you’ll see what it looks like.

Crafting Friendships

One of the best things about crafting is the friendships I’ve made, and how crafting together provides an outlet for fun and fellowship. A couple of weeks ago, I got together with Cathy and Iris to make felted bracelets. We used  roving and silky fibers from my considerable stash, and Iris provided the burlap ribbon for the base.


Burlap is trendy right now, and I thought it would make an ideal stabilizer for the felting. It worked perfectly. All three of us were able to fill the burlap mesh with a thin layer of felt in about an hour of leisurely needle-felting. because the felt locks the burlap fibers in place, we can cut buttonholes without the need to bind the edges. Shown above is a polymer clay button I made many moons ago. Cathy loved it, and now it’s hers.

Here’s Iris and her felting:


Here’s Cathy and hers:


Here’s me and mine.


The edges of the burlap ribbon are bound with a fine wire, which I found scratchy, so I started to cut it, and the fringes on the burlap started coming off. I wasn’t sure if I liked the fringe anyway, so eventually I’ll remove all the wire and fringes. I plan to add some beads to my bracelet, and maybe finish with a snap instead of a button. That’s right, another project for the UFO Initiative.

Why you should open your birthday presents right away

So, my friend who received the felted bracelet actually loved it. I found out from another friend who garnered lavish thanks for the beautiful gift. Friend 2 said, “Does that really seem like the kind of gift I would give you … or more like the kind of gift Jenny would give you?” Friend 1 realized her error and told me about when I saw her last weekend. She assured me that she truly loves it and will wear it.

So that’s why you should always open your birthday presents right away, especially when you’re over 40 and you might not remember whose gift was whose, and the gift giver is over 40 and usually forgets to get a card to go along with the gift.

Elbow grease

Two UFO conversions allowed me to confidently start a new project, this needle-felted bracelet. It’s chunky, organic and fun.


Needle-felting a giant pile of wool roving into a bracelet shape is a little hard on the elbow. The bracelet base was finished in several hours, and the next morning I added the embellishments. This was a birthday gift for a friend who never opens her presents at the party. She hasn’t mentioned anything to me, so I’m assuming she doesn’t care for it. No matter, I will make another one for myself, one of these days.

… and another one

Immediately after finishing the Moebius Cowl, I finished the Morning Snack Scarf. Easy and lovely pattern, and perfect for showing off Berroco Origami in luscious Lemon Freeze. This yarn is primarily yellow with little flecks of lots of colors. It’s a stiff yarn and a little scratchy, but it’s not wrong to suffer for fashion.


I am becoming really annoyed with this application. I’ve written this post 11 times now, and when I publish it, the whole fricking thing disappears, and the post is empty. The only way it seems to work is to type one sentence at a time and update the post. I’m glad I only have one very patient follower.
Addendum: somewhere in the help files it says you can drag photos into your post, but it only seems to work if you use the Add Media button. Ridiculous. Drag and drop is from what, 1998?