A place just right

The first day of the year dawned clear and sparking and brim full of possibility, and that’s the day we decided to buy a farm. A farm on the island where I grew up. We have been thinking all along that someday we’d build a little island cabin, perhaps on the lower half of my parents’ land, to have for summers. When we were up for Thanksgiving, my father pointed out that I talk about dreams like having horses again, and maybe even sheep, and a cabin in the woods wouldn’t really be a step in that direction. He mentioned, ever so casually—and with my deep file of a dad we may never know how artfully premeditated this off-hand remark was—that a particularly beautiful little farm had come on the market. It’s been in the same family since the 1960s and is a generally beloved spot. People from away wonder why you’d want island property that isn’t on the waterfront; real islanders hold this place up among the island’s finest. It has a quaint name and a carved gate post and a perfectly magical oak grove. It has barns and sheep and horses. It’s much, much more than a snug cabin under the firs. I dismissed the notion as totally impractical, but my husband called the realtor and arranged to go have a look.

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It has a weaving studio.The front entry is a Dutch door painted peacock blue. The upstairs bedrooms have barn-style panels that slide back to open onto the high-ceilinged living room and let in the light. The bathroom has a window cut through so you can lob your laundry right down to the washing machine. There are children’s lofts up under the roof, accessible only by ladder. There are window seats along two sides of the sunny living room. Generations of dog toenails have scarred the wood floors. I was arse-over-teakettle in love from the moment we turned up the winding drive.

Inside the tack room in the barn, on a high shelf festooned with cobwebs, was a surprise that could only be A Sign.

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That dilapidated brush box? I made it…more than twenty years ago. It was a birthday present for a little friend—I think she was turning six, and just starting to follow in her older sisters’ barnward footsteps. With my father’s tools I cut and measured and nailed the wood; with my mother’s acrylic paints I carefully added the girl’s name.

All through December I lay awake and dreamed of this farm. I argued all the reasons not to disturb our full and busy lives in Portland. I gazed out the windows dreamed some more. We weighed up what it would mean for our family to tend this place and let it nurture us in return. We made an offer. Today the deal is done and Oak Knoll Farm is ours.

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The next chapter begins today. We can’t wait to find out what happens. Come visit.

Firsts

Having leafed over into a fresh year, it’s the perfect time to start something ambitious, right? I’ve written here before about my love and respect for Bohus knitting, and this winter I’ve finally decided to stop dithering, stop making it too precious, and just plunge headlong into my Wild Apple kit.

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I’ve got extra momentum to tackle this magnum opus because I’ve been fueling up on Bohus research and happily immersing myself in the wonderful new Bohus book. In a bolt from the blue (the likes of which I haven’t known since the day Jared Flood emailed me and asked if I’d be his copywriter!), Vogue Knitting came knocking last August with an offer I couldn’t help but accept: an open-ended article on Bohus history to lay the foundation for a “Swedish Modern” design collection. I felt this was an important opportunity to tell the remarkable tale of the Bohus Stickning company, including the modern chapter of the reproduction kits. And I immediately set about seeking permissions to reprint as many pictures of the original garments as I could shake out of the bushes. Everyone I spoke to in Sweden—Solveig Gustafsson, dyer and recreator of the Bohus originals; Pernille Silfverberg, angora farmer and new bearer of Solveig’s torch; Viveka Overland of the Bohusläns Museum, author of Bohus Stickning: The Revival—was utterly lovely and so very generous in sharing knowledge, providing photos, and reading my drafts. Susanna Hansson, Wendy Keele, and Meg Swansen replied to my queries and offered encouragement stateside. This month my article is in print and on newsstands!

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The photos you see here are of designer Kerstin Olsson wearing her 1963 design Rain Clouds (left); the model at right is wearing a version of Karin Ivarsson’s The Swan (1966). Below is Emma Jacobsson in the Bohus Stickning stockroom in 1964. Both are from the Bohusläns Museum’s excellent collection.

And as for my Wild Apple, I’ve joined in the third color—only twelve more to go! I’ll be a little mournful when the yoke is complete; these tiny stitches and mesmerizing interplay of colors are totally hypnotic.

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What challenges are you setting yourself for 2016, knitting or otherwise?

In December

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Christmas 2015

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On this final day of Winter Break—extended by 24 hours, thanks to a surprise ice storm—I’m watching puppet shows and Waltzes of the Flowers. (The children received many wonderful gifts, including the buoy swing shown above, but nothing made a bigger splash than a set of colorful tutus, which now feature in daily impromptu ballet performances. Just the thing for the indoor exercise we’ve desperately needed during the rainiest month EVER.) We’ve had lovely family visits, many games of War and Solitaire in front of the fire, a little bit of snow, a lot of cookies, and—best of all—whole luxurious days of unscheduled time. A fair bit of knitting transpired, but it was mostly hats and gloves and they were mostly gifts and only this purple pom for Jolly ended up in front of the camera. It’s made of Socks That Rock Lightweight in the color Morticia held together with Rowan Angora Haze. The STR swings from black to magenta; the Angora Haze is a solid plum color that matches the midtones and I was delighted to discover how effectively it muted the variegation. The angora also makes the hat ever so soft and cozy, of course, and this mother is pleased that her boy will agree to keep it on his head. I’m going to try the same experiment on a sort of muddy rainbow skein that Ada chose, pairing it with an ochre gold—although she’s just informed me that what she’d really like is a hat based on the yoke of my Flight sweater. She wants bright colors—leaf green, violet, pink or orange, yellow—with “the birds” in white and I’m intrigued by the design challenge of blending these to create an entirely different effect from the original browns! I think I’ve got Loft leftovers enough to pull it off and I’ve been using Brooklyn Tweed’s new online color comparison feature to dream up the right color run; Sap-Plume-Birdbook-Camper-Hayloft looks promising. Oh, and a pompon! Little children dig pompons the most.

2016 looks like a big and busy year for my little family! I’m kicking it off with a bit of self-indulgent insta-knitting: Thea Colman’s Stillhouse Vest. Mine’s in Hematite Quarry and it’s halfway done already, thanks to a couple of car trips and an evening of Sherlock. But next on the needles is something truly spectacular. More on that very soon!

Wishing every one of you an invigorating plunge into new possibilities or kindly tailwinds as your soul requires in this new year. Cin cin.