The handmade gift

December 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Christmas, inspiration, knitting, love, women | 5 Comments
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IMG_4701It is nearly Christmas and all over the world … all over the world … fingers are flying as artists, artisans, crafters, and makers of things endeavor to gift the finest gift there is…love.

Love.

That is the root of the season. And we seek to flow and show our love as finely and as broadly as we possibly can.

We do that, we humans. We do.

Love.

I remember the exact moment when I realized love is the one true thing, the key to the universe. I know where I was, what I was doing, the color of the sky, the other things in motion around me, the time of day, how I was sitting, where I was heading. I also remember the amazing feeling of abundant clarity and spiritual fullness I felt when I realized that simple truth.

IMG_4714Regardless of your faith, you can believe in Christmas if you choose, because the simplicity of the holiday is love.

Regardless of who or what Jesus was, you can believe in the love that was his message.

Love one another.

I mean, how simple and direct can you get.

Love one another.

Forget about everything else, all of the religious teachings and trappings and ceremony and wars over whose god is God and what we all ought to think about any of that.

Toss all of that out. There was this guy, his name happened to be Jesus of Nazareth and he said we all ought to love one another.

Love. One. Another.

Simple.

IMG_4713That message changed the world, and changed it for the better.

So, to celebrate that message a bunch of us all over the world celebrate first and foremost the concept of loving one another. And we get inspired to do all kinds of great and wondrous and small and perfect acts of kindness and brotherhood toward those we are close to but also toward others we do not know.

We find and create ways to embody the love that guy suggested.

I read an article several years ago about a survey regarding gifts people love and don’t love to receive at Christmas. Sadly, handmade gifts were on the list as being not appreciated.

That’s really bad news for someone like me because I love to make things, and I love mostly making things for other people. I am a maker of things, and when I really want to show someone that I love them I make them something.

Making things and giving them away, that’s my way of showing my love.

IMG_4668This brings me to the subject at hand, the handmade gift. In particular, I have something to,say about handknit gifts, but what I have to say relates to all handmade gifts.

When someone knits something for you, what they are really giving you is love.

It might look like a scarf, a hat, some gloves or socks, a tea cozy…whatever. It might be fine, classy, and beautiful. Or, it might be an ill-advised combination of colors in a horrifyingly inconsistent striping pattern. Either way, that handknit piece is a gift of love. You were thought of as the person chose the pattern, picked the yarn, worked a swatch, cast on, knit along, made mistakes, tangled their yarn, came to the end, cast off, wove in the yarn tails, and gazed at their completed piece. Every step in the process involved love.

Love, the secret of and key to the universe. Someone gave that to you. By knitting you a gift. Do you realize how divinely special that is?

When someone has given of themselves by making you a gift, even if it isn’t your style or taste, even if the fibers don’t suit you, or,the colors make you want to gag I suggest you give love in return by wearing or using the handmade gift at least once. And as you do, focus on the love residing in and resonating from the fibers of that thing.

IMG_4477And know this: You are one of the most fortunate human beings on the planet. Someone loved you enough to make something for you.

People. We are here on this planet together. We have the freedom and the ability to love one another.

Christmas?

Keep it simple. It is a celebration of the message of love.

And together we can change the world for the better in a big way, for a little while each year.

Merry Christmas.

Love,
~firefly

And this is where I speak to you from my heart, again

November 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, domestic violence, faith, family, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, inspiration, knitting, Lace Shawl Knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, Thanksgiving, yarn | 16 Comments
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IMG_4428Snow.

It has been falling steady all morning.  I knit, and write, and I sip hot cocoa.

This kind of cozy, relaxing morning is fulfilling to the soul.

The world is very quiet on a snow day.  Watching the steady flow of softly falling flakes can be mesmerizing, leading to deep thoughts and philosophical contemplations.

At least, that is how it is for me.

This morning the snow along with the and the contemplation that comes with knitting have worked together to lead my mind to you, dear reader.

I have known many of my readers for a little more than eight years now. It has been a long road, and there have been poignant joys so rich as to make my heart ache with the satisfaction of long-awaited happiness…joyful, magic moments many of which I have shared in this ethereal place known as my “blog”.

Side Bar: Blog is such an unattractive word. I wish a prettier word had been created for it.

There have been heart-wrenching losses also, along the way.  Some have been shared, though most have been suffered through silently as far as the blog is concerned.  Anguish is not what you come here looking for, so the moments in life of anguish are kept from public view and knowledge.

We all have them, our private trials and sufferings.

That is life.  There are times of joy and happiness, of creation, and jubilant reflection.  Oh, how those> moments glow.

And in contrast there are the … other things we must deal with and endure.

I started my blog in the summer of 2006, and from the very first time someone left me a comment and I knew people were actually “listening” I have carried you, my reader, in my heart. Sometimes there have been thousands in a day coming to this place, other times a few hundred come daily.

It is a unique friendship and relationship between writer and reader in this virtual world known as “the blogosphere”.  I don’t know what it is like for other writers, I think I have a somewhat unique relationship with my readers in that I started writing shortly after my entire life turned upside down and began anew.

When I moved from Los Angeles to this farm in New York back in May of 2006 I had not heard of or read any “blogs”.  I had much experience with computers and the Internet.  I had been an Art Director and VP of Strategic Creative Services at an Internet start-up company and had quite a bit of experience with online marketing and consulting.  Still, I was not familiar with blogs.

My then new life on a farm was destined to be more relaxed, less stressful, and certainly would involve zero traffic jams and so I looked around for something new to do with my Internet skills, something that would allow me to focus on my first love, which was writing.

My son suggested I get into writing a blog, and he said I should just pick a subject I knew something about and start writing about that.  So I made a list of things I enjoyed and also knew something about, and knitting was one of those things. Earlier than that, when I was still living in Los Angeles, it was my son who also suggested that I turn my focus to writing rather than general Internet consulting. He helped me center my focus, and it was a key factor in what led me here … to my dear husband, to this farm, and to writing this blog.

Another Side Bar Item:I mention my son quite often on my blog and in my emails, even in some of my patterns. If it hadn’t been for him, I might never have come to be here writing this blog, designing knitting patterns, and sharing them with you. We all have a great deal to be thankful to him for. It is inevitable that he is therefore, an integral part of the adventure. So, I mention him, and I link to his online store where he sells prints of his designs including City Neighborhood Typography maps like this one of Los Angeles, vintage inspired Eye Charts, city minimalist posters, and subway signs and bus scrolls.

In August 2006 I posted my first entry. I look back now and see I made 21 posts that August.

My goodness, that was a long time ago.

At that time, my life had turned upside down, inside out, rolled over a few times and flipped up in the air at least five times.  It was a dream come true to live on a farm. Each and every day held treasures of discovery in my new environment.  I literally engaged in an entirely new and different life, begun right in the middle of my already well-established life.

What I am trying to say is this: I think it is a pretty big deal I started writing a blog not long after arriving in my new life and that so many readers have been a part of this adventure. You have read my words, enjoyed my photography, cheered my joys and victories, felt my pain, and even knitted a few of my designs.

I have carried you right along with me through many of the steps and turns and magical developments along the way.  And it has been great.  I have to say, I came to love you guys, my readers, and I still do.  You are a part of my world and my universe, even if you don’t realize it.

But there is something I feel very bad about, and I want to say something here about that.

There have been times when some of you have left comments or sent me emails and I never got back to you.  Not all of the time, but sometimes.

And, there have been long periods of absence on my part as time has gone by.  I am sorry for that, I want you to know that I am.  I honestly feel that because of the kind of blog I write–where I share both glory and pain in order to inspire others that life’s obstacles can be overcome and dreams can come true–that dropping off and not writing for long periods of time was injurious to the universe I had created as a writer.

That might sound weird, or you might say I shouldn’t carry such a burden but it is my honest feeling and I want to apologize to whoever might still be “listening”.

I had good reason, and I am going to say something very brief about that.

My dear, dear daughter was married to someone abusive and is physically disabled because of that.  Then also, my granddaughter came into the picture.  They have a right to privacy and safety, and the time I share with them I don’t share publicly via my blog.

This past year I have had more time to knit again, to design, write, and publish patterns and write some emails.

blacksmith1It is challenging to wear the various hats life has called on me to wear while also carving out a bit of quiet time alone time for writing, and so I disappear at times.  It isn’t because I have stopped thinking of my readers or carrying you in my heart.  You are still there for me, and I hope you can feel me there in your heart as well even when I am absent from this venue.

I shot this photograph at Genesee Country Village Museum this summer. This gentleman is a blacksmith re-enacter (he actually does real old-time blacksmithing work). He reminded me a bit of my dear father, so I shot this portrait of him. I won a blue ribbon for the photograph in their annual Agricultural Festival this fall. :)

I don’t think life ever turns out the way any of us thought it was going to. I know mine hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would when I was young and younger. The funny thing is, it has turned out to be a very good likeness of the various dreams I dreamt of when I was younger. It just doesn’t look or feel the way I had imagined, and so at times it is a challenge to recognize it as being the life I actually did intend to create–a version of it anyway.

That’s the way it is, life is, after all, life. I think of mine as a river … remember when I wrote about The River Me?

IMG_4365Over the past year I have designed and published fourteen new patterns for quite a few new items including a variety of shawls and cowls (see photos at the end of this post). In addition to individual knitting patterns, I have published several eBooks with collections of patterns (all are available in my Ravelry store, some are in my Etsy store). Currently I have a number of projects in the planning stages and in the works including children’s clothing, an awesome cardigan for men (I am knitting the sample for my son, naturally), a number of patterns for gloves, more cowls, and several shawls/wraps. I have started developing relationships with yarn artists and have the pleasure of developing some designs specifically featuring their beautiful yarns, and that is a pretty cool development.

In the coming year I will start using test and sample knitters (if you are interested, please let me know) and am looking to establish a good relationship with a skilled tech editor for my knitting patterns.

Realistically, I won’t be able to get back to writing weekly blogs for the time being. I will write when I can, which might only be a few times a year. If you would like to stay in closer touch with me and my life, Instagram is a great choice because I post there sometimes on a daily basis sharing both knitting related photography and photography from this beautiful world I live in.

Follow me on Instagram to see day-to-day photos of fiber related goodies and knitting projects, as well as beautiful scenes from our little piece of heaven. You can find me there as: JLFleckenstein. It would also be great if you would share photos of your WIP of my designs on FaceBook and Instagram using hashtag: #jlfleckenstein

My most recent knitting designs are available first in my Ravelry store, and then in my Etsy store. My Ravelry ID is: JLFleckenstein, and my Etys store is ILiveonaFarm.Etsy.com.

If you leave a comment on my blog or send me an email, I will write back to you. If you don’t hear from me for several days it means life tapped me on the shoulder and kept me away from my computer, usually for a very good reason. But I always come back. I always do.

With so many things I have to be thankful for, I want to take this moment in time to wish my U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving holiday, and for my non-U.S. readers, I send you good tidings and best wishes for those things you have to be thankful for in your life.

Warm wishes,

~firefly

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Lace shawl knitting patterns and peach pie

September 11, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Posted in food, health, inspiration, knitting, Lace Shawl Knitting, Life, love, travel, women, yarn | 2 Comments
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20140911-135240-49960652.jpgThat’s what I’ve been up to lately. I have designed seven knitted shawl patterns, published five of them (see photos of all,of the shawls at the bottom of this blog) and put up five peach pies in the freezer.

Okay, I have been doing plenty more than just this but these are highlights.

Living here in small farm and orchard country in Upstate New York is an amazing blessing during harvest season in particular. Everywhere you turn there is a farm stand, farm market or green thumbed neighbor brimming over with fresh berries, fruits, and vegetables beginning in June and continuing far into the fall.

Everything is fresh and fantastically delicious, it just makes you feel healthy and prosperous looking around at all the bounty. My biggest problem is that I’ll get home with bunches of goodies I procured at a very economical price and then often I have so much going on that I have a hard time getting around to making preserves, pies, and so forth.

Such was the case this week when we brought home eight quarts of the most wonderful plump peaches you could ever hope to come by. I had intended to make peach preserves and a each pie but I couldn’t get around to doing either.

Then yesterday, worried the peaches would go bad, I quickly peeled and sliced them up and did this very cool thing … I packaged them in five pound lots in ziplock freezer bags, tossed them with the sugar, cornstarch and spices necessary for peach pies and then I frozen them in pie dishes.

This morning I took the frozen bags out of the pie dishes, and they are shaped like pies now they just don’t have crusts yet. But I put them in a large 2.5 gallon freezer bag, all stacked up.

Now, when we want a peach pie I’ll just put a crust in a pie dish, put one these frozen pie-shaped peach pie things on the crust, add my top crust and bake.

None of the peaches were wasted, and now we have five mostly ready peach pies waiting to be enjoyed anytime we wish.

I’m going to do this with apples also. :)

As for the shawls, I started designing and knitting them back in early spring. Writing the patterns up and getting them published and marketed is very time consuming, but I have managed to get five published recently in my Ravelry store and at Etsy. The others will be ready in October.

The five I have already published are available individually, but then I also published a collection of all five for those who want it all at an economical price.

The collection is titled “The Livin’ is Easy”, a line from my most favorite song of all time, “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess. The others in the collection are also named from lines in the song. One, “Abbie” is named for the actress who first sang the song on stage.

Three are top down triangular shawls, and one (Take to the Sky) is a rectangle; they range in difficulty from easy to moderately difficult.

Three have written directions as well as charts (Rise up Singing, Abbie, and Take to the Sky), while the other two (One of These Mornings and Summertime) are charted.

Take to the Sky is perfect for anyone new to lace knitting or wanting an easy project to use for learning how to follow a chart. I wrote the pattern up to be very clear and easy to follow and I include instructions as to how to follow the charts.

If you learn about this pattern here on my blog and want to give it a try, you can get it for half price at Ravelry by using the coupon code: PEACHPIE at checkout. (The pattern is priced at $4.00, so you will get it for $2.00).

Today is a chilly, windy day and autumn is clearly on the way, but we still have flowers blooming outdoors and we are enjoying of the last vestiges of summer we can find because this has been our most perfect summer so far.

Hope you are having a beautiful day.

~firefly

Abbie

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One of These Mornings

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Take to the Sky

Remember, you can get Take to,the Sky for half price at Ravelry by using the coupon code: PEACHPIE at checkout. (The pattern is priced at $4.00, so you will get it for $2.00).

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Summertime

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The Livin’ is Easy (5 Patterns) eBook

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