Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Back Home in A Town of Immigrants

Right now, Julia and I are “stuck” in New Jersey. We came down for a quick visit to stay with my Mom before Julia has to start her second semester of college. Today, there is a snowstorm going on and we are staying for another day. We are trapped in my Mom’s lovely house for the day. It is nice to be here without any holiday hullaboo or reason to travel and leave. 

Yesterday we acted like tourists in my home town. It has been over 30 years since I have lived here in New Jersey. My hometown Dover is a town about 35 miles west of NYC. My Dad’s family were immigrants here in the early 20th century. His Mom Frieda came from Germany in 1911 when she was 10. His Dad Archie was the 9th child of immigrants from England. I spent the first 18 years of my life here and my Mom is still here as is my sister Jenn.

Dover has always been a town of immigrants. When I was young, my Mom would always interview us about our friends and want to know their last name. From a last name, she could surmise an ethnic background. This is just the way it was. I never thought that question was odd. My friends and I frequently talked about our heritages - and they were diverse - Italian, Irish, German, Scottish, English, Jewish, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Norwegian - on and on. That was just what we did. We were all proud of our individual ethnic backgrounds and frequently shared the customs with each other. 

As I drove into town the other evening, I stopped at ShopRite to pick up a few things. It is a bit of culture shock coming into Dover from rural western Massachusetts. Dover has always been a welcoming town for immigrants. When I was young, throngs of families moved into town from South America and Puerto Rico. As they moved in, many of the more established immigrant populations — the people I grew up with and went to school with — moved out of town to the suburbs of Dover. They did not want to be in a town that began to be more and more Hispanic. Property values went down. My family stayed and they are still here. ShopRite was filled with families of all different nationalities. The shelves are lined with items I don't see on the shelves of Foster's Market in western Mass. Dover is now a Hispanic majority town with 70% of its residents of Hispanic heritage.

As I drove down the Main Street of Dover the other evening to my childhood home, I could not believe how busy the town was. Every building is occupied with a business of some kind - restaurants, small stores, insurance agencies, banks, doctors, lawyers. There are no empty buildings. The Christmas decorations were still up and the town looked alive. Coming from western Massachusetts where our local towns struggle to keep the young people employed and businesses move in and out at an alarming rate, it made me think. By welcoming immigrants, Dover has remained alive and thriving. Don’t get me wrong - for many years, it was a bit of a ghost town. Strip malls were built outside the town and businesses left.  But Dover has had a reawakening - most likely one of many over its 300 plus year history. It might not be the town I grew up in but it is still here - reimagined and lively and full of community. 

Yesterday we decided to explore a little. Julia, Mom and I went downtown and walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. With so many restaurants to choose from, we chose El Paraiso. The menu was in Spanish, the tv was playing a Spanish "judge judy" type show and the waitress helped us choose a meal called enchiladas. The food was delicious -- but nothing like what I think of as an enchilada. Today as I am writing this post, I discovered the restaurant was Honduran. 

After lunch, we went to The Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Arts which is housed in the old Dover High School (later Middle School) building that my sisters and I attended. Joe Kubert was a neighbor of ours. My sisters and I went to school with his children. "Mr. Kubert" was a world famous cartoon artist. In the 70's, he and his wife Muriel started the school. The school began in an old "mansion" and they later purchased the school building and moved it there. There is a fantastic art supply store in the basement with good prices. It was great to see the old school still serving as a center of learning with students coming from all over the world to learn cartooning. The Kubert family still runs the school and his boys Andy and Adam are successful artists and teachers. The school also offers a correspondence course in cartooning and many of their students have become famous in their own right. 

Late in the afternoon, we travelled down to East Hanover. Kam Man Market was the third stop in our cultural discoveries for the day. We had a blast wandering the aisles of the store, looking at the labels, trying to figure out what the different things were. I purchased some noodles, soy sauce and Asian cooking utensils - things that I enjoy cooking but cannot find near where I live. Some photos from the market are at the end of this post. There are other locations of this market in NJ, NYC, and Quincy MA. It is worth a trip. They also have a bakery, noodle shop, and to go food court. 

The storm is over now and we will head back to western Massachusetts tomorrow. It has been fun to discover new things here in Dover and introduce Julia to other cultures that she cannot experience in our rural community. On the next trip, we will explore a little more and learn what more Dover has to offer. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Loving These Colorful Crochet Hexagons

I started a project I have been thinking about doing for a while. When working on my last book project, I discovered the versatility of the hexagon shape. I know - I know - late to the party considering all the people who have made Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilts over the years - including my Gram Frieda. (I have yet to do any English Paper Piecing.) In my new book, I used the hexagon motif in several of the designs (more on that soon). 

Several years ago, I saw the movie Nanny McPhee written and directed by Emma Thomspson. Every holiday season, I re-watch it. It is a sweet story but the real joy in it for me is all the fantastic color, set design, interior scenes and the fabrics and clothing - so many of them handmade. 

Here are a couple blurry photos I took as the movie was playing. I fell in love with the afghan. Every time I watch the movie I notice something else about the colors, the art and the fabrics and costumes. 


Back to the new project. I looked through books and the web to find a hexagon stitch pattern I liked. There sure are a lot of them out there. I wanted one that looked like a granny square but with six sides. I wanted it to be easy to remember so I can knock these things out over and over without thinking. 

Here's what I have done so far. 

These are finished including weaving in the ends - 31 so far. I think I need hundreds. 

These need their ends woven in.

I'm still deciding if I want to add an extra round of crochet to the hexagons so they are a little bigger. I may do. I plan to sew them together by hand. I love to sew by hand so it won't be a chore for me. When I made my last Granny Square afghan awhile back I edged all the squares in a chocolate brown. I am contemplating having the same color go around each edge. Still deciding if I want it to have a cohesive design or an allover crazy colorful look. I'm leaning towards the crazy color. 

This project will probably take me a couple years but at least I started. I sure do have enough odds and ends of my Color By Kristin and Julia yarns to make several afghans. 

Have you made a crochet granny square afghan yet? Are you totally addicted? I found this one by blogger Erika Eckles. I think the colors are stunning. Read about her project and check out her tutorial for half hexies for the edges here.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Looking forward to 2018

Welcome everyone to 2018 here at Getting Stitched on The Farm. I'm just finding my mojo again after a lovely holiday season. I hope you and yours enjoyed a good break and found time to spend with friends and family. 

We here in western Massachusetts, like so many in the US, had some of the coldest weather ever recorded for the past two weeks. I don't know how people live in Alaska. It was all we could do to keep the house heated so the pipes didn't freeze. We have an oil/wood furnace and when it is really cold, we burn so much wood just to heat up the house. It was almost a full-time job hauling wood in and down the cellar stairs and stoking the furnace. Wood makes nice warm and cozy heat but it is so messy. If I were a neat-nik, it would drive me absolutely mad but I'm not so I put up with the mess. We burned at least a cord of wood in the past couple weeks and our supply is dwindling and will run out before the heating season is over. 

Our house is old and the old windows, even with storms, are drafty. When it is really cold, I put pieces of foam insulation in the windows to keep the heat indoors vs evaporating out through the windows. It's a bit of a solution but it looks so ugly. You probably know I am not a fan of ugly. Clutter is fine but ugly drives me a bit crazy. And I really hate not having light pouring into the house. I find myself depressed and moody. Luckily, the weather has warmed up and 20 degrees feels like a heatwave. I still put the foam in the windows at night but at least I can let the sunlight in during the days. To keep the kitchen pipes from freezing, I keep 100 watt bulbs lit in the cabinet under the sink so the pipes don't burst. Knock on wood, that hasn't happened yet but I do know people who have had that happen and it is a real mess and inconvenience, never mind the expense. So far so good. 

The Farmer has been busy just trying to keep the sheep fed. You can't imagine how the severe cold impacts the farm. The diesel tractor wouldn't start for days. The frost free water hydrant froze. The bales of haylage were frozen solid. Luckily his brother also farms just across the road and they can help each other out when one of the tractors is broken or the water is out. And he had put up some dry hay so the sheep were able to eat that. Amazingly, the sheep and Great Pyrenees Guard Dogs don't mind the cold nearly as much as the humans. They just continue along as if normal. 

Julia is off from the local community college for another couple of weeks. She is signed up for classes again next semester and seems to be enjoying her classes and the professors quite a bit. 

That is it from here. I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and are looking forward to 2018. I'll be back more now that I have started up blogging again. I've got to get myself organized and plan the year out. What do you have planned for 2018? 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holiday Good Wishes 2017.....

.... from our farmhouse to yours. Here's to the important things - spending time with family and friends, enjoying a good meal, and cookies and sweets. May you be warm and cosy and safe. 

I wish you the best and thank you all for your support, friendship, encouragement, and kind words. May the coming year bring you creativity, health and happiness. 


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Last Minute Holiday Knitting Ideas

Thought I would take time today to share some of the patterns I have designed over the years that are perfect for holiday gift knitting. I know it is last minute but there is still time. 

First off - a free pattern called Elves, Gnomes, Wizards, Santa + Leo Tolstoy. It is a cute little project perfect for leftover wools. After knitting, felt it in the washing machine - then add a bit of fleece for a beard. Perfect for the top of a wine bottle or as an ornament or gift topper. Get the pattern HERE. 

I have two fantastic Christmas Stocking Patterns. They each offer many options and variations. 

Buy on Ravelry here or via my website here. $12 PDF download.

This Colorful Christmas Stocking Pattern is a bit easier with only 1 color per row or round. 

Buy on Ravelry here or via my website here. $12 PDF download.

Stocking caps are perennial favorites for holiday knitting. A bit "Seussical" some folks have said, here's Julia modeling the Farmgirls Stocking Cap. It is sized for kids and adults and will work for both boys and girls, women and men. 

Buy on my website here or on Ravelry here. $6 PDF download.

For your four legged friends, here's a fantastic garter stitch dog sweater. It is sized in 8 sizes from little dog to very large. 

Buy on my website here or on Ravelry here. $6 PDF download. 

Lastly, one of my favorite patterns to knit - The Quarters Cap. Sized from babies to adult men, this is an addicting pattern to pump out for holiday gifts. 

Buy on my website here or on Ravelry here. $5 PDF download.

I hope these photos have inspired you to pick up your needles and begin a new project. Happy knitting everyone! 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Kristin's On-Line Pottery and Tea Towels Now Available

A quick note today to let you all that my On-Line Pottery and Tea Towel Etsy Shop is now re-stocked. 

Here is the link to my Etsy Shop. 

Hop on over and check out all the colorful pottery including vases, mugs, platters and more. I've also designed and sewn some new patterns of tea towels that are also in the shop. 

Here are a few of the items now for sale.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email at kristinnicholasATgmailDOTcom

A note on the freight charges - I make a guess on postage. I ship via US Postal Service. If I have overcharged, I will refund the amount in excess of $2. When combining orders, the freight charges will likely look higher. Thanks for understanding. All my pottery is different sizes and weights and there is no way to standardize as each piece is different. 

Happy shopping at Kristin's On-Line Pottery Etsy Shop

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Photos from the 3rd Holiday Open House

We had a fantastic weekend here at Leyden Glen Farm. So many folks came to the 3rd Holiday Open House and it was great fun to meet people who follow my blog, our farm, and/or my design work. We also had a strong show of support from people we know from our two farmers markets venues in Amherst and Northampton. Thank you everyone for coming! So fun to meet you all on our home turf. 

As per my usual, I totally forgot to take any photos. My excuse is that I was distracted -- as I should have been -- welcoming folks to our home and chatting with them. It's a bit of a weird experience doing this but everyone was so nice and interested in the decor and my art. It was so much fun to share it with people and hopefully they went home inspired to try something new in their home. 

Deborah Garner and Alicia Hunsicker were on the porch sharing and selling their work. Gail Callahan was in the library with her gorgeous hand dyed yarn and silks and her color grid. She took a little video that she shared on Instagram here. Farmer Mark spent the two days outside greeting people, talking sheep, and selling our pasture raised lamb - now he has to catch up with various chores and get ready for winter. The sheep and dogs were a big hit with visitors. Unfortunately no photos though! 

I took these photos before breaking down all the displays. You can see the rooms and how they were set up. 
Thank you to the two angels - Jeanne and Kathy - who arrived a little early and helped set up the food table and lay out some project samples. Also thanks to Andrea and Clara for running the sales table on the kitchen island. It takes a village!

Julia had a successful couple days selling pom poms and glitter ornaments and pine cones. It was very encouraging for her. 

Thanks to everyone who picked up Christmas gifts or bought things for themselves. I still have a good stock of my handmade handpainted pottery left and linen/cotton canvas tea towels. I am in the process of uploading them to my Etsy site. Boy -- it is time consuming - taking photos, copy to write, postage rates to guess (the post office seems to keep raising their rates on me and you). I'll keep you apprised of the re-stocking and opening of the Etsy shop here on the blog, on Instagram, Facebook, and my newsletter. Gee - aren't there a lot of things to constantly update when you run an on-line business. It is pretty mind boggling. 

Back to work - have a great day everyone. Enjoy the photos and thanks everyone for coming out! 

Sadie the welcoming committee

Some of the tea towels I design and made