The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The title of this book grabbed me right away. A book about gardening, you say? For people with allergies?

give it to me now

The author is a horticulturalist with an agricultural science background and invented the scale by which plants are rated for allergenicness. Seems legit.

I learned quite a few new things reading this book, one of which is that male plants produce more pollen than female plants. THANKS, MEN. Also, back in the 1940s, apparently some (male, I’m guessing) brains at the USDA decided to encourage people to grow male trees rather than a mix of female and male, because female trees produce seeds, seedpods, and fruit, and those are too messy to be convenient in carefully-groomed communities (we’re talking about types of trees where the sexes are separate – which NOT ALL TREES are). Male trees also produce more pollen than trees with both parts in the same flowers, so this preponderance of male trees made for extra beaucoup pollen everywhere. (They, along with cloning, also made for a horribly heterogeneous tree population, so when things like Dutch Elm disease came through, it was way more devastating than it might have been. GREAT.) (Also, birds and butterflies like to eat, you know, fruit, so having no female trees means having a lot fewer beneficial creatures around. SUPER.) Back to the dearth of female trees, which, did you know? actually COLLECT and remove pollen from the air, in addition to not producing it themselves. So not only are these too-numerous male trees dropping buckets of pollen all over the place, there aren’t enough female trees to – what’s new, right? – clean up their mess. Okay, even I’m getting a little tired of talking about this Tree Patriarchy. Let’s acknowledge that most of the time when we decide to mess with an ecosystem, we don’t consider the possible consequences and we end up screwing things up in ways we never imagined. Moving on.

You might say to yourself, but wait – don’t we need pollen so pollinators can do their jobs? Yes, we do. This book is about reducing the most allergenic pollens, not all pollens. We’ve seen what problems an all-or-nothing situation creates, haven’t we? The most allergenic pollens come from trees and shrubs, it seems, so a lot of perennial and annual plants are probably fine for many allergy sufferers. Which is great news! Because pollinators love those smaller plants and we love pollinators. This book goes into detail about how to identify the plants in your landscape as well as giving recommendations for how to choose what to add to your own yard and garden. It also gives suggestions for helping to de-allergen your home space, such as planting an allergy-blocking hedge on the windward side of your property (really the hedge will be collecting the pollen not blocking it). I am all about a property-border hedge, so this makes me even more antsy for us to be in our next home and planning our landscape!

Most of the book is a listing of details about various plants. It includes their allergy rating as well as information about the plant and for some, color photographs. The back of the book includes a glossary of horticultural terms, lists of recommended books and websites, a pollen calendar for common species, and the current USDA plant hardiness zone map.

This is a book I’m certainly going to be using for reference often. It’s got a ton of great information on a wide variety of plants and, especially since we will hopefully be the owners of a new garden/yard soon, we’ll have lots of planning and plant-identifying for which to use it. I love gardening books and I’ve read a lot of them, but none have taught me as much about plant sex as this book. And how many gardening books have you read that contain the phrase, “Feminists, we need you!”

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.


FO Friday: Sarah smiles

Many of my Blythe sweater patterns are oversized – I just think it’s an attractive look for Blythe and can help her appear more like a miniature person (yes, still with a gigantic head, but closer). However, in the interest of creating a diverse wardrobe with lots of options, I want to create some patterns for pieces that are more fitted, too.

Sally Sweater for Blythe

How’s that for fitted? This sweater is worn reverse-cardigan style and fastens in the back with a tiny snap (you could alternatively use sew-on velcro if you so desire). It’s a body-con top that is able to be tucked in if desired.

Sarah Sweater for Blythe

This pattern is available on Etsy, Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.


The CMU Art Gallery had a show earlier this winter called Heroes, which featured artwork that addressed that concept in some way. It was terrific!

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Linda Stein is a multimedia artist who creates for what she terms gender justice. All the works on display as part of this show had feminist themes and focused, as per the show theme, on superheroes.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I really enjoy the way she mixes media in unexpected ways to extend the themes of her artwork. Hers is the kind of art I could look at for hours and keep noticing new things.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Mark Newport‘s knitted superhero costumes are life-size or larger and are really impressive to see up close and in person.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I enjoy the ways that Newport plays with texture, color, and knitting techniques in these supersuits.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Brett Sauve is a sculptor whose work I’ve seen around town before. I really dig his style and it was neat to see some of his 2D art as well.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Delita S. Martin‘s displayed works use a variety of techniques to create layered, detailed, powerful works. Her combination of hand-stitching, printing, and collage is really striking.

I wish I could tell you to go check out this exhibit, but sadly we visited it on the last day and it’s now gone! Hopefully it’ll come back again at some point, as it is well worth checking out and I’d gladly go back to spend more time with these pieces.

back to the fling

Last year at the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show, they offered attendees an opportunity to participate in a contest at this year’s show. Entries in the 2015 Spring Fling, as it’s called, are required to utilize the square of fabric they handed out in 2014, fit the Spring Fling theme in some way, be started after 4/24/2014 and complete by 4/24/2015, be 60-100″ in perimeter, and be able to be hung on the wall easily. To me, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for an art quilt!

I imagine that most of the entries will quite different from the quilt I’m making, but I’m okay with that. They’ll be giving prizes for best use of color, best workmanship in piecing/applique, and best portrayal of the Spring Fling 2015 theme. I’m not particularly hot for a prize, just for the opportunity to participate in a public venue.

I’m still partway through making my current (larger) quilt WIP, but it’s getting to the point where it’s really big and difficult to spread out in the limited space we have, so it’s on a break right now. This project, though, is small and more manageable and I’ve been feeling itchy to be sewing again.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Unsurprisingly, my rough plan for this quilt came together pretty quickly, involves a Blythe-esque figure on a natural background, and has references to classical artwork and feminism. My theme/title for the quilt is Regeneration, since that is a major theme of the spring season in life as well as in art. I did my usual quick-and-dirty photo editing to make myself a general outline to follow, though of course as always I am changing the plan as I go.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

For some sections, I trace the outline to make myself pattern pieces and for others I just free-hand cut things out. I’m getting increasingly comfortable with free-handing things the more I do it.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

You can see that I changed from the original arms-up pose to having the figure holding a tray. My thought process was this: eggs are an ancient symbol of spring, so I’d like to include them somehow. However, making an egg clearly an egg and not a rock or something else similar is tricky, so maybe I could go about it a different way. This led me to thinking about deviled eggs and that led me to think of vintage recipe cards with lurid illustrations of things like deviled eggs, which led me to decide to have the figure holding a tray of deviled eggs (and possibly other things).

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I got this far over the weekend! Not bad for five or six hours of planning and working.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

The figure will be wearing a crown of butterflies, inspired by this painting. I was originally thinking a floral crown or wreath, because that’s another classical symbol of spring, but then I saw this painting and the butterfly idea grabbed me. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some time to work on the crown, the eggs, and some further elements I haven’t added in yet.

FO Friday: Really Rose

It’s so cold out right now that the thought of wearing a three-quarter sleeve cardigan seems ridiculous, but if you’re Blythe, you really don’t have to worry about proper layers.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

The Rose Sweater for Blythe works well for variegated or solid yarn colorways. It has one buttonhole at the front top closure, so you can feature an adorbs tiny button that complements your yarn.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

Depending on the yarn you use, you can get a slightly different look to this sweater. The pink version is an alpaca/silk blend and has a little more drape than the yellow version, which is made with a merino/silk blend. You could also go up a needle size for an even looser knit with more drape.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

This sweater can also be worn reverse-cardigan style for a jumper-style sweater look. I like flexibility in my Blythe clothing, and the option to wear an item two ways is a big bonus for me, so I try to design it into my patterns whenever I can.

The Rose Sweater for Blythe pattern is available on Etsy, Ravelry, Craftsy, and LoveKnitting.

FO Friday: bits and pieces

I’ve been working my way through patterns that I’ve had in the mostly-written stage for ages (years, for some), finally finishing them up so they can be set free out into the world. A couple of these are wardrobe staples for Blythe: pieces that are designed to be mix-and-match with each other and with the other separates in your Blythe’s wardrobe.

First off, we have the basic camisole. This is one of the quickest items to knit and takes barely any yarn.

Camisole for Blythe

It’s one of the few items in my Blythes’ wardrobe (they all share) that can be tucked in comfortably. Most other tops are too blousy or are designed to hang loose below Blythe’s natural waist.

Next up we have a wrap skirt. The pattern includes three lengths so you can make the right one for your Blythe’s style – or perhaps an assortment in all three lengths!

wrap skirt collage

The mini skirt is seriously short! All three can be worn with the wrap showing in front on either side or with the wrap hidden in back for a plain a-line skirt look.

I really enjoy having flexible separates like these in my Blythes’ closet – I hope you will, too!

Blatant self-promotion: patterns for these are available in the AnneArchy shops on Etsy, Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

Book review: Novel Interiors

Novel Interiors

If you’re looking for literature- or interior-design-related eye candy, this book fits the bill. It’s divided into sections inspired by different styles/periods of literature, and the interior design that goes with each style is evocative of the feelings that style elicits. It’s not strictly one era or another in terms of design, and some of the styles combine a variety of authors and times to create the sense of the world of a particular genre. This sounds like a haphazard mish-mash, but it seems carefully thought out and actually works really well for me. A lot of what we love about a book is that feeling we get reading it and the accompanying desire to live in or visit the world it portrays. This is an extension of that, exploring how we could make our surroundings feel like living inside our favorite books.

The first section, entitled Shall I Put the Kettle On?, gives us the feeling of being in a Jane Austen or George Eliot novel. It’s a romantic, cheerful, slightly disordered but extremely charming celebration of domesticity and the comforts of a cozy home. Can you tell that this appeals greatly to me? If you were to give me a room that was a faithful recreation of this time period, it would undoubtedly be too fussy for my taste, but here the rooms pictured are somehow not so – the clutter is contained and there’s not too much chintz. The gardens are also completely my taste – cozy and crowded and full of little mysteries to discover. I also dig the Emily Bronte/Anne of Green Gables section, “Living Au Naturel.” Lots of exposed wood in rich tones, a very appealing minimalism, and simple ways of extending the garden inside the home. There are also sections inspired by (among others) Evelyn Waugh (“Remembrance of Things Past”), The Great Gatsby (Oh, the Glamour of It All”), Isak Dinesen (“Anything Goes”), and Oscar Wilde (“Sometimes a Fantasy”), all of which are lovely but just don’t suit my tastes as closely.

That’s the fun of this book: most readers are likely to find at least one of the styles a good fit and to find a little inspiration in all of them. Even if you’re not looking for home decor ideas, it’s fun to look at all the details in each room and appreciate the little touches the designer put into them. The rooms are beautifully shot and there’s a nice mix of wide and close-up photographs. For someone like me, who is dreaming about her next home and the ways in which it can be personalized with things old and new, this is a perfect tool for feeding those fantasies.

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.

FO Friday: Big Hearts

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I decided to make a Big Heart-y Deal out of it by creating this sweater.

Big Heart Sweater for Blythe

I started with my usual oversized reverse-cardi template and then adjusted it to accommodate the heart chart I sketched up. I wanted the heart to be as big as possible and still be completely visible from one angle. At first I wasn’t sure if this blue/pink color combo would be too 80s, but I think it works really well.

Big Heart Sweater for Blythe

I’m quite pleased with how it turned out! It can, of course, also be worn the back to front for a cardigan with the heart on the back. This is also one of the sweaters I sent in my Valentine package for the most recent Blythe Swap. I’m pleased to know that the recipient likes it, too!

Blatant self-promotion: pattern available on Ravelry, Etsy, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

snow one knows

We’ve been watching a fair amount of Holmes Inspection lately on Netflix. It’s good before-bed TV – everything gets resolved at the end and even though the homeowners have gone through a horrible time of not being able to live in their house and finding out that they made all the foolish decisions and ignored all common sense when they bought, everything has now been Made Right and we can all feel superior in knowing that the experts have fixed it all and it shall never be broken again. (Until someone decides to do a DIY reno, fail to pull any permits, and put the entire structure and its inhabitants in danger as seems to happen EVERY SINGLE TIME IN EVERY HOME.)

driveway fence under snow

Since we are actively looking to buy a house, I’m also of course trying to learn as much as I can so we can know what to look for when we’re going through houses and selecting a home inspector. One thing that has been pointed out in a few recent (to us) episodes is that, when it’s been snowing, it’s a good sign to see an even layer of snow on the roof. If there are spots where the shingles are visible, that means heat is escaping and melting the snow, so it needs more insulation in that area. Or if your roof if the only one without snow, you need more insulation all over and/or your venting sucks. We’ve apparently been lucky in that the two homes we previously owned did not have heat loss problems through the roof, so despite living in Michigan this bit of knowledge never occurred to me before. Hooray for Mike Holmes, as now we know! (And knowing is, of course, half the battle.)

So now we’ll be driving by potential homes to see what snow is on the roofs, snapping pics for future reference while trying to seem like we’re not stalking. The other things on the Mike Holmes Sees It Every Time List appear to include: incorrect plumbing (no air behind water!), leaky HVAC ductwork, wiring lacking proper grounding/placement, and wood touching soil (rendering all outdoor structures deathtraps).

Have you found shoddy workmanship in your home? What do you wish you’d looked for before you bought?

FO Friday: more cozy warmness

Blythe is in for some more cozy warmth, this time in the form of an over-long pullover with a cozy big collar.

Sybil Sweater for Blythe

I designed this one with a longer collar so that you can fold it over or leave it unfolded for a taller collar.

Sybil Sweater for Blythe

This deep blue colorway just makes you want to dive in, doesn’t it? I would wear this sweater around the house with some fleece-lined leggings if it were my size.

Sybil Sweater for Blythe

Blatant self-promotion: this pattern is available on etsy and Ravelry