Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Sky and Peerie Brocade

Blue sky on the left, rain clouds on the rightEarly this morning the sky was blue with white fluffy clouds - like the left side of the picture. By nine o'clock, picture time, the rain clouds (lower right side of the picture) were moving in between the blue sky and earth.

Now it's late afternoon and we're enjoying a nice, gentle rain. It's 51 F/ 11 C. The predicted high of 61 F/16 C is not going to happen. The extended forecast for next week includes the "S" word. (Snow)

Me in finished Peerie Brocade, front viewPeerie Brocade was on the needles for about nine months. Regular readers heard many progress reports without much real progress along with reasons why I was knitting on something else.

When I finally picked it up again to finish the sleeves, it was like having a new project that was 95% done. So I finished it.

Yesterday I wore it to Kalamazoo to run errands and have a delicious pizza lunch with Mom. She was nice enough to click a few pictures in front of the restaurant.

Pattern: Peerie Brocade from Fall 1999 Knitter's Magazine. Designed by Charlie Hada.

Pattern Modifications: The original pattern is as long as a three quarter length coat. Mine is shorter, but still plenty long. Also, I left out the button holes and buttons. They won't be missed.

Yarn: Elann's Peruvian Highland Wool

Color: Dusty Teal

Needles: US #4

Gauge: 23 stitches/4 inches in pattern

Inspiration: The pattern caught my eye while I was looking through old Knitter's magazines. This yarn was sitting in plain sight without an intended purpose, so I cast on.

I thought the brocade stitch pattern would hold my interest like knitting a gansey. I should have thought a little longer and realized the stitch pattern never changes in this sweater, unlike a gansey, and there's a lot of yardage to knit.

There I go again. I'm still making excuses for taking so long to finish.

Me in finished Peerie Brocade, wingspan viewThe end result is a warm, wool, super practical sweater. I like it and I'm going to enjoy wearing it on chilly days. It's even big enough I can pop it on over a sweatshirt.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday's Feast for March 30

It's Friday, so let's have a Feast.

Appetizer - What are you proud of?

My two children, Heather Louise and John Kern.

They are very different in personality but have the most important things (to me) in common - good character and a generous, loving heart.

Soup - What is the best thing you’ve ever won as a prize?

A skein of Opal sock yarn on the old, now defunct, OpalChatters Yahoo list.

It knit up into my first pair of wool socks. They were a little large, but still wonderful to wear and the start of my hand knit sock addiction.

(I haven't won many prizes so the competition for this honor wasn't great.)

Salad - Name something you do that is a waste of time.

Spider on my laptopSpider Solitaire.

Because I live in boondocks, I have a dial-up connection. Some of the online sites I like to visit take a while to load, so I bring up a game of Spider and play while they're loading. Then usually I have to finish the game before I can click back to what I was going to do or read.

I also play Spider to procrastinate. It's a total waste of time, but fun.

Main Course - In what year of your life did you change the most?

Baby Heather Louise, 19681968.

I was 23 and became a mother for the first time. Nothing changes your life quite like that.

This is baby Heather Louise in a picture taken at J.C. Penny. They called them "Pixie Pinups". And yes, pictures were still black and white then, but not for long By her nine month Pixie Pinup they were using color.

Dessert - Where is a place you consider to be very tranquil?

Part of my back yardMy yard, especially the back three acres of our five.

There's a creek (in the foreground) and a pond (in the background).

But it's only tranquil when the black flies aren't sucking blood, the deer flies aren't biting, and the mosquitoes aren't swarming.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Busy Time - Back to Socks

Spruce Boxed Cables socks in progressIt's a busy time of year plus I'm getting ready to leave for Idaho next Wednesday for granddaughter Sydney's second birthday.

Time for some easy knitting, and I just happen to have some sock yarn in my stash.

Stitch Pattern: Boxed Cables from Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 2.

Yarn: Opal sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: UNI-Solid 1264. I'm not sure what Opal calls it, but I call it Blue Spruce. It's a little too green to call Teal.

Needles: Addi Turbo #1

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch in stockinette

Close up of boxed cables stitch patternA close up of the stitch pattern.

There are two rows of knit stitches above and below the purled square in the middle of the box making for an elastic stitch pattern, perfect for socks.

Please be polite and don't notice there's a dog hair in this picture.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Early Spring at Violet Acres

After a colder than normal February and first part of March in SW Michigan, we're now enjoying a warmer than normal second half of March. Today it reached 77 F/25 C. It feels downright hot out there.

Male phoebeOur Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) are back. They nest on our back porch every year and sing very loudly outside our bedroom window early in the morning.

The picture is a male.

I spotted a tree swallow on the electric wire back in the field a few days ago, but haven't seen it since. It was probably a migrant and not one of "ours".

Male and female mallard in the creekThe Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), are swimming up and down the creek eating the tender young cress and looking for the best nesting site.

Hellebores in bloomThe first thing to bloom here in the spring is Helleborus orientalis , commonly called Lenten Rose.

It starts blooming under the snow and always has flowers by the time the snow melts and I think to look.

Not only is it winter tough, it grows and thrives in the dry ground under a large oak tree with almost no sun at all.

February Gold DaffodilsThese are "February Gold", a small, early blooming daffodil that usually flowers the first week of April.

I went out to rake the leaves out of them this morning and was surprised to see yellow. They couldn't resist the warm weather and I'm not going to risk knocking them over with a rake.

I have plenty of other areas to rake. This one can wait until the blooms are gone.

Virginia Bluebell with budsOne of the first areas I rake out is where the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) grow. This one is showing buds.

The bluebells are naturalized in a large hosta bed where they pop up and bloom in early spring before the hostas break ground.

After blooming they die back until next spring, happily multiplying underground so I never know where they'll pop up next.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Foggy Sky and Finished Swatch

Foggy sky on March 24With no sunshine to wake them up, everybody (3 dogs, 2 humans) slept in this morning.

By the time we got outside for our first walk of the day, it was 9 am with fog and drizzle. As you can see in the picture, we don't have much color yet in SW Michigan - not even green.

Now, at lunchtime, the fog has lifted but the sky is still solid gray. It's warm, 56 F/13 C, and I'm thinking of opening some windows and letting the spring air in the house.

Finished Gansey swatch in dusk Gloss

I finished the gansey swatch (details here) in Knitpicks Gloss, a fingering weight yarn of 70% Merino, 30% silk. The color is dusk. Needles #2. Gauge is approximately 7.5 st/inch, 10 row/inch. Approximate because the swatch is still damp.

Today's thoughts on project:
  • Even after hours of tiny stitches, I still want to knit the gansey.

  • Gloss might work OK, but it needs to be a different color. I don't want the sweater the same color as the jeans I plan on wearing with it. Also, a lighter color will show off the stitches better.

  • Pat reported in an email about her Gloss socks:
    "I'm washing them by hand and they are fuzzing/pilling quite noticeably - probably wouldn't be so bad with a sweater, but STILL - that could be really upsetting after knitting a gansey on size 2 needles!"

  • I prefer not to wash this sweater by hand and I really really don't want to get upset about fuzzing and pilling. Another strike again the Gloss.

  • The "gloss" is another negative. I don't want a shiny gansey. I didn't know that until I knit the swatch.

  • Enabler Fluffy Knitter Deb suggested a different yarn:
    "Louet Gems Pearl - the base yarn used for Koigu, Cherry Tree Hill and Claudia's handpaint but beautiful solids. A dream to knit with, brilliant stitch definition and you can get it on a cone so less ends to weave."

  • From reading Deb's Blog I know she knows what she's talking about so I have to try this stuff. I ordered some swatching skeins in three weights, fingering, sport, and worsted from Handknitting. Plus a color card.

  • Dorothy suggested Dale Baby Ull. I wanted to order and try some of that also, but my stash control monitor kicked in after the Handknitting order and I decided to pass for now.

All three of the above knitters, Pat, Fluffy Knitter Deb, and Dorothy have excellent blogs with beautiful knitting. If they're not on your reading list, I encourage you to give them a try.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday's Feast for March 23

It's Friday, so let's have a Feast.

Appetizer - Who is your favorite news anchor/reporter? Why?

Scott Ott on Scrappleface, "News fairly unbalanced. We report. You decipher." The number one daily news satire site.

I find Scrappleface very funny, an opinion not shared by DH who normally shares my sense of humor. On occasion I've tried reading especially amusing Scappleface stories to him and I can see his eyes rolling back into his head as he attempts to look like he's paying attention while thinking of something else.

Soup - Name 3 foods that are currently in your freezer.

Lean Cuisine in freezer doorFor me: Lean Cuisine dinners that were on sale at the grocery store today.

Sigh. I'm working on losing the winter blubber.

Macinac Island Fudge Ice Cream in freezerFor DH: Four half gallons of Mackinac Island Fudge Ice cream that were on sale at the grocery store today.

Really big sigh.

For the dogs: Baggies of small liver pieces used for reward treats at doggy school. I boil the liver for five minutes, cut it up with a scissors and freeze it until needed.

Every dog at doggy school knows I bring the best treat and I usually share.

Salad - If you were to have the opportunity to name a new town or city, what would you call it?


Any dog who passes their Canine Good Citizen test would be welcome anyplace in the town.

Main Course - What will most likely be the next book you read?

Two books - Mere Chritianity and Simply Christian Simply Christian.

I read a review calling Simply Christian the new Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

C.S. Lewis is my favorite Christian author and Mere Christianity one of my favorite books, so I have to check out this highly unlikely claim.

Dessert - What's the first thing you notice about the opposite gender?

Voice. I love a pleasing, pleasant male voice.

And yes, my DH has a pleasing voice and most of time he's pleasant. Now, if only I could get him to read me Scrappleface.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Itty-Bitty Gansey Swatch

About a half inch of gansey swatchI've been swatching on the New Style of Heirloom Knitting gansey with some Knitpicks Gloss, a fingering weight yarn of 70% Merino, 30% silk. (I know this is a worthless picture. It didn't feel right not to show you something.)

It's very slow going. Or it seems that way because I've ripped out several swatches that didn't come close to the needed gauge. The cables pull in and need to be crossed several times before measuring, so it's not a quick decision that the swatch isn't working.

To swatch the entire pattern, one side plus the center panel, requires 94 stitches. Have you decided I'm nuts yet?

At this point I've settled on a #2 needle. The lower part is cables and knit/purl motifs. I may need to go down to a #1 needle to maintain gauge when I get to some of the upper design layers with different stitch types.

There is one horizontal band with no cabling and the uppermost chart has yarn overs. It's a swatching nightmare challenge.

So far I don't love the yarn and I certainly don't love the color for this project. I'll give it an inch or two more before I frog it out in disgust and wonder why I knit so much before admitting it wasn't working.

But, maybe it will work. Now you know I'm nuts.

The perfect yarn for this project would be:
  • Fingering weight (need 7.5 st/inch)
  • Great stitch definition
  • Mostly natural fiber, not necessarily 100%
  • Soft enough to wear next to skin
  • Medium to light solid colors available (Gloss comes in dark colors and white.)
  • Machine washable (not mandatory)
  • Affordable. I haven't calculated yardage yet, but it's going to be a lot.
Any suggestions?

Cover of Spring Summer no Kagibariami 9One of the Japanese books I have on order is Spring and Summer patterns. Assuming there is a pattern in it that I want to knit, I will set the gansey aside for a while and my first attempt at Japanese knitting will be something summery.

And, let me warn you now, I may decide that almost 300 stitches around at 10 rows/inch is totally insane and never knit that gansey. I'm still swatching and thinking it over.

Book Title : Spring / Summer no Kagibariami 9
Language : Japanese
Publisher / ISBN : 4529043509
Release Date : February 19, 2007
YesAsia Catalog No. : 1004643039
Price : $12.99
Link to buy book : here

Other Knitting News
Peerie Brocade is finished except for weaving in a few more ends. Picture soon.

Bunchkin's Knitting Japanese Wannabees blog says "Let's help each other out and knit some of these wonderful patterns!" I've signed up to contribute and hope it will be an interesting place for Knitting Japanese Wannabees to read and post.

Dog Trainer Gail loves her new socks. Maybe now my dogs can graduate?

Monday, March 19, 2007

You Can't Baffle a Squirrel

Picture taken through the closed window while it was lightly raining this morning.

Question: Why do we have a squirrel baffle over the sunflower seed feeder?

Answer: So the squirrel has a place to get out of the rain while eating the seeds.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Book Review - New Style of Heirloom Knitting

Japanese knitting book with Acorn sweaterHow do I begin raving about this book? I don't own a nicer book of knitting patterns, and I have many. There isn't a single project in this book I don't love.

Ready for a challenge? Not only are the designs complex and challenging, they are in Japanese.

The designs are beautiful. The photography is artistic, but done to show off the knitting with multiple pictures of each garment on glossy paper.

There are six sections:
  • Ganseys (2 sweaters)
  • Fair isles (3 sweaters)
  • Tams (3 fair isle, 2 cabled)
  • Cables (2 sweaters)
  • Lace shawls (3)
  • Entrelac (2 sweaters).

I've picked out my favorite sweater from each section to show you.

New Style of Heirloom Knitting - ganseyGansey
This beauty even has stitch patterning on the underarm gussets.

Each pattern in the book is only charted out for one size. The Japanese assume if you need a different size, you can chart it out yourself. This sweater is charted at 36 inches/92 cm around.

Gauge is about 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch. I figured this out "reading" Japanese and converting from centimeters. I haven't figured out yet how many months it might take to knit, but I'd like to give it a try.

New Style of Heirloom Knitting - fair isleFair isle
The book has three fair isle sweater designs, a pullover, cardigan (in picture), and a vest.

Each sweater has a coordinating tam style hat.

New Style of Heirloom Knitting - cabled Herbstlied Cables
It was when I saw a swatch from this sweater on the Crossed in Translation blog, I knew I had to have this book.

Fortunately the one size provided, 38.6 inches/98 cm, should fit. Only the challenge of figuring out the pattern remains.

The gauge is worsted weight (I think). 5.5 stitches/inch and 8.5 rows/inch.

The second cabled sweater is Am Kamin, the intricate Aran knit featured on the Crossed in Translation blog.

New Style of Heirloom Knitting - shawlsLace Shawls
Here's a peek at all three lace shawls.

The white shawl, Mountainash, has its own Yahoo Group Mountainash.

There are helpful documents in their Files folder on reading Japanese patterns in general and this one in particular. And, there is one breathtaking picture of a finished shawl in the group's photo section.

New Style of Heirloom Knitting - entrelacEntrelac
Think of the color possibilities for this sweater.

Anybody brave enough to give it a try?

Book Title : nitsuto ni koishite shimada toshiyuki no se ta butsuku dentou nitsuto no atarashii densetsu
Author Name(s) : shimada toshiyuki
Language : Japanese
Publisher / ISBN : 4529039927
Release Date : October 19, 2004
YesAsia Catalog No. : 1003858802
Price : $18.49
Link to buy book : here

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blue Sky and Blue Sweaters

Blue sky on Saturday, March 17Blue Sky
It's below freezing in SW Michigan. The ground has refrozen, but there is no snow.

Sympathy to all my online friends who have new measurable snow this weekend.

I'm not gloating, though. There is sure to be more snow here before spring wins the battle over winter.

The oak trees in the picture are still about a month away from having green leaves.

Blue Sweaters
I've been inspired to finish up these two projects by knowing four Japanese knitting books are due to arrive in my mailbox any day now.

Peerie Brocade almost blocking with sleeves unfinishedPattern: Peerie Brocade from Fall 1999 Knitter's Magazine. Designed by Charlie Hada.

Yarn: Elann's Peruvian Highland Wool

Color: Dusty Teal

Needles: US #4

Gauge: 23 stitches/4 inches in pattern

Inspiration I had skeins and skeins of Dusty Teal wool purchased to knit Eris. After deciding not to knit Eris, I found the Peerie Brocade pattern and though it looked perfect for a nice warm sweater jacket in Dusty Teal.

The sleeves are not done yet. I knit each sleeve down to a length where I though they were almost long enough. At that point I was out of skeined yarn.

Swatches of dusty tealNever fear, though, I had over three skeins worth of Eris swatches to unravel and reuse.

This morning I washed and blocked the sweater to get an accurate feel for how long I need to make the sleeves. I also unraveled and washed the three biggest swatches to have enough yarn to finish. Peerie Brocade is almost done now. As soon as it's dry, it's going to be my primary project until I'm wearing it.

Third CIC big kids sweater, Cozy in Cables with braidPattern: Cosy in Cables Big Kid Sweater with the front and back seed stitch center panel replaced by a cable pattern from Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting.

Knitting size 40 inches for the CIC big kids challenge.

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky in Brite Blue

Needles: Addi Turbo and Options 10.5

Gauge: 12 stitches/4 inches in SS

My third and last sweater for the challenge ending March 31 is done.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday's Feast for March 16

It's Friday, so let's have a Feast.

Appetizer - Name two things that made you smile this week.

Newly arrived robin in the grassAll the little signs of spring, even if we are having a cold and possibly snowy weekend.

The robins arrived midweek.

What do they eat when it's too cold for bugs and the ground is frozen so they can't find worms?

Brother Dave admiring Mom's apple pie that he and I are going to eatMy little brother Dave from Oregon was in the area today and Mom baked an awesome apple pie in his honor.

We had a great visit, ate every last crumb of the pie, and did lots of smiling.

Soup - Fill in the blank: Don't you hate it when ________?

Don't you hate it when you're miles from home and realize you've forgotten something important?

Last night I was almost at doggy school when I remembered Gail's birthday socks wrapped and ready to take, but hanging on the doorknob in the hallway at home.

Her birthday is Sunday. I tried to deliver them to her at work today, but she had the day off. Guess it will have to wait until Monday. I'm so annoyed at myself.

Salad - When you can't go to sleep, what is your personal remedy to help yourself drift into Lullabyland?

I almost never have trouble going to sleep. When I do, reciting things I'm thankful for does the trick in two minutes or less.

Main Course - What is something about which you've always wondered but have not yet found a good answer?

What is the meaning of life?

Dessert - What is your favorite pasta dish?

Chili's Cajun Chicken Pasta dishChili's Cajun Chicken Pasta - until today.

I just went to the Chili's web site to make sure I got the name right and made the mistake of clicking on Nutritional Information. Cajun Chicken Pasta has 1500 calories with 79 fat grams. No wonder I like it. But I may never eat it again. Yikes.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Blogiversary Questions - That I Can't Answer

Thanks again to every one who left a blogiversary question last October. I've finally reached the end.

These last four questions have me stumped, but I'll babble on with a half-assed answers anyway.

If I've missed your question, it wasn't intentional. I love answering questions, so just let me know what you'd like to know.

Debbie B asked . . .
Did you ever figure out what sort of fish that was?

Big fish in stream picture from last OctoberThe fish post is here.

Reader DJ suggested it was probably Coho Salmon or Chinook Salmon, but no definitive answer was given.

There have been some beautiful large trout wintering in the stream. But my fish identification skills are poor, so they could be salmon.

Crazy for Yarn in Alabama who blogs at Yarn Collectors Anonymous
asked . . .
Your nature walks are so incredible for me!! They are so refreshing to be able to see the nature and beauty all around you....what is the wildest/craziest thing you have ever seen while on your walks?

A large snapping turtle came out of the pond, grabbed an apple from under the apple tree, and took it back into the pond. Then, he swam around underneath the floating apple and bit chunks out of it.

I was so sorry I didn't have my camera to record that.

Susan who blogs at Susinok asked . . .
I know this is an odd question but what do you make a niece and nephew that live in Atlanta, Georgia? Cotton cardigans? Knitted toys? I've never had small kids in the family before and now I have two. I have no idea what to knit for them.

Knitting is not the answer to everything.

Kids outgrow, ruin, and/or lose handknits quicker than the blink of an eye.

I would buy them a good kids book and knit myself a pair of socks.

Erica who blogs at erkadays asked . . .
Why is Opal sock yarn your favorite? What LYS do you frequent out in your area? Have you ever been to Gull Lake? If so, how is the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary fairing?

Kimmy feeding the geese at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary three springs agoStarting with the last question first, in the 80s when I lived in Battle Creek I went to the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary frequently. Now I live about thirty miles west of it and there's no easy road to get there.

This picture of Granddaughter Kimmy feeding the geese was taken three years ago, the last time I was there.

I don't frequent a yarn store, although I occasionally stop in at Handweaver's Inspiring Yarn Shop in Oshtemo and cringe at the prices they need to charge. They are very nice there, but I'm mostly a solitary, online ordering type of knitter.

I'm not sure Opal is my favorite sock yarn. I'm stuck in an Opal rut and have a substantial Opal stash so I haven't tried many of the other brands that other sock knitters love.

The Opal collections and colors are attractive. Opal socks machine wash and dry, making it a great sock yarn for gift socks. Opal socks last forever.

On the down side, the last skein I knit (Gail's socks in previous post) had two knots, destroying the pattern. After the second knot, the pattern started back in reverse. As one who likes socks to match, this is traumatic and gets me thinking evil thoughts.

Surely the manufacturer knows when a skein has knots. I do think at $18 a skein, the knotted skeins should be sold as seconds. Better yet, not imported at all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gail's Socks Done and A Touch of Spring

Gail's birthday socks in Opal PetticoatPattern: Rainbow Ripple by Linda Dziubala

Yarn: Opal sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: Petticoat 1291

Needles: Addi Turbo #1

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Inspiration: These are birthday present socks for dog trainer Gail and they were knit to please. She gets them tomorrow evening.

The pattern was modified to have plain wide ribbing in the ankle and down the instep. Gail likes to wear an ankle bracelet which I hope will fall in the smooth ribbing part of the sock instead of the bumpier lace upper cuff.

Daffodils as of March 14Michigan daffodils are stubborn and tough, but I was amazed to see that they have been growing under the thick covering of ice and snow.

Yesterday it hit 70 F/21 C, resulting in much thawing. I heard the radio weatherman call our warm March day "bizarre" weather for SW Michigan. Well, we've had nothing but bizarre weather lately. We were overdue for some good bizarre.

It's cooler today - 59 F/15 C, but still very pleasant.

There is snow in the five day forecast starting tonight, but we won't talk about that. It's only a temporary setback. Spring is here!

Male bluebird claiming his boxThe male bluebird has been seen sitting on the nest box, but only when I have three dogs with me to make picture taking a challenge.

Therefore, this is not the best picture. It was taken from across the field and is a bit fuzzy. Still, there is no mistaking this bird for anything but a male bluebird getting in the mood to start a family.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Blogiversary Questions - Blogging

Lois asked . . .
How did you get started writing a blog?

When I started my first blog, Seasons of Violet, in September, 2003, this was my life: (actual post from 2003)
Getting Kicked Out of the Nest
Background: I worked for Pharmacia for 17 years. Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer. Thousands of us in Kalamazoo are being severed. We call it being Pfired.

Late last fall when I first learned I was going to be Pfired, my initial reaction was happiness. After all, I wasn't planning to work that many more years and the severance package was generous.

We had a psychologist brought in to conduct a class on the emotional impact of being severed. He talked about denial, anger, resentment, and depression. I listened, decided it didn't apply to me, and threw the handout in the wastebasket. Classic denial.

In a few months as the slaughter began, I noticed that it didn't take much to bring tears to my eyes. I started having uncharacteristic emotional reactions to everyday events. By that time everyday events included the elimination of everything familiar at work: the departments, the systems, the culture, and the people.

The anger, resentment, and depression cycles peaked in August. These were the weeks prior to one of my favorite workmates getting Pfired. For several weeks I was unable to concentrate and the slightest thought of what was happening brought a big lump to my throat.

I think I'm better now. I think I've reached the stage where I accept and I'm ready to move on. I don't like what is happening. I'm never going to feel good about what is happening. But I'm almost ready to thank Pfizer for throwing me into the next phase of my life.

Back to now . . .
I thought it would be helpful to write about what was going on at work, so I started Seasons of Violet. I was wrong. It didn't feel right posting publicly about people's private traumas, including my own. The above post is as cathartic as it got.

Seasons of Violet ended up averaging about 15 readers a day, most of them family. I think my mother did multiple views to make me feel better.

I soon learned to enjoy my forced retirement and gradually the blog turned more and more to happy things - knitting, nature, and dogs. It was time for a new blogging start and Stitches of Violet was born in October, 2004.

At the request of son John, who doesn't like to wade through knitting content, Seasons of Violet is maintained as a shadow blog to Stitches of Violet. It has the same content minus the knitting.

If Lois meant to ask a technical question instead of a personal question, the answer is much easier. Go to Blogger and sign up. It's free and easy to start a blog there.

Angie asked . . .
Why did you choose "Stitches of Violet" for your blog title?
The following is from my very first blog post on my first blog, Seasons of Violet, September 1, 2003:

Picking a Name

A few weeks ago I made a list of names I might possibly use for my blog. They all included the word violet, because violet is my e-mail name and my theme.

After making the list, I sent it out to some family and friends for their thoughts. Most of them thought that “Violet Blooms” or “Blooming Violet” was the best name because either it reminded them of spring or it indicated that I was blooming. Blooming as in personally growing and becoming a more complete person.

So glad I asked. I do have days when I’m blooming. They are rare and wonderful days.

Many of my days I am just trying to survive. Sometimes I’m depressed and/or tired. Sometimes I feel crummy. Sometimes life seems heavy and hard. Those are the days I need to write the most.

I’m sure everyone will be surprised when I don’t use a name containing “bloom”. Instead, I’m going to go with “Seasons of Violet” to represent the changing times of my life.

My dear husband Bob, in his great wisdom, picked that name from the start. He knows me well.

I like symmetry when it works. A year after the above post when I started my much more successful knitting blog, I changed "Seasons" to "Stitches" and here we are.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Socks, Socks, and Blue Saturday Sky

Red Swish sock in progress Pattern: Winging Worsted Weight Socks with a 48 stitch cuff, 42 stitch foot. Small scale gansey type patterning on cuff.

Yarn: Knitpicks Swish, a worsted weight superwash wool

Color: Red pepper

Needles: #3 double points

Gauge: About 6 stitches/inch. Haven't measured accurately yet.

Inspriation: I'm auditioning this yarn for a gansey sweater. With this simple pair of socks I can check out the color, the gauge, the stitch definition, and how it feels while being knit. Most important, especially with superwash yarn, how does it look after being worn and washed multiple times?

Verdict so far: Passes. The stitch definition is acceptable and it's not hurting my hands to knit it at a tight gauge on #3 needles.

It was a bit of a surprise to run out of yarn. Currently both socks are almost knit to the toe and stored with a dangling end of yarn sticking out while I wait for a third skein of Swish.

Of course I had to order a few other things in order to get free shipping, mostly smaller size Options needles to try. Will report the ordered loot after the box arrives. Will show you the socks when they're done. And, will report on Swish durability when the socks have been worn a few times.

Gails Petticoat birthday socks in progress Pattern: Rainbow Ripple by Linda Dziubala

Yarn: Opal sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: Petticoat 1291

Needles: Addi Turbo #1

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Inspiration: Dog trainer Gail has a birthday a week from today and I want to surprise her with these socks on Thursday, our last doggy school class of the week.

She asked for something comparable to the socks I've already given her, Opal Lollipop 1010 and blue Opal Magic

She wears the colors in these socks, so I'm confident about the yarn. The stitch pattern is fancier than her other, plain ribbing, gift socks. Hope she likes it.

Saturday Sky for March 10, 2007Blue Saturday Sky
Yes, I know it's Sunday. This sky picture was taken on Saturday. It's only the posting that's a day late.

Blue sky yesterday. Blue sky again today. The word "snow" does not appear in the five day forecast.

SW Michiganders have switched their weather groans about cold, ice, and snow to the anticipated mud. I'm so glad it's thawing I can't bring myself to complain about the mud - yet.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blogiversary Questions - Nest Boxes

Young bluebirds in nestTo celebrate spring, we're going to talk about bluebirds.

For those who are curious to know more, I recommend the North American Bluebird Society website.

For those who prefer and/or also want hardcopy, The Bluebird Monitor Guide is excellent as is the The Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds.

Laura from Beautiful West Michigan who blogs at The Laurel Leaf asked . . .
Did you put the bluebird houses up yourself or did some government/nature organization do it?

Bluebird nest box with baffleYears ago before my employer Upjohn/Pharmacia & Upjohn/Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer, we had a beautiful campus in Kalamazoo with acres and acres of natural land. The company invited the Kalamazoo Nature Center to work with interested employees to set up and monitor bluebird trails.

It was a wonderful opportunity to work and learn with bird lovers who knew what they were doing. For many years I monitored a nest box trail at work and I set up a small bluebird trail, four boxes, on our back three acres.

When I retired over three years ago, I was presented a gift certificate to Wild Birds Unlimited which I used to upgrade my nest boxes with expensive poles and baffles. Very nice.

While expensive poles and baffles are not necessary, some type of predator control is needed. Before getting the new equipment, my nest boxes were mounted on metal pipe coated with auto grease. It works.

All the pictures in this post are from previous years on my home bluebird trail except this one with snow. It was taken today.

Nancy J. asked . . .
How is it that your bluebirds don't seem to mind your getting so close to their young?
Newly hatch bluebird fledgling with more eggs in nestMost songbirds do not have a highly developed sense of smell. The myth that they will abandon their nests if a human has touched their young is just that, a myth.

The Kalamazoo Nature Center bird banders pick the female up right off the eggs, band her, and put her back with no harm done. Later, when the young are about ten days old, they come back to pick up and band each of them.

Laurie in Maine who blogs at Socks Have No Thumbs asked . . .
I was wondering about your knowledge of birdboxes - the way you open them once they have nesters? I'm always afraid to go near them for fear of scaring away mom and yet you open them up - knowingly.

Nest with bluebird eggsAlthough the bird banders have no qualms about disturbing the female on her nest, there is no reason for me to do that at home. I can monitor the nest when she is out.

When I see the female peeking out the hole as I approach, I just walk quietly by.

Before opening up the nest box, I knock on the side so any adult bluebird inside can fly out before the home invasion.

I record the date the eggs hatch and never open the box after the hatchlings are two weeks old. At that critical age they are exercising their wings and, like all adolescents, want out of the box before they're ready.

Even the bird banders won't open a nest box during that critical last half week before the bluebird parents decide it's fledgling day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Three Reasons for Smiling

Glory walking on top of the iceReason Number One - Spring is in the air, even if it hardly shows yet.

When we went out early this morning, the glacier that has formed over our corner of SW Michigan was frozen so solid that even sixty-five pound Glory could walk on the surface without breaking through.

Check out that blue sky! The forecast is for warming, not just today but for the whole next week!

Late afternoon now and the temperature is a balmy 46 F/8 C. The top layer of the glacier has turned to mushy slush and Michiganders are throwing their jackets aside to enjoy the heatwave.

Hairy Woodpecker at suet feederThe birds have gone bonkers. Mating calls everywhere.

I saw a male bluebird sitting on a nest box and wished I had my camera. All in good time. I'll try to be patient.

The woodpeckers are especially loud as they drum out their mating cadence on the trees.

In a few months this Hairy Woodpecker will be bringing her fledglings to learn about suet feeders.

Emerald City sock yarn by Lisa SouzaReason Number Two - New sock yarn has arrived.

This is my first Lisa Souza sock yarn and I'm looking forward to trying it on the needles.

The color is "Emerald City", chosen because I need some emerald green socks. Therefore I was a little disappointed that this yarn doesn't live up to its name.

Once I get over that it's not green, I think I'm going to love it. Plus, now I can have more shopping fun looking for real emerald green yarn.

Opal Rainbow and Opal Smoke sock yarnOpal from FunKnits in Canada - cheaper than in the US plus they have Opal collections not available in this country.

On the left is "Rainbow", a many colored yarn with medium length color repeats. I'll reserve judgment on its beauty until I see how it knits up.

The skein on the right is the only non-blue color of the Smoke collection advertised as "Finally an all men's collection". Forget that. The Smoke colors may all be macho enough for men's socks, but the women are going to love them as well.

Reason Number Three - I've received shipping notices on the four Japanese knitting books .

They should be here early next week.

Did you see Grumperina's Mountainash Shawl?

The pattern is in the New Style of Heirloom Knitting, the same Japanese knitting book as the acorn/oak leave sweater I want to attempt.