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)

Monday, March 31, 2008

April Sample Skein Swatches

When I subscribed to Elann Sample Skeins, one of my goals was to knit up each sample skein, including yarn I would never dream of buying. Because who knows? I might fall in love with a yarn that I otherwise never would have tried. Or, in short, I wanted to experiment a little and expand my yarn exposure.

The following are my impressions of the April sample skeins. These are NOT yarn reviews. They are my personal preferences after knitting a sample skein.

Soie Bambou (left). 65% silk, 35% bamboo, DK weight. Swatch knit on #4 needle.

Nice. This is a yarn I would never have considered buying before I knit the sample. Great stitch definition and the ribbing has spring to it.

When the yarn was wrapped around my needle, the plies spread out so I could see each individual thread. I was unable to knit this yarn at my normal knitting speed and catch all the plies on each stitch. Knitting it without splitting required a sharp pointed needle and constant vigilance.

Araucania Atacama (top right). 100% Alpaca, Aran weight. Swatch knit on #5 needle.

For almost 50 years I've been attracted to variegated yarns that look pretty in the skein and disappoint when knit. I never learn. When I saw this sample skein I got very excited. The skein was gorgeous. Variegated alpaca, what could be nicer?

Saved by the ugly little swatch. I'm no longer in love. And, it's not as soft as the Peruvian Pure Alpaca that Elann sells.

Berroco Suede Tri-Color (lower right). 100% nylon. Swatch knit on #7 needle.

This is really a nylon ribbon about 1/8 inch wide. It was easy knitting.

Even knit on a needle size smaller than the recommended 8, the resulting fabric is very loose. I can pull it long or I can pull it wide. I'm trying to think what kind of garment would work with this yarn and failing. Maybe if it were a prettier color I would try harder?

Araucania Magallanes (left). 100% single ply thick and thin wool. Swatch knit on #8 needle.

The thick is like Lopi, the thin is like fingering weight. The resulting texture is interesting. The colors are attractive.

I'm still mulling this one over.

Berroco Zen Colors (right). 55% cotton, 45% nylon ribbon, worsted weight. Swatch knit on #8 needle.

I know I didn't have kind words for the solid color version Zen when I wrote the March Sample Skein post. But these colors are striking and worth a second look for someone who needs a dressy little jacket.

This free pattern is written for Zen and is perfect for the ribbon yarn. If I had a special occasion happening this summer, I'd be tempted.

I may not have learned to stop buying variegated yarn, but I have learned that if there's to be any hope of turning it into something nice the pattern needs to be simple.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Notes on Early Spring

Normally we have a few spring teaser days in March where the temperature soars above 60. We all rush outside without a jacket to start working in the yard only to find the ground is still frozen.

So far this March in what seems to be the endless cold and snow, that hasn't happened. But 60 degrees may happen Monday, the last day of the month.

Day temperatures have been going above freezing. Little by little the snow is disappearing. There are still some glaciers in shady areas and in piles where the plows stacked it up.

During winter the male Gold Finches are a drab grayish color. It's always a joy to watch them change back to their bright gold color in the spring.

These are my early daffodils, a line called "February Gold".

No one in Michigan expects daffodils to bloom in February, but some years they do flower the first week of April. Looks like it will be the second week of April this year.

Mrs. Mallard duck is taking a bath in the pond.

Since our pond is spring fed, it never ices over thick enough to to walk on. It thaws quickly when the temperatures go above freezing, attracting ducks (nice) and geese (not nice).

Glory is doing a great job as "goose dog". She loves to chase the geese and is so happy that we think it's a good thing for her to do. She's not afraid to go into the water if necessary - or even if it's not necessary.

There are mute swans nesting down the road a ways. If they stop by, we need to be careful that Glory doesn't try to chase them off. I'm not sure she would win that battle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Female Cardinal

Everyone knows the vivid red male cardinal. The female is also beautifully colored, but much less showy.

The Cardinals are year round residents and many pair nest on our five acres. They're the first to arrive at the feeder in the morning and the last to feed at night.

The next two Wednesdays I'll be the one with wings, flying to Idaho and back. By the time I get home again it should be spring. I'm looking forward to taking some bird pictures that don't involve snow.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How I Wash Woolens

The two rules for washing woolens are:


Other than that, woolens are much hardier than most people think, although I believe most knitters have figured this out already.

My woolen washing routine is a great exercise program. It requires five trips up and down the basement stairs to the washer. This is how I do it.

For this system to work, you need a washing machine that will agitate but not spin with the lid up.

If you have any concerns about the outcome, try your washing technique out with a swatch.

  1. Trip 1.
    • Set washer for small load (optional), warm wash, and warm rinse.
    • Start wash cycle with lid up.
    • Add 1 capful of baby shampoo.
    • Do NOT add the items you're washing.
    • Go back upstairs, letting washer go through wash cycle with lid up and no woolens. It creates bubbles from the shampoo. It stops before it spins out.

  2. Trip 2.
    • Washer is now ready to spin out.
    • Add woolens to warm water.
    • Carefully swish around to throughy wet, but DO NOT AGITATE.
    • Go back upstairs leaving woolens to soak for 10-15 minutes.

  3. Trip 3.
    • Woolens have been soaking.
    • Give a final, gentle swish around in the water.
    • Shut washer lid.
    • Stand by washer while it drains and spins with woolens inside.
    • Before washer starts to fill for rinse cycle, remove woolens and set them aside.
    • Go back upstairs leaving lid up.
    • Washer fills with rinse water and agitates with no woolens in the water. It stops before it spins out because the lid is up.

  4. Trip 4.
    • Washer is ready to spin out.
    • Add woolens to water and gently swish around. DO NOT AGITATE.
    • Put lid down and go back upstairs.
    • Washer will drain and spin with woolens inside.

  5. Trip 5.
    • Grab woolens out of washer.
    • Lay them out to dry on a flat surface, patting them into the desired shape. This is my version of blocking.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Snow and a Happy Box

Yesterday we got a foot of new snow. Some drifts are up to my knees.

The snow started about 9:30 am and by 10:30 am the road reports sounded like SW Michigan was playing bumper cars. Good Friday services and Easter egg hunts were cancelled.

I hunkered down and stayed home. It's spring. I'm sure it will all melt soon.

Our fearless mail lady drove through the drifts and delivered a package from Beadknitter. I was the lucky winner of her Blogiversary contest. She gives great prizes.

Sock yarn! ON-Line Highland color. There are some bright pinks, light pinks, and a little purple. Just the thing to put some color into an all white all the time day. I'm wondering if I can fit in a pair of socks for myself before I need to start daughter Heather's birthday socks

Yummy stuff! I had to take the picture quick because that Wild Huckleberry Chocolate Bar was opened and savored while we watched the snow come down. It says "Slightly Sinful" in the lower right corner of the wrapper. I agree. It was perfect with a cup of coffee on a snowy afternoon. And yes, I shared with DH.

More Yummy stuff! Idaho Wild Huckleberry Jam. I'm saving it to have on my Easter morning pancakes tomorrow. I've had it before and know that it's delicious.

What would be a gift box from Beadknitter without beads?

These stitch markers are so pretty I had to give them their own picture. I can't pick a favorite.

Thank you Linda for a great box of goodies. It couldn't have arrived on a better day.

Mr. Cardinal says: Hey! What's with this stuff?

I thought it was time for nest building and mating and baby cardinals.

Chat Back for March 22

Answering questions from comments and email.

Kathy in Iowa asked . . .
Soooo....do you have a volunteer to be the resident "goose dog"? Is there a class for that?

Since the geese weigh more than the two littlest dogs and are very aggressive in defending territory, that leaves twelve year old, 60 pound Glory to be our "goose dog".

I walked Glory out to the infested area, showed her the geese, and she didn't need training. She ran at them. They honked and flapped and splashed water all over as they scurried to get airborn and away from the crazy dog.

It was beautiful. The only way it could have been better was if my camera batteries hadn't given out during the eviction.

Today we don't need to worry about geese. There's too much snow for geese to settle in on the banks. Even Glory thought the snow was a bit much. Right after taking this picture I asked her if she wanted to go in and she beat me to the house.

Karen asked . . .
Is there another method of (shoulder seam) decreasing that gives a much smoother look rather than that 'nubby, stair step' look? Someone suggested a slip stitch method but just don't know how to go about it. I would appreciate your comments.
I'm not familiar with the slip stitch method. I use short rows.

There's an excellent tutorial on how to convert stair steps to short rows here.

The article contains a link to a second tutorial on how to do short rows if that's new to you.

Beverly asked . . .
How is it that a 99 stitch sleeve fits in an armscye designed for 112 stitches? Inquiring minds want to know!
This time it worked. Some other project it might not work as well.

Before I frogged the 112 stitch sleeve, I could see less stitches wouldn't be a problem.

When I had 112 stitches, there was puckering at the sleeve join. I think it would have blocked out OK, but there was plenty of opportunity to reduce the amount of stitches and get a better good looking sleeve cap.

One of the ongoing challenges with this sweater is the gauge changing as the stitch pattern changes.

Gauge at the sleeve cap is 6.2 stitches/inch and 8 rows/inch, so 13 stitches removed wasn't too radical.

Friday, March 21, 2008

She Said Sleeves Revisited

My second attempt at knitting a set-in sleeve top down using short rows is working great.

One of the advantages of knitting sleeves this way is the ability to try on the sweater while the sleeve is being knit, and I've done so. The sleeve fits.

Now that I've had a few days to mull over why the first attempt failed, there are several reasons. Like any mentally healthy knitter, I'm blaming it on the pattern.

See how the sleeve caps are covered by the man's hands in the picture? That's because the pattern is written for a woman with large upper arms. Since the model is a normal size person, the sleeve caps are way too baggy on her. Just like the sleeve I frogged last Monday.

The pattern has the sleeves knit as a separate piece, bottom up, and sewn in. I'm knitting sleeves from picked up stitches, top down with short rows as described in Barbara Walker's book Knitting Top Down.

If I had measured a sweater that fits, I would have known that the underarm circumference of a sleeve that fits my arm is 15 to 16 inches. If I had looked at the pattern schematic, I would have seen that the underarm circumference of the pattern sleeve is 17.25 inches.

If I had done the calculation for picking up sleeve stitches according to the instructions I was supposedly following in Barbara Walker's book, I would have picked up 99 stitches. Instead, I picked up 112, the number of stitches from the pattern sleeve.

It's hard to blame it on the pattern when I should have known better.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 8708 Violet

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 28 stithces/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Robin and Geese

In SW Michigan we get excited about spotting the first robin in mid-March.

The bird experts are quick to try and burst our bubble by explaining that some robins winter over in the woods. They're the first ones we see in the spring.

We only have a few robins in our yard so I'm guessing the migrants haven't arrived yet.

What's the difference if they come out of the woods or come from the south? It's still a special early spring moment when the first robin is spotted.

Notice the robin is a bit fluffed up. It isn't warm here yet.

This could be a problem. There are ponds and lakes in the area where it's impossible to walk without stepping in goose poop. I don't want our pond to become one of them.

The company where I used to work had a "goose dog" border collie whose job was to keep the geese off the property so we could walk on the sidewalks without sliding in their leavings. Before the dog, it was possible to get hit with a big white splat while walking in from the parking lot. One man had hundreds of dollars of damage to his car when a goose flew into his car door.

Until the county took down the dozen tall pine trees bordering our pond, the pond was surrounded by trees and our house. The geese didn't have room to glide in and we never had them on our property.

This year a few have discovered our pond. The welcome mat is not out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Frogging

This evening I frogged three days knitting effort - about ten hours worth.

Since I'm ready to forget my blunder, I won't bore us with a long story.

The short story: I knit a sleeve cap on She Said using picked up stitches and short rows. The thing I thought I was going to have trouble with - the cable pattern - looked great. The sleeve was too big around. Bad math. I frogged it.

I'll start the sleeve over tomorrow. Now that I have a better feel for what I'm doing it should go faster.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chat Back for March 15

Answering questions from comments and email.

Vivian asked . . .
How long do your sweaters last? Do you keep the old ones since they are your handknits?

I've only been knitting wool sweaters for myself for about three years, so I don't know how long they're going to last. Based on my experience so far, I'm guessing it will be a long time.

This is going to create problems as the number of sweaters grows. Maybe I'll just consider myself a collector. Don't most people have things they collect that they really don't need?

There are handknit acrylic blend knits in my closet that I don't wear anymore. I need to do something with them. Thriftstore?

Ann asked . . .
The color (Chenille swatch) is gorgeous & it looks so soft. How can you wait till April?

It's even worse than that! Dorothy and I are planning to knit this sweater together as a very informal knit-a-long and we've set the start date as May 11.

We both have other knitting to finish up, Dorothy is completing her last semester of college in April, and we're each planning a trip across country in April to visit our granddaughters.

The swatch satisfied my need to cast on immediately. Now it's all packed away until the time is right in May.

Susan asked . . .
I also love feeding the birds and wonder what method you use to feed the doves. They don't like any of the feeders that we have. What kind of feeder are you finding works well for you?

The doves like to eat on a large, flat surface - like on the ground under a feeder.

We have a 1 X 8 board stretched across the balcony. The feed we put on it is right out in the open. We did it for the cardinals and doves that won't eat out of a feeder, but all of the birds who like to eat right side up like the board.

The doves' favorite food is black oil sunflowers seeds. Every seed eating bird we have likes them. We buy 50 pound bags and go through hundreds of pounds every winter.

Dani asked . . .
I bet they (the dogs) are just bouncing out of their fur in anticipation of doggie school night. Do they act like the "know" when the day comes?

They know the words "doggy school".

When I say "doggy school", they look at me until I say the name of the dog who's going. The chosen dog gets excited - Sunny prances, Pappy howls. The not chosen dog slinks off to the back room to pout.

All three dogs get semi-hysterical when we return from doggy school because I pass out the left over training treats - turkey dog pieces.

Wendy asked . . .
Where do you find glove needles...patternworks?

I don't know. I remember picking my set in a yarn store, but I don't remember which one.

I do remember the package was dusty and sitting in the corner looking like it had given up on ever being sold. The owner probably celebrated when I paid for them. I doubt she restocked.

I better start looking now while I still have two that aren't lost. It could take a while to find some.

Dani asked . . .
I've often wondered if you would ever think about condensing them into a "yarn review" page that can be clickable on your main page?

I created a Blogger label for Sample Skeins. The labels show up at the end of each post. If you click on it you'll get all the Sample Skein posts.

Also, you can do a blog search in the bar at the top of my blog. I use it all the time to find things I've written. Be sure and click on the SEARCH BLOG option. It works well.

I must repeat that my thoughts on yarn are NOT yarn reviews. I do not do actual yarn reviews. I write personal reactions to yarn. For example: If I received a skein of the most wonderful silk yarn ever spun I would not like it because I don't like knitting with silk.

For actual yarn reviews I highly recommend Clara Park's Knitter's Review. She does very thorough reviews, it's free online, and you can do a search.

Donna asked . . .
I see the mesh bag as bird feeders, and am wondering...how do you keep the squirrels from ripping it?

Sheila asked . . .
How do you keep the squirrels away from that bag of peanuts?

The peanut feeder is hanging from the eaves with a long S hook and a squirrel baffle. Not that such a setup ever stopped a squirrel who wanted a feeder.

The real reason the squirrels don't bother the peanut bag is because they don't want the peanuts. They prefer the sunflower seeds.

During the most severe winter weather, DH Bob put peanuts out on the windowsill for the squirrels. The squirrels ignored them and ate sunflower seeds.

One popular type of peanut feeder is a heavy metal mesh cage the birds cling to while pecking at the peanuts. At the first sign of squirrel trouble, I would happily have bought one, but it didn't happen.

Sheila asked . . .
So, do you have a plan of something to do with your Elann swatches?

Swatching them is a great idea, but, then, what to do with the watches.
I plan to file the swatches and color cards. Just because I don't want superwash wool yarn today, doesn't mean I won't have a yen for it later.

If I buy yarn at Elann, the sample skein program won't cost me anything. All Elann purchases are 10% off until the discounts equal the price of the subscription.

Plus, it's fun to get the package and fun to knit up the little swatches. I'm learning about the attributes of yarn I've never tried knitting before and probably never would if it weren't for the swatches.

It's all good except the shipping costs on Elann orders. They're high, especially since I'm used to Knitpicks free shipping.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happiness Is Family and Bluebirds

My brother Dave is visiting the area. His trumpet company is in Oregon. Although he travels the world for his business, he rarely gets back to Kalamazoo where he grew up. It's always a special treat when he does.

Today four generations of family had a nice lunch at Clara's On The River in Battle Creek. That's brother Dave in the back. Our Mom is in front in the blue "Papillon Grandma" shirt. My daughter Heather is on the left with her daughter, my granddaugher, Kimmy on the right. (Kimmy's shirt says, "The Drama Starts Here.")

Yesterday when the dogs and I walked out into the field, there they were - male and female bluebird sitting in a small tree near the bluebird nestbox.

This is a quick picture from far away. As the dogs charged forward, the bluebirds flew off, back into the taller trees. But they're here and they're thinking bluebird love.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gail's Birthday Socks Finished


Who is Gail?

Pattern: Basic 64 stitch sock with k7p1 wide ribbing on cuff and instep

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

Color: Hundertwasser 956 Seeschlange

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Time to get back to thinking about the She Said sleeves. This is a busy time of year and I find myself looking for easy knitting when I sit down in the evening, so the sleeves have been on hold.

I lack confidence in doing the cables top down with short rows. How difficult can it be? I think it will work, but I'm tempted to just cast on at the cuff and do them the way the pattern is written. Do I hear chickens clucking? I really want to try the top down approach, but need some quiet knitting hours to figure it out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Tufted Titmouse, Ducks

This is the first year in many that we've put out peanuts. We've been rewarded with a constant stream of many different birds eating and enjoying them.

The Tufted Titmouse has always been around eating feeder seeds. Turns out they love peanuts as well.

A beautiful little bird, about the size of a sparrow, they are perky and full of energy.

Mom Mallard: "Ah dear, I don't think the grass is long enough to build a nest yet.

Maybe we could hold off a few weeks?"

Dad Mallard: "I see what you mean. Let's go for a swim."

And they did.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

February and March Sample Skein Swatches

When I subscribed to Elann Sample Skeins, one of my goals was to knit up each sample skein, including yarn I would never dream of buying. Because who knows? I might fall in love with a yarn that I otherwise never would have tried. Or, in short, I wanted to experiment a little and expand my yarn exposure.

The following are my impressions of the February and March sample skeins. These are NOT yarn reviews. They are my personal preferences after knitting a sample skein.

All of the yarns are lovely for what they are.

February Skeins

Peruvian Pure Alpaca (top). 100% fine grade alpaca, worsted weight.

This stuff is heavenly. Reminds of the angora I bought when I was a teenager to "wrap" my boyfriend's ring so it would fit on my finger. I bought 20 skeins of it in pink for Chenille.

Superwash Worsted (center left). 100% superwash wool, worsted weight.

The swatch was knit on #5 needles and has been washed. I'm impressed. It even feels like real wool. If I ever want to knit with superwash worsted, I will buy this yarn.

Superwash Bamboo (center right). 65% superwash wool, 35% bamboo, worsted weight.

This was my first time to knit with anything bamboo and won't be my last. In fact, I'd like to try a sweater with this yarn. It knit up smooth and silky, but unlike silk has plenty of stretch, wonderful stitch definition, and the ribbing is springy. The colors are bright and shiny.

Esprit (bottom). 98.3% cotton, 1.7% elastic, sport weight.

This was my first time knitting yarn with elastic so it took a few rows to get the feel for knitting with what felt like a rubber band. I dislike the rough feel of the fabric and at my age I don't think I want to wear an elastic anything.

I guess some people use this stuff for socks. It's nubbly and rough. My feet hurt just thinking about it.

March Skeins

Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk (upper left). 80% baby alpaca, 20% silk, Aran weight.

Why ruin alpaca by spinning it with silk? I've never cared for the slippery feeling of silk. Time after time, year after year, I buy clothing or yarn with silk content and regret it. Will I ever learn? Maybe. I'm not buying this yarn.

Berroco Zen (upper right). 55% cotton, 45% nylon, worsted weight.

Worsted weight? How can ribbon be worsted weight?

This was my first time knitting with ribbon. I've always wondered what it would be like, and now I know. It was awful. The way I knit, my needle kept piercing the ribbon. I never did get a rhythm going and was glad when the swatch was finished.

The sample garment shown in the ad was cabled. I can't imagine the torture of knitting cables with ribbon yarn. If I ever want a garment made from ribbon, I'll buy it ready made.

Ella Rae Shibu (lower left). 90% silk, 10% rayon, worsted weight with a matte finish.

My swatch is unwashed and feels more like cotton than silk. I wouldn't consider it a pleasure to wear something knit with this.

Berroco Nostalgia (lower right). 46% cotton, 30% acrylic, 24% nylon, worsted weight.

It doesn't show in my picture, but there's a shiny white thread in this yarn that reminds me of the baby yarn sold in the five and dime fifty years ago. Maybe that's why they called it Nostalgia?

The washing instructions are cold wash and flat dry. It seems like cotton/acrylic/nylon should be able to take a regular machine wash and dry cycle. But since I have no plans for this yarn, I'll let someone else worry about it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chat Back for March 8

Karen asked . . .
With all those cables, do you use a cable needle or do the needleless method?

And Frank asked . . .
Didn't I read that you knit your cables with a bobby pin? I think its more fiddely to use the no cable needle method than to use them. What do you use?

I'm the same knitting speed with or without a cable needle, but keeping track of the cable needle slows me down. I can't tell you how many I've lost. They evaporate, never to be seen again.

My preference is to cable without a needle when the cables are simple and the yarn is not slippery.

My favorite cable needle is a four inch glove double point in a size 0. Here's what I have left of a set of five. Time to start looking for a new set to buy.

I've never tried a bobby pin. Once in an emergency (I didn't want to get out of the chair) I used a round toothpick. It was rough and snagged the yarn - but it didn't slip out and it got the job done.

For the She Said Aran, I've been able to do all the cable work without a cable needle. The Cascade 220 yarn has good grab and the cables are simple (only one cross at a time).

Megan asked . . .
What type of short row technique do you prefer?
Interesting question because I wasn't aware of more than one technique.

I knit/purl to the end of the short row, slip the next stitch onto the right hand needle, wrap (front for a purl, back for a knit), slip the stitch back to the left hand needle, and turn. If it's been awhile since the last short row, I have to look up how to do the wrap.

Are there links for other techniques? Are they better in some way?

Sue asked . . .
Your pictures are always amazing! How do you get in so close and take a picture without spooking them? Are you inside or outside?

This time of year the pictures you're seeing are taken from the inside through the window. When the weather is nicer, I do take plenty of bird picture outdoors.

The camera, a Canon S3 IS, has a zoom lens and is great at focusing on the bird through the window.

I crop the photos when I get them on my laptop. Sometimes they get darkened or lightened as needed to show the colors and detail accurately as possible.

The bird in the picture is a Field Sparrow.

Marianne asked . . .
What is the best way to make a sock comfortable when there needs to be a knot in the yarn?

Yikes! A sock is never going to be comfortable with a knot in the yarn.

I split the ends of both pieces of yarn and twist half the plies of one piece with half the plies of the other for two to three inches to make new yarn. Then knit.

This leaves four thin ends to weave in and a very very solid join that's never going to come undone.

I use this join for everything, not just socks.

For single ply yarn like Lopi, I hold two strands together and knit for a few stitches.

Laura asked . . .
Oh, aren't pileated woodpeckers wonderful?
Yes. Seeing and hearing it in the yard was one of the highlights of my February.

Friday, March 07, 2008

End of Season Interviews

We are coming to the end of the coldest and snowiest winter in the life of the three canine members of the family. Today I interviewed them about their winter experience.

Glory, an 11 year old, 60 pound lab mix.

I rather enjoyed the snow and cold. Sometimes the snow got between my toes, but Mom and Dad didn't let me stay out long enough for it to be a problem.

Actually, that's my main complaint about the whole thing. Mom was a wimp about taking long walks and we often had to go back in the house before I was done romping.

The days it was super cold I beat her to the door.

Sunny, a 6 year old, 16 pound mix of papillon, poodle, terrier, some breed that herds, and probably others.

I spent as much time in the house as possible. On the super bad days I would hide when it was time to go for a walk with Mom.

There is no need to go walking when the weather is nasty. I have Dad wrapped around my little paw. He will go out and stand on the porch while I dash out, do what I have to do, and run back to the door.

Several times Mom disappointed me on my doggy school night. She said we had to stay home for reasons I didn't understand. Like, "It's snowing so hard I can't see to drive." How come she can't sniff her way there?

The worst thing of all? Iceballs! I have curly chest hair that works like an ice magnet if I don't wear a coat.

Pappy, a 14 pound Papillon of unknown senior age.

I have a very heavy fur coat, but my feet are delicate and quickly get cold. Sometimes when we're having a nice winter walk I try to lift all four feet off the ground at once. It works wonders. Mom picks me up and carries me home.

When it's not too cold for my feet, the snow is fun. When it's deep, I hop through it like a rabbit. I like to tunnel into it looking for little rodents.

Mom put an old comforter in my favorite chair. Today the sun was shining in the window. Ahhhhh. Winter is no problem when I can come back inside to this.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gail's Birthday Socks Started

Dog trainer Gail's birthday is March 18, so it's time to get her birthday socks started in order to avoid a last minute knitting panic.

Gail is a very special person, the only non-family person to get hand knitted socks. When I started puppy class with Sunny in 2001, I thought I was signing up for ten weeks. But Sunny loved doggy school and we ended up in the next class, Intermediate, because she is a cute, spoiled princess. It helped that I found working with the dogs to be fun and interesting. Anyone who has done dog training knows the person learns just as much as the dog.

The next year, 2002, when rescue dog Pappy came to live with us, he had ISSUES. So off to doggy school we went. We couldn't have worked through his problems without Gail's help to show us the right way to turn him into a normal dog.

Now I go to doggy school twice a week, two hours with Sunny, two hours with Pappy. They both do advanced stuff - agility, tricks, games, and still some obedience. Sunny loves the obedience and jumps. Pappy loves the agility and games. I still enjoy the whole experience, and it's all thanks to Gail who makes it fun.

Pattern: Basic 64 stitch sock with k7p1 wide ribbing on cuff and instep

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

Color: Hundertwasser 956 Seeschlange

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Red-breasted Nuthatch

This winter we've been blessed with several resident Red-breasted Nuthatches. They're friendly little birds, about four inches long.

Sometimes they'll fly right up to the feeder while it's being filled and give a little chirp to let us know it's time to get out of the way so they can eat.

This is a rare position for Redbreast because . . .

. . . like their White-breasted cousins they prefer to live their life upside down.

Check out those feet. Perfect for the inverted lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Chenille Swatch

What to do when wonderful new yarn arrives and I'm in the middle of another project but want that new yarn on the needles - knit a swatch.

This is one whole skein. I knit half the front plus the entire center panel with two repeats of its 24 rows.

The results are satisfactory: Perfect gauge, both stitch gauge and row gauge.

With a swatch this large, it's easy to measure accurately and know a sweater is going to fit. Stitch definition is so-so. But I knew that was going to happen. I happily traded popping cables for softness and fuzziness.

Now I'm going to pack the yarn, the swatch, and my notes away until the end of April and get back to knitting on my current projects.

Pattern: Set-in Sleeve Aran from Janet Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design.

I'm calling it Chenille because the cable designs are similar to patterns found in old fashioned chenille bedspreads.

Yarn: Elann Peruvian Pure Alpaca, 100% fine grade alpaca, worsted weight.

Color: Creole Pink

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 5 stitches/inch, 7.5 rows/inch

Monday, March 03, 2008

Chat Back for March 3

Answering questions from comments and email.

Leah asked 4 questions . . .
1) What color will Chenille be?

(Chenille is my next sweater project. See the pattern here.)

A cool pastel pink called Creole Pink.

The maillady brought 20 skeins of worsted weight Fine Grade Alpaca from Elann Saturday.

At the risk of sounding silly, I may not be able to stop snuggling this yarn long enough to knit the sweater.

2) Have you knit with this yarn before?


I do have a sweater (Grasshopper) knit with Knitpicks Andean Treasure, 100% Baby Alpaca. I love wearing it. It's sooooo soft and cuddy. It's the reason I want to knit a second alpaca sweater.
3) Just curious if this kind of yarn is prone to pilling?

Grasshopper isn't pilling even though it's a slightly fuzzy yarn and I wear it often. I'm hoping to be able to say the same for Chenille knit with the Elann alpaca.
4) Are you happy with the purple sweater so far?

Yes. After washing the front and back, the cables blocked out nice and it looks like the fit is going to be about right.

I'm only sorry that it's going to be done about the time it gets too warm to wear a heavy cabled wool sweater.

Yikes! It sound like I'm wishing for a cold, snowy April. Please no! I'll wait and wear the purple sweater next winter.

Betty asked . . .
Here in Florida, I rarely wear a sweater. I'm wondering how many you own. I just can't imagine knitting something that wouldn't be used.

I had to go count. There are 8 handknit wool sweaters in my closet. Two are cardigans.

We have six months of snow here, plenty of opportunity to wear all of them. I wear them to church. I wear them when I go out with family or friends. But, if I were packing to visit you in Florida I'd leave the wool sweaters at home.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

She Said Neck Finished, Sleeve Decision Time

It took two tries.

The first time I didn't like the way I picked up stitches on the front sides of the neckline.

Knowing better, I continued knitting the ribbing anyway. Avoiding reality, I threw the sweater in a heap without binding off and let it age for a few days. Facing reality, I picked it up to make sure I still didn't like what I was seeing and frogged the neck ribbing completely off to start over.

For the second neck attempt, I picked up less side stitches (13 instead of 17) and like the results much better.

I followed the pattern as written for the neck opening. The neck is a little too high and a little too snug, but not unacceptable. Doing it better would require frogging the front and back down to the beginning of the neck shaping.

The deciding question: Will I wear it the way it is?

The answer: Yes. Call it done and move on to the sleeves.

Note to myself: For a pattern where I'm going to substitute ribbing for a turtleneck, make the neck opening a little wider and a little lower. Just a little.

The front and back are joined at the shoulder seams and the neckline completed. The sweater has been washed and given my version of a blocking - smooth it out on a flat surface to dry. That's how I'm going to wash the sweater after wearing it, so to calculate a good fit that's how I block it now.

Next step is to measure the vertical gauge accurately over the complete stitch pattern sequence. Then I can calculate the sleeves to fit my arms with the top of the cabling stitch pattern ending right at the shoulder seam.

  • How do I want to knit the sleeves? There are several options:

    • Knit separate, flat, and bottom up like the pattern. Sew in after knitting.
      This is the easiest knitting option, the most difficult finishing option.

    • Top down, flat with picked up stitches and short rows.
      Is this possible with the cables? It might be fun to try.

    • Top down, in the round with picked up stitches and short rows.
      Best way to get a perfect fit.
      No sewing required when sleeves are done.
      Entire sweater needs to be spun around in lap.
      Knitting in the round, gauge may not match front and back.
      Frogging to get it right guaranteed.

    I'm indecisive at the moment, but leaning toward trying the second option.

    Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick

    Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

    Color: 8708 Violet

    Needles: Options #5

    Gauge: 28 stithces/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.