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)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Next Summer Sweater

And probably the last for this year. Although I never know where the knitting urges will take me.

I've enjoyed trying the summer yarns and knitting short sleeve tops. Without the long sleeves, they're done before I'm tired of knitting on them.

This is my swatch for Elann Soie Lin, a DK weight 70% silk, 30% linen.

It was knit with #4 needles. After washing the stockinette gauge is 6.25 stitches/inch and 9 rows/inch.

This time I'm going to go for set-in sleeves.

That triangle of lace is going to be bib style at the neckline. If I can get the stitch pattern to decrease in pretty fashion, there may be a large lace diamond on the upper back.

I'm still debating the use of the horizontal lace. I like the looks of it, but I don't want it on my hips, on my belly, or across my boobs. That doesn't leave too many places to put it.

Since the bottom is going to be stockinette knit in the round on 250 stitches, I have some time to mull over the lace placement before I reach a place it might work.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Spice Gansey Finished

Summer Spice Gansey is done. I'm super happy with it although it hasn't passed the final test yet - I haven't worn it anywhere.

It has been machine washed and laid out to dry, my version of final blocking.

The back has one more row of gansey pattern than the front.

This is a simple type of sweater to knit without a pattern. It's basically a tube.

Using the swatch to measure stitches/inch, multiply the stitches/inch by the desired bust and/or hip measurement. That's how many stitches to cast on.

Using the swatch to measure rows/inch, lay out some pretty Gansey stitch patterns to end at the neckline. Also, calculate where to split the front and back for the arm opening.

The sleeves are super simple drop sleeves echoing some of the smaller, simpler Gansey stitch patterns from the body.

The sweater was knit in one piece. Other than the three needle bind off shoulder seams, the rest of what looks like seams are fake - a column of two purl stitches into and out of the underarm gusset.

The small underarm gusset allowed me to avoid armhole shaping.

Pattern: Making it up as I knit using various knit purl stitch patterns from several Gansey books. Special credit to Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Summer Spice.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Doggy Summer Thoughts

Now that we've reached the hot and humid part of summer, each dog deals with it in their own doggy way.

Glory, the twelve year old sixty pound lab mix, runs out the door to stand in the cold running water of the creek.

Once she's wet, she's comfortable for a nice walk in the field. Especially if the blackberries are ripe.

She prefers to have me pick the berries and feed them to her, but if I have my hands full she nibbles them right off the stalk.

Sunny, the seven year old sixteen pound Papillon-Terrier-Poodle-Something-that-herds mix, thinks going into the water is the craziest thing she's ever seen.

It might be cool, but it's way too wet.

Pappy, the ten(?) year old fourteen pound Papillon, is not afraid to express his opinion of days when the temperature goes over 90 degrees.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chat Back for July 19

Answering questions from comments and email.

Wendy asked . . .
Where's your favorite place to buy birdy stuff?

In a normal week I end up driving the twenty some miles to Kalamazoo several times. On the way I pass Oak Ridge Feed, a friendly, family owned store. For years I've been stopping there to buy our birdy stuff and our dog food.

I'm sure they're not the cheapest place, but they do have deals for frequent buyers. I'm frequent for both birds and dogs. Plus, at over $4 a gallon, there are gas savings because I'm not driving any extra miles to shop.

The family who owns Oak Ridge loves animals, has quality products, and they carry it out to my car with a smile - just like they've been waiting all day to lift those heavy bags.

It could only be better if they'd follow me home, carry it in, and put it away.

Dorothy asked . . .
What's up now? Do you have time for a larger project before Chenille or will it be socks?

Dorothy and I are planning to start Chenille the first part of September, so that leaves a little over a month to get a few other things wrapped up.

The pieces of the Luna Bolero have been sitting in time out for almost a month. It needs to be sewn together, a million stitches need to be picked up for a front band, and another million for a tie.

I've been having too much fun with the Summer Spice Short Sleeve Gansey to finish the Luna Bolero. The bolero isn't going to get done until after the Gansey is finished.

I still have two untouched cones of Elann Soie Lin, a DK weight 70% silk, 30% linen purchased for summer knitting. I'm thinking something lace, but it's too soon to tell how it fits into my knitting schedule.

If the Lord and Northwest/Delta airlines are willing, I'll be in Idaho August 8 through August 14. September and autumn will be here way before I'm ready to think about another winter.

Teresa asked . . .
(about the Coto Canapone 52% Cotton, 48% Hemp)
Does it bother your hands knitting with this? I haven't used hemp but am thinking it probably doesn't have a whole lot more give than cotton?

I love this yarn. I'm tempted to buy another color to stash and I almost never buy yarn I'm not ready to knit. But after two projects (Carrie's Manon Shawl and Summer Spice Short Sleeve Gansey), I know I want to knit with it again.

It doesn't have any give at all. Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt my hands as cotton usually does.

The hemp makes it crisper than cotton. Washing softens it up somewhat. I'm fond of the crispness and hope it doesn't get softer each time it's washed. I'm not sure how soft it will get since the shawl and gansey swatches have only been washed once.

Kathy in Iowa wrote . . .
We have lots of Goldfinches (It's actually the Statebird of Iowa) but I have never seen a nest.

I've never seen a nest, either. Every summer I hope to find one. We have over a dozen nesting pairs. It seems like I'd stumble upon a nest eventually.

According to my bird reference book, the nests are built anywhere from one foot off the ground to forty feet up in a tall tree. Well, that narrows it down. Now I know where to look.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer Spice Short Sleeve Gansey

Is there such a thing as gansey with short sleeves? I doubt it. My sweater is better described as a gansey inspired short sleeve, cotton/flax summer sweater.

Starting with a sketch of desired finished measurements I'm knitting it like a mystery sweater. Each time I finish a section I measure and, with the help of my large swatches, plan what to do next.

When it came time to divide for the arms holes, I decided I wanted to knit straight up so I could have maximum fun with the gansey stitch designs. I put in a little underarm gusset and just kept going.

This picture shows the back. The front is knit to the top of the third row of gansey patterns. Now I need to measure and plan what to do next. Do I need to keep knitting because it's too low for a neckline? Or can I put the front neck stitches on hold now and work the sides on up to the shoulders?

How long and how patterned the drop sleeves will be is still under consideration. Once the body and neckline are finished, I'll be able to try it on and figure out what kind of sleeves might look best. Also, I need to see how much yarn is left.

Pattern: Making it up as I knit using various knit purl stitch patterns from several Gansey books.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Summer Spice.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Wrens Are At It Again

Two of my nest boxes are empty. The other two have new Wren families.

Since the boxes are piled to the rafters with sticks, I don't know how many eggs or young. I can't open the boxes without danger of breaking eggs or braining the hatchlings.

Notice how Mom Wren looks like she's coming down from the top of the nest box. She is. The nest sides are so high she has to go up in order to get out.

The American Goldfinch is one of the last birds to start nesting, usually waiting until July when there are plenty of seeds to feed their young.

This is the male in his full, bright yellow breeding plumage.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Manon Shawl Finished

Sister Carrie's shawl is done and ready to mail to North Carolina.

The yarn, Elann's Coto Canapone, Worsted weight, 52% cotton, 48% hemp, is now my favorite summer yarn.

It knits up like a dream, without splitting, and gets softer with each washing while still maintaining good stitch definition. Highly recommended.

The yarn is "Machine wash cold, dry flat". I machine washed it in warm water and threw it in the dryer, knowing that was OK because I first tried it on a generous swatch.

Pattern: Manon Shawl by Ilga Lega Design.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Murano Blue.

Needles: Options #3 for the purl sections, Options #10 for the gathered sections.

Size: Approximately 66" wide and 16" long at center back.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chat for July 12

Babbling on about various things on my mind this afternoon.

I've been knitting and blogging less than usual because I've been spending more time enjoying the summer working outdoors.

It takes a bit of a twisted mind to enjoy digging out well established Lily of the Valley plants. That's my main project as the front yard transitions from a shade garden with stepping stones and no grass, to a sunny grassy area thanks to the county taking down all the huge trees in our right of way.

If you've never dug out Lily of the Valley, let me tell you it's not a quick and easy task. The runner root system goes about a foot down and the dirt needs to be sifted to get out most of the pieces.

To the left and back of the cart is what remains of a large old Rose of Sharon tree which needs to be dug out. My goal is an hour a day on the Lily of the Valley, a half hour a day on the stump digging, and at least five minutes to remind myself that it will get done eventually if I just keep at it.

Meanwhile, the weeds in other beds are flourishing and I'm thinking maybe some of the garden areas should be turned into grass. My gardening dreams have always been bigger than my back is strong.

There's enough Lily of the Valley in various places to last through the entire summer, but when I get bored with digging it there are always sticks to pick up. We had several severe wind storms earlier this summer and I've spent many hours picking up sticks.

Did anyone else get excited when they saw the gorgeous sock yarn on the cover of the July Knitpicks catalog? And then disappointed because it's not for sale?

The picture shows results we can supposedly achieve by dying undyed yarn. For myself, I doubt it. There's so much pretty yarn on the market I don't plan on giving it a try. But - if anybody is able to dye yarn like that center pair of socks, I might be interesting in buying some.

I found the missing sample skein of fingering weight bamboo mentioned here. It was in the laundry. Probably scooped up in a nearsighted spasm of tidiness.

I've learned from the Ravelry forums that my Continental style of knitting contributes to yarn splitting. Fine. There's plenty of lovely yarn that doesn't split and I'm not going to change my style of knitting.

That said, this yarn exceeded all splitting expectations. See that awful knot on the lower left corner? That didn't even happen while I was knitting. It happened while I was winding the sample skein. The plies split apart and tangled up around each other so that it was impossible to unknot the mess. I left it so I could show it here.

The yarn is very pretty and I'll be happy to admire any project knit with it while wondering how the knitter managed to tame this yarn.

Bamboo doesn't like me, and this little skein was no exception. It slide around on the needles and split. Being fingering weight, the splits were nasty to correct. On the other hand, they aren't very visible because the stitches are small.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wednesday Wings - House Finch

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
"The House Finch was originally a bird of the southwestern United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, and they quickly started breeding. They spread across the entire eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years."

Which is why when the House Finches first showed up at our feeders 25 years ago, we couldn't find them in our bird books. They weren't supposed to be in SW Michigan.

When they arrived we were living in the city of Battle Creek. The House Finches took over the feeders and have been common and plentiful ever since.

The male has red on his head, chest, and sometimes other patches of red here and there. The red spots are not consistent from male to male. Some are much prettier than others.

House Finches are about the size of a slightly large sparrow. The females are very sparrow looking except for the heavy finch bill.

This young House Finch hasn't lost his/her head tufts yet, but it was a quick study on how to use the feeder for easy food.

Monday, July 07, 2008

July 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 July sample skeins. These are NOT comprehensive yarn reviews. They are my opinions reflecting my personal preferences after knitting a sample skein.

The two swatches on the left were machine washed. The two on the right were hand washed. All four were laid out to dry. All washed well.

Nilo (upper left). 60% Cotton, 30% Viscose, 10% Linen. DK weight. Swatch knit on #5 needle. 5.5 stitches/inch before washing, 5 stitches/inch after washing.

Nothing wrong with this yarn, I just don't care for the look or feel of it. Maybe that's because of the yucky color they sent me. The picture doesn't do it justice.

It's very drapy and beware - it grew when washed.

Sula (lower left). 50% Cotton, 25% Linen, 25% Acrylic. DK weight. Swatch knit on #4 needle. 5.5 stitches/inch before and after washing.

Looking at the unknit skein I though Sula was going to be splitty. It wasn't. It knit up nice.

The colors all have a contrasting strand spun in, making for an interesting texture. I think the colors would be prettier without it.

None of the colors is calling my name, but if someone gave me a bag of this yarn I'd happily knit it up.

Pure Bamboo (not shown). 100% Bamboo. Fingering weight.

The sample skein was rolled into a ball about an inch in diameter. When I went to knit it up, I couldn't find it. I'm sure it's somewhere in or under a piece of furniture, but it's doing a great job of being invisible.

One good thing came from this - while searching I found a long lost favorite cable needle down inside the sofa.

Noro Silk Mountain (lower right). 65% Wool, 25% Silk, 10% Kid Mohair. Bulky weight. Swatch knit on #10 needle. 3 stitches/inch before and after washing.

Yikes! Do people really knit with this stuff?

With my Continental knitting technique, this yarn turned me into a bumbling, super slow, frustrated knitter. The point of my needle had to poke around in each stitch to find the actual loop. Sometimes I'm sure I missed the loop and speared one of the blobs in the yarn.

No way do I want to knit with this yarn ever again. Even though the colors are gorgeous.

Katia Scotch (upper right). 65% Silk, 25% Wool, 9% Viscose Rayon. Chunky weight. Swatch knit on #7 needle. 4 stitches/inch before and after washing.

This is my favorite yarn of the month. It's thick, soft, cuddly, and smooth knitting. All sixteen of the colors are tweedy and attractive.

I tried some simple lace and frogged it. The yarn is too heavy.

Katia Scotch isn't available until the end of the month. I'm letting my subconscious work on finding the perfect pattern. It needs to be simple to show off the yarn.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Oh Deer

This spring and summer we're seeing the largest number of deer since we moved here seventeen years ago.

It's always been common to see them in the road at dusk and dawn. This year they're popping out of the woods in broad daylight to stand in the road and dare cars to hit them.

According to the Michigan State Police there are over 65,000 car-deer crashes reported annually in Michigan.

These two deer pictures were taken out a front window at 9:30 in the morning.

Even though this deer had an entire woods of greenery to munch on, she(?) decided to step out to the road and eat some leaves off a fallen branch while eyeing what's left of my hostas.

Hostas grow great on our mostly shaded property. I have at least a dozen different varieties and (I'm totally guessing here) well over three hundred plants.

Deer love hosta, but they've never been bold enough to come right up to the house to eat them. Until this year.

This was a fine, mature hosta about three feet across before it became deer salad. Most of my green hostas look like this, except some don't even have a single leaf left.

The deer don't seem to like the mostly white hostas, but the green and blue ones are yummy.

Am I upset about this? If it keeps the deer out of the road and away from my car, I can deal with it. It's all part of living with nature.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Yum

A couple of hard working parents I caught taking a short break with their mouths full of goodies for the kids . . .

Song Sparrow.


The Wrens are going for a second brood in the same box. Only this time they piled the nest sticks up so high I won't be able to open the flap until nesting season is over.

It might look like even the Wrens can't get into this nest, but they fly right in, straight up and then down into the cup.

The "full box" Wren nest is the usual, not the shorter nest show in previous Wednesday Wings updates.

After last summer's nesting season, I took this picture of a Wren nest before cleaning out the nest box. Messy little housekeepers, but who can fault them. Raising a half dozen kids in a little box can't be easy.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Working on Manon

My days have been busy and when evening rolls around I've been reaching for Sister Carrie's Manon shawl. Only two more garter stitch/short row sections and one more rippled section to go and it's done. It could happen tonight, but probably won't happen until tomorrow.

Note to Carrie (a non-knitter): Don't worry. It will look much nicer when it's off the needle and blocked.

Carrie lives in North Carolina and has no need for a shawl this time of year. If I was being practical, I'd be working on my short sleeve top so I can wear it before fall. Another case of "This is my hobby and I'll knit what I feel like knitting instead of what makes sense."

I thought this pattern might get boring, but it hasn't. Every few rows there's something different - a different needle size, a different stitch, some short rows, some binding off.

Pattern: Manon Shawl by Ilga Lega Design.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Murano Blue.

Needles: Options #3 for the purl sections, Options #10 for the gathered sections.

Size: Approximately 66" wide and 16" long at center back.