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)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Clifford Red

A while ago I bought two skeins of Knitpicks Andean Treasure, 100% baby alpaca, in Hot Rod Heather. It was on closeout sale and I though if I liked the color I would buy enough for a sweater.

Just looking at my skeins, I wasn't impressed with the color, didn't order any more, and now it's a discontinued color.

Then I did some swatching with it, shown above, and fell in love with the color.

So . . . Does anyone have 15 or more skeins of Andean Treasure Hot Rod Heather they'd like to sell? Please email me.

Last week I was wearing the red hat (above) and my red Land's End Squall Jacket at the grocery store when a little boy about two years old pulled on my arm and said, "mumble, bumble, ump, dog."

I greeted him and asked him to repeat what he said so I might understand. He repeated, "mumble, bumble, ump, dog."

Then his mother appeared and translated, "You look like Clifford the dog."

Now I can't wear my red coat without thinking I look like Clifford. But, that's OK. It's a pleasant thought.

One of my yarn Christmas/birthday gifts from Idaho was more red yarn. This is On-line Cosmo, 75% Merino, 5% cashmere, and 25% nylon.

I'm thinking maybe a pair of Cookie A. socks from Knit.Sock.Love which should be arriving any day now. Or maybe a scarf to complete my Clifford look.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook for December 28

These writing prompts are available from Simple Woman's Daybook where each Tuesday we're invited to join in celebrating the beauty of everyday moments around us.

FOR TODAY December 28, 2010...

Outside my window...

The squirrels are eating bird seed.

The sun is shining, but it's cold out there.

I am thinking...
I am ready to start blogging more often now that Christmas is over.

I am thankful for...
A newish hardware store nearby that sells large bags of bird seed at a reasonable price and has strong people willing to carry them out to my trunk.

From the kitchen...
We have so much food in the house that grocery store day tomorrow should be an easy in and out. If we weren't short on a few critical items, I could just stay home.

I am wearing...
Jeans and a pale green sweatshirt with a winter scene embroidered on the front. And, of course, handknit wool socks.

I am creating...

Still working on the Red X Gansey. The front is done to the bottom of the neck opening. It's time to put the neck stitches on hold and knit up to the shoulders on each side.

I am going...
To make some resolutions for 2011. One of them is the same I half-heartedly made for 2010 and then ignored.

I am reading...
Whatever I pick up from the library tomorrow.

I am hoping...
And wishing all my readers a blessed 2011.

I am hearing...
Nothing except DH's oxygen concentrator churning away.

Around the house...

Outside there's only about an inch of snow and the forecast has that melting before the week is over. However we won't be without for long. It's going to rain, freeze, and, for a grand weekend finale, snow.

One of my favorite things...
Is a pair of red fleece pajamas with embossed dogs that I got for Christmas. They are so soft, comfy, snuggly, warm, and cheery.

I got some other favorite things for Christmas as well: A bluebird feeder, a knitting book, yarn, earrings, and white chocolate truffles. Will be blogging about those things in the next few days.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
It's a quiet week. Bible Study Fellowship is on Christmas break until mid-January and the heated pool where I exercise is down for maintenance until 2011.

Today Mom and I went to lunch in Kalamazoo and then successfully shopped the furniture sales for a new chair for her.

Wednesday is grocery shopping day with a stop at the library. Thursday is haircut day. Friday, New Year's Eve, we're staying home and may or may not stay up to see the new year in.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Stubborn oak leaves are hanging on until closer to spring - and we're a long way from that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Red X Gansey Back Done

This past week the back of the Red X Gansey got completed.

This type of sweater is so much fun to knit. Never (well, hardly ever) boring because of all the different stitch patterns. And, I get to browse through all my stitch pattern books to find what I'm going to knit next.

The front will be a repeat of the back except for only going up one of the center patterns in order to leave enough room for a neckline. The sleeves will have repeats of the stitch patterns in the body, so my stitch pattern browsing is over and I can just knit it until done.

I think the design in the center looks like a poinsettia, but in all the Gansey knitting books it's called a starfish. It's probably just the red color that's making me think of Christmas plants.

Pattern: Designed as I knit from the bottom up. I've been calling it the Red X Sweater unofficially. Now I've officially named it the Red X Gansey because of all the Xs in the stitch patterns.

Yarn: Knitpicks Cotlin. 70% Tanguis Cotton, 30% Linen. DK weight.

Color: Moroccan Red.

Needles: Options #3.

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch, 8.5 rows/inch in pattern.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Knitting Books on My Wishlist

My bookshelf is heavy with knitting books and I try to be careful about adding to the collection. I want my knitting books to be only those I will use over and over again.

These two made it on my Christmas wish list this year.

I love knitting topdown, especially sleeves. I'm hoping this book will add to my top down abilities.

In general the reviews indicate the technical information is excellent and well written, but the specific patterns are not my style. Since technical information on top down knitting is scarce, I think this book will be a reference book keeper in my library.

Caution though, this is not a review. I haven't read the book yet so can't vouch for its content.

Cookie's book is a have to have. I've read it's a gorgeous book full of beautiful sock pictures. I want it just for that, even if I never knit a sock from its pages. But no chance of that happening.

Many buyers, especially unsuspecting buyers, are disappointed that twelve of the nineteen patterns in this book have been published elsewhere. Including Monkey.

I've knit many a Monkey sock and will probably knit more. There's something reassuring to me about having the pattern in a book. Forever and ever.

Then there's the seven new Cookie A. patterns. How many can I resist knitting? If the past is any indication, not many.

And finally, I believe in rewarding excellence. Cookie is a genius sock designer and I want her to thrive and be prolific. I'm honored to support her by purchasing her book.

Any knitting books on your list for Santa?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chat Back for December 11

Responding to comments left since the last time I did Chat Back.

With many thanks to the readers who ask me questions so I have something to blog about on Saturday.

Kristinbc asked . . .
I love the picture in your blog header. Did you take it?
Stringplay wrote . . .
Nice header. New? Or did I not even notice the other day? All three deer look posed for photo.

Thanks for all the kind comments on the blog's new header picture of three deer looking down the road.

I took the picture out my front window last March and used it in this blog post.

It was an amazing lucky shot to catch the deer posed like that and have the light be right for a good picture. I was waiting for the first significant snowfall to use it as a header. We've had a few of those now.

NMjewel wrote . . .
You are so lucky to see deer that close up. I know they nibble down things that maybe you'd like to grow.
My philosophy about living in the country is that if you're not prepared to live in peace with the wildlife, you should stay in the city.

You can try to fight nature. You can drive yourself nuts trying to shoot/kill/eliminate the wildlife you don't like. You can poison yourself and your family trying to eliminate things like mosquitoes, ticks, blackflies, spiders, ants, and . . . it's a long list. But in the end, nature is going to win.

One common mistake people make when moving to the country is to built a rustic cedar home. The woodpeckers peck holes in their siding. Big holes. Sometimes the holes are big enough to pull the insulation out.

Oops, I think I'm off on a rant. I'll stop now.

Judy S. asked . . .
That doesn't look like a grey squirrel; is it?

The common name is Fox Squirrel. They're very similar to the Gray Squirrel except for being auburn color and having a different range. They have beautiful, bushy tails which you can't see in this picture because it's covered in snow.

We also have many Little Red Squirrels. They are about half the size of the Fox Squirrels and ten times as hyper.

It was a Little Red Squirrel that chewed its way into the house to get sunflower seed when I let the feeder run empty in August. Read about it here.

NMjewel asked . . .
Why are the colors a different weight?

I've read that different dyes react differently with the base yarn, but I don't actually know the answer to your "why" question.

I can say from experience that it's true, however. Even Cotlin, a cotton/linen blend, was much softer in light blue than the deep red I'm knitting now.

The gray Andean Treasure is much fuzzier than the red Andean Treasure I swatched. That makes it a heavier yarn even though both colors are sold as DK weight. I was able to knit the red comfortably at sport weight gauge, 6 stitches/inch. The gray needs to be knit at 5.5 stitches/inch or even 5 stitches/inch.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Broken Knitting Rules Make Broken Needles

Over Thanksgiving weekend I decided to celebrate having all my Christmas knitting done. There was a box of Knitpicks Andean Treasure baby alpaca in the corner calling my name. 16 skeins of Mystery Heather (dark gray) and two skeins of Hot Red Heather.

Since I needed to swatch the anticipated gray sweater in the round, I decided to knit a hat. And since I only had two skeins of the red, I decided to knit the hat out of the red, thereby breaking a basic rule of swatching:
Always swatch with the color that's going to be used because different colors knit up at different gauges.

I had fun knitting the hat, so I finished off the weekend by swatching my plan for the neckline. In red. Breaking the same rule.

A few evenings later when I was tired and not thinking clearly (there always has to be an excuse when stupidity is admitted publicly), I decided that even though my swatches hadn't been washed, I could at least cast on the lower ribbing in gray and knit for a while before going to bed.

The gray yarn is nothing like the red. It's much fuzzier. Knitting it on the same size needle, #3, the knitting was so tight I could hardly move the stitches along. The cabled ribbing didn't show through the fuzz.

But being tired and brain dead, I kept going until all the pulling separated the needle from the cord. Another rule of knitting:
When something feels awful in your hands, especially something as wonderful as alpaca, just STOP knitting and replan the project.

After some sleep, I admitted the gray isn't going to knit anything like the red. It isn't going to knit at the same gauge. I need to use a needle several sizes larger. I need to knit a new set of swatches. And, I need to plan a different sweater to make this yarn and me happy.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Snow, Squirrel, Socks, and Snow

It finally happened. The nice weather ended and the excessive Lake Effect Snow we've been promised has begun.

Lake Michigan is warmer than usual this year and that has supersized the Lake Effect Snow we're getting.

Even 20 miles east of us (and 20 miles further inland from Lake Michigan), they're having much less snow and they even had some sunshine today. Not here.

Sunday I drove to church on slippery roads. When I left home, I told DH I would be careful and drive so slow the people behind me would hate me. I did drive slow, but no one hated me. They didn't want to drive any faster either.

On the way home I drove through two different whiteouts and it was so slippery my car would hardly steer. Corners were taken at about 5 mph. At least I had enough sense to stay off the interstate where they had the same problems and less control of their vehicles. Six miles south of home on I-94 was a 25 car pileup and there were several other interstate chain pileups reported.

The weather forecast is for this to go on and on for at least another week and pretty much for the rest of the month and into January until the lake cools off. After that we'll just get "normal" Lake Effect Snow.

I've been shoveling snow and I'm tired and weather stressed, so I've been knitting on simple socks. These are for me to wear in my boots and around the house to keep my feet warm. Plus, I wanted to use up this yarn.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 60 stitches. k3p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Trekking 172.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gail's Socks Done and Befuddled Cardinal

With the completion of Dog Trainer Gail's socks, I officially declare my Christmas knitting done.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 64 stitches. k3p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Regia.

Color: Kaffe Fassett 4255.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

The Cardinals that come to our feeders do not like to eat upside down or cling to the side of a feeder. That leaves them befuddled about how to get to the suet.

Some of them eventually figure out how to perch on top of the suet feeder and lean over to grab a bite. They're only able to manage this when the feeder has a fresh suet cake coming right up to the top.

This Cardinal hasn't figured out the leaning over part yet, but he's got the right idea.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wednesday Wings - Downy Figures Out the Feeders

We're in the middle of a Lake Effect Snowfall today, our first of the season. The birds are flocking to the feeders.

For some of them it's their first winter and they need a little time for their bird brains to figure out how the feeders work.

This male Down Woodpecker thinks there should be something for him to eat in this mesh, but he's puzzled about what and where it might be.

Maybe if he tries a different side?

After circling the entire mesh nyjer feeder and not finding anything at four inches above the top level of the seed, young Downy decides to sit up on the hanger and think about it for a few minutes.

Next he flies over to the suet feeder where he doesn't have any luck finding something to eat either. At this point I'm laughing out loud.

Ah, he's got it figured out. I knew he could do it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chat Back for November 27

Responding to comments left since the last time I did Chat Back.

Gail asked . . .
You can go 6 weeks between cuttings?!!!!
In a past life when I worked as a cosmetologist, I learned that the average head of hair grows about a half inch a month.

Usually I go five weeks between haircuts, but that time interval put the haircut on December 23. I like to stay away from the busy shopping centers just before Christmas, so I scheduled my next haircut for the following week, the week after Christmas. It will be in serious need of a cut by then, so I hope the road conditions cooperate.

Papiokc asked . . .
On a different note, how is Pappy doing? Hope all is well.

All is well. Pappy is old but in good health for his age.

This past week we celebrated his eighth year with us. I hope by now his little doggy brain only remembers the good part of his life after he was rescued.

Dorothy said . . .
At least there are not deer hunters in our yard! EEK!

To my knowledge we've never had a deer hunter come onto our property, but it could easily happen if a hunter was tracking a wounded deer or spotted one of the many deer that have been coming into the yard to eat acorns.

If a hunter is not on our property but shooting into our property, how far would a bullet go? I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question. I do know I want the hunters to know I'm human and not fair game, so during firearm deer hunting season I sing loudly on dog walks.

Only three more days and firearm hunting season is over.

Deer picture taken out the kitchen window yesterday morning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dave's Socks Done, Gail's Cuffs Done

My Christmas sock knitting is ahead of schedule and under control.

I have no sock blockers for Brother Dave's shoe size 14.

It's important to really really like the yarn I use for his socks, because I'm going to be knitting on it a long long time. It takes almost twice the amount of yarn I use for pair of socks for myself. So, I'm celebrating having these socks done in November.

Pattern: Basic top down socks with a k5p1 ribbing on the cuff and instep.

Yarn: Opal Rainforest 6, Color 4005, Baronesse Bambalina.

Needles: Options 2.50mm circulars.

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

Last pair of Christmas socks are for doggy school teacher Gail. They may get done by the end of November as well.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 64 stitches. k3p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Regia.

Color: Kaffe Fassett 4255.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday This and That

Yesterday morning when the dogs and I stepped outside about 7:30 am, it was 60 degrees. Didn't even need a jacket until it started raining.

Later in the morning we were having a nice, gentle rain. Without warning a white light filled the house accompanied by an ear-splitting boom. My brain said, "propane explosion" and I was surprised to be alive a second later. It was some strange lightening that didn't seem to hit anywhere.

Glory, the big dog, shook with fear and Sunny ran under the bed. The power stayed on, our computers and appliances didn't fry, and the rain continued to gently fall. Very weird.

This morning when the dogs and I stepped outside for the first time, it was 35 degrees, the wind was blowing, and the temperature was falling. We're still waiting (but not impatiently) for the first snowfall. There are weather prediction rumors that it's going to happen on Thanksgiving Day.

Firearm deer hunting season started on the 15th. Gun shots could be heard during morning walks and evening walks. When I take the dogs out, I wear red and sing. I figure the singing will run any nearby deer away and keep the hunters from shooting me. So far it's working.

Sunday morning the 21st the yard was full of deer eating acorns when I looked out the window at the beginning of sunrise. While I hate to think of any of those beautiful deer getting shot, I have to admit the herd needs to be thinned and there aren't enough local hunters to do it. Or maybe, considering all the gunshots, there are just too many deer.

I've been knitting on the size 14 feet of Brother Dave's Christmas Socks. 94 rows from the gusset to the start of the toe decreases. Round and round and round we go.

Just because it doesn't seem right to have a post without a picture, here's another picture of non-productive snowclouds on a gray November day. . .

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chat Back for November 20

Responding to comments left since the last time I did Chat Back.

NMjewel asked . . .
Question about the side seam or non-seam. Have you included a purl stitch as a mock seam? Nice!!


There is a double purl stitch as a mock seam. It splits to two single purls at the sides of the gusset.

NMjewel asked . . .
I don't really want to share and spoil the gifts... What to do?

Great question. For knitters who want to keep their gift knitting secret, that's a problem. I don't have an answer.

Secrecy is not a big deal in our family. For hand made gifts we tend to consult the intended recipient to the point where there's not much reason to keep anything secret.

Judy S. asked . . .
Good knitting/sewing weather, eh?

It's great knitting weather.

The weather report has mentioned snow a few times, but so far all we've had are some ominous looking snow clouds.

When I got my haircut last week, it was a shock to count out six weeks and find it landed my next appointment AFTER Christmas. The holidays are creeping up on me and I'm pretending it's still autumn because we haven't had any snow yet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Starmore Eye Candy

Even though I own the "old" hardcover version, I had to buy the Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition by Alice Starmore when it was 40% off last month.

Although reading the preface to the new addition where Ms Starmore insults almost everyone in the knitting world was entertaining, I bought the book for the eye candy and the patterns.

Many of the patterns have additional, smaller sizes. Pictures from the old edition have been joined by new pictures.

Irish Moss is one example. In the old book it is shown as a man's sweater. The smallest size is 44.5 inches.

In the new book, the smallest size is 39.5 inches. Just right. I want to knit it someday, but even if I never do I'll get years of pleasure just looking at the picture.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Red Cotlin Gansey Progress

I had fun browsing through stitch pattern books for the next two patterns in the Red X Gansey.

The trees are a classic gansey stitch pattern. The stars in the top row are from The New Knitting Stitch Library: Over 300 Traditional and Innovative Stitch Patterns Illustrated in Color and Explained with Easy-to-Follow Charts.

I've reached the point where the circular knitting ends.

The back is still on the needle, the front is on a heavy cotton yarn. I can't knit anymore until I figure out what stitch patterns will be on the top front and top back.

The entire sweater is constructed by picking up stitches. No seams except the three needle bind off on the shoulders.

The gussets are half knit. The gusset stitches are on hold until the sleeve stitches are picked up. Then the decrease half of the gusset will be knit as part of the sleeve.

Pattern: Winging it for now. Unofficially naming it the Red X Sweater.

Yarn: Knitpicks Cotlin. 70% Tanguis Cotton, 30% Linen. DK weight.

Color: Moroccan Red.

Needles: Options #3.

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch, 8.5 rows/inch in pattern.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November Babble

After posting every day in October, I still have the urge to post every day in November. Problem is that there is little to post about.

In October the change of seasons happened quickly and colorfully.

November is colorless and without weather interest unless there's an ice storm or snow storm. So far that hasn't happened.

Even the bird feeders have been uninteresting. Many of the birds are still hanging out elsewhere. They won't gather around the feeders until the snow covers the seeds available in the wild.

Last week we had an amazing week of warm weather and sunshine. I was able to give the lawn one last mowing of the season and get a few other outdoor things tidied.

Tonight the forecast calls for a little snow, but it's all going to melt tomorrow. If I didn't have dogs to walk first thing in the morning I could leave the curtains closed until mid-morning and pretend the snow didn't happen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

BFF Socks Done, Dave's Socks Started

One pair of Christmas socks done. Two pairs to go.

The picture has been lightened up just a little so the cables show.

In a previous post there's a picture of the slick way Cookie increases between two knit stitches in the ribbing and four stitches in the cable.

Here is a picture of decreasing back to two stitches when the cable ends. Those two tricks are one reason why I admire this pattern.

Pattern:BFF by Cookie A. 64 stitch size.

Yarn: Stalwart Sock from Slackford Studio. 75% Superwash Merino, 25% Nylon 4 Ply Fingering Weight Sock Yarn.

Color: After Midnight.

Needles: Options 2.50mm circulars.

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

Knitting socks for Brother Dave is a long term commitment. He is tall and he has long feet.

The cuffs are done and I'm ready to start the three inch heel flap.

Pattern: Basic top down socks with a k5p1 ribbing on the cuff and instep.

Yarn: Opal Rainforest 6, Color 4005, Baronesse Bambalina.

Needles: Options 2.50mm circulars.

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chat Back for November 13

Responding to comments left since the last time I did Chat Back.

Judy S. asked . . .
So would you knit the last sweater in a softer/lighter wt. yarn? I've had my eye on that pattern (Vines and Leaves from the May issue of Creative Knitting) and am curious.

It's a lovely pattern and I take total responsibility for my failure with it. At the time I started it, I was distracted with life's challenges and didn't take proper care with planning and taking notes on my changes.

Looking at the picture, I see two gottchas for inexperienced or distracted knitters in a hurry to cast on.

The bottom edge of the sweater is going to end up in a wave. In order for it to fall naturally without puckering the cast on needs to be way looser than normal.

Giving the designer the benefit of the doubt, the neckline was intended to have the three clasps in order for it to lay nice. To wear the sweater without the clasps, it's probably going to be necessary to redesign the neck opening.

Shirley asked . . .
Too bad your brother wants a different color. What will you do with the Midnight Blue socks?

Sorry my post was not clear about this.

I bought two skeins of After Midnight yarn thinking I'd make a pair for brother Dave and a pair for his SO Karen. The socks on the needles are for Karen. She always asks for dark socks and dark they are!

Dave wears mostly black and likes bright socks for leisure wear, so I wasn't surprised when he requested something more colorful. I have no immediate plans for the leftover After Midnight, but I'm not sorry to have it in my stash.

Kathy C. asked . . .
Could you give me your opinions of Cotlin, Comfy, and Shine lines of yarn.

Comfy, Worsted weight. 75% Pima cotton, 25% acrylic.

June 2008 I finished a sweater knit with Comfy. Details here.

October 2008, after the sweater had been washed three times, I wrote a favorable yarn review:
I just washed this sweater for the third time in a regular warm machine load and threw it in the dryer with all its washer mates. It's looking great.

At the end of a dryer cycle, it is still damp while everything else is totally dry. I grab it up and spread it flat to finish drying, being careful not to let it sit and wrinkle in the dryer.

There is no pilling, no stretching, and no shrinking.

One word (or maybe more) of warning: Other knitters have reported Comfy pilling and/or stretching. I attribute my results to knitting at 5.5 stitches/inch in stockinette, a nice firm fabric for this worsted weight yarn.

Also, don't pick a pattern where elasticity is important. Comfy is 75% cotton and acts like a cotton yarn except it's lighter in weight, softer, and easier on the hands while knitting.

That was the last nice thing I said about this yarn.

Knitting tight may have postponed the pilling and fuzzing, but it didn't prevent it. I would never use this yarn again for anything, especially baby and children's wear that needs to be washed vigorously and often.

Cotlin, 70% Tanguis Cotton, 30% Linen. DK weight.

Cotlin is my favorite cotton blend yarn of all time.

I've been wearing and washing the Lighthouse Gansey (more pictures and info here) for a year now. It's comfortable to wear, washes great, no pilling, no shrinking, no growing.

Like all cotton blends, it's a bit hard on the hands to knit. I limited my knitting to not more than two inches an evening to avoid finger/wrist/shoulder fatigue.

The yarn is heavy and I've been disappointed with how it seams. A skilled seamer maybe could do better? The Lighthouse Gansey has no seams, just picked up stitches.

Shine, 60% pima cotton, 40% model

Almost five years ago I knit this sweater with Shine. (Details here.)

What I remember is that I knit a large swatch and the after washing row gauge was different from the before washing gauge. I thought I allowed for this difference in the sweater, but it still turned out a bit shorter than I like so I hardly ever wear it.

It's in good shape. No pilling or fuzzing. The fabric is a bit drapy like one might expect with 40% model. Great for something loose and lacy. I wouldn't use it for a stockinette or knit/purl project.