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)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Wings - Mallard Ducks

Mallards - the most common duck in America and the most common duck in our yard.

Every year we have Mallards checking out the creek and pond banks for a good nesting site. Most years they decide there are too many dogs and nest at the neighbors.

They do like to visit and swim around in the pond, though.

It's a good place to stop by for dinner.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Few Monday Thoughts

I'm still searching for the perfect front band for my Featherweight Cardigan.

This picture shows the difference between a pretty little stitch pattern knit on size 1, 2.5mm needles for a sock and the same pattern swatched on the size 4 needles, 3.5mm, that I'm using for the sweater.

It's finally sinking into my thick skull that the fabric is going to be loose and patterns I love at the "proper" fingering yarn gauge are not going to look as nice going to look different with the bigger needles.

After hours of stockinette fun, I'm almost ready to knit the bottom ribbing. I need to select a border stitch pattern soon.

Many fat robins hopping around the neighborhood now.

This fence is all that keeps the neighbor's horses in their yard. It always amazes me that an intelligent animal like a horse stays home with such a poor excuse for a fence, but in the almost 20 years we've lived here they've never come over to visit.

Mrs. Bluebird eyeing a nest box and debating the benefits of the box over an old woodpecker cavity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Featherweight Border Swatching Part 1

It's slow going on my Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig.

This yellow sweater is from the pattern. Mine is blue. Cote d'Azur to be exact. I'm just posting this picture to show how the sweater is constructed so this post makes sense.

The pattern is a top down raglan. I'm about six inches past the underarm in stockinette. I had forgotten how boring relaxing it is to knit stockinette. I keep falling asleep with my knitting in my lap.

To keep things interesting, I've been swatching possible stitch patterns for the wide band that goes up and down the front and around the back of the neck.

I was so sure I wanted to use the Garland pattern from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns for the border that I knit it into my original swatch.

Didn't work. The yarn I'm using, Hedonist Sock from Slackford Studio, 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon, 4 Ply Fingering Weight, is soft and fluffy. Also, I'm knitting with a US #4, 3.5mm needle, which is giving a much looser fabric than I normally knit.

Even though the Garland pattern is very pretty, I don't care for the way it looks for this pattern in this yarn.

If you're curious about Garland, you can see where I used it in a firm fabric knit with a firm yarn here.

The rejection of Garland as a border got me browsing through my stitch pattern books. I love browsing and imagining in stitch pattern books.

I'm a bit nervous about having enough yarn to finish the Featherweight Cardigan in the longer length I plan on knitting. Since I had some Cardinal Red Hedonist yarn left over from a sock project, I used that for my experimental swatching.

This is Block Quilting from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

Too much curl to work as a vertical border. Yes, I could add a bit of ribbing or seed on the edge, but I'm not thrilled enough with the way it looks to bother.

After this swatch, I tentatively decided something with a ribbing base would work best.

This is Jewel Cross-Rib from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

I like the way this looks, although it needs a better edging than the wavy garter stitch.

Turning it vertical, the way it would appear on the sweater front, I'm not so fond of it.

I haven't totally rejected it, but I'm not in love with it either. More swatches of different stitch patterns are planned. Anything to avoid the endless stockinette.

It's easy to spot the squirrel nests up high in the tallest oak trees before the leaves emerge.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Wings - Possible Bluebird Tenant

Mr. Bluebird was hanging around one of the nest boxes Monday. He had Mrs. Bluebird nearby, but I didn't spot her until she flew away.

They're checking out the real estate, but they're not ready to start nest building yet.

Now that we're all used to daytime temps in the 50s with an occasional 60, cold weather is going to return tomorrow. Thursday night the low is supposed to be in the teens. That should give some of the early emerging plants a taste of reality.

March is typically the battle of the seasons. Winter doesn't want to go quietly away without the last word, usually involving snow on the daffodils in April. We still have a full two months in SW Michigan before it's safe to plant annuals.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early Spring Blooms

The first daffodil.

The Hellebores bloom along with the Snowdrops. Sometimes before if they're not buried under a pile of snow.

(Click on comic strip if you need it larger so you can read it.)

The flower pictures above were taken before the serious snow started this evening.

The Fairy Godmother For Women Who Have Put Their Children's Snowsuits on Just One Time Too Many who also works as the Fairy Godmother For Women Who Have Taken Dogs For Cold/Snowy/Icy Winter Walks One Time Too Many has been here and drawn the draperies for me.

I told her I was too old for a bikini so she refused to take a few pounds off my hips.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Start of Featherweight

This is the Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig

There are several reasons why I would normally bypass this pattern.
  • In general, the style is too young for me.
  • It's too short.
  • It's too plain.
  • I don't like rolled edges down the front.
  • I have to wonder why the model needs to hold down the corners instead of showing them.

Then I saw what Ann did with the pattern. Ann's First Featherweight and Ann's Second Featherweight. Beautiful.

Her projects inspired me to see the pattern as a blank canvas instead of a bland cardigan.

Still, I didn't seriously consider buying the pattern until Susan at Slackford Studio put her Hedonist Sock (80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon, 4 Ply Fingering Weight) on sale.

I told myself I would go look at the available colors and if there was one I loved with four skeins available I would get them for Featherweight. And there they were - four skeins of Cote d'Azue, a gorgeous slightly variegated blue.

The pattern is written for lace weight, but I was able to get stitch gauge and row gauge with the Hedonist. Row gauge is just as important as stitch gauge when knitting a raglan.

The wide band going up one side, across the back of the neck, and down the other side is about 3.5 inches wide. It will be patterned in some yet to be determined stitch.

I swatched one stitch pattern that flunked the "pretty in this yarn" test, and am looking forward to swatching a few more and picking my favorite.

Pattern: Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig

Yarn: Hedonist Sock from Slackford Studio, 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon, 4 Ply Fingering Weight

Color: Cote d'Azur

Needles: US #4, 3.5mm

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch, 9 rows/inch in stockinette.

The Gold Finches are making great progress molting from olive to their summertime gold.

We've had a beautiful, springlike week to enjoy before winter returns on Sunday. But winter doesn't have much strength left. The nasty cold weather can't last long now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Wings - Great Blue Heron

We're getting a beautiful taste of spring this week with sunshine and daytime highs in the low 60s.

The frogs are coming out of hibernation, and this young Heron has been coming to the pond to feast on them for several days now.

The huge birds stand patiently still in the water until an unsuspecting snack passes by. Then they grab it with their powerful beak and swallow it down their long neck.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Simple Socks and Snowdrops

Dog trainer Gail's second pair of birthday socks were done for delivery last Thursday.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 64 stitches. k7p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Opal.

Color: Rainforest Emil, a furry monkey.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

I've never used this yarn before. These socks are an experiment to see if Sister Carrie likes the Panda Soy as well or better than the Panda Cotton.

She'll be getting one pair of each yarn to be sure she receives something she likes in case she doesn't like the Panda Soy.

Panda Soy is nubby. I tried a few simple stitch patterns and they didn't show up except to make the socks look like they were full of knitting errors. Frog, frog. Now the socks are a simple k3,p1 ribbing.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 56 stitches. k3p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Crystal Palace Panda Soy, 49% bamboo, 33% Cotton, 18% elastic nylon.

Color: Hazelnuts.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Snowdrops, one of the first little bulbs to bloom in early spring.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chat Back for March 13

Answering questions from comments and email.

Alwen commented . . .
In our house we say that mourning doves are smarter than deer, because mourning doves sitting in the road will fly away when your car comes.

I'll have to ponder that. I didn't think anything was dumber than a mourning dove. Except maybe a possum.

JakkiMitch asked . . .
Do you still have snow on the ground?

No snow on our property anymore. The neighbor who is over enthusiastic about plowing his driveway still has some unmelted piles.

Dorothy asked . . .
Will they (doggy school) still at least invite you back for the parties?

We have an open invitation, but it won't be the same.

Dorothy commented . . .
That is a very interesting colorway. I googled Emil monkey and the nearest I could find was a marmoset named after Emil Goeldi. It looked like a fair match.

You did a better Goggle search than I did. I wasn't able to find anything.

Opal names their colorways in German, so I also tried to translate Emil and came up with nothing.

Where ever they got the name, it's a pretty pattern with neutral colors.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Farewell Doggy School

When Sunny and I started doggy school in 2001, I only planned on taking a ten week puppy class so she could learn basic manners. She loved it and I loved it. We ended up going through an Intermediate Class. Then we moved on to Hobby Advanced until her back got too fragile to continue in 2009.

When middle age Pappy joined the family in 2002 he had many "issues". He started doggy school, gradually resolved his issues with the help of dog trainer Gail, and ended up in Hobby Advanced. For many years, I went to to Hobby Advanced class twice a week, once with Sunny, again with Pappy. It was fun and a big part of my life.

That's why I cried last night when Pappy had his last doggy school class. He is just too old to continue.

To mark the occasion and bring back some fond memories, here are a few of my favorite pictures from his doggy school days.

Kalamazoo Do-Dah Parade, June 2004.

Briarwood dogs and owners marched as the Briarwood Beach Bums and won second place.

I promised Pappy if he would leave the Doggles on for the entire parade he would never had to wear them again. He did and I kept the promise.

Picnic at Lake Michigan, Summer 2005. Gail is teaching Pappy to swim.

I love the way his tail sticks up above the water.

He did swim in Lake Michigan. He'd rather not. I never made him swim again.

Christmas Party, 2004.

He wants to, but he didn't.

Halloween Party 2008.

Pappy the pumpkin.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Wings - Cardinals Claiming Their Bushes

Instead of hanging around the feeder, the Cardinals have scattered to claim and guard the bushes they want for their nests.

As a reward for making it through the winter weather, they get first pick before the migrates arrive.

Mrs. Cardinal thinks this is a good location.

Spotted Mrs. Bluebird up on the power line looking over her nesting options - four bluebird nest boxes and numerous old woodpecker cavities.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gail's Opal Emil Socks, Standing Water and Mud

Mindless knitting. Very mindless knitting.

My sweater yarn, Slackford Studio Hedonist (80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon) fingering weight in a bright blue/turquoise color called Cote d'Azur has been shipped. I'm hoping it's here for weekend knitting.

Meanwhile, I'm finishing up mindless knitting birthday socks.

Pattern: Basic cuff down sock pattern on 64 stitches. k7p1 ribbing on cuff and instep.

Yarn: Opal.

Color: Rainforest Emil, a furry monkey.

Needles: Options #1, 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Snow and ice mealing leaves standing water because the ground is too frozen to absorb the water.

Tonight, for the first time during this gradual thaw, it's going to stay above freezing. And rain. Nothing works as well as rain to melt the remaining ice and snow.

Things are going to very very messy. Typical early spring. No one complains. We just wipe up the muddy footprints and smile because it's not snowing.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Carrie's Basketweave Birthday Socks Finished, First Robin

I've mentioned this before, but since I only knit with Panda Cotton once a year I'll repeat. Panda Cotton is nice to knit. Good stitch definition, smooth feeling on the needles. Sister Carrie says it washes and wears nice.

It does have a slight tendency to split. Keeping my eyes on my knitting helps to keep the stitches whole. Stitches that do split are easily tinked and reknit catching all the strands.

The birthday sock marathon is almost over. Today I ordered yarn for a sweater. Details when it arrives.

Pattern: Basketweave Ribbing Socks modified to use 56 stitches instead of 64 by omitting one 8 stitch pattern repeat.

Yarn: Crystal Palace Panda Cotton. 59% bamboo, 25% cotton, 16% nylon.

Color: Trail Mix.

Needles: Options 2.5mm circulars.

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

I've been taking my camera out on every dog walk just in case a Robin showed up.

Success at 5:30 pm today. It's officially spring now.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Chat Back for March 6

Answering questions from comments and email.

Multiple Readers said about my Tooth Experience . . .
Yikes, ouch, eeew, ohhhhhh, and shudder.

Thank you for your sympathy and good wishes. My mouth and jaw are getting better quicker than I expected. I'm still babying myself and plan to be back to normal soon.

Shirley asked . . .
Can you eat or are you drinking fluids??

I’m eating soft food slowly and carefully. It works as long as I chew on the opposite side of my mouth and rinse out with salt water afterward.

Sheri asked . . .
Which is bigger, the Flicker or the Pileated Woodpecker?

At a little over a foot long, the Flicker is a large woodpecker. At twenty inches long, the Pileated Woodpecker is much larger.

Sherilan asked . . .
Help! I knit a raglan sweater with Cascade 220 superwash (fit just right), but when I soaked it and put it out to dry, it stretched. Any suggestions for salvaging?

Dare I ask if you knit a decent size swatch and washed and dried it? No, I shouldn't ask? OK. We won't talk about it.

Put the sweater in the dryer on warm and dry it. It should shrink back up to reasonable size.

Superwash yarn has a tendency to stretch. Some superwash yarns stretch a little more each time they're washed. It's a problem, but works well when you're knitting for a growing child.

Janice in GA asked . . .
Do those birds (Yellow-shafted Flickers) range down to GA?

Yes, they range over almost the entire Untied States.

Their official name is "Northern Flicker", even though they also range in the south.

In the western states, their shaft is red instead of yellow.

Judy S. asked . . .
Hmmm, what's our state bird doing in Michigan?

Judy lives in Washington where the state bird is the Goldfinch.

Reading her comment, I was embarrassed to realize I didn't know the state bird of Michigan. Easily Googled. It's the Robin.

Makes sense. The Goldfinches are year round residents in Michigan, but the first returning Robin in the early spring is exciting and conversation worthy. I haven't spotted mine yet, but I'm looking every time I go outdoors. It could happen any day now.

Learning to look both ways before crossing the street.

That's a joke. Michigan deer are suicidal. They will even run out into the road and hit a moving car broadside.

According to the Michigan State Police, there are over 60,000 car-deer crashes a year in Michigan.

This picture was taken out the same window I take most of the bird pictures.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Tooth Experience

The tooth didn't "slip out" like my dentist predicted it should. After a half hour of trying, he decided the tooth was too well anchored to the jawbone for him to be comfortable working on it anymore. It was coming out in pieces and he was worried about facial nerve damage, so it was off to an oral surgeon with my mouth packed with gauze for an emergency appointment.

The oral surgeon was compassionate and quick. He gave me gas immediately and started working on removing the root. He said it came out in 30 pieces.

They packed my jaw in ice before I went home and told me to expect swelling for the next three days. I'm still icing it and the pain hasn't been too bad as long as I don't move my jaw.

They gave me a Vicodan Rx, but so far I have only taken Tylenol. I'd rather be alert than completely pain free.

I'm doing better than they expected I would. I'm able to read, knit, email, and I slept all night. It could be a lot worse.

I'm grateful there was a surgeon available to finish it yesterday instead of having to go back today and I'm grateful that I'm able to deal with the discomfort and not take the Vicodan which knocks me out.

We have many daffodil patches. This is the only one that's thawed off enough to be visible. The others are busy growing under the ice and snow and will have no trouble catching up.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Carrie's Basketweave Cuffs, Glaciers, and Daffodil Report

Sister Carrie requested Vegan acceptable yarn in tan. Last year I used Panda Cotton and she liked the results, so this year I bought more of the same.

Most of the tan colors appeared to have other colors swirled in with the tan, so I bought the Trail Mix. It's a little darker than tan, but I love the rich browns and hope Carrie will as well.

Pattern: Basketweave Ribbing Socks modified to use 56 stitches instead of 64 by omitting one 8 stitch pattern repeat.

Yarn: Crystal Palace Panda Cotton. 59% bamboo, 25% cotton, 16% nylon.

Color: Trail Mix.

Needles: Options 2.5mm circulars.

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

For the past week we've been in a weather pattern with freezing night temperatures and daytime temperatures a little above freezing with sunshine.

Gradually the snow is melting. In the sun (and over the septic tank) there are bare spots. Mostly though, we have snow cover that's turned into ice from the thawing and freezing cycle. It's so solid now that even I can walk on top of the ice/snow each morning before the thawing begins. The snow/ice under my feet is about five inches deep.

Michigan used to be a glacier. If warmer weather wasn't around the corner (we hope), it could easily become a glacier again.

Years that we have a quick thaw, say a 50 degree spell with rain, there is spring flooding. This gradual thaw is much better. Of course it's not too late in the year for a big snowfall followed by a quick thaw, but we like to pretend this is spring and more snow isn't going to happen.

The first visible daffodil.

Note to those who pay attention to these things:
Thursday I had a tooth extraction that didn't go as smooth as hoped, so I'm behind on my posting.

This entry is dated March 4, but I finished it up and posted it on March 6. There will also be a post for March 5 that doesn't actually appear until March 6. Then, if I have any posting energy left, I will post a Chat Back for March 6. It may not appear until March 7.