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, February 25, 2011

My Yarn Talks to Me - Part 2

Part 1 is here.

When I saw this pattern on the back of my new Patternworks catalog I fell in love with it and decided I had to buy it. When I went to buy it, I discovered it was designed by Kathy Zimmerman, one of my favorite knitware designers. Many of her creations reach out and call to me to be admired if not always knit.

The pattern was written for a Classic Elite cotton/silk blend which sounded like a painful knit for my hands, so I swatched it in Knitpicks Gloss DK, 70% Merino wool 30% silk.

The color is called Woodland Sage, but it looks like teal to me.


This washed swatch is exact stitch gauge and row gauge. The lace definition is excellent. I think I'm going to like this yarn.

Still, in my mental list of projects the Oversize Lace Top by Deborah Newton, published in Spring/Summer 2007 Vogue Knitting, is still next in the queue. But that's OK. It's lace. I has the same gauge as Brandywine, so what better project to try out some Gloss DK?

Today fourteen skeins of Gloss DK arrived in a pretty silver gray color. When I ordered it, I was thinking Oversize Lace Top. Now that I have it, I realize I could use it for either one, the Oversize Lace Top or Brandywine. A decision is pending. At least one other project must be finished before I cast on, so there's time to think about it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Wings - European Starlings

These pictures do an injustice to the Starlings. They are never this regal and harmless looking for more than a second. They are raucous and rude.

I'm happy to say we don't often get Starlings at the feeders. I dislike them very much and they don't even have the distinction of being native pests. I believe that means I have the legal right to kill them, but we're 99% wildlife pacifists so I just grit my teeth until they go away.

If there are six feet of seeds set out on the feeding platform, the Starlings will fight for a single feeding spot. While all the other birds are willing to share the suet feeder, the Starlings demand that every other bird leave before they clumsily and messily eat.

This Starling made a big show of eating the snow.

Why it had to come to the feeder to eat snow is a mystery. We have plenty of snow everywhere.

This is their winter plumage. They lose most of the spots and are more iridescent in the warm months.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Yarn Talks to Me - Part 1

This Oversize Lace Top by Deborah Newton, published in Spring/Summer 2007 Vogue Knitting, was on the top of my what-to-cast-on-next list. Because of my age I plan to wear it over a cotton knit top.

It just happens I have a bright orange turtleneck that I love but needs something to tone it down - like covering up 70% of it with a more subdued color.

I love rich browns. Now that my hair is mostly white, brown is not a good color for me. I miss brown in my wardrobe and reasoned that I could wear brown over bright orange.

Next thing I knew there were eleven skeins of rich brown Knitpicks sport weight Stroll in my mailbox and I was ready to swatch.

The results were ugly.

The yarn spoke to me:
"I am a substantial yarn in a tough color. I do not want to be an oversized lace top that needs to be knit in a lighter yarn in a pastel color.

I'll give you washability, good stitch definition, and warmth. Now you find a suitable pattern to make a vest that suits my personality."

Who am I to argue with eleven skeins of yarn?

Note to the curious.
Sport weight Stroll is 75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon. This color is a very rich, warm brown called Cocoa.

Stroll Sport would make great washable children's wear. While it didn't like being lace on #5 needles because the gauge was too firm for good drape, I think it would make lace on #7 or larger needles.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21 Weather Report

We caught the edge of an ice storm last night.

The power went off and on several times in the night but we were spared an extended outage like many people East of us are suffering. Last I heard restoration was going to take until Thursday evening for some. It's Monday afternoon. That's a long time to be without power in the winter.

Right now it just started to snow. Heavy snow on top of the ice is going to bring down more branches, trees, and power lines. Especially if the wind picks up.

Temperatures are dropping today, not rising. Forget melting until Wednesday at the earliest.

It's a great day to be retired and snuggled in at home. I plan to knit if the power stays on, read if the power goes off, and work in a nap whatever happens. Unless a tree falls on the house.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chat Back for February 19

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

Judy S. asked . . .
You have a gansey template? Could you explain?
At six stitches/inch I cast on 240 stitches and start knitting around, picking stitch patterns as I go. Usually I have a few in mind that I want to use. When I get to a few inches below the arm split, I work in the lower half of the gusset. Then I knit the top back and tops front and three- needles bind off the shoulders. Pick up stitches for the sleeve and upper half of the gusset, knit the sleeves, and it's done. No sewing. Not a stitch.

For everything you wanted to know about gansey knitting, including everything you need to design your own, Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel is an excellent source.

It's easy to understand with the entire gansey process presented in a clear, logical tutorial which includes knitting a very cute doll or teddybear sized gansey sweater for demonstration. At the back of the book are six gansey patterns, three adult and three children. I knit the kid size ganseys over and over again for charity knitting and knit one of the adult sized ganseys for myself. A few pictures of sweaters I knit from this book are here, here, and here.

Shirley asked . . .
Have you looked at Alice Starmore's Inishmore? I like mine so much that I want to knit another - in black.
Oh yes. I remember your beautiful blue Inishmore. (See Shirley's Inishmore here.)

You're a braver knitter than I am to consider knitting all that detail in black.

It is a gorgeous pattern. Alice Starmore is a yarn artist for sure.

Marie commented . . .
Before there was Second Sock Syndrome, I believe there was Second Sleeve Syndrome. As a new knitter many years ago, I was always deflated by how flippin' long sleeves took just when I thought a sweater was on the homestretch. Now I know better and have adjusted my mindset to think that sleeves are almost as much work as a front and a back...and have taken up obsessive sock knitting as my solution.
This made me laugh so hard I even went back and read it on several different days.

My red gansey sleeves are done and I'm in the process of adjusting my mindset to start the next set of sleeves on another waiting sweater body. But first I need to obsessively knit a pair of socks.

Judy S. asked . . .
I love those oak trees. Just when everyone thinks they have all the leaves raked, "Bam! They let go." Ours are black oaks; what are yours?
In Michigan we have White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Pin Oak, Northern Red Oak, Bur Oak, and Black Oak. I admit to lumping them all together in my mind and not being able to tell the difference.

I do know that we live surrounded by oak woods, and there are at least three different kinds: leaf dropping in autumn, leaf dropping in late winter, and leaf dropping in spring. The leaf dropping in spring oaks are still hanging onto their leaves even in the 40 MPH winds we had yesterday.

Shirley asked . . .
Was there something about the (Pointelle Sock pattern which you didn't enjoy? Somehow I got that impression.
You are very perceptive.

The start of the heel is over a yarnover stitch with yarnovers that continue on to the instep.

Even though the heel flap is my least favorite part of a sock to knit, I frogged it along with the turned heel and the picked up gusset stitches several times in an attempt to figure out how to make the the yarnover transition look perfect.

After the third attempt, I put the socks on time out for a week and even considered frogging them. Eventually I picked them up, told myself to accept a bit of imperfection, and finished the pair. Now that they're done I don't even notice that very small sloppy spot.

Judy S. asked . . .
It always amazes me to see bulbs poking up through leaves, but then tree roots can lift concrete, can't they?
Yes they sure can. They're also good at disrupting septic systems.

With the snow melted it was time to check out the unidentified burrow in the back field. Yikes! The entrance hole is enlarged and there are three "back" holes, north, south, and west.

Even more unsettling, there are clumps of rabbit fur in the lower left of the picture. It's not a vegetarian living there. It's probably a fox family.

Under dogless circumstances I would be thrilled to have a fox family, but this is a major dog attraction only a few feet off our dog walking trail.

I can't take the little dogs that way anymore. The hole is bigger than they are. And I worry about old dog Glory getting into a hassle with anything, although I'm guessing a fox would give her less trouble than a woodchuck.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Very Very Early Signs of Spring

It's really late winter, but it's more fun to pretend it's very very early spring since we're having a February thaw this week.

It was in the fifties for the second day in a row. I'm trying to enjoy the warmer weather but the gray skies, stiff wind, dirty snow, mud, and gloom are making it a challenge.

The picture above was taken at lunch time to demonstrate why this weather makes me want to go take a nap.

Things aren't looking much cheerier on the ground.

The white trail is were we walked when there was snow. The walking packed it down so it's the last to melt. During thaw time, we have to walk off the slippery path.

The paper box is still slowly sinking. If the ground thaws enough, I'll go out with a shovel and re-plant it. If the ground doesn't thaw enough I may need to prop it up with some cement blocks.

Spotted this Woolly Bear Caterpillar on the side of the house.

It's not a sign of spring, it's an sign of Woolly Bear bad timing. He needs to find someplace to shelter until the real spring. I'm surprised a bird hasn't had him for lunch.

Daffodils are so amazing. They know spring is coming eventually and they start growing under the ice and snow so they'll be ready for April blooming.

The snow and ice was holding the oak leaves tight to the ground so the daffodils just pierced through them.

By the end of next week the daffodils will be under the snow again, but I'll know they're there and I'll smile at them as I shovel out to the car.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Wings - Woodpeckers

Hairy Woodpecker on the left, Downy Woodpecker on the right. They're identical except for size.

It was a little over fifty degrees today. Winter in SW Michigan isn't over yet, but we're getting a nice February thaw with lots of mud and slush.

Funny how fifty degrees feels so cold in autumn, but it's down right balmy after several months of frigid winter. I think I post that thought every spring, but every spring I wonder about it.

Here's Mr. Hairy all by himself looking very awesome. This time of year he spends some time each day "drumming" for a mate.

Wouldn't it be easier just to meet a female at the feeding station?

On the left is a female Downy. On the right is a White-breasted Nuthatch.

The Nuthatches love to be upside down. Once I heard a so-called bird expert on the radio say that birds require gravity to eat because they can't swallow. Obviously that's not always true. And maybe never. I don't bother listening to him anymore.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pointelle Socks Finished

Although these socks aren't as pretty as I thought they were going to be before I started knitting them, I'm happy with them. And, I'm very happy they're done so I can move on to something else.

Pattern: Pointelle from Knit.Sock.Love by by Cookie A. Size small.

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

Color: Old Rose.

Needles: Options 2.25mm circulars.

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

Friday, February 11, 2011

Very Very Early Signs of Spring

January and February have been cold and snowy. In fact, it's 20 degrees and snowing right now. That 20 degrees is a "warm up" from the single digit temperatures we've had all week in SW Michigan.

However if I look and listen very carefully, there are signs of spring.

The days are getting longer.

Our first dog walk of the day happens about 7:30 am and now there's enough daylight to see where we're stepping.

This deer picture was taken about 5:30 pm. Not enough daylight left for a clear picture, but it's not dark at 5 pm anymore.

The birds are beginning to think about spring. Several times I've heard a woodpecker drumming for a mate.

A few days ago I saw a male cardinal feeding a female. So sweet. It would have made a perfect Valentine picture.

The paper box is showing the strain of repeatedly being hit by snow thrown from the snowplow. Will it topple before spring?

The mailbox is detachable. I bring it in the house when I know the snowplow snow is going to hit it hard.

Finally the oak trees are shedding some of their leaves.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What To Knit Next?

I have several projects rolling around in my brain.

I need the promise of something new and interesting to get me through the seemingly endless sleeves I'm knitting. When the sleeves of the Red X Gansey are done, I have two sleeves to knit on another sweater I started months ago.

What is it about sleeves? I'd rather knit two sweater bodies than two sleeves. Even though I have short arms, sweater sleeves just seem to go on and on forever and ever.

Lack of sleeves is why this might be a good next project. It's called Oversize Lace Top by Deborah Newton, published in Spring/Summer 2007 Vogue Knitting.

Whoever named this one is more unimaginative than I am at naming knitting patterns. But, I think it is pretty and looks like it would be fun to knit and easy to wear over a longer sleeved cotton top.

Another project I want to knit for spring is this pretty little Brandywine sweater by Kathy Zimmerman.

The pattern comes in a pamphlet called Hot House published by Classic Elite that contains five patterns named after tomatoes. Really. I dare someone to explain to me what this pretty little lace cardigan has to do with tomatoes.

The patterns were written for Classic Silk, 50% Cotton, 30% Silk, 20% Nylon with a nubby look.

The pattern is ordered and I'm contemplating what yarn and what color I'd like to use. It won't be Classic Silk. Knitting with silk hurts my hands and I don't care for the feel of it. Combining it with cotton and nylon can't possible improve it.

Alice Starmore's Irish Moss is also on my A list of projects and it also needs a yarn choice.

I'm wondering if I can knit it seamless, top down, FLAK style. Maybe even in the same yarn, Elann's Puruvian Highland Wool. I'll be doing some swatching before making up my mind.

Then there's the Knitpicks Andean Treasure yarn that is totally unsuitable for the project I thought I was going to use it for. It wants to be something plain and simple so I'm considering a top down cardigan. With sleeves.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Working on the Red X Gansey

While my mind is whirling about what projects I want to knit next, my hands are working on finishing up projects that have been sitting around for a while.

This Red X Gansey has been waiting many months for some sleeves. Now the first sleeve is done and the second sleeve started.

No stopping now until it's finished it I want the sleeves to match. I took good notes on the first sleeve but my knitting notes tend to lose their meaning when left sitting around too long.

Here's an underarm view of the faux seam and the little gusset.

Pattern: Basic gansey template. Picking stitch patterns selected from various stitch collections.

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.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Chat Back for February 5 with Cardinals

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

Mom asked . . .
I'm all set and ready for the Big Storm promised us by the Weather forecasters! How about you?

Like much of the US, we had a blizzard warning last week. It started on schedule, 5 pm Tuesday evening. Strong winds blew, the snow came down and swirled around and drifted. In the morning we had a new foot of snow on top of the six inches we started with on the ground.

The foot of snow we got fell short of the eighteen inches mentioned in the forecast, so many local people complained that it wasn't a "real" blizzard. And it probably wasn't. But it was challenging and inconvenient and very very very cold.

To answer Mom's question: Yes, we were ready.

Kristieinbc asked . . .
Isn't that FLAK sweater great? I wore mine yesterday and it kept me toasty warm. That sweater was my first ever experience knitting cables.
Great way to start knitting cables. Fearless knitting is lots of fun when the pattern is easy to follow - not the same as saying the pattern is easy.

My FLAK is one of the my favorite knitting projects ever. The how-to lessons were excellent, I loved knitting it, and I love wearing it when it's cold outside.

Kathy B. asked . . .
Now does my email show up or am I still anonymous M?
Couldn't find any email showing up. Your name showed up and it was a link that took me to your blog profile. I think you need to add your email to your blog profile for it to show up.

Kathy B. sent me the following picture and asked . . .
You are my bird lady! What is this cardinal doing? Just stretching ? I snapped an image not knowing it would capture his movement. Kind of cool huh?

It’s either landing or getting ready to fly off or grooming its feathers. If there’s water nearby it probably just had a bath and is grooming. Otherwise I would guess the pre or post flight options.

This cardinal was caught either coming or going from the feeder board. I think he was going since there is seed scattering around him. And, why would he land with his head off the side of the board?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Brown Stroll BFF Socks Done

Pattern: BFF by Cookie A. 56 stitch size.

Yarn: Knitpicks Stroll, handpainted sock yarn.

Color: Kindling Tonal.

Needles: Options 2.50mm circulars.

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

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook for February 1

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 February 1, 2011...

Outside my window...

The birds are eating and perching in nearby bushes and trees.

I am thinking...
Of the Merry Minuet sung by the Kingston Trio 50 years ago.

It starts out "They're rioting in Africa, la la lala la la la. . ." and ends "What nature doesn't do to us will be done by our fellow man." Not much has changed in 50 years. How sad.

I am thankful for...
Being retired.

During my working years it was a matter of pride and work ethic to always get to work on time when the roads were bad in the winter. During those white-knuckle, treacherous drives I told myself that when I retired I would act like a helpless little old lady and stay home when the roads were bad. Now I enjoy doing just that.

From the kitchen...
Getting ready to make some corn and potato chowder.

I am wearing...
This morning I wore jeans and a heavy wool Aran sweater, FLAK, to Bible study with handknit wool socks and boots.

Right now I'm wearing jeans, a waffle weave insulated underwear shirt covered by a heavy gray sweatshirt.

I am creating...
Pointelle socks from Cookie A's new book Knit.Socks.Love. They're going slow because I keep getting sidetracked by other knitting that's not as intense.

I am going...
Nowhere. We are expecting the blizzard to hit early this evening and leave us with up to eighteen inches of snow on top of the six inches we have now.

I am reading...
Just finished Burn by Nevada Barr. It was a disturbing story about two young girls who got kidnapped for child prostitution. I almost didn't finish it. Not recommended if you're reading for pleasure and/or relaxation.

I am hoping...
I hope Anna Pigeon, Nevada Barr's park ranger heroine, gets back outdoors in a national park for the next book in the series.

I am hearing...
The wind blow as the storm moves in.

Around the house...

Outdoors there's about six inches of pre-blizzard snow. Glory thinks it's just right for making doggy snow angels.

One of my favorite things...

I love seeing the little auburn Marsh Wrens come to the feeders in the winter time. They never come in nice weather, but in winter they eat everything we offer: Sunflower seed, peanuts, nyjer seed, and suet.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Staying indoors and warm until the storm ends and it's time to shovel out. We're well stocked with dog food, bird food, and people food.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Marsh Wren mid-flight.