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, April 30, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Eastern Phoebe

The Phoebe is a small member (about 7 inches long) of the flycatcher family. So much fun to watch. This is the male.

It's easy to spot them sitting on old fence posts along side the pond looking out over the water while flipping their tail up and down. When they see a yummy looking flying insect, they dart out, grab it, and circle back onto the fence post.

This is the female. Each year she builds a nest underneath a second story deck on the pond side of the house.

Phoebes are summer residents and their return is a sure sign of spring.

Each year when they return I hear them before I see them. They sit outside my bedroom window in the morning and wake me up (if a dog hasn't already done so) with their call. Phoe-be, phoe-be.

Normally the little red squirrels are hyper.

This pitiful looking mom squirrel is taking a break from her young. She wasn't even eating, just sitting there enjoying the peace and quiet while spending some time out of the nest. She looks like she could use a good nap.

If you click to embiggen, you can see her swollen nipples - or you can just take my word for it. And she has the telltale sign of all new mothers with multiples - the hair on top of her head is sticking straight up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Consolation Prize

The Good
She Said Aran is done. Every last end is woven in and it's ready to be washed and blocked. As soon as it's dry I'll be looking around for someone to draft into taking modeled pictures.

The Bad
I had planned on using my new Elann Superwash Bamboo (65% superwash wool, 35% bamboo) for my next project - a short sleeve summer top. The swatch knit up so nice. Lots of good stitch definition, elastic ribs, smooth sheen, crisp fabric.

Then I washed it. Yuck. The ribs collapsed, the swatch grew, the crispness is gone, and worst of all, it's fuzzy.

The bottom two rows of leaves have eyelets. They didn't look pretty even before I washed the swatch so the top two rows of leaves were knit without the eyelets.

I can't believe I spend months wanting to buy some of this yarn before giving in and never bothered to wash the little swatch I knit from the sample skein back in February.

This yarn is a big disappointment. I'm not going to use it for a short sleeve top. I'll probably strand it along with some wool and use it for a CIC sweater.

Consolation Prize
Meanwhile, I had 3 full skeins and several partial balls of purple Cascade 200 left over from the She Said Aran, so I started something fun - a little gansey for CIC.

Pattern: Guernsey Gals by Kathy Zimmerman in Best of Knitter's Arans and Celtics.

Knitting the smallest size, about 24 inches around. Modified pattern to knit sweater in one piece. Added underarm gussets.

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #6

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chat Back for April 26

Answering questions from comments and email.

Shirley asked . . .
Do you knit the "2 socks on 2 circular" method or "Magic Loop"?

I like to knit both socks at the same time - knit some on one sock, catch up on the second sock - because I have serious Second Sock Syndrome if they're not both done at approximately the same time.

Each sock has its own two 24" circulars. I use four circulars a pair with a fifth extra circular for the gussets.

Sharon asked . . .
I was wondering if there's a particular reason why you seam up the sweater as you go along?

There are many reasons I like to sew up as I go along. I've been known to throw pieces of a completed sweater in a bag and not sew them up for months. Especially if it's the wrong season to wear the sweater.

I have short arms and don't like sleeves that dangle down on my hands, so I'm shortening the sleeves on almost any sweater I knit. I find the best way to get the sleeves the right length is to seam the shoulder seams, finish the neck, wash and block the partial sweater, and then knit the sleeves from the top down.

That's how the She Said Aran ended up with a blocked body and an unblocked sleeve, and how I know I'm going to like the fit of the sweater when it's done.

For the She Said Aran, I decided to knit the sleeves top down in the round, so I needed to stitch up the side seams as well as the shoulders.

I can't count the number of sweaters I've knit in my life that didn't fit. It's turned me into a swatcher and a top down sleeve knitter whenever possible. Then, when there's a problem with fit, I know it early enough to do something about it.

Peggy commented . . .
A few years ago, the American Ornithologists' Union split the rufous into two different species--

Pipilo erythrophthalmus (Eastern Towhee)
Pipilo maculatus (Spotted Towhee)

I didn't know this and thank you for the information. It may save me from sounding old-fashioned when I communicate with other bird folks.

Privately at home, I'll go on called our Eastern Towhees their old name, Roufous-Sided Towhee. Or, as we usually say, "I see Rouffie".

I'm a lumper, not a splitter.

These two species interbreed and I can't imagine why they needed to be separated because some have a few more white spots than others. Does it make sense that a nest might contain two different species coming from the same parents?

Elaine asked . . .
We called those Marsh Marigolds "cowslips" and cooked the leaves as greens in the spring. A little bitter, but good. Sort of a rite of spring. You had to pick them before they flowered - why?

Curious, I looked this up on Google. To summarize, in general the plant is moderately toxic and sometimes intoxicating especially the flowers and the "older parts".

There are varied cautions on how it needs to be prepared for safe eating depending on the source of the information.

My conclusion: Eating Marsh Marigold is not something one should try if feeling healthy and clear headed is important.

Vickie asked . . .
I read your blog daily and confess that I come for the bird pictures as much as the knitting. Are you willing to share what kind of camera and lenses you use to achieve such clear close up shots?

I have a Canon Powershot S3 IS, 6.0 megapixels, 12 x 15 zoom lens, and image stabilizer - all standard with the camera.

Mine is over a year old. I see they're selling for under $300 now.

I take lots of pictures, select the best and delete the rest.

And I admit to not knowing how to use many of the camera options because I get such good results with the point and click. I do use the zoom, of course.

Here are some previous blog posts where I talk about the camera:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yellow But Not Mellow

These daffodils were planted when a few bulbs were accidentally throw in with the compose several years ago. They're out in the back three acres away from the house, but I enjoy them several times a day when taking the dogs for a walk.

Even though we have many other daffodils planted purposefully, these are special survivors. The compose heap has been retired so we can enjoy their pretty yellow every spring.

The males goldfinches are almost done molting.

They get yellower by the day getting ready for Goldfinch mating season.

Along the creek the Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris), a member of the buttercup family, are in bloom.

In some places they are considered a weed. At our house, we consider them to be a lovely sign of spring.

Just as pretty are the Dandelions. I've never understood why people hate them so.

Are they really so awful to require toxic chemicals on the lawn to eradicate them? The battle will never be won. Like death and taxes, Dandelions will always be. May as well enjoy them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Knitting Update for April 24

The second She Said Aran sleeve is in progress.

The short rows are done and all stitches have been picked up. It's time to start gradually decreasing and finishing this sweater up.

My notes on the first sleeve left a little to be desired. I always think I'll remember what I did because it was the thing that made the most sense. And, who wants to stop knitting to write down detailed notes?

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick in Knitters Winter 1999, #57

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #5

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

Last month I got to thinking about how much I enjoyed, and still enjoy, the older Knitter's Magazines.

I was a subscriber between Summer 1999 and Summer 2005. I let my subscription lapse when I realized getting my new issue was NOT fun. In fact, there were a few of the 2004 and 2005 issues I threw in the trash because I couldn't see any reason to give them shelf space.

Since I don't currently have a knitting magazine that I love receiving, I've started to fill in my Knitter's library with pre-subscription issues from the Nancy Thomas years. This Spring 1997 is one of my new acquisitions with two lovely sweaters designed by Norah Gaughan on the cover.

The short sleeve version of the cover sweater (above) might be perfect for this bundle of new yarn, Superwash Bamboo from Elann.

It's 65% superwash wool, 35% bamboo. Unwashed it looks very light and springy. Washed it may be too wooly for short sleeves? Some swatching will happen soon.

The current CIC_Knit List challenge is for wool toddler socks, but there is also a never ending need for toddler wool sweaters. Some of us are knitting Jean's Waffles for Brunch as a knit-along.

Jean is giving us a pattern installment every other day. We're through with the lower body knit in the round and the upper back knit back and forth.

This shows the sweater back. The needle peeking out midway up is holding stitches for the upper front.

Pattern: Waffles for Brunch designed by Jean and posted as a current knit-a-long on her blog Needles, Notes, and News.

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky

Color: Deep Red

Needles: 10.5 Addi Turbo

Gauge: 3 stitches/inch, 4 rows/inch

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Rufous-sided Towhee

Rufous-sided Towhees are a little smaller than robins and much less abundant in our yard.

They nest low to the ground or on the ground in brush.

Once the next is built, the male Towhee takes guard duty in the top of a nearby tree where I caught him with the camera.

The female did all the nest building and egg laying. All Mr. Towhee had to do was - well you know - and then sit around, sing, and look handsome. And handsome he is.

The female is brown where the male is black, with the same rufous sides.

Both male and female scratch for their food in a chicken-like motion, scattering seed everywhere.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Different Doggy Viewpoints

Different viewpoints on the same question and the freedom to express them, that's what makes life interesting.

Today's question is: What do you think of the creek?

I found three dogs to ask. They each emphatically expressed a different viewpoint.

Pappy, a 14 pound Papillon in his senior years:

I can tell it's wet. I think it's cold, but I don't know for sure and don't want to find out.

If I have to get wet, I want it to be a nice warm bath at the groomers.

Sunny, a 16 pound dog of many breeds in her middle age:

After a nice long walk the cold water tastes great, but I'm very careful to keep my feet on solid, dry ground.

I don't like to get wet. Not even in the warm water at the groomers.

Glory, a 60 pound Lab mix in her senior years:

Nothing feels as good as standing in the creek letting the cold water flow into my chest.

Dogs were made for swimming. It's especially fun in the fall when there are fish to chase. I have to protect Mom and Dad from those big fish. It's part of my job.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April Showers Bring May Monkeys

It rained today.

Not much. Just enough for me to decide some indoor knitting time was in order.

Daughter Heather with a mid-May birthday requested black birthday socks.

This is my first experience knitting black socks. I started out with a simple lace pattern. It looked awful. I blamed the pattern and frogged it.

Next, I cast on both socks and knit the cuff ribbings for Shetland Lace Rib Socks. I knew I would like this pattern. It's mine, free on the sidebar.

It took three repeats of the lace pattern before I could no longer ignore the facts. The Shetland Lace pattern did not look pretty in black. It looked like a lumpy sock cuff full of mistakes.

I frogged both Shetland Lace socks, took a deep breath, and decided to try Monkey Socks.

Perfect! This is just what the black Regia silk wants to be.

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A. in Knitty, Winter 2006.

Yarn: Regia Silk

Color: Black

Needles: Options 2.5

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Friday, April 18, 2008

She Said Aran - Sleeve One is Done

It's not easy to update a knitting blog when there is little knitting getting done.

It's been spring this week and I've been working outdoors. Over the years I've learned to stop before getting completely sore, but I do get kind of sore and stiff and definitely tired.

During my relaxation hours I've been doing a little sock knitting but mostly reading. Not knitting. Even the fear of having nothing to blog about hasn't inspired me to start the second sleeve.

The first sleeve was finished on April 1, before I left for Idaho.

As sleeves tend to do, it seemed to take forever. The fit is good and I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

The body has been washed and blocked, the sleeve has not so it looks a bit rough.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick in Knitters Winter 1999, #57

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #5

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

Unless the weather does something horrible (not impossible in Michigan), there won't be another chance to wear a heavy wool sweater until next autumn. Realizing that made me wonder why Dorothy and I were starting another Aran in the middle of May.

Checking with Dorothy, she admitted she would rather be knitting shawls and lace in the warmer weather. By mutual agreement the start of Chenille has been postponed until late summer.

To prove that my mind wants to knit even when my body is too sore and tired, I immediately ordered some Elann Superwash Bamboo for a short sleeve sweater.

Tomorrow Jean is going to start a knitalong for Waffles for Brunch, her practical, warm, and cute toddler sweater designed for charity knitting. I have the yarn and needles out ready to go. No sign up required - at least not that I know about. If you want to join in the material list is here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Mute Swan

Several miles from our house is a state fish hatchery boasting all sorts of protected nature, nice walking paths, and water, water, water. Leashed dogs are allowed.

Yesterday Glory and I celebrated the sunny, warm - 60 degrees felt warm to us! - weather by talking a fish hatchery walk.

This Mute Swan appeared to be guarding a nest, but the nest wasn't visible from the angle we approached.

There it is!

Looks like eggs have been laid.

Incubation is a little over a month. The cygnets are pushed out into the water the same day they're hatched, so it shouldn't be difficult to see them when they're still very little.

It takes three years for a Mute Swan to reach full growth and reproductive maturity. They can live up to 25 years. Average life expectancy is 11 years.

These are last year's cygnets. Their head is not the bright white of mature adults and their bill hasn't yet turned orange.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On-Line Socks Finished

Needing something easy to knit in Idaho and presented with a pretty skein of yarn from Linda Jo's Blogiversary contest a few weeks ago, it was obvious that the prize yarn needed to be knit immediately. So it was.

When I met with the Northern Idaho Knits group in (where else?) Northern Idaho, we sat for two hours and I managed about a half inch on one sock foot.

A few weeks ago I attended an orientation meeting for the Portage Senior Center. The room next to our meeting was full of knitters. Very raucous sounding knitters. We had to shut the door so we could hear our presenter.

The knitters sounded like they were having a great time, but I doubt they were getting much knitting done. Now that I'm a member, I need to attend one of their meetings and see what goes on.

Does anyone ever get any knitting done at a knitting group?

Pattern: Basic sock 56 stitch with k7 p1 ribbing on cuff and instep

Yarn: ON-Line Highland color

Needles: Options 2.5mm circulars

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday Chat

It's a cold, rainy Saturday in SW Michigan.

I slept in until 9:30 this morning and finally feel rested for the first time since getting home from Idaho.

My thoughts have shifted from "I'm tired", to making plans for the yard. But I'm glad it's raining today. As soon as I publish this blog post, I'm going to go knit for the first time since last Monday in Idaho. I'm not ready to face the second sweater sleeve yet, but there's a pair of socks calling me to the needles.

A misleading daffodil picture.

Most of my daffodils haven't bloomed yet, but I zoomed in on this small group of early daffodils showing their spring color in the rain.

Friday, April 11, 2008

While I Was Gone - Playtime in Idaho

In anticipation of Sydney's third birthday on Saturday, Great-Grandma had balloons delivered on Friday.

They were a big hit.

Saturday Sydney turned three with a pizza party, birthday cake, and lots of presents to open.

One of her gifts was a princess dress, crown, and magic wand.

We played Legos.

We played hopscotch.

After one attempt, I remembered that I am a grandma and not as spry as I once was. Then I decided to be the cheerleader instead of a hopper.

We made tents full of stuffed animals and books.

How did we spend most of time together? Reading. I read dozens of books to Sydney while I was there, and don't have a picture to share.

While I Was Gone - Knitting in Idaho

Monday I knit with the Ravelry Group Northern Idaho Knits.

When I walked into the meeting place (Starbucks by the only Kohl's in Northern Idaho) group moderator Judy was knitting on a leg warmer and watching for me.

She was very welcoming and friendly. I felt right at home and ready to knit.

Soon Linda Jo arrived to join us. The group is normally small and we ended up just being three.

Linda Jo has been knitting gnomes. She has a knack for giving them an engaging personality. This rosy nosed guy is named Filbert. If you want to know more about Filbert, hop on over to this post on Linda Jo's blog.

Linda Jo knit on her Pomatomus sock and I knit on some basic socks I haven't blogged about yet.

Afterward, we went to lunch at the Garlic White House, a wonderful little place that uses so much garlic you can smell it a block away.

Since I'm still semi-brain dead from the trip home and Linda did such a great job of describing our lunch with truth and humor, I'm going to send you over to her post if you want to know more. It's here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring Break in Northern Idaho

Idaho from the airWednesday morning, April 2, I'm headed to the airport before the sun comes up to spend a week with granddaughter Sydney and her parents. Sydney will turn three while I'm there, complete with party on Saturday.

I'm taking a vacation from blogging while I'm gone. Lord willing, blogging will resume toward the end of next week.

For those who are curious, I have one sleeve successfully completed on the She Said Aran. Also I started a pair of socks for myself to take to Idaho.

While in Idaho, I'll be knitting with the Northern Idaho Knitters Group on Ravelry and lunching with Beadknitter Linda.

My last three trips, Northworst Airline has cancelled a flight, turning my trip home into a two day affair. This leaves me exhausted and brain dead. I'm hoping for better this time, but expecting the usual. All prayers appreciated.