Monday, August 31, 2009

Let it be known...

...that we had our first light frost last night. This is utterly ridiculous. Summer hasn't ended yet; after all it's only August 31. Can we start summer over again? We have had only three or four days of really hot weather this summer. The air conditioning has rested most of the summer. We've also had a wetter than usual summer--not thunderstorms, just plain old rain which, of course, is good for Lake Michigan. I hope this unusual cold is not an omen of what winter is going to be like. Maybe we'll have a mild winter, and we can spare on heating costs as well.

But enough of whining. The Woodruff socks by Monika Eckert have been finished for at least a week. I have finally taken photos. The sock has an unusual heel treatment, at least as far as I am concerned. Rather than having a regular gusset, the increases are each side of the middle two heel stitches and the main pattern continues on the top portion. Then the heel is turned as usual. Again, the yarn is Fortissima Stretch 100, color is actually tan, and needles used were 2.75 mm.

Another pair of socks, Clouds, from the Six Sox Knitalong are halfway done. The socks are knit with some hand-dyed yarn from Angie that was just laying around the house waiting to be used and some Regia Crazy Color sock yarn. One of the colors in the Regia yarn matched the hand-dyed yarn. How lucky can you be? These socks will go into the stash of socks I am knitting for some one's birthday.

In one of her books, Elizabeth Zimmermann speaks about knitting needles and that it is not really that important if one sock needle is not exactly the same size as the others. That it will all work out. Well, I thought I'd test this theory although if I were honest, I would have to say that my needles only match the first time around after purchasing the set of needles.

Here is the set of needles I am using for this pair of socks. From bottom to top: metal needle of unknown origin, bamboo HyaHya, Knit Pick metal needle, plastic needle that has a thin metal rod running through it, Knit Pick metal needle. They all fit more or less through the No. 2 hole on my needle sizing thing-a-ma-jig. So don't be afraid to mix and match. EZ is correct: in the end it all comes out fine.

Finally, I knit two pair of infant socks and two hats for charity. One pair of socks and matching hat were knit while crying my eyes out watching Sen. Kennedy's funeral. (I have been in this country now long enough to have experienced the death of all three Kennedy brothers.) These will travel to South Africa along with a Baby Surprise Jacket which still needs buttons sewn on--as soon as I find the sewing needles. Of course some of the chickens had to congregate as well. The black one is an Astrolorp named Gimpy Sue. She sits a lot since she limps quite badly. I'd like her to visit the stew pot, but Angie answer to that suggestion was: "You are going to put one of my pets in the stew pot?" So she received another reprieve.

Teddy is taking a nap in the shade.

Please let my nap just a wee bit longer.

Knit on merrily!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Falling down on their assigned jobs


Cat with lace

So we have two attack cats, Tommy and Sammy and one Rat Terrier, aka Pepe Le Pew who yaps at everything and anybody. Usually! You'd think our house would be protected from intruders of the two-legged kind. I'm not sure why I would have that idea since these three have trouble catching the little four-legged intruders with the long tails. So here is the scary tale.

Pepe1 1-27-2008
Pepe Le Pew

Angie and I are both in bed when a van drives up our driveway. I am still awake and, of course, I can see the headlights from way back since it is totally dark outside. After all, we live in the woods, surrounded by more woods, i.e. the Manistee National Forest. There are no city lights obscuring the night sky.

Before I could scramble out of bed, Angie woke up on the noise the van made and thinking it was one of our friends called out here name and, then, this dude appears at her window, stating something like, "Hi my name is X; I have two kids in my car and am wondering if you have a job for me, so I can earn enough money for gas to get back to Muskegon." She said "no" and luckily, the guy got back in the car and left. Dare I tell you, he had shut off the engine and turned off the van's lights? Me thinks, he was scoping out the area hoping that this was one of the many vacation cottages in the area and the residents of said cottage were snug in their city home.

(There was another complication: Unbeknown to us we had no phone service. We had had very heavy rains and the phone lines had shorted out.)

Having worked in a prison, I have another story to tell you. Luckily the guy left and didn't decide to do something dumber yet. I've heard it once too often from the horse's mouth--a criminal went to the wrong place, realized his mistake and, nevertheless, decided to beat up the residents.

And where were the killer cats and the yapping dog? The cats were snuggled up with Angie and Pepe le Pew was snuggled with me under the feather bed fast asleep. Not even a tiny yip out of him.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Say it isn't so...

...but even experienced knitters can suddenly be confronted with challenges. I thought I knew how to knit cables and, of course, I did. I knew the basics, such as the general rule of x stitches used in cable equals x rows in between crossing the stitches. But I had never really read charts with more complicated cable patterns.

Two of the Internet sock knitting groups to which I belong, have been heavy on cables and travelling stitch patterns. That's when I realized there was trouble in this knitting land I inhabit, extraordinary trouble. I was really a newbie in cable knitting land. Ouch! I'll take lace patterns over cable patterns any time. But I decided that the little gray cells needed stimulating and, thus, I started my journey in the State of Cable Knitting. And the path is actually becoming more familiar. I no longer have to look every time I cross a cable at the table of explanation. What a relief. This old dog still has some brain cells left that are amenable to learning new things.

The blue socks are a pattern by Kleine Hexorei, aka Nadja Brandt. The pattern is called Interruption. The reason for naming the pattern are self-explanatory. The yarn is Fortissima Stretch 100 bought on sale at Patternworks. I have learned a couple of things while knitting the socks:

One of the lessons learned is that I must decrease the no. of stitches before starting the heel to 30. Thirty-six stitches make too wide a heel and sole for me. It is fairly easy to decrease the stitches just before starting the heel without being too visible. I also need to make the same decreases on the top of the foot before starting the toes. Of course, I only learned this after having knit the sock per specifications given. Oh well, at those times I remind myself that I am really a process knitter.

The second pair of socks on which I am currently working are the tan ones and are a design by Monika Eckert of Wollklabauter. Her designs can be found on Ravelry. The yarn used is again Fortissima Stretch 100 from Patternworks. This sock pattern has an interesting heel construction. Rather than making the usual heel flap (turning the heel and picking up stitches), this heel flap is knit at the same time as the foot continues over the arch. The increases replacing the gusset stitches are made on each side of the middle two stitches of the heel flap. When the heel flap is long enough, the heel is turned as on a regular heel flap, except the German version uses less stitches for the middle portion of the heel turning in comparison to the 1/3 stitches I normally use. I think the next time I use this heel construction, I will increase the no. of stitches for the middle of the heel cap construction.

I used 2.75 mm needles for the Fortissima Stretch 100 since the yarn is somewhat thicker than the average sock yarn. The cables were also easier to knit with the larger size needles. The yarn has a somewhat "rustic" look to it, but feels good when wearing it. This is not a yarn to wear in "normal" shoes, but will do fine with my Birkenstocks, particularly in the middle of the Winter.

So there you have it. Not much accomplished production-wise, but a whole lot accomplished learning-wise. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Knit on merrily!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A tribute to unknown war victims

photo from Deutsche Welle

Another chapter in the history of Post War Germany was written this past Friday, August 14, 2009. The remains of 2161 unidentified Germans were buried in the cemetery at Stare Czarnowo, Poland. They were found in a mass grave in Malbrok, Poland during excavations for a hotel. Malbrok was at the very eastern border of Germany and Poland. According to German TV, only a few of the skeletons had gunshots to the head, thus speculating that the majority were individuals who died of starvation and freezing in the mayhem at the end of the war when the Russians were coming westward. The few individuals with gunshots to their head were found in the uppermost layer and thus it is hypothesized that these were German prisoners of war who were forced to bury the dead and then shot.

Why is this important to me? After all six million Jews were killed by the Germans between 1933 and 1945. 2000 or so Germans is an infinitesimal number in comparison. It is important because as a youngster every post office and every police station and any other public place had walls of posters with photographs of mostly children and women with the heading: "Have you seen us." I used to look at them, hoping and wishing hat I could find someone I knew. Of course, I knew no one; after all these were mostly from the eastern front. So many people lost, so many others looking for them. Each war has these victims: Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, the African continent--families wiped out and others looking for them and none being found. And one long overdue tear for all these victims. May you all rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stops #11 and #12 on the Sock Journey

Speaking of "meeces" aka mice, which I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I woke up this morning to a ruckus. The dog and the two cats were competing as to who could catch the mouse that apparently had thought refuge from the cool night. Of course, none of them caught the poor thing. Had I been awake enough, I would have taken a photo, but that only occurred to me later on in the day. Besides I was afraid of getting bowled over by the 3 house critters. As a precaution I did put up my feet on my easy chair since I didn't want my feet to interfere with the goings on.

Now onto knitting business. I have finished socks 11 and 12 in the 52 pair challenge. They are a design from Kristin Benecken. The pattern is available on Ravelry in English. I really like it and may knit it again, even before I get through all of the stored patterns on my computer. The yarn was hand-dyed by my daughter, aka Valley6222 on the Internet. It is a combination of turquoise, teal and natural colors. I thought I'd take the pics on top of the roving she is dyeing. Aren't the colors absolutely riotous? The big socks are for my daughter and the little ones, size 5 children, will be placed in the afghansforAfghanistan box until such time they call for them. Of course, one of the chickens had to sneak into the picture as well. I find it easier to knit ahead and when they are needed all I have to do is put them in a box and send them.

I've also joined the Yahoo Group SockforSoldiers. This is purely for selfish reasons. Those 52 pairs of socks have to go someplace, and I can't think of a more deserving population.

So knit on merrily.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I have given up...

...on growing anything that the deer like. My last apple tree was decapitated the other day and I mean decapitated. There is nothing left but the trunk. Last year these brown eyed monsters ate my two other apple tree seedlings.

I have always had a dream of having an English Cottage Garden and a small fruit tree orchard, but as of today that dream has died. I am sticking to what the deer do not like, and that is mostly weeds--I mean wildflowers. Jeff Foxworthy has it correct in his "You might be a Michigander if..." when he says: "Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce". I surrender: next year spruce trees will fill the spaces where the apple trees stood.

So here is a small photo essay of what the deer leave alone:


Wild Dune Roses

St. John's Wort

Wild Honeysuckle
At least this year, the deer left the honeysuckle bushes alone. What a feast a large flock of Cedar Waxwings have had. Cedar Waxwings love to eat small fruit. I suspect these are also the thieves which have stolen all our gooseberries. Did you know that Cedar Waxwings are the only birds that share their food? They also don't have a song, but a call. Only the lower branches still have berries left. I figure these will be gone soon as well.

unidentified wild flower

Day Lilies

Bearded Irises

And of course, all things pine.

So good bye dear apple trees and English Cottage Garden. The dream was nice as long as it lasted. From now on I shall drool over pictures, not the actual thing.