It’s warm…time to knit wool hats

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This is Breck, by Susan Vilas Lewis of Stay Toasty. She’s Lewister on Ravelry, where you’ll find her designs. The slip-stitch colorwork is meant to evoke the mountains in Breckenridge, Colorado. My red and off white version is knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, a sport weight, which is what the pattern calls for.

breck_blueI was so pleased with the result that I decided to immediately cast on for a second version, this time knit in Plymouth Yarn DK Merino Superwash. In DK-weight, the hat ends up slightly slouchier, which is a nice effect.

Here’s another look at both.

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Lately it’s been warm and a bit muggy. Typical August in Michigan. That’s when I often find that my knitting perversely turns to small, cold-weather accessories. And hats are a major favorite because, well, maybe because… you only have to make one. But then my recent knitting of hats has found me knitting two, so that theory doesn’t hold up.

The Thinker is definitely a major favorite Stay Toasty design. Here it is knit in Stonehedge Fiber’s Shepherd’s Wool Worsted in the blue spruce colorway.

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The Thinker is a well-behaved hat even at its crown decreases.

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And here’s more Thinkering. Another version in the same Stonehedge Fiber Shepherd’s wool. The garter stitch horizontal bars and the two easy cables keep a knitter interested. But the pattern is totally easy. The pattern is sized from infant to large adult.

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This is one good hat! My trusty glass head is pleased to model these Stay Toasty creations. Check out a few more Thinkers here.

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Bad feather day

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There were rumors of a Golden Eagle on Long Lake. Our suspicion is that it’s really this immature Bald Eagle, photographed here at the top of  a dead red pine on the northern end of the lake.

Adult Bald Eagles wouldn’t be mistaken for Goldens. Adults aren’t bald, of course, but their white heads might look a bit like that at a distance. And they have distinctive white tails with dark brown bodies and wings. Immature birds, like this one, are mostly dark, with bodies and wings that are mottled with white.

It takes a Bald Eagle about five years to reach its mature plumage. This one looks a tad depressed that the process is taking so long.

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Definitely no beauty yet. Maybe the juveniles being so pokey about getting impressive plumage is what made Benjamin Franklin want the wild turkey as our national symbol.

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Welcome Home Blanket

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This is Kirsten’s Hipsky’s “Welcome Home Blanket” knit in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash Bulky, the WEBS “house” brand. Great pattern. Great yarn. WEBS calls it “delightfully soft and irresistibly squishy.” And it is.

My blanket is a modification. It uses 5 colors rather than the 7 that the pattern calls for. The missing colors are tan and white. They’re supposed to be added onto the yellow end of the blanket. I wish I could say that modification was my plan right from the start. But I have to ‘fess up on that. Hipsky’s pattern is incredibly simple: three choices of sizes and a 4-row repeat to create the feather-and-fan effect. I realized I’d misread the easy peasy direction for my size to knit “six inches or until almost out of yarn” after I was half-way through the second stripe. Um, I knitted until I was almost out of yarn. So my stripes are about 9.5 inches wide instead of 6 inches wide. I’d have had a powerfully skinny long blanket if I’d added in the remaining two colors (four skeins).

But I’m actually quite pleased with the modification. The white would have looked great. But I wasn’t positive about that tan.

welcomehome4With my modification, the blanket is 35″ by 47″ (instead of 36″ by 42″).

The 10 skeins were remarkably close on yardage. I was able to make 11 pattern repeats, at 9.5 inches each, casting on for the medium size on 10.5 needles (US). I had one ball left with 14 grams, three with 16 grams, and one with 20 grams.

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All that remains is to gift my creation to a sweet little one who is still too young to sleep with a blanket. I think a spring-colored blanket gifted in December would be perfect. Evelyn can use it in her carseat or both she and her mom or dad can cuddle up under it while Evelyn is being fed her bottle.

Sweetie Pie hat

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This is Be Sweet’s Sweetie Pie hat, designed by Tanis Gray. It’s sold as a kit. The hat pattern is printed on the inside of the ball band of a skein of Be Sweet Bambino Taffy. The yarn is 70% cotton, 30% bamboo and it’s very soft to the touch. No little tots will complain the hat is scratchy.

I’m a Tanis Gray fan. And I think this hat worked up really cute. But honestly the pattern is a bit of a mess. It’s arranged in a disorganized way. Anyone other than a beginner knitter will figure it out, though. The pattern is printed in ridiculously light ink. Eye strain really shouldn’t need to be part of the deal, Be Sweet!

I made a few modifications. I cast on the recommended 74 stitches, but increased one stitch (to 75) before the heart motif started. That way the hearts, and later the bobbles, are  all evenly spaced. I also modified the puny bobbles and did them this way: (K1, P1, K1, P1, K1) into the same stitch, turn and purl the 5 stitches, turn and knit the 5 stitches, then pass each stitch over the first one, in turn.

Here’s a better look at the crown and my ring of oversized bobbles.

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This kit has a surprise in store for the knitter. This isn’t a gradient ball of yarn. Instead, at every color change the new yarn color is just knotted in. Yipes! Of course, I undid the knots and worked the ends in. Erica, one of my guild members, knit this same hat. She said that Russian join worked well for her.

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It’s a pretty little thing. Your little sweetie pie will look cute in it.

“…the voice of the turtle is heard in our land”

Ernie Harwell, the Detroit Tigers Baseball Hall of Fame announcer, began the first spring training broadcast of each season with a reading from the Song of Solomon, King James Version. “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” I have no idea why he did that.

I also have no idea about that voice of the turtle part. I’ve read that language scholars say that Old English “turtla” was a derivative of the Latin “turtur” and that the word that the King James translators read as turtle was really turtledove. So, maybe we have a mistake on that voice of the turtle part. Voice of the dove would make more sense. Some turtles hiss though.

Anyway, we’ve seen lots of turtles this year on Long Lake.

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This Painted Turtle was sunning himself in the narrows. It is a very cold tolerant turtle. It’s been reportedly seen swimming under the ice of lakes in late winter. It emerges early in April, sometimes before full ice-out. Still, basking in the sun is a favorite thing for these turtles. In 1995, the Painted Turtle was named Michigan’s state reptile. Since the critter has been honored with that title, I figure I’d feature it first. A sure-fire way of identifying a Painted Turtle is by the red markings on its plastron. The plastron is a turtle’s lower shell.

Painted turtles can live 15 to 25 years.The females mature in 6 to 10 years. Painted Turtles are Michigan’s most common turtle.

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This ancient Snapping Turtle, complete with marine growth on his back, is the big guy that’s regularly spotted in Ghost Bay. If I am dangling my feet off the front of the pontoon boat and this guy surfaces, my toes will be out of there faster than two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Snapping Turtles are Michigan’s largest turtles.

Big head, long tail, and a thick neck so long that it extends half the length of its shell. So, watch out if you decide to help it cross a road because its beak has a very long reach. That upper shell, its carapace, is divided into scutes, like other shells in the hard-shelled turtle family. And along the edges of its carapace, the scutes have sort of a ruffled look. A Snapping Turtle usually feeds only underwater because it uses the water pressure to help swallow stuff.

Here’s another snapper, much smaller, but still a a substantial turtle.

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In the water, these guys can move remarkably fast–at least in bursts.

Snapping turtles, like turtles everywhere, lay their eggs in sandy soil. They will sometimes travel a long way looking for the right spot to lay eggs. The eggs are buried. Then the mother turtle gets herself back to the water. Any hatchlings have to try to make it to water on their own.

Here’s something quite rare to see on the lake. It’s the first time we’ve seen this guy. Gal, I guess. Two nights in a row she hauled herself out of the lake and walked across our lawn. The first night, when Steve photographed her and then Wesley (our neighbor’s grandson) approached her to about ten feet, she turned around and returned to the water. This is a Blanding’s Turtle. In some states it’s an endangered species. Here in Michigan, it is considered threatened.

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This was a very large Blanding’s Turtle. It’s shell was about 10 inches. These turtles can live for 50 years. Given her size, this one could be that old. The female will travel up to a mile to lay her eggs. And their nests are most successful in their fourth and fifth decades.

The evening after this photo was taken, she emerged again, from the same spot near our dock. She travelled hundreds of feet and headed into a wooded area behind our neighbor’s house. We figure she knew where she wanted to lay her eggs. Steve watched as long as she was visible, wanting to make sure that none of the dogs that might be about would mess with her. We didn’t see her return to the water.

Two features that help identify a Blanding’s Turtle are its high domed carapace and that big goofy grin on its face. blandings_wesley_lowres