Liberty Wool

This is Helene Rush’s Bowties Scarf, knit in Classic Elite’s multi-colored Liberty Wool. It’s a superwash worsted. Two skeins of two separate colorways create this interesting piece. In fact, if you knit a third section in another colorway, you’d end up able to mix-and-match for additional looks. That’s what a new knitting friend of mine is planning after meeting my Bowties in person.

This photo explains.

These aren’t knitted centipedes having a rumble. These are the individual halves of the scarf. Here are the halves curled up into flower blooms.

Set out in these photos my guess is that you’ve figured out just how easy a knit this garter stitch cutie is.

Let’s put it back together, matching up each tab in one strip with its twin tab in the other strip. I’ve found that a square knot works best.

Here’s one I made in two different colorways about five years ago. It’s such a good knitting idea, don’t you think? And Liberty Wool really makes it pop. But you could knit it out of any interesting color-changing yarn. Or even out of two (or one) solid colors. Or try a color-changing yarn on one side and a solid on the other. Check out the Ravelry project pages to see what the knitting universe has come up with.

I recently came into a cache of Liberty Wool multi when a favorite shop closed. So unfortunate. But the shop’s owner deeply discounted her yarns and I drank deeply at the well.

Meet Molly.

You’ve met Good Golly Miss Molly on my blog once before. We marveled at how the heck this four-row pattern ends up looking so cool. Some have likely felt a bit miffed at paying six dollars for a four-row pattern. (Actually, I have the Classic Elite booklet that includes Molly so my investment was much less per pattern-row.) But, really, could any of us have figured out how to make this happen out of a piece of what’s basically colorful fat string? Susan Mills is the knitting world genius who figured it out.

I enjoy the way the ruffles can be wound up. In fact, it’s a great way to store Molly.

Molly’s two halves on either side of the center ridges are not the same. One side is squared up near the ridge and the other one is pointy. If the scarf is folded along its top spine, the flopped-over (then-public) side will match the bottom half. It’s hard to explain but very easy to knit. And by the time you’re done with this scarf you will be a short-row wiz.

Here’s my best hint to free yourself from consulting the pattern except for a few repeats. It works as long as you can easily count ridges to be sure you don’t end up with a fat (or skinny) ruffle.  Knit a row 1 if you see two ridges as you start the row. Knit a row 3 if you see 4 ridges. Others have also emphasized that it’s important to mark the “right hand side” of the work. By that, they mean, the right (as you look at your work) rather than the left side. I did that. But it’s not needed if you just count the ridges as you start a row.

We knitters owe so much to Classic Elite for its great yarns and wonderful patterns. I am already mourning that it “will be closing its doors in the very near future.” “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” But it’s so.

Wrap-me-ups

These are, you must admit, the cutest thing since sliced bread. Wait, no. Don’t admit that. That’s supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. They are as cute as a bug in a rug. No. That’s not right either. That’s supposed to be as snug as a bug in a rug. But that expression always sounds rather ominous. Especially to yarnies whose fear of bugs in rugs and other woolens is legendary.

They are as cute as a bug’s ear. There. That’s at least a proper homely expression. But what on earth does it mean? Apparently, the origins of the expression should have us saying that something is as “acute” as a bug’s ear. Ok. That at least makes a kind of sense even though I’ve not really met a bug with ears, not exactly anyway. And whatever they have that passes for ears is not something that’s at all cute but possibly bug hearing is still acute. There’s nothing acute about these little critters though.

This knitter is digressing. Again. These are “wrap-me-up toys” by Susan B. Anderson and I couldn’t be more pleased about how they worked out. Evelyn, just turned three, likes them. Here’s a closer look at the individual wrap-me-ups. They are knitted in my favorite go-to toy yarn, Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted.

Here’s the kitten, up close wrapped and then unwrapped.

Here’s the puppy. I’ve named him Clifford, given the red yarn I used. I didn’t have a full stash of Lamb’s Pride colors and sort of just found colors that worked OK together.

The body and legs of each of the animals are knit the same. What distinguishes one from the other are the tails and ears, the facial features, and in the case of the pig the nose.

The animals are knit in the round, on needles a few sizes smaller than what you’d normally use for the weight of the yarn. Once the critters are stuffed, it’s hard not to have some of the “ladders” show between the needles and some of the increases and decreses. You’ll see that more in the next two animals, who posed for you with their construction details showing. Here’s the lamb, first wrapped and then not.

 

All of the animals are meant to have eyes that look sleepy (or asleep). The yarn button in the blanket is just a bobble added on after the blanket is complete. I made an I-cord loop on one corner that fastens over the bobble when the animals are in wrap-up-mode.

And here is the pig.

I was running low on some of the four colors I used, so I went off the reservation on a few of the blankets. But mostly I was still true to Anderson’s pattern.

Admittedly, these were a tad fiddly to knit. The good thing? There are no separate pieces to sew together. The legs, ear, and tails are all knitted onto the stuffed animal body. That’s good for the sewing impaired, but it also contributes to the fiddly quotient.

Evelyn loves to cover up her stuffed buddies, so I figured she’d like these guys. But I also know that she sometimes likes to tote her toys around, so I decided to keep on knitting. I knit a fairly large (13″ by 18″) blanket that the whole bunch could gather on. I used some Sirdar Bigga, a discontinued super-bulky superwash wool, and size 17 neeedles. The largest size double points I have are size 11, so I worked up the applied-I-cord border on 11s.

As I approached each corner of applied I-cord, I knit 10 rounds of unattached 4-stitch I cord. That gives Evelyn a nice finger hold as she carries the blanket around.

Here’s how I I worked the applied I-cord. First, I picked up an entire side of stitches on a spare circular needle. I cast on 4 stitches on the doublepoints. Knit 3 stitches on the doublepoints. Slip the 4th stitch purlwise. Bring the yarn forward in a yarn over. Knit the first picked up stitch from the circular needle. Pass the yarn over “stitch” and the slipped stitch over the picked-up stitch. Then slide the stitches on the double point and repeat. The slipped stitch and yarn over work together to hide the white color-blip (from the main section) that would otherwise appear when applied I-cord is worked in a contrasting color.

Next, I found a perfect basket and lined it with the Bigga blanket.

Totally toteable.

For the feet

These are Susan B. Anderson’s top-down Smooth Operator Socks. Actually they are my socks, but you know the drill. Anderson designed them. I knit them. And, in this case, Bad Amy is the yarnie whose work gave these socks their pizzazz.

I’d used the gold of the Bad Amy yarn set on another project and wanted to find a pattern that would make the self-striping yarn look its best, even without a gold toe and heel. Smooth Operators fit the bill perfectly. The design is meant to help self-striping yarn do its striping best. The pattern helps you to plan for two identical socks. I succeeded, except for the heels. And, more important than two perfectly matched socks, the afterthought heel assures that the striping isn’t interfered with on the front of the sock while a knitter is busy knitting the heel.

Honestly, I am concerned that these heels won’t hold up well. I prefer a heel with slipped stitches to help durability. But, for looks, this pair gets high marks. I am planning to wear them with sandals to try to avoid having to darn the heels. Hmm. That would be a neat trick. Darning, that is. I’ve never darned socks. I’ve watched videos on how it’s done. That’s as close as I’ve come.

My Smooth Operators followed on the heels of another recent sock escapade. My escapade started with this beautiful skein of Socks That Rock.

I go limp in the face of pink and spring green. And those blue splotches looked so good in the skein.

Well. That’s a fine howdy-do. I nominate these for the worst-pooling-ever award. I can’t and won’t fault the pattern, which is Churchmouse Yarns & Teas’ Basic Socks. It’s an excellent basic sock pattern. In fact, if you’ve not knit socks before and one to try sock-knitting, this is an excellent pattern because the directions are extremely detailed. Don’t hold these socks against that pattern.

Maybe if I scrunch them up a bit they’ll become less awful.

No. I will still wear these socks. It’s great yarn. If we meet up at Freddy’s you will know me by my socks. There won’t be another pair of these anywhere else except on my feet.

This next bit of footgear worked out much better. A different variegated yarn stood up well to a different Churchmouse pattern, Turkish Bed Socks. Mine are knit in Yarn Hollow Squish, an interesting fingering weight in 60% Wool, 30% Rayon from Bamboo, and 10% Nylon. I don’t know what Rayon from Bamboo is all about, but Squish is excellent yarn. I had a partial skein from a cowl kit that didn’t work out for me, so I repurposed it for these bed socks.

I’ve knit these before. They do not disappoint and look great in self-striping yarn.

Birding on Hillman’s Long Lake

It’s been quite a spring for birding on Long Lake.

This male Baltimore Oriole and his mostly yellow partner have been eating us out of house and orange. We think it’s only one pair. And for the last four days they’ve been eating an orange a day. The female seems to prefer this birch tree feeder. The male comes closer to the house and eats the half-orange we hung on a maple tree.

We’ve tried to tempt with oranges in the past, basically without success. But this pair is bringing us tons of colorful pleasure in exchange for a good dose of vitamin C.

The male tries to feed at the hummingbird feeder every once in awhile, without much success. His song is described on Cornell’s site as “flutelike” with a “full, rich tone,” consisting of “a short series of paired notes, repeated 2–7 times, lasting 1–2 seconds.” Yep. And I will add that it seems to get more insistent and irritated when the orange halves are depleted.

Earlier in the spring, Steve got this great shot of a Purple Finch, feeding on a sunflower seed.

And, of course, that’s a Chickadee off to the left. We see Goldfinches by the boatload. But Purple Finches? Not so many. They seem slightly bigger and more solidly built than the Goldfinches. They are red, not purple, though. This article gives solid information to help distinguish a Purple Finch from a House Finch. We’re pretty confident this is a Purple.

Purple Finches aren’t rare in Michigan. Neither are Spotted Sandpipers. But we don’t often see either bird.

This Spotted Sandpiper was bobbing around foraging in the grass near our dock, and eating, for about 20 minutes. This bird’s nicknames include teeter-peep, teeter-bob, teeter-snipe, and tip-tail. The first time you see their comical bobbing and scooting, the nicknames make every bit of sense.

The male Spotted Sandpiper incubates the eggs and takes care of the young. The female? She’s busy in a different way. In any breeding season she may mate with up to four males and lay four separate clutches of eggs for her male partners to tend.

Breeding adults  have dark spots on their bellies. This breeding plumage molts away as summer progresses.

Pretty bird, in a subdued way.

The Northern Flicker, by contrast, is not subdued. Flickers look like they were sewn together out of parts of several birds. Sort of a Frankenbird.

Red (at the back of the head). A Black whisker. A Black bib. Orange cast to his head. Spots. Stripes. Yellow on his tail and flight feathers. Plus there’s a white rump patch. It almost easier to list what colors a Flicker isn’t.

Flickers spend a lot of time feeding on the ground. And when they fly, like most other woodpeckers, they fly in a deep arc. This Flicker almost buried his long beak up to his eyeballs in search of tasty bugs.

For the first time this year, we’ve seen White-Crowned Sparrows. As with the rest of the birds featured in this post, they aren’t rare. But we’ve not identified them before. Since they are such a distinctive bird, we’ve convinced ourselves that they are new to our neck of the woods rather than that our powers of perception have improved.

That black-and-white striped helmet on his head is hard to miss. This sparrow spends a lot of time feeding on the ground. If “our” White-Crowned Sparrows are any indication, they also spend quite a bit of time mixing it up with one another. Over and over again a pair (or three) rise up a few feet from the ground and, wings fluttering, they go after one another. Whether this is aggression, courtship, or just a bird without a sunny disposition, we don’t know.

Common Mergansers are only on Long Lake for a few weeks each spring and fall as they pass through on their migrations. Here’s a pair, in the shadows near our shore.

The male was looking spectacular. Green head. Red beak, Mostly white (with black) body. The female? She’s got a white and gray speckled body and a red hairdo. They don’t look like a pair that would go together.

Here’s Ms. Hairdo, peering near the shore and heading under our dock.

Moving now from one kind of spectacular to…a very different kind of spectacular.

A major bunch of Turkey Vultures. They (along with about 10 others) congregated behind our neighbor’s pole barn this week. They weren’t on a kill. They were just socializing. Maybe they were planning how they’ll do their face makeup for the upcoming Vulture prom. I admit this gathering creeps me out some. It makes me think I should lose weight, exercise more, and get healthier.

Our industrious state bird, the American Robin–yep, the bird who LEAVES Michigan every year as the weather gets cold–is busy nest-building in a lower branch of one of our tall White Pines.

Female Robins build the nest. The last few days we’ve been watching her working on it, flying back and forth with long grasses in her bill. She builds the nest from the inside out. First, she presses grasses into a cup shape, using the wrist of a wing. Then she gathers worm-castings to line the nest with mud. HGTV house hunters probably wouldn’t approve. Worm-castings gray probably isn’t quite the “in” shade.

Hats for a cold spring

Looks like spring. But this fingering weight hat will keep the wintery weather at bay. That’s been handy this April. Good news, though. Ice-out a few days ago on Long Lake! We’ve already been in our kayaks. The beaver were kind to our Ghost Bay trees and didn’t even munch the birch trees. The small-mouth bass are moving throughout the lake. Our dock went in today. Nick’s been wake-boarding this past weekend. So, we rush the season a bit, even while I cling to winter knits. There’s no time when I don’t knit wool hats. Even in the summer, hats keep popping off my needles.

This beauty is Joan Sheridan’s Hearts and Flowers Fair Isle Cap. Sheridan kits this up in seven shades of Jamieson’s Spindrift and and sells the kit at her shop. As always with her kits, there was plenty of leftover yarn–even though I knit the largest size. The pattern is also downloadable on Ravelry.

Here’s a look at the great crown decrease section.

Such fun to knit! And so much bang for your knitting bucks.

I think I feel a red(dish) hat blog post coming on. This next one is Dawnlight Slouchy Hat by Jo-Anne Klim.

I knit mine in String Theory’s Hand-dyed Merino DK, in the Rose Madder colorway. It’s a delicious shade of reddish-orange. I knit this hat over the winter and got tons of use out of it. The texture and slouch work well for me. I’ve learned, only lately actually, that head-hugger beanies aren’t the right look for me anymore. (That doesn’t stop me from wearing plenty of beanies anyway, though.)

This is one major beanie. It’s Dan the Plug’Ole, by Nathan Taylor. A little research and I learned the apparent origin of the pattern name: “Your hoglet has gawn dan the plug’ole”  is a line from an old Cockney dialect poem. I was drawn to the pattern exactly because of that spiralling ribbing and stockinette. It’s a fairly easy knit. You have to stay awake to make it work. But the effect is worth the effort. And that wide brim really keeps ears warm. Mine is knit in Cascade 220 Superwash Effects. Good hat. Good yarn.

Here’s a look at that spiraling top as it goes down the plug hole.

Honestly, I had a little trouble with the spiral. Snooze, you lose (a stitch or two). But it worked out well. Eventually.

This next hat, a freebie by Jan Wise, also has a great name: F309 Slouchy Hat with Picot Edge. This name tells a knitter all that needs to be known. I knit mine in a great yarn, now discontinued, Harrisviille Designs’ Orchid with Cashmere:

My top ended up a tad unruly. Here it is, unblocked. I kind of like it this way.

This next hat is Brick Sidewalk Beanie, an Ann Weaver design, free on Ravelry. I knit mine in String Theory Hand-Dyed Merino DK, in wisteria. Ok, not a red like the rest of the post’s hats. But sort of a pink. Sort of a lavender pink. Close enough.

It’s an interesting knit. The ribbing is unusual. And I really like the way the three columns of ribbing continue up the hat and taper gently through the crown decrease section.

I knit the largest size and mine turned out a bit long at the back of the neck. That’s easily remedied by shortening the body of the hat about an inch. Or it could be worn with a bit of slouch and a bit of attitude.

You only have to make one hat, so there’s no such thing as second hat syndrome to deal with. You don’t have to obsess much about gauge, because heads come in such a variety of sizes you’ll always find a head to fit. And knitting hats is the perfect portable project for all those waiting rooms we need to frequent. Go forth and knit hats! All. Year. Long.