Architexture and Minnie

Architexture. No, not architecture. It’s archi-texture, as in the smoothness and roughness of a lot of different stitches all coming together to form an arch. No, not an arch. A shawl. A lot of different stitches all coming together to make a shawl. Shawlitexture. Archishawl. Enough. This is Architexture, by Jennifer Weissman.

I bought my Architexture as a Craftsy kit. It’s available now, kitted with the same Cloudborn Highland fingering weight yarn that I used, for $13.75. $13.75. How on earth does Craftsy manage that? Weissman sells her pattern for $5.00 on Ravelry. That leaves Craftsy $8.75 for 988 yards (two skeins, at 100 grams each) of 100% wool. Ok. Weissman must not be getting a lot of her well-earned $5. But, still, these poor sheep can’t possibly be making anything close to a minimum wage. They need to go on strike or something. I knit the largest size and still have 50 grams left.

Here’s another look.

Is Cloudborn Fiber’s Highland the greatest yarn ever? Nope. Not even close, in my opinion. I’d have rather used the Madelintosh Merino Light, or Dream in Color Jilly, or Wollmeise Pure that Weissman’s pattern calls for. But I like getting a bargain and this was (and is) an incredible bargain.

The Cloudborn yarn–unlike the other weights of this company’s yarn I’ve knit with–was very splitty working on size 6 needles. Once I switched to my ChiaoGoo lacepoints the yarn was tamed. Some. But the bottom line is I have an excellent shawl, in a color and shape I like. This pattern looked a bit daunting to me at the outset, but it was actually quite straightforward.

This next small shawl/long neckerchief is a free pattern available on Ravelry: Minnie by Jumper Cables’ Annie Baker.

Mine is knit in the amazing Extra, by Blue Sky Fibers. It’s an Aran weight, 55% alpaca, 45% merino. It is soft, extra soft actually.

I am a huge garter stitch fan, but even for a fan it can get tedious. This pattern has just enough detail to make it interesting, while still being super easy.

Instead of 38 repeats of the pattern, I did 44. And then I started the decreases. My Minnie is 11 inches at the widest point. It’s an extravagant 69 inches from end to end.

This is a wicked good little free pattern. Give it a try. And thanks, Annie Baker, for your generous gift to the knitting community.

Loon News

When the loons arrived on the lake, they weren’t all seeing eye to eye. It was sometimes more like beak to beak. There just seemed to be a little more tussling than usual this Spring. Plus there was lot of that scooting-around thing they do.

We’ve had loon chicks hatch as early as mid-June. In fact, back several years ago they hatched on Father’s Day, which always seemed sort of a nice coincidence. After all, loon dads do their sitting time on the nest, just like loon moms. And when the chicks are born, both parents work hard to feed the young ones.

We were concerned when we realized that there were no nests on Belly Button Island–the big island in the north part of the lake. Not to worry. One pair set up their nest on the west side of the small island just across from the public launch. And apparently the other pair just stood guard over the five loon nesting buoys at the big island, sort of faking everybody out.

The small island, especially on the west side, is a calm spot on the lake. So, good choice loon. Oh, except we’ve also seen a big snapping turtle laying eggs on the island and worried she’d decide to go after the eggs on one of the rare occasions when the nest was bare. Then, with just those few feet of water between the island and the land, the risk of raccoons, skunks, mink, otters, and fox getting the eggs seems high. In fact, just about everything walking or flying will raid loon nests sometimes, including gulls, ravens, crows, and there’s even some reports of Bald Eagles chowing down. Very worrisome.

But this pair was vigilant.

And, we are pretty sure that it was sometime on July 3rd that the chicks hatched and headed out on the water. Well, first on a parent’s back.

That red-eyed parental stare cuts right to the chase: “These twins can’t dive yet. Do not run them over. If you run them over I know where you live and we’ll be at the end of your dock yodeling all night while your trying to watch Game of Thrones.”

We didn’t applaud their timing. The lake is so busy over Independence Day. But, babies are born when they’re born.

Here’s another first-day photo.

Happily, the twins made it through their first challenging days. Here they are two days later, on July 5th, already looking like their parents are good providers.

By July 8th, the parents were leaving the chicks bobbing around while they both dove for food.

We can’t protect the twins from the big snappers, or the bald eagles or the giant pike or the rest of the hungry things.  But we can be sure they don’t get whacked by a tuber or run over by a PWC. So, let’s all look out for the little fuzzballs! Hopefully, come October, we’ll find out they’ve gotten a good start on Long Lake and are headed south for the winter.

Acorn Hill Pony: Free Pattern

I am excited! This is “my” first pattern, offered free on Ravelry. Here’s the explanation for those quote marks around the my.

Acorn Hill Pony is originally a pattern attributed to a knitter associated with the Acorn Hill school, a Waldorf kindergarten and nursery now located in Silver Spring, Maryland. The school’s administrator, Janet Johnson, gave written permission for me to release the pattern. I’ve modified it just a bit. I’ve corrected a few errors in the original. And I’ve extensively re-written the pattern to conform to the sensibilities of modern knitters. So now knitters won’t have to deal with such directions as “increase on the 14th, 16th, 17th and 19th stitch.” I’ve photographed each stage of the pony’s construction and detailed the sewing up, stuffing, and finishing.

The school’s generosity in allowing the pattern to be released is greatly appreciated. They didn’t have a copy of it anymore in their archive–though the administrator remembered it. So it’s been saved for the school too.

Acorn Hill Pony is approximately 7.5 inches/19 cm long from nose to tail and 6 inches/ 5 cm from hoof to head. It is knit flat on needles 2-3 sizes smaller than typical for the yarn weight.  This is because Acorn Hill Pony is shy about having his stuffing show through his hide. All mine are knit with worsted weight, often in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted. I typically knit mine on a size 5 needle.

The pony is knit flat, in one piece, with easy sewing up. My version of the pattern includes assembly instructions with photos. It is suited even to beginner knitters.

When your pony is bound off, this is how it will look laid flat, with legs splayed out.

Folded along his spinal ridge, pony starts looking more like a pony.

My ponies don’t like to be displayed without their stuffing, but here’s one more view.

This is pony sewed and ready for stuffing.

All right, I know you want to see the pony butt, so here it is.

I made my first Acorn Hill pony when my son was 4 and was attending a Waldorf preschool. The school supplied the pattern and asked us to knit the ponies, stuff them with unspun wool, and donate them to the school fair. Did I knit ponies? I knit herds of ponies.

And over the years, I’ve totally lost count of how many I’ve made. Hundreds. Definitely hundreds.

Here’s one of the originals, knit in about 1990. Still looking good, despite a few trips through the washing machine.

Even the pony tail is still hanging on.

You can read up on more Acorn Hill Ponies here, and here, and here. And, in case you doubt that I’ve knit zillions, here’s glimpses of a few very old ponies–long before my photos improved with Steve’s remedial efforts aimed at me.

I am so grateful that a talented knitter designed this pony. Please consider giving this sweet and simple pattern a try for a young one in your neck of the woods.

Dragonfly Moult

This dragonfly just crawled out of its nymph carcass. It chose the webbed strap of our colorful kayak cart to finish its moult and then dry off its wings in the sun.

In its nymph stage, just like in its adult dragonfly stage, these guys (or are they one guy) are fearsome predators. Google “dragonfly nymph feeding” and you can watch many YouTube videos that are a way too gruesome for my little blog. I don’t think anyone comes here to watch worms, tadpoles, and feeder fish be chomped and gobbled up by something that looks like it inspired Ridley Scott’s Alien.

With its moult complete, this dragonfly will eat just about every bug it can get its mouth near. It catches bugs like mosquitos, flies, mayflies by using its legs as a basket to dump food into its mouth. Dragonflies basically eat constantly, And they are among the most efficient predators on the planet. Some estimates saying they capture 95% of the prey they set their eyes on. One look at that mask of theirs (the large hinged lower lip) lets you know these guys mean business.

Oh, dragonflies don’t bite people unless you really really provoke them, say by holding them when they want to fly away. They seem to be drawn to colorful clothing. If one lands on you, just sit quietly and enjoy it.

If you watch birds, you are birding. If you watch odonata (the Latin name for the dragonfly species) you are oding. We enjoyed this weekend’s oding. Dragonflies are buzzing around Long Lake in great numbers right now.

Modern Mukluks

It’s finally summer here in Michigan: hot and muggy and what am I knitting? Andrea Mowry’s “Wanderers: Modern Mukluks.” I purchased the pattern as part of a Craftsy kit that included Cloudborn Fibers Highland Worsted. I haven’t been super pleased with this company’s fingering weight, but the worsted was very nice to work with. Well spun, no knots, no thinned spots.

My only modification of the pattern was to add an inch of one-by-one ribbing at the top of each sock. Many of the Ravelry projects suffer from an unpleasant rolled top so many Ravelers before me have made the same modification.

The pattern calls for an afterthought heel. That worked well.

One itsy bitsy problem. Even though I knit mismatched ribbing, this is how much of the main color I had left.

Way too close for comfort.

What’s your strategy when you think you may run out of yarn? Do you knit faster? I’m more likely to not watch. I know it’s going to be close, so I just don’t look. I think I feel that what I can’t see can’t hurt me.