White-tailed deer

Deer have been visiting us nearly every evening. They aren’t as scrawny as is typical for March. That must be because, except for two spells of frigid weather, we’ve had fairly moderate temperatures. Repeatedly this winter, there’s been snows, and then thaws. The deer must have been able to find more food than during a usual winter. And they’ve been in larger herds than we recall from other years.

Soon after Steve shot this video with his iPhone, more snow arrived.

The deer keep coming. A few are habituated to our bird feeder. They are eating what must mostly be oiled sunflower seed husks. Well, the finches have been coming in large flocks and one of their pastimes is picking a seed out of the feeder and dropping it on the ground. So there must be at least some sunflower seeds down there too.

This deer hung around and ate under the feeders long after the rest of the herd left the property. In fact, she wandered off a few times and then came back for more. She knows we’re watching and is hyper-alert. But still she eats her fill.

Chowing down under the feeder isn’t anything new. Almost exactly one year ago, check out what we caught on our game camera one night.

Even if their habits along our county roads suggest that deer aren’t the sharpest crayon in nature’s box, they are beautiful and interesting creatures.

Calvin’s Hobbes

A special niece recently asked me to knit a Hobbes for her friend’s new son, Calvin. I was daunted by the prospect but she’s a knitworthy niece. Once I settled on what I judged the clear winner on the pattern design, Tall Tiger by a Scottish designer with the Ravelry screen name of Browneyedbabs, I was even more daunted. Barbara’s pattern is a Ravelry freebie and must have required a zillion hours to work out. I am very proud of this knit.

Why daunted? I hadn’t done a Turkish cast on in a month of Sundays. I managed intarsia in the round on Jacobus and Saar, Annita Wilschut’s great monkey pattern. But that was just for a mouth. Wilschut practically supplied movement by movement instructions to make that mouth easier. But Hobbes (excuse me copyright police, Tall Tiger) was clearly going to be much more difficult. He needed it for the entire length of his white belly and his face. Many a Raveller has given up and just knit white patches and sewed them on. And then there was the little matter of trying to work jogless stripes. I’ve never mastered that technique. But clearly Hobbes was going to look goofy if I didn’t keep his stripes from jogging at one of his underarms.

Hobbes and I think this knitter did an excellent job on those jogless stripes.

The Turkish cast on link in the pattern also provided excellent directions. I’ll leave the matter of intarsia in the round for later in this post. But, in the end, my hack came out looking good.

An extra hint on those stripes? When knitting the limb (and tail) stripes, carry the black yarn up on the inside without twisting it, to avoid black showing through on the public side. Just don’t pull tightly when you start a black round. I also stitched up openings from the inside, as I saw them forming, e.g. at the base of the thumbs, the crotch, and the underarms.

I was so unsure about whether I could knit this guy, that I purchased Red Heart Hugs Light, a fairly inexpensive DK weight acrylic for the project. I reasoned that acrylic would be easy care, which is good. And the colors looked just like what I needed.

I followed the pattern and held the yarn doubled throughout, on size 6 needles. Hobbes turned out to be 20 inches tall, so quite close to the designer’s plan for an 18″ Tall Tiger. Hugs Light isn’t scratchy, so that’s good. But I have to say that it has an odd bumpiness. And the bumpy quality wasn’t well-served by doubling the yarn. Plus, it squeaked at times. It wasn’t any kind of fun to work with. And I’ve never had yarn talk back to me before. I don’t plan on using it again. With that little rant out of the way, the colors are perfect. And Hobbes can be popped in the washer and then the dryer and survive intact.

Faces are often not where I excel. But Hobbes is lookin’ good.

I decided I wanted the back of the ears to be stockinette so I doubled the stitches and knit them in the round. Otherwise I followed the pattern. Treating the ears that way also made it easier to sew the white inner ear onto the black.

For the mouth, I watched a few You Tube videos on the embroidery stem stitch. This is the best one I found, including because the stitcher works in yarn.

That’s loop stitch in the mane. With the loop tightly anchored, you cut it.

I found quite a few Calvin and Hobbes comic strips and laughed myself silly reading them. My trek through them was partly to see if Hobbes typically wore a bow tie. The pattern shows him with a bow tie. Since I didn’t see any of him with a bow tie, just a scarf occasionally, I left him without any clothes. The bow tie would serve well to hide a messy neck, but Calvin’s neck didn’t turn out messy.

Now, about intarsia in the round.

Despite buying the designer’s tutorial on working intarsia in the round, I simply didn’t understand her key instructions about pulling the “loop” of yarn and the photos in the tutorial didn’t help me. For other knitters, it’s been a different experience. Others report that it’s a fiddly maneuver but that it works well. First off, I am pretty sure whatever method you use for intarsia in the round, you have to cut the black yarn after each stripe in that belly section. With 5 rounds of orange it won’t work out that the black yarn ends up in the right spot when you need it. I think you could solve that problem by knitting 6 rounds of orange in between the black stripes, but that would yield a very tall tiger. And knitting 4 rounds of orange would work too but shrimp him up some.

One side of the intarsia join looks good without any work. But the other side, where the turn to purl is made…not so good. My hack, since I couldn’t master the technique that some others understood, was to anchor the turning side by attaching a long thread of white yarn at the base of that side of the tummy. At each turn to purl, or each continuation to knit on that side, I anchored the work by twisting the working yarn and the white yarn tail, tugging a bit to tighten the connection. I later (before stuffing) neatened up a few messy spots with mattress stitch, working from the public side. You probably have to be in the midst of this knit for that to make any sense. But if you give this knit a try and don’t understand what to do with the loop of yarn, maybe give my hack a try.

I needed far less yarn than the pattern called for, even doubling the yarn, and more orange than the other colors: 78 grams of white, 84 grams of orange, and 49 grams of black.

Isn’t that just the cat’s meow? Ahem, I guess the Tall Tiger’s meow? Dream on, Calvin!

On the wing…and the paw

Well. I’ll be. Here’s the news. This pretty cool nature photo wasn’t taken by Steve. I took this one. Through the great room window. With my iPad. (But Steve cropped it.)

This Pileated Woodpecker was chowing down at the paddle suet feeder for quite awhile. He was making a big mess, dropping the chunks of suet that the squirrels so appreciate. There is a red mustache on his face, so this really is a he. Pileateds at the feeder are skittery. You’d think they had eyes on the sides of their heads or something. Sometimes even if you get up from a chair 15 feet from the window they fly away. This one let me rise and approach the window with my iPad. But he flew away just as I snapped a few photos. I thought I’d missed him. I found I had this photo instead. It’s just after the pileated flew up from the feeder.

Such a magnificent bird.

It’s been a bit of a drought this winter in terms of nature posts. I’ve been knitting up a storm and my blog reflects that. But nature continues to capture our attention.

Sticking to the theme of bird feeder adventures, and of my own photography, check out this sorrowful fellow.

Close, but no cigar.

This raccoon’s saga continued for a bit. He was emerging in the daytime to poke around at the seed and suet droppings under the feeders. And he was emerging from under our main deck. That was somewhat concerning to us, so we decided to try to trap him and move him to another location.

We set out a humane trap. With a little lunch buffet laid out inside the trap. I put a paper bowl of crumbled up aromatic brie, a soft cow’s milk cheese. I really didn’t know if raccoons like brie but I don’t and we had some left over from the holidays. Brie in a paper bowl in the trap, with the door open. We put the trap out toward dusk and brought it inside the garage after a few hours. If we caught the critter, we didn’t want it to have to spend a scary night inside the trap. First evening. Nothing. Second evening. The aroma of the brie must have been too much to resist. I was in the great room when I thought I heard something. Sure enough. A raccoon. In the trap. Pawing away trying to get out.

Steve had his hatchback ready to transport. The plan was to drive several miles away and then release the raccoon. I didn’t go with Steve. I heard a raccoon cry once when I was young when dogs chased it up a small tree. It’s not a sound I wanted to hear again or inflict. Steve says the raccoon was quiet and calm. In fact, it polished off the rest of the brie during the ride.

Steve released it. And came home. We watched out for it in the days after, thinking the brie might have been so delicious that the raccoon would find the way back to our place.

There is a raccoon prowling about at night. But we don’t know it’s the brie-lover. And it isn’t living under our deck.

Here’s a view of the water flowing at the dam at the north end of Long Lake. Can spring really be just around the bend?

Sunrise Side Bear

“Sunrise Side” is the nickname for the northeast section of Michigan’s lower peninsula, the Lake Huron side. That’s where this bear originated: in Montmorency County where there are real bears aplenty. I’ve never seen one, actually. But I did hear one on a dark summer night when we’d left some bird seed out. Montmorency County bears don’t wear cute mistake rib scarves, though again not having seen one yet I suppose I don’t know that for sure. For sure they like to raid bird feeders though.

Sunrise Side Bear is an easy knit. I (ahem) designed it and it’s available for download free on Ravelry. It’s suitable for a beginner knitter including because the directions for the four short row sections are set out in detail. It’s easy to knit and easy to sew up.

Sunrise Side Bear needs to be knit on needles 2-3 sizes smaller than typical for the yarn weight because this bear is shy about having his stuffing show. Knit to gauge, with Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted, and stuffed firmly, the bear is about 9 inches tall and 6 inches from arm-to-arm.

Sunrise Side Bear is knit flat. All you need to know is set out in the pattern including how to work the short rows and pick up the wraps to avoid holes in the bear’s skin. Here’s a look at the gang of five, fully knit and waiting for sewing.

Here’s the same gang folded in half ready for sewing up.

The sewing is very easy because the front and the back sections match up exactly. These bears are sewn and waiting for their stuffing.

Here’s the bears fully stuffed and wondering when they’ll get their eyeballs, noses, and mouths.

And as my granddaughter Evelyn says when she’s finished with something and feeling kind of proud: “Ta da!”

I like this colorful gang quite a bit. But natural-colored Sunrise Side Bear work out well too. I wasn’t going to give this one a scarf, but he begged for one.

All the bears so far were knit with worsted weight on size 5 needles. But this next guy is knit with fingering weight Yarn Hollow Squish that I had left over from some bedsocks I finished recently. I used size 1.5 (US) needles. The bear turned out to be 6 inches tall and 4.5 inches across the arms.

I knit this next pair on size 1 needles using leftover fingering weight Malabrigo Mechita. They turned out even smaller than the Squish Sunrise Side Bear. The Mechita pair is 5.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches across the arms. I had some other fingering weight leftovers, MadTosh Light and Rhichard Devrieze Peppino. The pair looked so bare naked, that I knitted them some duds.

If you decide to knit Sunrise Side Bear, I’d love to see how they turn out. I’ll find them if you post a photo on your Ravelry project page and link to the pattern. And feel free to post here or on Ravelry if you have any questions as you knit the pattern.

Boot cuffs

I’ve previously made known my low opinion about boot cuffs as a useful clothing accessory. To sum it up, I rank boot cuffs low. Very low. But one of my knitworthy nieces mentioned how much she liked boot cuffs and asked if I expected to be knitting any. I don’t need much more encouragement than that.

These are Jennifer Boot Cuffs, a Kate Bostwick pattern I’ve knit a number of times before. I worked these up in the yarn the pattern calls for, worsted weight Berroco Ultra Alpaca. Excellent pattern. Great yarn.

Here’s the same pattern knit in Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Superwash worsted. The yarn is a beefy superwash and stands up nicely to this pattern. The cables pop in both yarns.

One of the fun things about knitting this basically useless fashion accessory is that the knitting is completed in almost no time at all. I am comfortable on double points. In fact (shhhh) I’ve never learned to magic loop. Unlike hats, you don’t need to switch needles because there are no crown decreases. The only thing that needs a knitter’s special care is that the cast on and bind off need to be loose. Very loose. Some people will accept suffering in the name of fashion. But I don’t want my knitting to be the instrument that cuts off blood circulation in any major arteries.

Feel free to contradict me about the utility of boot cuffs. I accept that boot cuffs could keep snow out of a person’s boots. But my observation are that people wearing boot cuffs aren’t typically trudging through deep snow. And I know that boot cuffs can add to the feeling of overall warmth outdoors. Even though I’ve not personally noticed that the five inches above my boots are a particularly chilly spot, every body is different.

I enjoy knitting this pattern. What with the state of the Canadian dollar, you can purchase the pattern on Ravelry for $2.87 US. I’ve knit six pair already. Every pair has been gifted and gratefully received. And, admittedly, people look cute wearing boot cuffs.

This next pair is tincanknits’ major entry into the boot cuff category: Paved.

These are knit in Mountain Colors Mountain Goat, a 55% wool, 45% mohair blend. On my needles, Paved runs a bit large even knit to gauge. I do not have svelte calves and a medium fits.

The Tincans have come up with a stylish addition to the boot cuff universe. The pattern will set you back $5.00. But my prediction is that you will knit multiples. I am on my fourth pair.

This next Paved is knit in an old stand-by: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted.

Such nice bouncy no-nonsense wool yarn.

So, if you haven’t tried knitting boot cuffs yet, I’d say have a go at it even if wearing them isn’t your cup of tea. Mine disappear like waffles doused in maple syrup on a wintery morning.