Old bears, new duds


I’ve knit about a zillion of these since this set was knit circa 1987. I’m only exaggerating a tad. I’ve posted photos on Ravelry showing 30 of these bears that I’ve knitted over the years. My son was a toddler when I knit this trio. He turned 30 recently and has a toddler of his own now.

This is Lesley Anne Price’s, “The Bears,” from her 1984 Ballantine-published book, Kids’ Knits. Unfortunately the book is out-of-print now. If you can find it at your library or on Ebay it’s definitely worth a look-see. These bears are just one pattern among many that merit a knitter’s attention.

These bears didn’t always look so felted and mangled. They used to be quite the fine fellows, decked out in sweaters or vests. Recently I decided some hot water and a bit of felting would be a good thing to be sure that they’d be rid of all their decades-old dust. And clearly they needed some new duds.

Look at them now!

old_bearsPapa, Mama and Baby Bear are lookin’ fine! Soon they will be gifted to my son’s children. And so that big wheel just spins and spins.

Here’s a closer look at Papa Bear and his sweater, which is Jacquelyn Smythe’s contribution to another out-of print publication: The Designer Collection (for Bears). It is a collection of outfits sized for smallish bears and was a fund-raiser for The Children’s Aid Society. In addition to Smythe, there are patterns from Meg Swanson like this one, modeled by a bunny I knit for Isaac. The list of luminaries who contributed to this 1993 pamphlet, edited by Judith Shangold, includes Kaffe Fassett, Norah Gaughan, Nicki Epstein, Nancy Marchant, and Deborah Newton.


All the new finery is knit in Plymouth Yarn Worsted Merino Superwash. Papa Bear is pleased and hasn’t even complained that his head had to be a bit squashed to fit into his roll-neck sweater.

papa_bearMama Bear spent three nearly three decades wearing a rather unsightly garter stitch vest and so she requested something fancier this time.


This is Judith Shangold’s sundress pattern from one of her Bear in Sheep’s Clothing pamphlets. I know you don’t really want to hear it but, yes, it’s out-of-print too. At first Mama Bear was skeptical that this was going to be much better than her old garter stitch vest. But once she tried it on she pronounced it almost perfect.


She’s been heard to mumble that I could have done better with the back straps. And she thought Papa Bear might have appreciated a less modest neckline.


I told her she could just wear it backward if she wanted to be daring. Besides, I tend to knit these small bears without facial features and it’s hard to tell if she’s coming or going since the family came out of the washer and dryer. (But I suppose she and Papa Bear know the difference,)

And here’s Baby Bear’s vest.


There are actually two Shangold Bear in Sheep’s Clothing pamphlets, one published in 1991 (and that’s where the vest pattern is from) and one in 1992. Such a sweet easy pattern.


My son’s son won’t be two until October and my son’s daughter turns two months soon. I’m planning for the perfect occasion to gift these guys to the children. I’d sort of like them to know that they were their dad’s stuffed buddies too.

These stitches we knit? Pretty special stuff sometimes.

Baby shrug with booties

Sundae“Ice Cream Sundae” by Dani Sunshine has been in my Ravelry queue since “Kelsey was a pup,” as my mother-in-law used to say. She didn’t ever have a pup named Kelsey, but the gist of it was that Kelsey’s pupitude was a unit of measure for a long time.  Anyway, I spotted it while it was being test-knit a few years back. I had to wait for a reason to knit it. Evelyn is my reason.

This is worked in Plymouth Yarn DK Merino Superwash. My experience with this yarn is that worsted weight is a bit more reliably unsplitty. But I definitely like the DK results.

It’s an interesting construction. But still very easy and a quick knit. Of course, it’s tough to not have a quick knit in a baby’s shrug pattern. I knit the smallest size, 6 months. The pattern, available for download on Ravelry, is sized in one-year increments all the way to 7 years. I like this one enough that I can definitely see myself knitting it again as Evelyn grows.


I stocked enough of this yarn to knit the Rabbit Illusion blanket and planned for a sweater to match (sort of). But after I knit Ice Cream Sundae something was still missing from my (lovingly) cobbled-together summer-baby layette.

Booties. The shrug took such a small amount of yarn that I had plenty left for a pair of booties. Teeny feet can get a bit chilled even in the summer.

bootiesThese are Gail Hill’s “Flower Booties.” The free pattern is available on Ravelry. I like this little pair so much that I giggled my way through much of the knitting–even the second one. And every knitter knows that the second of any pair is always the test.

These booties really merit more attention on Ravelry. I’ve knit and posted them on my project page (Noreen1009). And one other knitter living in Turkey (crimeamom1) has knit another pair. And that’s it. OK. Every knitter with a few projects under her or his belt looks at these and can see that the petals are a tad fiddly to work up. But it’s so worth the effort. I decided that the wrap and turn wasn’t needed in the foot part of the booties because garter stitch thoroughly hides that tiny hole. Except for that one modification, I followed the pattern exactly and it was 100% correct.

Cudos to both these talented designers!

Mallard brood


This is a mother mallard and her brood in Ghost Bay. Anas platyrhynchos. Out of the water, the hen’s speculum is very clear. It’s that band of metallic blue wing color, edged with a bit of white. Well, the blue is clear anyway.

The mallard hen builds a nest near tallish wetland plants or under a shrub. Actually, mallards are quite adaptable and in cities they may even nest in a flower planter. The hen scrapes around a bit, lays her eggs, and then puts grass, reeds, and leaves around her to make a rim for the nest. It will be lined with soft down feathers. The clutch of between 9 to 13 eggs will take around 30 days to incubate.

The male mallard’s role in all this is pretty minimal. Only the hen sits on the nest. Only the hen looks after the ducklings. The male drake heads off to join a flock and sort of just hangs out and molts. Before the fall migration, his bright courting feathers will be replaced with dull brown feathers–his eclipse plumage.

The ducklings are out of the nest and into the water within one day of hatching. They won’t be able to fly for about two months and they will stick close to their mother until then. In the early days they are so small that big fish or snapping turtles will find them a tasty morsel. On our lake they might also be lunch for a Bald Eagle.

By mid-July, the ducklings have grown so much that it’s not easy to distinguish them from their mother. I think that’s mom bringing up the rear. By about 10 weeks, the young ones will leave the family group to join a flock.


Amy Marie invigorates the humble dishcloth


This is Pig Pen’s Kitchen and Spa Cloth, by Amy Marie of Minnesota (CornucopiAmy on Ravelry). What fun! Garter stitch mosaic a/k/a slip stitch technique. Change color every two rows. The pattern is formed entirely of slipped stitches–no stranding required.

Amy Marie holds a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and has researched gallium arsenide semiconductor devices. I had no idea what that is so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Gallium arsenide. It’s a compound of gallium and arsenide. Hmm. It’s often used as a substrate material for the epitaxial growth of other III-V semiconductors. Oh. Well. Enough of that. It must have something to do with seeing stuff that isn’t really there because that’s a bit like planning out mosaic stitch motifs.

Here’s me playing a bit and adding some sky to my piggy’s world.


What a hoot! Is that a good transition?


This is Amy Marie’s Who Owl Help Cook and Clean dishcloth pattern. I made one, in the same lowly Lily Sugar ‘n Cream that most knitters seem to use for dishcloths. Then, I quickly had to make another. It was that much fun!


There is really only one thing to remember in garter stitch mosaic. On the public side, you just slip the stiches. Two things–it’s best to slip the stitches purl wise, to avoid twisting them. Oh, three things. On the non-public side, when you come to a stitch that you slipped on the public side, you need to move the yarn to the front of your work (as it faces you), so that your teeny strands between stitches will all collect on the non-public side. It’s totally easy. After the first few rows under your belt the knitting flows easily. It’s a lot of fun to see the pattern emerge.

Amy Marie makes it easy because every one of these patterns is completely error free. And the directions are both charted and line-by-line. So, knitters’ choice on which suits you best.

This next one, Lattice have Pie is a towel rather than a dishcloth. I will probably use mine as a hot pad. I gave this first one to a gifted hostess and it looked sweet among the yummy offerings on her brunch table. I decided to use a more refined cotton: Premier Yarn’s Isaac Mizrahi Craft Brookyn Solids.


The pattern motifs can be knit in any order you like. Heck, once you’re on a roll, you could knit a table runner of these if you wanted to. My gauge was off because this yarn isn’t as beefy as Sugar ‘n Cream and my towel turned out to be 11 inches by 17 inches.

For the first time I tried the so-called “Chinese Waitress Cast-on.” I used it for my Lattice Have Pies and the piggy cloths. This cast-on seems to have first been featured in “211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting,” written by Cap Sease and released in 2014. The story goes that she learned it from a friend who learned it from a Chinese waitress in Beijing. You can see the cast-on more clearly in the version of Lattice Have Pie that I knit in Sugar ‘n Cream.

pie2It is a short-tail cast-on that creates a knitted-on row with a uniform row of nicely behaved stitches. Compare the piggy cloth with the owl cloth (which I knitted with a long-tail cast-on) to see the difference. I’d like to find a Chinese Waitress Cast-off so that the beginning and end of the cloth would match more closely, but that’s so obsessive of me I can barely stand myself for mentioning it. It’s a cool cast-on to add to your repertoire.

Here’s another look at my full moon/no moon set of owls.


Beaverpalooza in Ghost Bay

beavertail_lowresThe big lodge in Ghost Bay is home to a bunch of hyperactive beavers. Really. There have been mornings this summer when they just won’t leave us alone. Or so it seems. They must have not gotten the message that they are supposed to be crepuscular critters–active at dawn and dusk. Because we’ve not been there quite so early, or late, but sometimes as many as three beavers have been circling Ghost Bay at the same time.

They don’t seem to be eating anything. No new birch trees have bit the dust. On only one occasion did we see the beavers obviously interacting. Two swam toward each other, seemed to touch noses, and then dove away.

But my my, what a bunch of alarm slaps we’ve been treated to. If you look closely you can make out the beaver’s nose, his right ear, and his tail.

beaversplash_lowresWhen critters signal that our presence is alarming, we keep our distance. But these guys can be on the other side of Ghost Bay from our kayaks, when we aren’t even near the lodge or near them, and they will send out the alarm. We are not alarming folks. Ghost Bay is where we quietly paddle in, drink our morning coffee, and drink in the natural drama that unfolds.

Tons of fish swim by. A few bluegills will be on their nests. We see pike–but only rarely. Lots of large and small-mouth bass. More perch than in the past. Rockbass. There are some small fry that I’ve taken to calling happy fish because they flip on the surface. We think they are munching water skimmers. As for the skimmers, sometimes it’s like we are herding them. As we move in the bay they seem to group in front of our kayaks. Dragonflies are abundant this year too.

This weekend while three beavers were swimming around and delivering a series of tail-slap alarm calls, we also watched a blue heron hunting. And there was a good-sized doe who continued to drink at the water’s edge even though she noticed us and eyed us warily. I guess when a body’s thirsty, a body needs to drink.

So, beaver, we are not worth your alarm.


We are going to continue to quietly float around. And if it turns out that we also get to witness your antics–all the better!