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.

Green hats

Apparently, as judged by my recent hat production, it’s pretty easy being green.

This lovely is Kaarre, a free pattern designed by Maria Kostamovaarra. It’s available on Ravelry in Finnish and English. I chose to work from the English pattern. And I would love to hear Maria pronounce her last name. Ravelry has a feature that permits designers to record how their name is pronounced, but Kostamovaarra hasn’t recorded hers yet.

I pronounce Kaarre really beautiful! Here’s its nicely behaved top.I knit my Kaarre in Classic Elite Chesapeake, a lightweight worsted, even though the pattern calls for a DK weight. The cast-on is only 102 stitches, worked in twisted one-one ribbing. I was concerned that would make for a smallish sized hat. And my head, along with many in my neck of the woods, is pumpkin-sized.

This hat was a bunch of fun to knit. Sometimes translated-into-English patterns can create some headscratching. This one? Only a bit. The designer calls stitch markers “pattern markers” and refers to rows rather than rounds. No problems there. That marker moves one stitch forward in the round every other row of the body, creating the interesting spiral.

I had some trouble interpreting the crown decrease instructions. The hat is so cute, it’s totally worth pressing on. The first round of the crown decrease counts out as if there were 104 stitches instead of 102. I worked it as K24, K2 together, K50, K2 together, K24.

And after round 5 of the crown decreases, the English directions say: “Continue repeating decreases at the same place 11 more times (total 13 decrease rows).” To that point you’ve been decreasing in one round and not decreasing in the next one. I continued to alternate a non-decrease round and a decrease round even after round 5. In the last two rounds, I decreased both rounds. But I’m not sure if that’s what the designer had in mind. A total of 13 decrease rounds doesn’t seem correct either. So, bottom line, just wing the decreases a bit. In my version, it is a rather tall/slouchy hat. It was an early “snatch” from my holiday gift basket.

This next greenie is Weather the Weather Hat by Megan Williams. It’s another freebie on Ravelry. Williams says she was inspired by unseasonable weather, storm fronts, and a poem that includes the line, “Whether the skies in your life be foul or be fair, we’ll weather the weather together because we care.”

Probably a better hat than a poem (methinks). A nice sentiment, though. My Weather the Weather is knit in Steady by Why Not Fibers. This is their wasabi colorway. Why Not Fibers is a smallish hand-dyed yarn company working in Traverse City, Michigan.

Here’s a look at the interesting crown decreases.

Pretty cool! And Why Not’s Steady was a great worsted to work with.

This next hat is Beloved Aran, another Ravelry freebie. Solenn Couix-Loarer designed the hat. If you want to brush up on your French, the pattern is available in French and English. My knowledge of French doesn’t extend beyond croissants and baguettes so I worked from the English version.

The pattern calls for an Aran weight yarn. I reached deep into the stash for my last skein of Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend–ever the mouthful–but good yarn.

I am very happy with the results, including the x-marks-the-spot crown decreases.

For this last green hat, a return to another beloved yarn, Classic Elite’s Chesapeake. This is Morgan Capestrain’s Oak Leaf Beanie. It’s another Ravelry freebie. Really, where would we knitters be, much poorer at a minimum, without the generosity of these talented knitwear designers?

Simply put, this hat is a stunner. I had some difficulty working it, which was totally my fault and not the designer’s. I was listening, again, to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and at a few points my knitting concentration waned. But it all worked out. For my knitting and for Harry and the wizarding gang.

I made a few on-purpose modifications, including using a larger needle on the garter stitch section, a size 8. Even with the stretchiness of garter stitch, I didn’t think that 82 stitches and size 6 needles would work well size-wise. And I also decreased the number of garter ridges to 11.

The left twist was difficult for me–mostly because my size 9 sixteen-inch circulars are old Addi Turbos. Lace points would have been much better. When I switched to sharp Karbonz double points for the crown decreases, the left twist was very easy.

Placing stitch markers every 13 stitches in the body of the hat was a big help.

This hat has a beautiful crown decrease section.
Wow. Just wow!

Head bands

This is Knitwise Designs “Triple Crowner” headband. Linda Courtney, the designer behind Knitwise, explains that her models (and inspiration) for this design, are both “Triple Crowners.” That means they’ve thru-hiked all three of America’s long distance trails: The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and The Continental Divide Trail. In case you’re too tired to even think about how much hiking that is, it’s 7,900 miles!

Here’s Linda’s models, the Triple Crowners themselves, showing off how this design suits both men and women.

Even if you’re no hiker, but just a person with cold ears, this design works well. Glasshead looks good in it and she never even gets out of the house.

I knit mine in Stonehedge Fiber Shepherd’s Wool worsted. Here’s a closer look.

Those with a sharp cable eye will see that the design includes triple crossed cables. They are worked with two cable needles and are great fun to knit.

Keeping a headband in a coat pocket can be just the ticket to stay toasty when chilly winds catch you unawares.

These next headbands arose out of my interest in trying Plymouth Yarn’s Stained Glazz. It’s an Aran weight, put up in 99 yard skeins. That’s perfect for a headband. It’s 51% wool, 49% acrylic. Vanessa Ewing’s freebie pattern, delightfully named the “F621 Headband,” was designed for Stained Glazz.

The yarn worked up well.

I’m not sure why Glasshead insists on wearing her headbands so that her ear lobes hang out. Maybe she expects to sport a pair of earrings someday and doesn’t want them to catch?  Anyway, these wide headbands will keep heads cozy. And if the heads have ponytails, the ponytails can fly free.

Here’s another look.

F621 is an excellent easy lace, easy cable handband. The ribbons of color distract from the  patterning, but I still like the final products.