April 16th? Snow Central (Ave)

This Dark-Eyed Junco looks as if he’s dipped in snow. That’s actually the color of his belly feathers. He’s sitting atop a snow mound on our deck table.

We’d just started to see some grass, once the 10-12 inches of snow that fell a week earlier melted away. Then, this. It’s hard to tell, because the drifts are so high, but we estimate we’ve got about 15 inches of new snow. And the drifts, the drifts are thigh-high on my 5 foot three inch self.

Here’s a look at the deck table without the Junco.

And I’m jumping the gun a bit on this post because predictions are for another 3-5 inches today. It’s been snowing all morning.

This has to go down as one-to-remember. “Up north” Michigan is thinking more about wrestling with snow than tax forms today. Snowmobiles are reporting they’re getting stuck. Some of this snow is the gooey, water-laden kind that sticks to shovels, snowblowers, and snowmobiles.

That’s Steve with a big two-stage snowblower, trying to tame the first wave. We ended up hauling out the little guy for me to work on the cement pad during the third effort to get this under control.

You might be wondering how our snow-fencing effort fared. Good news!  This year it didn’t fall over. It stood there all winter, deep into this difficult early spring. But it hasn’t really done anything to significantly keep the snow off the parking pad. It does add a nice splash of orange though, don’t you think?

We aren’t even thinking about ice-out yet. Last year the last bits of ice were sent packing on April 25th into the 26th. So we have about ten days to go. I don’t think we’ll make it. At this rate we’ll still have snow on Memorial Day!

That’s the lake on the morning of April 16th. It’s been windy enough that the sunflower seeds that are whipping the finch flock into a feeding frenzy at our feeders have scattered around. Those finches who can’t command a perch at the feeders are picking at the snow crust searching for food. Every once in awhile the flock spooks and vanishes for half a minute or so, giving the chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, woodpeckers, and tufted titmice time to feed.

We’re worried about the trees on the property. We’ve been losing branches from some of the tall pines. So far, nothing has landed on the house. And nothing so major has fallen that we think the trees won’t pull through. But spring cleanup is going to be a major event. That’s assuming spring is eventually going to put in an appearance.

Here’s me, in my snow-covered Central Ave hat by Aimee Alexander. “Cheese.” We’d gone out for a second time to knock snow off the low-lying pine branches. Such a great hat. Knit in Swans Island Merino Worsted in the bittersweet colorway, it even matches the snow fence. I strive to be color-coordinated at all times.

More slipped stitch dishcloths…a lot more

This cloth is one of Amy Marie Vold’s new dishcloth/washcloth patterns: Bubble Bath. I knit this one in Lily Sugar ‘n Cream, using lime and hot orange. It was so much fun to knit that I had to start another almost immediately.

This next cloth is knit in Knit Picks Dishie in aquarium and clementine.

I just couldn’t stop knitting these guys. I wanted to knit a set in reverse to see how they’d work out. So next I tried Sugar ‘n Cream in hot orange and teal. Knitting Vold’s cloths in mirror-image sets is a boatload (or a bathtub) of fun. The way the eyes pop and the way the open mouth is burping out bubbles are perfect touches.

Vold released another fish pattern very soon after releasing Bubble Bath. This next one is Shore Lunch cloth. I knit my first in Sugar ‘n Cream teal and ecru.

And then came the mirror-image set, knit in Sugar ‘n Cream hot green and ecru.There’s something about the pair of pairs of luncheon fish that appeals.

Yes, it’s an odd pastime, this knitting of dishcloths. But I don’t intend to give up my somewhat guilty pleasure.

My set of Some Bunny to Do the Dishes was gifted soon after I completed them. Evelyn has been using them as baby doll blankets. Her set was knit in Garnstudio DROPS Paris, white and bright blue. A perfect bunny combo, at least that’s what baby doll thinks.

I’ve also recently completed a DROPS Paris set of Frog Prince of the Pad.

This pair of PurrPETual Domestic Supervisors is in DROPS Paris (dark beige and white). I just got started knitting these guys and the next thing I knew I’d knitted more than a dozen.

Here’s another set of Squirrel Away the Dishes Cloths. This pair is in Sugar ‘n Cream brown, sage green, and yellow.

And, finally, just to tax the patience of those who can’t abide knitters who waste their time knitting these useful itty bitty cloths, here’s a pair of Who Owl Help Cook & Clean. They’re knit in Sugar ‘n Cream white and overcast.

Try these. Bet you can’t knit just one.

Stash Knit Down

Late last year I found my fade.  Such a beautiful shawl, in seven coordinating (and expensive) skeins of fingering weight.

Having invested in all that beautiful yarn, I set the task for myself to use up the remnants. What I call my Faded Ursula Sockhead Hat worked out well.

This is a total mashup, that doesn’t bear much resemblance to Wendy Ellis’s After Ursula. But it was the inspiration for my hat. I cast on the Ursula number of stitches.  After 5 inches of ribbing in Madelintosh Merino Light in the “gilded” colorway, I worked 4 rounds of gilded in stockinette, followed by pairs of that shade, faded in with a second color from the shawl.  I worked the fade section over 12 rounds. Then I knit 8 rounds of color 2. Next came a fade section, alternating pairs of rounds in color 3 with color 2 over 12 rounds, followed by 8 rounds of color 3. And so on. I worked almost 8 inches of stockinette, after the ribbing, and then started the decreases.

I used the decreases from Kelly McClure’s Sockhead Slouch Hat–decreasing 18 stitches every 3 rounds. So, this is a mash up of Sockhead Hat, Find your Fade and a bit of After Ursula. And I used 6 of my 7 colors from my Find Your Fade shawl.

But there was still a ton of yarn left.The remaining color with the most yardage was Malabrigo Mechita in the Sabiduria colorway. I decided to knit tincanknits light version of their much-loved “Barley.” Here’s my child-sized Barley Light.

Glasshead wanted to model it, but I didn’t want it all stretched out.

Hmm. What to do with short yardage? I decided to knit for baby feet even though I don’t presently have many babies in my world. These are Vauvan Sukka (roughly, train socks, in Finnish), knit in Alexandra’s Craft’s Diamond Lake and a bit of Bad Amy yellow-gold.

I like to make these socks in interesting and sometimes arresting color combinations.

The Train Socks story has been retold a good bit, including on my blog.  The pattern is attributed on Ravelry to Kerttu Latvala, and is posted by her daughter Terttu Latvala as a free pattern. The story of Vauvan Sukka is explained by Terttu, as translated into English at Teakat Translation, where the free pattern is also available. In 1939, with World War II already underway in Europe, mother and child were evacuating.There were delays because sections of railroad track had been bombed. Terttu was an infant. An infant with no socks. While they waited, a fellow passenger unraveled yarn from her white hand-knit sweater and knit Terttu a pair of socks. To pay forward that passenger’s kindness, first Kerttu and then Terttu have gifted hundreds of pairs of these baby socks to newborns.

I gifted my pair to Cecelia, who has lots of socks but now has one more pair. A pair with a story.

With one set of warm baby feet, I sort of couldn’t stop myself.

This is Frankie Brown’s free pattern, Baby Boots. One piece, worked flat, on size one needles. That Number 2 pencil eraser (remember pencils, people used to use them to write stuff) is included to show you the tiny scale of these booties.

Totally sweet, in Hedgehog Fibers Sock, in the Truffles colorway. I don’t associate gold and rose with truffles, but maybe. And it’s wonderful yarn. These were the only booties Isaac didn’t kick off.

Emboldened, it was time for a booties and hat set for the baby I’ve not yet met. This next knit is an old favorite. I’ve knit it many times.The pattern is from Homespun, Handknit, edited by Linda Ligon. It’s a wonderful Interweave Press book published in 1988 filled with patterns for hats, scarves, socks, mittens and gloves.

This is Bouncing Baby Set, by Jean Scorgie, minus its thumbless mittens. Babies look super cute in this head-hugger hat. And the kneesocks. Well they stay on a baby’s feet, unlike so much other stuff that we knitters knit for the wee ones’ feet.

There was still a bit more yarn left. So I knit a pair of my very own bears, Sunrise Side Bear. But instead of using worsted weight and size 5 US needles, I knit this set in fingering weight Malabrigo Mechita on size 1 needles.

These Sunrise Side Bears stand 5 and 1/2 inches tall, with a fist-to-fist span of 3 and 1/2 inches. To appreciate the scale, that mouse in the middle is holding a US penny.

They were bare. I had a little yarn left. It was enough for a vest for Boy Bear and a dress for Girl Bear. And with the last bits, came their tiny scarves.

I am feel quite proud of completing my de-stash challenge.

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!

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.