Big-box store yarns

The cowl is Tin Can Knits’ Oats, a unisex freebie from this most generous duo of designers, Alexa Ludeman  and Emily Wessel. It’s part of their Simple Collection. And the hat is Elena Nodel’s Cherry on Top. Elena lost her battle with cancer in June of 2017. She left behind her loving husband and a young daughter. She made her mark in the knitting universe.

Maybe neither Nodel nor the Tincans would think it’s cool that I knit their patterns in 100% acrylic, Deborah Norville Everyday Soft Worsted Solid, by Premier Yarns. But my niece, an avid (and successful) young hunter needed blaze orange. When you need that color there aren’t too many Indie dyers who want to touch it. So, not carrot. Not apricot meringue. Blaze Orange. In Michigan, you can buy it at Meijer’s. And lots of other big box stores.

My niece is now visible in the woods from far off. That’s the important point. Visible to other hunters, that is. Deer are missing the long cones of the eye that allow eyeballs to see blaze orange. Basically, deer are red-green color blind.  So, blaze orange is a good color to hide yourself from them.

Cherry on Top has really  wonderful crown decreases. It is stunning in what the pattern calls for–Malabrigo Rios.

Here’s a closer look at Oats. It’s an easy, quick knit. This cowl is especially perfect for new knitters looking to knit their first cowl. It’s also perfect for mature (ahem) knitters looking for an easy knit.

Big Box acrylics are also great for preemie knits. Our guild donated half-a-bazillion of these little guys to a local hospital this year. Here’s mine, knit from an unidentified easy-care acrylic.

My Black Sheep Knitting Guild distributed the preemie hat cap pattern. If you search around on Ravelry you’ll find all sorts of easy caps like this one. Look for “preemie caps” or “fruit caps.”

And then there are the various Caron Cakes. I wasn’t especially drawn to the Caron Cakes in worsted. I thought the color changes a bit clunky. And I don’t like the feel of the yarn. But I fell for the DK weight Cupcakes:

Two cupcakes made their way into my basket at Michael’s.

The rainbow-like cupcake is still waiting to decide what it wants to be when it grows up. But the pink/gray cupcake turned into this:

It’s Victoria Myers’ “The Only Hat Your Teen Wants.”  I don’t know if it it will be the only hat your teen wants, but one of my 30-something stylish nieces liked this hat and chose it in an early “round” of my holiday pick-your-gift.

I was surprised by this yarn. I’ve knit with acrylic quite a bit. Knitting with this felt like knitting with yarn infused with sections of Brillo Pad. I found it shockingly rough. It also worked up ridiculously stiff. This was not initially a slouch. Initially, the hat was fully able to stand upright and at attention on its own–even with the weight of the pompom. After completing the hat, I threw it in the washing machine and then in the dryer. It softened up quite nicely with rough treatment! (I did have to rake the pills off the hat though.)

The second surprise was that, looking at the cupcake unknit, I didn’t notice that there were speckles of the red throughout the skein. I actually think that was a nice touch.

The hat pattern is a winner. An obviously simple knit, but a nice slouchy hat. I especially like the way the cupcake worked up with the bands of color.

So, though I don’t often knit with big box store yarns, to all yarns there is a season. All these projects worked out well. I still need to plan a project for my second cupcake.

Happy holidays

Our Long Lake neighbors worked harder than Santa’s elves to pull off this masterpiece. It’s another Christmaspalooza this year.

We have all the enjoyment without undertaking the zillions of hours of work that goes into creating all this seasonal glow. Thank you, neighbors. Congratulations on another year’s successful display!

Happy holidays to all!

Finding my fade

Yep. You’re at the right spot. This is the blog typically filled with knitted hats and fiddle-faddle stuff. (Or with wildlife photos.) Though I’m late to the Fade party, this is Andrea Mowry’s amazingly successful “Find Your Fade.” Mowry is a Michigander whose “Fade” patterns published through Drea Renee Knits have made a big splash in the knitting universe.

This fingering weight asymetrical shawl pattern calls for seven skeins of fingering weight yarn that play well together. Yarnies and yarn shop owners owe Mowry a big “thank-you.” Her pattern must be fueling fingering weight yarn sales all around the globe. The colors fade into one another with a simple design that Mowry hasn’t so much invented as put to new uses.

Find Your Fade must be close to setting records for how long it’s stayed in the top patterns on Ravelry’s “Hot Right Now” search pages.

Finding your fade is not for the knitting faint of heart. In fact, it’s quite the endurance test. It requires about 1550 yards of yarn and knits up, at gauge (which many don’t seem to quite manage to recreate), at 101 inches point to point and reaches a 30 inch center depth. That’s about eight and one-half feet long. And many, like mine, are even longer. I thought I was at gauge. But I used a variety of yarns, so gauge was challenging. I found my Fade grew to 112 inches after the gentlest of blocking, just to open up the honeycomb sections. I am only 62 inches tall, so this Fade makes quite a statement.

Here’s another view.

I really like the result.

My yarns, from the Fade’s opening gold point to the final purple are, first, the heel- and-toe color from an 80/20 self-striping Bad Amy sock-yarn set, Harvest Moon. I will worry about how to finish those socks some day. But the color was too much of what I wanted to pass up. Next is Rhichard Devrieze’s Peppino, in the Tangerine Dream colorway.  Madelinetosh Merino Light in Gilded is next. It’s close in color to the Bad Amy, but works well. The purple shades begin with Hedgehog Fibres Sock, in Truffle. Then comes Diamond Lake, in wine, from Alexandra’s Craft. My Fade closes with two skeins of Malabrigo Mechita, first Anniversario and then Sabiduria.

Ravelers rate this pattern “easy.” And nearly 6000 project pages are open on Find Your Fade, so there’s a lot of votes that go into that. But I rate it a “difficult.” That translates as “I had a hard time with it.” Only 3100 Ravelers report that they’ve finished it. 2100 or so are said to be in progress. The rest are hibernating or have been frogged.Those are not (I think) typical stats for an “easy” project. Don’t get me wrong. This is a great pattern. I just don’t think it’s an easy one. The honeycomb lace fits into a changing number of stitches, around a double decrease. And the whole shawl grows, or not, while maintaining that double decrease in the center until that center veers in one direction. Nope, not easy for this knitter. Granted, maybe I’ve lost knitting IQ points working on all those hats and washcloths lately.

But this project was so worth it. I will be wearing it on Christmas Day. Go Find Your Fade. For sure. And with the leftovers you can give Mowry’s Free Your Fade a try. It looks much easier and is calling to me. As others have quipped, “What? I just found my Fade. Now I have to free it?”

Hat weather is here

The lake hasn’t frozen yet, though it’s getting close. On cold mornings there’s a skin of ice extending out from the shore. And the foam that the winds froth up is sort of smoothie texture. Without a hat, ears will soon be feeling pretty frozen.

This hat is “Hungry Horse Hat” a newer DK-weight pattern from Aimee Alexander of Polka Dot Sheep. I don’t know the origin of the pattern name. But I still know that I like the hat. It’s an interesting mix of garter stitch and mesh, designed to be tri-color.

Here’s a look at its well-behaved crown.

Alexander definitely knows how to tame the crown decreases. No pointy head syndrome here.

My Hungry Horse is a mix of critters-of-origin. The gold is Anzula Cricket, 80% merino sheep, 10 percent cashmere goat, and 10 percent nylon chemistry lab. The mesh section is Mountain Goat by Mountain Colors, described on the Mountain Colors’s site and on Ravelry as 50% merino and 45% mohair (which is where the goat comes in). Apparently it’s 5% unidentified something else. And the earband is Shalimar Yarns Breathless DK. Breathless is 75% merino, 15% cashmere goat, and 10% silk. I hesitated before mixing and matching yarns, but I was trying to get a proper color scheme. I’m completely pleased with the outcome. I guess it wouldn’t be too good a hat to test a person’s fiber allergies, though. If your head itches, you could be allergic to just about anything.

This next hat is Jo-Anne Klim’s new fingering weight slouchy: the Woodmere Slouchy Hat.

There’s always a lot of knitting (and yardage) in a fingering weight slouchy, but Woodmere is worth the time and effort. From twisted rib at the start, through that soothing ribbed waffle stitch, and finishing with another well-planned crown.

I knit Woodmere in Wollmeise Twin, a bouncy 80% merino, 20% nylon that worked up very nicely in this pattern. Great stitch definition. And that deep saturated color. I might not be able to put this one out for my holiday pick-your-gift baskets. Klim’s KBJ Design patterns are always keepers!

Here’s another hat from Klim that I’ve knit before: Araluen 

This is knit in one of my personal favorite worsted yarns, Malabrigo Rios. It’s their Purple Mystery colorway. I guess it’s no big mystery why it turned my hands and stitch markers purple while I knit it. That’s not my favorite part of the yarn. And it’s not normal in terms of my experience with Rios. I’ll just need to be watchful if any of the bald men in my circle reach for this one in my holiday gift baskets. I’ll need to steer them to another hat because I’m not sure this one is done bleeding yet. And, yes, another excellent crown decrease.

In fact, an extremely well thought out crown.

And now, for something completely different.

This is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Maltese Fisherman’s Hat. She is often quoted as saying that the good thing about knitting hats is that some people will put anything on their head. This must be a prime example.

Mine is knit in the Sheepswool Super Bulky that the pattern calls for, available from Schoolhouse Press. It’s actually Bartlettyarns‘ superbulky.

I’m waiting to see if any of my holiday guests reach for this one. Laying flat it looks innocent enough. It isn’t obvious at that point that the hat makes you look like a royal airhead. But there’s nothing warmer than this hat. Maybe ice fisherman should adopt this look. Ice fisherman who actually fish out on the ice, not in a heated ice shanty. Ice fisherman who fish out on the ice alone without any companions and who keep this hat in their pick-up truck and only put it on once no one will see them.

Maltese Fisherman’s Hat is actually a quick fun knit. It puts a knitter in touch with her knitting ancestors. You just have to be brave and wear it with pride.

Rogers City: the nautical limestone city

When you approach Lake Huron from downtown Rogers City, you easily find yourself at Lakeside Park. And, as the logo says, Rogers City is “the nautical city.” There’s a rich history here of mariners and all manner of watery endeavors. But there’s a lot of digging going on here too.

This “Liberty Torch” welcomes visitors to the park and marina. Tom Moran, of Moran Iron Works in Onaway, fabricated it in 2004.

In late November, we had Lakeside Park all to ourselves. The park benches were empty. Our butts were the only ones in the gazebo seats. From the gazebo, you look out onto the breakwater.
I’m thinking that breakwater is mostly constructed of limestone. My rockhound days are behind me so I don’t know that for sure. But Rogers City is also the Limestone City.

Here’s a closer look at the freighter that was anchored offshore, beyond the breakwater.

This freighter is the “Great Republic.” That’s what it says in lettering in that white area just above the gray and black vertical striping. It used to sail, if that’s the right term for a ship with no sails, as “American Republic.” But in 2011 a lease expired and it was re-named the “Great Republic.” You can read all about this freighter here. It launched in 1981. It’s highly specialized and tricked out to handle rock and ore-carrying duties. It’s considered to be one of the most maneuverable ship on the lakes, with eight rudders, bow and stern thrusters, and variable pitch propellers. I don’t know anything about freighters, but eight rudders is seven more than any boat I’ve been on. It’s a “self-unloader” and can carry 1000 tons more than freighters of similar size.

Honestly, it just looked like a clunky big freighter to me. But it turns out that it’s 641 feet and 10 inches of special. That flock of Canada Geese probably knows it’s special. That’s why the whole gang decided to paddle by for a closer look. The Great Republic was anchored. We assumed it was waiting to load up or unload at the Calcite plant nearby.

The “John J. Boland” was also at anchor, a little closer to the plant.

It’s another self-unloading bulk carrier. It launched in 1973 as the Charles E. Wilson. Boatnerd says that it was renamed in January of 2000 after the first Charles E. Wilson was sold and started sailing as the Saginaw. I knew nothing of all this name-swapping stuff. And I don’t know who Wilson was or is or who Boland was or is, but apparently they got their names welded onto another pretty specialized freighter. This one has an adaptable digital gyroscope steering-control system and is described as a vessel with very few mishaps. It’s 680 feet long and can carry 33,800 tons of stuff. So, having very few mishaps is a comfort to those who work aboard.

Here’s the historic site sign that stands near the gazebo at Lakeside Park and explains why these freighters are all lined up.That’s hard to read, so I’ll tell you the main points.

The sign explains that “since 1912, the skyline south of Rogers City has been dominated by the buildings, machinery, and storage piles of the Calcite Plant, the world’s largest limestone quarry operation.” The world’s largest. Right here in our backyard.

There’s a  bit of puffing about what accounts for the humungous success of the operation. And we learn that the company started out as Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company. It was founded by a New York investment banker, William F. White. But the company’s general manager, Carl D. Bradley, is the guy who ended up being dubbed the “Limestone King.”  He died in 1928. You may remember something about Carl D. Bradley that doesn’t get mentioned on the sign. A freighter bore his name. It was the largest freighter on the Great Lakes from 1927 to 1949. In November of 1958, the Carl D. Bradley sunk in Lake Michigan. It broke in two during a fierce November storm. Thirty-three men died. Twenty-three of them were from Rogers City. Fifty-three children were orphaned. Two crew members survived. There are many places to read more about the shipwreck, including here. But the sign at the park’s gazebo isn’t the place for a memorial.

U.S. Steel bought the Michigan Limestone company in 1920. Carmeuse Lime & Stone, a Belgian Company, bought the Calcite operation. That’s who owns it today.

The sign at the gazebo says that since the mining started in 1912, the Calcite quarry has produced and shipped more than 878 billion tons of limestone. The estimate is that its stone reserves will last another 50-75 years. The sign says that the quarry is 5 miles long, 2 miles wide, and up to 150 feet deep.

Here’s what the quarry looks like to Google Earth:

Little Rogers City is dwarfed by the Calcite quarry and plant. The freighters in the photos were anchored just north of the peninsula that frames the bay above that “v” of green grass south of town.

If you head out south from town on Business 23 you can meet the Calcite Quarry a little closer than at a satellite height. Turn left into the parking lot at this plywood sign.

Don’t be misled by that little “M” and “S” squiggle. There are no swans at the Calcite Quarry.

The day we visited no one was at the viewing site. We climbed metal openwork stairs to get a better look from a platform height about six feet above the parking lot.

This ancient tree guards the parking lot.

It’s really hard to convey the scale of this tree. That little greenish “growth” just below the branches to the right of the middle of the trunk isn’t a fungus or a glob of moss. It’s Steve’s baseball cap. I hung it on a piece of tree bark to try to show the scale, but the tree trunk just gobbled it up. And Steve has such a big head that he typically buys his hats at Big Head Caps. This tree’s trunk is about 5 feet across. This tree is so big it was probably shading picnic-goers back in 1912 when the Calcite Plant was just a gleam in Carl Bradley’s eye.

So, you climb the steps and look down into a gash so deep and so wide that it rivals the Grand Canyon.

If you haven’t seen this, go look. This photo can’t begin to show the enormity of the quarry. Eight-hundred-seventy-eight billion tons of limestone came out of this hole.

These gigantic limestone boulders must have been rolled into place to celebrate the quarry’s 100th anniversary.

Those are roads down there. Workers drive huge mining equipment and trucks on those roads. They pass each other on those roads.

Generations of quarry workers dug this big hole. It’s not pretty. Not from space and not up close. But it’s impressive. Go see.