Time to retire the blog (but not the knitting)

Well, well. Yep. That’s me paddling off into the sunset. No worries. I’m a (basically) healthy 71-year old. And of course I’m a voracious knitter and intend to remain so. I started this blog fifteen years ago on May 30, 2009 and it just feels like the right time to close this chapter. My apologies that I had to disable comments several months ago. The spammers found me and only running silent gave me any peace. If anyone wants to follow what I’m knitting, you can find me on Ravelry. I’m Noreen1009.

When my son built my blog and gave it to me as my Mother’s Day present I had no idea it would be so much fun. I’ve loved featuring life on the Sunrise Side of Michigan’s lower peninsula and Hillman’s Long Lake. And throughout it’s been knitting, knitting, and more knitting. What could be better?

I thought I’d close out the blog with a sort of greatest hits post. Google Analytics tells me where most of my traffic goes. Plus I have a few favorites of my own that I decided to include.

My 2011 post on Lijuan Jing’s Vortex is the hands down reader favorite.

This post’s popularity is helped out by the designer giving me permission to post extensive errata to significant parts of her pattern that don’t seem to have been published anywhere else.

My 2010 post on the afghan I was knitting on July 20,1969 while Neil Armstrong walked on the moon still finds its way to a fair number of eyeballs.

Lots ‘o Red Heart in this one. More than 50 years after I cast off the space program’s pretty much in shambles but the afghan soldiers on. As a sixteen-year old I had no thought that my grandchildren would be cuddling under it.

A new contender for blog traffic winner is my own 2022 Gartergantuan creation in 63 skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted.

Sixty-three 113-gram skeins. That’s not a typo. It’s shown here on a queen-sized bed. I managed to knit my own weighted blanket. Brown Sheep featured Gartergantuan on its Instagram feed.

This next greatest hit is a personal favorite. It’s the story of repairs to my grandson’s knitted “Big George.” Here’s how George arrived in my ER after a nighttime eruption of vomit and a needed trip through the washing machine.

Here’s the original 2010 post to check out Big George in his pristine state.

My adaptation of Yuvinia Yuhadi’s Ubiquitous chair cover is another personal favorite post.

I used the designer’s pattern to understand the number of stitches I’d need and the general construction. The rest was me fiddling around trying to reproduce the feel of a bedspread I remember from my grandmother’s house.

While I’m thinking about designers, here are posts on my two Ravelry-published free patterns, Sunrise Side Bear and Acorn Hill Pony.

Gosh. Choosing what to include in this good-bye post is harder than I thought.

I don’t knit many sweaters, but here’s one I especially like that I knit for one of my brothers.

I knit boatloads of shawls and wrote about most of them here. Ute Nawrotil’s Waiting for the Sun is probably the one I’m most proud of. I was afraid to cast on, thinking it would be beyond my skill set. But it worked out. Big time, I think.

Please have a wander through the archives. There’s a lot of knitting here. Ravelry tallies my yardage knit during approximately the 15-year span of this blog at 387,407. That’s more than 220 miles of yarn. Lordy!

If Michigan’s “up north” is your passion, as it still is for me, more posts with lasting click-power are Whitefish Point Cemetery, Rogers City, and public folk art along US 23 between Alpena and Harrisville. Lots of Michiganders struggling with Canada Geese and their mountains of slimy tootsie roll droppings find some of my goose posts amusing.

The many-year saga of the Eastern Kingbirds who raised their brood in the cupholder on our lake-side dock bench somehow seems like a good place to close out the blog.

These kingbirds are fierce and devoted mothers.

My son’s 2009 Mother’s Day blog gift meant and means more than I can express either to him or to you. It’s been a heck of a run! My sincere thanks that you visited my blog.

The knit goes on…

Neck stuff

This is Erika Florey’s Callowhill Cowl. Knit in Kelbourne Woolens Scout, a 100% wool DK weight. I’ve knit this cowl once before after Craftsy bundled the pattern and Cloudborn Superwash Merino DK for (basically) 23 cents. OK, not that cheap but very very cheap. I enjoyed the knit but found the yarn wanting. I found the pattern fun to knit, with wonderful texture. But as the pattern is written it’s quite a small circumference cowl. A bit smaller circumference than I’m comfortable with.

This time I knit it with excellent yarn. I’ve not used Scout before but I definitely enjoyed working with it. The stitch definition was great even in this heathered colorway. And, duh, I cast on an extra 16 stitches to add about 3 inches to the circumference. Perfect!

To be sure that my bindoff wouldn’t be too firm, I used a modified version of Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff (JSSBO). Check out Laura Nelkin’s video on the modification. Basically, you only work the yarn over that’s the defining feature of JSSBO on the knit stitches. You bind off the purl stitches regularly without any added yarn over. Decreasing the number of yarn overs reduces the pesky flare that typically accompanies JSSBO without compromising the needed stretchiness.

I enjoyed the Callowhill knit so much that I decided to cast on for a second cowl almost immediately.

Here it is in Moo Roo Yarns Midnight DK, a 70% merino 30% silk next-to-the-skin soft yarn. This one I’m keeping for me. But working with Moo Roo in this colorway was more of an adventure than I wanted. I’ve never worked with a yarn that leached as much dye as this skein!

As I knit with it, I saw that my white rubbery stitch markers were turning pink. No big deal. I saw the streak of red following where the yarn threaded over my throwing finger. I didn’t realize it was getting all over my hands and fingernails until later but, oh well. Red dye. Indie dyers. After the first evening of working with Moo Roo, I thoroughly washed and rinsed my hands. Then I wiped them on my white hand towel. Big mistake. Pink stains on the towel, which I found in the morning. The next day I completed the cowl. I washed my hands and got out a nail brush. The brush turned red. Major rinse (or so I thought) of everything and again I somehow still managed to stain the fresh white hand towel. Enough already! My mood was turning less forgiving.

Later in the day I went downstairs to wind yarn in my knitting room and saw dust (or so I thought) on my work table. It was red/orange dye! I wiped it away with my hand and my hand was red again. OK…washed that off. This time I dried my hands with paper towel. Final chapter? I came up from the basement the next evening and saw that the white handrail on the stairs was stained with red in places. I know red yarn is especially prone to leaching dye, but this was way too much. The good news is that I used some stain remover on the towels and a deep cycle wash and they emerged unstained. A Magic Eraser got the dye off the handrail.

As for salvaging the cowl, I consulted friends and the internet. I soaked the cowl in a gallon or so of water and a cup of vinegar for 30 minutes. Very little dye leached into the water. After a lot of rinsing to get the smell out I still wasn’t getting any dye out. I believe that I managed to set the dye. And I really do like the final result.

Next up is Laura Aylor’s Four Calling Birds Cowl. I knit it in another new-to-me yarn, Berroco UltraWool DK.

This was Aylor’s 2023 Mystery Knit-a-long that ran from December 13th to the 24th. I don’t often take mystery knit plunges. But I admire Aylor’s work. And how big a commitment would a cowl be anyway? The one cowl pattern provides a knitter with 4 versions: the one you see above, with pleated edging, textured lace, and short rows. An alternate version leaves out the short rows. Another easier version has the pleated edging but uses a simple knit and purl pattern for the body of the cowl. And yet another easy version uses the same simple knit and purl pattern but begins with a simple garter stitch edging. I elected to follow the clues of the pleated, lacy, short row version.

When I found out that the short rows were set up for German short rows, I was tempted to quit. I’d tried them only once before and what resulted wasn’t a pretty sight. But I decided to put on my big girl panties and give the technique another try. Aylor’s directions were excellent on placement of the turns. And Pink’s video helped me greatly. My problems with the pattern weren’t with the short rows at all. Truth be told, the lacework challenged my skill level. But lifelines (which Aylor recommends) and turning off my audiobook came to my rescue.

Here’s a view of the back of the cowl.

I am very pleased with this knit and with the yarn. I asked my granddaughter to model it.

This version of the pattern produces a lovely, feminine cowl. I plan to give some of the more straightforward versions a try soon. And I’ll use Berroco Ultra Wool DK in future projects for sure. Excellent yarn.

This next neck knit has made many appearance on this blog over the years. It’s Lion Brand’s Rib Sampler Scarf. Here’s a link to this freebie courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

I usually make modifications to the pattern to lengthen and widen the scarf. For this version, I used Malabrigo Rios. I increased the width by casting on 44. On the first (and last) section of 2 by 2 ribbing, I knit 10 inches. I followed the pattern and left the garter stitch sections at 4 inches. And I knit 6 inches of mistake rib and farrow rib. I prefer to have the middle of the scarf completely frame the neck so I knit the middle 1 by 1 ribbing for 16 inches.

Laid flat, my version of Rib Sampler Scarf is 60 inches long. Here’s another view.

The weather’s warming up now. It’s supposed to reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Grand Rapids, Michigan today. And here I am writing about all these wintry knits. I am oppositional in this way.

More creatures

Seen here in profile, I call this creature my Ginormous Gnose Gnome. Designer Sarah Schira calls it The More You Gnome. And there is no one in the knitting universe these days who gnows gnomes as much as Schira does. She has 25 gnome and gnome-themed patterns in her Ravelry store. Go big or go gnome I guess. Gnome pun intended.

The very feature I loved the best, that gnifty big gnose, looked a tad odd to me face-forward when I completed the knit. I decided I gneeded to make a major modification. So I (tried) to give gnome some whiskers.

At first I knit the layer of strands just under his gnose. I showed him to a few people. Steve’s comment just about summed it up. “Why did you decide to give him gnose hairs?” “Oh gno, gnot what I intended.” Back to my gneedles. I knit a longer set of strands beneath the gnose hairs and my gnome passed inspection. “Yes, now I see a beard.”

If you’re looking to reproduce my gnome’s beard, which unfortunately I fear makes my gnome look a bit like he’s sniffing a jellyfish, here’s what I did. I used a size 1 (US) needle and cast on 4 stitches and knit one row. For the gnose-hair section, I cast on 6 stitches at the start of the next row. I used the cable caston, which is a knit-on caston. On the next row I bound off the 6 stitches I’d just cast on and completed the row (4 more stitches). Next, turn and knit the 4 stitches. Cast on 6 more stitches and do the same bind-off “thing.” I repeated this process, casting on 8, casting on 8 again, casting on 6, and casting on 6 again. On the last row I bound off all 10 stitches. Finally, I sewed the piece just under the bulbous gnose.

To complete the whiskers, I repeated the above process and knit a second piece by casting on 8, then 8, then 8, 10, 10, and finally 8, 8, 8. I handled the sequential bindoffs the same as in the first piece. I sewed the second bunch of whiskers under the gnose hair section.

I was so taken with the designer’s gnome that I used exactly the recommended yarn in exactly the recommended colorways: Emma’s Yarns Practically Perfect Smalls (a fingering weight) in Whisper, Volume, and Tealicious. A fun knit. Great yarn!

Now, something more familiar–to me and to anyone who regularly reads my blog.

Not so long ago I had weeks and weeks when my brains were frazzled by fretting. If you think back to the last time you moved house methinks you can appreciate that. My mind and my fingers wanted an easy repetitious knit. My Sunrise Side Bear pattern is as familiar to me as my 15-year old Land’s End T-Shirts. My hands just started knitting these guys and I didn’t stop until my stash of Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted was almost exhausted.

Here’s the free pattern for download. And here’s another look at my sleuth of bears all snug and cozy.

Spring knits..sublime to silly

So…spring! This is Dream in Color Designs’ Field of Violets. I knit mine in the yarn called for, a specially-dyed version of 100% merino Dream in Color Smooshy. Knitting this was a total hoot. The trick that produces the violets? Every time you get to the bright purple yarn you knit the special flower stitch that forms the violets.

Here’s what the yarn looks like skeined:

And here’s a closer look at my field of violets:

After a few false starts, I realized it would be helpful if I cast on as far away as possible from the purple contrasting color. The cast-on is only 4 stitches and increases only 1 stitch every 6 rows. Waiting to start a flower until several rows in gives a knitter room for the special stitch without distorting the structure of the start of the scarf.

I already spilled the beans about the trick to this design. You begin the flower stitch when your working yarn changes to the contrast color. At first, I misunderstood and thought you worked the flowers when you came to the contrast color stitches already on your needle. Nope. Watch for the purple coming up in your working yarn.

The flower stitch is worked over 3 rows. The pattern includes directions for how to work a flower when you encounter the contrast color on a right-side row and slightly different (but important) directions for when you encounter the contrast color while you’re working on a wrong-side row. The first 2 rows of the stitch are set out in the directions. The 3rd row is that you knit the stitches that have been bundled up. At first, I thought you put these bundled stitches back on the left hand needle at the end of the 2nd row manipulations and knit the bundle right away. Nope. Wrong again. Wait for the 3rd row. This video helped me understand what’s up with this flower stitch.

Another tip is that it’s perfectly OK to make different sized flowers. I fairly regularly encountered lengths of contrast color where I decided to work 6 stitches into the flower. Sometimes I knit teeny ones in only 3 stitches. And if you try to space the flowers in some way…well, best to give up at that. Flowers grow and scatter as they will. Let them do that in this scarf too, unless you want to drive yourself crazy.

Quite a few Ravelers report blocking their scarf. Not me. I like mine unblocked. More texture!

The instructions say that the midpoint of the scarf should be 38-40 inches from the cast-on and that you should increase to a set number of stitches before beginning the short “knit even” part of the scarf that forms the middle section. Despite my knitting on gauge with the yarn the pattern calls for, I didn’t get to 38 inches until I had 10 stitches more than the pattern called for. Other Ravelers reported that as well. I increased at the called-for interval until I got to 38 inches. Next I worked the straight section for the number of rows called for. And finally I began the decreases.

When I weighed my yarn at the midpoint I thought that it would be no problem to decrease, at the rate the pattern directs, all the way to the bind-off and not run out of yarn. But I was wrong. So for the last 6 inches or so of the pattern I decreased every 4 rows. That worked. My scarf is a somewhat different shape from what the designers planned. I’m fine with that!

I picked up this next skein at a yarn stall within an outdoor market. It was spun and dyed by southwest Michigan’s Shady Side Farm. I honestly don’t know what drew me to this particular skein. I’d not been even been overcome by Barbie fever.

I seem to recall that I thought it would make a nice accessory for my granddaughter. That pink has her name written all over it. But the yarn is definitely “rustic” in feel and my grand and rustic feel don’t really work. Eventually all I could see were piglets.

Piggies cavorting. I’ve called my Ravelry project Muddy Pigs Pigmania.

This beginner-friendly pattern is from Freya Jaffe’s wonderful classic book Toymaking with Children. I was introduced to the book when my son was in pre-school. His children are now well beyond their pre-school years and I’m still knitting simple toys from it. In the last 35 years I’ve made a million of these oinkers!

Stillness Shawl

I am over the moon about this shawl. It’s the Stillness Shawl by Australian knitwear designer Helen Stewart. If you’re thinking about the origin of “over the moon,” your instincts are correct. “..the cow jumped over the moon and the little dog laughed to see such fun” is its source. OK. You’re likely not thinking about the origin of the phrase just now. You’re likely and hopefully thinking about this wonderful shawl. It’s a 2020 pattern released by Stewart as part of a mystery knit-a-long.

Here’s how my Stillness Shawl started. My son and wonderfully attentive daughter-in-law gifted me these three skeins of fingering weight yarn during the December 2023 holidays. They live very near Rochester, New York, the home of Spun Right Round. Spun Right Round is an indie dyer that’s been at work since 2009. Their Classic Sock is 100% merino and 100% wonderful in my new lightweight shawl.

Here’s a closer look at the stitch patterns.

The colorways are The Big Teal Wave, Hoof It (the golden brown), and Sea Horse (the lightest colorway, with fleck of golden brown and yellow-orange). With the guidance of LOTS of stitchmarkers in the lace sections, this shawl turned out to be an easy knit. I confess to being a tad skittery at the start wondering if I’d be up to it because I’m not a particularly skillful lace knitter. But my concerns were completely misplaced.

Stewart’s patterns are always super clear. I’ve knit Miss May, Floating Shawl, and now my new Stillness. Each pattern is written in the same style. There are line-by-line instructions as well as charts for the lace. The line-by-line instructions inform the knitter as the stitch count changes. Yeah! That is an incredible aid to anyone who’s a bit lace-impaired or impaired as to a particular style of lace. And to keep a knitter on track as far as yarn usage, at regular intervals (5%…10%…) the pattern charts your progress. If you need to track your yarn usage this is super helpful. Plus it’s somehow encouraging to chart your road to completion so accurately.

My shawl, laid out here on a queen-sized bed, is 58 inches wide and 29 inches deep. I used 70 grams ( 307 yards) of the teal, 60 grams (263 yards) of the brown, and 56 grams (246 yards) of the lightest shade. I’m already planning for what to knit with the remaining yardage. Because this yarn is just too wonderful to sit long in my oddments bin.