Good deeds from neighbors


My small city downstate has an active Next Door community. There’s lots of good deeds done for one another. And yes a good bit of grousing, teasing, bartering, selling, and advice asking and giving. My grandson and his mom and dad were flying to Michigan in January and I needed to outfit my car with a carseat. I asked on our Next Door site if anyone had a used one for sale. A few people came forward and then came a neighbor I didn’t know, a mom of 3-year old twin girls, to tell me her daughters had outgrown theirs and I could have both for free.

For free. Yipes. Since Isaac has two sets of grandparents in Michigan and both of us needed a carseat, this was incredibly welcome and amazingly generous. The seats are in great shape, Graco, and not out of date. (Who knew that carseats have expiration dates now?)

On Christmas Day all the Michigan grandparents were gathered together and 50% of the Michigan grandparents are…you guessed it, knitters. To thank our Next Door neighbor, who we’d never met before, we decided to knit something for the twins. I had the pouches already in progress and Cory and I each knit a sheep.

The sheep pattern is an old Waldorf School standby.  The pattern is from A First Book of Knitting for Children, by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton. I’ve linked to the older edition, but the new one contains the same pattern.


In my lifetime of knitting, I’ve knit zillions of these little sheep. Simple, with just the right “gesture” for a sheep. In fact, my son knit one (with me) when he was a Waldorf pre-schooler.

And here’s a look at the pouch, which is of my own design.


Here’s how I knit it. And you’ll have to forgive me. I’m no pattern writer. Cast on 30 stitches, chunky wool, size 9 needles. Knit 35 rows, using the double knitting technique where you knit a flat tube.

Here’s how you work each double-knit row: Slip the first stitch knit-wise, bring the yarn to the front and slip the next stitch purlwise, bring the yarn to the back and knit the next stitch, bring the yarn to the front and slip the next stitch purlwise, bring the yarn to the back and knit the next stitch. And just keep doing that across the row. Do that for every row. What you’re doing is knitting both the front and the back stitches of a flat tube, by (basically) working every other stitch. The big unfixable mistake will be if you forget and purl one of those stitches that you are supposed to be slipping. Because if you do that, your tube won’t open into a tube because the front and the back will be stitched together at that point. I tried to find a good video on the technique. This one is accurate.

Once you’ve knit about 35 rows, separate the front and back stitches. I use a double-pointed needle and put one stitch from the front on one needle held in front, then the next stitch needs to go onto a second needle that you can hold in back. Continue alternating front and back until you have all the stitches separated. If you didn’t goof and remembered not to purl instead of slip, you will be able to reach into the flat tube and open it up.

Bind off the front set of stitches. I put two stitches on either side (one from the back set and one from the front set of stitches) onto a yarn stitch holder or a safety pin to use later for the straps. Working on the non-bound off “back” stitches, knit the top flap anyway you feel like it. I kept it as garter stitch for 4 stitches on each edge, with stockinette in the center. Make a buttonhole (I made a 3-stitch) where you want one. Then I changed to all garter stitch, knitting two together on each edge until I got down to about 5 stitches. Bind off.

Attach yarn near the two stitches you’ve saved on the sides. Put those two stitches on a double-pointed needle and pick up one stitch from in the vicinity of those two. Knit the three stitches, then move all three stitches forward on your double point and knit the three stitches again, starting with the same first stitch. Continue knitting this “I-cord” (knitting the stitches and then sliding them forward to knit again) until your strap is as long as you want it to be. Repeat this for the other side. I just tie the ends of the two I-cords together. Add a button. Easy peasy.

My neighbor let me know that her girls loved their sheep-in-a-pouch. And Isaac was quite at home in his pink carseats.

Hats for the polar vortex


This is a great walk-in-the-woods hat for hunting season. It’s Alexis Winslow’s Cabled Dad Hat, a free pattern if you’re OK signing up for her Knit Darling newsletter. She doesn’t stuff my mailbox with a bunch of emails. I’m grateful for that and for this excellent free pattern.

It’s a nice rhythmic knit. I used one of the best blaze orange wools around: Briggs & Little Heritage in their hunter orange colorway. It’s a rustic worsted, so if you’ve got that itch-adverse thing going, you’ll likely want to choose another yarn. But I like the feel of rustic wools. What others think is itchy I just experience as warm.

My brother the hunter is wearing this one. Top priority for me…was the top. I eschew hats that have pointy tops. This one has a bit of extra fluff where the crown decreases start, which a softer wool would probably tame, but check out the top. No point!


I was drawn to the this next one, a design by Miranda Grant of Pokitoknits, because pine trees and I are good buddies. Her hat is called Coniferae.


Coniferae, also known as Pinophyta, is the division of plants that include pines, firs, and other evergreens. You know…conifers…cone-bearing trees. And Coniferae is basically the Latin plural feminine of conifer. Anyway, it’s a really nice hat and deserves more attention than it’s getting on Ravelry so far. I used Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherds Wool, a worsted, in their blue spruce colorway.

coniferae_topConiferae has an interesting almost whirligig top and, again, no dreaded pointy top. Grant’s pattern calls for an Aran weight, but my hat worked out nicely in a worsted.

This next hat is Diametric, by Susan Villas Lewis of Stay Toasty and The Thinker hat fame.


And here’s the glass head wearing it and showing off the patterning a bit more. The hat is an enjoyable knit. Just enough going on to keep a knitter from getting bored.

diametric_sideThe crown decreases are worked in pattern, giving the hat a nice swirling effect and…you guessed it, no point.

diametric_topThis is Kraemer Yarns Perfection Tapas, a 23% wool/77% acrylic worsted. I was drawn to the pink and green mix, their arugula colorway, and was prepared to not like the yarn much. No knots. A nice soft but weighty quality to it. It won me over.

Musher hats


Hat, scarf, and mitten combos are clearly the headgear of choice for spectators at M.U.S.H. dogsled events. They were out in force back in 2012 when this feature last appeared on my blog. And I’ve never seen these except at a dogsled event. This trio favored the more natural fur look. But the obviously synthetic one are totally cute and warm as well.


Here’s another with a nice sense of humor. Maybe an imitation skunk?


The ears seem to be an essential part of the “look” of the headgear even though they perform no particular function.


But it’s not like all the special dogsled event headgear followed this trend. There was also a good deal of natural fur in attendance, including little Daniel Boone (or is it Davy Crockett) and his dad. When the little one flicked his head around, his hat’s tail flipped dramatically.

twohats_lowresAnd this has got to be a vintage Red Wing cap, don’t you think?


The mushers are also mostly mittened and this fellow wore what looked to be a great Nordic-style pattern. Here it is in close-up and, surprise, I think I see a Red Wing insignia at the wrist:


Thunder Bay Classic


These pups were checking out race day from the confines of their large sled-dog trailer.

The Mid-Union Sled Haulers (M.U.S.H.) put on a major event at Alpena’s Thunder Bay Classic race this past weekend. M.U.S.H. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting dog-sledding on an amateur level. The members work hard, and so do their dogs, to promote sled dog races as a fun, family affair.

The weekend included 1-dog, 3-dog, 5-dog and 7-dog races for adult mushers and junior events for kids from 10 to 15. We weren’t around for the skijoring event, but we’ve seen it in other years and it’s…a little hard to describe. One cross country skier working really hard. One or sometimes two sled dogs, in a specialized harness that you won’t find at your local Pet Supplies Plus, also working really hard pulling the skier along. The skier skis and poles and the dogs run and pull. Teamwork. Everything about M.U.S.H. is teamwork. An inter-species collaboration.

We only watch and it’s way cool. Before the races you can walk around and meet the teams. Even the four-legged athletes are in game-day mode, so you don’t want to make a pest of yourself. But the dogs and their humans are very welcoming even though they’re busy.

Some of the 5-dog teams were a dog shy. But check them out as they finished running the last few yards of their 5-mile course.


The mushers were often encouraging their dogs as they reached the finish line. And you could see the dogs put on an extra effort at the end even though most of them were panting heavily.

Here’s another 4-dog team, at the end of their race.


The musher carries a dog bag throughout the race. And if any dog were to be hurt, they’d be packed out on the sled by the rest of the team.

The race was on the grounds of the Alpena Sportsman’s Club this year. From a spectator’s perspective, it was a good venue. While waiting for the teams to start arriving at the finish line, you could go inside the clubhouse and warm up.

At the start of the races, you can see just how much these teams want to run. As they are placed in position, one of their humans stays at their side because it’s clear they are chomping at the bit to be off and running. Here’s one of the larger teams going full tilt even though it’s near the end of the race and they must be tired.


As they finished the race, and passed the finish line, this team stopped and stood calmly. The musher stepped off the sled and moved from one pair to the next, patting each dog on the head, brushing snow off their ears, and speaking to each one. An interesting bunch, these mushers and their dogs.

More, soon, on all the distinctive headgear that showed up at the races. Power to the puppies! Pupypwr!


P.S. My son has moved my blog to a new host and you’ll see some improved performance. And he’s fixed that “glitch” that was keeping the photos from going into super-size mode when you click on them. So, click away, and meet the pups almost full screen-size.