The new(ish) Germantown

This is Elizabeth Smith’s Layla, knit in Kelbourne Woolens Germantown.  I don’t knit many sweaters for grown folks. But this one caught my eye. Oversized. Boxy, Great for layering. I figured it would work for winter and do double duty on cool evenings the rest of the year. Plus (don’t laugh…too hard) I don’t like to sew buttons on and a sweater that looks good without buttons is a plus. You don’t even have to have someone’s first remark on your hand knit be….all together now…”I really like the buttons.”

The pattern is simple, but with some excellent detailing. I like the subtle garter stitch panel that runs down the sides. When picking up the bands, Smith doesn’t provide an exact number of stitches. I mean, does anyone ever get exactly that number? Instead, she says to pick up 3 for every 4 edge stitches. So, no pressure, just well-behaved bands. There’s even some easy short row shaping on the shoulders.

The pattern teaches a fun little “trick” for knitting one-row alternating stripes while knitting stockinette flat. You knit two rows and then purl two rows. The color you need for the next stripe is in the correct place because after you knit (or purl) the first in the pair of rows, you slide all the stitches forward on your circular needles to knit (or purl) another row in the other color.  And because of how you handle the yarn, you are working stockinette despite the knitting two rows and then purling two rows. Here’s Smith’s brief photo tutorial on the technique. Easy peasy. And such a nice effect.

I am very pleased with the result.

The pattern calls for 11 inches of positive ease and, in my size, presents the yarn requirements as 1066 yards of the main color and 464 yards of the contrasting color. That would be 8 skeins plus 4 skeins of the recommended yarn, Quince and Company Lark because Lark is put up in 134 yard skeins. I decided to give the new incarnation of an old fav, Germantown, a try. Smith’s pattern doesn’t tell a knitter how many yards are actually needed, just how many skeins. One of the ways Ravelry can be very helpful is when knitters report their actual yardage used. But I didn’t find enlightenment in the project pages on this point.

Germantown is put up in 220 yards skeins. The only safe choice was for me to buy at least as many yards of each color as the Lark skeins would have provided. So I bought 5 skeins of the main color (220 times 5 is 1100) and 3 of the contrasting color (660 yards). That was a bit of a gulp pricewise. When I last met Germantown it was many years ago in Woolworth’s “dime” store, I believe. The shop where I purchased Germantown sells a skein for $15.50. Let’s just leave it at I couldn’t have spent $15.50 even for a sweater quantity of Germantown in my dime store days.

I had 1760 yards of Germantown. I used less than 1250 for the sweater.

What to do with the remaining 500 plus yards?

These are Saffiyah Talley’s Heartland Marsh mittens, included in Kate Davies Warm Hands book. Good pattern, from a new-to-me (and newish) designer. What I take to be a tree motif appears on both sides of the mitts. And the mittens both fit each hand.

They fit very nicely.

The fair isle work has some very long floats. Especially with mittens, where fingers are apt to get caught in floats, I decided to catch them at least every 3 stitches. More often I caught them–loosely–every two stitches. The mittens definitely needed blocking. Hmm. No dedicated mitten blockers in this household.

I used a piece of stiff plastic I had on hand, and this Asa Tricosa tutorial, to make a pair of mitten blockers.

I modified Tricosa’s directions some to allow for the pointier tops of my mitts. It worked out just right. I traced the top of the mitten shape from the toe of my wooden sock blockers.

And still my Germantown wasn’t exhausted. Next I knit Kate Davies Design’s Haresd, from the same Warm Hands book.

Those honey gold bumps strike me as a bit odd, but they do make for a warm mitten. They are two-stitch, two-round, purl stitches knit onto a stockinette background. The first round of the purl stitch set end up half ’n half—so, in two colors. If it weren’t such a prominent design feature, we’d call it a mistake.

So, I’m done with Germantown, right? No. I have 3/4 of a skein of yardage left. I began to think some fairy was secretly spinning more yarn almost as fast as I was knitting it up. I’ve relegated the rest to my oddments bin. I’m quite sure that someday a honey colored pony with a purple-maroon mane will gallop out.

What about the yarn? Do I like it? Yes. It’s a very nice workhorse type yarn. In most skeins there would be one or two rough, stiff joins that I needed to cut out and spit-splice. That’s not too bad for a 220 yard skein. Kelbourne says that it’s “100% US grown wool.” I know that needs to make it more expensive than imported wool. Drat.

Knitted hats in these hot times

This is Katie’s Kep, a traditional fair isle cap knit in nontraditional colors. It’s a freebie designed by Wilma Malcomson and is available on Ravelry, courtesy of Shetland Wool Week. If I’d have knit it in a yarn like Jamieson Spindrift the patterning would have been more crisp and defined. But I am still stashdiving and what I had on hand was Kate Davies Design’s Milarrochy Tweed. It’s a 70% wool, 30% mohair fingering weight with, as its name indicates, a tweed in it. All the colors have flecks of other colors and there’s also some thick and thin going on. I don’t see it as a good choice for fair isle. Blasphemy. Please don’t tell the fangirls.

Still, I think that the hat’s a stunner. And the crown is the star. Literally.

Some of my knit-buds quietly think me a bit goofy for some of my knitting habits. Most of these hats were knit while it was still quite cool. But it can be 90 degrees out and I’ll still be knitting wintry hats.

This next one is another freebie: Kate Gagnon Osborne’s February Hat.

This hat’s very stretchy bottom ribbing is created by starting with a  provisional cast-on followed by K1, P1 ribbing. Once the ribbing is complete, the provisional cast-on is released and placed on a spare circular needle and then the stitches on both needles are knit together. The result is a folded brim. The other result is a rather deep pinched-in round as the ribbing transitions to the body of the hat. But that’s a fairly nice design feature.

I knit the hat and assembled the pompom from Plymouth Yarn’s Worsted Merino Superwash.

Next up is Aki, a freebie designed by Svetlana Volkova. The pattern calls for an Aran weight and I decided to use Dream in Color Classy. Classy calls itself a worsted. But it seems more Aran to me. My sense of this yarn is that it’s a bit stiff. I like it. A lot, actually. But in this interesting ribbed pattern the hat can almost stand up by itself. It will keep someone’s ears and head very warm. A good hat.

I modified the pattern by knitting the first set of ribs on needles two sizes smaller than for the body of the hat. I noticed a bit of a flare at the start in a number of projects and wanted to eliminate that. It worked quite nicely. I changed to a size US7 needle (from a 5) in the first set of all knit rounds. I also extended the first set of ribs by 2 rounds to keep the length of the ribs more uniform.

The crown decreases are abrupt. They take place entirely over 5 rounds. It’s a bit rustic, but it works. At least in a less stiff yarn it would work. Mine sports a top dimple that I don’t care for.

I next tackled another Dream in Color yarn that had been in my stash for years. This one is Calm, rather than Classy. It’s 100% merino, same as Classy, but has a softer hand. I knit Melissa LaBarre’s Winter Waves Slouch Hat. The pattern can be purchased on Ravelry. But it’s also included in “100 Knits: Interweave’s Ultimate Pattern Book, a hardcover published in July of 2018. It’s a wonderful book that I highly recommend.

I am such a sucker for lots of texture in a hat. The crown decreases keep the texture going.

I’ve decided that Winter Waves is mine. Speaking of waves, it’s 89 degrees here with very high humidity and the pontoon boat calls.

The birds of Spring

Waking up to snow on the ground and ice on the plants that rim the lake during the first week of May made us pine for spring. The Adirondack chairs are out. The twigs in the fire pit await a calm day when it’s safe to burn. The boat is in. The kayak launch aid is set (the “H” about 4 feet from shore). The orange halves are hung on the trees waiting for orioles.This dawn looked more like fall. But so beautiful.

We do not have swans on Long Lake. But, wait. This Spring is different. These are definitely Mute Swans. They had the telltale lump at the top of their bill and the bills were lighter than they appear in these photos. They’re the exotic transplant seen most often in Michigan and not our homegrown Trumpeter Swans.

We’ve seen them once or twice before in about 15 years on the lake. But this quartet hung around for more than a week.

We see Common Mergansers regularly in the Spring. But Hooded Mergansers are rare. These guys were a hoot to watch. The males were puffing up their impressive crests and clearly performing for the nearby females. This female seemed unimpressed.

Here’s the pair once the male had chilled out and the female had, apparently, changed her mind.

We do not have Red-Breasted Mergansers on Long Lake. But, wait. This Spring is different. These are definitely Red-Breasted Mergansers.

It’s the male’s punk hairdo that’s the big give-away. And the female has some of the same fly-away look going on.

We have a number of warblers that put in appearances on Long Lake. But we do not have Yellow-Rumped Warblers. But, wait. This Spring is different. These are definitely Yellow-Rumped Warblers of the variety formerly known as Myrtle. You can tell it’s the Myrtle variety rather than the Audubon variety because the chin-strap is white rather than yellow.

And, yes, there is a yellow splotch on its rump. It was just such a fluttery critter that Steve couldn’t get a photo of its rump.

There was a time when Myrtle was its own species. And the somewhat similar Audubon warbler, with less distinct coloration and a yellow chin strap, were considered to be a separate species. The two species were merged by the birding universe’s powers that be. They are the only warbler that can digest the waxy berries produced by myrtle and bayberry bushes. They aren’t a rare warbler, at least not during migration. But we’ve never seen them here before.

Wouldn’t that gray, black, white, bright yellow make a great colorway for a yarn? Or an interesting way to find (or free) your fade?

It’s just not your normal Up North Michigan Spring. In so many ways, it’s not a normal Spring.

Irresistable Colorways

I really like Blue Moon Socks That Rock. I love the way this fingering weight yarn knits up with a good sturdy twist. Hardly ever any narly bits to cut out and deal with. But, this skein?  Well, this skein was a challenge. Several years ago I ended up with it via my guild’s brown bag swap. Pick a bag. Open it. Keep it or steal from someone ahead of you. Apparently no one wanted to steal this from me.

I ended up with 800 yards of this Blue Moon Socks that Rock. That was an expensive and generous offering for a brown bag swap.  The aptly named colorway is Muddy Autumn Droplets. I just could not figure out what to do with it and it languished in my stash until the coronovirus started rearing its ugly in early March. It wasn’t just the colorway. It was 800 yards of it.

I thought I’d wind it to get a full view of its barfworthiness.

Hmmm. Looking so much better. Those droplet blobs in the skein started looking more tameable.

I could not be happier with how this turned out! It’s Justyna Lorkowska’s wonderful freebie Close to You. Thousands of Ravelers have knit this beauty. My Muddy Autumn Droplets version is my third. Check out my more sedate versions here. I once blocked the lace section and another time decided against it. This time I lightly steamed the shawlette and left the lace a bit closed up and bouncy.

The only problem with my new Close to You is that it only used up 420 of my 800 yards of Muddy Autumn Droplets.

Reading in one of the main Ravelry forum soon after finishing my new Close to You, someone mentioned a pattern specifically designed to soothe the savage variegated beast. It’s Bristol Ivy’s freebie, Sallah Cowl. Sallah was published in Knitty in 2012. Ivy’s write-up on the pattern says: “Every knitter has a skein of wonderfully hand-painted and variegated sock yarn in their stash that they don’t have any idea what to do with. The colors — beautiful, vivid tones that meld harmoniously in the skein — clash horribly in any project they try. So what’s a knitter to do?” I don’t think that Muddy Autumn Droplets even melded harmoniously in the skein. But the pattern sounded like just what I needed.

This pattern, which is knit flat, used a new-to-me easy technique that made it even more appealing. All wrong side rows are worked on a US size 10  needle. All right side rows are worked on a size 5 needle. Some folks put both needles on the same interchangeable cable. But I decided to break out my straights and just use one size 10 and one size 5. Sallah is knit on the bias, in a twisted rib, and is finished off with applied I-Cord.

I had a great time knitting Sallah. But I admit to being daunted by the finishing. Between the directions in the pattern and Ivy’s supplement on her blog, I was successful in blocking Sallah to the required parallelogram. It took some significant tugging and a serious dunking. The fabric is very stretchy. That made the task easier than I anticipated.

You fold the end you started with (where you see my yarn butterfly ) to the left point.You fold the end you finished with (where you see the ball of yarn) to the right point. The pattern directs that you use mattress stitch to seam the cowl closed. Quite a few Ravelers have been stumped by how to make that mattress seam look neat and to keep it from gathering up. Taking a look at many of the Ravelry projects shows that not too many negotiated that successfully.

I took the lead of a few of the Ravelers, endorsed by Ivy as she answers questions about the pattern on her blog, and joined the seam with I-Cord. I used two needles and picked up the same number of stitches on each side of the seam. Then I worked the applied I-Cord connecting the cord by working through the stitches, using one from the front needle and one from the back–as you would for a 3-needle bindoff. I think it worked remarkably well. It also echoes the top and bottom I-Cord detail.

Here’s Glass Head modeling the cowl. I’ve already worn and enjoyed this drapey colorful cowl.

Sallah used up 330 yards. I declare Muddy Autumn Droplets put to rest and to good uses. The remaining small yardage is now relegated to my fingering weight oddments bag. It may yet appear as a dress for one of Evelyn’s dolls or stuffed buddies.

Speaking of Canada Geese

I don’t have friendly feelings toward Canada Geese. I’ve written about this a lot on my blog over the years, including my efforts to chase them away with a big floating alligator head with shiny jewel eyes that sparkled in the sun.

That worked not one bit. In fact, a pair of black ducks decided to befriend Headly the first night he appeared at the dock and they soiled the dock big time.

And then there was the plastic coyote.

He had a big fluffy realistic tail that flapped in the wind. We moved him around the lawn thinking maybe we’d keep the geese wondering if he could do more than wave his tail at them. That didn’t work either. And everytime I caught a glimpse of him I startled.

We’ve strung the property (to the extent that we can). I’ve run after them in my white bathrobe yelling and waving a broom in the air. I have permission to go on my neighbors’ lots to chase them away. Nothing, except a dog–which we don’t have, works for longer than a few minutes unless THEY decide they want to graze elsewhere. So, from about June until September we have to deal with geese, their goslings, and–of course (and this is the point)–their slimy toostie roll droppings.

Last summer my grandchildren, then ages 3 and 5, visited for a week. They were quite entertained by the adult efforts to keep the geese at bay. Especially memorable was their mother herding the geese off the neighbor’s lawn screaming like a banshee as the geese fluttered ahead of her.

My daughter-in-law later suggested that the children would enjoy having knitted Canada Geese. They’d taken to calling themselves goslings and to teasing their parents sometimes by calling them Mama and Daddy Goose. Gulp. Knit geese? Knit Canada Geese?

These two made their appearance in time for a Valentine’s Day send-off to the kiddos. They were well-received. The children are totally sweet and totally knitworthy.

This is a pair of Betsy’s Goose, a freebie pattern on Ravelry offered by Sara Elizabeth Kellner. I decided to economize on the yarn and knit the geese in Paintbox Yarn Simply Aran, a 100% acrylic. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the yarn. Even knit at tight gauge, the yarn didn’t squeak as I knit. There were no knots. It’s an excellent acrylic in my view. The pattern was an easy knit.

Lots of folks have trouble with the legs. Basically, the geese don’t want to stand on them. Some knitters just leave the legs off. But I didn’t think that geese without legs and feet would suit. I positioned the legs in a few places. I tried them stiffened with a section of plastic straw. I tried running a length of yarn from the leg to an unobtrusive place in the neck to try to strengthen them. None of that worked. On a second try I borrowed feet from a different duck pattern where the feet are larger. That didn’t work either. Finally this is what I did:

I used the black yarn, doubled, and moved up to size 6 US needles rather than the size 4 that I used for the body. I followed rounds 1-4 for the leg, as the pattern directs. But I didn’t knit any rounds of the next one inch the pattern called for. I moved right into the remaining rounds, 1-8–as written. My idea was to double the yarn to make the legs stiffer and to shorten the legs, a lot. I ran a running stitch across the foot, at the base of the stumpy little legs to help flatten the feet a bit. When I fastened these feet to the goose in the place where goose feet ought to be, the goose toppled over–just as with all my other tries. I had to place the feet much further toward the neck than toward the tail before the goose would balance. So, not anatomically correct. But it worked and looks OK.

I wonder what this pair is looking at?

No. Please. No.

Rest easy. This is a photo of a Long Lake Canada Goose attack during the southern migration when, for reasons unknown (to me), the geese only rarely come ashore. At this time of the year, and through the summer, we tend to have “only” 4-5 geese pair on the lake. Oh, and each pair has between 3 and a dozen goslings that survive to what passes for maturity among these critters.

Ending on a more hopeful note, but still sticking to the theme, this is the Flying Geese Hat by Streelymade Designs.

I knit mine in Mirasol Umina. It’s 50% alpaca, 50% merino and lists on Ravelry as an Aran weight. I see it more as a worsted, though.

Good hat. Nice simple crown decrease.

Canada Geese. Beautiful birds. I just wish we weren’t up to our eyeballs in them.