2 thumbs up

The mitten from my last post has received a thumbs up. Marty wore it for a walk in the afternoon. I only had one done so on the other hand he wore an insulated glove that  was (gasp) store bought. It was a good test – he gave the wool mitten a 2 thumbs up for warmth and another 2 thumbs up for the great  pattern on the mittens. He even liked the colors – not bad considering I was working from stash.

I love the pattern too – I knit it last year as a X-mas present for my son.  the name of the pattern is Fisherman’s Friend  from Jorid’s Pattern Shop. The charts are well written and easy to follow.  I altered the pattern slightly to make it big enough for Marty to pull on over a pair of leather gloves. I used worsted wieght yarn to make it extra warm.

On the first mitten (that will eventually be finished for me) I used a skien of brown wool and paired it with leftovers green yarn from hat knitting.  I cast on 60 sts on size 3 needles this was a nice size for me but too tight for Marty. The pattern is not as easy to make out on this mitten although I love the blue and the green paired with brown.   so on my second try I cast on 68 sts on size 3 needles in brown and a kind of yucky mustard yellow. This yellow had been sitting in my stash for a while I got a good deal on it in the clearance bin but everytime I pulled it out thinking I would make a hat for one of my nephews it got thrown back in the closet cause the color just wasn’t right. But paired with the brown it is very nice I think. Now I even wish I had another ball so I could make a matching hat.

I also used a provincial cast on for the mittens. I thought about starting the pattern from the top but decided I wanted some easy knitting and didn’t want to have to make adjustments as I knit the mitten backwards  but I did want to make sure that I knit a long enough cuff. So this way when both mittens are done they can be tried on and we can decide how long the cuff should be. Another bonus is I will know exactly how much yarn is left to knit the cuffs.

I joked with Marty that I am probable jinxing myself by knitting these and the winter will stay so warm he won’t get a chance to wear them. He thinks I should knit a few more of these super warm mittens if that is what it takes to keep the warm weather here.

We are having such a warm winter that by the time I finish these winter might be over. Areas of the Okauchee Lake are still open and I wouldn’t trust the ice enough to walk across the lake. But we still had a nice walk we headed over to Stumpy Bay yesterday and stayed close to shore so Meva could do a little exploring. The wind made the walk brisk but we kept going cause we could hear engines and wanted to see what was up. Once we rounded the corner we could see motorcycles racing on a track. Unfortunately it was too windy to walk all the way there and watch the races maybe next weekend. There are a few ice rinks set up along the shore – we have a very large one in our bay that the boys play hockey on. On the walk back we saw a couple of ice boats sailing. The wind was really whipping them around.There were also a few people ice fishing. We stopped and talked to one group and they were catching some 7 and 8 inch perch. And one boy had just released a 23 inch northern before we stopped.  The ice looked to be about 4 inches thick- not thick enough to drive on yet.

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Stranded

It is a beautiful day on Okauchee- the sun is shining and the sky is blue with no clouds at all. Which also means it is a little colder than it has been. Clear days are usually accompanied by cold temps but I don’t mind

I am just happy to see the sun. It was hard for me to move here from Michigan I was always convinced we had more sunny days in the upper pennisula. And the air was dryer so the below zero weather did not feel as cold. I love a crisp sunny January day. The snow crunches under my feet as I walk the dog. And Meva launches herself into the snow banks when I throw her treats. I saw a sleek kestril hunting when we started out on our walk so all the other birds were hiding. The lake still isn’t frozen we walked a little way on the lake and then had to go up on shore. We walked all the way to the Hideaway because we thought we heard motors and wanted to see if they were having motorcycle races. They weren’t having races the ice is too thin. There are a few brave people ice fishing.  

I started knitting a heavy pair of mittens for Marty the other day. He has been eyeballing my heavy wool mitts and admiring how I can pull off the mitten and still be warm because I wear a small pair of leather gloves underneath.  He doesn’t make many request for knit things so I put aside my other knitting for a couple of days to try and get these done. I am using leftover worsted weight yarn for the fish design on these mittens pairing it with a dark brown wool. Marty doesn’t like the feel of wool but he is going to wear these over a pair of gloves so it doesn’t matter. I used a provincial cast on when I started because I want to be able to adjust the length after the mitts are completed. It has taken me 2 night to knit the first mitten and now I just have to finish the thumb. I still am not sure that Marty will be able to pull these over his gloves. So the big test was yesterday and we declared these mitts too small. This mitten will not go to waste though it is a great mitten(I might make this my mittens I love the fish pattern and the swirls of blue and green from the left over yarn) and I will finish the second one after I get a Marty mitten right. I cast on immediately for another mitt and finished except for the thumb and cuff last night. I like this one although Marty is making noise about the wool and making like they are still tight but I am going to knit the thumb and cast on another mitten cause I think this one works. I didn’t like the yellow color until I paired it with the brown and now it looks more golden. It is a nice heavy knit and after I finish the second mitten I will pull out the provincial cast on and customize the length of the cuff. I think the pattern shows up better in the second mitten. You can  see the fish better.  I am following the pattern for the front but I changed up the back of the second mitten and am using the wave pattern for the palm.So off to finish the thumb and cast on for another mitten.

sunshine on a cloudy day

Over the last year and a half I have saved all the yellow onions skins from the bags of onions I buy at the grocery store. They were jammed into a gallon size ziplock bag and stowed under the sink, kind of hidden behind things because a bag of this sort is sure to raise the eyebrows of my husband. Cause really when you run into a bag of what looks like garbage but saved for who knows what lurking under the sink or in the back of the closet, well lets just say that might be how those hoarders started. And I think Marty fears that with out some restraints I could turn into one of those hoarders seen on the TV with bags of yarn piled under the beds and stuffed into the closets and books and magazines piled on every available surface. So my bag of onion skins was stashed for a very long time behind the mess that lives behind the closed cupboard doors in the kitchen.It was too windy to set up for dyeing outside and this is onion skins- I don’t think onion fumes would drive us out of the house. So I emptied the dried up brown bits into a pot and covered them with water and set it on the wood stove to heat. As the water heated took on a yellow color and there was no noticeable odor.  I had 2 skeins of yarn mordanted with alum and put them into the pot,  immediately the yarn turned a light yellow. I left the pot simmering on the stove and went about my chores. Every once in a while I would lift the lid on top of the pan which was staying warm but not boiling, and I would be rewarded with the  sight of lovely yellows and oranges. After a few hours I pulled the yarn out of the pot and set it aside to cool. But I could see there was still color plenty left so I put 2 more skeins into the pot. This yarn was not mordanted so I just mixed the alum into the pot. I read earlier in the summer that this might not be the best practice because the alum holds the dye onto the yarn so if you put it alum in the dye pot it would grab the color not the yarn. Well the yarn did not seem to be absorbing much color and but I didn’t worry after all this was the exhaust and the pale yellow was still pretty.  I decided to leave the yarn to soak over night. The next morning at 4:00 Marty stoked up the stove and by the time I wandered downstairs the pot was heated again. I set the pot and the yarn on the counter to cool and we went for our morning stroll. before breakfast I decided to take the yarn out and was rewarded with yarn the same color as the day before. There is still color left in the pot but I didn’t have any yarn to put in or time to do it so I decided to pour the liquid and the skins in a tupperware container and then put it into the shed to use later(again hoarding?).

So you might of noticed I said that I poured the skins and liquid into a container. Typically I don’t strain my pots of dye. I leave the bits and pieces in the liquid and then emerge my yarn into that floating mess of plant materials. My yarn takes on a mottled or speckled look. Or what is sometimes called kettle dyed when you buy it at the store. I prefer this, and love the look of the changing intensity of colors that clings to my yarn. Some people complain about the bits of vegetation that is on the yarn when they pull it out of the pot but I find that a lot of it comes off with a little shake while it is wet. And then when is dry and  I put it on my swift and wind it into a ball with the winder that what ever is left comes off as it is spinning up. I even will put dry yarn into my dye pot so that it slowly soaks up color and has dark and light areas. If a person would want a more solid color then they could strain the pot and then soak the yarn in water before submerging the yarn all at once.

So this yarn is sunshine on a cloudy day and was  the easiest winter natural dyeing project. The colors range from a very soft mellow yellow to a golden hue and a more intense orangey yellow. I love them all. I already have a project in mind for the golden yellow.  The dye material is easy to get and free, I think a person could ask at the grocery store and they would only be to happy to let you have the skins(although you might get an odd look). The yarn I used is knitpick bare fingerweight yarn. I used the silk and wool blend which took darker and the palette yarn which is the softer yellow. I think knitpicks is a bargain priced yarn and I enjoy knitting with it. Although I do think they cause me to have a large stash because they give free shipping for orders over $50 so I always order at least $50 worth of yarn ; )So there you have sunshine all balled up and ready to knit.

frozen pipes

Its a grey day here but I am glad to be home. We had to make an emergency trip to the cabin. A neighbor heard the fire alarm going off in the cabin and e-mailed. Another neighbor kindly helped out and let himself in with a spare key and he discovered that the heat had gone out since our last trip north 3 weeks ago and inside the house was only 32*. So a quick trip north was made. We still don’t know why the heat went out or why the fire alarm went off. But we are so glad the nieghbors noticed and alerted us.

If the heat is off in the cabin it takes a while for it to heat up again. We have a Buderus boiler in the basement and radiant heat in the floors. When we lived in the cabin full time we only turned on the heat in the basement. The cement floor would slowly heat up and radiate out. It was always so nice to walk down to the basement and feel the warm floors. The upstairs also has heat under the wood floors. but we don’t use it because the house gets too warm when we have it on. So upstairs we will start a small fire in the woodstove in the morning to take the chill out of the air. During the day  we have large windows facing south that collect heat all day and warm the living room and the loft. So until the sun goes down we don’t use the woodstove again. All in all our home is very efficient and cosy.

Normally when we are not at the cabin the boiler heats just the floor in the basement to 55* and the sun will heat the upstairs a little. With all the doors open this usually has been good enough to keep the pipes from freezing. And when we do make a trip to the cabin in the winter the house is chilly (about 60*) when we walk in but not unbearable. Once Marty starts a fire in the stove it warms up very quickly. 32* was a shock when we walked in on Sunday. A couple of the drain traps were frozen and 2 of the faucets had icicles hanging from them. But we were lucky none of the pipes were damaged.

Now that we are home and everything was ok I am unpacking our bags and laughing at myself. I had quickly thrown together a bag of clothes for us to wear for a couple of days most of which we didnt wear. The book Marty was reading, my ipad and Marty’s Toshiba notebook went into a backpack along with the recharging cords. I threw together a foodbag with meals for a couple of days. And then I crammed more yarn and projects into a tote than I would possible have time to knit. I was more worried about not having enough knitting for the trip than anything else. I took a wolf toy that I am test knitting along which meant 5 different skeins of yarn. I took 2 balls of Manos del Uruguay that I was comtinplating knitting a new scarp with. A couple of balls of yarn to knit a new toy that Alice and I have been working on and some yarn just in case I wanted to cast on for a fox. Oh and I almost forgot not shown here are the 4 skeins of bare yarn I packed  in case I found time to do some dyeing while we were at the house.  Can you see why I am laughing at myself? This is enough yarn to keep me busy at least 2 weeks not 2 or 3 days.

So what did I get done— well I have a beautiful scarp- which I must say was perfect not thinking knitting. I had a design in mind but found that I would be thinking and talking and just lose track of where I was at so my pattern was a little off but that is ok. I started it in the car while Marty drove. And picked it up again later when the cabin was slowly heating up and there wasn’t anymore that I could do or clean up and it was time for a break. I finished the scarp later as we sat and relaxed by the fire talking and having a few drinks with our wonderful life saving neighbor Cary.  I was able to wear the scarp the following morning when we walked Meva. It was very cold but I was nice and warm in my new knit. I started a hat to match but ran out of yarn and have pulled it apart.

I dyed 4 skeins of yarn with onion skins. This is probable the easiest natural dyeing that I have done.  I didn’t cast on for a fox but I did a little work on the wolf I have been test knitting

Yesterday morning I bundled up everything to go back in the car and cleaned up a little and we hit the road. On the trip home I knit a little pink thingie. I have been knitting a lot of pink thingies for an idea that Alice and I are working on. so 2 1/2 days and 4 things worked on and lots of my yarn never made it out of my tote. I have to work on my packing I think but for now I will just chuckle at myself as I put everything away again till the next time…

Reynard

I have been knitting my friend Monsieur Reynard. I love my samples the yarn is thick and soft. I am not quite happy with the face though. I think it is very cute but I think I can improve it. I love the scarf but might add an after thought thumb to the pocket. I mostly just wanted a pocket that a child could shove an already gloved hand in  for an extra layer of warmth but I also know how children are losing their mittens or rushing out the door to catch the bus and forgetting them.

I also would like to economize this pattern. No I am not talking about cost or amount of yarn. I am talking about the stitches themself and the number of pieces.  Knitting just for myself I find that I will play with my yarn and twist my fabric this way and that to pick up stitches just to avoid that dreaded sewing of a seam. But I think knitting toys last summer has freed me from that notion of sewing equates bad.   I started out doing anything to avoid sewing-picking up sts so I wouldn’t have to sew on a leg later. Then I was knitting an owl for the 2nd time I was twisting the toy this way and that while knitting the wing and doing short rows to shape it. Then afterwards realized I was still taking the tail of the yarn for the wing and sewing duplicate sts along the body of the owl where I picked up the sts to tidy it. So what the heck was I saving. I was really just complicating a knit that was supposed to be relaxing and easy. So while I will pick up sts for a leg

I will knit a wing or a nose separate. Besides sewing on noses and eyes gives me time to contemplate the animal as it takes shape. I move pieces around and see how the placement adds a quirkyness and the personality of a stuffed toy starts to emerge.

I have found that sometimes while knitting out of books and magazines that a pattern will be so twisted or clever that it becomes to hard to read.  And if I really want the object pictured in the magazine then I resort to studying the picture and schematics to figure out a way that I can make it happen. It is quite possible that it is not the fault of the pattern and might just be me not being skilled enough to tackle harder patterns or read the directions. I don’t want to see  dumbing down of patterns for knitters like me who aren’t up to it but there is a place for simplicity.

The fox like my other toys is simple. The shape is long and skinny and afterwards sewn up into a pillow shape with a pocket in front. Unlike the cat or the monkey the ears are shaped with short rows. I love short rows for shaping the short row shapes my little monkey’s face so nicely and the same short row can shape the toe of a sock or the shoulder of a cardigan.

I learned to knit over 40 years ago but while working out the details of the monkey pattern(coming soon I promise) I learned a new trick. And my daughter taught me this trick. She was looking up short rows while test knitting and found this  Short Rows: Shadow Wraps  . I have read socktopus before and love her yarn and she has the same first name as my daughter, Alice. You must read her tutorials for short rows. I  knitted the shadow wraps and love them. I think they look better than the way I was doing short rows before and it is easier and  more elegant than wrap and turn. It is an economical stitch like I was trying to say before. Knitting a Mama or daughter stitch and then knitting the twins together is easier than wrapping and then having to pick up the stitch and wrap to knit together.All those short rows of Mama and daughter stitches turn the straight rows into this. Looks kind of a mess until you sort it out and lay the seams together.

Then the shape of the ears become apparent and like the fox in the stories I feel clever. You can play with short rows all you want and make little swatches of them and instead of unraveling them when you are done maybe turn them into an animal or a stuffed alien. Its fun to practice short rows in something small like an animal and helps to build confidence to give it a try in a sweater.

hunting

what do I see hunting in the snowyou can barely make him out in the brush across the bay

but then he steps out in the open and cast a long shadow in the crisp white snow. hunting- listening for any little mice burrowing under the driftMeva waits to see if the fox will come in to our house to dig out the bones that Meva hides under the snow.

sometimes early in the morning the fox will come into our yard looking for food.once he even came to patio door and looked in for his friend to come out to play. on a snowy evening when Meva was a puppy she followed the fox for an adventure up into the hills behind our house. we put on snow shoes and followed their tracks. you could see where they played and rolled around then ran further away. finally she came back to meet us but I think she leaves food out in the yard just to tempt her friend to visit.today he just walks by.

*pictures are from 3 years ago when we lived at the cabin full time. we saw the fox nearly every morning. we did see a fox last week in Okauchee but it was a fleeting glimps as he darted across the road.

snow

it’s here

snow

wonderful,wet,cold

snow!

I finished monkeys and decided last night to take a break from the monkey madness. Oh I will knit more monkeys I want a whole string of minis but I have had this idea floating around in my head and I decided to try it –so last night I cast on in orangeand knit away. and this morning I cast on in an off white and knit some moreand in no time at all I sewed it up and had thisa cute little hat to go with my mini fox. It worked up fast using Lion Brand Jiffy. I know –I am a bit of a yarn snob I love my wool but, when you are knitting to give away sometimes wool just won’t do. Jiffy is nice and soft and thick and sure to keep a little noggin warm. Now if only I had a little noggin to model this foxy hat….oh well –this is the best I can do!

Whatz it

Any one that guessed sock–you are close but not quite right.Ahh!!! there add a couple of friends and you can see what this will be. Alice and I are busy adding the details for this guy and I am retesting the pattern by knitting a larger size. Alice has already tested the mini twice. We are having a lot of fun making up the minis and stringing them together.

Yesterday I was talking about yarn — as much as I love natural fabrics sometimes it just isn’t the right yarn choice. For a toy that is going to be donated I want to be sure that it will hold up in the wash. So the yarn above is one that I purchased at Ben Franklin’s. It is Coffee Beenz By PlymouthYarn. It has a rustic look and has an uneven spin to it for a homespun charm. It is 25% wool and 75% acryllic. It feels soft  I have a feeling I will get 2 monkeys out of a skien of yarn there is 214 yards in a ball. So later I will stuff this guy and needle sculpt some ears  and knit the arms and legs.

I also tried this yarn for the first time yesterday. the light pink is a finger weight pima cotton and the darker pink and the gold skien is organic sports weight cotton. I really like this, I only ordered a couple of balls to try out and wished I had ordered more. It is very nice to work with–I knit my sample on size#2 needles and I love the look and feel of this yarn. It was easy on my fingers and the stitch definition is great. It worked up fast and although I am not a pink person this heathery dogwood color won me over. There is 164 yards in the sports weight ball and 218 yards in the pima fingerweight cotton.

So thats whatz new in my neck of the woods. I will leave you with a picture of the sunrise and then I need to go out and enjoy this beautiful weather.

Full moon Jan 8 2012

Isn’t this a gorgeous view of the moon rising over Okauchee Lake. It is still warmish and the lake isn’t frozen but the bay we live in is. Knitting continues to fall off my needles. I am obsessed with animals. And knit them over and over again trying new ideas for texture and shaping. Wool makes great animals I love the way it feels and know how I can manipulate the fabric.

I love wool and am familar with wool. Well I live in the upper midwest – not quite the frigid artic circle but most winters we come close. This winter has been different usually the lake is frozen by now and our morning walks take us out on to the lake to explore the ice formations. This winter has been warm – there is a little ice in the bay but as the sun warms during the day it puddles – not safe for walking on.

there are mornings where I put on layers of wool to keep warm  before walking the dog. and then there are mornings that I am sweating in a light coat and stripping my hat and scarf off before I complete the circuit.  I love natural fibers and many of my animals are made with left over bits and pieces from hats and mittens and scarfs that I have made.

But for toys especially toys that you donate it may not be practical. Some times you need to knit with something that can be thrown into the washer and will remain soft and cuddly. So a lot of the toys I have knit this fall have been made with acrylics. Price matters being on a fixed income I have to find economical solutions. Caron so soft is a nice option and so is Plymouth. but I just tried a real winner  berroco Comfort dk and I am going to use a lot more of this I think .

but I am also trying to find a cotton yarn for a toy I am working on. I tried sugar and cream and was happy with the toy I made. I put it through the washer and dryer and the stuffed toy still looked great. but for my purposes it was heavy and my fingers ached knitting the fabric. I tried micro spun lion brand and the yarn  felt soft and toy looked great but again the knitting experiance left something to be desired. The yarn was splitty and not fun to work with.  And it wasn’t the cotton that I wanted for my toy.

I gave up and was knitting a raven in wonderful wool yarns  when the mail man brought a box a yarn that I had ordered. I ordered bare yarn for dyeing from knit picks and also picked out a few balls of cotton yarn.  So for about an hour I continued to knit the large and mini size raven and then gave into temptation and cast on 24 sts in a pink organic cotton sportswieght yarn. And It was lovely- softer than I was looking for  the yarn color has flecks in it so the hue of pink is not harsh. It was easy on my fingers and was not splitty at all. I knit the entire body by early evening and today sometime I will sew it up and stuff it. and then work on some shaping.

oh and I did return to knitting my bird also the body of the mini is almost done to the beak I can’t wait to start on the color I picked for the inner pocket. a wonderful hand painted koigi in dark blues and purples.