Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sweater Math

Rain falls off and on this morning. After last night's thunderstorms, the birch leaves drip with moisture. The temperature is lower but the humidity is not. Summer is wearing out its welcome so rain is a nice break. The local house finches moved a new brood out of the nest. I have been watching an adult male and female feed two youngsters squawking for seeds. Chickadees flit in the birch while the scrawniest juvenile cardinal I have ever seen nudges his way onto the feeder. He has some growing to do.

The sweater I wrote about last week sits in a tote bag. No matter what order I knit the sleeves, body, and button band, I don't have enough yarn. Five skeins equals five skeins. And as Kym commented, knitting faster doesn't make any difference. I have also tried that method. No wonder Math was not my strongest subject. I can't find any yarn of the same dye lot. If I try to knit with a different dye lot, I have a feeling the fabric would have a strange stripey look. I'd rather reclaim the yarn for another project. I have experience ripping out, re-skeining, and washing yarn for another day. It's all just knitting and getting more knitting time from the same yarn.

The scrappy shawl (above) came out well. I also knit a bit on the yellow/peach socks. The Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern is a classic and shows off the color variation. My daughter picked out this yarn for her Christmas socks. Yellow has always been one of her favorite colors so knitting on these sunny socks makes me happy. It is about time to cast on a few gift knits for the holidays. I am also due for a winter sweatshirt type sweater. The sweater I have worn for years met its end last spring so I am contemplating my options for another. This time I'll make sure to have an extra skein.

I am enjoying Lab Girl. If a teacher had explained any science to me the way Jahren writes about  botany, I might have studied science. Her feelings and experiences as woman scientist speak to the work still needed on gender bias. As a side note, the specific examples about money allotted to scientific work in this country is also worth knowing. We have so much work still to be accomplished. 

Linking to Kat and the Unravelers who write about making and reading. And what are you working on today?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Mid August

 Mid August and dusk falls a little earlier. The evening cicada chorus is less deafening than it was a few weeks ago. The bulk of the tomato harvest is canned or frozen but the plants still produce fruit. Likely I will freeze more but not have enough at one time to make canning worthwhile. After several beastly days of heat and humidity, this morning was cooler with a hint of autumn in the air. 

Last week we celebrated a virtual birthday with one of our grandsons. Micah requested a "Phillies" themed party with his family. My daughter sent Phillies cupcake toppers and wrappers, sunglasses, plates, napkins, and cups to us ahead of time. I made cupcakes and set our table. We put on our Phillies sunglasses and sang (via FaceTime) Happy Birthday to him with his family. We also had a bite of cupcake together. Our little party was the next best thing to being there in person. Micah had a very happy day. Now he is six and headed to kindergarten in a week or so. Where does the time go?

Linking with Kat and the Unravelers this week to talk about knitting and books. I might be doing some unraveling soon. I enjoy knitting on this sweater in the evenings. After I separated off the sleeve stitches and knit an inch, I tried the sweater on and it fits but - there is always a but in a tale of unraveling - when I went to the storage bin to pull out another skein for winding, I discovered only three remained. I thought I had four more. I checked the invoice that came with the yarn and sure enough I'd only ordered five for another sweater that didn't work out. I probably don't have enough yarn to finish the sweater so I cast on a pair of socks while I decide what to do.

I could knit down the body of the sweater and divide the remaining yarn between sleeves. Or I could see how much yarn it takes to knit one three-quarter length sleeve. The sweater has a garter stitch button/neck band and garter stitch takes a fair amount of yarn. I could order more yarn and hope the different dye lot isn't so different that I could alternate skeins throughout the rest of the sweater. This is not a tonal but a very solid color yarn and I don't want to create stripes.  Or I could cut my losses, rip out the sweater, and use the yarn for something else. After all this is just knitting and I won't be freeze if I don't finish this sweater. Here is another reason to enjoy scrappy projects: I rarely run out of scraps and when I do I just join another. I finished the knitting the scrappy shawl with scraps to spare. It needs to be washed and blocked.

I read the Ruth Galloway mystery, The Dark Angel. Ruth, an unabashed middle-aged archeologist and DCI Nelson feel like old friends. This book was more about the characters' stories and less about solving the mystery but it was an easy summer read. I am also reading Wade in the Water, by Tracy K. Smith, the current US poet laureate. In one section, the poems are composed of letters written by African American soldiers during/after the Civil War. They are beautiful and haunting. I love the way she let the words of the men stand as written. I can recommend Smith's short podcast episodes of "The Slowdown." Each day she comments about a poem and then reads it. Her voice is gorgeous and soothing. Her personal interpretations of each poem make me think differently.

I hope mid August finds you enjoying the sunshine and finding something to think about in a new way. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Three on Thursday

Today I am joining Carole Knits for Three on Thursday. I am also pickling cucumbers with my Mom's recipe for bread and butter pickles. I think of her while I slice cucumbers, peppers, and onion in a food processor. She sliced her veggies on a box grater. I also have another new fangled small appliance that is quite helpful. Two years ago our kitchen update included a new glass top range. The appliance store recommended not using a traditional water bath canner on the top because the weight could crack the glass. Some online opinions suggested the opposite but we decided to err on the side of caution. I ordered an electric stand-alone canner made by Ball. It has been worth the investment and storage space it requires. I use the canner beside the sink for easy filling and draining from the spigot. When I am finished, I release the rubber stopper and drain water from the spigot into the sink. No more hauling the heavy canner of water between sink and stove top. It heats up more quickly than the old canner and it doesn't spit boiling water out of the top and onto the surface below.

Besides pickling cucumbers, I am up to my armpits in tomatoes - cherry, roma, rutgers, and one other variety that I tried this summer but whose name escapes me at the moment. I have sauced and canned tomatoes this week and there are at least two more batches on the vine.

So there you have it - Three on Thursday:  pickled, sauced, and canned 

1. Pickled 

2. Sauced 

3. Canned (The ping of jar lids as they seal is so satisfying.) 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Gifts of Thyme

August brings the end of summer look to the garden and flower beds. The cucumber vines dry and low hanging tomato leaves crumble. Split cherry tomatoes litter the back corner of the tomato patch. Weeds gain ground because I don't want to work outdoor in hot humid weather. Still more than a month of summer abundance remains. Basil didn't grow well but chives, oregano, and thyme continue to flavor our summer meals. Bees and wasps are thick in the oregano so I quit trimming the flower/seed heads. I've enough oregano to supply an Italian restaurant. The pollinators can have this bit.

Thyme thrives in its hot sunny spot next to the foundation of our house. I plan to dry a good amount to use over the winter. According to my reference on herbs, thyme has antiseptic properties, will deter pests when planted near eggplant and cabbages, and aids digestion by helping to break down fatty foods. Besides it just adds great flavor to foods.

Here are my knitting and reading notes for my link to Kat and the Unravelers. I am knitting a shawl from leftover yarns. This green yarn in the Thyme colorway is the skein that keeps on giving. Early in my lace knitting career, I bought it for a shawl. Before I abandoned the project, I bought another skein because I thought I might not have enough. Eventually I knit it into a cowl and then used the leftover yarn in two other scrappy shawls. When this shawl is finished, I am tossing the above scrap of yarn. Enough of the yarn is enough.

I finished these mitts to give as a Christmas gift. The cable detail is well designed and fun to knit but I am less pleased with the thumb gusset. Increases next to purl stitches don't match on either side of the thumb and one side has a lace-y and perhaps drafty detail. Either I will refer to a sweater pattern that had instructions for tidier increases next to purl stitches or I'll knit the thumb and gusset in stockinette with a few rows of ribbing at the top.  I decided not to unravel the first finished mitt and the hand of the second one to reknit them. I'm considering the thumb detail a design element. The recipient is not a knitter and will enjoy them.

I finished reading Washington Black and found it an excellent novel. The writing is lyrical and the main character, a young boy escaping from slavery, was well developed. I appreciated his portrayal as a person claiming agency in his life. I am looking forward to our book group discussion this week. I am reading The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths, tenth in the Ruth Galloway mystery series. Ruth, an archeologist, is a strong heroine and I like the setting on the north Norfolk coast in England. Part of this mystery takes place in a small Italian village so it is a good summer escape.

Here's to the remaining month of summer. May it be filled with summer's bounty.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

July Journal of Wonder

I wonder where I can plant a bed of coneflowers in my yard. Why would I want to do this when I am tired of weeding? White coneflowers bloomed here earlier this month.

I wonder why I begin journal entries with sentences about weather and the seasons. Does the predictable variety comfort me or just ground me in the here and now?

How do Japanese beetles chewing up the leaves of a mature linden tree fit into the natural order?! What good are they? What predator feeds on them?

I cast on a shawl with leftover yarn from other projects. Why does this make me so happy?

I wonder if the cool mornings bring a touch of Fall or is my imagination working overtime?

I wonder what Native Americans think about the current immigration discussion.

I wonder about connections between ideas in my writing. Do they exist all along or do I write my way toward them?

I wonder why I enjoy knowing the names of things - painted lady, black swallowtail, black admiral, monarch, coneflower.

I wonder who first coined the word - butterfly. Why not flutterby? The one below is a painted lady. This morning while walking I saw a black swallowtail.

According to my dictionary on word origins, the word butterfly comes (in part) from the Greek word, bouyuron for butter which came from combining bous for cow with turos for cheese. The "old English word for butterfly, buterflege was probably so named because a common species is yellow, the yellow flier." (Origins by Eric Partridge, 1966, an old but useful reference.)

I wonder how grandchildren grow up so quickly. In one year, this fifteen year surpassed both of us in inches. Honestly, he surpassed me two years ago. We are proud of him. The awesome teens in today's world make me hopeful. We were happy to see him and his Mom last week.

As I try to wonder more than worry, I am joining Juliann of Chasing Stories and her group of bloggers writing monthly reflections about their 2019 word.  The wonder is I remembered to do this.

On these last few days in July, I wish you more wonder than worry.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Norah's Quilt

All of my grandchildren have Christmas Quilts. Once a long time ago, Kate and I picked out motifs for her Christmas quilt blocks. Some patterns came from quilt magazines, some from a quilt book, and some from a coloring book I bought in the 1970's. A few patterns exist on purple and white "ditto" coloring sheets from the 70's. Those would have been copied on old ditto machines with cylinders that turned and the ink had a unique sweet smell. Were some of those machines turned by hand with a crank? Who knows what chemicals we inhaled from all those ditto worksheets.

I've written this story previously -  how my son gave his quilt to his son, and my daughter gave hers to her oldest son. Then came three more children and three more quilts. Norah's quilt, the latest rendition is finished. All of them are set together differently. The set for this quilt was inspired by a quilt in the Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery book. I stitched the blocks, set them together, and then had the fabric sandwich machine quilted. I hand quilted Kate and Aaron's quilts but wanted these quilts to be loved and washed as well as finished in a timely manner. Perhaps machine quilting makes them a little sturdier. Norah will be in her crib this Christmas but the quilt is ready for her "big girl bed" whenever she outgrows the crib.

I finished the ribbed socks. The lighter colors looked a little frosty which was a good thing during the hot hot days of last week. I cast on a Christmas gift knit because Christmas will come. I have gathered leftover yarn for two shawls because they start as small projects. Last week during the heat and humidity, I set the sweater aside but I'll get back to it eventually.

I continue to enjoy Elizabeth Alexander's poems in Crave Radiance, reading a few each morning. My book group selection is Washington Black by Canadian Esi Edugyan. This novel is quite the story about a young boy born into slavery and his adventures after he escaped. It is well written and should prompt a good discussion at our August gathering. I am also reading The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble. Drabble is an English writer and I had never read any of her work. This main character is an older woman and part of the story is her musings on aging. Drabble writes with a dry sometimes cynical wit. I think older women characters in novels are often portrayed in the same stereotypic ways so I will be interested to see how this character evolves.  I am intrigued enough to keep reading.

I'm linking to Kat and the Unravelers. I enjoy seeing what others are reading and making.

It was me or the quilt. We chose the quilt.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tomato Growing Weather

Whew! These heat wave days and nights are tomato growing weather. My Grandfather always reminded me that tomatoes ripen the best when the nights stay warm and humid. He never minded the heat and spent hours in his large garden. I followed him around and probably pestered him with all sorts of chatter. He was a gentle quiet man we all loved. I thought of Gram, his wife, when I blocked the lace sampler scarf. She was a can-do kind of gal who taught me to knit. If she wanted something, she created it. When she sewed, she modified patterns and sometimes taped brown paper sacks together to sketch what she wanted. This attitude extended to all kinds of home decor. She hung layers of wallpaper, one on top of another (I shudder to think of scraping off all those layers) into her sixties. The only thing that stopped her was electrical wiring in lamps and that is probably a good thing. If there was a story there, I never heard it. My siblings and I were fortunate to grow up about ten blocks away from these grandparents. We spent a lot of time with them.

I'm knitting on the second sock of a pair. Yesterday I unraveled the beginning rows of the gusset to fix holes where the gusset transitions into the instep stitches. I use a Charlene Schurch method to avoid those holes. When done correctly, it works quite well but I was knitting about 9:45 p.m and was tired. So I sat down in the daylight at the kitchen table to pull the needles out and remedy the holes. I'm ready for these socks to be finished.  I know if I knit on them I can finish soon. Ah, the siren call of a new project. 

Where the Crawdad's Sing (audio) made the yoke of this raglan cardigan fly by. I really enjoyed the book and the knitting. Before the end of the novel arrived, I thought of three or four possible endings to the mystery. Owens writes beautifully of the North Carolina marsh and seashore. I'm not going to write more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I am still thinking about the story and characters - a mark of a good book. Currently I am reading Power and Possibility, a book of literary criticism, comment, and interviews in tandem with Crave Radiance, a poetry anthology. Both are written by Elizabeth Alexander. Reading her essay on the artist Romare Bearden, makes the poems where she references his work more meaningful. I am learning about artists I never knew existed. This week, I read an interview/discussion of poetry where Alexander stated, "we live in the word. And the word is precious, and the word must be precise, and the word is one of the only ways we have to reach across to each other, and that it has to be tended with that degree of respect." p.150 Power and Possibility  Wise wise words.

I'm linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I am always interested in what others are reading and knitting. Stay cool during this hot spell. My plan for this afternoon is to extract juice from the remaining rhubarb for a batch of raspberry rhubarb jelly. I'll make the jelly another day. This is a bit of an experiment. I did get some advice from my sister who is a jelly making expert. Wish me luck.