Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

This morning a bright yellow goldfinch sang in the birch. His molt to spring and summer colors is almost complete. A winter junco hopped around the feeder in the backyard. I imagine he will leave soon. This last day in March is breezy and brisk but the yards and weeds are green. The Easter Sunday forecast is for eighty degrees.  

As I link with Kat and the Unravelers today, I can report one finished throw, one frogged shawl, one reknit mitt, and a new cast on. It was a wild knitting week complete with second Covid shots. We experienced eighteen hours of mild side effects and then they were gone. I was ever so grateful for the slight headache, body aches, and chills. I put on warm woolens, curled up in a quilt, and read. I also knit on the lavender mitts which wasn't a great idea. Somehow I shifted one cable on the right hand mitt. I didn't notice it until I was knitting the last two rows of ribbing across the palm.  I ripped it out and reknit it a day or so later.   

These look better on hands but my photographer wasn't available. 

The finished Scrappy Habitation Throw is the most crooked square I have ever knit. I wet blocked it to 56 inches square. The process required crawling around on the floor with lots of measuring and adjusting of pins. All fingering weight scraps are not the same and that was probably part of problem. The beginning corner was knit from a Koigu yarn that is heavier than the sock yarn at the ending corner.  I also think the weight of the blanket contributed to the looser gauge in the last corner. The scraps you see are what remains. I still have ten million ends to weave in, well maybe five million as I started using the clasp-weft join mid throw. I rather like weaving ends in, making a project tidy and finished, which tells you something about me. 

I frogged the red shawl. The previously sorted out spine looked great but one side had an extra stitch. I considered decreasing the extra stitch but decided against it. The thought of starting over right now didn't spark joy. I love the red shade in the yarn. Maybe next fall or near the holidays knitting a red shawl will be just the thing. I love that yarn doesn't spoil over time.

I cast on a new pair of socks. I wanted to knit on something bright. The fiber content is 75% wool and 25% nylon so these will be wooly socks. I hope washing softens them a little. Right now, the fabric feels a little crunchy. It is an experiment.

I continue to read The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine and enjoy it. I found a used copy of Woodswoman I: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness by Anne LaBastille. The nonfiction about the Adirondack back country is great armchair traveling. I am not a rugged outdoors woman but it is fun to read about one. Vera recommended this author to me and I'm glad she did. If you like nature writing you might like this book. 

To those celebrating, Happy Easter. Happy last day of March and Happy Spring.

Ravelry Links

Lavender Mitts

Scrappy Habitation Throw

Spring Socks

Trader Joe' Daffodils - please excuse the kitchen sink


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

March's Season

March is the hinge between winter and spring. One day I'm shivering in my winter coat and hat and two days later the sun warms my shoulders clad in a light sweater. The wind roars and then settles into a gentle breeze, sometimes in the same day. The temperatures rise and fall and then rise again. Snow follows sleet and then turns to rain. The cranes fly. They stop in the Platte River Valley to rest and feed before resuming their journey. Light, not temperature, guides their transition between southern and northern habitats.

This March feels like a season of transition between pandemic living to whatever lifestyle comes next. Vaccination, although it brings a sense of relief, doesn't erase all of my low level Covid anxiety. Covid-19 is a still a nasty disease and uncertainty remains. While the disease touched our extended families, everyone has recovered. It could have been otherwise. Vaccination does not erase the loss of life, health, or livelihood experienced by so many. Still, the news about vaccine efficacy is encouraging. I am hopeful that vaccinated and masked we can travel soon. More than anything I want to see my family, near and far.

Like Spring, this season of transition will bring ups and downs. Standing on a soapbox looking out at the green creeping into the landscape, I choose cautious thoughtful hope. One way or another travel protocols, routines, friendships, and milestone celebrations will rearrange themselves. While I follow the CDC guidelines, I work on kindness, respect, and grace to move through this transition. In the meantime, the daffodils out back might bloom today. Two weeks from today, another vaccinated friend and I will meet (not in a coffee shop) for a cup of tea and long catch-up. 

Ever so gently, placing one foot in front of the other, I find my way. I wish the same for you. Safe travels. Namaste. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Spinning into Spring

Spring continues to blow in with plenty of rain. Sunday I saw a flock of cedar waxwings in a neighborhood tree. Daffodils begin to bloom in our neighborhood but not yet in our yard. The tulips are up. Yesterday we ducked out for a walk after the rain stopped and noticed green at the tips of some leaf buds. Slowly but surely color returns to the landscape. This year it is especially welcome. 

During odd extra moments, I knit on these lavender mitts. The bottom edge is a little uneven due to the design but they feel great on my hands. Since trying the yarn was the point of this project, I plan to record the stockinette gauge in a notebook and on Ravelry. These will likely go in the gift bag. Many non-knitters are surprised by fingerless mitts and how nice they are during the spring and fall. In the winter, I have a pair at my desk, on my bedside table, on the front seat of my car, and near the corner of the loveseat where I sit to read. I am knitting on the last corner of the scrappy blanket, closing in on the end of that project.  

I continue to spin on spindles. I am almost half-way through a project to spin the white Cormo. I plied another skein yesterday. I was so enchanted with how long the spindle would spin, the skein was over twisted. After tying it off, I gave it a bath (as I always do) and then hung it in the shower to dry with a plastic hanger on the bottom for a little additional weight. The yarn felt pretty good today. 

Spinning, when it is going well is magic. Sometimes it doesn't go well but I love the spindles. Beautiful and balanced spindles are the mark of fine craftsmanship. I read about spindle storage and found a variety of opinions. The consensus is they need to be stored with care not to damage or distort them. We had a small decorative shelf that we weren't using. My husband put hooks under the shelf part so I can now hang four drop spindles from the hooks.  

Reading that drop spindling sometimes bothered my shoulder, Kat sent me a gift of a beautiful supported spindle made by Ann Grout. It is ceramic and in the shape of an acorn. This little spindle spins for a long time. She also included a bit of Hipstrings Fiber. The fiber blend is merino, flax, and Tussah silk. It was just the loveliest of gifts and brightened my day while waiting for winter to end. What a kind thoughtful friend. This little blogging community has been a wonderful surprise.   

Supported spindling requires different fine motor skills so I spent some time practicing on the leftovers of a merino braid. I have lots to learn but am enjoying the journey. Now and then I hear a smattering of information about sheep breeds and wool on podcasts. I decided to get out The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes and refresh my memory on the details. 

I am also reading The Doctor's Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura. This nonfiction is well written. The tenacity of Elizabeth Blackwell is something to admire. Nimura does a nice job not idealizing these two women and shows their human foibles as well as their strengths. A few other titles have come up on my library holds. This is probably a good thing. We are getting second Covid vaccines on Friday and I plan on putting my feet up this weekend. I'm off to make a grocery list that includes soda crackers, ginger ale, and soup ingredients. Best be prepared. In the meantime I am linking with Kat and the Unravelers

I hope color and hope are returning to your landscape this early Spring week.  

Cormo before spinning the skeins above

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Mid- March

Oh March, she is a tease. After a string of warm sunny days, the temperature dropped and the wind blew in sheets of rain. The bright side is rain doesn't have to be scooped and the yards are turning green. This week the maples sport the red fringe that comes before leaves. Even if it is 34 degrees and damp, the year turns toward Spring. Today is gray, damp with no rain in the forecast. After I put some soup in the crockpot, I plan to layer up for a walk in the wind and dripping trees. I'd love to have some children with me to jump in the puddles. 

In the meantime, the knitting continues. I almost skipped posting with Kat and the Unravelers because I have been working mostly on the Habitation Throw and it doesn't look much different than the last time I posted. That is how my knitting goes. One does have to work on a project in order to finish it. Ha! I'm enjoying having it on my lap these chilly evenings. I wonder whether the leftover yarns will stretch to the end of the blanket or if I will need to break into a new skein. If I were to knit this pattern again I would make a two stitch edge and skip the i-cord edging. I am trying to knit it loosely but I have the feeling it's going to restrict the size of the throw. This is the second time I've tried i-cord edging and not been crazy about it. Do you have any thoughts about i-cord edging?

I did figure out the mistake in the spine of the red shawl but haven't knit on it this week. I cast on fingerless mitts in order to have a small non-garter stitch project. Once upon a pandemic, I ordered a few skeins of yarn and one of them was this sport weight from Luna Grey Fiber Arts. This Indie Dyer hails from Colorado which is somewhat local to me. I have also wanted to try this yarn. The Nova Sport is non-superwash merino and it has a nice hand. The yardage in the skein is generous. I can also report that it holds up well to frogging and re-knitting. I knit the cuff from two other patterns for mitts before settling on the Biblioglove pattern on size four needles. My daughter sent the pieces of beach glass to me for Valentines' Day. 

As for reading, I am listening to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The narrator is excellent. This young adult book is not an easy story but it is important. The main character is a sixteen year old African American teenager who is with a friend when he is shot by a police officer. The consequences of this shooting drive the story. At the same time, the code-switching required of this young woman as she navigates between a white upper class high school and her neighborhood is thought provoking and also part of the story. I look forward to discussing this with my book group. 

Before I drift off to sleep at night, I read from the poetry anthology, Healing The Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection. Some of the poems are familiar and others are new to me. The poets come from all walks of life and cultures. I am enjoying a few each evening. According to the note on the back of the book, this book "urges us . . . to move past the negativity that often fills the airwaves, and to embrace the ordinary moments of kindness and connection that fill our days." Amen.

I wish you a vaccine and moments of kindness this week. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Windy Wednesday

Good morning.  A pair of chickadees cling to a birch branch and then fly.  The wind blows a gale before cooler days return. Rain is in the forecast for the weekend with a pesky snowflake also showing up. The winds of March usher in this transitional season.

Yesterday we took a day trip south to the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge located in northwest Missouri. We enjoyed the sunshine as we viewed thousands of migrating snow geese and ate a picnic in the car. The wind would have blown the potato chips off our plates and since they were a treat I wasn't taking any chances. We know how to have a good time. 

The area is indeed a refuge for wildlife. Besides the snow geese, we found turtles sunning on logs and walking across the road, a bald eagle near a nest with two heads visible, two sandhill cranes in the wetlands, muskrats swimming, and fifteen swans feeding in a sheltered cove. The visitor's center was closed but a separate building with restrooms was open. Given our ages, I checked on the restroom status ahead of time. Getting out of the house was lovely.

Today I link with Kat and the Unravelers so here is my knitting and reading news. I unearthed my oldest WIP, a Wool Peddler's Shawl, to knit on in the car. I planned to make progress on the garter stitch body in order to get to the more interesting lace section. We were barely out of town when I noticed a mistake in the centered double increase of the spine. I tried to fix it by tinking back to the center and dropping down but wasn't successful. Good thing I had the car project bag with a wash cloth. Before we left the refuge to come home, my husband stopped in the parking lot so I could pull out a couple more rows and put it back on the needles. Somehow I missed the center stitch again so it was back to the wash cloth. This increase along the spine of the shawl is a modification but not new to me. Obviously I haven't used it recently.  I'll work on it again today or tomorrow when I can put it on a table in the daylight. I did get a washcloth out of the trip and finished it just as we arrived home. Whew! I hate not having enough car knitting.

oops - the same mistake twice

This past week I knit on the Habitation Throw and decided I had come to the half-way mark. I'm headed down the decrease section and would like to finish this before it gets too warm to have it on my lap. Time will tell how that plan works. 

I finished the Theoretical socks with yarn to spare. The asymmetrical look pushes me from my comfort zone which is about as much risk I'm willing to take, especially these days. This will not surprise anyone who knows me well and I'm ok with that. The socks will be warm and most of the yarn is gone.

With the socks finished, my projects, including the new shawl cast on last week, are mostly garter stitch. After knitting garter stitch all day yesterday in the car, I think I need to find another small project that is not garter stitch. So much for finishing up the WIP's. Variety in projects keeps me going and what the heck - it is only knitting. 

I read the new novel, The Nature of Fragile Things, because I heard about it somewhere and it was available from my library. The story takes place just before and after the San Francisco Earthquake in the early 1900's. I found it to be an average novel driven by a strong plot. I admired the way three women came together to care for a child but I thought the author took her sweet time arriving at another major theme. Certainly it is readable but I disagree with the four and five star ratings on Goodreads.

I'm off to walk in the wind while I ponder my projects. Stay well. 

Ravelry Links

Wool Peddler's Shawl

Theoretical Winter Socks

Habitation Throw

Monday, March 8, 2021

International Women's Day

Today on International Women's Day I am thinking about my Mother. She was a life-long learner and encouraged the same in others, especially women. The World War 2 Cadet Nursing Program allowed her to become a registered nurse. After she finished her training, she completed a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing. She graduated in May 1950. Nursing, with the combination of science and caring for others, suited her well. She stayed at home for some years with her four children. When my youngest brother was in upper elementary school, she returned part-time to nursing. Although I never asked, I think she enjoyed being back at work. She also had her eye on college education for her stair-step children, including her daughters. When Dad worried about the finances, Mom remained calm insisting they would find a way. Her income made it possible for the four of us graduate from college. 

Mom enjoyed embroidery, cross stitch, and learned to make quilts later in life. She loved her dogs. Much to my Dad's consternation, she fed a stray neighborhood cat (outdoors) until it disappeared. She was an avid reader. Mom, my sister, and I often talked about books. She belonged to church groups, AAUW, two book groups and volunteered countless hours to the Red Cross Bloodmobile and as an instructor of CPR. She also sat on the local library board for a few years. She was a gentle extrovert but understood that I was not.

During the 1970's, she discovered Women's History and the women's movement. She was fascinated by the suffragettes and had Susan B. Anthony half-dollars made into pendants for my sister and I. I have to say I never wore it as a necklace but Mom wouldn't care. I do keep it in my jewelry box. She supported my decision to take leave of absence from teaching and pursue a graduate degree. When the graduate assistantship and scholarship didn't cover all my expenses, she made up the difference. She sent me off with a subscription to Ms. magazine. 

At the time, she ran a student health office at a two-year junior college. She sponsored a college bloodmobile and organized a campus wellness week. She taught first aid to many vocational students. The diesel-mechanic students nearly drove her crazy but she got them into the library by assigning a one page review of health related articles. One year she co-taught a class in Human Sexuality. She referred students to physicians, including many young women who needed health services. She had a special place in her heart for nontraditional students. At her request, her memorial is a small yearly scholarship for a nursing student at the college where she worked. Her preference was that it be awarded to a student with a strong B average. 

She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend. She supported and celebrated all of our varied interests. When she died at 72, many of her friends remarked that "she was my best friend." She was our best friend too.  

I can't help but wonder what she would have made of the pandemic and the status of women on this International Women's Day of 2021. I know she would be wearing a mask and reminding us to wash our hands thoroughly. She would be cheering the success of Kamala Harris and other women trailblazers. I also think she would be the first to say, we still have work to do. 

Me, Mom, My Sister at my son's HS graduation

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Early March

This early March feels like hope. The remaining snow banks trickle away and will be gone by the weekend. Yesterday I walked by a tree where eight cedar waxwings faced the sunny afternoon. I also watched a squirrel climb up the birch to a nest with mouthfuls of grass. Fifteen minutes after he/she left, a blue jay flew in and out of the nest a couple of times. I wonder how that bit of nest building will end. The sandhill cranes are flying. Twice I watched long wavering lines of birds cross the sky. If conditions are right I can hear their calls. Next year, I hope to be on the pedestrian bridge in central Nebraska watching them come down to roost at sunset. Right now it is unsafe to stand on that bridge among a large group of watchers. 

At any rate, I am writing my Unraveled Wednesday notes in order to link with Kat and other Unravelers. I finished the purple sweater. I enjoyed the pattern and now have a dressy sweatshirt sweater. The color is hard to photograph but the mock cable details make the sweater. I knew when I began that the wool/alpaca yarn might grow and it did. After wet blocking, the sweater body is longer than when it came off the needles. I wore it on the last few cold days and it is comfy and warm. I would call it a moderate success. I may knit the pattern again in a different yarn.

After I finished the sweater, I auditioned some shawl projects with stash yarn. I think this Falling Water Shawl (link to designer's website) is a go, although I haven't created a Ravelry project page yet. I knit a little more of it last night and like the look and feel of the pattern and yarn together. This Quince yarn has been in the "up next" stash bin for about 18 months and was calling my name. 

I finished a pair of lightweight fingerless mitts from some leftover self-striping sock yarn. We took the photo on a gray day so excuse the lighting. The yarn in sample drew me to the pattern. Are you as taken in by the colors of yarn as I am? The cable was interesting too. Even after socks and mitts from this skein of yarn, I still  have leftovers. I think little balls of yarn multiply in the dark but only when you are not playing yarn chicken. 

I finished the heel and gusset of the second sock I'm working on and I'm going to have enough yarn. The socks would be handsomer if I had done a little more arranging of the scraps. Live and learn I say. Knitting is always teaching me something. 

I read Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield. The first two essays seem stronger than the third but that could just be the day I read them. One of the things I admire about Hirschfield is the way she writes and includes both eastern and western traditions of literature in her writing. I enjoyed following her thoughts about these elements of poetry. 

What are you learning from making this week?

Ravelry Links

Winter Forager

Love Bug Mitts

As for the spacing in this blog post, I can't seem to change it without the photos being wonky. Sometimes Blogger is a mystery to me.