Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Knitting and Kindness

Two weeks ago I heard the cicadas rasp away at their summer swan song. The chorus begins later than usual. When my grandfather heard them he would say, "six weeks until the first frost." Born in 1899 and raised on a farm in south central Nebraska, he could step outdoors, smell the air, look at the position of the leaves on a tree, and/or gaze at the horizon, watch the birds, and predict the weather. After he finished his gardening chores, he would pull an old metal lawn chair into the shade of an elm and enjoy an hour to himself. The heat didn't bother him. I can't say the same. I look forward to fall. Today is again miserably hot and humid. I may have ordered a skein of autumn colored sock yarn to encourage the season. 

In the meantime, I cast on three projects. I bought a front-zip sweatshirt as a birthday gift for my great niece. A small family birthday party for a toddler was just what I needed last week. To spend time with young parents and their children gives me hope for the world. At any rate, the sweatshirt was the same size as the sweater I intend to knit for Norah. I measured it for chest circumference and then found the size/chest measurement in Ann Budd's Handy Book of Top-Down Raglans in the correct gauge. I cast on a more reasonable number stitches than my last attempt. I plan to use the pocket instructions from the Cricket pattern. 

While I was figuring out what to do with the yarn for Norah's sweater, I cast on a pair of socks in a pattern called Couplet. This was the second pattern I tried with this yarn.  I am pleased with this pattern/yarn combination.

I cast on a long scarf in the pattern Fractal Danger. The pattern by Hitchhiker designer Martina Behm, feels like a cousin to the Hitchhiker. The yarn, Rustic Fingering from Neighborhood Fiber Company, a non superwash single ply merino has a lovely hand. The owner of that company often gives a percentage of her sales to non-profits so I bought the yarn to support her business. Knitting and kindness are my weapons of choice. Although I might resort to tomatoes soon. I have sauced and frozen probably more than enough to get us through to next summer's harvest. 

I finished listening to Band of Sisters. Once I got past the snarky behavior of the women (it got old), I appreciated it as another untold story about women. I wish I'd found the author's note before I began. Reading forward, I am going to look for those notes before reading a book. Listening to the chapters about these young women evacuating French refugees from oncoming German forces with the news of Afghanistan in the background was very eery. 

I ordered a copy of The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. A number of years ago the Oxford Junior Dictionary eliminated forty words having to do with nature and replaced them with words like broadband, blog, and cut-and-paste. This author and artist responded by creating a beautiful book of poetry and art depicting words like acorn, bluebell, adder, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, willow, and more. Each word has three double-page spreads. The first uses the letters, line drawings, and negative space to announce the name of the poem, the second is the poem with a beautiful illustration on the adjoining page, and then the third is another gorgeous visual depiction of the word. This same author and illustrator created a second book, The Lost Spells. I look forward to sitting down with my grandchildren and looking at this book. Negative space intrigues me. The space around knitted stitches creates an eyelet or lace design. I also love the space around words and lines in poetry. The simplicity of the poems and artwork in this book is elegant. 

I'm late today because Blogger wouldn't let me insert photos but linking to Kat and the Unravelers. I think they will still have me.  Let's practice more kindness. 

Ravelry Links

Norah's Sweater

Couplet Socks

Fractal Danger

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Oh Gauge

The row of zinnias in front of the tomato patch is in full bloom and makes me happy. The oregano is out of control and bolting all over. I'm torn between cutting the flowers off and leaving it for the bees. Next spring I'm going to thin that plant. I have oregano enough for an Italian restaurant. I am not complaining but the plant is leggy while the leaves are a little smaller than I'd like.  

If the oregano and tomatoes are bountiful, the knitting is a little sparse. Last Friday evening I was cruising down the body of Norah's sweater and knit an inch past the row for adding in waste yarn for the pockets. Mind you the pockets sit just above the bottom ribbing. Sunday, during daylight hours, I laid the sweater on the table to rip back. Off the needles, the body looked way too big for the toddler size 4, as in the chest circumference measured 31 inches. Sure enough my gauge was way off. I swear I did knit and wash a gauge swatch and thought I had the correct gauge. I went down one needle size which is typical but I can't knit this yarn on smaller needles. Even if I knit the 2 Toddler size (the smallest size) the sweater will be too big for Norah. I am considering my options to either rework the pattern via Math or find a different pattern. The color is off in the photo but at this point I'm not sure that matters. 

I did finish the fingerless mitts out of some Rios and handspun Cormo. I didn't use a pattern. The palm is a little large for me but they are certainly wearable. I'm knitting on the second slipper. 

Thank you for all your kind comments about our air conditioner. Fortunately it was an easy fix. The repair man arrived around 3:45 p.m. as promised. We needed two parts that he had in his truck. The unit also needed a good cleaning. My husband helped by hooking up the hose and nozzle and generally schmoozing him along. The man commented on the tomato patch so we tipped him with a few fresh tomatoes. By 5:30 p.m. the A/C was up and running and the house was blessedly cool by the time we went to bed. I feel as if someone was watching out for us that day. I had visions of waiting two weeks or so for a part or a new unit. I am grateful for air conditioning. 

I reread Red at the Bone as it is my book groups September discussion book. It was every bit as good the second time around. I predict a good discussion about class, race, and family dynamics. Jacqueline Woodson has won several awards for her writing so I plan to read about her prior to the discussion. I'm listening to Band of Sisters and find it an average historical novel. The narration is well done and the story keeps me company as I preserve tomatoes. 

Whatever is keeping you busy, enjoy these August days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Dog Days of August

The Farmers Almanac notes the dog days of summer extend from July 3 through August 11. I beg to differ as they last longer in my area. Today's high is forecast for 95 degrees and the temperatures won't moderate until at least Sunday. Yesterday our air conditioner quit working. Thankfully the company that services our furnace and air is able to send someone out today. We are both anxious about the time it might take to get a new unit or parts. The air conditioner is ten years old so it has had a good run with lots of summer use. I am writing from the basement which for now is cooler than the main living areas. We are in for a hot week of making do with fans and ice water. I did put three bars of dark chocolate into the fridge. Ginger Ice Tea is steeping on the counter.

Today is the day I link with Kat and the Unravelers to write about knitting and reading. I am working on small projects. Norah's little sweater will wait until the air conditioner is fixed or replaced. I cast on a second slipper and a pair of fingerless mitts that combine some leftover Rios and handspun Cormo. I began spinning this fiber last September. The pile of small skeins records my progress. The last three skeins are the most consistently spun so I set them aside for a to-be-determined project. The last finished skein is a beauty. 

My next spinning adventure will be two braids of Polworth, mostly shades of blue but with some gold at the end of the braid. I separated the gold off of one braid and spun a little yesterday. With a chapter on color in Yarn-i-tec-ture by Jillian Moreno as a reference,  I'm going to play with the shades of blue. 

I continue to read Horizon and Villette. I'm enjoying them both for the excellent but different writing style and content. Lopez is so thoughtful and eloquent about the environment and indigenous people. From Hoopla, a library streaming service, I downloaded the audio of The Last Bookshop in London. This World War Two story is an average or below average novel for me. The passages about the bookshop and reading keep me listening. The rest of the story seems a little cliche'd. 

I'm off to reload my aluminum water bottle with iced ginger tea and decide what to do with the tomatoes on the counter. I planned to roast and freeze them but turning on the oven doesn't seems like a good idea. This batch may be blanched and frozen. I'm going to think of a steamy kitchen as an opportunity for a facial. Wish me luck. 

Ravelry Link

Fingerless Mitts


Monday, August 9, 2021

Seasoning These Days

August has never been my favorite month. Heat and humidity hang heavy in the air. I feel better when temperatures are cooler. When I was teaching, the beginning of a new school year while full of promise and a fresh start also meant the end of summer's more relaxed days. The first few weeks brought large group meetings under florescent lights and long hours in order to get off to a good start. Even though I am retired, August days bring a certain restlessness. This year Covid anxiety returns to hum in the background. When the media writes about the unvaccinated, they almost forget about the youngsters. I hope the vaccine is approved for children 12 and under soon. 

All of this and my 2021 word, season, prompts me to season these days instead of wishing them away. Here's my list of summer seasonings.

  • Gather sweet-peas, black-eyed susans into my favorite August bouquet
  • Slow simmer tomatoes into sauce
  • Spin slow yarn
  • Wander past the bright zinnas
  • Walk the flower route on my walk
  • Steep ginger tea in ice and boiling water. 
  • Catch the beads of condensation running down the glass of ginger tea
  • Refresh with the clink of ice in a glass 
  • Breathe in the warm humid air with scent of tomato, grass, and dirt
  • Watch dappled sunlight play in the birch
  • Marvel at the tree root shaped like bones of a hand.
  • Harvest the buzz of insects, the bonk of a fly against the window
  • Listen for the evening throb of cicadas and chirp of crickets
  • Savor the sunset as dusk falls across the neighborhood.

How are you seasoning these August Days?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Throwback Knitting

Goodness I am late to my computer this morning. This morning I walked later and longer, past several of my favorite flower beds. The calendar says August but there is a touch of fall in this morning's breeze. Thankfully the air quality has improved and most of the smoke has dissipated. Living near the western wildfires must be awful. This week I am watching a pair of young blue-jays hanging out in the near neighborhood. I haven't seen evidence of the virus plaguing song birds in some parts of the country. The birds typical in this area look healthy although last week I saw a few stressed by the extreme heat. Every evening of those hot days, I scrubbed the bird bath with a brush, rinsed it out, and refilled it with clean water. Otherwise I have kept it empty.

This week's Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and friends brings good knitting progress. I finished the shorty socks last week and unpinned the Spring Rewilding Shawl this morning. Blocking a lace pattern is as magical as turning the heel on a sock. When I bound off this shawl, I wondered if it was big enough. I blocked it with a moderate amount of tension and it came out great. I still need to weave in the last end floating in the breeze. I made some progress on Norah's little sweater and it is coming along nicely. 

Do you remember this slipper pattern? It is a throwback to my childhood as my Gram knit these for us. This project comes with a little story. I enjoy some knitting podcasts including Two Ewes Fiber Adventures. Kelly and Marsha live on the West Coast. They knit, spin, dabble in dyeing, and podcast. Kelly also weaves and keeps bees. When they attended Stitches West, the Duren Dyeworks owner gave them some bulky Targhee yarn to giveaway on their podcast. I enter giveaways only when I think I will use the product and don't often win. Well I won a skein and can report that Targhee yarn is quite soft and squishy. This slipper makes me smile because it reminds me of Gram and her knitting. Bulky yarn on size 9 needles doesn't take long but they will need pom-poms. Back in the day, Gram made her own pom-poms, mostly pink. (Between the last end of the shawl and the sock marks on my leg, I am doing my best to keep this blog realistic.)

Horizon is still on the end table for afternoon reading. I am listening to the Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart, a light humorous read. This is the latest in the mystery series based on Constance Kopp, a woman who was the first sheriff's deputy in NewYork in the early 1900's. While it is entertaining enough to past the time while cleaning, it isn't the strongest story in the series. At any rate Constance with her no nonsense forthright manner is easy to like and I love the camp nurse described in this story. I am also reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I have a copy with annotation for the French phrases and older vocabulary that is helpful. Both of these stories center around a young woman left alone to make her way in the world. Similarities in the way they are treated, Lucy Snowe in the mid 1800's and Belulah Binford in the early 1900's, are striking. Young women left penniless had few options and change was slow in coming. I picked up Villette because Emily Dickinson admired the writing of Emily Bronte and this novel was one mentioned in a recent commentary I read about Dickinson. Writers that writers admire interest me. 

Stay safe, stay well. Enjoy the glories of summer while we wait for Autumn days.   

Ravelry Links

Spring Rewilding Shawl

Norah's Cricket

Throwback Slippers