Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August's End

What is that hiding in the tomato/cucumber tray? I picked up the leaf this morning. Even though the temperatures continue to soar into the 90's, the mornings begin to cool off. August 31 is not yet autumn but transition is in the air. The sun is setting earlier each day. A few leaves on the maple trees are withered and brown. I wonder if the trees are so exhausted from heat and drought they are shutting down early to conserve water. A rumpled house finch chick perchs in the tree outside my window. He looks a little bewildered by his world. I know how he feels. 

Anyway, today is Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and other makers. I finished and washed the Forager Sweater. The ends need to be woven in and then I'll post a few photos. Spurred on by that finish, I went back to the summer socks. This week I finished the first sock and cast on the second one. I like to get the second sock on the needles so I don't procrastinate or forget about the project. 

I plied this skein of Targhee Fiber on my spinning wheel. This is the first real skein spun on my wheel. As I said to my husband, it's not the best yarn I've spun but it sure isn't the worst. The singles on the first bobbin were more inconsistent then the second so it is thick and thin yarn. However, the yarn is balanced, that is it hangs in a long loop without twisting around itself. This might be the skein I keep on hand to use as a baseline for spinning skills. 

This week I listened to The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd. Goodreads describes it as a thriller. I wasn't entranced by the story but I listened to the end in order to see how the plot resolved. I enjoyed the descriptions of the New York Public Library and the central question asked by several characters: "What is the purpose of a map?" I found the audio performance overly dramatic and some plot twists predictable. I also had a hard time suspending my beliefs about the value of a map/cartography concept versus the value of human relationships. Writing more would be a spoiler. The story with magical realism kept me entertained while preserving tomatoes in the kitchen and doing some household chores. 

I read Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi and am still thinking about it. It is this month's selection for my local book group. I predict we will have a great discussion about this story of a Ghanian family living in Alabama. All of the main characters are well developed and written but I loved the strong young woman who is the narrator. The tension she feels between science and religion runs throughout the story. Gyasi is a talented writer. She explores racism, addiction, mental illness, and neuroscience by "showing, not telling." The novel wasn't as heavy or as difficult to read as I thought it might be. I found it an excellent book for these August days.  

I'm late today because Norah and I Face-timed this morning. Kate, Norah and I made decaf lattes (hers has a lot of oat milk), clinked our matching Minnie Mouse mugs and read "Where's Spot?" I am happy to report Spot was not in the tomatoes or drinking out of a Minnie Mouse Cup. "No Grammy, he's in the basket" and so we found him. As we hung up, she was off to paint a picture of Spot and I with a smile to carry me through this last day of August. 

What is making you smile today?

Ravelry Link

Summer Socks

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Home Stretch

The summer has flown by and the end of August is in sight. I walk most mornings. Today I stuck my head out into a still humid morning and the air felt oppressive. I decided to make order in the kitchen. All the surfaces need a good scrub but I am waiting until the tomato harvest slows down. Despite the humidity, the forecast holds no chance of rain. 

I am happy to report I am making good progress on my sweater. No unraveling on this Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and friends. The third try on the first sleeve was the charm and I am almost finished with the second sleeve. I meant to feature the second sleeve but we took the photo quickly as it is warm on the deck. I know some knitters find sleeves tedious but I enjoy them. Once I fiddle around with the first one, the second is, as my grandmother used to say, duck soup. The sleeve circumference is so much smaller than the body. Stitch markers at each decrease keep me knitting, as in I'll knit one more section before I go to bed. I am on the home stretch and I have plenty of yarn for long sleeves. I am glad I bought an extra skein, even though it had three knots and two yards of either a single ply or overspun yarn. I'm sure it happens now and then but still. I cut it apart four times. I'll probably use some of it and the cuts won't make any difference in my project. 

Sunday I finished spinning the second bobbin of the first project on my wheel. In two weeks, I spun the entire braid. Except for a few joins that came apart at the beginning of the first bobbin, the spinning went well. Now they are resting before plying next week. I have one more bobbin and it is tempting to use if for another project. Instead I decided to wait and see what this skein has to teach me. I wonder if part of the single on the first bobbin might not have enough twist. Time will tell.

Today is my brother John's birthday so I am thinking about him and his family. If he was still with us, he would have been up early, walking and exercising his labs, and then gone to work. Later he would have played in the pool with his grandchildren. No doubt he'd have grilled ribs or steaks and served them with Iowa sweetcorn. One of his daughters and/or his wife would have made salad and dessert. He was a good man and we all miss him. As I wrote last September, we are all richer for having known John.

Often I walk by a patch of sunflowers under a street lamp. One evening last week, I could hear the bees. I've never had sunflowers in my yard but I enjoy their bright yellowy gold color against the green. They brighten up these hot August days. 

How are you spending the last days of August?


Ravelry Link

Forager Sweater

Spinning: Kansas Prairie

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Knitting in Place

Monday and Tuesday a little rain fell, perhaps half an inch. It's not enough to ease drought conditions but any moisture is welcome. The temperatures dropped out of the hundred degree range to the high eighties. Yesterday was cool and breezy and there is a hint of fall in the air. This morning a pair of chickadees are poking around in the birch. I hope they are eating a few of the insects that are biting me. 

Our eldest grandson has attended his first week of college classes. Here, public school started Monday. Last week while grocery shopping, I saw Moms and kids coming out of Famous Footwear with shoeboxes. The student in me has a yen for new pencils, yellow with pink erasers, notebook paper, and a pencil case to clip into a three ring notebook with the blue cloth cover. Does anyone else remember those notebooks?

Today is Unraveled Wednesday with Kat and company. Knitting the beginning of this sleeve three times makes me feel like I'm knitting in place. Sometimes it happens. Generally I go up one needle size with the DPN's to knit sleeves. The first try left a noticeable difference in the size of stitches. So I ripped it out and knit with two sizes up which is working for gauge. At the same time, I need shorter sleeves than the pattern specifies so I calculated stitch and row gauges and worked out a different rate of decreases. I knit about six inches based on that Math and tried on the sweater. The sleeve was a little snug so I ripped it out again. This go around I followed the pattern for the first two decreases. At some point, I'll have to decide how to get down to cuff width in the remaining rows. 

I'm not happy with the line/crease that shows up on the sleeve where I put the stitches back on the needle. Believe it or not, it's better than the first time around. Now I wonder if the magic loop method would make a difference. Any thoughts? I'm sure changing needle sizes has something to do with it but I've not had the problem previously. I don't like to magic loop but I might have to give it a try. After I finish the first sleeve I'll block the sweater again and see if it comes out. Oy. It's a good thing I like knitting.

I'm reading Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years by Margaret Mead. Awhile back I read Euphoria, historical fiction about Mead by Lily King. I also know of Margaret Mead in a general way so I decided to read this book. Mead's analysis of her family, relationships, and college years reflect her training as an anthropologist. I wondered if the writing would be dry but I'm finding it quite interesting. It is also a way to see her mind at work.

In other making, I'm harvesting a bumper crop of tomatoes. Saturday evening I picked this tray and pot of cherry tomatoes. Sunday, I made sauce and roasted Juliet tomatoes (a small Roma or a large grape tomato variety) to freeze. This afternoon I'll make more sauce and freeze chopped tomatoes. Come winter, they will be a taste of summer. Excuse the garden get-up. In order to avoid chiggers, mosquitoes, and spiders, I layer a short and long sleeved shirt and jeans when I'm reaching into the tomato jungle. I did take off the large floppy hat before we took the photo. 

May your chigger bites be few and your ripe tomatoes free from squirrel bites. I hope you have a good week. 

Ravelry Link

Forager Sweater     

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Christmas in August

Another week in August with hot weather and only a spit of rain. Late Sunday afternoon, a front blew through and the temperature dropped into the 80's bringing a couple of nice summer days. Today we are back to hotter temperatures.  

My knitting hasn't seen much progress this week but I have exciting news. I bought a spinning wheel!

Once I thought I'd never spin fiber into yarn. I thought I didn't need another hobby with another set of supplies. However I admired the handspun yarn made by KatSarah, and Eileen and followed spinning conversations in podcasts. Then the Covid Pandemic kept us close to home. One day when I couldn't plan trips to see my kids, I searched the internet for how-to videos on spindle spinning. I ordered a turkish spindle and BFL fiber from Webs and made some very clunky yarn that looked like rope. I ordered a book about spindle spinning. I discovered fine craftsmanship in handmade spindles. 

I enjoyed spinning singles but struggled with plying. Spindle plying has more than one drawback, not the least is that it takes an extraordinary amount of time to prep the singles. Keeping them from tangling while plying is hard. When you set a spindle in motion and release it, it gradually slows so spinning yarn with consistent twist is another challenge.  

I started reading about spinning wheels but wondered if I was too old to invest in a wheel. I'm seventy years old and realistically how much time do I left? Then my daughter quietly suggested, "I'd say your time is valuable."  She is very wise. Well yes, I am seventy and that is exactly why I should not be spending hours winding plying balls. (I can rationalize with the best.) I have always held that my time is valuable so I'm not sure why I didn't apply that to spinning. My shoulder joint is also worth preserving.

This spring and summer I took two lessons, read about wheels, and tried wheels by several different makers. Two weeks ago, my husband and I drove to Lawrence, Kansas and The Yarn Barn. I was in that shop during my graduate school days (1976 - 1977) in KU so it was rather fitting to return. They carry all kinds of wheels and willingly spent a good amount of time with me. I settled on a Lendstrom Double Treadle Wheel. We bought it late in the afternoon.  She's a beauty. 

I spun one batch of fiber on the wheel and threw it away. I know they say to keep it as a record but I have my first wheel spun yarn from earlier in the summer. Sunday I started on a commercial braid I bought in Lawrence. I'm working on the first bobbin and it's going well. I still enjoy spinning a single with a spindle but the ease of a wheel is wonderful.

I wanted to share my news, so even though this isn't my usual post, I'm linking with Kat and crew. As far as reading, we listened to the abridged version of Hamilton by Ron Chernow both on the Minnesota road trip and the much shorter drive to Lawrence. I rarely choose an abridged version but this one was thirteen hours instead of thirty. It was enough time to get the gist of Chernow's biography. It's interesting to me, that today's political issues are similar to  those during Hamilton's life. Perhaps the biggest difference is the men in power aren't settling grudges with duels. The biography is well researched and reflects a traditional historical view of the time of Hamilton's life. 

Take care. Keep cool and enjoy the making and reading. In case you need a reminder, your time is valuable.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Hello August

August is a month of mixed feelings. The garden produce is reaching the crescendo I look forward to all winter but I don't like the extreme heat. Regardless, I canned two batches of pickles. Tomatoes now crowd the kitchen counter. Honestly, there is nothing like the flavor of a vine ripened tomato. Last week, I roasted and froze two batches of Juliet tomatoes, a variety that may be a cross between small grape and Roma varieties. Fresh and sliced, they make a good topping on a pizza and a tomato tart. Yesterday I froze the first batch of tomato sauce. Thank goodness for air conditioning. This morning's predicted rain went around us. The birds are fairly quiet this morning although bluejays visited the deck earlier this morning. I imagine they are conserving energy in this heat. 

Today is the mid-week gathering of Kat and the Unravelers where we share our knitting/making and a little of ourselves. I am making good progress on the Forager sweater. Over the weekend, I washed and blocked the sweater to check the length. Last night, I finished the ribbing and tried it on. It fits. I am slightly concerned about running out of yarn so I plan to bind off the body and knit the neckband. I have one small ball attached to the sweater plus three remaining skeins. After the neckband is finished, I'll divide the yarn and knit the sleeves. Three quarter length sleeves would be acceptable but longer would be better. Wish me luck on this low key game of yarn chicken. I have a contrast color I was going to work into the ribbing but the yarn released a lot of dye when washed. I used a mild dish detergent instead of wool wash as an indie dyer once told me that wool washes encourage bleeding. I have a few skeins of Quince and Co. yarn left in stash but I'm not ordering any more. This is a different base of Chickadee then I so enjoyed previously. If the change was advertised or discussed on their blog or website, I missed it. Your experience may differ from mine. 

I knit a little on this shawl while the sweater dried. When I last posted, the shawl had some stripes. I knit a little further, striping in the soft blue with the plum because I'd come to the end of the mauve color. The stripes weren't to my liking so I ripped them out and am going to knit the colors in blocks. As EZ wrote, "you are the boss of your knitting." The pattern calls for stripes but I have different yarn amounts so will knit it as colorblocks. 

The two little gray "turtles" of Romeldale/Suri Alpaca are ready for plying later today after a bone density scan and a mammogram. Maintenance, it's a pain in the tush, but important and necessary. I'm thankful I have access to the screenings and that I can get them done in one trip. 

I just finished listening to The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After and continue to think about Wamariya. She came of age under very difficult circumstances. One of her beliefs is that instead of the giving and taking aid, sharing would be a better paradigm. I wonder how reciprocity in help-giving relationships could be more widely implemented. I am almost finished with Ackerman's Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden. Ackerman's curiosity and knowledge about the science of gardening and plants is amazing. It's no surprise the book is organized by season. I have read a number of books organized this way and am beginning to think of them as a genre. I also ordered a used copy of Hand Spinning Techniques by Pam Austin and enjoying her viewpoint. As with knitting or perhaps any craft, there are as many nuances to spinning as there are spinners. Austin encourages spinners to try long draw spinning. She also used the phrase, "the gentle rhythms of spinning," which I love. 

The little stalk of white sweet peas at the back of this bouquet are volunteering in my strip of perennial flowers. They are a nice surprise this summer.

I hope you are enjoying the week. Happy Making and Reading. 

Ravelry Links

Forager Sweater 

Cosmic Girl Shawl