Sunday, 29 November 2015

Squirrel Love

If you absolutely hate squirrels and  are not interested in another viewpoint stop now and either come back next week or scroll down further for the knitting update.

I like squirrels.  For most urban dwellers this is a controversial opinion.  I find them entertaining.  I think their bushy tails are adorable.  I know others feel differently.

I have seen uncounted number of articles, heard radio interviews and other communications on how how to protect your bulbs from squirrels.  Everyone else it seems are trying to protect their tulip bulbs from squirrels.  I don't care for tulips.  One good wind and the display is done.  Instead, I plant daffodils.  Squirrels leave them alone.  Daffodils are toxic to squirrels and they know it.  Daffodils also happen to be my favourite flower.  So sorry if yours are tulips.

I laugh at the various displays of squirrel proof bird feeders.  From the myriad of articles etc I have come to the conclusion that none of them are successful and are a waste of money.  I don't mind the squirrels at my bird feeder.  After all they got to eat too.  But I make them earn their keep.  My dog Reba thinks the squirrels should stay out of the yard.  She is entitled to her opinion and I am entitled to mine.  I let the squirrels take a snack before I open the door and let Reba out.  She takes off after the squirrel.   She is entitled to her fun too. There is no chance my 12 year old overweight terrier is going to catch one - ever.  But she is happy; she protected the back yard.  I am happy; Reba got a little extra exercise.  The squirrel should be happy; he/she gets fed.

She came close once though.  The squirrel was used to having a head start.  Sometimes it takes Reba too long to spot the squirrel.  Well this one dawdled and Reba didn't.  She flew off the back deck and added a burst of speed.  Pretty impressive for an old girl.   The squirrel made a second mistake.  He did not head for the tree; he headed for the fence.  Reba had extra time to gain speed and she did.  If the squirrel had been fatter he never would have made it through the chain link.  Reba stretched out her neck and bit down on the tail before it cleared the wire.  Good thing for the squirrel she has no front teeth.  The tail just slid through.

I can see the bird feeder from where I sit to write this.  The gang of 3 grey squirrels are back.  They chase each other around the feeder.  They only act in concert to chase away the black squirrel.  I let him eat a little longer before letting Reba out.  He does not get as many chances at the feeder as the greys.

I also put food out specifically for the squirrels.  I dye wool with black walnuts.  I do not bother hulling them first I just put the whole walnut in the pot to extract the dye from the hull.  After I am done I put the walnuts out for the squirrels.  Mine now have a real liking for boiled walnuts.  If the squirrel buries the nut there is no chance I will have a tree growing where I don't want one.

There was one time I collected a bag of walnuts for dyeing but a string of circumstances prevented me from using them right away.  I left them in a bag in the garage.  One day I found the bag in the yard empty.  The garage door had been left open; the squirrels made their way inside and helped themselves.  Oh well, at least someone put the walnuts to good use.

I anyone complains to me about squirrels.  I tell them to get a terrier.

Knitting Content (so the squirrel haters know to stop scrolling)

I have finished the Doodler shawl.  It still needs its finishing bath and blocking.  I will do that later.  I prefer to photograph the items dry.  The i-cord bind-off took me most of yesterday to complete. There were more that 500 stitches to cast off.  The pattern has 3 choices for binding off this shawl.  I wanted to do the third option  but I ran out of colour C (the dark purple) before finishing the fourth wedge of Clue 3 thus eliminating option 3 for casting off.  I did not think that the second option would enhance the shawl with my colour choices  and would likely highlight the fact I ran out of colour C so I chose option 1.  I like it.

[The sun was shining when I went out to take this picture.  As soon as I had the set up complete, the sun went behind a cloud and stayed there.]

 One more entry completed. Now to concentrate on the sweater for my brother.  I want to have it at a stage where he can try it on at Christmas.  Then I can make any adjustments before doing the finishing (collar and front bands).

If at all possible I want to get at least the front or back of the man's vest done before Christmas as well.  I can get a better idea of how it will fit my niece's boyfriend when I see him.

I am probably delusional to think I can accomplish this much knitting before December 24.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Decorating for Christmas

In years past, around this time, I would be madly knitting away.  I would check the completed objects drawer and start assigning items to people and figuring out what I still needed to knit for Christmas gifts.

This year is a bit different.  I am not knitting Christmas gifts this year.  Actually, I am not planning on Christmas gifts at all.  I have distributed the items from the completed drawer to those who wanted specific items.  

Decorating for Christmas is minimalist.  It is done.  See.

My Christmas Cactus is blooming and I bought a Poinsettia.  That's it.  No tree, no ornaments, nada.  Mother Nature did her part too.

I have not decorated for  Christmas for about 25 years.  I used to.  It was stressful. When my Hubby and I got together we discussed whether or not to decorate for the holidays.  He did not care one way or the other and I did not want to.  Making this decision to not decorate inside or out was very liberating.  There was a lot of social pressure to conform to the social norm of decorating a tree and installing outside lights.  Just read the book "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham.  I laugh each time I read it and really understand what Luther Krank is trying to achieve.  I have had similar pressures put on me.

Once I actually had a woman almost screaming at me.  I should decorate.  I should do all those other things that everyone else does. How could I opt out of Christmas?  ( I don't, I just do it in my own way.)  I do not bake for the holidays either.  I did not cave.  Several years ago I ran into that woman again.  She apologized.  One year something happened and she stopped decorating and baking.  She too found it very freeing and told me she now "gets" it.

My Hubby and I celebrate Christmas.  We watch our favourite Christmas movies.  I send Christmas cards.  We get together with friends and family.  We actually enjoy ourselves and have our own annual traditions.  They just aren't what everyone else is doing.

The one thing that has not changed this year is I am still knitting madly.  I finished the On Hold Socks.

Some details for you.

I make my own sock blockers.

I cut these out of a hard foam sheet I picked up at Michaels.  A really good material for making these is the stuff political signs are made from.  For several elections, I called one of the political candidates and asked for a sign.  I figured I would be able to keep it after the election was over.  Each time I was not fast enough the morning after and the sign would be gone, picked up or maybe taken by someone else needing sock blockers.

This past election, my sister volunteered to put up signs for her local candidate.  Her garage was full of them.  She promised to save me some after the election.  Her candidate did not get elected and he is unlikely to run again in four years.  There should be lots for sock blockers.  I will collect them from her when we get together for Christmas.

 Doodler shawl Clue 3 came out this week.  The first instructions were to pick up 300 stitches.  I put it aside.  I just was not in the mood and worked on the socks and afghan.  I wound colour C and started Clue 3 this morning once the sun was shining.  It was easier to find those stitch legs in bright natural light.  Colour C is very dark.  It looks black but is actually a real deep dark purple.

I have not looked at any spoiler photos yet so what this clue is going to look like is still a mystery to me.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Too Many Mistakes

Most of this week's knitting time was spent on the Doodler Shawl.  It did not help that I made a mistake in the 14th wedge and had to rip it back.  Apparently I cannot count to 5.  Somehow 6 became 5.  Since 6 and 5 are not the same, the stitch count at the end of the wedge did not work.  I could have fudged it.  But then the yarn-overs would not line up properly.  I tried to fix it without ripping back all that work but could not.  All I could do was to rewind the yarn and watch the stitches disappear.

Now I do whatever I can to prevent mistakes.  Clue 1 was a series of short rows.  On each right side, you knit to 5 stitches before the last turn so each row is 5 stitches shorter than the row before.  To make it easier for myself, on the return wrong side row I leave a marker 5 stitches from the turn. That way I only have to knit back to the marker.  This of course assumes I can count to 5.  Apparently I have trouble with this simple task.

In one of the later wedges I forgot to move the marker 5 stitches and knit back to the previous turn instead.   I did not catch this mistake until the wedge was finished and I did not have the heart to rip it all out.  So one wedge is now two rows wider than it should be.  I fudged this mistake by skipping the yarn over that goes on top of the turn so that the hole formed is about the same size as the ones formed by one turn and a yarn over.  You would be hard pressed to find the mistake.  Near the beginning of the shawl I forgot to make the yarn over on top of the turn.  The hole lines up so I just stuck my finger in the hole created by the short row turn, stretching it out so it is approximately the same size as the other holes.  To make sure that the stitch count stayed right, I just skipped a knit 2 together.

Clue 2 came out on Friday.  I had come down with a bug so I spent the day alternating sleeping and knitting.   My suspicion is the bug was affecting my ability to knit the pattern correctly.   Clue 2 is done but not without mistakes.  I had the right stitch count at the end of Clue 1 but as I neared the last cable I counted the stitches and I was one short.  I must have miscounted and done an extra row somewhere so I fudged it again.

I like to hold my work away from me from time to time to admire it.  That is when I realized that 10 rows back I had purled a row instead of knitting it.  Why it took me 10 rows to see it I just can't figure out.   Must be the bug.   Maybe I should have slept more and knit less.  I ripped them out and re-knit.

I have no idea what is going to happen next and there are two more clues and another colour to add. Next clue comes out on Friday.  Can't wait.

There is another mistake I made with this shawl but it is one of those rare fortuitous mistakes.  The grape Hedgehog Fibres Sock yarn had less yardage than the other colours I was using.  I was afraid I would run out so I bought 2 skeins instead of one.  One skein was enough for me to finish with colour A in the pattern.  Many others ran short but I did not.  Maybe there is a mistake in there somewhere  after all and I  have just not found it yet.

I finished the 10th afghan square and the 11th is on the needles.  I sewed the next five together.  Held the column away from me to admire and that's when I saw it.  All the squares had the wrong orientation.  Unpicked all 4 seams and resewed.  I went to sew the second column to the first and realized I had sewn the seams differently.  I liked the second version better so I unpicked all the seams from the first column and resewed them.  Progress is slow when items are ripped and re-knit and unpicked and resewn.

Afghan is 50% complete if you don't count the narrow border to be added at the end.

I am hoping for better progress on the works in progress while I wait for Clue 3.

Last Sunday Hubby had to go to Pelee Island for a meeting.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him. I could take a hike and photographs while he was otherwise engaged.  There was also the hour and a half ferry ride each way for knitting.  The weather was perfect and I went.

The light was amazing and I am pleased with my photos.  I present them here for your enjoyment.

Kingsville Harbour:

My favourite walk on the island is through the woods to Fish Point.  The Point is as far south as you can get in Canada unless you have a private boat and can get to Middle Island.

The woods:

There was a storm from the East since the last time I hiked here and the trail along the east side of the point was gone, eroded away.  So Reba and I traipsed along the east shore until the fallen trees made further progress impossible.

We eventually re-found the trail which takes you to the west side of the point along the shore.

Fish Point:

Reba and the Doodler posing:

We headed back along the west side of the point.  Walking the beach is not easy.  Reba does not like to get too close to the water.  She does not like the waves.  However, with the trail through the bush gone, the west shore was the easier option.

The calm water did not last long.  By Thursday the ferries were cancelled due to high winds on the lake.  When the wind is right, the water levels in the west basin are pushed to the east end of the lake.  Port Dover flooded but the beaches on Pelee Island grew bigger.  The high winds and low water made it too dangerous for the ferry to run.  Hubby went over on Wednesday morning before the storm but was trapped until Saturday noon when the ferry service continued.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Travel Yarns

Progress is being made.  I cast on the second sock but it is just a toe at this point and since it looks exactly like the first sock there is no photo.

I spent a good chunk of this week's knitting time trying to up the afghan square count.  I want to have as many squares as posts on this blog.  That way each Sunday I can keep track of whether I met my quota of one square per week.  This is post 10 and I have 9 completed squares and one on the needles.  With any luck, number 10 will be blocking tomorrow night.  Again since these squares look like the ones before, no photo.

I joined the mystery knit-along for Stephen West's Doodler shawl. My yarn choices was done last month and sitting there waiting for the first clue.  Clue number 1 was released late this week.  I wound Colour A and B and cast on.  I am guessing at the percentage completed.  Clue one consists of 17 wedges; I have completed 12 as of writing this.  The problem is that each wedge gets exponentially wider and taller.  12 of 17 is not 70% but more like 45% of the clue.  I am guessing that it is also maybe 10% of the whole shawl.  It is hard to tell as this of course is a mystery knit.  

Here is a photo for your entertainment.

This is the only photo for this post so I am going to distract you with a video issued by Stephen West

Baby You're a Knitter

and stories about yarn.

There are two different yarns in the above photo.  The purple is Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn in Grape.  I wrote about it here.

The pink yarn is Turtlepurl Yarns, Big Turtle Toes in Dirty Girl.  I acquired this yarn as a gift from my Hubby.  He was in Ottawa for a conference.  He looked out his hotel window and saw a yarn store; he is by this time a well trained husband.  As soon as there was a break in the agenda, he headed to the store and bought yarn for me.  He is definitely a keeper.

There is a third yarn for this shawl.  Hazel Knits, Artisan Sock in colourway 203-Blacklight.  From its location in the stash, I think I purchased this yarn at Sock Summit 2011.  To understand why this is amusing, I will tell the story of going to Sock Summit 2009.

When I heard about the very first Sock Summit being held in Portland Oregon, I knew I wanted to go.  It was going to be the Woodstock of the sock knitting world.  Hubby said one evening after dinner that for 2009 he wanted to put more miles on the motorcycle.  I said, "Have I got the trip for you!"

Portland is 3,865 km from here according to Google maps.  We had a total of two weeks to get there, be there and get home.  This meant averaging around 800 km (500 miles) travelling each day as I planned to be in Portland for about 5 days.  To do that type of mileage on two motorcycles each day means anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day.  We stop every 100 km.  Hubby's bike could only get just over 200 km per tank of gas.  Heading out, it rained one day.   On another, Hubby ran into my bike.  I stopped for construction; he was looking at the river we were crossing.  No one hurt and no damage done.  I refused to stop for the night until we made our mileage quota each day; his reaction was to get up later and later each morning.

By the time we got to Ontario Oregon, just inside the border of Oregon and Idaho, we were hot, tired and barely speaking.  We stopped for the night thinking that the last riding day would be easy at just 371 miles.

I woke up with the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had.  I wish to publicly apologize to whoever had to clean the room.  I am sorry but I had to choose which end went into the toilet.  

To this day I do not know how I kept the bike upright.  We traveled from rest stop to rest stop.  I would get the bike on its kickstand then tumble off onto any handy patch of grass just laying there until the world stopped wobbling, then use the facilities.  Hubby would bring me water and wet down my neckerchief to sooth my head.  

By the time we reached the Umatilla rest stop on the Columbia River, this was routine but after bringing water, Hubby went to sit somewhere he could keep an eye on me but far enough away so the folks staring at me would not think he was with me.   It was here he sat down next to an emergency room nurse.  She expressed concern for my welfare and came and checked me out.  She provided me with a banana and Gatoraide and finally I started to feel a little better.

I spent the entire Summit feeling sick, not able to eat much.  Hubby located a grocery store and kept me supplied with bananas, oranges and Gatoraide. Yet despite being incapacitated I had the time of my life.

The trip home got worse.  I woke up in South Dakota with a wicked cold.  It is impossible to sneeze and keep your eyes open.  Try it, you'll see.  On a motorcycle you can't sneeze forward or you end up wearing it.  Traveling through Chicago's traffic on a motorcycle, and sneezing is my definition of hell.  I had to develop a system of checking traffic around me to make sure it was safe to momentarily close my eyes then tuck my head under my armpit and sneeze.  Never mind not being able to blow my nose; that takes two hands and one had to be on the throttle at all times.   On the other hand there was no place to store or access tissues anyway and even if I could, they would just blow away.

We arrived home safely.  I ended up sick in bed for another week.  When I heard about the second and sadly last Sock Summit, I mentioned it to Hubby.  He said, "You are going to fly aren't you?"


"Have an nice time", he replied.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Trick or Treat

I carry my knitting everywhere.  I want to be prepared.  If traffic comes to a standstill I want to be ready to pass the time until the highway gets moving again.  Running out of yarn is a constant fear. Why I think I will be able to accomplish a week's worth of knitting in an hour is just one of those mysteries of life.

A couple of years ago I was going out for dinner with a co-worker while at a conference .  Also going was a former co-worker and her husband.  The restaurant was just across the street from the hotel.  I was planning what knitting to take with me.  Now I was not actually planning to knit through dinner.  I was just planning for any "in-case" emergency.  

So I put the current project in my project bag.  Then I thought, what if one of us is taken ill and I have to accompany the ambulance to the hospital.   There could be hours spent in the emergency room.   I put a second project in the bag.  Another horrible thought.  What if the restaurant was taken over by terrorists and I had to hide in a closet for two days until rescue arrived.  I stuffed the bag with enough yarn for a year. 

So I hauled this overstuffed over-sized project bag with me to the restaurant and of course there was no ambulance, no terrorists and no knitting during dinner.

This year at the conference I was going to be brave.   I was not going to buy a ticket for the crazy train.  The project bag would stay behind.  I was going to dinner with friends and I was not taking knitting with me.  Just as I was heading out the door of my hotel room  this thought hit me.  What if I get to the lobby first and have to wait.  I picked up the project bag.  

I did get the back done for the man's sweater during the conference. I have this dream that one of these days there will be others knitting at this conference but so far I am the only one.  I did have one participant recognize my bag as a project bag and asked what I was knitting.

I think I should have put something in the photo for scale.  This is 28" long and 25" wide.  When blocked it will be slightly narrower and slightly longer.

Most of yesterday was spent adding fringe to the poncho.  Cutting fringe is always a challenge.  Simply wrapping the yarn around another object stretches the yarn.  Once cut, the yarn contracts so that each yarn piece is a different length.   I like to use a hard cover book to wrap the yarn around to get the fringe length.  Hard cover books have a cover slightly longer than the inside pages.  This gives a channel for the scissors to cut the ends.  I choose a book with the width approximately the length I need for the fringe.  For the poncho each fringe is one strand of the three types of yarn used.  Each stretched differently being wrapped so I had to take care that there was ample slack in each yarn as it was wound around the book cover.  

Once finished my next problem was to get it photographed.  A flat poncho is dull and lifeless.  Actually it is hard to lay flat at all and have it look like a poncho.  I wanted a model.  I have three nieces and one granddaughter, all beautiful young women who would willingly model for me but all live a long way away.  My friends were all unavailable yesterday afternoon.  Time for some creative thinking.  I went to Essex Source for Sports (I have connections). They kindly lent me one of the manikins from the store window and carried it outside to the old Carnegie Library building for photos.

I think the fringe turned out okay.

The On Hold socks are a really enjoyable knit now that I have the 12 row pattern repeat memorized.  I am even keeping true to the pattern for the gusset and heel shaping. The only change I have made is to add a bit of shaping in the back for the calf.  

Once I finished the poncho I concentrated on the socks.  Even last night during the trick or treat event.  Hubby is the one who hands out treats at the door.  He always manages to say something to the kids to get them to speak to him.  I get to stay in the background and laugh; after all kids say the darndest things.

The first child was amazed that he was the first trick or treater to arrive.  (Someone always has to be first).  He looked at the bowl of treats and said what a waste.  Hubby and I discussed this afterwards because we were not sure what he meant.  We finally decided  he meant "what a waist" if we ate the leftover treats.

One little girl after getting her two treats demanded to know why her brother got two treats.   Hubby explained that she had also gotten two but must not have seen them go in her bag.  I suspect she will grow up to be a feminist.

Near the end of the evening, one little boy wondered if we had many children come.  He confused the full bowl of treats with a low turnout.  Hubby explained that he had refilled the bowl four times.  The boy looked at the bowl, held out his bag as if to say that if we didn't have many kids, perhaps we could give them all to him. It was the same look our dog gives when food is left on the kitchen counter.  She looks up at the counter, looks at us with a look that obviously means if you don't want it, can I have it?

Hubby upped the count from two to three for him.

There were a few chants of "Trick or Treat".  There was one girl who gave the longer version of "trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat".  They all take me right back to childhood.  But there is one chant I miss hearing.  I can't remember ever hearing it here in southern Ontario.  It was a common chant in Winnipeg.  I long to hear "Halloween Apples".  The sing-song always sounded haunting and sad with flavouring of alms for the poor.  But each Halloween I hear it in my head and remember my years in Winnipeg; many child voices' repeating  and echoing down the street.

I used my time to progress on the sock.  

Almost complete sock.  Just the ribbing at the top to complete then the blocking.  The problem with socks though is you have to make two.