June Beetle Socks

It’s the end of June. The weather is always interesting in Colorado, and I’ve spent the month working outside on landscaping projects and gardening in the late morning and early afternoons.  As the afternoon wears on I usually need to move inside to escape thunderstorms, and if they are bad enough I end up watching weather updates on the television while knitting.

Early in the month I saw a June Beetle in the garden. I haven’t seen one of these guys since I was a kid in Southern California when we would catch them, tie threads to their little upper bodies, and then fly them around like little pets. I was still thinking about the beetle when I cast on this yarn to make some new socks.

This yarn is mostly blue, but it has some green in it too which reminded me of the beetle. The yarn is from Hedgehog Fibers, which is an independent yarn studio located in Ireland. I decided to knit a sock pattern called “Origami” which uses a lace pattern that is Japanese in origin. The pattern comes from the book Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner.

Origami folds in sock.
The pattern makes the leg of the sock fold into a strange shape.
Lace sock.
The lace opens up once the sock is on.

As I knitted the socks and watched the thunderstorms bloom and thunder across Colorado on the weather radar I pondered the international connections open to me and other knitters. How fun this is! I made socks of Irish wool in a Japanese pattern to fit my fat little Swedish-American feet while watching thunderstorms in Colorado in a color that reminds me of my childhood in California. What a time to be alive.

Finished socks on feet.
Socks made with Irish wool in a Japanese pattern on my Swedish-American feet.

June is almost gone, the weather is beautiful and summery outside, and my socks are done. Time to go back into the garden to show them off to that June Beetle.

Cibola Burn

This is the fourth book in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey which started with Leviathan Wakes, and then continued on with Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s Gate. I’ve learned to pay attention to the titles of these books, so even though I had some nebulous memory of Conquistadors searching through the wilderness and deserts for the lost (golden) city of Cibola, I did look it up. That’s right. The legend that lured Spanish Conquistador expeditions north into the unexplored southwestern region of the North American continent was one that involved seven fantastic cities of gold. Cibola.

At the end of Abaddon’s Gate gates to many, many new worlds  opened up for exploration, settlement and exploitation through rings left behind by a highly-advanced civilization that vanished before life really got going on Earth. This book picks up the story a couple of years after the events that closed Abaddon’s Gate in a smooth continuation of story line that builds on situations and characters that occurred in the previous books. Predictably, the first mission to conduct a scientific survey of a planet on the other side of a newly opened ring-gate arrives under the auspices of an energy corporation with mineral rights to the planet. Of course there are squatters, refugees from damaged Ganymede, already on the planet looking to defend their new home. Conflict is inevitable as each group strives to establish precedent and policy for all the new worlds to come. The solar system is a big place, and the centers of power are months away from this planet on the other side of a ring. Enter the Rocinante, already in the region of the ring-gates, sent to try to mediate an escalating crisis on the frontier. Of course things won’t go smoothly!

The crew of the Rocinante is back with all the personality, interplay and snappy dialogue that I have come to know and love in the previous books. The story in the book is built in a realistic fashion that reaches a satisfying resolution while still serving as an obvious bridge from past events to future books. I started reading the book during a very busy week, and just resented having to stop to sleep. This book is even more of a page turner that will keep you up all night than the last one! Here are some of my reflections after the event:

  • The science is great and very well presented. One of my bosses once explained to me that science is actually a verb: you do it! This book does science instead of trying to present it to you. The biology especially is very heartwarming.
  • The story continues to be told from different viewpoints. The different points of view are interwoven extremely well , and it is fun to experience the crew of the Rocinante through different eyes.
  • Two of the new major players in the story are people we met in the previous books brought forward to this one in a manner that is entirely consistent with who they were and what they did before. I loved it!
  • The characters in the story were reflective and evolved as time went on. Wow!
  • While we are past the time of protomolecule-technology bioweapons, the fact that the ring-gate to the new world is an artifact from a lost civilization is skillfully embedded into the story. This new (alien) planet was exploited by vanished aliens in ways that can’t even be imagined yet. The ramifications of that may continue on into future books. Oh, joy!
  • This is the most intelligent, action-packed and compelling book that I have read this year. I’m not sure if it is better than Caliban’s War, but it is very, very good.

The Conquistadors discovered in their search for the lost cities of gold that things weren’t exactly what they thought they were. In “The Expanse” series the rush is on; what is on the other side of the rings in all those unexplored worlds remains to be seen.

One thing is sure, the Rocinante will be busy and we are going to need Bobbie again!

 

Books I Love: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

I really place a lot of emphasis on the first few lines of a book. I just love it when the author seizes the moment and transports me immediately into the book. In just a few well-chosen sentences I’m in another place, I have a feel for at least one person in the story, and I’m already becoming emotionally invested.

Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about. Each of these is the first sentence(s) of the book:

  • When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake – not a very big one. (Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove)
  • Other pilgrims offered silver at the shrine; Maria brought an armful of wildflowers. (Cecelia Holland, Great Maria)
  • Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. (Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend)
  • He will come who treads the dawn, Tramples the sun beneath his feet, And judges the souls of men. He will stride across the rooftops, And he will fire the engines of God. –Uranic Book of Prayer (Quraqua)(Translated by Margaret Tufu) (Jack McDevitt, The Engines of God)

I absolutely love each of these books;  when I read them I was captured within the first few pages. Within minutes I was in Texas, the Middle Ages, California, or on another planet investigating a lost civilization. That first impression carried me into the book and I was gone.

Quite frankly, I do struggle a little with non-fiction writing. I always start the book meaning to stick with it in a quest for self-improvement, but somewhere after a few chapters I drift off and never finish. I keep trying, though, to find those books that will really capture me and teach me about things I never knew or even imagined. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo is one of these books.

Here is the first sentence of the book:

Midnight was closing in, the one-legged woman was grievously burned, and the Mumbai police were coming for Abdul and his father.

All right then! I am yours forever, or as long as it takes to read this book.

That is exactly what happened. This book, which is an immersion into the lives of the inhabitants of the slum world of Annawadi, located on open land belonging to the Airports Authority of India, is amazing. The narrative focuses on Abdul and his family, but we meet their neighbors, friends, and family as we travel through the events leading up to the horrific night described in the first sentence of the book and onwards through the incarcerations and trials of Abdul and other members of his family. Along the way we discover the realities of grinding poverty, the continual graft and corruption running through the Annawadi world, the brutal truths of modern life in India, and the glimmers of hope for a better life and future. I am horrified, I am grateful for my life, and I feel compelled to do something to make some difference. I want desperately to get e-mail updates about how Abdul and other people that I met in this book are doing. It should be clear to you that not only was I captured at the first sentence by this book, but I was compelled to read it straight through over a couple of days.

That first sentence was a good predictor. This is a very, very good book.

Cowl Study Part 2

What can I say? I had some more of the Freia yarn in a turquoise-blue-purple colorway called Blue Velvet, and a tube of beads that kind of looked like they would go with the yarn. The beads , size 6, are called Serenity Mix by Miyuki. I had to get knitting!

Beads on fabric of cowl.
These beads were a mixture of greens, purple, yellow and clear in pastel colors. Pretty good fit!

The last time I knit this cowl (Zuzu’s Petals by Carina Spencer) I was reaching the end of the cowl just as I arrived at the most flashy color in the ball of yarn. To get some of that color into the cowl I knitted a picot edging to use up more yarn and to make sure that I captured the color. I weighed the leftover yarn from the first cowl and discovered that it was 7 grams. To reduce the amount of light yarn for this new cowl, and to maximize the amount of purple color at the end of my cowl project, I pulled off 5 grams of yarn from the middle of the ball before I cast on.

I decided to attach the beads to only the lace portion of the cowl, and only in the part of the pattern that was one knit stitch with a yarn over to either side of it. (YO, K1, YO). To attach the bead I slipped a bead onto this isolated knit stitch with a small crochet hook, put the stitch back onto the knitting needle and then knitted it.  This placed the bead at the tip of the petals in the lace pattern.

Beads in Lace
I decided to place the beads into the lace so that they would be at the tip of the petals.

The edging of the cowl has a pattern of stacked YO,K1,YO sections. I added a new bead into each of these knit stitches.

Lace with beads.
Beads at the edge of the lace pattern. I put a bead into each YO,K1,YO part of the lace edging.

When I got to the end of the cowl I was just getting to the start of the purple yarn. Curses! I thought I was so clever to remove yarn at the start of the knitting, but it just didn’t work out for me . I had to put on another picot edging to get any of that purple onto the cowl. I weighed the leftover yarn again when I was done knitting, and there was 5 grams left over. I must have knitted tighter, or the yarn was a little thinner (this is one-ply rustic spun yarn), or… Such is life in the knitting universe.  Clever tricks will just get you so far. Another lesson learned.

Finished Cowl
Here’s the finished cowl. I just barely got that purple color in, and had to bind off with the picot edging again to do it.

Now I’m wondering what it would look like if I added beads in a scattered fashion through out the stockinette portion at the beginning of the cowl?  Heading to the yarn stash to see what I can find. 🙂

Cowl Study

For some inexplicable reason I have suddenly gotten stuck on cowls.  Never mind it is already spring and summer is on the way. I seem to only be interested in cowls, scarfs and socks. I put the socks onto the back burner last week and dived into cowls.

I have had this nice pink yarn for a few months now, and couldn’t seem to find the right project. Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn: it is made of merino wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere not that I’m letting that intimidate me. Then while poking around the patterns at my local yarn store I discovered a nice pattern for a lace cowl that looks a little like a scarf with the back point tied to the front. That’s a look that I really like, so I bought the pattern Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s the finished product.

Finished cowl made from Dream in Color "Perfectly Posh" yarn.
Finished cowl made from Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn.

See, it looks just like a little scarf, but it is a cowl with a narrow back. Perfect to wear over tops with a cardigan or jacket.

Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.
Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.

Well, it was hard to not notice that the original cowl pattern was designed to display yarn that changed colors gradually, so I just had to buy a couple of cakes of Freia Handpaint Yarn even though I have more yarn in my stash than I can knit in my lifetime. I ended up with the colorways Conchinilla and Blue Velvet .

I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.
I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.

I just love the way the colors change in the cowl.

I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.
I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.

I can’t help but wonder what the cowl will look like with beads added, so tonight I started another version of the same cowl in the Blue Velvet colorway of the Freia yarn. Hey, it is a cowl study. I’m just surrendering to this thing without giving it too much thought. I wonder what I can find in my yarn stash for the next cowl after the beaded one? I think that I have some silk/wool yarn that I got on sale a couple of years ago…

 

Lessons My Mother Taught Me

My mom was amazing. She had a life that could serve as the foundation for a novel, but to me she was just mom. The lessons that she taught me were a reflection of her time, but they have turned out to be good life lessons for any generation. Here they are:

  1. We are all citizens of the world. My mom was born in Japan to American citizens of Swedish descent; her first spoken language was Japanese. The family lived overseas due to my grandfather’s job, and she was raised in Illinois and Argentina. Along with the English that she learned in America, she was also fluent in Spanish and had some French on the side. After marriage she lived in Hawaii and Southern California. She had a cosmopolitan view of the world and would not tolerate any prejudice of any kind. If she didn’t like someone, it was absolutely personal. Lesson learned.
  2. People are more important than money. My parents valued service to others and the nation above making money. My mom was a nurse and my father was in the civil service. They gave as much money as they could to charity; one year they were in the newspaper because they had donated so much to The United Way. My mom was a pediatric care nurse when I was young, and she fostered some of her patients who needed homes after leaving the hospital. She always gave 10% of her income to her church. We weren’t rolling in money but we always had enough. I learned from mom that you don’t need money to be rich.
  3. The most valuable thing you acquire in life is your education. My mother was admitted to a university after finished high school, but her father wouldn’t let her attend. When I wanted to go to college myself she moved mountains to make it possible for me, and then entered college herself. We raced to graduation with mom finishing a few months before me. She told me we were making the best investments of our lives, and she was right. Cancer cheated her of her Master’s Degree, but I thought of her the entire time I worked on mine. The diploma on my wall is hung next to her picture. Thank you, mom.
  4. Get your vaccinations! My mom was a Red Cross nurse during the polio outbreaks of 1945. It was a dreadful time. She was a nurse at an outbreak in Illinois where hundreds of people became ill, and many died or were left with lasting damage. When the polio vaccine became available we were some of the first to receive our shots. She worked on the pediatric ward of a county hospital and saw many children die or suffer permanent injury from “childhood” diseases such as measles and diphtheria. Throughout her life she insisted that we get every vaccine available as soon as we could. To this day I regard vaccines as one of the greatest achievements of science.
  5. Take germs seriously when it is appropriate, but don’t worry about them the rest of the time. Wow, we learned draconian germ control methods when there was an outbreak of illness in the house. Safe food handling was a way of life for us. Otherwise, things were pretty casual. She kind of felt that your immune system needed to see germs to develop normally, and mom would have laughed at all the anti-bacterial products on the market. I have to say, I very rarely become ill. Mom knew what she was doing.
  6. Repurpose, recycle, reuse, and eat your leftovers! My mom was a child of the Great Depression. She did her homework writing in the margins of the newspaper. She invented Life Hacks before anyone else knew about them. She knitted, sewed, cooked, and made all of our presents. She empowered me to learn how to sew baby clothes, can peaches, tape drywall, lay tile and make plumbing repairs. This is also why I can’t seem to throw away all my biology teaching stuff in the garage. I just KNOW I can use some of it again for SOMETHING.
  7. It never looks how long it took you to do something, only how well you did it. Usually this was said as I ripped out a zipper to sew in for the third time. I think she meant it to comfort me, but it was really good advice. Don’t ever settle for less than your best.
  8. Feed your roses every month, prune them every three months, and if they don’t produce the way you want them to after a year, rip them out and go get some new ones. Mom took her roses seriously and her roses were amazing! People came off the street, knocked on her door, and asked her about them. I remember them as 6 feet tall and always blooming (OK, this was San Diego and such things were possible). When you think about this, her advice for roses is also good for life. Sometimes, no matter how much love, care and time you spend on someone or something, there comes a point where you should cut your losses and move on. You leave that job, your marriage ends, best friends get downgraded. That’s life, mom would say. Move on.
My mom in 1986. She died of cancer a few months later.
My mom in 1986. She died of cancer a few months later.

My mom died 28 years ago this week, but her lessons live on. It is not possible to minimize the effect that she had on my life. Her lessons grounded me, and I’m still trying to live the example that she set for me. She surrounded herself with books and read every day. She established a scholarship to allow a woman to enter the ministry, created nursing courses to meet the needs of her community, and wrote her congressman when she wanted action. She was a woman of faith who demanded evidence before she made a decision. She has been and continues to be the role model for my life. I love you, Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Swedish Family Bootie Pattern

Wow. This week I was definitely stuck in the baby bootie knitting rut. I went ahead and made two more pairs for friends of my original customer; kind of a ripple out effect. While I was making them I realized that while the pattern is pretty simple and straight forward, it is hard to visualize what is happening. So here is the pattern, exactly the way that it was taught to me, with picture support. The booties in the picture are being made on 2.25mm double pointed needles with Broncos Football colored fingering yarn that I bought at my local yarn store. In case you haven’t guessed, this is Broncos Country since I live in Colorado.

Cast on 10 stitches. Knit each row (this is garter stitch) until you have 18 ridges on each side.

This little rectangle of garter stitch will become the sole of the bootie. Like those Bronco colors?
This little rectangle of garter stitch will become the sole of the bootie. Like those Bronco colors?

You have knitted a cute little rectangle that is going to be the bottom of the baby bootie. Now things get a little tricky as you need to bust out more double pointed needles. You already have 10 stitches on one needle. Without cutting the yarn, turn the rectangle and pick up 18 stitches on the closest long side of what you just knitted with a new needle.  Use a 3rd needle to pick up 10 stitches along the bottom of the rectangle, and a 4th needle to pick up 18 stitches on the final long side. This is what you now have.

Stitches are now picked up so that you can start knitting the sides of the bootie.
Stitches are now picked up so that you can start knitting the sides of the bootie.

Needle management is an issue as you knit these booties. I use square metal needles, which hold the yarn fairly well, but you may want to use wood or bamboo needles as they grip the yarn nicely and won’t fall out. I am using 6″ needles in these pictures, but if you have smaller needles you may want to use those.

Mark the start of the round, and knit four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, then four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, and then finally four rounds of purl stitches. Got that?  You just knitted up the side of the bootie, and it should look like this.

This is the view looking into the bootie from the top.
This is the view looking into the bootie from the top.
Side view of the bootie after the sides are knitted. The knit stitches don't show as they fold themselves in, but they are there.
Side view of the bootie after the sides are knitted. The knit stitches don’t show as they fold themselves in, but they are there.

Now we are to the part where I always got lost and gave up. My mom would just say, “Now you knit back and forth from one end catching a stitch from each side as you go.” Say what? What she should have told me it that starting with the 10-stitch end I just knit across, turn the bootie and knit back across the stitches with the toe of the bootie towards you. Knit the 10th stitch on the needle together with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. Turn the bootie with the heel towards you and purl back across the 10 stitches, and purl the last stitch on your needle with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. You are creating the toe box for the little baby foot, and you are knitting stockinette stitch.

Creating the toe box: I'm knitting across the 10 stitches and the stitch from the side is already on my needle (the blue stitch to the far left) waiting to get knit together with the 10th stitch.
Creating the toe box: I’m knitting across the 10 stitches and the stitch from the side is already on my needle (the blue stitch to the far left) waiting to get knit together with the 10th stitch.

Continue doing this until there are only 10 stitches left on each side needle. Turn the bootie and knit one round across all 4 needles. To make things clear let’s call the toe needle #1, and the other needles are #2, #3 (the heel), and #4 as you knit around. You will be starting the round with the toe stitches on needle #1.

Closing the gap after completing the first round of the ankle by knitting the stitch BELOW the the last stitch on needle #4 together with the first stitch on needle #1. stitch on
Closing the gap after completing the first round of the ankle by knitting the stitch BELOW the the last stitch on needle #4 together with the first stitch on needle #1.

As you arrive at the needle #1 again after the first round you need to do some trickiness to close the gap so you won’t have a hole. You can pick up a stitch in the gap and knit it with the first stitch on the toe needle (#1), but I pull up the stitch below the last stitch on needle #4, place it on the tip of needle #1, and then knit the two stitches together. Sweet! If that seems confusing just pretend we didn’t have this discussion, pick up a stitch, or close the hole with a little yarn on a needle when you have finished the bootie. No one will know the difference.

Knitting the rounds of the ankle of the bootie.
Knitting the rounds of the ankle of the bootie.

Knit two more rounds, and then create the holes for the bootie’s tie during the 4th round this way: (K2, YO, K2together), repeat until you have finished the round. Knit 20-25 more rounds (until you think it looks pretty good), and bind off. The top will roll. I think that this top looks pretty good if your yarn is really busy.

Finished bootie with the cookies I baked while knitting the ankle.
Finished bootie with the cookies I baked while knitting the ankle.

If the yarn is a little more sedate I often finish the top by knitting 15 rounds, then 5 rounds of garter stitch (three purl rows), and then casting off with a picot bind-off.

Pink Baby Botties
Superwash wool booties made from Malabrigo Arroyo on 3.0 mm needles for a 3 month old baby.

You can use knotted i-cord for the ties like I did here, or crochet laces like my mom did, or even use a ribbon. Happy knitting!