WIP Wednesday: Another Hitchhiker and Mitts

It has been crazy weather time in Colorado. While the news is full of the huge snowstorm that hit New England, I have been outside in the sunshine with the cats reading and knitting. Yesterday we almost set a new record when we hit 75 degrees! Today is not as warm, but it was nice enough to give one of my cats a bath.

Within minutes of being released from the drying towels he was at the food bowl. Little does he know that the hair dryer is next...
Within minutes of being released from the drying towels Morgan was at the food bowl. Little did he know that the hair dryer was next…

Here he is tanking up on cat food after his traumatic ordeal.  🙂 Morgan is a (bob-tail) Maine Coon, which meant that a serious blow-dry and brush-out procedure was next in store for him. He actually likes the hair dryer, so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Look at these colors!
Look at these colors!

Still, what with one thing and another I didn’t settle down to knit until late this afternoon. I’m working on another Hitchhiker, this time in Noro Taiyo sock yarn (which is cotton, wool, nylon and silk). The colors are cool, but it isn’t as squishy as the last Hitchhiker that I made out of wool. It will be nice for summer. I keep thinking of ways to make a Hitchhiker-shaped scarf with gathered lace along one edge instead of points.  Hmmm…

Yep. No thumb.
Yep. No thumb. This yarn is Baah! La Jolla sock yarn in the colorway “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

I’m also making some vine lace mitts that still don’t have their thumbs knitted on. As usual, I’m going to have a little stack of thumb-less mitts piled up before I force myself to finish them. Then there is the matter of the pattern for these mitts which I need to write out a little better before I forget what I’m doing. Here’s the project page on Ravelry for the mitts with kind of a half pattern.

Maybe I’ll save the mitt thumbs for the snow day that is bound to come. March and April are the big snow-makers here. You never know. 🙂

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2015 Books #7 & #8: Christmas Books

Last week wasn’t very good for me health-wise. I have systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and out of the blue I suddenly developed breathing issues, noticed that I had edema in my arms and legs, and struggled with the cold weather more than normal. Seriously, my skin hurt and my fingers kept turning blue!! That’s how I ended up spending most of the week bundled up reading and knitting. (OK, there was a trip to the doctor and a visit to radiology, but who wants to go into that!) Luckily for me my sister and cousin sent me Barnes & Noble gift cards this Christmas, and I had some really good books waiting for me on my Nook. What could have been a sad little week turned into some awesome knitting and an immersive journey to Kentucky and the Arctic through the medium of two fantastic books. Here they are.

Secret WisdomThe Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

I’m always haunting Goodreads for a good book, and this one came up on my radar a couple of weeks ago. As soon as it was released I bought it for the Nook. What a good decision that was! I began the book Saturday of last week and read steadily over the next couple of days. Wow!  What a great story! What the heck was I going to say about this book? I was too stunned to even decide what I thought.

You see, this is a book of layers. It is about so many different things, and yet the threads of the story are so well intertwined you hardly notice it as the many themes and story lines are happening at once. So, in as few sentences as I can, here is what the book is about.

Following the death of his little brother in a horrific accident, 14 year-old Kevin and his mom go to live with his grandfather in the Appalachian coal mining community of Medgar, Kentucky. Kevin bonds with a local boy named Buzzy who is wise in the ways of the woods, and Kevin’s grandfather employs him as an assistant in his large animal vet practice. Just when it seems that the book will be a standard coming-of-age novel other themes emerge in rapid succession. This book is about environmental issues, the relationships between sons and fathers, economic greed, poverty, struggles for power, and the destructive force of homophobia. It is a murder mystery and a heroic wilderness survival story. It is a story about friendship, values, healing, and redemption. I was captured by the story, entranced by the beautiful narrative, and stunned by the turns in the plot. Wow! It was a fantastic read!

 

Jeanette

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
I was still spinning from the experience of The Secret Wisdom of the Earth when I decided to read a non-fiction book. Once again, I had checked this book out at Goodreads before I bought it, and several of the readers mentioned in their reviews that it was engrossing and read like an adventure novel. Take a chance, I told myself: buy it!

Yep. Another good decision. This book is the story of the voyage of exploration undertaken by the USS Jeanette in 1879. Her mission was to break through the ice belt in the north, reach the open polar waters and finally make it to the North Pole. Yep. In those days it was a commonly held belief that the North Pole was located in a warm open sea filled with teaming life. It was entirely possible, many argued, that there was a lost tribe of humans there. The Arctic was the great unknown, and there was huge public and national interest in the exploration of this region. It was the equivalent of the race to be the first on the moon. The USS Jeanette was the United States’ moonshot, and the cost of the expedition was funded by the most powerful newspaper of the time, the New York Herald.

The book is the story of the people involved in this grand adventure and a factual account of the events before, during, and after the USS Jeanette’s Arctic journey. It is based on many sources including current accounts in the news, personal journals, and the ship’s logs. It is rich, fascinating, and reads like a novel. It is a window into another time, and yet the motivations and emotions of those people echo our own times. It is a love story, an adventure story, a tale of survival in the face of horrific conditions, and even better, it is a story of science. (Hello, old biology teacher here…) The officers and crew of the USS Jeanette went to heroic lengths to collect and preserve maps and data that changed the world’s understanding of the Arctic. After the voyage of the USS Jeanette, it was never again assumed that the North Pole was located in an open sea, and all other efforts to reach it involved trips over sea ice. Just as the trips to the moon changed our view of the Earth, so did the voyage of the USS Jeanette.

A week has gone by since my first sad days of unhappy symptoms, and I am better. (Except my ankle, which has decided to hurt. What’s up with that?!) I dyed some wool, started a new knitting project, and am on the hunt for another book to read. I think it’s time for some science fiction.

Canning Jar Dye Job

I’m trying to stick to my New Year’s resolution: knit a sock each month using a pattern from one of my (many, many, what was I thinking of when I bought them…) sock knitting books and yarn already in my stash. I will not buy any more sock yarn! (but if I do, I won’t use it for the resolution socks… Hello! Need to be a little realistic here…)

So, I have a pattern picked out for the February sock (which is a secret since it isn’t February yet!), but there wasn’t really suitable yarn in the stash. I did find a kilo of Irish wool that my daughter-in-law gave me almost 20 years ago. Guess it would be OK to use that, but it is all white. Dye day!!

Skein of white yarn.
Look at this 200g skein of yarn! Wow! I think that I will try to rainbow dye it all in one pot!

 

Smaller Skeins
Seriously?! The skein is sub-divided into four 50 gram smaller skeins. Forget the rainbow dyeing. 

 

New idea. I can get those little skeins into wide-mouth canning jars. I just happen to have some of those in the garage.
New idea. I can get those little skeins into wide-mouth canning jars. I just happen to have some of those in the garage. 

Little skeins. Well, that is different. Each skein will need to be tied several times to keep them from tangling. I decided to dye the four smaller skeins of yarn at the same time in my canning pot with each skein in it’s own jar. I used Gaywool Dyes in Indigo and Raspberry and added one tsp of dye to each jar and filled it halfway with warm water while the yarn was soaking. I decided to make two of the skeins raspberry colored, and the other two indigo colored.

Dye jars in the water bath.
Once the water bath was  hot I added the jars of dye, crammed the wool into the jars, and then added more hot water to get the maximum volume of liquid in the jars. I used wooden skewers to stir my wool around. It was a tight fit, but do-able.

 

Dyed yarn in jars.
Ta-daa! Dyed yarn. You can kind of see in the picture that the exhaust water is almost clear around the now dyed yarn.

Once the water bath was up to the simmer I removed those skewers, covered the pot and let things simmer for about 30 minutes. I just love dyeing!  It feels like magic when the dye bites and enters the wool; the raspberry happened first, and then by the end of the 30 minutes the indigo had also made its move. I let the bath cool for an hour and then pulled the jars out.

Dyed yarn.
Here’s the dried (mostly) yarn. Yeah! February sock, you are so happening!!

By the way, I feel that I should mention that I don’t use this canning apparatus any longer for food; it is only for dyeing yarn and making candles. I have a whole crate of dye-only stuff and I even have a wool-only microwave. Best to be safe. 🙂

 

 

 

FO: January Socks are Done!

There is a whole week of January to go, and I have the first 2015 Resolution sock done. Isn’t this a sock that will make the most dreary of days seem happier and brighter? As usual, it has been approved by my cat MacKenzie who loves all things wool.

Finished Socks
The pattern on the bottom of this sock makes it pull in against the arch of my foot which is a detail that I like. The heel seems a little large, but it works on my foot, so it’s a win!
Socks on feet.
The tile pattern kind of fades in and out because of the hand-painted yarn, but I can see enough to make me happy.

I’ve already decided on the pattern for the February sock, but when I dug through the stash I found that I didn’t have worsted-weight yarn in the colors that I wanted. Actually, I hardly have any worsted weight yarn at all. I do have some white wool that my DIL brought back to me from her trip to Ireland. I don’t want to give anything away, but are you all up for some yarn dyeing?

Woohoo! Indigo and raspberry wool dyes, here we come!! Really, it will be fun.

Sock Information: Riot of Color from Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden. The yarn is Baah! Yarn La Jolla (the darker color) and Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet (lighter color)

2015 Book #5: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Gosh, I was really looking forward to this book. I just love Jodi Picoult’s books. They are always engaging and thought-provoking stories that are sure to capture me for days. As soon as Leaving Time was released I traveled to the NOOK store to check it out and buy it. I always read the customer reviews before clicking that “purchase” button, however. Oh, oh. Not everyone liked this book. Some major spoilers were dropped by some of the reviewers, (may they have tons of snow to shovel, uncomfortable nights and frozen days. Also frozen pipes. Really, I hope that raging stomach flu breaks out in their households along with the pipes, not that I mind that they REVEALED major elements of the plot before I could read this book…) and some people were disappointed that there was so much information about elephants in the book. Well, darn! Now I have a problem. Should I buy a book whose unexpected twists and turns have been partially revealed ahead of time? Do I really want to know more about elephants? Elephants! Of course I want to know more about elephants!  How can I resist reading a book that twists the plot around elephants?

Yep, that was the deciding factor. There are elephants in the book. You see, every year I showed a National Geographic video to my biology classes called Journey to the Forgotten River. This video documents the events that occurred during years of drought in Botswana, Africa when herds of animals travel from their normal habitat to the Linyanti. The great migration included herds of elephants who made the journey to this place where none of them had even been before. The memory of a safe haven at Linyanti is an ancestral one; it is inherited. What is going on in their brains, I would wonder every year? What is the biochemical basis of memory? How cool it would be to research that.

Then there was this 60 Minutes segment I saw on elephant speech called The Secret Language of Elephants. I seem to remember a researcher in the segment describing standing in front of the elephants in a zoo exhibit and feeling a low vibration; she had detected elephant speech in a register too low for us to hear. Modern elephant research now includes listening projects to collect examples of language along with other observation of their behavior; an elephant language dictionary is currently being developed. We all know that elephants have tremendous memories; evidently they also have language and culture. I’m a geek, through and through. There was no way I could walk away from a Jodi Picoult novel that included elephants even if I knew critical details of the story ahead of time. Hello, she had me at elephant!

It was a good decision.

The story in Leaving Time centers around Jenna Metcalf, a self-sufficient and determined 13 year-old hunting for her missing mother. Her mother, Dr. Alice Metcalf, was an elephant researcher who disappeared 10 years earlier under mysterious circumstances that included a dead body and (what a shock) an elephant. Driven by the need to know what happened on that fateful day, Jenna saves up her babysitting money and takes action to get to the bottom of things and find her mother. She hires a down-and-out PI and enlists the aid of a psychic. Together they investigate the cold case, hunt for answers, solve the mystery, and obtain closure. There, that is all you get about this plot because I refuse to spoil this for anyone! I will say that the themes of this book are engaging and meaningful. The book is about the bond between mothers and daughters, grief, memory, and the pervasive connections between people, between elephants, and even between people and elephants. Yep, you do learn a lot about elephants, but they are essential to the story. I was not surprised by all of the plot twists in the book, because of the evil, thoughtless spoilers, but the story held me fast, the need to solve the mystery was compelling and I cried at the end.

If that’s not a good book, what else do you need?

FO: One Yummy Shawl

It’s done, it’s done, it is done! I knitted on this all yesterday afternoon while binge watching this season’s Parenthood episodes, and finally finished it around dinner time. It was wet blocked this morning and dried outside in the breeze.

I tried getting my cat MacKenzie to model it for me with less than satisfactory results. At least you can see how nicely the grey and black in his coat goes with the shawl’s colors. 🙂 My fallback model is the maple tree, which does let you see the rows of eyelets pretty well.

Shawl in Tree
I used an online random number generator set with the digits 2 and 8 as the limits to determine the number of garter stitch ridges between rows of eyelet.

This is what it looks like on me. The color is really rich looking, and the 20% cashmere makes it nice around my neck.

Author wearing shawl.
Soft, warm and looking forward to the next cold snap. The reds, browns and grey in this yarn will make it a real work horse for me.

I know that I shouldn’t have done it, but I also cast on TWO new Hitchhiker shawls this afternoon. Really, I just wanted to see what the yarns would look like in the bias knitted fabric…

Shawl Information: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.

WIP Wednesday: My January Resolution Sock, a Yummy Shawl and a Mitt

The sun is out today and the meltdown is in full swing. Yeah! Sunshine! It is supposed to be fairly warm for the rest of the week and I am rocking the knitting because my hands are so much happier when they don’t have to deal with single digit weather.

So, I got a lot done, but nothing is finished. I’m still working on three projects (and am resisting casting on another pair of socks. Darn it, there is a pink cashmere blend yarn that is calling to me…) Here’s where I am.

Knitting
Knitting this sock is quite a production. I’m following the pattern chart, tracking the decreases for the pattern and fighting with the cats for space at the same time.

The January sock is still just chugging along, a few rows at a time. The problem is that I need to use the chart to do the pattern, and the cats have decided that they want to sit in on my legs while I knit. They dislike cold snowy days even more than I do! Today I threw them outside because it was warm and I got through the heel on the first sock and am now working my way down the gusset. Looking good!

Sock.
I have made it through the heel. I like the pattern, but it is a little harder to make out then I thought it would be. Still, with colors like this who cares about the pattern?

The cashmere blend 3S Shawl is almost done! I have only another 20g left on the ball. This is easy knitting and I am doing it while watching television in the evenings. Maybe, maybe, maybe it will be done Friday. 🙂

Knitted Shawl
It’s starting to look like a shawl! I’m using an online random number generator to determine how many rows of garter to put between the eyelet rows. Geeks are Us!

Finally, I am working on the little lace mitt using 2 small cable needles. I have finally adjusted to the cables (instead of using double pointed needles) and really like how I can carry this small project in my purse without the danger of stitches coming off the needles. Looks like this project is the one that is coming in last as I’m spending most of my time working on the other two.

Garter Lace Handwarmer Mitts
Knitting on 2 cable needles. Why has it taken me so long to try this?

 

Project Information

Sock: Riot of Color from Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden. The yarn is Baah! Yarn La Jolla

Shawl: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.

MItt: I heavily modified the pattern for the Sweat Pea MItts that I found in Lace One-Skein Wonders.