Sunday, May 27, 2012

Like a duck swimming

All calm above the water, while a flurry of activity under.  It is all yard work, all the time around here, with brief breaks at the heat of the day, or during sudden thunderstorms for a queue-jumping knitting project - Aranami.

Since this photo was taken I have finished the rust, and I am about to start on my last color - black.

I have also: edged half of the back yard, weeded out multiple beds, raked and hacked back ground cover to recover a path, planted my single tomato plant (P can't eat raw tomatoes), transplanted one hosta and planted it as five hostas, swept the driveway, cleaned out the garage, found a new home for 45 cinder blocks, planted three large planters, set up our hose system, staked the peonies, and mulched.

All I am fit for tonight is a beer and garter stitch. Oh yeah, and a shower.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The thing with feathers

Sadly, this nest will never yield any hatchlings - it was abandoned last year. I found it last week when I was cleaning out the birdhouses.  It resonates pretty strongly with me as my house remains empty, but it also makes me think of my favorite Emily Dickinson poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops, at all 

And sweetest in the Gale is heard 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land 
And on the strangest Sea 
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Finished Project: Maude

For several years now I have wanted a utility apron, especially when I am at work.  I am always searching for a tape measure, a crochet hook, a darning needle or scissors. How much easier it would be to be like the employees at Home Depot and have these items at my fingertips.  I have searched Etsy from time-to-time, just to see what is out there in the handmade utility apron world.  Maybe that is why I fell in love so quickly with Julie Weisenberger's pattern, Maude.  Utility apron and pinafore all wrapped together! Pockets! Cross-over straps!

I picked out Louet Merlin worsted for my yarn for a few reasons. 1. it was a recommended yarn for the pattern. 2. my LYS had it in stock 3. I had never worked with it before (merino! linen!)

So I swatched:

And got gauge on US 8s.  The photo above shows the swatch upside-down. I started with 7s, found the fabric and gauge was too tight for my liking, then switched to the 8s, and knit for a longer period of time. I liked this gauge a lot more, AND it was right on for the pattern. I took careful measurement of both sections, then handwashed my swatch, and let it dry over night. The next morning I measured it, and I was ready to cast on!

I started with my pockets:

I chose a lovely green with rusty-accents for my pocket linings - I love how it contrasts with the purplish color of my project yarn.  This is leftover yarn from a Stephen West shawl I haven't yet blogged about, but finished at the end of March. So bad! (BTW, I found that I was off by 1 stitch when attaching the main color - I think it is a pattern error, as I have heard other people having the same problem.)

It wasn't until I had cast on and finished the bottom ribbed edge that I realized how much stockinette stitch I was going to be working through. Luckily I had just finished a lace shawl as a test knit/sample knit and was ready for some truly relaxing knitting.

I knit and I knit and I knit, then I put the pockets in. And I knit and I knit and I knit. I did decide to alter the neckline to a more v-neck shape since I think it is more flattering for those of us with big busts. I cast-off three stitches at the bottom of the neckline, then decreased at the neckline every-other row, 3 times, then switched to doing a decrease at the neckline every fourth row until I was at the recommended stitch count for the straps.

I loved using Julie's tutorial for the bias bind-off which gives a super clean edge, and used it for both the front and the straps. It is great seeing a designer put so much extra work into a pattern and a website to help make a finished project shine.

When I was done with the body and had sewn the shoulders together (I prefer to sew bound-off seams together for a much stronger shoulder. The seam actually provides architecture to help keep the straps from sagging.) I then moved on to sewing down the pockets. I inserted a DPN in a straight line through the purl bumps on the inside of the fabric so that I would a guideline, then whip-stitched my pockets firmly so that they are actually functional.

My finished project?

So much fun! I love that you can see my pocket linings.  If I were to make any other changes to the pattern I may have made the front panels a little wider (big bust) for more coverage. And possibly shortening the straps, but lengthening the body.  In effect, making changes for a long-waisted person, even though I believe I am long-hipped right now (at my current weight).

Pattern: Maude by Julie Weisenberger
Yarn: Louet Merlin Worsted, in color steel, 100g/156 yards. 4.5 skeins
Size: 43
Needles: US 8s
Mods: as listed above - v-neck.

For blocking I lightly spritzed the whole project with water, then using a clean, damp tea towel, I ironed the project with lots of steam and almost no weight on the fabric. Wrinkles disappeared and tension evened out remarkably.

Of course, now I have seen this version of another of Julie's patterns and I am in love.  But I am on to another pattern with new yarn, so I MUST knit a few projects out of stash before I buy another new project.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

{ herb garden }

Last year's summer garden project is done.  We had a very early thaw, then several hard freezes that have made this spring a real challenge.  Below is the bed as it started out. I pulled the myrtle and ivy away from the house, then waited for my perenials to emerge.

March 13, 2012

My dormant Japanese Anemone plant came back with a vengeance. Given the chance this plant would have taken over the entire retaining wall garden. The core has been dug up and split.  I am trying to keep four transplants alive from this original plant.  Time will tell whether they will survive.  I really loved its beautiful pink flowers, so I hope it likes the new locations I have chosen for it.

May 14, 2012

A lot of weeding and hoeing occured before the plants were laid out and the bird bath was placed.
May 20, 2012
Planted herbs: Mint, sage, oregano, chives, taragon, chervil, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender, dill, chamomile, mint and sage. (My front yard is mostly thyme, so I didn't bother transplanting it.)
May 20, 2012

Also, nasturtiums are planted near the wall as I had an excellent nasturtium leaf pesto last October at Another Fork in the Road in Milan, New York. Rosemary is planted separately in a pot, and I will be getting basil seedlings from a friend who planted WAY too many. Yum!

Ideally I would have used some small willow edging fences, but they seem strangely hard to find through any reputable company.  Even through Amazon the sources look shady. Ah well.  I won't need them for a few years anyway.

I hope a picture at the end of the summer will be impressive!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Captain Nemo meets Ahab

Today I dove into my jewelry box and dug out an old favorite bracelet of mine - the dangling octopus!

He is holding onto a polished agate.  I believe this was an Albuquerque thrift store find, because the metal is just garbage, but I probably bought it for $1, so there you go.  I used to wear this bracelet on days when I knew I wouldn't be: 

1. typing all day 
2. handling artwork 
3. wearing a fine knit top (his little arms are snaggy).

Sadly, I forgot #3, because I wore a fine knit top today and he snagged it TWICE.

This morning I decided to do the whole Oceanographic thing, and I pulled out another Albuquerque find - my little scrimshaw necklace.

It is a bit Moby Dick meets 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, but it made me happy that I was thematic today.  I guess I could have added my coral earrings....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mini Vacation

Sunset on Lake Michigan
Our vacation Up North was wonderful. P was able to recover from a super stressful semester, and bounced back remarkably fast.  The highlights of the trip were:

* Waking up to beautiful Elk Lake every morning! 
* A 32-mile bike ride from Acme to nearly Suttons Bay. (I received sunburn for all my hard work.)
* Sunset at Leland.
* Watching Zeby swim in Elk Lake (way too cold for humans).

P checking the map on the TART trail at Boardman Lake.

I also went to one of the local yarn stores, Lost Art, and picked up another skein of Classic Elite's Vail. Now I finally have enough yardage to do a colorwork scarf I have been putting together in my head.

Plus, I have started mitered cross seventeen!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sweet Sixteen

Today's yard work (and workout with the trainer) was rewarded by a North Peak Nomad Dry Cider and a little bit of knitting while watching P mow the lawn. (Real men use Reel mowers, btw.)

Today also saw the departure of the remaining scrubby trees along the side of our house where the city tree came down. The area in question is just beyond P - you can see the fence is not exactly complete there.

Tomorrow P and I are headed north for a mini vacation. It can be really challenging to find a few days for fun and relaxation, especially when one's husband is a part-time law student and a part-time (hah!) doctor. A little change of scene is definitely in order!

When I get back I have to face the herb garden - actually putting it in this year. The chives are about to bloom. I have gifted tarragon waiting for me in a plastic bag, and bee balm self-seeding itself EVERYWHERE.  The reason I am putting this off? My monster of a Japanese Anemone needs to be transplanted.  That is going to be a job and a half, and despite my best efforts, the plant might not survive.  Sigh.

But I am not going to worry my pretty little head about that now! Vacation. YAY!

p.s. my knitting is the center tiles of square SIXTEEN.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A sunnier day

Today is rather grim and grey, despite it being Cinco de Mayo and MSU graduation day.  I have heard that there is a Ukulele festival in Old Town Lansing tonight. Perhaps that will be enticing enough to get me to brave the traffic and the drunk students.

On a sunnier day I took this rather arty photograph of a sunning turtle.

My camera couldn't quite grasp that I was trying to take a picture beyond the undergrowth.

In knitting I am trying to finish up block fourteen for my Mitered Crosses blanket. I also have some crochet edging to do on my Maude pinafore, and then that is wearable. There are a few projects I need to slog through, but that is better left for another time.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lucky 13

The sounds of chainsaws and wood chippers are abundant this morning! At least the city is fast. It was a miracle that the remaining section of the city tree didn't come down last night - we had severe thunderstorms with high winds and driving rain.

Meanwhile, I have been in denial, knitting. I won't think about the loss of that White Pine. sigh.

My thirteenth block marks the change of one growing season's worth of wool to a second year's growth - the most natural of dye lots! You can see all four mini-square miters are much cooler in tone, and the section where I transitioned from one year to the next are a bit more brown. Since my blocks are going to be mixed in randomly, I rather like the change in color.

Last night I started block fourteen - you can just see my first tile. I am not sure if I am going to adhere to the design of the blanket and have my blocks staggered - I would have some filler blocks to knit - or if I will just do a 5 x 5 block blanket. If that is the case I have eleven blocks to go - maybe a goal for the end of the year?

The pattern is Mitered Crosses Blanket -- For Japan. My yarns are Kauni in the EZ and EB colorways, and Elemental Affects in mioget, a natural undyed color.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Only lemons today....

I woke up to what sounded like a cap gun going off about five or six times, but then was followed by a tremendous CRACK! and a WHUMP! that could only be one thing.....

...tree failure.

One of the City's trees split in half and took out our beautiful (and disease free) 50 foot tall White Pine. Snapped it like a twig.  For a sense of scale - the remaining trunk of the White Pine is about 8 feet tall.
The City tree narrowly missed taking out our diseased Blue Spruce, but succeeded in destroying a 20 foot section of our new fence.

SO. Yet another reason to get back on the coldsheeping wagon. It was fun while I was off, but even with us being able to file a claim with the city for repairs and replacements, we will now need to take down some other trees in the area and replant.

Ah, the joys of home ownership!