Thursday, December 7, 2017

Turning Wintry, and some Patterns Published

December doesn't seem like December without any snow.

It's been cold and clear - blessedly clear, after our murky November - but dry as a bone. Many Wisconsin natives seem to like it this way, but I've never lost my SoCal-bred excitement at the sight of white stuff falling from the sky and sticking to the ground. (Sticking being the key word.) I get a little antsy when Christmas decorations begin to appear, while the earth remains obstinately bare and the forecast is empty of flakes.

This week the temperatures dropped from autumn-ish 30s to winter-is-coming teens. And late last night, when Mr. M went to lock up the porch, I heard him exclaim in surprise. "You got your wish!" he called. He stuck his head outside and took a deep sniff. "It smells amazing."

Sure enough, the ground was covered in unexpected snow, all sparkling under the street lamps. The air smelt scrubbed and fresh, as if the snow had cleaned it on the way down. A soft silence lay over the land.

Today the forecast reads: "A period of accumulating snow is expected across southern Wisconsin from late afternoon Friday...."

Decorating for Christmas suddenly makes more sense.

~

In keeping with the wintry theme, here are some recently-published patterns:

Love of Crochet Winter 2017

These lacy little Star Flakes are quick-to-work thread crochet, stiffened with a simple glue solution. (Fun fact: The star on the lower right is made in one continuous round.)

The Star Flakes look lovely hanging on a tree:


Next up, the Icicle Social Scarf:


The scarf's lacy end panels are trimmed with joined snowflake motifs, and its body works up quickly in easy offset clusters. The pattern could easily be widened to make a lovely stole.

This scarf was designed last winter, and submitted in the spring, so as you can see I have snow on my mind in other months than December!

Be sure to check out Love of Crochet Winter 2017 for many more beautiful wintry patterns.

~

Interweave Crochet, Winter 2018

My original name for this hat was Twist and Shout, but Interweave slotted it into a fairy-tale storyline and changed its name to Grimm:


The Grimm hat is anything but, featuring a kicky two-colour, picot-edged, back loop slip stitch ribbing band, worked in offset rows for a visual twist. The hat's crown features an almost-lacy stitch pattern that marries well with worsted weight yarn while providing textural contrast to the stripes. The mini-sample I submitted to Interweave (right photo, above) sported a fun tassel. The tassel was not included in the final pattern, but would be easy to add for a whimsical touch.

Interweave Crochet Winter 2018 is full of stunning cold-weather patterns. You can scroll through the lookbook here, and order a copy here.

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There are lots of other projects on the Micawber hook right now, but most of them are book-related and won't be appearing for some time yet.

What are you crocheting? (Or knitting?)

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Scrambled with a Side of Gratitude

Thanksgiving morning.

~

Eggs are scrambling up yellow and fluffy in the pan. Thank you, chickens, for laying them. Thank you to my friend P, for collecting the eggs and letting us buy them. Thank you, Mr. M, for scrambling them. (How do you get them so fluffy? They never look that good when I cook them.)

Chopped chives come from the freezer to garnish the eggs. Thank you, landlord, for letting us grow herbs on the doorstep. Thank you, God, for the sun and rain that caused the chives to grow. Thank you to the workers who built the fridge, to those who loaded it onto a truck, to the truckers who brought it to a warehouse and then to us, so we could store up the summer's bounty and enjoy it later.

The eggs are dusted with salt and pepper and paprika. Thank you, far-off folk who mined the salt; thank you, tenders of the pepper vines from whence the peppercorns came; thank you, growers of peppers for paprika. Thank you, sorters and mixers and packagers and transporters of these tiny miracles of flavour.

In another pan, apples are sizzling in melted butter. Thank you, farmers, for growing the apples. Thank you, workers, for harvesting them. Thank you, cows, for giving the cream to make the butter. Thank you, dairy farmers, for tending the cows and milking them. Thank you, creamery workers, for turning the cream into butter.

Brown sugar and cinnamon are stirred into the apples. Thank you, sugar cane growers and mill workers. Thank you, harvesters and packers of cinnamon bark. Thank you, spice company employees, for bringing and blending cinnamon from many countries, and making it available to us.

Water is steaming in the kettle for coffee and tea. Thank you, diggers of wells and maintainers of village water supplies, who make it so easy for us to access this fountain of life. Thank you, makers of teakettles. Thank you, growers of coffee and tea. Thank you, workers who plucked the beans and the leaves, who dried and packaged and transported them from lands beyond the horizon. Thank you, friend (you know who you are) who sent Mr. M the coffee-making apparatus he uses daily.

Breakfast is put on the table. Thank you, workers who produced these plates. Thank you, miners who dug the metal for our forks, and thank you, metalworkers who made them. Thank you, far-off hands that printed the flowers on the placemats. Thank you, God, for the trees that gave the wood for the table and chairs. Thank you, woodworkers, who made them.

Sunlight is streaming through the south-facing windows, filling the rooms with light and warmth. Thank you, long-gone builders of this house, for the enduring work of your hands. Thank you again, God, for the sun, and for windows and walls that keep out the cold.

Thank You for the jobs that gave us money to buy this food, and for the health that lets us cook it and enjoy it. For all our uncountable blessings, thank You.


~

Just a simple breakfast, yet so much to be thankful for: the overarching love and grace of God, the overlapping work of many hands. The circle of gratitude grows and grows, reaching across nations, spanning space and time.

Thank you for reading this. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fires of Autumn

The fires of autumn burned slowly this year. Not for us the spectacular leafy conflagration of other falls; instead, a slow build and a long flicker, as a tree here and a tree there yielded to the shortening days and cooling nights.

There were, however, some pockets of glorious colour. We found one on a drive through the next county one sunny day in late October.

Red oak under a blue sky:


The full fall spectrum - green, blue, gold, scarlet, brown:


Maple leaves in layers of beauty:


 On the floor of the woods, a study in browns:


Carpet of impermanence:


More maple leaves, like flocks of small bright birds in a dim wood:


A leaf that blew in the open window of the car as we drove:


Heavenly October sky:


O the enchanted roads of autumn!


~

Late October was also distinguished by some spectacular sunsets....



One evening we had a double rainbow...



...followed by an a sunset so stunning as to seem almost unreal:


~

In other, less glorious October news: I was a big baseball fan in my Southern California youth - a youth somewhat blighted, I may say, by watching our beloved Dodgers lose the World Series more times than I care to remember.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

~

Suddenly it's mid-November, and a grey November too. We're in the fading stage of fall, where the lawns are still somewhat green, but trees and fields are subsiding into a sameness of (rather drab) colour. Sub-freezing nights have killed off the last of the lingering garden plants, and a sharp northwest wind has been blowing.

Now for the long cold, the lengthening northward shadows, the putting up of winter curtains, the early nightfall. Now for evenings of crochet and hot cocoa, with flannel sheets beckoning at the day's end. To everything there is a season.

How is your November going?

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Monday, October 23, 2017

A High-Flying Birthday

I'm so blessed to have a mid-October birthday that comes just when the autumn colour is burning brightest. To wake up on my birthday morning, look out the window, and see towering leafy miracles of red and gold and bronze backed by a bright October sky, is a present beyond price.

This year I got to see that autumn colour from above as well as from below....

~

It started with breakfast at the Jet Room, a favourite haunt of my plane-obsessed aviation-minded family. If you like planes and live within driving (or flying) distance of Madison, do check it out. The food is good and the view is great: straight out onto the runways, with plenty of air traffic, large and small, on constant view. On a really good day, the F16s of the 115th Fighter Wing (our local Air National Guard unit) will be doing touch-and-go landings.

We didn't see the F16s that morning, but we did see a pair of mystery jets come in. And such was our luck that they taxied over to park on our side of the airfield, just a few hundred yards away. Here's one of them:


None of my plane-geek family members could identify the blue beauty, but a gentleman at the next table took pity on our ignorance. He told us it was a T38, a trainer jet - a model he'd flown many times during his military service. (Thank you, kind stranger, for your service and for the information.)

When breakfast was over, we adjourned to the Wisconsin Aviation waiting room, where soon a friendly young man approached and introduced himself as Chris, our pilot. (Magic words!) He took us out to the tarmac, where we had a date with a rather different kind of plane:


Enjoying the view while waiting my turn to board:


We squeezed into the cockpit, and I announced delightedly, "Look! I've got my own steering wheel!" (Whereupon my sister promptly told me not to touch it. We may be 60-some and 50-some years old, respectively, but that older-sister-laying-down-the-law thing is timeless.)


Photo of a family member taking a photo of me:


After much flicking of switches and pushing of buttons, some quiet conversation between the pilot and the voice that lived in his earpiece, and various throttlings-up and throttlings-back of the motor, we taxied out to the runway and took off for an aerial tour of Madison, Wisconsin's lovely lake-bordered capital city.

Looking towards Lake Mendota, with plenty of fall colour sparkling beneath us:



We sailed over Camp Randall, home of the Wisconsin Badger football team, the tiny figures of which could be glimpsed practicing on the field below as we passed:


The isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, where our Capitol stands:


A view of the downtown area as we approached the lovely Capitol:


A closer view of the Capitol itself:


After circling several times over the University, the downtown, and the Capitol, we headed back to the airport, and soon the runways were in sight:


And before we knew it we were back on the ground.


A beautiful day and a beautiful way to spend a birthday morning. :)

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hurricane Finish for Hat Crowns

How do you close the hole at the top of a bottom-up knitted or crocheted hat? A common method is to work decreasing rounds until 8 to 10 stitches are left, then cut the yarn and gather the stitches together with the yarn tail, pulling until the hole disappears.

Although this method works, it can sometimes distort the stitches around it, or create an unsightly "knipple" (see this post by TECHknitter for the origin of that delightful term, plus some great tips for closing knitted hat crowns).

Here's an alternative method I developed for the recently-published Blue Spruce Hat. I've named it the Hurricane Finish - a name that seems doubly appropriate in light of its appearance and the tempestuous year we've been having. (Note: this finish can be used on knitted hats too; see "Tips" at the bottom of the post for instructions.)

Hurricane Crown Finish

The Hurricane Finish is a decreasing spiral of back loop only slip stitch (blo sl st). It can be used on crown openings of all sizes: the blue hat shown above started with a 12-stitch opening; the grey hat, a 20-stitch opening; the red mini sample, a 16-stitch opening. Note: the more stitches there are in the opening, the more rounds there will be in the spiral.

Here's how it works:


"Yopta" is my personal shorthand for Yarn Over, Pull Through All (loops on hook).

For some reason that middle photo makes me think of Jaws....

And there you have it! From gaping hole to a tidy swirl of stitches:


And no need to weave in, or worry about the yarn tail working loose. :)


Tips for Working the Hurricane Finish:
  • If your hat is worked spirally from dc or taller stitches, you'll need to decrease the stitch height before starting the Hurricane Finish. To do this, make the last few stitches of the final round successively shorter, ending with an sc.
  • Keep a relaxed tension when working crochet slip stitches.
  • If you're starting with a very large opening (say 20 stitches), using a smaller hook will draw the crown a little tighter.
  • For a knitted hat or mitten: decrease as instructed in pattern, or until you have about 10-16 stitches left. Bind off (with plain bind off) the last round until one loop remains live, then insert a crochet hook through that loop and work the Hurricane Finish as instructed.
  • For a larger "hurricane" at the top of your hat, skip stitches less frequently (for example, blo sl st 3, sk 1). You can also start with a round of fewer skips, then increase the frequency of skipped stitches as the hole begins to close. (My personal preference is for a smaller "hurricane", but you may want to make it a design feature.)
  • If you're not happy with how it looks, frog it and try again with different tension or hook size. (I had to do the grey hat several times to find a tension I liked.)
  • Be sure to mist or wet-block your hat, or at least the crown, to fluff up the yarn and smooth out the stitches.

Do you work hats from the bottom up? What's your favourite way to close the crown?

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Octoberish


Every year, come August and September, I get a little depressed thinking about the end of summer. But October changes all that. Autumn skies, crisp breezes, leaves beginning to flutter down - all these both soothe and lift the spirits.

~

The county mowers were out today, lumbering down the verge like giant locusts chewing up the last of summer. Gone now are the asters and goldenrod that spangled the roadside all through September; gone too the lemon-coloured milkweed leaves and the fine wiry remains of Queen Anne's Lace. In their place are shorn brown stems and dry, brittle grass, looking stripped down and bare in readiness for winter.

~

The song of the crickets is fading. Just two weeks ago, swarms of them could still be heard chanting "summer-summer-summer-summer" in double-quick time. Now their numbers have dwindled to a contemplative few, who sit in the overgrown garden bed, slowly chirping "au-tumn ... au-tumn".

~

For the first time in three years, the oak tree in the front yard, and the walnut trees in the back, have produced a fine crop of nuts. The Squirrelympics (can I say that? will I get sued?) are in full swing, with Grey Squirrels heading the medals list. All the usual events are taking place: Hide the Nut, Spiral Tree Chase, Sass Talking, Rhythmic Tail-Twitch, Human Avoidance, Creative Stashing, and Wire-Walking, to name but a few.

One particularly savvy (or possibly lazy) squirrel left a walnut in the tire tracks outside our garage door, letting our car do the heavy work of splitting the tough green hull. Others have chosen more exotic storage spots. We've found nuts in my bike basket, on Mr. M's motorcycle seat, in the paper recycling box, balanced on a bicycle pedal....

~

While everyone else is putting on long sleeves and sweatshirts to combat the cooling weather, the trees are slipping into their black lace evening gowns:


 ~

How is October treating you?

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Monday, October 2, 2017

A Woolly Winner!

Many thanks to all who entered the Woolly Giveaway! I so enjoyed your comments and emails.

Your names were numbered in order of entry (including those who entered via email). The lucky winner, chosen by Random Number Generator, is Number 19: Dino. Congratulations, Dino! (Cheers and applause from the stands; bleats and hoof-stamps from the pens.)

Dino, would you please send me a message with your contact information? You can reach me via comment here, or via email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again to all who entered. Happy October!


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Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Woolly Festival and a Giveaway

Earlier this month, my sister and I went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, a happy gathering of all things woolly held each year at the Jefferson County Fairground in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

First we visited the sheep barns (yarn on the hoof!) where we saw an astounding variety of breeds and personalities.

There were friendly sheep and curious sheep:


Happy sheep and placid sheep:


Nattily-clad sheep and mysterious masked sheep:


And the wool! Black, brown, tan, white, cream, grey, and every shade between, with every conceivable texture of curl:


We saw wool on the sheep, wool on the floor, wool in bags (hundreds of bags):


Then we looked in on the sheep judging:


After a brief stop for refreshments (root beer float made with sheep's milk ice cream for me), we made our way to the AMAZING hooked rug display:


I love this one:


Look at the detail!


Some rugs were pretty, and some whimsical:



This photo is for the Goatmother :)



These were some of my favourites - check out the lovely knitted detail on the lower left:


A kind member of the Cream City Rug Hookers gave us a demonstration of the craft, and let us try our hand at it:


Already surfeited with color, we took a breath, made sure our wallets were handy, and walked across the fairground to look at yarn.

Yarn.

So. Much. Yarn.

It was a bit like going to a great museum - the eyes can only take in so much, and eventually what you see becomes a blur. But what a gorgeous blur....


In addition to yarn, there were buttons and shawl pins and spindles and straps...


...and weaving and hats and mittens and baskets, and all sorts and shapes of lovely handmakes:


It was wonderful. I can't wait to go back next year.

~

One of the best things about a festival like this is the chance to meet the shepherds and spinners, the dyers and weavers, the painters and shapers of all the lovely things on display. We loved hearing their stories, getting their expert advice, and having a chance to support their good work.

I brought home some wonderful Wisconsin-grown and Wisconsin-spun yarn, plus a gorgeous handmade button by Belinda Carson of "B" Unique Jewelry and Crafts:


Giveaway

You could win that beautiful button, and a skein of Wisconsin yarn, by entering the (drumroll please):

Yarn! Button! Magazine!

The cheery orange button measures about 2" - perfect for accenting a shawl, cowl, or hat. The Romney Yarn, from Yorkshire Rose Farm, is a lofty worsted weight in soft bluish-grey with hints of warm taupe.

Also included: a copy of Interweave Crochet Fall 2017, which features two patterns and an article by yours truly.

To enter the Woolly Giveaway, just leave a comment below that includes the word "wool".

~ If you're a "No-Reply Blogger", or if your online profile does not include an email address, make sure there's a way for me to reach you.

~ If you can't leave a comment because you don't have an online profile, send me an e-mail (see my profile for the address) and include "wool" in the subject line.

Giveaway closes on Sunday, October 1, at midnight (US Central Daylight Time). The winner will be chosen by random number generator.

Winner to be announced on Monday, October 2. (Can you believe it's almost October?)

This giveaway is international. Good luck!

~

It's crazy hot in Wisconsin right now. How's your weather?

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