Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Dogs & New Tricks

Well, I have to say I have challenged the popular notion that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" and have decided that phrase is not true.

Here is the evidence:

I have completed the pair of socks I was test knitting for a German designer and I learned several new things in the making of hand knitted socks that I had not learned prior to this experience.

1. Judy's Magic Cast-On. Fabulous! How I ever knit toe-up socks without this nifty trick before is beyond me. It's absolutely brilliant. If you don't know it, you must (yes, I said MUST) learn it. Today!

2. New ways to increase. I learned the L-linc and R-linc ways of increasing. (Also known as the "La-link" and "Are-link" increases ala Cat Bordhi.) Again, genius! So glad I struggled through the learning curve and resisted the temptation to go ahead and do the increases the way I already knew how to. It's always a good thing to add more techniques/tricks to your arsenal of knowledge!

3. New combination heel method. I have always liked the look of the short row heel, but it has never quite fit me as well as the heel flap/gusset method. With this sock I learned a new method of forming a heel which involved both a short row and a gusset! This gives just enough added space so that the stitches on the instep of the short row heel don't stretch and pull taught at the row or two where the short row heel is joined back to begin knitting in the round once more. Brilliant!

I will let you know when the pattern is put into final form and released. I think it's a pattern that you'll love because the way it is written offers the knitter some choices in how they want the final socks to look. There is the version I knit as well as a more feminine, lacey version. The charted design can be placed on either foot, making for a variety of possible outcomes.

Oh, and did I mention the anatomical toes? Yes, for those who really like a definitive right and left sock....this is exactly what you've been looking for!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Migratory Invasion

Each year there is a day or two when our ornamental crab apple tree is beseiged by visitors heading north.

Today is the day.

The Cedar Waxwings are on the move . . . and hungry!

I always enjoy their visit however! (Sometimes they come when the tree is in bloom and eat off all the blossom petals!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Owl Arrived

In order to help you better understand why this little owl's arrival on the wires outside my back door is so significant to me, I must first tell you about hawks.

I have long harbored the private, personal belief that hawks are a type of spirit guide to me. Whenever I see a hawk when we travel, whether in flight or perched on a roadsign, wire, fencepost or tree, a sense of peace, calm and joy comes over me and I feel that our travels are "blessed" in a way.

When we leave on intentional journeys like a family vacation or even a day trip to have fun or visit friends or family I often intentionally seek out a hawk sighting. I scan the tree line, watch the wires and notice every bird in flight. I usually spot what I'm looking for within the first 15 minutes of our trip.

Other times I have left home to hop in the car in a harried frenzie. I may be worried, anxious, tired, running late or a multitude of other reasons that threaten to get the journey off on the wrong foot. Invariably those are the times the hawk along the way makes itself known to me as if to say, "Relax! I've got you covered!"

O.k., change of thought.

As a photographer who loves photographing nature one of the things I have long admired in the portfolios of others are shots of owls. I have heard stories of family (in the middle of the Twin Cities no less!!) returning home late at night to owl song in their neighborhood. I have harbored jealousies...always hoping that one day I might be lucky enough to witness these elusive and shy creatures myself (preferrably with camera in hand!)

Today when my DH came home from work he "whisper" shouted my name from the back door. "Bring your camera!!"

Here's what (or should I say who) is sitting on the wires just outside my back door:

I have yet to google this bird to see which exact species of owl I have outside my door, but whatever kind it is, I believe it is a special message sent just for me.

You see, my grandmother died yesterday.

She was 93 and the only grandparent I had. She was a wonderful grandma to me and I loved her dearly.

Somehow this wonderful creature has appeared just when I needed reassurance and hope. It has blessed me the way that grandma did so many times throughout my life.

The last few times my grandma and I talked she spoke of her eagerness to be reunited with her long-dead family members, her parents, siblings, nieces and nephews who had gone before. I think she had a wonderful Valentine's day reunion with everyone she had been missing these past few years.

This little owl assures me all is well, both for grandma and for me.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Stuck (and Then Not)

I got stuck this weekend.

The first instance was in confusion I had over a new "combination" type heel in that sock pattern I am test knitting. Even though I have learned a few different types of methods for creating a heel on a sock, I have never done a combination type. So, a bit of a learning curve there. (But one which will be very satisfying to figure out and will most likely prove very helpful in solving my previous issues with wrap & turn short rows and their fit!)

That led to me getting literally stuck. In the snow. With my van.

In order to clear my head, get some fresh air and a bit of exercise, we decided to see if we could hunt up a few local caches on Saturday since it was such a nice day. We hopped in the van and my DH said, "Ok, the one thing I DON'T want to do is find our down any snow covered roads we shouldn't be on."

"No problem," said I, "I don't want to do that either."

We tried to find a couple caches near downtown and came up short.

We drove a few miles north of town and stopped at the county park where several caches are located. Nada.

Went to the other side of the park for one which was marked "easy" only to discover that entrance was closed and not plowed.

Frustrated, I said "let's go find the one my friends put out near the welcome to town sign. I know we'll have some luck there."

We drove the distance, got out, hunted around the sign and through the trees and voila! There it was! We got excited thinking that our luck was changing. We decided to go to the park/golf course along the river and hunt down the 3 or 4 caches there.

No luck. No luck. No luck. We drove to the final coordinates and started down the snowy road. About 50 yards down the way I said, "Does this road seem plowed?" DH responds, "I'm not sure....maybe...not..." FLUMP!!

The front wheels twisted funny and we were stuck. I mean good and stuck. Stuck like I can't remember ever being stuck in snow. And by this time we were a good 100 to 125 yards down the snowy trail from the paved (and plowed!) street.

After trying to rock it on our own and moving, at best 10 feet, we called our kids to come help us, "Bring two shovels and the bag of sand out of the garage. And whatever you do, don't pull down the lane behind us! Park up on the plowed street and put on your flashers."

Another half and hour later, they arrived. As we worked and worked at moving the vehicle a few feet at a time (while feeling fairly desperate about how far there was left to go), two men in a 4-wheel drive came to the rescue. The had a tow chain and pulled us out in fairly short order.

I thanked them profusely for rescuing a dumb blonde. To which the owner of the 4-wheel drive simply replied, "Lady, you gotta stay outta sh** like that!"

Needless to say, we were done caching for the weekend.

I decided that I really needed a project which would give me back my confidence/mojo. So I did a test knit of some mittens for a gal during the Big Game.

What do you think?

Close-up view:

The surprise is that these mittens make it easy to use your electronics such as texting or i-Pod!

They were quick to knit and I like the slits for access which make them uber-user friendly. DD took them to wear today. (Good thing I grabbed photos first!)

So, I think now that I'm no longer stuck. In fact, I think I got my mojo back.

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Knitting Related Caching

We enjoyed a quick trip to Omaha last weekend to spend time with extended family. While on the road we had a chance to do some geocaching and found six caches on Saturday. The little ones were thrilled that we found several with some genuinely wonderful swag for kids: toys and real change!

Not to be left out, I was genuinely thrilled with the trackables I discovered as well!

I has hoping to get to one cache in particular because I saw in its inventory an item called "Knit Wit's Travelbug." I did arrive in time and traded in a geocoin for this little bug:

I hope to show it to some knitting friends and perhaps take it to get its photo taken at a LYS before sending it on its way.

I also ran across several really cool coins. Being a former stamp collector, I couldn't resist this one:

(I think I may have this actual stamp in my collection!)

I dropped off the Iditadog travelbug (trying to make its way to Alaska) in exchange for this Denali Park stamp coin. It's goal is to see Mt. McKinley. I hope to show it at least one "McKinley" near me before sending it on closer to its hoped for destination as well.

In other news, I took the time to learn Judy's Magic Cast On for the super secret sock project I'm working on. Magic is right!! How did I ever live (& do toe up socks!!) without this ingenious knitting device??!! (I'll never go back to crochet cast-on for toe up socks!!)

I am in the throws of learning some new increases for these socks as well. Not having so much success with that as the dark yarn I'm using requires good daylight to see where the bits are that need picking up in order to form the increase. That means no knitting on that project after nightfall for me.

We're in the midst of a blizzard right now. School was released early and I have my doubts as to whether we will have school tomorrow either.

Does that mean I won't be able to make it to my weekly sit-n-knit? Dear lord, I hope not!!

Happy knitting (and cache hunting!)