Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Three Finished Projects

 This weekend was a great one for finishing projects.  First up was the lap quilt I was making for our dear daughter-in-law.  Since we planned to see them in Edmonton I had the opportunity to give it to her directly, and save the expense of mailing it.  So I worked on it this past week, and by Thursday evening it was complete.  I was able to give it to her during a brief visit in our motel room on Friday evening while the granddaughters attended some function.

That was great because the next morning DDIL was struck down by a virulent flu and spent the day in their motel room, where the washroom was right at hand.

The next morning we had breakfast with our  son and two granddaughters.  I was able to give the younger girl her sweater that I had started last July.  This needed some extra length of the sleeves.  On the way to Edmonton I sewed the sleeves in while Jim drove, and that evening in the motel I sewed on the cute little heart buttons.

I never travel without knitting projects, so one of the things I had along was this pair of red socks.  They are the "trial pair" from last summer when I started knitting toe up socks for the first time.  They had been finished earlier, but I decided the ribbing was too short, so this weekend I took out the bind off and added a few inches.  The yarn was a left-over from the eighties when I knitted a cute little red sweater for the oldest grandson.  The pattern came from Threads and had elephants on the front with separate ears and trunks, and on the back with tails.  I had bought a bag of yarn at Walmart and there was plenty left.  It made a nice, warm pair of socks for around the house.

So the weekend, besides being fun with the skating events, was fruitful in the craft area also.

I had one other project along, a shawl I'm knitting for an elderly friend.  I've mentioned it before and will show more about it tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Three Great Weekends

Lately we've been out of town on weekends, and having a fun time.  On the 14th of January I went to Calgary with the Accordion Group.  That evening they were part of a concert composed of MANY accordion groups and a few solo performances.  The concert started at 7 p.m. and finished about 9:40.  That was a lot of accordion music!

Much of the music was very well played, but I found myself wishing that pieces such as "Claire de Lune" by Debussy were being played on piano, not accordion.  It's just not my instrument.

Our group did well with their two numbers, stuck together and played with verve.  That was the first time they participated in this gathering of groups from Southern Alberta.

Then on the 21st we attended another concert by the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.  I'm impressed especially by the string section.  They played some very fast music, and they played it cleanly and well.  Their bowing is always very well co-ordinated.  Not only are they together on the up bows and down bows, but they consistently play with the same bow technique throughout.  That is, they are matching in what part of the bow they use and the type of stroke they use, etc.  Very pleasurable for me to watch!

When we go there for a concert, we stay at a motel overnight and attend church there in the morning.  We also went to some friends' home for a light luncheon, and enjoyed visiting with them.

That Sunday was the day we got out of the cold snap and into more pleasant weather.

And this past weekend we had the pleasure of attending a synchronized skating competition in Edmonton that our granddaughter's team participated in.  They and one other team were the youngest skaters there.  K. has been part of this team only this current school year.  I don't know about the other skaters on the team, how long they've been doing this.

You can see from the picture that they have lots of spirit and verve, but not that much synchronicity.  I was thrilled with their performance.  It had lots of dash and style.  The other team gave a very careful, muted performance, but outranked our girls by quite a few points because of doing all the required elements quite precisely.  That seems to be more important to the judges than flair.  Well, that's just the way it works.

So our girls went home with silver and the other team with gold.  Lucky for them there were only two teams!

It was also a great weekend for finishing up some projects, which I will show tomorrow.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can't go much lower!

 I just took this photo of the thermometer on our balcony at about 7:45 a.m.  It's still dark outside, and you can see the moon is waning.

After a very mild winter with daytime temperatures into the 40's(F) and occasionally even 50's(F), around midnight on Saturday the temperature plunged.  Sunday was very cold with much wind and blowing snow.  You can see on the balcony that there wasn't that much snow that settled--it just looks like a lot when the wind is howling.  We stayed inside all day Sunday.  Even Dickens, after poking his nose outdoors, decided to spend the day inside where it's warm.

Monday and Tuesday were also very, very cold, but without the snowfall.  And now this morning
we've reached the nadir: it simply cannot dip much lower than this.

According to the government weather site for our town, the ambient temperature is  -33ºC, but with the wind chill it feels  like   -45ºC.  Our   thermometer  shows      -39ºC.  We are almost always lower than the official temperature for our area because our property is located at the lowest point on our road and cold air settles in to the lowest points.  Just to compare that with F., the two scales come together at -40º, and 5ºC equals 9ºF, so that puts what you'd feel if you stepped out our back door down to a frightful -49ºF.

Jim just stepped out the back door, heading for our "cold storage" building--to turn the heat on in there!  Otherwise our stored plants would freeze.

Normal highs and lows for this time of year in our area are  -3ºC and -15ºC.  Somehow I think that we have to go through some of this extreme cold to keep that balance since we've had many mornings this winter on which the temperature hovered just above or just below freezing.

The good news is that the forecast for this weekend calls for Sunday's high to be +2ºC and the low to be -9ºC.  It's not that we're in favor of global warming, but a little warming for Alberta might not be a bad thing!

Just for contrast here's a photo of the thermometer taken September 2010:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Denise Needles

My friend, L., who comments anonymously, asked what Denise needles were.  They are a great tool for anyone who does a lot of knitting.  Here's the   7" x 8 1/2" case that the set comes in.  I think they ordinarily sell for about $75 in Canada, but I was fortunate to get a set second-hand for $40.

Inside the case are needle tips (the white sticks) in the following U.S. sizes: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10 1/2, 11, 13 & 15.  The blue cables also come in different lengths, the largest of which is missing, because I'm currently using it.

To use, select the tips you want, the length of cable you want, and insert the little black tip of the cable into the end opposite the tip of the needle.  Give it a quarter turn to lock it into place,
and you're set to go.  The separate cables can be joined to each other.

There are six cables and two "extenders" which are the little black sticks at the bottom right hand side.  They hook two cables together.  I also have the Companion Set of 6 more cords in length from 5" to 19" and two more extenders.

The round, black objects are end buttons.  You can store a knitted piece (for example, the back of a sweater) on some cable while you knit the other parts.  The end buttons click onto the ends of the cable so the knitting can't slide off.

You know the shawl I showed yesterday? Today, at the beginning of row 25 I decided that the knitted fabric was too loose and open, so I took it off the needles and unraveled the entire piece.  Then I cast on again and started over with U.S. size 9 needles instead of the #11's the pattern called for.  The shawl will not be 28" in length when finished, but I'm much happier with what is being produced.  It's also much easier to see the pattern developing, which helps me know where I am in the right side rows.  The wrong side rows are easy: knit 1, purl to the last stitch, knit 1.  Here's a sample row from the right side: Row 23: Knit 1, [Knit 2 together] twice, [yarn over, knit in the front and back of stitch] 3 times, yarn over, [slip, slip, knit] twice; repeat from the beginning 7 more times, knit 1.

That, actually, is a translation of: *K1, [k2tog]twice, [yo, Kfb] 3 times, yo, [ssk] twice; rep from * 7 times more, k1 - 121 sts.  If you lose your place in the middle of the row, you realize it at the end, when you have extra stitches or not enough stitches.  At that point, you knit backward until you've reached the mistake and then reknit the row.  I've lost count of the times I've knit backward and reknit.  It doesn't bear thinking on.  But it's the only way to achieve a fine finished project!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing in Knitting

The next big thing in knitting will be that makers of yarn will realize that we knitters want to pull the yarn from the centre of the ball, and will actually provide a nice little tab with the inner end of yarn attached.  Then we can gently pull out the yarn end, and knit from the centre of the ball.  That means the ball of yarn does not roll around in your lap or on the floor while you are knitting.  Although I very carefully felt around for the yarn end, this enormous hunk was what I managed to pull out.

I carefully wound it around the ball to keep it from getting all tangled.  When I started knitting this lacy shawl I had to perch the yarn in this vase to hold it upright for lifting off the extra yarn from the centre.

The pattern and yarn came from a Mary Maxim catalogue.  I liked the pattern and thought it would make a good present for an elderly friend who will celebrate her 91st birthday in April.  She lives in a care home because she is too forgetful to be alone.  I've mentioned her before in other posts.  She was always an elegant woman and I hope she will enjoy this lacy, delicate shawl.

The pattern starts with just nine stitches.  Now, on row 22, there are already 97 stitches, and the next row will see the number rise to 121.  At the end there will be 289 stitches per row.  I'm already using my Denise needles, and will be able to make the cable longer and longer as more stitches are added.  When the shawl is complete I'll post a picture.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Longer Days, Shorter Nights

We can notice that our days are already longer and our nights shorter.  Something else that we're seeing these days is this interesting phenomenon:
the moon is rising at almost the same time the sun is setting.  Here is the rising moon last night right around 5 p.m.  It's still light outside, but the moon is shining brightly in the eastern sky.

This morning the opposite was true: the moon was setting in the west at the same time the sun was rising in the east.

I guess it helps that the moon is at its fullest right now.  When the sun has set and the sky darkens, the moon comes into its full glory.  You could go outside and garden by its light, if this were the right time of year for gardening.  The shadows cast by its light are as distinct as daytime shadows.  I find these bright nights inspiring.  They also remind me of the poem by Walter de la Mare:
     Slowly, silently, now the moon
     Walks the night in her silver shoon;
     This way, and that, she peers, and sees
     Silver fruit upon silver trees;
     One by one the casements catch
     Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
     Couched in his kennel, like a log,
     With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
     From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
     Of doves in silver feathered sleep.
     A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
     With silver claws, and silver eye;
     And moveless fish in the water gleam,
     By silver reeds in a silver stream.

 I especially like, "slowly, silently now the moon."  And I wonder if "shoon" is a derivative of "shine" or harks to a Dutch word for shoes, which I believe is "schoon."  The beauty all around us never fails to touch me deeply.

This picture was taken just a short time ago, with the telephoto lens all the way engaged.  I was standing on the balcony, and Dickens was sitting on top of the #1 greenhouse.  That's the power line just above him.  This greenhouse has walls 10' high, and the roof peak is about another 8' up.  We were flabbergasted this morning to see him way up there.

He lives up to his name every day, getting into mischief and generally raising a ruckus.  Especially when he starts his day he has energy to spare and expresses his affection with much clawing (of the affectionate sort) and gnawing (also of the affectionate sort).  This doesn't rhyme very well with my first cup of coffee while trying to do a little relaxed reading.  So out he goes into the yard where he can dash around and chase whatever (mice, hopefully) to his heart's content.

Fortunately, Dickens loves to be outdoors, and isn't concerned about some snow or wind.  The driveway is treacherous with a slickened surface of melted and refrozen snow.  No matter.  He dashes down the slope, turns a somersault or two, bounces through the snow bank and into one of the greenhouses.  Just a little sunshine and they warm right up and provide a great playground for him.  This is the first time we've seen on top of one of the greenhouses.  What a cat!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rosy Morning

This morning is dawning beautifully rosy.  The clouds are reflecting the warm, rosy light onto the landscape.  Unfortunately, a photo never really captures what the eye sees.

We've been having an unusually mild winter, which makes getting around so much easier.  Yesterday Calgary hit a record high for the day: +15ºC, which is the equivalent of +58ºF.  I believe we were warmer than Florida lately.  Amazing!

Here's a common scene in the morning:
the usual breakfast buffet being served in the garden out back, sometimes to as many as a dozen.

Quick, Jim, slip on your boots and jacket and run them off!  The "Bambi" factor disappears quickly when the all-too-plentiful and totally unintimidated deer start munching up the landscape.

Either Jim or I get on our boots and run out, waving our arms and screeching as horribly as possible.

That's the only way to startle them into leaving--for a little while anyway!
Anyone for a nice venison roast?

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Begun, One Finished

When we were in B.C. I mentioned to DDIL that I would like to get to a good fabric store in order to find the elastic I need for the cuffs of Jim's turtleneck tee shirts. I can't get the proper size here in town anymore.  So one morning we went to Fabricana in Coquitlam.  OOOh that was a lovely store!  There was oodles of elastic to choose from.  Then we cruised around a bit and found several nice bolts of knits for his shirts.  It's been getting harder and harder to find good knits for a man's turtleneck shirt.  It seems that fabric manufacturers are concentrating on the enormous market for quilting cottons.  Or perhaps it's just in Red Deer Fabricland that the choice in knits has dwindled so badly.

I was ready to leave, having accomplished more than I came for when DDIL suggested looking at the quilting area.  Up on the wall above the fabrics were several completed projects displayed.  One especially caught our eye--a bright, cheery lap quilt.  She liked it a lot, so I bought a selection of the fabrics used--all fruit prints.  I told her to hope that it would be ready for her birthday this year, that is, next August!

During my very dull week between Christmas and New Year's Day, I started cutting.  It's a simple pattern: Cut two 9 1/2" squares each of 12 different fabrics.  Divide into two piles, one square of each fabric.  Stack four squares together, face sides up.  Cut in half on a slanted line from 7" on one side to 5" on the other side.
Sew the squares together, two different fabrics in each square.  Cut them again, on the other axis.  Sew these together, so each square has four different fabrics.  Now take the other pile of twelve squares and do the same thing, only this time place the fabrics upside down when you cut.

That all was finished quick as could be.  Then I started placing them on my design wall.  I spent hours moving them around, trying to get the seams to go in opposite directions and not meet, trying to keep the colours separated.

Finally I sewed them together in rows, and wouldn't you know it: I flipped one row by mistake and had to rearrange the next row to make up for it.  So in spite of all the careful arranging, there was a certain randomness to it.

It's nice and bright, but I do wish I had bought more of the yellows they had available.  Yellow is just not my colour, but more of it would have improved this quilt.  Now it needs the three borders, first 1/2", second 1 1/2" and third as big as I can manage out of the fabric that I have.

I've showed these socks before, but this morning I put the final touches on them.  I made them for DD#2, but realized that I had knit them with yarn that I bought for myself.  The yarn for her second pair is still in the cupboard.

This pattern is called "Skew" and can be found on the net, probably on Ravelry.  They are toe-up socks, knit on the bias by increasing every other row on one end and decreasing that same row on the other end (the ends being the juncture between the sole and the top of the foot.)  This was an interesting knit, and now that they are finished I find them very comfortable.  The yarn is a 75% wool, 25% nylon from Mary Maxim called "Gemstones."

Because they are basically a flat tube, the heels are knit with short rows, and then grafted together.  The graft here is in the middle of the navy blue "peninsula."

I will have to ask DD#2 is she wants this pair or if she wants to wait for a pair in the yarn she chose.

The "final touches" I referred to consisted of undoing the bind off and adding one stitch for every four in the next to last row.  Doing that creates a bind off that doesn't "bind" when on the leg.  This is a new technique that I picked up from the excellent book, "Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks" by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  Adding those stitches gives just the right amount of elasticity to the bind off row.