Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tally ho! A new sweater!

Breton-style sweater

Breton-style sweater

Closeup of contiguous sleeve


To be honest, I wasn't sure about this sweater. Halfway through it, I tried it on (it is knit top-down) and thought, "Ugh, not for me," thus why it took me so long to knit. It's a sweater for someone who is long and lithe, which I used to be twenty years ago and sometimes forget! (Well, I do still have a long torso, but there's a bit more padding around it these days.)

But I persevered, and I'm glad I did. The sweater turned out beautifully and its classic Breton stripe design pleases me ... I'm a sucker for nautical designs and stripes. The pattern, Sharon Matarazzo's Satsuma Stripes, is well-written and easy to follow; I can see myself making this sweater again, maybe in red with white stripes. I've even thought about an orange linen sweater with hot pink stripes! With this sweater I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport in solstice heather and white. I do like the heathered look of the blue wool, which you can really see in the bottom photo.

This is the first time, I believe, I've knit a sweater with the contiguous sleeve method designed by Suzy Myers, which allows one to knit a sweater from the top-down and seamlessly. I also used Meg Swansen's technique to create jogless stripes in the round, although a trained eye can see where the stripes begin and end on the back of the sweater.

I did make some changes. Instead of hemmed sleeves, as I was running out of blue wool, I knit six rows of garter stitch. The sleeves are also shorter than they are in the pattern; I really dislike super-long sleeves on my sweaters, given that I'm a recipe developer and food writer by trade and there's nothing more irritating than dragging my sleeves through whatever I'm cooking. This was my first time knitting a garment with a turned up hem; I like the look, but with this sweater, I think I would have preferred a simple garter-stitch hem to match the sleeves. Next time.

My younger brother is starting a two-year program at IYRS (International Yacht Restoration School) in Newport, RI, this September and I have visions of myself wearing this sweater with a jaunty red scarf about the neck when I visit him. I shall fit right in! ;-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Once upon a tea cosy

tea cosy


I've been having some technical issues with the blog, thus my silence, but it looks like my hosting company has finally fixed everything. I had a lot to blog about but failed to write everything down. Bad Di!

Last week I noticed that I don't own a tea cosy, which is shameful given my Anglophilia! Last winter I attempted a traditional granny-style cosy but gave up because knitting it was such a horror -- you had to knit tight to create rippling in cosy, and since I'm anything but a tight knitter, the project was a struggle. I ripped everything out and used the yarn to create a honeycomb-style cosy to fit my 6-cup teapot. It's a little big so I have plans to make another with some mods. No pattern -- I made it up on the fly. Raveled here.

Last week I started running again. Ouch! Not just painful in the physical sense, but a blow to the self-esteem. My feet could barely make it off the ground, and I'm completely winded after 1.5 miles of light jogging and walking! I stopped running a couple years ago when my plantar fascitis got the best of my left foot. Special exercises and orthotics have improved the condition, though, so I figured it was time to get out there and "use it or lose it." I know if I keep at it I'll get better. But still, it was shocking to see how much ground I've lost. One of my goals this year was to do another sprint-distance triathlon, but I'm going to scale it back and focus on a 5K road race and continue my biking.

In a few days I'll have another finished object to show you. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's like Wild Kingdom around here!

This past week has led me to wonder, "Why travel all the way to the Serengeti when I can see so much wildlife here in eastern Massachusetts?"

During my daily bike rides I've spotted deer (a whole family of them, darting across the path!), wild turkeys, woodpeckers, rabbits, garter snakes, countless chipmunks, groundhogs, and a hawk being mobbed by songbirds. I've been treated to the birdsong of a cardinal, hawk, barred owl, and mourning dove. Speaking of birds ... every time I exit our back door and walk down our driveway, Momma Robin protecting her nest of babies, screeches at me while she flutters over my head as I walk to the mailbox. Only I get this treatment, not my husband or O! And earlier this week, authorities shot and killed a bear in nearby Newton. I'm not happy they killed it, but still ... bears! Newton!

For the past couple nights, my husband and I have been awoken around 2 or 3 in the morning by a terrible racket outside our bedroom window. We went through this last summer. It sounds like human shrieking when you first jolt awake, but then as you listen, it sounds almost like a cat screech. Our house borders our neighbor's long driveway, which is lined with tall trees and we could tell the screeches were coming from the trees. We figured it was a fisher (or fisher cat, which really isn't a cat but a very ugly and rapacious weasel that's the bane of backyard farmers) raiding a bird's nest.

Last night I was working at my computer at 11:30, far past my bedtime, when the shrieking started. My husband, also up late, came running downstairs to check it out. He only went as far as the back porch. I was feeling brave, so I grabbed a crowbar and a strong flashlight to confront the cacophony. By now, O was up and lacing his sneakers for a midnight adventure.

(BTW, I am up-to-date on my rabies vaccinations. I used to handle feral cats, so I've kept up my vaccines just in case.)

I could tell the animals were up in one of the trees overhanging my neighbor's driveway, so I started yelling and banging the crowbar against metal to get what I thought was a fisher to bolt down the tree. The shrieking subsided, but I didn't notice any movement. I could see two blue eyes staring back at me in the flashlight's glare, but the animal didn't budge. Hmmm. Strange. Usually mammals take off the moment a human appears on the scene.

For the next couple minutes, the animal and I continued our stare-off. I would guess that the branch he was on was about 30' high up, so I couldn't get a good visual from where I was standing. I moved a little closer, but I didn't want to get right under him in case he fell or decided to run down the tree and at me.

The eyes would disappear and reappear every couple of minutes, moving slowly down the branch. O kept insisting it was a wildcat, but I noticed the branch wasn't really moving and there was no mass above or below the eyes.

I moved a little closer, and suddenly, I could see why the mass was missing: it was a 6' long black rat snake, making his way back down the tree with his midnight snack!

[caption id="attachment_2360" align="alignleft" width="300"]This is NOT the rat snake we saw, but it was about this big. This is NOT the rat snake we saw, but it was about this big.[/caption]

Holy crap! You should have seen me run!!! For some reason, black snakes give me nightmares. They tend to move fast, and I've figured out that it's the way snakes move that gives me the creeps. If I run across one and it's curled up enjoying the sun, I don't mind them ... but that darting out that startles me.

Anyway, around 12:30 we heard the shrieking again, so I'm guessing the snake went back for another snack. Or sent a friend. Shudder.

Today my neighbor (who heard me out there, shrieking and banging metal last night) and I inspected the tree. We found some small branches and a pile of leaves under the big branch where I spotted the snake. No birds or bird's nest to be seen. I'm hoping Mr. Snake doesn't figure out there's a nest of birds on the other side of our house. Yikes!

Today is laundry day but no way am I heading down into our fieldstone basement without O or my husband. We have caught so many mice down there I'm sure snakes would have no trouble finding their way inside either.