Yip Yips for Christmas

It’s a perfectly miserable weather day here in Maine. The wind was blowing across the ice this morning and by mid-day there was freezing rain/sleet and continued wind. A good day to stay inside (and knit!)

Since they’ve been gifted, I thought I’d show you the Yip Yips that I crocheted for my nieces and nephew for Christmas. I think these little containers are so sweet and they make me laugh. I hope their parents have shown them videos of the Yip Yips on old Sesame Street shows (they’re on Youtube if you want to Google them). The one that I particularly loved was the telephone one. I may have posted it here before. I love them! This pattern is easy to follow for those like me who aren’t expert crocheters (yet!) I’ve heard that some people have made a whole family of these to use in lieu of Christmas stockings. I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but they sure are happy little creations.

Yip Yips (crochet) by Carissa Browning

I filled the Yip Yips with little gifts, too, of course. A hand-knit wash cloth (I can’t believe I forgot to photograph them), a toy car for my nephew and a couple of birds in nests for my nieces. These are designed by Susan B. Anderson and are called Simple Little Bird and Nest. I think they’re adorable and they were fun to knit.

Simple Little Bird and Nest by Susan B. Anderson

I sent a few other hand-knit gifts this year. Socks for my son, market bags for my daughter and my son’s girlfriend, dish cloths for all the kids, a Bankhead hat for my husband, and I’m currently working on a new sweater for my youngest grand-dog, Gus. All of these projects and all of the details about them are on my Ravelry project page.

Gone knitting!

Looking Ahead to a New Year

Not my photo, I “stole” it … but I love it!

If I told you that I love Christmas, I’d be lying. I don’t. Every year I try to change my attitude and every year I manage it poorly. This year was no exception. Compound Christmas preparations this year with the first Lola’s-birthday-without-Lola, and I have been a hot, teary-eyed mess. And then, at the (somewhat) last minute, my step-daughters decided they couldn’t come celebrate with us. With that, the grocery shopping for a gang, the stocking and gift shopping, the planning that went into a holiday with our kids had taken energy away from other things that I might have been able to use at work and at home. My poor husband has had to put up with me all this time.

Anyway, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day weren’t as sad as we thought. We managed our way through without me crying and we are now on the other side of Christmas and heading into the New Year. I sure hope that 2022 is a “better” year and that the pandemic and all the negative news is made much less a priority. It’s been exhausting.

A little bit of time to review 2021 as 2022 is coming in quickly with or without permission.

I’ve been semi-successful at my 2021 Sock Challenge. I have completed 11 pairs of socks. Three of them, however, are small children sizes which is a stretch to the “rules”. I do have a pair on my needles and I have almost finished the first sock. I’ll count that one as a half sock completed. I’m 1/2 a sock short of my goal. Considering the year … I done good!

I finished three sweaters this year! And a fourth is so close that I’ve only got one sleeve (or is it two? I’ve not looked at it for a bit.) I have at least enough yarn for five more sweaters in my atelier. I’ve got my knitting cut out for me. LOL

I’m racing to finish one more pair of mittens before the end of the year. I might make it! And these may be my favorite mittens ever, replacing my favorite mittens to date – my Snowflake Mittens. My Snowflake Mittens were my first ever colorwork project. I knitted them way, wayyyyy back in 2016 and they’re still like new. I love them so much but the Lamb’s Pride wool/mohair yarn is a bit prickly. The new mittens are a blend of wool/alpaca and they’re so soft. AND as a bonus, they’re lined with pure alpaca. Hmm. That gives me an idea … perhaps I’ll line my snowflake mittens!

According to my list in my bullet journal, I’ve completed 65 projects this year. My Ravelry queue tells me that I’ve completed 77 (but I think a few actually belong in 2020.) I’m not sure which one is right but either way, I’m satisfied with my productivity. I’ve made several items that were given as donations to the needy. Some hats and mittens went to our local police department to give to those who need them. Some socks went to the homeless shelter. My LYS, Yardgoods Center, donated a bunch of hand-knit socks to the Mid-Maine Homeless shelter for “Socktober”. It was sweet! We will do it again next year.

You can see all of my 2021 projects on my Ravelry project page. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I’m lindar on Ravelry. Please be my Ravelry friend.

I have some goals for the New Year. I am free to change or modify them as the year goes on. I can even delete them totally. I’m going to find a doctor and have a physical. I’m going to look forward more (and backward less). I will choose to be with people who value me and treat me well and I will “divorce” people who don’t. I’ll remember to be grateful every day for what I have and for my health and the health of my family and friends. There are three days left in 2021.

Gone knitting.

FO – Frosty the Snowman Christmas Stocking

I have finished and mailed off another family heirloom for a customer and friend. This stocking is the second one that I’ve knitted for her. The coolest part of the whole story is that her mother, now deceased, designed these stocking patterns for a very well-known stocking pattern company. Her mom had knitted stockings for the whole family and they’re trying to keep the tradition alive by knitting her mother’s patterns for new additions to the family. Cool, right?

The Frosty the Snowman stocking is relatively simple Intarsia knitting. A top hat wearing snowman who is holding a striped candy cane. My friend asked that I use angora as the pattern requires. With little bits of green for his scarf and mittens, black for buttons and hat, the most clever and my favorite piece of the design is the way she designed the candy cane – with white stripes on the red fabric and red stripes on the white. Sooo clever and it works so well!

What I don’t like about the Intarsia technique is weaving in the ends. The front looks so clean and clear but the back is bedlam! Each color across a row requires a different length of yarn and that means there are lots of bits of yarn dangling from the back. Every one needs to be woven into the reverse side of the stocking without being visible on the front. I also add the name in duplicate stitch on the front and then seam up the back and add a braided length of yarn to hang the stocking. Lots of work!

I was very happy with this stocking and I hope she is, too. I wish that their family has a very merry Christmas this year and every one after.

Gone knitting!

I Learned Something About Loons

You know (don’t you?) that I live on a beautiful lake in Central Maine. We are very fortunate to have a thriving loon population despite the crazy boaters that have caused nests to fail (one year we had two lost eggs on the same nest).

This year, the loon pair nearest to our house had two chicks. They nested on a nesting platform that has been built by our lake association (and is in need of some work). Loons don’t walk on land well. Their legs are located farther back on their bodies than other waterfoul and their bones aren’t hollow like other birds. Loons sit low in the water and are very heavy so nesting is a challenge for them. Regardless, our pair had two eggs and hatched two chicks. We watch them like hawks … and I’m not kidding about that at all. Hawks and eagles and other animals prey on baby loons. They become “my” chicks every year. My neighbors feel the same way.

Two chicks on the adult’s back (photo cottagelife.com)

This year, we have all enjoyed watching the twins with their parents until there was only one twin. My heart was broken that we seemed to have lost one of our sweet chicks. But our local lake tour guy, and a friend of mine who sits on the lake association board of trustees with me, texted me about the “missing” chick that he hadn’t seen for five days. He reached out to another board member who just happens to be our resident nature guy and loon expert. Here’s the skinny …

Feeding the chick (photo birdsoftheworld.org)

Our loon is healthy and well and living in pseudo-captivity for the next few weeks in Massachusetts. And this is the gist of what I’ve learned. There is an organization here in Maine called Biodiversity Research Institute and they’re authorized to move loons (after they’re big enough to feed themselves but before they are able to fly) to Massachusetts to translocate loons in an effort to restore the common loon to an area where they’d disappeared. This is what’s happening to our loon. He or she is helping the loon population to grow in another place. And the BRI program has been very successful over the past several years. This is loon conservation at it’s finest! (Read about the success of the program here!)

More good news … Our remaining loon (and the loon that was translocated) has a significantly better chance of surviving to adulthood. Feeding two chicks is a huge job for the adults. Feeding one chick is a big job. This way, since loons don’t count very well, the adults will be feeding their remaining chick well and they’ll all three be healthier and more prepared calorically for their flight in the near future to the coast. Our loons will winter over in the harbors off the coast of Maine and then in the spring after ice out, our adult pair will return to the lake. The young chick will remain on the ocean for a couple of years before flying “back home” to find a mate. The translocated chick will be fed minnows for a few more weeks and when he/she is ready, will be released on a lake in Massachusetts. That baby loon will fly to the coast from it’s new home in MA. Baby loons navigate “home” based on their first flight.

I am delighted to report that our baby loon is going to be a positive helper in the future wellbeing of the common loon. This kind of program has also helped to bring back Ospreys, Eagles, and other animals. There is currently a program that is working to bring turkeys from Maine to Texas where there used to be a lot of them. (We have tons of them in Maine!)

There you have it! I was so excited that I needed to share.

Gone knitting.

Adjusting. Change.

This will be the first month that I’ve missed knitting a pair of socks (or two) in almost two years. It’s been an extraordinarily busy month and it’s been really stressful.

Our refrigerator wasn’t keeping the ice cream frozen so we put a call into the technician we’ve used and he said it’s more than likely the condenser is shot. He advised us to buy a new refrigerator. Despite the LG people saying it takes a couple of hours (if you can find a technician who will come to service it – we’ve tried five, none of which can do anything for at least 3-4 weeks) the technicians all say it’s almost a full day’s work. LG will pay for the part under warranty but we have to pay for the service … guess what? It’s probably not worth it. Never mind that by the time someone can come to fix it our food will be gone. Ugh. So, we bought a new fridge and installed it ourselves because they couldn’t deliver for a week either. Ugh.

I’ve been driving a 2007 Camry since it was a new car. It was wonderful in suburbia but it’s not as wonderful on rural Maine camp roads. We’ve been talking about buying me a new one and we went out for our initial hunt last week. There isn’t much to see … not too many new or used cars are available and there’s not a lot of hope for a different situation into 2022 because of computer chips that aren’t readily available. Anywhoo … we found a RAV 4 that we thought was a good match for us and gave the dealership a deposit and it was supposed to come in at the end of the month. I was on my way to work last Thursday and saw it on the back of a car carrier truck and then got a call from the dealership that it was in if we wanted to test drive it. Suffice it to say, we pulled together all of our pennies and bought me a new car.

Meanwhile, my brother and sister-in-love in MA called me to talk about my remaining Little, Lola. I knew that she was close to the end of her life and that she wasn’t thriving but I was blind to the truth that she had no real quality of life and certainly no joy. My wonderful family offered to come to Maine to have a look and see how she was doing and, if I wanted to, to euthanize her. As I thought about it all last week, I knew she was ready. I wasn’t and would never be if I am totally honest. She was disoriented, her back legs weren’t’ working and she often fell down, she wasn’t able to get outside to do her business and she kept getting “stuck” around the house. She wasn’t comfortable.

Lola died peacefully at home on Sunday morning with all of us loving her. I will always remember her like this. She was such a wonderful girl. She was my heart animal and I absolutely adored her. She was almost literally attached to my right hip for the past 15 years. Life is horribly out of balance without her. To have lost both of my beloved Littles in six months is crushing. I am so grateful to have had them both in my life for so long and selfishly I wish it could have been longer. But even another year or five years wouldn’t have been enough. I still wouldn’t have been ready to say goodbye. I already miss her more than I could have imagined.

I’m knitting and it’s my time-filler now as well as being something to focus on in this difficult time. I’ve been working to finish the Gallbladder Shawl for my daughter’s birthday (that is this weekend) and I may get it finished but I doubt that I can get it blocked and delivered in time. But that will have to be ok this year. I think she’ll understand. I have a Christmas stocking up next for a sweet friend/customer and a list of future knits to follow that. I have to finish a sweater that has been languishing … I need to pick up the stitches around the neck and down the second side and knit four rows for the button bands and then knit the sleeves. It’s SO close.

For now, I’m giving myself grace around everything as I learn to live without my four-legged companion. My husband and I were talking over coffee this morning and saying that we are each missing the habits or patterns that our little family has been living with all these years. We look for her in her spot, I walk downstairs at bedtime with empty arms, there’s nobody to take outside first thing in the morning or last thing at night. So we will continue to be grateful that she’s at rest and we will create new habits/patterns to fill in those holes where the Littles are missing. We loved them so.

Gone knitting.

A Long-Awaited Visit

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to see our family. This past weekend, we were able to travel to New York City to visit my children. We brought my mother’s piano (in a u-haul trailer) to my daughter who will USE it. We don’t use it and it’s a real shame that it just sat in the living room and wasn’t played.

On Saturday it was a gorgeous day and we walked parallel to the river with my daughters and their husbands and dogs to the weekly farmers market and to drop off their compost materials (they freeze it and then walk it to be composted every week!) My daughter’s step counter said it was more than 12,000 steps. She guesses it’s about 5 miles and the last bit was up hill. I haven’t walked five miles in forever! It was such a fun day and we completed it with a family dinner to celebrate (for the first time) my son’s 31st birthday. We were supposed to celebrate 30 last year when Covid required that we stay home.

I have been knitting! I knitted a pair of birthday socks for my son. I’ve never used this Schoppe-Wolle Das Paar sock yarn before. A customer last week bought a hank and asked that it be wound … I thought there was something wrong when it “broke” about half-way through until I realized that it was meant to happen! They made the yarn so that you get two socks that are the same! So, I had to try it and I loved it. I liked the hand (feel) of the yarn as I was knitting and the socks are exquisite! I’ve put aside two more hanks for future sock knitting.

I’ve begun a baby gift of socks for one of my daughter’s friends who had a new baby recently. The gift is socks for the boys – each the same, two-color socks (heels, toes and cuffs will be red and the body of the sock a marled gray.) I love knitting little socks! These are especially cute in my humble opinion.

When we got home I reinforced and steeked my Daytripper Cardigan. It’s thrilling to cut down the middle of a sweater and have the stitches hold. I’ve since picked up my stitches for the button bands and only have to secure the back side of the steek and find eight buttons to make the sweater wearable … just in time for warmer weather. I’ve steam blocked it to make it easier to steek but I’ll still give it a good wet block before it’s really and truly finished.

This is the beginning of my next “surprise” gift. New felted clog slippers for my LA brother. I made him a pair … I did the knitting and my sister-in-law did the felting and added the slipper soles … a bunch of years ago and they’re holey. She asked if I’d make him a new pair … we’ll handle it the same way as last time so they are felted to fit his feet (they live in Louisiana so it’s difficult to do at a distance!) This time he’s getting some LSU slippers. I decided to hold two strands of the different colors together which will make them quite different from the former pair that were dark gray or black. I hope he loves them. He’s such a LSU fan that he had a purple leather chair.

We came home on Monday to another beautiful day and the blossoms of spring in Maine. The forsythia is blooming and the rhubarb is starting to grow. It won’t be long before strawberry rhubarb jam season. My bleeding heart plant is growing so fast that I think you could actually see it growing. The daffodils are up and the birds are all traveling through … no sign yet of our hummingbirds but I’m sure they’ll be here early this year.

Life is good.

Gone knitting.

Deep Freeze, Raw Emotions

Deep Freeze on Messalonskee 3/2/2021

My emotions have been very close to the surface recently. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m mourning the last year that we’ve “lost” because of Covid-19 or because there is finally a sense of calm in our Nation’s capital with the new administration. I’m not sure what it is that I am feeling so deeply or that’s bubbling up but it’s there and with this post I am acknowledging it. I am looking forward to the day when it feels safe to leave the house and when I can see my family again. I miss them all so much but I am also so grateful that they’ve all remained healthy.

We woke to sub-zero temperatures today and lots of wind gusts! It was blowing all night but we have been fortunate to retain our power today while lots of other communities in Maine have not. The sun is out and the sky is bluebird blue and that always helps my “attitude”. I would love to see a really good snowstorm before spring but they posted our road yesterday and our camp road has been a muddy mess for a week or more so I may not get my wish.

Today I finally seamed the underarms of my test knit sweater, Crofter’s Smock by Gudrun Johnston. I like it more than I thought I would before it was blocked. The fabric relaxed a lot in its bath. I also learned a few new techniques: folded cuffs and neck and saddle shoulders. This sweater was fun to knit, partly because it’s somewhat cropped and knit in an Aran weight yarn. I used Hayfield Bonus Aran with Wool (a washable acrylic and wool blend) and it was heavy on the US8 needles … my hands got tired knitting! After seaming the underarms, I put the sweater on – this is the coldest day of our winter so far – and it’s nice and warm, the sleeve length is perfect and I like the pockets placed on the side of the sweater. I can’t show you any photographs yet but when I have permission, I’ll add them here.

Meanwhile, I have cast on a pair of socks for my March 2021 Sock Challenge. This month I’m knitting worsted weight boot socks in Raggi yarn. Gray and white marled leg and foot, red cuff and toe. I’ve nearly got one sock finished and will have to attach sock #2 as soon as #1 is finished. These will be super warm socks and they’re so cute!

I’ve also chosen to participate in the Confident Knitting year-long program hosted by Jen Arnall-Culliford. I also chose to splurge and purchase their yarns – typically not yarns we carry at the yarn shop where I work here in Maine. It’s a great chance to taste yarns that I may otherwise not get a chance to work with. AND they had a cool pink project bag!

I’ve started the March project, Flux Handwarmers by Martina Behm. The techniques learned this month are crochet provisional cast on and a folded edge. I chose to do a picot edge which is so cute! This month’s yarn is the springtime colorway of a Crazy Zauberball. These mitts will be a nice weight and they’ll be so cheerful. I’ve participated in A Year of Techniques and Boost Your Knitting for the two previous years and I learned a lot. I’m sure I’ll learn some new tricks this year, too! What I love about these programs is that there are detailed tutorials on all of the techniques and even when I already know one, I can find something to learn (or it just hammers it into my head.)

I’ve been spending a lot of time “worrying” about my sweet Lola. She’s not eating well and her hind legs are unstable. She sleeps most of the day but she still finds a tail wag or two to gift me with every day. For months I’ve been looking at the little kit that I bought when I was out shopping pre-pandemic. The little felt mitten has a bee on it and I couldn’t resist. This will eventually live on our Christmas tree but until Christmas, it’ll likely live on my desk lamp!

I finished two black tams for a customer and they’ve been delivered to the store for her to pick up. She wants two more navy blue ones. It’s sweet of her to ask me. I made a tarte tatin over the weekend. It was delicious! A few apples, some sugar, butter and a home made crust and it was dessert for two for several days. Yummy!

We’ve been spending lots of time doing puzzles. My hubby gave me a really difficult puzzle for Christmas and we stuck to it and finished it … and he ordered another one for Valentine’s day which we’re working on at the dining room table. Luckily, there are only the two of us so we only need one end of the table for eating (although we generally eat up in my studio and watch the news.)

Gone knitting!

Grateful for Generators

Sunrise over Sidney, Maine 12/7/2020

It was a glorious start to the day today. We are so lucky to live here and to be able to enjoy Mother Nature’s art work every time we look out the window!

We have been without power (but we have a generator that runs the house) since the Nor’easter hit on Saturday late afternoon and into Sunday. Power blinked on and off a few times, came back on and then went off. My sweet hubby lugged the generator out of the garage and plugged it in. We were back in business.

A couple of hours passed and the power came back on. Hubby went out and covered up the generator and changed the power back over to the house but it wasn’t long before the power flickered and went out again. It’s been out ever since!

Our family around the country says that our Nor’easter has made the news. They’re worrying and here we are warm and doing all the things that we normally do. We are so fortunate!

Beautiful “bluebird” sky this afternoon

This Will be Short

Yesterday we had a Nor’Easter. It was coming down like crazy and it was wet snow. Needless to say, much of the state is now without power. We are without power … but we have a generator so we are not totally in the dark.

But I wanted to write to share that I’ve finished my test knit, named for now, the Cashmere People Shawl because it’s knit with Cashmere People yarn. This shawl is designed by Lori Versaci of VERSACIKNITS. As with Lori’s other designs, it’s a classic design and a textural wonderland. Such a fun project to knit.

I started this shawl project just as I was going into self-isolation in mid-March. The shawl calls for three colors of cashgora yarn in sport weight. I really wanted to have my shawl look and feel like a comfy pair of jeans. Casey Rider at Portfiber in Portland, Maine picked the three colors for me and she did an excellent job! I love the way the colors work together and I can’t wait until it’s dry and I can wear it!

I had a tense few moments at the end because I was very afraid I’d run out of the natural color of yarn at the edge. I’m happy to report that I won the game of yarn chicken this time! Woo! Hoo!

This afternoon I wove in the ends and blocked my shawl and I’m so happy to have it done. When the pattern is released, I’ll let you know.

Gone knitting!

Progress

The sun came up again today!

Today is Wednesday Tuesday (Ha! Thanks for the help! I guess I had lost track of the days!) not that it really matters. The only difference between the days is the weather. Yesterday was a true beauty and today is a little cooler but the brilliant sunshine always makes me feel better. We are going for a ride today to buy lobsters for dinner. Change it up a little bit.

I’m making progress (finally!) on my test-knit shawl which is being called Cashmere People Shawl. The design is by Lori Versaci of VersaciKnits. What I really love about Lori’s designs is the classic style. This is my third test knit for Lori, the first was my Mainstay Pullover in 2015. Sadly, this sweater has gone to live elsewhere because the yarn, a Berroco product, wasn’t color fast and it discolored when I washed it. Boo. The design, however was wonderful and I’ll make it again when I am finished with all my WIPs. (Like that will ever happen!) The second test knit was Open Star which finished in late 2015/early 2016. This is a cardigan and I still love this sweater. You can check out my Ravelry project page for details on both sweaters.

Star section at the bottom of photo, stockinette in navy and the start of a beautiful brioche

I struggled with the star section of this shawl for whatever reasons. Maybe it’s a simple as the counting; an ability that I often lack. But once I decided to go with reading my knitting, I zipped right along. I’m now into the last section of the shawl which is a “ruffle” of brioche. I need a longer cable on my needles because there are nearly 400 stitches at this point and cramming stitches on the needle and brioche don’t go well together. I’m eager to get this OFF the needles so I can see it in all it’s glory!

I continue to be behind on the Arne and Carlos Quarantine KAL. But I get about one done each day so, again, progress. I continue to enjoy this KAL because it takes just enough concentration to keep my mind busy and it’s very comforting. I’m trying to avoid Facebook and the news because it’s not very pleasant and plays with my head/anxiety levels. No news is good news just as long as my kids are ok.

And last but not least, I have the correct number of stitches on my son’s birthday socks and I’m (not really) zipping down the foot of the first sock. They’ll be easy to finish because it’s sport weight wool – with a bit of cashmere – so they do knit up a little bit more quickly than fingering weight would. This yarn, KFI Luxury Collection’s Indulgence Cashmere, is so soft. I need to make myself a pair. Or not. In fairness, I have an entire sock drawer full of my hand-knitted socks.

So, that’s progress.

Gone Knitting!

Ahhhh! The perfect spot to relax!