Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Week in Matagorda

This was the first year that neither of the kids were home for Christmas, so John and I decided to spend the week at the travel trailer in Matagorda. We did not put up a tree. The only decorations were two poinsettia place mats and a Christmas candle.

Inside the Trailer

The weather was not the best. From Sunday to Christmas Day it went from really cold, to warm, to cold, to warm again. Each front that came through brought rain. Low clouds obscured the sun most of the time. And one day the fog was so thick that John and I walked right past each other on the beach and didn't know it.

Foggy Day at the Beach

John's big Christmas gift this year was a fishing light.

Shining a strong beam of light on the water at night attracts the bait, which in turn, attracts the fish. On the nights it wasn't too cold, I joined John for nighttime fishing on the river. Everything I caught was too small to keep, but John caught one keeper trout.

My big Christmas gift was a deck we built for the trailer. I love the way it turned out! It provided us with a nice clean, dry place to sit and watch the comings and goings on the river.

I passed on the kayak fishing this time since the weather wasn't that good, but John didn't let the cold and wind stop him. He caught two nice redfish, which gave me an opportunity to photograph the pelicans at the fish cleaning table.

Patiently Waiting

Fighting for Fish Scraps

Mine! Mine! All Mine!

We left Matagorda sooner than we planned when we got word that my grandmother passed away in Oklahoma. She was 93 years old and a faithful Christian. Though her passing was sad for us, it was a victory for her. I am confident she is in a better place and I am comforted.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1Cor. 15:57

Monday, December 29, 2008

Z is for Zinnia

Dad always planted zinnias near the vegetable garden to attract the bees and butterflies.

I remember being allowed to pick zinnia bouquets whenever I wanted, which is probably why I love this flower today.

The full, double blossoms are my favorite.

The bright colors make me smile.

I'm dreaming of a zinnia garden for next year, like the one from my childhood, with butterflies and bees and cut zinnia bouquets for the table all summer long.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At This Rate...

...I don't expect to finish my vest until the end of the year, if even then.

I've only managed to knit a few inches on it since the last time I showed you. Knitting has not been a priority on my list of things to do in December, though I do wish I had this vest finished so I could wear it. I could have used it several times already this season.

John gave me this funny little sheep the other day. I think he can sense that I need some cheering up. It's been gray and dreary here all week and some last week, too. I don't do well with gray and dreary, but the weatherman promises a bit of sunshine today, so things are looking up.

Next week we'll be hanging out at the travel trailer in Matagorda. Christmas dinner might very well be grilled trout or redfish or if we're really lucky, flounder.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Y is for Yardstick

Do three yardsticks count as a collection? If so, then I have one.

According to The Book of Alternative Records, Ing. Arnulf Bietsch from Bolsterlang, Germany holds the current world record for a yardstick collection. He has collected more than 30,000 different yardsticks which he stores in a special room with air conditioning.

I keep a yardstick near my knitting spot. I like to use it or a 12-inch ruler to measure knitted fabric. I find it easier and more accurate than a retractable tape measure for measuring small items; measuring floppy fabric with a floppy tape measure can be cumbersome for me. And I always have a yardstick handy for blocking.

For anything over 36 inches a tape measure is best, of course. But, I've even found a way around that for measuring scarves: A good length for a scarf is 60 inches which happens to be the exact length of my dining room table. When the scarf reaches end-to-end, I know it's long enough.

Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people--your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way. ~Barbara Bush

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stay Warm; Wear Wool

Days like this call for wool.

It was damp and windy with feels-like temperatures in the low 20s...and it snowed! Can you see the perfectly formed snowflakes on my coat?

When I pulled out My So Called Scarf (details here) to wear yesterday morning, I decided I didn't like the looks of the cast-on and the bind-off edges, so I added fringe. Much better.

My wool/silk scarf, wool hat & mittens, wool socks and wool coat came in handy. I really felt sorry for all those people wearing acrylic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coming Attraction

Soon to be featured as a finished object is a vest I started in mid-November.

I bought the pattern at Black Sheep Wool Co. this summer. The plan was to knit it with yarn from my stash, but nothing seemed right. For my birthday, John treated me to a trip to Twisted Yarns and I chose this pretty indigo-colored wool by Imperial Stock Ranch. I cast on right away, but got side-tracked with knitting hats and most recently a lace scarf.

As you can see, I'm back on track and nearly to the finish line--only one more front to knit and then the bands. I could knock it out in a few days, if I had more time to devote to knitting. But with things getting busy as they usually do this time of year, I'll be satisfied with getting it finished by Christmas week.

Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern: ribs and seed stitch. And for Jean, I've included the Scotch Bonnet I found on the beach this weekend.

Monday, December 08, 2008

One December Weekend

We had the beach to ourselves on Friday, due the weather, I'm sure. Though it was cold and gray, my spirits were lifted just the same as if the sun had been shining. I found some pretty shells including my first unbroken Scotch bonnet and John picked up a few sea beans to add to his growing collection.


The next day dawned bright and sunny, though cold to start with. John went kayak fishing early, but I decided to stay in until it warmed up a bit. An hour or so later, I layered on the wool and took a walk around the RV park. The light was just right for reflections; I had some fun with the camera.

Colorado River

Chilly Morning Boat Ride

In the Wake

Marina Reflection

By lunch it had warmed up enough that nothing more than a long-sleeve shirt was needed. The fish weren't biting from the river bank, so we went to the beach for more beachcombing. It was so beautiful, we stayed until just before sunset.

Matagorda Beach

Then, back to the travel trailer where John grilled two of the speckled trout he caught the night before for our supper, along with potatoes and roasted corn. For dessert, we toasted marshmallows over the coals, while sitting under the starry sky and planning our return next weekend.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Before & After

Before Blocking: A lace scarf that looks anything but lacy. A curling jumble of stitches that masks the potential hidden within. Doubts and hope all mixed together.

After Blocking: Light, airy, beautiful lace! Chaos put in order. Doubts erased. Hope fulfilled.

Pattern: Road Not Taken
Source: A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd
Yarn: Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud (held double)
Color: Horizon
Needles: US 6 (4mm)

I have nothing but praise for this pattern and the book, A Fine Fleece, Knitting with Handspun Yarns. The book contains a wonderful collection of patterns: many sweaters and vests, scarves (one with a matching hat) and several pairs of socks. Each pattern is shown knitted in handspun and commercial yarn, so you really don't need to spin your own yarn to enjoy this book.

Road Not Taken features a pretty zig-zag lace stitch that is easy enough for beginning lace knitters. The stitches are charted, which I like. The pattern is written to be knitted as a 10-row repeat or a 20-row repeat--it's your choice. I went with 20 rows.

This is a scarf that I will knit again.

Monday, December 01, 2008

X is for Xtraordinary

I know this is not the correct spelling of extraordinary, but with fewer than two pages of x words in my dictionary and absolutely none that appealed to me, I'm invoking creative license on this one.

I find it xtraordinary that an orchid John gave me way back in March has survived and actually bloomed again.

In the past I've managed to keep orchids alive, but never have I had a repeat bloom. This is a first and it may never happen again--an event worthy of being called xtraordinary with an x!

Besides, these photos are much better than anything I could ever come up with for x-ray, XL, xylophone or X-mas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heads Up

I have another hat drive to tell you about. It's in progress at The Scottish Lamb. Jean is collecting hats for the homeless of New York City. Details are here. Be sure to contact her if you have a hat to donate and she'll send you the mailing address.

Jean and I connected through our blogs when I first began mine and we've been friends ever since. A scheduled meeting in person fell through this summer, but one day when she moves back to Texas we will get together. I'm looking forward to that! Through the years, I've been on the receiving end of her generous spirit and I'm thrilled to be able to support her in this worthy effort.

I have two hats to donate.

Seaman's Cap and Turn a Square

Seaman's Cap

Free Pattern
Yarn: Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool
Color: Nature's Brown
Needles: US 6 & 7 - 16" circulars and US 7 dpns

This is a great basic hat. It is knit in the round and features a wide ribbed brim with a turning row of knit stitches to insure a neat fold. The pattern is written in three sizes. I made the medium size and it fits John well. The small would be better for me.

Turn a Square

Free Pattern

Yarn: Cascade 220 in Charcoal Grey and Mountain Colors (unmarked)
Needles: US 6 & 7, 16" circulars and US 7 dpns

Another great hat. Raglan decreases transform circular stripes into interesting squares. A self-striping yarn is recommended for the contrasting color, but I used what I had on hand: an unmarked variegated wool from Mountain Colors that I bought as a mill end. This pattern is written in one size, which is a good fit for an adult man. I'd have to go down a needle size or reduce the number of stitches if I made one for me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

W is for Weekender

We are now officially Matagorda weekenders!

A new section opened up at Pelican Point RV Park and we decided to rent a space and keep our travel trailer down there full time. We moved it in on Monday.

This is the view of the Colorado River from our spot.

A few weeks ago we saw a bald eagle perched in one of the trees on the opposite bank. It was far away, but we confirmed it with a pair of binoculars. We are told there is an eagle's nest up the river.

After setting up the trailer, there was just enough daylight left to test out the waters. John caught the first fish--a nice sized sand trout.

Not to be outdone, I caught two at once.

We fished until sunset, catching several more sandies while being serenaded by the sounds of nature: cows mooing across the river, an owl hooting from his hidden spot in a tree, coyotes howling in the distance.

We said a prayer that night, thanking God for giving us this peaceful place to spend our weekends.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. ~James 1:17

Monday, November 17, 2008

Knit a Warm Hat for Charity

Kathy at Irisheyes Knitting Blog is asking knitters to make warm hats for adults and children. She requests that they also be beautiful. I interpret this to mean something nicer than just a plain hat. These hats will be donated to shelters in her area and should be mailed in by January 5, 2009. As a thank-you for helping, Kathy is offering several gorgeous skeins of yarn as prizes, courtesy of Anne at Wooly Wonka Fibers. Please read this post for all the details.

I really enjoy knitting hats, so I'm happy to help. I'm going to send her the Fiber Trends Swirls Hat I made a few weeks ago that ended up too small for me. It should fit a child nicely. Also, I've worked up a couple of adult hats to donate and will be knitting more as I find the time. Perhaps you'll join me.

Honeycomb Hat
Source: The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes
Yarn: Reynolds Lopi (100% Wool)
Needles: US 10, 16" Circular and DPNs

This hat is very warm with its double thick folded brim in a pretty honeycomb stitch pattern. I'd like one for myself, though I found out from knitting this one, that I'd have to go down a needle size or make some other adjustment, because it's just a tad too big for my head.

by Emilee Mooney
Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun (100% Wool)
Color: Salmon
Needles: US 7, 16" circular and DPNs; US 5, 16" circular

The pattern instructions for this top-down hat are written for two weights of yarn, either chunky or worsted. This worsted weight version fits me well and I really like the pretty lace leaf stitch. I don't know if a lace hat qualifies as warm, but I couldn't resist trying this pattern.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Plain & Fancy Raglan

Did you guess my latest project was a sweater? A cardigan to be exact.

It probably took me more time to decide on a pattern to show off this yarn properly than it actually took to knit the sweater. Such is the challenge of variegated yarn. In the end, I'm happy with the results.

Pattern: Chic Knits Eyelet Cardi
Yarn: Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool
Color: Variegated Coral
Needles: US 4 and 6
Knitting Time: Less Than 3 Weeks

Stockinette stitch compliments this "busy" yarn, while a simple eyelet detail on the yoke keeps it from being too plain.

This raglan cardigan is knitted in one piece from the top down, which helps relieve some anxiety as to whether the fit will be right, because you can try it on as you knit. I made this sweater one size larger than I normally would, so it can be easily worn over long sleeves and heavier clothing this winter. It was nice to know early on that it wasn't going to be too big.

As is often the case with hand-dyed yarn, color intensity varied slightly from skein to skein and even some within the same skein. I decided to let the yarn knit up as is, though I could have tried to even out the variation by alternating skeins every few rows. For the most part, differences in color intensity are not glaring except for one place on the right sleeve.

I modified the original pattern slightly by adding an inch or two to the body length and changing the sleeves from 3/4 to full length. I also decided to use garter stitch on the bottom border of the sweater and sleeves instead of ribbing. The front bands and neckband remained in garter stitch, though I increased the number of rows for a wider border.

It is noted in the pattern that the front of this cardi may roll if very soft yarn is used. That was true with my sweater before it was washed. After it was washed, the rolling was very slight. I could have left it like that, but I decided it might be worth the effort to sew a grosgrain ribbon to the inside front border as suggested. I wasn't sure it would make that much difference, but it did! The front bands now lay completely flat, which improves the look of the whole sweater.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

V is for Variegated

Variegated yarn is fun to knit with. I guess that's why I fall for it so often, even though I find it challenging to match the yarn to a pattern. Here's a sneak peek of my latest variegated project.

Variegated Yarn by **Plain & Fancy Sheep & Wool

This yarn is especially beautiful and wonderful to knit with! The ever-shifting colors kept my needles flying and before I knew it, this project was finished. Yes, finished before I even had a chance to mention I was working on it. You can probably guess what it is from the picture, but I'm going to save the details until after the photo shoot this weekend.

**Plain and Fancy will be one of the vendors this weekend at Kid 'N Ewe fiber festival in Boerne, Texas.