birdwatcher

Well, hello! I think I’m back, I hope there are still a few readers left out there!

I thought I’d return with a quick app recommendation. The last few months I’ve spent quite a lot of time sitting on my porch. I wasn’t feeling too well earlier this year, and then I had a minor surgery to fix the problem (it’s all very boring and frankly, TMI for the Internet), and so then I spent my recovery time sitting and reading or knitting and watching all the birds in our yard. I started noticing a lot of different birds that I hadn’t seen before, and wished I had an easy way to identify them.

The Cornell Lab of Orinthology is such a great source for all things bird-related, and it turns out they just released a Bird ID app called Merlin. You just answer a few questions, and it returns a list of possibilities that includes multiple photos of each bird as well as recordings of their songs. So now I can sit on my porch, see a bird, open the app and find out just what it is in seconds.

Earlier this spring I found a beautiful, but sadly dead, little bird in the chicken pen. I had never seen anything like it before. Using the app, I’ve now learned that it’s a male Bullock’s Oriole, and that it was probably in the area for breeding season.

Photo Apr 19, 11 02 19 AM

Photo Aug 15, 11 02 42 AM  Photo Aug 15, 11 02 54 AM

By identifying the birds that you see, information is added to the lab’s database. The app doesn’t save the birds you find, which I found unfortunate, but you can send comments to the developers, and when I sent a message requesting the ability to do just that they were quick to reply that they have many such improvements planned for the near future.

I never thought of myself as a bird watcher, but I may have started researching binoculars for viewing birds.

Some related links:

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a good book (or two)

bury your dead

I’m behind on my book-reading goal for this year. I’ve been in a bit of a reading lull I guess. I have been reading the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, which I guess you could classify as a “cozy mystery” series, but they’re much more.

Gamache is the wise and gentle head of the homicide division for the Quebec police. His team is tasked with solving murders all over the province, many of which seem to happen in the tiny village of Three Pines, located near the Canadian border with Vermont. The town doesn’t appear on any map, but it’s the kind of place I would like to live (except for all the murders, of course). There’s a cozy B&B, a bistro where the food all sounds delicious (seriously, I can’t read these books when I’m hungry), and the residents are quirky and charming.

I just finished the sixth book in the series (Bury Your Dead), and it was heart-wrenching and just a level above the previous books. A good mystery is my guilty reading pleasure, but these are more than just the mystery. The characters and locales are well-developed, and Penny is a gifted writer. I’m going to have to start rationing the last few books, so I can keep enjoying the series for the rest of this year.

One more recommendation: I recently listened to The Martianon audio. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’ve never laughed out loud so much while listening to a book, and I’ve certainly never shouted in fear and frustration for the main character like I did with this story. The reader was fantastic, I’m really glad I listened to it rather than reading it. A brief synopsis: Mark Watney is a member of the second manned mission to Mars. It all goes terribly wrong, and he’s left for dead while the rest of the team escapes a violent wind storm. And that’s just the first few paragraphs. What follows is his struggle to survive, and NASA’s struggle to figure out a way to rescue him. There’s tons of science, which might sound boring, but is completely fascinating. In fact, that deserves the first ever gif on heylucy:
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knitting ADD

I’m a little scattered, knitting-wise, so I’m just going to throw a bunch of my recent knitting-related thoughts up here and maybe purging my brain will help me focus. I keep wanting to knit all the things and also buy all the things.

  1. Knitting Projects: I still have that list of sweaters to work on, and I really do want to get as many of those made this year as possible. The trouble is that I keep getting distracted by other things.citadel
    I just finished a hat, I have two shawls, and a baby bunting on the needles, and I am trying to write up a pattern for a pair of socks but I can’t make the chart work properly. So what do I do? I just go ahead and start one of those sweaters. Yeah, that makes sense.
  2. Yarn: I should write a post about stashing yarn. My stash is currently pretty great, although maybe a bit too big. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy more yarn. I’ve gotten a lot better about buying yarn with a specific project in mind. But then I saw this the other day, and there was no way to resist.dragonfly
  3. Knitting Supplies: I would like one of every thing from Fringe Supply Co., but especially this needle gauge, some bento bags (in natural linen, please), and a rice basket or three.
  4. Knitting Podcasts: Since I can’t knit while I drive to and from work, I like to listen to people talk about knitting. I’ve found that the podcasts I like the most are the ones with two people having a conversation. My most favorite podcasts right now are Knitting a Story (I like the way they giggle, and I think we would be friends IRL), and Prairie Girls Knit and Spin (I would also like to be friends with them, and I like their giggles too).
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lovely things

zimmerman

This is several years old, but I recently re-read this, about recreating an Elizabeth Zimmerman sweater. You can even buy the pattern (see here for more info). I pulled out Knitting without Tears and reading just a few pages was refreshing and inspiring. If you have any knitting fears, Elizabeth Zimmerman will wipe them away.

speaker1

This is perhaps silly and materialistic, but I really love my little Bluetooth speaker. It’s really light and it’s wireless, so I easily can carry it around from room to room and even take it outside. I have been listening to music and audiobooks everywhere. I looked at a lot of speakers, but I didn’t want to spend two or three hundred dollars. I also didn’t want to end up with something cheap and ugly that wouldn’t last. At $69, this was a little splurge, but a nice compromise. I’m not an audiophile by any means, but I think it sounds great for the size (about 5″ square by a couple inches deep). I also like that it’s not so “tech-y” looking. The “wood” is actually plastic, but you can’t really tell.

Fictitious Dishes: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Have you ever read a book that included a description of a meal so vivid you could practically taste it? I love this project, and have added the book to my wishlist.

lilacs

Spring is my very favorite, but I’m very sad my daffodils were nearly non-existent this year. The lilacs, on the other hand, were magnificent.

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how to read a knitting chart

I splurged on a skein of pretty, pretty Sundara Petit Sock Yarn this month for my birthday, and within a day of receiving it, cast on this terrifically ornate lace shawl. The pattern is charted only, so I thought it might be useful to do a little chart reading tutorial. Well, not so much a tutorial, as a “this is what works for me, and maybe I can offer some helpful hints to the chart-phobic” post.

teasdale

First of all, I’m a visual person, so I just naturally like knitting from charts rather than long written row instructions. I find that a chart helps me not only knit a row fairly quickly, I can also easily see where a stitch should be sitting in relation to the stitches above and below it. This has helped me learn to “read” my knitting, so I can figure out where mistakes have happened or just where I am in a particular project. I can understand why looking at a knitting chart for the first time might feel a little overwhelming. And I don’t expect that everyone will learn to prefer charts to written patterns, because I know brains work differently, but I hope I can de-mystify them a bit.

To work from a chart I do a few things to prepare. First, of course, I print it out, fitting the chart to the whole page whenever possible (unless it’s a relatively small chart with just a few stitches and rows that repeat, then it’s nice to keep it smaller). The designers of most of my latest charted projects have included full-page charts, which makes it easy. I really appreciate that in a pattern. I’ve quickly charted a simple pattern (that I do not recommend you actually knit, because it’s just some random stitches and I seriously doubt that it would produce anything attractive) to use as an example.

samplechart

This chart is for knitting flat, as opposed to knitting in the round. If you look at the row numbers you’ll see the odd numbers on the right side of the chart and the even numbers on the left. This is a visual clue that tells you which direction to read the row, starting from the side with the number. You’ll always start at the bottom of the chart and work your way up. In this case, you’d start working on a right-side row, following the symbols in row 1, from right to left. When you finish that row, you’ll turn your work and begin row 2, reading the symbols from left to right. If you look at the key, you’ll see that some of the symbols mean different things depending on which side you’re currently working. This can take a little while to get straight in your brain, but it makes more sense once you’ve done a few rows. Here, for example, you’ll end up with a few columns of knits and purls. In other words, you’ll purl a stitch on the right side, but when you turn and work the next row, the stitch on top of that purled stitch will be a knit stitch, even though on the chart it’s the same symbol (the single black dot). That’s because the black dots are always purl stitches on the right side, but knit stitches on the wrong side.

Next, let’s talk about those cable stitches. They look almost exactly alike, but there are really two different kinds of cables in this chart. When I have more complicated stitches like these, I like to color-code them to make it even easier on myself. I did this the first time I made a Habitat hat, which has a plethora of different cables, and it made it so much easier. I use colored pencils or highlighter markers, and choose a color for each type of cable. I color the symbol in the key and then go through the chart and find all the matching symbols, and fill them in with the same color.

When I’m working from any knitting pattern, regardless if it has charts, I like to keep the printed pages in a sheet protector, just so it doesn’t get too wrinkled and tattered. I discovered that putting a chart in a sleeve like that was great, but my usual method for keeping track of what row I’m on using Post-it notes didn’t work at all since they fall right off the plastic. Then I discovered a use for all the washi tape I’ve been hoarding. It works great on the plastic sheet protector, but peels right up to move to the next row. I can use the same piece of tape many, many times before it starts to lose its stickiness. And I can cut it to any length I need. So I start with a piece of tape that is about the length of the row, and I fold over the end just a bit, to make it easier to peel it up when I need to move it.

knitting chart in action

I always put my tape marker above the row I’m about to work. This helps keep me from making mistakes, because I can see what kind of stitch should be directly below the stitch I’m working. For example, when I’m working row two, I can see that I should be purling when I get to that yarnover stitch from row one. If my count is off and I knit into the yarnover instead, hopefully I’ll notice before I get any further.

A few more random tips:

  • If you’re knitting in the round, chart reading gets a whole lot easier. Since you’re not turning your work, but always working on the right side, you’ll always follow the chart from right to left (again, starting with row 1, at the bottom). You’ll also not need to worry about working the same symbols differently on the wrong side.
  • If a pattern doesn’t have the key for the chart on the same page, I like to make a copy and tuck it in with the chart so I don’t have to flip back and forth if there are unfamiliar symbols.
  • If a chart has a section enclosed in a border (usually a contrasting color, like the red I used above), it means that the pattern repeats itself. This is where stitch markers come in handy. The stitches outside the border are usually the edge of your project, and you repeat the stitches within the border a certain number of times per row. Place a marker after every repeat, and you’ll have another little checkpoint to prevent mistakes.

If you’d like to go digital, I’ve heard really good things about the knitCompanion app. I haven’t tried it yet because I seldom have access to our iPad Mini. My husband usually takes it with him to work or is using it when he’s home. He insists that it’s our iPad, but it was really his birthday/Christmas gift, and I have all I need with my phone and my kindle, so I don’t mind at all. I think I’ll download the 15-day trial and see if it will be worth the $16 investment to use on my phone. It just seems like the screen would be a little too small for big charts. I will report back!

Did I miss anything? Are you still confused or chart-phobic? Do you have any good chart-reading tips? I’d love to know all the different ways others use charts, so please share in the comments!

 

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a hat in the colors of spring

Instagram has messed up my blogging. I posted so many pictures of this project there that it feels a little redundant to blog about it, but obviously I’m going to anyway.

Hat

I’ve reached a point in my knitting life where I fear no knitting pattern, but I know there are lots and lots of techniques I want to learn and skills to develop. One of my knitting bucket list items is to knit a Fair Isle sweater (a là this pin, for which I am searching desperately for the origin), but I’ve only done a little stranding while making mittens. I haven’t been totally successful at keeping the tension of the strands even and loose enough, so I thought I’d practice some more before tackling a whole sweater. I found this hat pattern and despite that fact that I don’t often wear hats and usually don’t even look good in hats, I fell in love and had to make it. I picked a bunch of colors of Knit Picks Palette yarn, keeping my fingers crossed that they would work together. I think my next Knit Picks order is going to include a color card, which will make it so much easier to choose colors for a project like this. I do appreciate that they describe each color, and what I received was just what I was expecting, but having the actual yarn in front of me will make it so much easier.

Once I had my yarn I worked out which color would be used where and got to work. The pattern starts with a tubular cast on, and links to this video. I’d done it once before, but didn’t remember how to do it at all. It was a challenge, and I had to do it a couple times, but now I  think I’ve got it down. I will definitely be using it whenever I can, because I love the edge it creates, it’s round and stretchy.

Photo Mar 14, 11 29 38 AM

Once I got to the colorwork, it was impossible to stop knitting. I had to just keep doing one more row to see how the next colors looked. The whole thing only took about three days. I knit English style, so I made up my own technique which involved keeping both yarns on my right index finger and flipping them back and forth with my thumb. It meant that I had to untwist the two balls of yarn pretty often, but it also helped me keep a good tension and my floats are nice and even and all going the same direction.

hat3

Look at that stranding! So pretty! So neat! So even! I impressed myself a lot with this project. There was very little puckering, even before I blocked it, and then once I did block it, it became nice and soft, and drapey. The only puckering left is in where I changed needle sizes, but that’s not in the stranded areas. And now I’m looking for any opportunities I can find to wear my hat, even though spring is on its way.

Photo Mar 19, 7 05 03 PM

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drat

Oh sure, I planned out all my spring and summer (and probably fall and winter, if I’m honest) knitting, and Quince and Co releases a collection of patterns for their linen yarn. I love linen. I especially like the little apron-like top. It’s fun and different, and I have a thing for linen and aprons.

apron

In fact,  I have a pinafore from Rough Linen and I love it so much. I wear it all weekend no matter what I’m doing-yard work, cooking, cleaning. It’s the best thing ever. I have the natural linen color, but I think I might save up for a black one too. And then I’ll wear it everywhere, and pretend it’s a tunic top and not an apron at all.

pinafore

I also love this linen dress (found via Miss Moss). I might need to make myself something similar. I could wear a dress like that every day and be happy about it.

jane-sew-006

Next time I’ll have a post about something I actually made, instead of talking about things I want to make.

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