Lovely Yarn Escapes

My Adventures in Knitting, truly my Yarn-escape!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Yarns - Socks and "The Nightingale"


     I started my Christmas knitting in June.  Finished my son's gift A Sockhead Hat and sent it off to Alaska to keep him warm.  Instead of the hat, I plan to make him a pair of socks for his Christmas gift out of Payton's yarn (nice and thick).  His girlfriend Emily loved this sock yarn I got last December (Stroll Tonal Sock Yarn) and I asked her what she wanted from it. "Socks!" was her immediate reply.  She's a Mainer, I understand.  So I started hers using How I Make My Socks by Susan Anderson.  I'm a sock newbie and going slow, but they're slowly forming, a little bit every day.

     I started another book by Kristen Hannah The Nightingale.  The words are magically transporting you to the Summer of '39, right before the war in Europe.  The summer is beautiful and talk of war is among men in the cafe.  A French family walk to the beach and have a picnic. The wife refuses to talk about such nonsense as war.  You sense the beauty of the day.  How poignant, knowing as the reader does that this is it, it's ending.  I pause and drink that in.  A taste of yesterday.  So this book obviously will be an amazing read.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

My Yarns - Age of Brass and Steam Shawl and "A Walk in The Woods"

 Malabrigo Silky Merino Yarn - Turquoise (this picture doesn't capture the true turquoise)

      I bought some beautiful Malabrigo Silky Merino Yarn in turquoise this past winter intending it for another Peace Shawl, but I felt I needed to do something else with this beautiful yarn.  But no matter how hard I looked I couldn't find a perfect fit.  A few weeks ago searching for a pattern for something else I came across the pattern The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief and knew that was it!  I've done it before but not in the silk yarn it called for.  Immediately I scrounged and found my size 8 circular needles and started.  Its sumptuous to the touch and a fun in between knit when I'm working on Christmas socks with tiny needles.  It's funny how easy it is compared to the last time when I was new to shawl making.  Now I identified exactly how I kept losing a stitch then.  There's a YO at each end, but when you go to purl after it if don't wrap it twice (instructions on the bottom of the pattern) you lose that YO.  Mystery solved and now my counts are even and perfect.

© Orange Flower Yarn

     I'm just at the tail end of "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson and again it's a book I don't want to see end.  It's not just it's subject matter, hiking the Appalachian Trail, but his writing.  He's witty and interesting.  He fills in his adventures with interesting facts and historical anecdotes.

 Below Mount Washington in autumn. Photo by Jim Salge.Stories of Transformations on the Appalachian Trail

     Bryson didn't actually hike the whole trail.  Bill and his friend Stephen Katz never intended to, well maybe at the very beginning but when they stopped at a rest stop with a map and saw their days of efforts reduced to two inches of the entire Appalachian Trail, they suddenly decided that less was best.
"Look at the map, and then look at the part we've walked.
He looked [Katz], then looked again. I watched closely as the expression drained from his face. 'Jesus' he breathed at last. He turned to me, full of astonishment. 'We've done nothing.'
We went and got a cup of coffee and sat for some time in a kind of dumbfounded silence. All that we had experienced and done - all the effort and toil, the aches, the damp, the mountains, the horrible stodgy noodles, the blizzards, the dreary evenings with Mary Ellen, the endless, wearying, doggedly accumulated miles - all that came to two inches. My hair had grown more than that.
One thing was obvious. We were never going to walk to Maine." (p. 105)
     But they soon found the concept of not needing to do the whole AT as liberating, they could simply enjoy themselves.  What they did do was still very impressive.  He did over 800 miles.  In "Lost on the Appalachian Trail" by Kyle Rohrig Rohrig is critical of Bryson because he didn't do the whole trail.  As a Thru-Hiker (a person who does the whole 2,200 miles of trail) he says people who skip ahead use the moniker "Bill Brysoning".  Reasoning like this is probably why I'm not fond of Kyle Rohrig, but his book is interesting in that it details all the places his been on the AT.  His dog joins him and he becomes a bit more likable after that.  

     Meanwhile, Bryson and Katz in "A Walk" hike Shenandoah National Park, which they enjoyed, and then stop for a pause in their hike to go home for a while with plans to reunite in Maine for The 100 mile Wilderness Trail in Maine.  Interestingly during this time Bryson missed hiking, felt itchy to be back on the trail so he tried to walk snippets of it by driving there and hiking in. This proved very frustrating for him.  He explores between Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Delaware River Gap.  He has much more success going on day trips in Vermont and scaling larger mountains in New Hampshire with another friend.  I'm right now where he's reunited with Katz and they've started walking the 100 mile Wilderness Trail in Maine and it's interesting to me because my son led a group a few years ago on that exact hike for a freshman orientation trip.  Only him and another student, no "Adults" (my son was about 20 at the time).  He had a Wilderness First Aid course (he's taken more since) in preparation.  I was aware that you need to ford lots of streams on the trail and its lots of going up and down mountains.  He also reported seeing 7 moose.  Within a day Bryson has "forded" (really dunk and got fished out) a large body of water and seen a moose (which he describes as innocent looking, maybe so but they're reputed to be dangerous).  I need to ask my son to read this book if he hasn't already and ask for his opinion.

 For those who can't get out to walk the woods, I stumbled across this blog post that I thought helpful - Let’s go for a walk in the woods! (Guided imagery relaxation exercise)

     While these books about walking the AT can be serious, humorous, they also uncover the peace and beauty of the hike.  Kyle Roerig would explain how hard it was transitioning from towns to back on the trail.  While going out "on the town" (or whatever outpost available), it was always a relief to him to get back to the woods where there is solitude and the calming noises of nature.  Bill Bryson describes how he was enveloped by the experience of being in the wilds, but his friend who went with him never connected.  I find I have often, especially in stressful or upsetting situations imagined I was walking my favorite section of a little dirt road through the woods to our swimming hole.  It borders the stream so my mental images have roaring water in the background.  Here are some guides to disappearing into the woods for an inner peace fix:

and another imagery relaxation exercise:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday's Yarns - A Hat to Alaska and "A Walk in The Woods"

Maggie, my youngest teen

     I finished my son's hat (Sockhead Slouch Hat in Patrons Kroy Sock FX yarn in Canyon) and I'm getting it in the mail for Alaska on Friday with a bag of Reese's pieces.  I hadn't heard from him since he left at the beginning of June for a job fishing salmon on Kodiak Island.

   He's off the grid so I wasn't surprised by not hearing from him, in college he was sometimes too busy to check in with us.  But there's something about him being off the grid, in Alaska and comments people had made about bears and that they hope he has a gun that made me uneasy. 

 Some shots I got before he was off the grid - Anchorage 

  But I assured myself that I do have confidence in him.  Besides his innate common sense, he trained three times in different Wilderness First Aid courses.

 But even though he's fishing with nets off skiffs during the day, he did say he wanted to test out his hammock.  He designed a warming cocoon around a hammock (I think in preparation for hiking the Appalachian Trail at some point).  But with images of bears planted in my mind by strangers, I started to envision my son as a tasty hotdog roll hanging from a tree (for a bear). 

      No news was getting to me so I asked his girlfriend in Maine.  Of course, she heard from him!  He's alive, well and reading lots of books.  (One book he started was one I gave him for graduation. He had said he wanted to be off the grid to think and contemplate so I gave him - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values", which he's loving).  Yesterday we received a fat letter, one for each of us.  My son is doing well.  He says Alaska is beautiful but the fishing is hard, the weather blustery and cold (he misses the Bar Harbor, Maine summer), and the haul on fish low this year (he's paid based on their haul).  But he says it's worth the adventure of being in Alaska and doing something different.  I'm relieved.  He works every day, with long breaks between hauling in fish.  They have to close at times when the Alaskan Woods and Waters says they are impacting spawning.  So when down they repair nets, still work hard but no boats are coming their way so letters don't get out. He did mention hiking but said in a letter to his sister that the little speaker she gave him probably scares away the bears.

     In my desire to feel closer to my son I read "The Great Alone", about homesteading in Alaska, which was one of the best books I've read.  After that, I read "Wild", also a good read.  My blog post last week was "Wild" and Easy Goes It Shawl.  So wanting to continue my reading about wilderness and mentally walking these great trails I ordered "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson.  While I waited I started "Lost on the Appalachian Trail" by Kyle Rohrig on my kindle (the paperback is pricey and beware on Amazon "Used" starts at $29 and goes up to $88).  Then my "Walk in the Woods" came early, so I'm reading both.

      "Lost" I'm finding a bit harder to read because the author comes across as this macho guy that's recounting his adventures, but his style just grates on me.  Reading this after reading some great books by awesome authors makes this one a bit of a chore.  I want to know what he has to say, but less of him would have been more.  But many people love his book.   He is recounting the trail methodically and I appreciate that.  One day my son and his girlfriend might be doing the AT and I want to know what it's like.  So diving into "A Walk" as soon as I got it was necessary as "Lost" was annoying me (but I'm working through it).

      Now "A Walk" is an entirely different matter.  The prose is perfect, engaging.  He was already a writer by profession and he is so witty with a dry humor.

"Not long after I moved. I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town. A sign announced that this was no ordinary footpath but the celebrated Appalachian Trail...Who could say the words 'Great Smoky Mountains' or 'Shenandoah Valley' and not feel an urge, as the naturalist John Muir once put it, to 'throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.?' " A Walk p.3

On bears: (Bryson seemed to be fixated on the potential of a bear attack before he set out, reading a manual on what to do if you encounter one.)

"Through long winters in New Hampshire, while snow piled up outdoors and my wife lumbered peacefully beside me, I lay saucer-eyed in bed reading clinically precise accounts of people gnawed pulpy in their sleeping bags, plucked whimpering from their trees, even noiselessly stalked..." A Walk p. 15

     He does go on to say statistically speaking the event of a bear attack on the AT was low, but jokingly points out basically if you're that guy that is attacked well you don't care about the statistic. He differentiates between the grizzly, which doesn't roam the Appalachian mountains and the black bear that does.  The bears do react differently and it's good if you live in bear areas to know the difference.

"So let us imagine that a bear does go for us in the wilds.  What are we to do?  Interestingly the advised stratagem are exactly opposite for grizzly and black bear.  With a grizzly, you should make for a tall tree, since grizzled aren't much for climbing. If a tree is not available, then you should back off slowly, avoiding direct eye contact. All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on no account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard when he gives it. Take it from me, if you are in an open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life. However, when the grizzly overtakes you, as it most assuredly will, you should fall to the ground and play dead..." A Walk p. 17

     He describes how different the black bears are, who would love to climb that tree you're in and if you play dead they'll just keep on gnawing on you.  (An interesting comment at the end of the book I happened to see said that Bryson never did see a bear. I don't know if he was disappointed.)  Interestingly, I was reading the "Lost" book at the same time and it's author Kyle Rohrig described how he purposefully didn't obey park rules in the Shenandoah National Park that said to not use a hammock (meant to reduce bear attacks).  He explains how he wants to see a bear, that's one of his goals.  To see as many bears as possible.  Living with bears just outside my door makes me very cautious of bears.  All I could do when reading that was to roll my eyes.  We don't need to be terrified like Bryson, but just knowledgeable of what to do and not do.  And as I've seen my NJ relatives do this summer, don't run towards bears if they're sighted.  Don't look for trouble.  Know what to do and take it seriously as a potential threat.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday's Yarns: "Wild" and Easy Goes It Shawl

     In between working on my son's hat (A Sockhead Hat and "The Great Alone"), I've been knitting a new shawl Easy Goes It (I love shawls!).  This is a simple pattern, pretty much mindless knitting, but the results are really nice.  I'm using a Malabrigo Sock Yarn in Caribeno I got for my birthday two years ago.  I've tried it in several projects that didn't work and I really want to wear it.  Hence a simple, easy pattern.  Also, it's summer and my brain wants to escape into my reading and my knitting projects have to cooperate with that.  If I can do both at once it gets my attention!  The Slouch Hat won in that area.  I'd grab it the most and it's a few days from being done.

 Easy Goes It (Ravelry Shots)
© Finicky Creations

© Finicky Creations

      My son's hat was meant for Christmas, but my husband suggested I send it to him in Alaska where he's fishing for salmon.  A job that gives him a cabin and an outhouse for the summer, off the grid.  It's 50's, sporadic rain on Kodiak Island and out on the boat I'm sure it's cold.  The hat, mostly wool will be cozy and warm.

“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. 
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”  Cheryl Strayed. Wild. p. 207

     I've discovered a new genre for me that I am loving.  Traveling into wild untamed areas vicariously in my reading chair (while I knit, of course).  After "The Great Alone" by Kristen Hannah I had a hard time going on reading something else.  I think that book was one of the best I've read.  But I got "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed for my birthday and I pressed on.  Now I'm hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in a recounting that's great.  Strayed writes of the why she's hiking alone on this trail and then dives into the ups and downs of her adventures.  We delve into the author's life from her grief over her mother's death and other dark sides of her life she was trying to escape from and reclaim herself.  Her journey is wonderfully and frankly written.  I love reading overcoming adventure stories.  Truly encouraging.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday's Yarns - A Sockhead Hat and "The Great Alone"

     I started this hat the first day my son went to Alaska in June, a few days after graduating from an Ecology College in Maine.  He's salmon fishing for a job, living in a cabin off the grid till autumn.  So I started his Sockhead Slouch Hat for Christmas knowing he wouldn't see the posts and also to feel closer to him.

     The hat is being knitted up in Patons Kroy Sock FX yarn in Canyon.  It is a bit scratchy so I plan to soak it in conditioner when I'm done, a recommended trick by Ravelry users of the yarn.  I'm surprised at how simple the knit is and how I want to grab it all the time and knit and read at the same time.  That's how easy it is.  It seems fast, but I have been at it for more than a month, but not bad for me, a slow knitter (and I always knit several projects at once).  I'm already planning the next one and I have picked out the colors.  The yarn has great colorways and even though it's scratchy a bit, it's got a few things going for it besides the color.  It's supposed to be very durable as sock yarn so I plan to do socks up also for my son in it, he always works hard outdoors as a carpenter.  Also, it's a hefty wool, it ought to be warm.  Another thing it's a little heavier than normal fingering wt. so it does knit faster.  I'm hoping to find a simple sock pattern for a size #2 needle.  That's the size recommended by a Ravelry user.  Before using the yarn I read as many comments as I could on the yarn in Ravelry and I found that very helpful - Patons Kroy Socks FX.

     My read this week "The Great Alone' by Kristin Hannah is set in Alaska in the 1970's.  A family moves off the grid, living in a tiny rustic cabin and totally unprepared for the rigors and harshness of Alaska.  The father is a Vietnam Vet and life with him is violent for his wife and 14-year-old daughter.  At first, this story gripped me because of the main character Leni, the 14 yr. old is 14 in 1974, the same as I was.  The books she read from "Watership Down" to Tolkien were books I read.   The author has the feel for the 70's as I remember it.  But, Leni enters into a world where she needs to survive, learn to shoot a gun and survive her family and Alaska in deep dark winter.  The book is at turns amazingly beautiful, filled with descriptions of Alaska and Leni's growing love for Alaska.  Then harsh and oh-so-real in the abusive situation Leni is in and the realities of living off the grid in an Alaskan winter.  The author's descriptions of Alaska are noticeably detailed and in an interview, she said she had lived in Alaska some summers - KRISTIN HANNAH Coming of age in the wilds of Alaska.  I'm more than halfway through and despite the harshness of the abuse, it is a wonderful and gripping novel.  I highly recommend it. "The Great Alone" Book Trailer (But I must say I'm relieved my son is coming home to Maine at the end of September.  This book has a side of Alaska in Winter that is so harsh that it shocked me, yet it's so beautiful.  And right now my son is on Kodiak Island just a little bit south of Homer, Alaska near where Leni lives in the fictional town of Kaneq.).

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday's Yarns - Back From The Adirondacks


Finished my shawl on the banks of my favorite swimming hole on the Ausable River.

      I'm just back from The Adirondacks and it's my birthday, so this is going to be a very short post before I get back to my books (starting "Wild" and a history of The Adirondacks) and several early Christmas presents - socks and Sockhead hats.  And I'm baking a small Lemon Cheesecake with a pecan/coconut crust.

     I finished my Just Knit It in Stripes.  I love it (still needs to be blocked).  I'll be washing it in Woolite, then soaking it in conditioner to see if it'll soften up more.  I love Hawthorne for its colors but it's not as soft as I'd like.

Up in an old turn of the century camp on
 Upper Ausable Lake for a few days

     I'm also reading the Culper Ring Series.  I loved the first book - "The Inner Circle", but the second one "The Fifth Assasin" I'm finding a bit tedious since it's the same characters and similar plot schemes as the first book.  Also, perhaps the theme of assassinations of presidents doesn't thrill me.  But I'm trying to plow on.  I'm getting pulled away by some very interesting reads - "Wild", and The Adirondacks: A History of America's First Wilderness, both I've just started, so more on them next week.  

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