My Adventures in Knitting, truly my Yarn-escape!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Yarns: Beach Hairband KAL and "The Summer Wives"

     I started Beach Hair Don't Care hairband and I'm working on it sporadically around my other projects.  I'm determined to work on my Christmas sock, finish my shawl and a few other things.  But I want to work on this little lace hair band.  I shake my head as I force myself to focus on the other stuff while this little project is calling me.  Maybe today I'll be better to myself and let myself just knit on it.  But my The Age of Brass and Steam shawl is just a few rows away from finishing and I promised to work on the sock every day, just a bit.  See how it goes?

© Melissa Kemmerer

     If you want to participate in the KAL it runs from August 21st - September 16th and you can join us in Facebook - Nomadic Knits.  You need 80 yards of fingering yarn, size #4 circular needle and 2 #4 double pointed needles (I used #3 for my I-cord).  So far it's a fun and fairly easy knit.  I especially enjoyed doing the I-cord since I've never done it before. (Project notes on hairband - Beach Hairband)

     My new read "The Summer Wives" was a Book of the Month selection for July and it's a good summer read.  A murder mystery and love story are interwoven in the story of wealthy summer people and the locals on an island off Connecticut.  The time frame goes back and forth between the 30's, 50's and 60's.  You know who is killed but not why or how and you have hints the convicted murderer isn't the one responsible.  Who and why weave through a story evoking the past and recounting the beauty of the island and sea with the wind and the scents entwined in her words.

" 'The only girl...the only girl...' He took a breath like he was going to try again to finish that sentence, but while my ears strained hard for the next words, I never heard them. Only the whoosh of the breeze in my ears. We stood near the crest of the slope, where the road curved near the cliffs, and I thought that anybody could see us like this, in pungent silhouette sgainst the sky. The sun struck the side of Joseph's face, the wind whistled through his hair. He picked up my hand and looked at it. Turned it over and looked up at me. 'There's only one girl on my mind...' "

     The book especially drew me because of its depiction of the dichotomy between the wealthy summer people and the hard-working locals.  I've experienced that myself in our summer home when growing up.  My family summers in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks in Upstate New York.  They have since my great-grandfather before the turn of the last century.  They all belonged to an exclusive club, my father and brother still do.  The Ausable Club encompasses the lakes at the headwaters of the Ausable River and also many beautiful spots that I have visited as a child.  So thankfully, because of my brother's invitation to go with his family and all the cousins into the camp on the Upper Lake every year, I can still go in and enjoy the lakes and streams.

     The place seems frozen in time. The Ausable clubhouse built sometime in the late 1800's.  But this entire upper society comes into the Valley every summer and there's a certain separateness between locals and club members.  A certain disdain at times between the upper crust and those who are locals who they call Townies.   And from the locals, a faint subservience comes across in their actions and speech.  After all their survival depends on these wealthy summer people.  I've never liked that dynamic and I found it embarrassing to be lumped in with my father when shopping in the local store.  At least that's what I noticed when I was young, perhaps things have changed.  That dynamic is realistically recreated in this book.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Yarns - A Silky Shawl and "The Nightingale"

     I thought tiny would be nice.  I wanted a small kerchief around my neck for the Fall, even though I have two skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino in Teal Feather (alas, the pictures don't capture the bright turquoise color), I was planning to only use one skein.  I finished The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief as designed (after the third round of eyelets).  Bound off, wrapped it around my neck to show my husband and paused.  This is REALLY tiny, I thought.  And not as beautiful as it could be, the rest of the yarn forlornly waiting in my bag.  Instantly, I knew I had to rip out my day's work and finish off the second skein for another tier of stockinette and eyelet holes.  I could imagine the warmth and softness from a fuller shawl around my neck; really feel that sumptuous soft silky yarn in my mind.  I'll finish it just in time to usher in Fall.

     I'm still reading "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah and enjoying it fully.  She evokes an era, especially the life in the French countryside as war breaks out.  It reminded me of this apartment I saw in an article that had been discovered after 70 years. 

      This Parisian woman left her Paris apartment and locked her door the year the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 and England and France declared war on Germany.  She relocated down South within the Free Zone of France and in June of the following year, Paris was invaded, as this book describes, with millions thrown out in the streets as refugees, heading South.  These pictures in the article give a glimpse of an era gone by - A Home Was Abandoned In 1939. 70 Years Later, They Unlock The Door And Find Something Stunning.  A book I just found is inspired by this woman and her apartment - "The Velvet Hours".  I will be checking it out, it's recommended for lovers of "The Nightingale".

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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

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

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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