Monday, January 21, 2013

Vortex Shawl - How to Block a Circular Item or What I Do When I Am Too Sick To Run

I spent the past weekend bundled up indoors recovering from a respiratory virus. With all this downtime I finished up one project and even got around to blocking it. As the knitters who read this blog may know, lace doesn't look like much until it is blocked. 
Vortex Shawl pre-blocking

Now, I have knit many triangular shawls, but have not knit a circular one in nearly 20 years, and I don't think I bothered to block that one. Blocking wires work great when there are straight edges involved, but I don't have any that are flexible enough for this application. A little internet research (thanks Ravelry) led me to search out some fishing line. 

Super Strong and Nearly Invisible

But first things first. Into a sinkful of warm, soapy water (Dr. Bronner's Unscented Liquid Soap) to soak:
Wool Floats

After a nice long soak and a rinse it was time to squeeze the excess water out.  The key to washing woolens (or any fiber that will felt) is to keep water temperature changes to a minimum, avoid agitating the item, and never wring (twist) the item.

Laid out on a clean towel

A little extra weight applied to squeeze out the last bit of water

Now it was time to run the fishing line through the edging. Per some instructions I found I pinned a fabric measuring tape to the center of the shawl so I could achieve an even radius. I then pinned out the shawl, working first on one side, then the other to keep the tension as even as possible. 


It took over an hour to get this pinned out. I then spent some time tightening the fishing line to more evenly pull out the edges of the shawl. If you click on the photo below you might be able to see how I anchored the  ends of the fishing line to some extra pins to hold the line taut.

The shawl ended up being about 40 inches across, smaller than I initially thought it would be. Not sure what, or who, this is for, yet.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yes, I Still Knit

It has been awhile since I have posted any substantial knitting content.  A peek at what I have been up to:

Arrowhead Mittens v3. ©Wildknits.
Thumb gusset
This version has a more traditional 3 inch cuff (vs the original pair with a 7 inch cuff) and a redesigned thumb pattern.  I actually knit three mittens for this pair. The first acted as a gauge swatch and resulted in my adjusting the pattern for a  better fit for the recipient.

Lorne's Hat - design by Yarn Harlot
If you follow the link you will see this hat is meant to be folded up. I had a skein of sock yarn that when knitted up yielded a pattern that I did not like. But in a hat, the stripes worked much better.

Jenny's Socks 
This yarn was much more subtle in the skein. Interesting how the use of flash really made the colors stand out. As you can see, I do not obsess about ensuring that socks perfectly match each other.

Shell Lace Scarf - ©Wildknits.
Based on a pattern stitch from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker, pg 209
I have a large supply of Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in this colorway leftover from a previous project. I find having a little lace on hand to be comforting. I designed the scarf to test this pattern to see if it would work as an edging for a circular shawl I need to finish. This is it's second incarnation; on the first I had three repeats of the pattern, which turned out to be too wide for my liking (~10 inches lightly blocked). This scarf should be about 6 - 6.5 inches wide once blocked. Length will be determined by my attention span.

Heart Elbow Patch - Knitting Workshop by Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ), pg 155
I picked up this sweater (100% wool, men's x-large) years ago at a thrift store. It had been shrunk by a previous owner. I love the color and the warmth and had worn it to the point of holes in the elbows and battered cuffs. The other night I finally got around to knitting up some elbow patches and sewing them in place. I also darned the cuffs back together. While I was working on this Mr. Wildknits commented that I could have just replaced the sweater. I informed him that I had been unable to find one in that particular color. He then suggested I knit myself a new sweater. I do have a pattern for a saddle-shouldered sweater knit in the round ( Thanks EZ!) and I am pretty sure I can match this color. Will be adding this to my project queue.

Vortex Shawl - ready to be finished
This shawl has been languishing for quite a while. The pattern calls for a picot edge. I am NOT a fan of picot, and in this yarn, with these needles.... ugh! I have been searching for just the right edging for this, taking into account that I have only one skein left of the yarn and no real guarantee I could find another. As mentioned above, I thought the shell lace pattern might work, the curves reflecting the spirals in the shawl. As I worked on the scarf I became less fond of that idea, concerned that the pattern would be too wide and too yarn intensive. Off I went searching again. I finally stumbled on an edging that I think may work. It is the one used on the Hemlock Ring Doily Blanket. I will be giving this a try over the weekend as I really want the 40 inch circular needle for this:

Supplies for the Mini Mania Scarf
As you can see I have accumulated a bit of sock yarn over the years (this is a 11 x 17 x 10 inch box). The pattern calls for a minimum of 5 grams of each color. So, I sat down one night with our kitchen scale and weighed all of the sock yarn that easily came to hand. Looking through my stash led to memories of each pair of socks knitted, and who for, over the past 15+ years.  It also yielded a supply of the exact yarn needed to darn a pair of Mr. Wildknits socks. My goal is to use up most, if not all, of the yarn in this box by the time the scarf is finished. Bonus: I will learn a new stitch pattern. It is always good to expand ones skills. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday's are for Running to - and from - Work

Sun just peeking through the clouds over Lake Superior


Looking east as I round the hairpin curve on Skyline Boulevard

Today's route involved a traverse of 40th Ave W. Much of this road washed away in the flood of June 2012
 I keep wishing we would get a serious snowstorm so I could bring a sled over and make a run or two down this hill. It is over half a mile long with some great turns. But alas, we seem to specialize in spotty snow and rain now.

A local biker is a regular on this route, as are a few dog walkers.

Some of the damage on the upper portion of the road. 


A peek at one of the washed out sections of road - in this spot at least half of the roadway is gone. The ditch is over 6 feet deep.

Just a little frosty. It was about 9 degrees when I left home.

On the run home.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A winter hike - Split Rock Loop

Mr. Wildknits and I decided to take a drive up the shore and hike the Split Rock Loop. We chose to start out by walking the road section first and traversing the loop in reverse. This allowed us to tackle a steep climb (including a section with a lot of ice) early in the hike. It was nice to see the trail from this perspective - and it appeared we were the only folks who have hiked it in this way.

The northeast side of the Split Rock River was very sunny and warm today. Not so much on the southwest side. Since we delayed lunch until after crossing the bridge this made finding a sunny spot a bit of a challenge. We finally stopped at a bend in the river with a nice cedar whose roots we took advantage of for dry, snow-free seating.

While eating I noticed this little critter scurrying across the snow-covered river:

I didn't see any signs of wings, so am a bit baffled as to identification. Anyone have any ideas as to what it may be? Temperatures were in the upper teens to low 20's F at the time I took these photos. And this little guy could move fast! It was hard to capture pictures of it.

We tested out the ice on this section of the river and crossed it to check out a cedar that was growing in a crack in the rhyolite cliff. Pretty impressive perseverance  when you consider how high the river can get during spring ice out and storms. The roots were only a couple of feet above winter river level.

Mr. Wildknits took this opportunity to have me pose for a portrait.

Not sure why I have such a stern look on my face - maybe the sun? The cedar I photographed is just off to my left in this photo.  And then I thought I should get a shot next to the cedar. 

We got going again and between the lengthy stop and the shade I got a bit too chilled. This resulted in a minor Raynaud flare in my hands. Good motivator to hike fast to warm up. 

We finished out the hike by checking out the new pedestrian underpass at the wayside rest. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Yearly Mileage Goals

I seem to stumble upon these goals sometime in the last quarter of the year when I review mileage totals. In 2010 I was thrilled to hit 1500. I had hoped to do the same in 2011 but was derailed by a stress fracture and was very happy to reach 1000 miles. I had no real mileage goals for 2012, though figured 1500 was reasonable considering I was training for my first hundred miler. I had four 50+ mile weeks in April, so looked to be well on track.

Then things at work went a bit haywire. It was a very stressful spring/summer which had me unable to take much time off, putting in extra hours, and contemplating my career path. Add to that heat and I really scaled back on my running with only two 50+ mile weeks in August.

By the second week in September I had hit 1400 miles for the year. Hmmmm..... 1500 seemed pretty attainable. I think someone in my local running group threw out the number 2000 and I simply laughed, even my rudimentary math skills told me that would be a reach.

Sometime in late October I realized that 1800 was a reasonable goal, assuming no injuries or illness. I was well on my way at that point and just had to remain consistent. The weather in my area can make this tough. We have had some snow, but not enough to make the trails reliably runnable. This means more time on pavement in an attempt to get in longer runs without risking a slip and fall (the sections of the Superior Hiking Trail I usually run have  a few steep climbs and cliffs).

By the last week in December I had only 15 miles to go and then I headed off to the Tuscobia Winter Ultra to volunteer. I packed my running gear (as always) yet didn't leave the race headquarters - at least to run. This meant I had to get in a long run on the 31st. And of course this was a really cold day.

Fortunately  I have a really good friend who was more then willing to come out and ensure I logged those final miles. Rather than hitting the trails for one long loop, with no potential for a bailout if we got too cold, we opted to run at Hartley Park in the heart of town. This would allow us to:
a) quit if we got really cold
b) get some protection from the wind
c) scope out the trail for the following days Barely Organized New Years Day Run

It took me 3 miles (vs my usual 1 - 1.5) for my feet and hands to get fully warm. My Raynauds had kicked in full force due to getting chilled prior to starting the run. The loops were 6 miles long and during the 2nd one I was rethinking the importance of reaching an arbitrary number. I was tired, my legs were tightening up.... whine, whine, whine. By then Ron was in full pacer mode (he had ample training at Sawtooth) and was making sure I was eating and even singing Bob Marley to me.

As we approached the end of the loop Ron and I discussed how to modify it so we would reach 15 miles at a scenic spot in the park. We hit on a solution and headed out for the final 3 mile loop.

 First attempt to document - too big and too far out on the pond

 Snow angel - because why not on a day with windchill readings below zero

 It also hides the fact I can't seem to accurately right out 1800

Evidence that it was indeed me that made the snow angel