Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Before Heading For Home

on Sunday, we stopped by New Salem. This is a reconstruction of the town Lincoln lived in after leaving his parents' home and before going to Springfield. The first stop was the visitor's center, which has some nice displays and a good introductory video. Of course my eye was caught by the wheels right above the reception desk.


I loved the gardens, all planted with heirloom varieties.

There were friendly, well informed docents in several of the cabins. One was demonstrating woodworking in the coopers shop, and a mother/daughter team was cooking on a wood fire at the tavern. Alas, no one was tending the loom, but I can see under the cover sheet that there is a work in progress, so they must have a volunteer weaver there sometimes.

At least two of the cabins had more spinning wheels (they have quite a collection).

The building I found most fascinating was the carding mill. Here's the equipment on the inside.

And here's what made it run.

A huge tilted treadmill, all wood including including the giant gears and cogs. An ox would be tethered on the far side near the top and would turn the wheel by walking. I don't know whether this is currently in working order, but I would love to see the whole business in action. I suppose there would be issues, safety and the treatment of animals are two that come to mind, but it sure would be fascinating to watch.
I would have liked to walk all the way down to the river to see the lumber mill, but we needed to hit the road back to Wisconsin. Next time....

On Saturday

We visited the new Lincoln Presidential Museum and the adjoining Presidential library.

The museum is state of the art in terms of it's presentation with lots of multimedia, and even some startling special effects - all very high quality technically, and in fact it turns out that much was designed by Disney. That sounds as if it could be awful in terms of either dumbing down or romanticising/mythologizing the content. But that wasn't the case. The content was high value, placing Lincoln in context (or rather the several historical contexts over the course of his life and career). Particularly during the section covering the Civil War period, it stressed the complexity and variety of contemporary responses to the situation and to Lincoln himself. It was informative and often very moving.

It took us about three hours to go through, and there are areas I would like to return to. Just one example: one room had a wall of photographs of people from the Civil War period: men, women, Black, White, northerners, southerners, the cross section was very inclusive. On touch screens, you could pick a photo, and then read more information that individual. I could have easily spent an hour in that area alone.

The library next door is a major archive, and appears to be very open to almost anyone wanting to do research on the period.

In the afternoon we went to the Lincoln home.

This is part of a small but wonderful national park - just a couple of blocks in the middle of the city. There is a good visitors center, the street has been restored as closely as possible to it's appearance during Lincoln's day, with what original buildings remain in place maintained (though not open). We had walked down the street on Friday evening after dark - the only people in the place. On a warm summer evening with fireflies flickering the effect was almost magical. Our actual tour through the house on Saturday was a bit crowded and rushed, with a young guide who seemed just a bit too bored. I'm glad we had done this once before, a few years ago, with a much better guide. But it was still wonderful to be there.

We also went out to the tomb/monument. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of that. The monument is quite immense. You enter at the base into a small rotunda, walk quietly around a circular hallway to the actual burial place at the back, then continue around again to the rotunda. A volunteer is posted there, so far as I know always a veteran, who is willing to answer questions, but the emphasis is on the immediate experience, quiet and reverential, rather than informational - which seems as it should be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Springfield

Friday evening, we took a walking tour of downtown Springfield. A lot of the original structures of note during Lincoln's time there are gone, of course; but the guide gave an overview of Lincoln's time in Springfield, did his best to paint a word picture of what it would have looked like at that time and pointed out significant locations. This is the centerpiece, the old state capitol, where Lincoln served as state representative, beautifully restored inside and out.

Doubly historic, President Obama announced his candidacy from those front steps.

Just across the street, this also still stands.

A modern addition.

This last has nothing whatsoever to do with Lincoln, but I took the picture during the walk because I really love that art deco building on the right.


We've just returned from a weekend trip to Springfield, Illinois with some dear friends from California. The focus of the trip was on visiting Lincoln sites, but the motel turned out to be a rather delightful surprise from a different era. It's the "youngest" building with an historical designation in Springfield, restored to it's 1960's glory.

Of course, it's a little scary that I remember the period so clearly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fingers Crossed

I have about 1/4 inch to go before starting the toe decreases on the first sock.

I think the yarn might hold out. Sweatin' it out in the home stretch, and not just because the weather has been almost too hot for knitting.

Sometimes I Just Love Our Local Paper

You can, if you are so moved, click on the picture to make it big.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I'm very fond of old knitting books, so I was delighted when this turned up at the library used book sale yesterday.

I was holding down the fort at the library itself, while the sale was going on across the way at the Legion building, but Gretchen spotted this and held it aside for me, for which I am grateful.

The bulk of the book is a collection of charts for color patterns, most of which I already have available in one source or another (though a couple were new to me). But when it first came out it must have been like the Barbara Walker for Scandinavian color patterns. Barbara, wonderful as she is, scorned to include more than one pattern for stranded color work in her first "Treasury"; and even that, one feels, only reluctantly. She says these are not properly speaking stitch patterns, (being basically stockinette), describes the technique succinctly, and then says (justly) that anyone can work out designs for themselves.

I suspect she simply didn't enjoy this type of knitting or find it very interesting, which is fine. She gave us more than enough in other areas. Still, I imagine that at the time there were many knitters who were interested in the technique and didn't want to spend hours working out different variations with pencil and graph paper, or who were in search of authentic looking patterns for ski sweaters and such. For them, Chatterton must have been a godsend.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Very stormy, high winds, thunder that woke me up and five inches of rain in not much more than five hours.

Those little petals aren't blowin' in the wind. They've been mashed into that position and are holding it.

Needless to say, there were quite a few plants down in the yard, though the effect was oddly spotty. Of course the remaining peonies were flattened, but the new delphinium (just about to bloom) was unscathed.

On one side of the big flower bed, the spiderwort was totally smashed.

Just around the corner, it's still standing tall.

And thank goodness, these lilies (and the yarrow) look as if nothing had happened at all.

It's sunny with a light breeze right now, though water is still standing in the yard and the sump pump is working overtime. But the forecast calls for more rain. Could be flooding in the lower park, just in time for the Father's Day Chicken BBQ. As long as it isn't actively raining mid-day, that won't be a problem. All the food action takes place in the upper park, well above flood level.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mood Indigo

One of my indulgences at Maryland Sheep & Wool was a hank of hand painted fingering weight from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. It's a wonderful range of denim blues. I'm using it to knit up a second version of the socks I recently did in greens/turquoise (pattern tentatively titled "Trout Stream" at this point.)

The yarn ("Alexandra" in colorway "Blue Jeans") is lovely to work with. It's a superwash 100% merino with a fair amount of twist - enough to keep it from being splitty and to give it a nice bounce. Usually I want some nylon in my sock yarn, for durability, but this color just called out to me. It's a tad darker than the picture shows on my monitor, and some of the more subtle shadings don't show up in the pic. Very soothing to comtemplate as I work along. I am just a little bit worried that I won't have enough to fit my big feet, only 382 yards total. I guess this is one of those occasions when it would have been smarter to work toe up.

I have tweaked the pattern stitches on the heel flap and the instep, just a little bit, and I'm glad I did. I liked the first version, but I like this better.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Inadvertent Potato

At least I think that's what this might be.

I haven't ever grown potatoes, so I'm not sure. It came up all by itself in the compost heap, but I had thrown some old sprouting spuds out there not that long ago. On the other hand, lots of things come up in the compost that are simply weeds.

Anyone out there know a potato plant when they see one?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Over the Weekend

On Saturday, I came home crabby from work. Why will people come in ten minutes before closing and expect to use the computers until two minutes after closing and then have questions about reference materials, or want to use the copy machine? I'm afraid I was rather rude. In my defense, these were people who do this kind of thing frequently.

But after I got home I calmed down and finished the headband to go along with the handwarmers.

Yesterday the Argyle Fiber Mill had a "knit in". Kristie had kitted up materials to make scarves for the Madison VA hospital. This is your basic knit lengthwise garter stitch scarf. It should give me some good conversational/TV watching knitting for a while.

It's amazing how tricky it is to cast on 175 sts in the midst of a happily chatting group, even with markers every 25 sts. Good thing one stitch over or under isn't going to make a real difference. Just sayin'.

Only minutes before I left for Argyle, some folks we knew from California called from a RV campground north of Madison, a complete surprise. So we invited them down for a cookout. Mr S, bless him, did all the arranging while I was off knitting. It was a treat to see Bob and Ginny, and their daughter Deb. (A little scary to see pictures of her twins, who are now 16, because I can remember her when she was 16). And I was really touched that Ginny brought along one of her knitting projects to show me. She knit this

for one of her granddaughters. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't take a picture of her version, but she's promised to send one of her granddaughter wearing it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just Playing Around

Sometimes I think I enjoy just messing around with different stitches/stitch combinations more than anything else. I like seeing how they work, and what they might be capable of doing. In the dark blue swatch, I was experimenting with a cable combination. It's bi-laterally symmetrical, for what that is worth.

In the two lighter blue ones I was playing with a "bubble stitch" (at least that's what it's called in an old Harmony Guide). Someone had posted a picture that looked like this in a Ravelry forum and asked how it was done. After lots of good input, and some speculation that it might be a slip stitch pattern, someone else came up with directions that involved knitting into the stitch two rows below. I tried that, but it didn't seem "bubbly" enough. So I went digging around in the stitch dictionaries. The Harmony version has you knitting into the fifth row below, which I like better. I honestly don't know whether I will ever actually use this stitch in a project (though something is sort of saying "hat" to me). I did enjoy learning how to do it.

Then I spent a couple of hours this afternoon noodling with a demo of "Knit Visualizer", a software program for creating charts. Whoo Baby! It's expensive, but I really, really want it. I've been using "Stitch and Motif Maker", and that's a decent basic program. But the Knit Visualizer offers some flexibility and options that the other one just doesn't have. Time to start saving my pennies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A quick project

I had most of a skein of Cascade 220 sitting in the stash, so I decided to whip up some handwarmers. This is my Ashwaubenon pattern, and it works up really fast. (first published last year in Knitcircus and now available from my Ravelry store.)

Since I still had plenty of yarn left, I've started in on another Gemini Headband (this pattern's a freebie, and there's a link for it down toward the bottom of the sidebar.)

These are ultimately destined for a homeless shelter for LBGT teens in New York.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Well, the Critter is Finished

Seems to have a sort of manic, Rum Tum Tugger air about him. He's not very sophisticated, but I find him rather endearing.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Critter So Far

See, it's not Gumby. Gumby doesn't have a tail.

Kmkat was right, I am avoiding seams as much as possible. I did have to sew the tail on, though. Mind you, it's not that I couldn't think of a way to do that seamlessly ("afterthought" tail, anyone?) It's just that at some point, sewing a very small seam felt less awkward that fiddling around with seamless purity. There are also very small seams at the underarms. I could have grafted, but in slippery eyelash? Not me.

This is a slightly lumpy, slightly asymmetrical critter. But it's reasonably soft and squishy, and the arms, legs and tail all offer good places for little hands to grip. Once I get those slightly sinister looking needles out of it's head, and if I can embroider a face that doesn't look totally crazed, it might not be such a bad toy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Little Experiment

Up until now, one of the Things I Have Never Knit is a toy. I guess I never had any occasion for it. But now one of my Ravelry groups is making toys for children in traumatic situations, so I thought I would give it a shot. There are lots of really cute patterns available, but in my rather dogged way I am making this up as I go along. I have an idea of what I would like it to be (no, it's not Gumby in a sweater). We will see what happens.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Planning Ahead

It's not something I'm always very good at, but I'm on this one. The class list for the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival is up. There is a class I want to take at a time that I can actually be there (Cat Bordhi doing socks). Instead of just thinking about it, I got on line and registered. Yay!

The weather has been bouncing around between sunny, warm, fantastic and wet, dreary, downright cold. Yesterday was the latter variety. The new shawl came in handy.

Tied around the waist like that, it stayed put all day (and no loose floppy shawl ends to get in the way in the course of a day's activities). Makes me glad I used so much nice stretchy garter stitch in the construction.

The green socks are proceeding apace.

I have mixed feelings about these. I love the color and the leg pattern, some reservations about the top of the foot. On the needles it looks OK, but when I put it on, it's stretches out and looks a bit anemic. I'm going to finish this pair as is, but tweak the design a bit and do another. The sock yarn stash needs reduction. This will give me an incentive to have at it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Scrap Shawl Redux: How I knit on the edging

I meant to post about this sooner, but didn't take photos while I was working on the actual shawl, so have done a bit of re-creating.

Let me say right now that I love knitting on edgings. I don't know why, it is such a particularly satisfying maneuver for me to work. It just is. Let me also say at the beginning that if you have never knit on an edging before it is likely to take more yarn and more time than you anticipate (especially true for a wide lace piece). For a simple narrow one, like the one I used on the Scrap Shawl, the process just rolls right along.

For demonstration purposes, we will pretend that this is the body of the shawl, worked to full size. I have just finished the last (Wrong Side) row, and have turned it, as if I were ready to start a Right Side row. But instead of knitting away,

I cast on the number of stitches needed for the edging (in this case, five). Most of the time, I just continue with the working yarn from the shawl body, but I'm using a different color here to make the pictures clearer. In either case, I am now ready to work the first row of the edging pattern. I think of the first and all odd numbered rows as "incoming" rows, because they are working in toward the body of the shawl.

I work up to the last of the edging stitches. Then I work a decrease that uses the last edging stitch and the first of the waiting shawl body stitches. This does two things. It joins the edging to the body, and it uses up (in effect binds off), one body stitch. You could just k2tog, but I like the look better when I do this:

Sl 1 (the last edging stitch)

K1 (the first body stitch)

psso (pass slipped stitch over)

Then, as I have come to the end of the row (as far as the edging is concerned) I turn everything and work the second (outgoing) row.

Now I will turn and work the third (incoming) row, working the join again on the last edging and first body stitches. And so on, and so on.

Every two rows of the edging pattern worked will use up one more stitch from the body.

The edging pattern I used goes like this

Row 1 (incoming): k4, sl 1, k1, psso

Row 2: k5

Row 3: k1, yo twice, k3, sl 1, k1, psso (seven edging sts)

Row 4: k4, k into the first wrap of the yo, p into the second wrap of the yo, k1

Row 5: Bind off 2, k3, sl 1, k1, psso (five edging sts)

Row 6: k5

Now on a fine lace shawl, one would want to calculate the number of body stitches to be used up and the number of edging row repeats and make sure that the whole thing worked out symmetrically - especially if the each edging repeat had many more rows. But this was a very casual project, so I just fudged it. I did work in a little extra ease for the edging on either side of the point of the shawl, by working a couple of the incoming rows without a join. Just knit the last stitch instead of doing the sl 1, k1, psso; turn and work outward.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On Friday, I did get back out to the Salad Garden

And picked up the Columbine.

Also a Delphinium and a few Cosmos. So I spent the afternoon clearing out weeds and overgrown perennials to find space to put them in the ground. I think the Columbine has already bloomed for the season, but that's OK. It will be something to look forward to next year. The Delphinium is just starting to form a flower stalk. I'll be able to enjoy it this year, for sure. I did start some Delphinium seeds, but the few that came up are pretty pathetic looking. Now I have back up.

Saturday afternoon was Last Saturday knitting, a smaller group than we sometimes have, but very enjoyable.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Olbrich Gardens (a glorious day for it). As we arrived, folks were just packing up from a big Hosta sale. Most everything was gone, but there were a few stray orphans left. I thought this one looked as if it needed a good home.

Now I need to clear out some violets and maple seedlings on the north side of the house.......