Saturday, January 29, 2011


My sister and I went on our annual bird watching trip today and guess what we saw?

A Great Horned Owl!

The picture above was taken at 3pm this afternoon at the San Luis Wildlife Refuge. The owl was perched calmly on a post, perfectly happy to let me take several snapshots of him through the car window.

It was the best birding day ever.

I've been looking for Great Horned Owls at the refuge for the last few years because I read that others have seen them there, but I never had any luck. Today it was the last thing on my mind, especially in the middle of the afternoon, and there he was.

( source )

Apparently low expectations and a careless attitude are key to seeing great birds. We had just gotten started when a Greater Roadrunner darted across the road. Oh my goodness! Another bird we'd been hoping to see the last few years.

We stopped in at Mercey Hot Springs to visit the wintering Long-eared Owls, which we see every year. Today there were three or four of them roosting in a tree. Like the Great Horned Owl, they weren't at all camera shy.

Plenty of egrets out and about today, too.

And since this is a knitting blog, I have to include a photo of the lovely wool sheep we saw grazing in the grasslands.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to have a knitting retreat

I wasn't able to knit at all last week due to an intense work schedule filled with meetings, lunches, a scavenger hunt, and a cocktail party. By Friday night I was desperately in need of a quiet day all to myself in which I wasn't expected to make small talk, wear high heels and make-up, or sit in a room all day listening to strategic goals.

I needed my knitting.

So I scheduled my very own private knitting retreat in order to recover from the busy week and get reacquainted with my needles. It went something like this:

9am: Start the day with a donut with chocolate icing and multicolored sprinkles.

9:15: Fire up the laptop and check out the discussions in my Ravelry group.

9:25: Search Ravelry patterns for a blanket knit with Sprout organic cotton.

9:35: Tell self several times to turn off the computer and start knitting.

9:45: Gape at birds at feeder on patio. Inform the cats they are finches (the birds at the feeder, not the cats).

10:15: Start knitting a Modern Cabled Baby Bib in purple cotton while watching the movie Love Actually.

10:30: Decide that Colin Firth movies are an important part of any knitting retreat.

11:00: Eat second donut with chocolate icing and multicolored sprinkles.

11:15: Set aside baby bib and finish up a neck cozy.

12:30: Have lunch at the taqueria down the street while reveling in the bliss of a whole day dedicated to knitting, knitting-related activities, and donuts.

1:00: Go to LYS and purchase five skeins of Sprout for blanket pattern found earlier on Ravelry.

2:00: Return home and resume knitting baby bib.

2:55: Eat half of a maple bar.

3:00: Blog about knitting.

3:45: Switch over to knitting the neck cozy.

4:00: Eat other half of maple bar.

4:20: Force self to put knitting down and go outside for a walk.

5:00: Pick up Thai food for dinner on the way home from walk.

6:00 to 10:00: Eat dinner, watch multiple reruns of Sex in the City episodes, continue to knit while balancing two cats on lap.

11:00: Eat last donut in box and go to bed.

So there you have it. Knitting. Shopping for yarn. Ravelry. Donuts. Colin Firth. More donuts.

Why can't every day be a knitting retreat day?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Knitter's Guide to Hand Dyed and Variegated Yarn

Last weekend I attended an author event at my local yarn shop. Lorna Miser, founder of Lorna's Laces, gave a talk about her book, The Knitter's Guide to Hand Dyed and Variegated Yarn .

Lorna Miser

The book is filled with techniques and projects for multicolored yarn, including many new stitches I have never run across before. I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to this book if I hadn't attended the talk because I didn't realize how much there is to know on the subject of working with variegated yarn. It was fascinating to hear about the different methods for making certain colors pop, preventing pooling, and selecting the best lace patterns for specific types of colorways.

Lorna talked about each chapter in the book and showed us the gorgeous knit samples used in the photographs. (I wanted to tuck more than one item in my purse and quietly walk out the door with it.) She gave us tips on patterns, stitches, and techniques that make the best use of variegated colors. I was completely inspired and couldn't wait to get home and start knitting.

Here are some of the highlights from Lorna's talk:

-She founded Lorna's Laces and raised it like a child until it grew to the point that it needed more than she could give. She sold it in 2003 and went to Scotland to recover from exhaustion.

-She now designs knitting patterns for many companies, such as Fiesta, Red Heart, Lorna's Laces, and more, and says you can support yourself doing that.

-On a skein of variegated yarn, the longer the section of color, the more opportunity for pooling. She recommends untwisting a skein before you buy it to look at the dominate color and check out the length of the sections of color.

-Adding bobbles to an item (like the cute mittens in her book) can help prevent color pooling.

-When knitting Fair Isle, to prevent puckering, first drink a glass of wine.

-Seed stitch can add weight to lighter yarns.

I'm currently knitting this neck cozy from Lorna's book using a stitch called Webbed Float Stitch with alternating strands of variegated and solid colored yarn. Next I want to knit a pair of lacy silk fingerless gloves.

Next month is Stitches West! I'm attending a class on designing with lace and can't wait.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And the winner is ...

This evening I used the random number generator to pick the giveaway winners.

The winner of the Malabrigo is Dogwood of Pink Dogwood Blossom.

The winner of the Misti Alpaca is Grace of My Year of Haiku.

Thanks everyone for participating!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grey days

Grey was the theme this weekend. It isn't as gloomy as it sounds ... I happen to love grey. I tend to wear grey clothes, which I know is very drab, but what can I say, I like being comfortable. And I love grey days because of the cozy factor.

I spent a couple hours Saturday afternoon winding 650 yards of dark grey Alpaca yarn. My intent was to start knitting a new lace shawl, but after all that winding I needed a nap ... and then the day got away from me.

I'm glad now I didn't start on the shawl. This evening I attended a talk by Lorna Miser about her new book on hand-dyed and variegated yarn, and I'm itching to work with some of the more colorful skeins I bought myself for Christmas. (More about Lorna's talk in a few days.)

I woke up this morning to a thick blanket of fog. This was the view out my bedroom window ... it was quite beautiful. It reminded me of the heavy tule fog we experienced in Central California when I was a kid. My mom would wake me up with, "It's froggy out there."

It was very froggy today.

This is a big week. We have loooooong meetings scheduled almost every day at work, as well as team building events and communication workshops, culminating in a formal party Friday night with dinner and dancing. I'm a very quiet, solitary kind of person, so I'm not looking forward to the week, even though I know it will all be fine. Today I wanted to do something that makes me happy to help carry me through the week, so I headed out to (my) wildlife refuge. It was grey there, too, which of course is exactly the way I like it. The refuge looks great all eerie and mysterious.

The highlight of the day was seeing tule elk for the first time. (Both the fog and the elk are named after the tule grass that grows in the central valley.) They don't fit in with the grey theme, but they're so beautiful I had to share the photos with you. The color of the elk against the grass is so gorgeous and primitive; it reminds me of these dioramas from the California Academy of Sciences.

The tule elk are found only in California and were almost driven to extinction at one point. The refuge has played a major role in bringing them back by protecting a small herd in a very large enclosure and periodically allowing one or two to join a herd that roams freely throughout the state.

There's still time to enter my yarn giveaway ... it's open until Wednesday evening. Have a good week!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm having a giveaway!

I'm having a giveaway in celebration of several milestones.

My blog finally has 100 followers. I've been waiting and watching and it happened today.

My Mesh Bamboo Scarf pattern is #1 on All Free Knitting.

And I've been blogging for almost two years now.

So I'm giving away two skeins of Malabrigo to one person ...

And one skein of Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton/Silk to another person.

To enter the giveaway just leave a comment and make sure that I have a way of contacting you.

The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, January 19th. I'll use the random number generator to select the winners that evening.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This and that

Last year I knit my one and only lace shawl, which I absolutely love, but up until today it sat folded in a drawer because I couldn't figure out how to arrange it in a way that didn't look silly. Today while getting ready to attend a knitting class at my local yarn shop, I threw it on at the last minute and secured it with the new shawl pin a friend gave me for Christmas. I was surprised and pleased to see that it was a perfect match with the shawl and actually looked nice held together like that around my neck. Thanks, Cathy!

(bathroom mirror photo)

I had a scare later in the afternoon. When I got home from the grocery store my purse was missing and I thought I had left it in the cart in the parking lot. When I started thinking about everything I could lose, I quickly grew horrified ... my new Kindle (that I LOVE), phone, digital camera, medication, cash, credit cards ... oh my goodness, it would have been a terrible loss. I rushed out to the car and fortunately found it hidden under the seat. Then I said a million prayers of thanks.

The Kindle was a holiday gift to myself. While I love reading books on it, the thing that really has me hooked is the electronic Scrabble game. It's addictive.

The creek trail across the street from where I live is beautiful this time of year with bare trees and intensely green grass. I love to take walks and enjoy having a trail within walking distance of my apartment.

On a recent walk I came across one tiny, lonely little flower and had to stop to get a picture.

I also discovered this giant nest partially hidden under a bush. It's about two feet tall and four feet across. I have no idea how it got there or what might live in it, but would love to know the story behind it.

Charlie is the sweetest cat I've ever met. In our old place I used to walk him on a leash in the evening, but my new apartment is inside a building so I let him freely roam the hallway late at night. Tonight when he was sitting outside the front door I was stunned to hear him growl. Like a dog! A neighbor had entered the hallway and I guess he was protecting his territory. It was strange-- I never knew cats could growl like that.

Well, off to bed. Warm wishes to you for a good week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Excellent Sock Kit Giveaway

I few weeks ago I created a Twitter account. Tweeting is lots of fun, but I ended up deactivating my account because for me it is simply too much to work on a computer all day long at my day job, blog, moderate a Ravelry group, tweet and still have a life. But before I left, I ran across an excellent sock kit giveaway at SandraSingh.

I love the pattern and vampire-inspired colorway of the yarn. The giveaway is open through January 17th.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tiny Little Knit

During the holidays I was yearning to knit something I could finish quickly, so I used the sock yarn in my stash to knit this seed stitch bracelet. The pattern is from my new favorite book, More Last Minute Knitted Gifts . This project is supposed to be a two hour project, and I can verify that it really does take two hours-- if you read the pattern correctly. (Unfortunately, I didn't, so it took more like three hours.)

It turned out pretty cute, but after wearing it for about ten minutes my wrist started itching like crazy and I found myself tugging at it. Next time I won't use wool.

The New Techniques 2011 Knit-along hit 200 members last night. I'm very excited about the techniques I'm planning to learn this year and I'm having a blast moderating the Ravelry group. Please feel free to join us.

Kate Creates is having a giveaway! Leave a comment on her blog by January 5th to win a gorgeous skein of yarn.