Saturday, December 27, 2008

FO and a Hat Pattern

I got a few things completed for Christmas gifts :-)

Between battling with ice and snow, a bit of RSI on my arms (fingers, wrists, elbows... argh!), I got two hats and a pair of mittens to their giftees.

I used Knitty patterns for the hat and mitten set : Center Square hat and Matrix mittens. I thought these two patterns went well together and had a lot of fun doing the Fair Isle type knitting. I used Crimson and Grey colors for my Washington State University Cougar daughter. Sorry, I didn't get photos before she wore them off to the frigid reaches of Eastern Washington.

The second hat showcases some of my handspun yarn. It's a gathering of Lonie, our recently departed GSD, undercoat and blended with some relatively soft English Leicester wool. This was my first dog spinning, and it was a prize winner! For several years, the yarn sat around waiting for the perfect project. There wasn't much - just a skein.

So, I designed a simple hat to fit the yarn. The hat is very warm - bulky yarn, chiengora, and ribbed construction - combined to make a hat quite suitable for our current frigid weather! I like to start hats at the top, especially with a limited amount of yarn available...

...and I try to use a smaller diameter edge, as wool hats seem to have limited elasticity, and like to stretch out of shape.

It's a stocking type hat, I believe they're called "beanies" these days, and the bulk of the hat is K1, P1 rib, with the edgeband knit on smaller needles in K2, P2 rib.

So here's the pattern:

Yarn - bulky handspun. My hat weighs 2.7 ounces.

Needles - Sizes 10 and 8 (to fit the yarn - larger should make a nice supple fabric, the smaller will make a fabric that feels a little tight) - double pointed, two circulars, or one long circular, your preference

Gauge - not critical; starting from the top, you can measure for gauge after several inches, plus try on the hat if you use circular needles.

Cast on 8 stitches using a circular cast on.

I like a version of Emily Ocker's circular cast on. In my version (that I "unvented" several years before reading about other versions), I simulate the cast off for a circular thumb, hat, mitten by making a double circle with the yarn, then picking up stitches around the circle, as in a provisional cast on. Make the double circle big enough you can cast on all of your stitches along one side. Scruntch the stitches (watch out for twist!) and knit one row like an I cord (knit starting at the first cast on stitch, pulling the yarn between the last cast on stitch and the first knit stitch tight).

After your first row, you can put half the stitches onto the second needle and tighten up the circle. If you want, you can divide the stitches onto two needles before knitting the first row. It's a little more fiddly for me that way, so I like the I cord type solution.

If you use the EO version, don't knit one row after transferring stitches to the needles, start right in with Row 2.

Row 2 - Knit front and back in each stitch - 16 stitches, 8 on each needle.

Row 3 - K1, P1 around

Row 4 - K1f&b, P1 - repeat 8 times - around - 24 sts.

Row 5 - K1, P2 around (repeated 8 times)

Row 6 - K1f&b, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 32 sts.

Rows 3 through 6 repeat, with 8 increases every other row until there is enough hat to go around the intended's head. I designed in about 2" of negative ease - about 20" around for a 22" circumference head.

Here's how my hat increased:

Row 7 - K1, P1 around

Row 8 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 40 sts.

Row 9 - K1, P2, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)

Row 10 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 48 sts.

Row 11 - K1, P1 around

Row 12 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 56 sts.

Row 13 - K1, P2, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)
Row 14 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 64 sts.

Row 15 - K1, P1 around
Row 16 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 72 sts.
Row 17 - K1, P2, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times)
Row 18 - K1f&b, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 80 sts.

Row 19 - K1, P1 around
Row 20 - K1f&b, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1 around (repeated 8 times) - 88 sts.
Row 21 - K1, P2, (K1, P1) 4x around (repeated 8 times)
Row 22 - K1f&b, (K1, P1) 4x around (repeated 8 times) - 96 sts.

You now have plenty of stitches to check your gauge. 96 was enough for my hat.

Rows 23+ - Continue in K1, P1 pattern until hat measures about 7 inches, or 1.5" to 2" short of desired length.

Edge band - Switch to smaller needles and change pattern to K2, P2 ribbing. Knit until hat is desired length.

Cast off - Using one of the larger needles as the working needle, cast off in K1, P2 pattern. Weave in loose ends. Block (or not) and Enjoy!

- Franna

Ice and Snow

We're finally warming up somewhat, here in Western Washington. The backyard is only about 80% white, and "Lake EverRanch" is back. One thing about the cold that I really like is that all the mud is FROZEN! At least the muck boots handle mud (and snow) well.

The dogs think this white stuff is great fun. Here's Thomas wallowing in the deep stuff.

The Hilton sheep - Jack's group - are wimps! Their only sheep trail in the snow is around to the fence by the garage, from whence the goodies come!
They gather by their door...

...unless they think a handout is forthcoming. Scottish Blackface, Sweet Pea and Eve, are the worst beggers.

The turkeys mostly hang out by their feeder building. I'm always amused to see them roosting in the tree. That is, unless they fly up there when I'm trying to catch them!

It's been wonderful icicle growing weather. They're so beautiful. This one's quite gnarly...

...and this one is just ominous!

I hate crawling up in the attic, but SOMETHING is going on up there! Water in the attic is never a good thing.

This icicle is in the porch overhang - a very narrow space for not-so-narrow me.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to enjoying 2009!

- Franna

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Living Nativity Part 3 - More Photos and Videos

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Included in this Blog are photos taken during the Living Nativity Production put on by the Highline Christian Church. At the end are links to YouTube videos of the Production.

I feel so blessed to have had a small part in the Production - EverRanch Farm provided the sheep for the Shepherds to lead. Shetland Sheep EverRanch Silver Lining ("Lini") and Stonehaven Astrid ("Astrid") behaved appropriate to the occasion and their young Shepherds were very attentive.

The play was set in the middle of suburban, commercial Burien - surrounded by Denny's, Big Lots, Safeway, the Keg, the very busy arterial 1st Avenue, and near enough to SeaTac airport to hear the planes taking off and landing. All this vanished into the background once the play started. We were all transported to Bethlehem for twenty minutes at a time, and it was altogether magical. Pastor Tim gave a short sermon after each performance - and each one was different and very inspriational. We even sang Happy Birthday to Jesus :-)

Thank you to Annette deLeest and the Highline Christian Church for permission to publish these photos and share the true meaning of Christmas with all of you.

This first photo shows Mary and the Stable Boy (Girl) waiting while Joseph talks to the Innkeeper about a place to stay. Mary (the actress) is REALLY pregnant! She's expecting her baby around Christmastime - how special is that??! (An aside - in the last performance, the donkey decided to "leave" and took Mary with him - we're all willing her to stop! She's in no condition to go chasing a donkey - in the snow, no less! Stable Boy came to the rescue before the audience did ;-)

Stable Boy and the Innkeepers wife convince the (henpecked) Innkeeper to let Mary and Joseph stay in the stable, and she gives birth to the baby Jesus (played by several REAL babies! They rotated performances because of the weather.) Just look at this couple; they're so genuine.
So here are the Shepherds, waiting their turn to appear, taking great care of Lini and Astrid.
The Shepherds make their way to Bethlehem after talking to the Angel, who tells them about Jesus. They join Mary and Joseph in the stable with their two little sheep.
You have to indulge me a little - there are a few more photos of Lini and Astrid in here....
Here are Astrid and her Shepherd being attentive to the Baby Jesus...
...and Lini, checking out the audience.
The Holy Angels join the Birth celebration at the Stable. Semi-visible behind the donkey are two goats and a calf. They are real, too, and stayed in the stable during the production.

And another photo of Lini and Astrid taking care of their Shepherds. Oh, right, that's vice versa.
We can't forget the Three Kings. They come from the East (stage right) leading their very regal llamas. I don't think anyone even missed camels, the llamas were so wonderful! ...and they are camelids :-)

The costuming was fantastic. The Shepherds were clothed in plain cloth and fleece, the Kings were, well, you can see, all sparkly and royal looking... and their beards are real!

This is the finale - Joy to the World! The Lord has Come! I can see the creche from my childhood in my mind, and it will never look the same to me.

The Star was a work of art - simple and so meaningful.

Like the Wise Men, it was the star that brought me to the church. I sort of got lost in the sea of parking lots and the dark and the rain, until I saw it suspended by a crane above the hillside. Then I could see the parking attendants and the church below me, and made my way around and into position to unload the sheepies.

These few photos have little of the power that the whole performance does. The narration and Carols, the people and animals, the whole Message. I recorded the performance twice. Once from the left (my favorite) and once from the right (much better views of Mary and Joseph, and the Wise Men). Each one is in two parts (YouTube has a 10 minute limit on videos).

I offer them as my Christmas present to you, my readers.

Don't lose sight of the true Meaning of Christmas.

Part 1 from the left:

Part 2 from the left:

Part 1 from the right:

Part 2 from the right:

Oh, and here's a little walkthrough of the set:

God Bless you and your loved ones,


Monday, December 15, 2008

Fun with Handknit Socks

Enjoy this video courtesy of Knitting Daily. Get ready for lots of toe tapping and smiles!

I like my handknit socks and reserve them for special wear. They get nicer with each washing.

I haven't forgotten about the Nativity photos - there are more to come!

- Franna

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Living Nativity - Part 2, Teaser Photos

It was Awesome.
- Franna

Friday, December 12, 2008

Living Nativity - Part 1

Well, we made it! In the teeth of the first (almost) winter storm, Lini, Astrid and I made the 40 minute trek to Burien and the Highline Christian Church. Lini and Astrid are stars and I got wet. (My Shetland sweater, hat and wool socks kept me fairly warm through the 2 1/2 hours and 4 performances in the rain, snow and wind.)

The Nativity was very well set up. They had an "Inn", the stable (of course!) and heavenly clouds (for the Angel appearing to the shepherds), plus the Star suspended from a crane above the stable. The set was against a hillside, so you could almost forget you were in suburbia. Costumes were wonderful from the shepherds in fleece and robes, to the wise men all royal and sparkly (leading regal llamas) and Mary (actually due in 2 weeks!) and Joseph leading the donkey, the henpecked innkeeper. A couple of goats rounded out the livestock.

The Shepherds who led Lini and Astrid were very good with them (and felt oh! so special that they got to lead the sheep!) The two Shetlands garnered many comments and led like troopers, baaing at appropriate intervals. Of course, the real star of the show was the baby Jesus, who took all the fussing and weather rather well. I think I heard there were 3 babies who rotated the part, from 6 weeks old to 3 months old.

The narration was recorded and Carols played a large part in the play. Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, among others.

It was very touching. It hit that Christian place within me that doesn't come out too often. I found myself humming along with the Carols and getting misty eyed with the enactment. He lived and died to save us. Let's keep the Christ in Christmas, folks.

And, can you believe it??? I forgot my camera. Both my camera and video camera. And it's snowing. Our hill can get really treacherous in the snow and ice, and my pickup doesn't do slippery well. Well, one of the last things the pastor said was that the show would go on through rain or snow or sleet or hail. Wish us luck.

- Franna

Monday, December 08, 2008

Living Nativity

Several years ago, not long after we "got sheep", we were contacted about providing a sheep for a living Nativity scene at a local church. We turned them down, and every year since I've wished that we'd done it.

Well, yesterday, we were contacted again about providing sheep for a living Nativity PLAY. They want two or three sheep that lead, as they are given a real part in the play. This church has two nights of several performances each. The sheep will be led by young shepherds, and have a pen for between performances to meet "their public". It is a very popular event garnering hundreds of spectators.

This time I said YES. Now, how do I decide which sheep to take??? All of the sheep are halter trained to some extent. The little Shetland rams are so cute, but can be rammy. Silver Lining is just as cute and leads quite well, and could go with her mom, Bessie, or with Astrid, who is more her size. Marissa and Asa are still fluffy, though they can be headstrong. Electra is a good ambassador, though, she can be challenging at times to lead. Then there are the Gotland crosses. Bossie has been a Ladies' Lead sheep multiple times, and, well, is another headstrong sheep and larger than the Shetlands. Bits is so very friendly and not quite as well halter trained. Charcoal is another former Ladies' Lead sheep, but I think she's carrying AI lambs, and don't want to jeapordize them at all! The horned Scottish Blackface ewes, Sweet Pea and Eve, lead very well and would be quite impressive. Hmmm, they might be bigger than the Shepherds, and could go just about anywhere they wanted. Better stick with Shetlands :-)

If you're in the area, please come by and say hello! We'll be at the Highline Christian Church in Burien. It's on the SW corner of First Avenue South and S 148th St. Performances are Friday at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 pm and Saturday at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, and 8:30pm.