Wednesday, June 13, 2018

On the Cusp of Summer

How did it get to be the middle of June? Spring has flown past so quickly that I've fallen behind (again!) on posting cycling photos.

It's been an odd spring this year - late to start, and with temperatures extremely mercurial. The final week of May was sweltering, with day after day of 90+ degrees. Lilacs came and went like a purple flash, and many other flowers were thrown off schedule by the unseasonable heat.

Allergies are a doozy this year - all the most sneeze-inducing trees and grasses seem to be seeding at once. Between allergy-induced brain fog and menopausal brain fog, I feel as though I've been barely functional for the last few weeks. But I see by my photos that I've taken a few rides during that time, so grab a cup of something hot or cold (as befits your weather), and get ready for lots of pictures.

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Way back in the middle of May, on a day of bright blue skies and cold wind, I saw red-velvet leaves growing on a shady bank:

The first wild geranium, pale and shivering:

A small forest of leafy spurge:

And asparagus!

(Lots of asparagus.)

Those jersey pockets sure come in handy sometimes. :)

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A week later, things were heating up. A shot of refreshing green on a hot sticky day:

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On Memorial Weekend, it was hotter still.

I found a new-to-me wildflower:

Fringed Puccoon

Felt patriotic as I climbed a hill and rode past a flag-adorned fence:

Enjoyed a bit of Americana:

And traveled round a favourite bend in the road:

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Memorial Day, a sizzling 95 degrees. Over the last few years I've grown to like riding in really hot weather, especially when the humidity is low, as it was that evening.

Shadow shot:

Wild geraniums looking cool in the shade:

Locust tree in bloom:

Vine-wreathed fence on a country road:

Deer sightings were plentiful that evening:

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A week later, temperatures had dropped sharply. On a chilly Sunday ride in early June, I found oodles of wildflowers:

From left to right: Spiderwort (top), Hoary Puccoon (bottom), Columbine, Balsam Groundsel

A  bug on a leaf:

More wildflowers:

Clockwise from upper left: Dame's Rocket, Wild Rose, Wild Geranium, Golden Alexanders, Common Yarrow

Some horses at pasture were startled by my passing, and ran thundering across the field while I fumbled for the camera:

Red-winged blackbirds, young and old, were holding a concert in the marsh:

Along came a road-hogging piece of farm equipment:

Wildflowers spotted in the last two miles of the ride:

Clockwise from upper left: Mystery member of the pea family, Meadow Anemone,
Penstemon, Buttercup

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And that brings us nicely up to today. A truly gorgeous day it was, windy-warm and blue-skied - the kind of day that gives June a good name, and makes me grateful to be alive and riding in such a beautiful place.

Yep, the sky really was this blue:

Windmills turning on the high prairie:

Giant hogweed flourishing on a shady verge:

A favourite barn, with decoration:

A lovingly-preserved one-room schoolhouse:

The biggest collection of farm buildings I've seen anywhere (so big that the only way to shoot them all is from a mile up the road):

Buttercups and bicycle spokes:

Blue flag iris growing wild in a wet ditch:

A good day for a ride.

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It's nearly 9 o'clock in the evening as I write this post, and the sky is still fully light. Rosy clouds drift like bits of sheer ribbon over the house, and the western sky glows with an opal flame.

O wondrous almost-summer!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I-Cord with a Hook, Part 4: Seamless-Looking Circular I-Cord

The techniques in this series were developed for I-cord made with a hook, but many of them can be adapted to I-cords made by other methods.
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Welcome back to our series on making I-cord with a crochet hook. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:
Part 1 - Three techniques for making a Better Basic I-cord: Longtail Cast On, Afterthought Column, and Loop-by-Loop Bind Off.
Part 2 – Self-Buttoning I-cord 
Part 3 – Open-Ended I-cord 
Today we’ll learn how to stitch I-cord into a continuous-looking loop.

Seamless-Looking Circular I-Cord

Circular I-cord makes a wonderful foundation and/or finishing edge for crocheted projects. It's tempting to call this type of cord "grafted" (as I have in earlier posts), but true grafting, in the knitting sense of the word, requires live loops at each end. What we'll be doing today is not grafting, but seaming I-cord to form a continuous-looking ring, using a duplicate stitch technique inspired by this post from TECHKnitter.

You can use any I-cord cast on you like for this technique, but for a soft, easily-seamed join, I recommend the method shown below.

This tutorial is for a 4-stitch cord. As always, you can adjust the numbers to suit your preferences.

Instructions are written for right-handed crocheters.

What you’ll need:
Yarn (non-slippery is best, worsted weight or larger)
Yarn needle for weaving in
Optional: Extra hook two or three sizes smaller (for hooking up Afterthought Column)
Optional: Stitch markers

Links to tutorials for techniques used in this post:
Working the I-cord Body (scroll down in post)
Afterthought Column for I-Cord (scroll down in post)

Circular I-Cord Start

1. Start with a single adjustable loop (drape yarn over the hook from back to front to back again, with tail to the left of running yarn).
2. Grasping ring to secure, insert hook into ring, pull up a loop, then chain 1.
3. Tighten the chain by pulling upwards on working loop while holding the ring.
4. Gently snug the working loop back down to the hook.

5. Repeat Steps 2-4 three more times. You should now have 4 loops on your hook (see photo 5 below), each with a small tight chain stitch beneath it.

Note: The tightened chain stitches will count as Row 1 of your I-cord, and the loops on your hook will count as Row 2.

6. Remove all loops from the hook. Leaving the rightmost loop hanging free, begin working the I-cord body (see this post, "Working the Body"). Remember to keep tension relaxed, and don't tug the cord.

Photo 6 shows what my cord looked like after 6 rows (remember that the loops on the hook count as a row):

(Note: I tried using a Sharpie to mark the front "legs" of my Row 2 stitches, but all it did was leave faint smudges on the yarn plies.)

Work I-cord rows to the desired length (my sample was 30 rows long; anything shorter was very awkward to seam).

7-8. Gently pull the starting tail out of the starting loop (doing this will keep the starting end smooth).

Not pictured: Place a marker (if desired) in the free loop, then hook up the Afterthought Column (see this post, "Afterthought Column"). You should now have 4 live loops, with the running yarn exiting the loop to the right of the Afterthought Column.

Remove hook from loops, placing loops on holder if desired.

The last stitch of the Afterthought Column will be the first stitch used for the seam. Before you seam the cord, you'll need to shape it into a ring, lining up each last stitch with the Row 2 stitch of the same column.

Lining up the Stitches for Seaming

9. If you placed a marker before hooking up the Afterthought Column, you're good to go. If not, identify the Afterthought Column's Row 2 stitch (it will be a little bigger than the other loops, and the yarn tail will be coming out of the stitch below it). In Photo 9 below, the Afterthought Column's Row 2 stitch is marked with an orange V.
10. Pinch the cord so the Afterthought Column is facing you. Work your way to the other end of the cord, always keeping the same column pinched and facing you. (You can also do this in reverse, by following the Afterthought Column from its end to its beginning.) If you haven't already done so, place a marker in the the Row 2 stitch.
11. Photo 11 shows the Afterthought column identified and marked with black Vs. The final, live loop of the Afterthought column is marked with brown dots. The loop behind it, marked with green dots, is the stitch with the running yarn coming out of it.

12. Cut yarn, leaving a 4-6" tail. Thread a yarn needle onto the running yarn (this will weight the running yarn and keep it out of your way during the next step).
13. Without twisting the I-cord, form it into a ring, keeping the Afterthought Column on top.
14. Carefully insert hook into center of cord, several rows from the end, bringing it out between the live loops at the end of the cord. Yarn over with the starting yarn tail.
15. With hook, pull the starting tail through the cord, and out. Gently pull the starting tail until Row 1 of the cord is sitting in the center of the live loops at the end of the cord. Be careful to keep the Afterthought Column ends lined up.

Seaming the Cord

16. With needle, sew from WS to RS through the live Afterthought Column ending stitch, making sure the stitch loop is facing forward and not twisted.
17. Next sew from right to left behind the "legs", or V, of the Row 2 stitch.
18. Sew back through the ending stitch, from RS to WS. First duplicate stitch complete.

Not pictured: Moving one stitch to the left each time, rotating ring as needed, repeat steps 16-18 in each column until all the stitches are seamed. Each duplicate stitch you make will cover the tiny Row 1 stitch of the same column.

When seam is complete, check the join and adjust stitch tension as needed to match surrounding stitches in size. (To adjust, gently pull on one side of a seam stitch at a time, working from right to left around the ring. You may have to go back and forth a few times to get all the stitches adjusted.)

19. Finally, work an extra duplicate stitch in the next stitch to the left (marked with green dots in Photo 19), keeping the duplicate stitch behind the original stitch. Pull yarn to slightly shrink the extra duplicate stitch. Weave in ends by hiding them in the cord.

Congratulations! You've just completed a seamless-looking circular I-cord.

Can you spot the seam in mine? :)


In Part 5, we'll learn how to use our I-cord as a foundation for crochet.

You may do whatever you like with any items you make using this tutorial, but you may not distribute the tutorial, its text, or images, without permission. (Links are always welcome.)

Thanks for reading, and happy I-cording!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Three Rides

In the last few weeks the weather has run the gamut of thunderstorms, heavy rains, fog, near-freezing nights, and a few precious, sunny, summer-warm days. Flowers are bursting out everywhere, birds and frogs are giddy with passion, and the sound of the lawnmower is heard in the land. Spring, in short, is At It.

For a wildflower-lover like me, this is the time of year when every ride is filled with hope and the joy of renewing old acquaintance.

Two Sundays ago:

It's a sunny, bright, blue-and-white day. I've been watching eagerly for the first blossoming tree, and here it is:

Streams are swollen with rainfall:

Here, the water covers the feet of the trees:

Around the corner, maple blossom (I think) hangs over a marsh:

I head to the spot where a favourite wildflower grows, hoping for blue blossoms, but find it still at the budding stage:

Miles later, we pass a cow standing in a temporary pond:

Around a few corners, on a busy county road, Tallulah spots a painted turtle (or, as she puts it, "a Very Distant Cousin") sitting in the opposite lane. We stop to offer help, but the turtle seems very shy and doesn't respond to Tallulah's cheerful advances.

"Hi there!" says Tallulah.

While Tallulah struggles to get acquainted with her unresponsive cousin, I keep my ears open. At the sound of an approaching car, I snatch up both turtles and run for the side of the road. Tallulah yells "Whee!", but the cousin merely shoots out its legs, wriggling wildly.

I set the turtles down in the grass, and Tallulah asks the Very Distant Cousin if she can pose on its back for a picture. (No response.) Taking the VDC's silence for compliance, Tallulah climbs aboard, and I snap a quick photo:

Then we ride away, leaving the Very Distant Cousin in the grass at the side of the road. "Still silent," I remark. "But unsquashed," says Tallulah.

Deep grey clouds are piling up in the west, and looming over a favourite barn:

A mile or two later, we're home.

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A week ago:

A sunny afternoon and a short ride squeezed in between work and errands.

Water is slowly receding from the streams and marshes, and Marsh Marigolds are in bloom:

It's violet time (lovely phrase!), so I'm scanning the roadsides for likely photo candidates. Though violets are thick in our yard at home, they're just beginning to blossom out here:

Violets with cyclist

A little farther on we find a pale lavender variety:

Serviceberry trees are blooming too:

Around the corner, another small tree has burst into a glory of white:

Tallulah buries her nose in a flowery cluster:

"How does it smell?" I ask. "Like Spring," she replies.

We ride on, over the bridge of a stream gradually shrinking to its normal size...

...past deep-green fields under streaky white clouds...

...and so home.

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Last Sunday:

It's a mostly cloudy, warm-seeming day, but plagued with a chill deceptive wind that seems to blow every direction at once.

On the way out I pass Mr. M, who left before me and is on his way home:

A little farther on, I find that last week's wildflower buds have opened:

Jacob's Ladder or Greek-valerian

Other small flowers are blooming too. We see garlic mustard and winter cress, and patch after patch of wood anemone sparkling like small stars. I never knew until today that the wood anemone's buds can be pink:

Wood anemone in bud

As we approach our favourite sheep farm, we can hear the occupants a-hollerin' and a-bellerin'. ("Maybe they're having a Sunday hymn-sing," says Tallulah.)

Just up the hill, past our egg-supplier's house, is the home of the pedigreed pigs, where we find two batches out to pasture.

Little ones:

And big ones:

Both batches are friendly and rush to the fence to pose for photos.

Photo time over, they turn to gossip through the fence:

Then Tallulah and I ride away and the piggies return to their rooting.

Around the corner is a place where violets grow thick every spring, so of course we stop for photos:

Why yes, I do like purple and green together.

Then on we go, around another corner and up a hill where the sweet scent of plum blossom stops us in our tracks.

Miles later, near the edge of town, we pass a pair of sandhill cranes in a field:

Later, when editing the photos at home, I find that there was a third sandhill crane, whose presence we overlooked:

This is the second baby crane I've seen this year. I'm hoping for wild goslings soon.

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Whew! This month has gotten away from me. Now that the cycling season is warming up, I need to post my ride photos more often. (The next I-cord installment also needs to be posted.)

Is May flying quickly for you too?

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