Monday, October 23, 2017

A High-Flying Birthday

I'm so blessed to have a mid-October birthday that comes just when the autumn colour is burning brightest. To wake up on my birthday morning, look out the window, and see towering leafy miracles of red and gold and bronze backed by a bright October sky, is a present beyond price.

This year I got to see that autumn colour from above as well as from below....


It started with breakfast at the Jet Room, a favourite haunt of my plane-obsessed aviation-minded family. If you like planes and live within driving (or flying) distance of Madison, do check it out. The food is good and the view is great: straight out onto the runways, with plenty of air traffic, large and small, on constant view. On a really good day, the F16s of the 115th Fighter Wing (our local Air National Guard unit) will be doing touch-and-go landings.

We didn't see the F16s that morning, but we did see a pair of mystery jets come in. And such was our luck that they taxied over to park on our side of the airfield, just a few hundred yards away. Here's one of them:

None of my plane-geek family members could identify the blue beauty, but a gentleman at the next table took pity on our ignorance. He told us it was a T38, a trainer jet - a model he'd flown many times during his military service. (Thank you, kind stranger, for your service and for the information.)

When breakfast was over, we adjourned to the Wisconsin Aviation waiting room, where soon a friendly young man approached and introduced himself as Chris, our pilot. (Magic words!) He took us out to the tarmac, where we had a date with a rather different kind of plane:

Enjoying the view while waiting my turn to board:

We squeezed into the cockpit, and I announced delightedly, "Look! I've got my own steering wheel!" (Whereupon my sister promptly told me not to touch it. We may be 60-some and 50-some years old, respectively, but that older-sister-laying-down-the-law thing is timeless.)

Photo of a family member taking a photo of me:

After much flicking of switches and pushing of buttons, some quiet conversation between the pilot and the voice that lived in his earpiece, and various throttlings-up and throttlings-back of the motor, we taxied out to the runway and took off for an aerial tour of Madison, Wisconsin's lovely lake-bordered capital city.

Looking towards Lake Mendota, with plenty of fall colour sparkling beneath us:

We sailed over Camp Randall, home of the Wisconsin Badger football team, the tiny figures of which could be glimpsed practicing on the field below as we passed:

The isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, where our Capitol stands:

A view of the downtown area as we approached the lovely Capitol:

A closer view of the Capitol itself:

After circling several times over the University, the downtown, and the Capitol, we headed back to the airport, and soon the runways were in sight:

And before we knew it we were back on the ground.

A beautiful day and a beautiful way to spend a birthday morning. :)

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hurricane Finish for Hat Crowns

How do you close the hole at the top of a bottom-up knitted or crocheted hat? A common method is to work decreasing rounds until 8 to 10 stitches are left, then cut the yarn and gather the stitches together with the yarn tail, pulling until the hole disappears.

Although this method works, it can sometimes distort the stitches around it, or create an unsightly "knipple" (see this post by TECHknitter for the origin of that delightful term, plus some great tips for closing knitted hat crowns).

Here's an alternative method I developed for the recently-published Blue Spruce Hat. I've named it the Hurricane Finish - a name that seems doubly appropriate in light of its appearance and the tempestuous year we've been having. (Note: this finish can be used on knitted hats too; see "Tips" at the bottom of the post for instructions.)

Hurricane Crown Finish

The Hurricane Finish is a decreasing spiral of back loop only slip stitch (blo sl st). It can be used on crown openings of all sizes: the blue hat shown above started with a 12-stitch opening; the grey hat, a 20-stitch opening; the red mini sample, a 16-stitch opening. Note: the more stitches there are in the opening, the more rounds there will be in the spiral.

Here's how it works:

"Yopta" is my personal shorthand for Yarn Over, Pull Through All (loops on hook).

For some reason that middle photo makes me think of Jaws....

And there you have it! From gaping hole to a tidy swirl of stitches:

And no need to weave in, or worry about the yarn tail working loose. :)

Tips for Working the Hurricane Finish:
  • If your hat is worked spirally from dc or taller stitches, you'll need to decrease the stitch height before starting the Hurricane Finish. To do this, make the last few stitches of the final round successively shorter, ending with an sc.
  • Keep a relaxed tension when working crochet slip stitches.
  • If you're starting with a very large opening (say 20 stitches), using a smaller hook will draw the crown a little tighter.
  • For a knitted hat or mitten: decrease as instructed in pattern, or until you have about 10-16 stitches left. Bind off (with plain bind off) the last round until one loop remains live, then insert a crochet hook through that loop and work the Hurricane Finish as instructed.
  • For a larger "hurricane" at the top of your hat, skip stitches less frequently (for example, blo sl st 3, sk 1). You can also start with a round of fewer skips, then increase the frequency of skipped stitches as the hole begins to close. (My personal preference is for a smaller "hurricane", but you may want to make it a design feature.)
  • If you're not happy with how it looks, frog it and try again with different tension or hook size. (I had to do the grey hat several times to find a tension I liked.)
  • Be sure to mist or wet-block your hat, or at least the crown, to fluff up the yarn and smooth out the stitches.

Do you work hats from the bottom up? What's your favourite way to close the crown?

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Every year, come August and September, I get a little depressed thinking about the end of summer. But October changes all that. Autumn skies, crisp breezes, leaves beginning to flutter down - all these both soothe and lift the spirits.


The county mowers were out today, lumbering down the verge like giant locusts chewing up the last of summer. Gone now are the asters and goldenrod that spangled the roadside all through September; gone too the lemon-coloured milkweed leaves and the fine wiry remains of Queen Anne's Lace. In their place are shorn brown stems and dry, brittle grass, looking stripped down and bare in readiness for winter.


The song of the crickets is fading. Just two weeks ago, swarms of them could still be heard chanting "summer-summer-summer-summer" in double-quick time. Now their numbers have dwindled to a contemplative few, who sit in the overgrown garden bed, slowly chirping "au-tumn ... au-tumn".


For the first time in three years, the oak tree in the front yard, and the walnut trees in the back, have produced a fine crop of nuts. The Squirrelympics (can I say that? will I get sued?) are in full swing, with Grey Squirrels heading the medals list. All the usual events are taking place: Hide the Nut, Spiral Tree Chase, Sass Talking, Rhythmic Tail-Twitch, Human Avoidance, Creative Stashing, and Wire-Walking, to name but a few.

One particularly savvy (or possibly lazy) squirrel left a walnut in the tire tracks outside our garage door, letting our car do the heavy work of splitting the tough green hull. Others have chosen more exotic storage spots. We've found nuts in my bike basket, on Mr. M's motorcycle seat, in the paper recycling box, balanced on a bicycle pedal....


While everyone else is putting on long sleeves and sweatshirts to combat the cooling weather, the trees are slipping into their black lace evening gowns:


How is October treating you?

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Monday, October 2, 2017

A Woolly Winner!

Many thanks to all who entered the Woolly Giveaway! I so enjoyed your comments and emails.

Your names were numbered in order of entry (including those who entered via email). The lucky winner, chosen by Random Number Generator, is Number 19: Dino. Congratulations, Dino! (Cheers and applause from the stands; bleats and hoof-stamps from the pens.)

Dino, would you please send me a message with your contact information? You can reach me via comment here, or via email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks again to all who entered. Happy October!

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