Monday, December 11, 2023

Unexpected Joys

Unexpected joys just might be the best kind. The pleasures we anticipate often fall short in reality, but those moments of delight which take us by surprise, having no expectations to live up to, leave no room for disappointment.

Here's one such moment from last month. I went outside to hang some laundry on the line, and saw this growing against the house wall:

A violet in November!

It made my day.


Some joys come a bit sooner than we expect, like this year's first appreciable snowfall.

On the last Sunday in November, we woke to an inch of snow on the ground, with more falling. Suddenly the thought of Christmas decorations seemed right and proper - much more so than in the mild fall days preceding. Though I've never belonged to the put-up-the-tree-the-day-after-Thanksgiving school, preferring instead to deck the halls closer to Christmas (and leave the decorations up well into January to cheer the bleakest stretch of winter), this snow made me think again.

I didn't put up any decorations that day, but I did take a walk to admire nature's efforts:

The following weekend we got our Covid vaccinations, along with another snowfall. So inspiring was it (the snow, I mean) that I ignored my sore arm and vaccine-induced achiness and fatigue, and put up the Christmas tree and some lights - then had to lie down for a nap. That's all the decorating I've achieved to date, but there's no rush; ornaments will follow in due time.


Our lovely few inches of snow slowly shrank and melted off last week as the temperatures rose, culminating in yet another unexpected joy: a Friday in the 50s, and a rare December bike ride!

The air was warm(ish) in the sun, and chilly in the shade. A cool wind did its best to dry roads still damp from snowmelt, while traces of the white stuff lingered in shady areas:

A blue-and-white sky floated above:

And a low wintry sun created long shadows, turning my road bike into a penny-farthing:

What a treat to take a road ride in December, and add a few unexpected miles to my yearly tally (which now stands at 1019; you can read about all my 2023 rides here).


Which do you prefer: planned-for pleasures that include the sweets of anticipation, or unexpected joys?

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Monday, November 13, 2023

A New Pattern

I'm happy to present the Holly Berry Granny Stitch Beret, now available in the December 2023 issue of I Like Crochet.

Photo courtesy of I Like Crochet

This festive project stitches up quickly in light worsted or worsted weight yarn with a size H (5mm) hook. Thoughtful construction details make for a flattering (not floppy!) beret; the simple single crochet band features invisible decreases and Corded Hdc Edging for a polished finish.

The bright red magazine sample was worked in Cascade 220 Superwash, a soft and warm washable wool.

Photo courtesy of I Like Crochet

While developing this pattern in response to the magazine's call for submissions, I made a sample for myself, using some lovely squishy Malabrigo Rios:

I look forward to wearing both my berets this fall!


If you'd like to make a granny stitch beret of your own, you can access this pattern for free here. Be sure to check out the other lovely patterns in this issue of I Like Crochet.

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Monday, October 30, 2023

Fiery October

There are few things more beautiful than a sunny late-October day in Wisconsin, when maples light up the woods:

Roads are edged with bronze and green, gold and scarlet: 

Red oaks glow like embers against a deep blue sky:

And a golden hush hangs over the forest:

Birch trees tower like torches over sun-dappled banks:

Silver-black waters mirror soft brown grass and shining leaves:

And late-blooming flowers make the most of fall's lingering warmth:

Nature is ablaze with color, dancing in the face of frost:

These pictures were taken a week ago. Since then we've had a hard freeze, and brightness is falling from the trees. But it was glorious while it lasted.


October was busy and a bit blurry for me. It started with a trip to California to visit family (and hike, and walk on the beach, and go to an Angels game, and eat lots of wonderful food). I returned home to unprecedented 90-degree temperatures in Wisconsin, and shortly thereafter succumbed to Covid, missing several days of work and some really lovely cycling weather. By the time I was back on my feet, temps had dropped sharply, and all the rain we didn't get this summer seemed determined to fall before the month's end. On the bright side, our drought status has now improved from "extreme" to "moderate". That more than makes up for some missed rides.

There's snow in the forecast for tonight. Wherever you are, may you be healthy, safe, and warm.

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Monday, September 25, 2023

September Flowers, and a New Shawl Pattern

Where did August and September go? Here we are on the cusp of October, with autumn beginning to color the landscape, and the air resounding with geese on the wing. Summer heat has given way to warm days and cool nights. Thanks to rampaging seasonal allergies, I'm rather looking forward to the first frost, though as yet there's been no hint of one. (On the bright side, delayed frost means a longer garden season; there is much solace to be found in fresh-picked herbs and tomatoes.)

It's been a while since I posted any wildflower photos, so here is a month's worth to make up for it.


Butter-and-eggs, or toadflax, has been thick along the river trail this year:

The real stars of September are of course the asters - all kinds, all sizes, from tiny spears to tall and swaying bouquet-like clusters, in every delightful shade of white and palest pink, soft blue and lavender:

Red clover still shines out from roadsides and ditches:

Queen Anne's Lace is beginning to curl up and hug itself against the cooler weather to come:

Once-bright coneflowers are putting on their fall clothes:

On a clear day in mid-September, goldenrod shines against a deep blue sky:

The marshes are full of cheery tickseed:

Snakeroot blossoms in pale clumps at the edge of the woods:

Tiny white sweet-clover edges the road:

Cinquefoil is still blooming too:

And a lone amaranth (I think) guards a glowing golden field of soybeans:

On this ride, I pass a thick patch of hawkweed (or possibly hawk's-beard), looking like tall lacy dandelions:

Many of them have gone exuberantly to seed:

A week later, most of the goldenrod have also gone to seed:

The countryside is taking on its late-September coloring of scarlet, yellow, and green:

Not exactly a flower, but a bike named Iris:

Another common September sight - a woolly bear crossing the road:

(Tallulah the turtle, being rather fond of woolly bears, here climbed down to say hi. But the woolly bear was in a rush, and crawled right past her without saying a word, so I have no photos of their encounter.)


Over the weekend, life turned grey and drizzly, and rain is forecast for the next several days. I'll miss my bike commutes this week, but am very grateful for the moisture (we've been in severe-to-extreme drought status all summer).

How has your September been?

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In other news, I recently released a new shawl pattern:

Note: The pattern links below will take you to my Ravelry store; you don't need to be a Ravelry member to buy a pattern there. If you're not comfortable using Ravelry, and you live in the US, you can contact me using the form at right to arrange a pattern purchase through Paypal Goods and Services.

A tribute to my twin loves of bicycling and crochet, Vuelta is a top-down triangular shawl named for La Vuelta a España, the final Grand Tour of the professional cycling year. (Which was won by an American this year! Way to go, Sepp.) The Vuelta shawl is open and airy, with lacy stitch elements inspired by sprockets and spokes and wildflowers growing along the road.

Vuelta is suitable for laceweight, fingering, or sport weight yarn, and is easily customized for size; the edging can be worked after any even-numbered row. My sample was designed with a gradient, but this pattern will also look lovely in a solid, tonal, or lightly speckled yarn.

A note about the yarn: I used Apple Tree Knits Groovy Lace in colorway Rainy Day Gradient, from my sister's stash (miss you, Sis). Groovy Lace is a single-ply, 100% wool laceweight yarn, beautifully light and ethereal. My sample used 85 grams, or about 623 yards, and measured 48" wide by 20" deep after blocking.

The Vuelta pattern is 6 pages long and includes written instructions and charts. You can find it here in my Ravelry store. Enjoy 25% off the pattern through October 3, 2023, with code SPROCKET at checkout.

Thanks for reading, and happy crocheting!

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Monday, August 14, 2023

Maerula - a New Pattern

Note: Pattern links in this post will take you to my Ravelry store. You don't need to be a Ravelry member to buy a pattern there. If you're not comfortable using Ravelry, and you live in the US, you can contact me using the form at right to arrange a pattern purchase through Paypal.


Meet Maerula, my newest crochet shawl pattern:

Named for Anteos maerula, the Yellow Angled-Sulfur, Maerula is a shallow, asymmetrical triangle shawl with rounded corners and a scooped top edge. It's crocheted side-to-side in a lacy stitch pattern inspired by butterfly wings, with a striking edging worked in one with the rows. This pattern is suitable for fingering, sport, or dk weight yarns.

My sample was made with Hobbii Cotton Kings Sultan Pastello, color Gooseberry, a stranded 100% cotton sport weight yarn perfect for warm weather or chilly offices. The finished shawl measured 64" x 14½", and used about 586 yards.

The Maerula pattern includes full written instructions and charts. You can buy it here in my Ravelry store, and enjoy 25% off the pattern through August 20, 2023 with code BUTTERFLY at checkout.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!


P.S. Here's a peek at the butterfly behind this pattern's name:

Anteos maerula, Yellow Angled-Sulfur
(c) John Rosford – some rights reserved (CC BY)
Photo used under a Creative Commons License

You can find many more photos of Anteos maerula here.

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Monday, July 24, 2023

Not a Feature, but a Bug

(Warning: insect photos ahead.)

Over the years I've found that photographing wildflowers also means photographing bugs. (And spiders and bees, but for brevity's sake I'll use the collective term "bugs".)

Sometimes it's intentional:

Bee on blue vervain

But usually it's not. Often I don't even notice the bug until I'm editing photos on my computer screen at home:

Orange milkweed with unsuspected ant

Wild bergamot with hidden bee (I hope it's just napping)

Sometimes it's a combination of the two:

Bee on swamp milkweed with bonus white spider lurking in the blossoms

And occasionally I hit the mother lode:

Rudbeckia with very long-legged spider that
disappeared just after I snapped this photo

I used to be scared of bugs and spiders and bees, but after years of close encounters like these, I've learned that most of them simply aren't interested in me. They just want to get on with their buggy lives, and if I leave them alone, they'll generally leave me alone. (Mosquitoes and deerflies and ticks, however, are always worth avoiding. And I've learned not to weed near a ground wasps' nest.)

How do you feel about bugs?

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Monday, July 10, 2023

Cycling at 93°

The road exhales heat like a slow-breathing dragon
Trees let fall a benison of shade
Changeable winds blow hot and cold
and carry birdsong sweet as spring

I settle into a steady rhythm
and follow my shadow
towards the curtained coolness of home

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