Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New hats on the Northwest road

Last week, Mountain Man and I drove north to spend Thanksgiving in Portland. We made a nice little roadtrip of it, splitting the drive each way into two civilized days on the road.  The first day we drove up to camp way up north on the California coast. We pitched our tent under a clear starry sky and awoke to a peaceful dawn along the Pacific ocean. 

Both of us had new hats to keep us warm. I had my Hoarfrost, and he had a new Cambridge Watchcap. Oh, yes, and a fuzzy dog to cuddle to keep warm, too! 

Along the way, we saw all kinds of wondrous woodland animals. Elk, owl, woodpecker.  Every time we spotted one of these creatures, it left me breathless with excitement.

Beautiful fauna as well. Ferns, moss, mushrooms EVERYWHERE. It was so wonderfully rich and earthy to walk in those Pacific Northwest woods.

Earthy ... and also chilly and damp. So those woolen hats were mighty necessary. Here's another picture of Mountain Man wearing his on a walk through Tryon Park in Portland. I love those biased, twisted ribs! The yarn is Quince & Co. Lark in a deep charcoal gray. 

Before we knew it, we had to head home to Berkeley. We spent one evening drive down to Ashland through farmland, bare trees, and a muted sunset. 

And on the last day, the last breath of freedom before heading back to the grind, were treated to beautiful views of Mount Shasta.

Thanks for coming along for the ride! And I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, too. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

hoarfrost & moonrise

Quick note here to say: the hat, it is finished!  I've been wearing it every day this week. The mornings have been foggy, the evenings have a damp chill. It's the perfect Berkeley-in-November hat.

The pattern is hoarfrost. The yarn, a rustic DK wool that I bought some years ago. Deep stash. Damned if I can remember what it is.

Later that evening was the full moon rise. I don't have a tripod here, so it's just hand-held snapshots. A blurry glow behind the fig tree branches. But still sensational!

Thursday, November 07, 2013


I finally made it to Yosemite Valley. What glory to be there in early November, with the last glow of gold in the trees! The air was crisp. The bears were fat. The crowds were thin. It was heaven.

The funny thing was that the last time I wrote, I was on New Hampshire granite playing with a ball of gray wool. This time I'm on California granite doing the same!   Here I was on Saturday. As always, taking a sunny pause between climbs to get in a round of knitting. Looking here back at Half Dome (same rock as above). We climbed it the next day ...

But first, let's talk about the knitting! Remember that sweater I started this summer in Maine?  I'm still working on it. But it's boring. Real boring. So to give myself a break from that, I cast on for a slouchy hat in the same gray wool. 

The pattern is hoarfrost, which is a simple hat that starts in 1x1 ribbing and poofs out by transitioning to garter rib. It's rare that I buy a pattern this straightforward. Usually I just design my own hats. But it was kind of nice to dodder along following someone else's directions rather than having to think for myself.

This particular ball of yarn had already been knit up into a long shawl edging some years before.  The lace pattern is called Peri's Parasol. Quite a decorative stitch, as you can see. I'd cast on about six feet of it (!) but then abandoned the experiment.

So now it was being unraveled into my hat. Yes, I know I should have unraveled it and washed it ahead of time. No, I didn't care. I can't be bothered to do that sort of thing these days!  I just grabbed the edging and needles, downloaded the pattern on my iPhone, and headed into the mountains.

The big day of adventure (though less knitting) was on Sunday, when we headed up to Half Dome. The morning started with a few hours of hiking up to the base of the rounded southeast side of the dome.  Here's Mountain Man on the last push of the hike. You can see rock climbers as tiny dots on the rock face above to get a sense of the extreme scale of this landscape. 

The climb that we did was called "Snake Dike." It's a wild feature on the rock: a dramatic spine of harder rock that snakes its way upwards. Here's Mountain Man ahead of me on the climb ...

We got to the summit by the early afternoon -- and we had it all to ourselves.  It was unbelievable. Such peace to stand on the top of this incredible mountain, looking 5000 feet down into the valley, with no sounds except a peregrine falcon flying above. 

We descended off the steep northern slope. The Park Service has cables set up there. During the summer, they're turned into kind of a bannister with metal support poles. But this late in the season, the bars have been dissembled. The cables lay slack on the cold rock. It's definitely a bit harrowing to descend this way. 

But man, what a magnificent place to experience.  Here's my favorite shot of Half Dome, taken from Yosemite Valley in the last rays of sunset. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

granite & gray wool

A close-up study of a ball of wool, carried along on a climbing trip ... 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

early morning in the garden

To be honest, I did not enjoy the summer in Berkeley. To wake up to those foggy, chilly, sunless mornings put me in a dismal frame of mind. But September, ah September is splendid!  I wake up to refreshing, earthy air and bright sunshine.  

I love to go out on these lovely mornings and check on the garden with my morning coffee. On Saturday morning I took my camera to the garden, too, and this is what I got as the sun was coming into the backyard. (All photos are straight out of the camera, by the way, just adjusted for size)

a sprouting row of radishes

a "Rouge vif D'Etampes" pumpkin, glowing in the dawn light

dewdrops on clover at the base of the pumpkin

pumpkin leaf, backlit by the first strong rays of sun

Monday, September 23, 2013


On our last Maine day, Mountain Man and I rented kayaks.  We paddled all afternoon from Boothbay Harbor out to the Spectacle Islands and up to our friends' bed-and-breakfast on Hodgdon Island.  It was a sparkling day -- clear light, blue sky, yellow kayaks. 

Our lunch break on the Spectacle Islands was utterly charming.  We pulled our kayaks up onto the pebble beach, went beach-combing around the island, watched a seagull eat a crab, spotted an osprey, and napped in the moss under the pines.

And ... of course ... pulled out wool and needles for a little peaceful knitting.  Here's what I've been working on:  a very simple sweater in rustic gray wool. It's knit from the bottom-up. No pattern. I'm just kinda/sorta making it up as I go along, with ribbing and waist shaping and rough plans for a wide button band and shawl collar.

Blending in with the Maine pebbles 

Next to feet for scale 

What it looks like as the start of a sweater

 The yarn is sportweight Merino-Rambouillet yarn from Marr Haven, which I bought in a cone a few years ago and am finally getting around to knitting.  It's a wonderful yarn. It's mule spun, giving it bounce and elasticity. Minimally processed, giving it a soft hand and natural color and earthy aroma.

I really hope this off-the-cuff sweater works out. Not all my improvisations do ... and I could always unravel it if it doesn't ... but I love to think that the infusion of sunshine and saltwater will be part of this garment's story if it does work out.

Here's our last Maine experience. Kayaking up to a country store for lobster rolls! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back East

Traveled back to New England for an end-of-the-summer extravaganza.  Quick trip, actually, but I filled myself with the eastern moods and memories that I miss in California.  Sunny mornings on the our little lake in the Vermont woods, after waking up to mist and loon calls ... 

Lobster. Lobster bakes with corn and beans. Lobster rolls. Lobster bibs. (I even got myself a lobster claw bracelet to bring home the Maine-ness.)

Also: knitting!!  I was a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding in Maine, and one of the delights of the event was that another bridesmaid was also a serious knitter.  I was so very happy to meet her after reading about her exploits for years on her blog, The Howl. Check it out!  Her last post is an awesome exploration of the commonalities between knitting and mountaineering. I love it. 

And I loved sitting on the porch of the B&B, knitting and drinking mimosas while we had our hair done up for the wedding. (Actually, I'd like to sit on a sunny porch and drink champagne and knit ALL the time. Why not?)

Here's what she was working on.  Socks in a gorgeous deep blue, knit in a fine ribbed pattern with a twisted rib cable.  They were beautiful.  

To see what I was knitting ... stay tuned!  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

round white blanket

Knitting projects are of utmost importance when packing for a journey.  In fact, I used to keep a category on my blog ("travelogue") devoted to travel knitting.  I knit socks in India, a shawl in Bhutan, socks in Taos, a scarf in Nepal. For our southwestern road trip this summer, it was a circular blanket in cream Malabrigo. 

This blanket -- which is of my own design -- starts in the center with eight stitches and increases as you knit outwards. The center stockinette body is knit in the round.  The outer lace edging is knit back and forth and then sewn together. This seam is what makes it look "seamless," actually, in the sense that there's no jog in the lace fabric.  So this is what it looks like when it comes off the needles ...

And this is what it looks like when it's sewn together and given a sturdy wet blocking.  It's on the floor with my toes for scale ... though the photo at the top really shows it much better. It's a generous lap blanket

This blanket may look familiar if you're a long-time reader of my blog with an abnormally keen memory.  Back in 2010, I knit the first version of this blanket in sportweight cotton. That took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to knit.  Truth be told, I knit it as a baby blanket for a friend of mine and then kept it because I'd spent so many hours on it.  I thought I wanted to wrap my own baby in it someday. Nevermind that my dissertation turned out to be the only baby on the way! 

Anyways, that's the sportweight cotton one on the right and the worsted wool one on the left.  Both beautiful.  The sportweight one is crisp and fine, the worsted one is lush and warm and quicker to knit. I love them both. 

I still dream of getting the pattern out someday ... but apparently I've been thinking of that since 2010 so don't hold your breath!  If anyone wants to test knit something, let me know.  Might help me get it out faster.