Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How Do You Purl?

"There is no right way to knit; there is no wrong way to knit.  So if anybody kindly tells you that what you are doing is "wrong," don't take umbrage; they mean well.  Smile submissively, and listen, keeping your disagreement on an entirely mental level.  They may be right, in this particular case, and even if not, they may drop off pieces of information which will come in very handy if you file them away carefully in your brain for future reference."  ~Elizabeth Zimmerman

I was helping Cathy with her sock class.  Mostly she sent me the throw knitters.  I tried to teach them how to wind the yarn in and out of their fingers so their knitting speed might increase, maybe even double.   This went along very well until one knitter who was doing a rib stitch showed me her purling method.  I said to her that it was backwards and showed her my way.  Cathy was nearby and said, "No, Susan, Kathy is correct.  Yours is backwards."

You see, I am a self taught knitter.  Well really a self RE taught knitter as my mother did teach me when I was a preteen but then I went on to crochet instead for many years forgetting whatever I had been taught by my mother.  When I wanted to re learn knitting I taught myself from a book that had lots of pictures as I am a visual learner.  Which book, at this point, is better forgotten as I also learned to do my knit stitches as tbl's.  sigh

I practically gave up on lace knitting because I just could not make my work look close enough to the samples.  Then I signed up for a class given by Galena K. thinking I would give lace one more try by being taught by an expert.  On the first evening Galena was looking over my shoulder and told me I was doing the yarn overs backwards.  Huh!  Once I started doing them correctly the lace holes miraculously appeared where they should be and my work started looking reasonable.   She taught me to do a yarn forward which will force the knitter to move the yarn OVER the needle to knit the next stitch just like a yo is supposed to be done.

  Sheesh.  It was ALL backwards.

So once I got over my mental disagreement and succumbed to the fact that even my purls were learned backwards, I looked at my ribbing and noticed it had crooked stitches. 

  Why did I think that was OK for all these years? Was I so blind?  I thanked Cathy and contemplated this whole backwards knitting thing on the drive home.

During the Knitting Olympics I began following this knitting blog as her husband was an Olympic insider so we she posted a lot of neat photos of the Bobsled (Did you notice that the Canadians called it Bobsleigh?) races .  One of her knitting designs, Leafy Hat, uses a great deal of purling. That hat became my teaching tool and muscle memory gym.   Purling still feels awkward and definitely less easy than the way I was doing it before but my ribbing is now straight so that's a plus. I hope I don't develop Elizabeth Zimmerman's aversion to it.

Monday, March 22, 2010


In January, I wrote about my sock epiphany whereby I realized I could make a pair of socks for myself, or anyone else who agrees like my DH, that are not exactly a pair.  I am using the same yarn, the same size needles but I have allowed myself to play with differing instep and cuff patterns on each sock.  The exception may be the feather and fan pattern which always seems fun and centering.

This realization has kept me interested in what I am making enough so that since it's inception I have not had Second Sock Syndrome.  Major credit also goes to Cathy C for her toe-up enthusiasm and designing leading to my Bare Bones Toe-up Sock Pattern.  I think the last 4 pairs are from that pattern.

Knitting two socks at once on two circular needles feels too slow to my easily bored brain so instead I Leap Frog. That's a method where I start one sock to a certain point, like increasing the toe to the required stitches, then start the second sock, bringing it to the same place but also moving ahead to the next section.  Then I go back and bring the first sock up to that point and beyond.  Requires 4 circs of the same size, but feels more fun and satisfying.

So back to the reason I am writing this blog entry ------- The two Sherbert & Ernie socks were leap frogged until one had the heel completed and the other needed it done. Then, because a lot of social knitting was required (heel turning is not conducive to conversation), I continued to work on the first sock, completing its cuff.  Finally, a couple of quiet hours opened up and the second heel was turned and its gusset stitches nibbled up like a bunny.

On each of these socks I had played with a stitch pattern, one a simple twisted stitch ribbing with plain knitting between each round

and the second modified from the Harmony guides.  (My stitch count is divisible by 4.)
In the Harmony Guide (450 Knitting Stitches) on p58, is Single Lace Rib, a vertical design. 

RS: k1*yf, k2tog, p1, k1*
WS: p1*yb, p2tog, k1, p1*

Converted to round knitting the above becomes:
R1: *yf, k2tog, p1, k1*
R2: *yf, k2tog, p1, k1*

Hmmnnn - the same for each round unless one wants to do a round of purling which I'd prefer not to.

As starting a needle with a yo can be awkward, I moved the pattern around a bit to:

*k2tog, yo, k1, p1*

This produced a very nice rib but was slanted to the left.  After several rounds I considered either continuing with this repeat allowing the cuff to be a swirl (maybe next time)
seeing if I could make the diagonal go to the right.

As an experiment I thought to start simple so as to be able to modify the repeat logically.
Therefore, after 10 rounds of the original, I switched to:

*yo, k2tog, k1, p1*

And after a only few rounds I could see the ribbing go to the right!!!

It has been said by someone, but I can't seem to find who, that all has already been invented but we do discover things on our own.  I am sure this pattern set must be somewhere in the Barbara Walker volumes but for now I am not looking, instead reveling in my own inventiveness and creativity and sharing the find with you all.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mission Accomplished

The mushers have been streaming in to Nome for the last several days.  This is one of the fastest years for times, probably because the weather mostly cooperated.  There was big storm of several feet of snow early on and several racers were knocked about, some severely, in the Dalzell Gorge, but for the most part the Farewell Burn was not as difficult as predicted, there has been no reporting of ice overflow on the Yukon,  and no major wind storms on the coast. The other deciding factor has been temperature.  The dogs like it cold and it has certainly been that with temps near or below 0°F for the most part.  Good thing the start was not this week as it was 43°F in Anchorage yesterday and 28°F in Nome.

Last night (EDT) looked like a good window for the group that Newton was running with to come in.  They don't really run in groups but the racers seem to settle out into sections that are in a checkpoint within 3-4 hours of each other.

While the webcam is not the clearest picture it is all I have and almost immediate, plus I can take screen shots.  Actually it's thrilling to be watching people moving in real time 4500 miles away in a totally different climate.  Also 'talking' with folks on Ravelry in our Iknitarod forum at the same time is too cool.

The first one I saw come in yesterday was a rookie (BTW rookie means first time in THIS race) from Fairbanks.  Tamara Rose is a veterinarian and a baker who placed 43rd arriving with 9 dogs.

Just a few minutes behind her was Art Church, Jr  from Willow arriving in 44th place with 10 dogs.

Then there was some wait time.  The wind chill must have been quite something in Nome the last few days because even though a finishing team was expected within 30 - 40 minutes the street cleared out until folks were told they were off the ice and coming on to Front Street. During the waits I kept myself amused with Iknitarod knitting.

Excitedly awaited was rookie Wattie McDonald from Stonehaven, Scotland, UK who came in with all 16 starting dogs and placed 45th.  I did not see them but a fellow Iknitarodder, who is an Iditarod Insider member so could access special video footage, heard Bag Pipes playing on her computer.

About a half hour later  Lachlan Clarke from Buena Vista, CO arrived in 46th place with 11 dogs.

Then it looked like it might be another hour wait for Newton but that same Iknitarodder wrote me that Newton was actually nearer than I thought.  As taught by Lance, he stopped just before he came off the ice and gave each dog a hug and thank you for the effort and work they all did. 

I was cheering too as he came in with 11 dogs, placing 47 out of a field of 56, 
waving the Jamaican flag.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"It Ain't Over 'til It's Over"

The following quote was written 3/15-16 by Jon Little, a journalist for 20 years and a veteran of five Iditarods, in his daily race blog for the Anchorage Daily News.

"While it is true that Mackey has an all but insurmountable lead on the final leg of the Iditarod, the last 77 miles from White Mountain
 to Nome is no victory lap. It's not like the final leg of the Tour de France, where the bicyclists take laps around the Arc de Triomphe. Mackey and those who follow will get an easy start, gathering steam up the Fish River. They cut overland and begin a gradual, undulating ascent until they reach the Topkok Hills, which are mostly treeless, bubble-like mounds. Their sides are steep and the wind can be cruel, with the lack of trees. After going up the final, tiring uphill, the trail drops sharply back to sea level, where the mushers are greeted by one more challenge - the infamous Solomon blowhole.
The blowhole is not to be taken lightly.
There are shelter cabins at either end of this small stretch of harmless looking trail that borders the sea coast on the left. On a good day, this driftwood-lined trail seems benign, even boring, if not for the oddly frequent poles and trail markers slathered with reflective markers. Every so often, the cold air from the state's Interior comes rushing out of the nearby Topkok Hills, which form a perfect chute, channeling the breeze into a funnel aimed right at the blowhole, filling it with hurricane force winds and a blinding ground blizzard. Which is why the trail there is lined with trail markers and shelter cabins at either end.
Once teams make it past the blowhole, and past the aptly named Safety Roadhouse, their final hurdle is a steep uphill over Cape Nome. From the top, they get a gift, which is bittersweet. It is their first view of downtown Nome, and it can be emotional to see the goal within sight, and also realize that the adventure is nearly over."

Lots of prep has gone into this race and lots of work continues.
The Nome Finish Line yesterday late morning looked like this with flags from all the participating countries flying over the arch.  (The Jamaican flag is 3rd in from the right)
In past years I watched this live cam but it only refreshes every 30 seconds.  It's amazing how much movement can happen in that short time span.  The most I ever saw before was some shadow or a dog and then a crowd under the arch.

A member of our Iknitarod forum posted a link to a radio station in Nome that was doing live coverage with a webcam.  I sat glued to that web page for a couple of hours listening to the two broadcasters talk about interviews with Lance and other mushers.  Lance, evidently listens to his iPod while mushing.  He has classical, jazz, pop and reggae music on it.  He claims the diversity is from his wife, Tonya, his two teens and his Jamaican house guest. Yeh mon.  
Thousands of cheering fans lined the fence. 
My reward for staying on so long was seeing a couple of dogs, then a lot of dogs and then the whole team arrive.  LIVE in real time, from NOME, 5 hours earlier and over 4500 miles away.  I cheered too.

And an official pic of the First Place team, Lance Mackey (now a 4 time consecutive winner) and his lead dogs, Rev and Maple wearing their roses.  His 2009 winning lead dog, Larry, was loaned to Newton who is running Lance's 2 year olds.

As of this writing, 14 teams are officially in Nome with Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle due shortly.  All teams must take a well mandatory 8 hour rest in White Mountain before pushing on through Safety into Nome.

There is an Iditarod rule about end runners.  They must be within 92 hours of finishing when the first musher comes in.  hmmmn   So where is Newton?  Is he too far back to be competitive?  A musher in Nulato scratched.  Granted he was trailing the pack way back in Red Lantern place (last), running Siberians but slowly moving along.  My guess is he was encouraged to scratch as end runners only get slower near the end of the race, not faster.

Newton came through Unalakleet early this morning, with 12 dogs, holding on to 47th place out of field of 56.  He will finish, barring anything like the blowhole happening to him.   A fellow Iknitarodder who lives and teaches in Unalakleet took these pictures, knowing how much I am Rootin' for Newton.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Coast

Dropped dogs getting a ride to Anchorage from the Iditarod Air Force.
Each dog has a specialty.  Some are great for medium distances and hauling.  These dogs help the musher get over the mountains to the Interior and then are "dropped" and sent back to Anchorage while the rest of the team goes on.  Some dogs get too tired so are relieved of duty and sent home for a well deserved rest.

Try to imagine flying a plane with panting huskies as your passengers.

Newton is taking some time to rest in Nulato with 12 dogs.  He has completed about 2/3 of the race and is currently in 47th place in a field of 58. 13 mushers have scratched so far.  I think he is doing so well for a rookie who grew up in much warmer climes.

The first checkpoint on the Coast is Unalakleet.  Many mushers have already arrived there and pressed on.  Some are taking a break before mushing up the Norton Sound toward Nome.
This photo is from a live Cam.  Look at all that dog food!  The musher ( I know not who) is bootieing up one of his dogs while another eats.  No one is allowed to assist although they are there if something allowed is needed.  Yesterday I could have checked the gps to figure out who this is.  Today that gps is for paid subscribers only.  It sure was fun to watch while it lasted but am not enamored enough at this point in the race to pay for it.  I will simply follow the Alaskan news online and the Iditarod Race Standings page.

In Nome, for the last few days, big boys with big boy toys have been packing snow for the final run under the arch.  The fence is now in place.  In a few days there will be hundreds of people lined up along it to watch the teams arrive under the burled arch.

There's a live cam for this too.

Iknitarod Knitting is definitely coming along although I do seem to have slacked off a bit from my 2 hours a day.  Guess I won't finish with the front runners.

The cardi is currently at about 7 inches but stalled while I work on

This is my legwarmer pattern in Knit Picks yarn.  They have a deadline so have budged to the front of the line ahead of the socks and cardi and scarf.

Friday, March 12, 2010

On his way to the Yukon

Newton is getting a fair bit of press coverage so finding pics and details has been easier than I thought, especially with Jim, my DH, helping by sending me links he finds to stories.

Newton's wheel dogs are first in line waiting for the McGrath snack shack to open while others are snuggled under their bankies sleeping in.  

Lance Mackey shared several tips with Newton while he was mentoring him for this race.  One is the dog bootie horn. Like a shoe horn but more curved.  Marshall has it tied to his wrist so he need not put it down or drop it.  He slips the horn into a bootie, slides the bootie onto a paw, pulls up and then fastens the velcro tie.  Evidently he put 56 of these on in record time before getting his dogs into harness and putting his own parka on in a relatively warm 8 degree sunshiney morning.  (BTW it was -30 in Unalakleet on the coast this morning).

He left McGrath with happy rested ready-to-go dogs and in high spirits himself.  There's lots of pie and company at the McGrath checkpoint.

Making soup for the team in Takotna

Signing off after his dogs have been checked by the vet in Takotna.

Each year the students at the Takotna School make these ice sculptures. (That's Colleen Robertia with her team in the background).

Iknitarod News 

The Baby Mae hat is not only complete but on its way to Baby Mae.   Took my rest, knit 7 inches on the sweater (although this pic was taken when it was only 4),

finished one Spring Sock,

AND am ready to start this surprise.
My Legwarmer Pattern has been chosen by Knit Picks for its IDP program. The yarn for the sample arrived yesterday.

I'll be starting these on Sunday while the front runners are coming across the Nulato Hills to Unalakleet on the Bering Sound.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

24 in McGrath

Newton chose to take his mandatory 24 hour rest in McGrath so I will take a by on the daily blog too.

You can read a short article about him published yesterday right here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Real Stars of the Iditarod

are the dogs.  They love to pull.  They love to run.  They love the cold.  Many personalities.  Many shapes and colors.  As you will see from the following photos Alaskan Huskies are not an AKC breed.

Dee Dee Jonrowe, in Nikolai, loosening the harness and towline preparing to rest the team.

Jeff King putting new booties on Titan.

Classic in Nikolai

Sharing a little love - Linwood Fielder with Jeff and Tigger

Kulling - 11 yr old Lead Dog - Won the Golden Harness Award in 2009.

Rincon "in the dog house". Rincon chewed through a steel towline this morning.

Sebastian Schnuelle with Scruggs, Grisman and Cougar

Lance Mackey with Rev

Beetle Juice

Teams taking a well deserved rest in the sunshine in Nikolai.

Newton's team is somewhere in this pic of Nikolai.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rainy Pass to the Farewell Burn

The miles covered today are very exciting.  Martin Buser has said, "It takes 2 days to climb to the top of the range and less than two hours to get down the other side." 

This morning a fellow Iknitarod knitter posted a FREE gps link.  A few days ago I almost sprang for the Iditarod gps but decided if I did I would be so fascinated I might never do anything else again.  I was proud of my then restraint.  sigh

However I spent a good part of the morning on that free site following Newton to the Dalzell Gorge

 and down it to Rohn Roadhouse.  The gps site has a choice of viewing methods.   This one is the aerial view with the red line simulating the trail.

Zuma, dog reporter, explains it this way. --   Before climbing high into the mountains, the dogs and mushers come to Rainy Pass Checkpoint, which is located on Puntilla Lake at Rainy Pass Lodge – elevation 1800 feet. After leaving the checkpoint, the teams climb high into the Alaska Range to a valley that cuts through the mountains and is the highest point of the Iditarod Trail. This valley is the TRUE Rainy Pass – elevation 3,160 feet.

Surrounded by spruce trees, Rohn Cabin as seen from the AirThe run to Rohn from Puntilla Lake is 48 miles and takes four or five hours. From Rainy Pass Checkpoint, it’s a steady climb to the TRUE Rainy Pass. After reaching the trail summit it’s a sharp downhill run into the cold Interior of Alaska and the Rohn Roadhouse. This is the famous and feared stretch of trail known as the Dalzell Gorge. In two miles the trail drops hundreds of feet as it jumps back and forth across Dalzell Creek on narrow ice and snow bridges that span open but shallow running water. Imagine how fast that water must be flowing to not freeze! Depending on weather and snow conditions, the Dalzell Gorge can be a nightmare or just a challenge. From where the creek meets the frozen Tatina River it’s just 5 more miles to the Rohn Roadhouse Checkpoint. 
Rohn Public use cabin built in the 1930's by the BLMAfter that run, it’s no wonder that the dogs and mushers are happy to see the one lone cabin that is called the Rohn Roadhouse Checkpoint – population zero. In the old days, there was a roadhouse near this location for the dog teams and drivers who carried mail and others supplies into the interior. After the airplane took over for the dog teams, the roadhouse wasn’t maintained and eventually fell down. In 1930, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) built the cabin used as the checkpoint today. It’s a beautiful spot, sheltered from the wind by larger majestic spruce trees. Before the BLM made improvements on the trail that runs through the Farewell Burn, many mushers chose to take their 24-hour rest in Rohn. Now it’s likely that mushers will move further up the trail before taking their long mandatory rest. 
At Rohn Roadhouse many mushers pick up some of the supplies that were sent out to specific checkpoints from Anchorage before the race started.

After Rohn the mushers run through an area called the Farewell Burn.  In the summer 1978 1.5 million acres burned in Alaska's largest ever forest fire.  Since 40 miles of the Iditarod Trail runs through this area it got a big reputation for difficulty.  It is no longer as hard to run as then but it is still desolate and if not well covered in snow can be tricky.

Last I checked, Newton (#14) was now running the Burn and is currently at mile 179. 39 more to get to Nikolai.

And my knitting is racing right along.  I got down the gorge with no broken bones today.

Baby Mae's hat is completed, the sweater before the start of the race.
And the Burn is giving me no trouble either.

Some lovely hand dyed Falkland sportweight yarn was swatched for my spring sweater.
One sock is 1.5 inches from completion.

Latest top standings.