The Train to Somewhere

resist truck

One year on . . . .

When the Human Stain took office, I decided to unplug from “current events.”  There are enough things to worry about without also worrying about things I have ZERO control over.  My resistance:  for a year I have avoided anything to do with the Stain.  No pictures, no news, no tweets . . . .  It is amazing, really, how easy it is to delete one particular person from MY human-electronic interface.

Which brings me to The Train — the California Zephyr, to be precise.  If you read the reviews, a major complaint from passengers is that Amtrak does not provide WiFi on this train.  How to stay connected?!?  Perhaps if more people were willing to disconnect, we can stop feeding the troll in the White House.  Sheesh.

cz1
Union Station, Denver

I arrived (via bus, no less) at dawn, and rather liked the Christmas green and red illumination.  The train station was completely restored a few years ago, and the vast hall is one fabulous waiting room.  The interesting (or stupid, depending on one’s viewpoint) thing about Amtrak at Denver is that they do not announce the arrival of the California Zephyr, nor do they tell you when you can board.  So, I eventually wander out to the platform, hoping that the train had in fact arrived on time.  And it was there!!  I saw the line for Coach passengers, but did not see a line for Sleeper Car passengers.  As it turned out, there was indeed a sign for Sleeper passengers at the head of the Coach line, but you couldn’t see it because of the line of waiting people.  Anyway, one perk of being a Sleeper passenger is that you do not have to wait in line, and I got my ticket scanned immediately.

My roomette was not ready, so the sleeping car attendant sent me off to breakfast in the dining car.  People complain about the food, but really, what were they expecting?  I thought the food was fine, the company of strangers interesting, and the scenery spectacular.

Gross Reservoir and Dam:  Impressive, but how much water can Denver suck out of the poor Colorado River?  I guess we will all find out if and when the expansion goes through.

27 tunnels in 30 minutes, and all before the Moffat Tunnel!  And what do you know, the water in the creeks really do flow in the opposite direction after the Continental Divide!

Climate change?  What climate change?  Well, it has been a warm late fall-early winter thus far, and while the ski resorts had snow, Winter Park was making snow when we trundled by.

Ruby Canyon, accessible by rafting, otherwise fantastic views by rail.  By dumb luck my roomette was river-side, so I had beautiful sunset views.  In my book, definitely a “E” ticket ride.

cz2

cz7

cz9

cz10
Ruby Canyon, Colorado River
cz11
Ruby Canyon

And on to Salt Lake City, where the Church knows how to put on a show:

cz13
Temple Square, Salt Lake City

And so I keep going, ready to keep resisting, year two.

Advertisements

Knitting in the Fall: Bedford Redux

Bedford2.3
Bedford

Pattern:   Bedford by Michele Wang, from Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011

Yarn:  About 10 years ago I went to a wool market and got sucked into buying this hand-dyed silk and kid mohair yarn. The yarn was absolutely gorgeous, and I had visions of knitting something luxuriously fabulous with it.  It didn’t matter at the time that I really dislike mohair.  I really thought if I had just the right project, I would LOVE mohair.  It never happened.  The yarn became three different sweaters, and this is the fourth and final incarnation, because of course mohair should not be frogged, ever, let alone three times.

Modifications:  This is the second version of Bedford; I didn’t wear the first version  because while there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it was just a tad too thin to wear a shirt underneath.  And at some point I needed the yarn for a new version of Bryn Mawr dress . . . .  For this Bedford, I knitted the raglan two stitches wide instead of four, made the body longer and the sleeves shorter.

Thoughts:  For such a detailed (over-written, as I think BT patterns tend to be), the directions for the neck shaping doesn’t work.  It is a good thing that I haven’t followed neck or sleeve instructions — for ANY pattern — for at least a couple of decades, mainly because I am a small woman and I routinely modify patterns to suit my dimensions and preferences.  But back to the instructions:  Michele Wang really should have done a better editing job with the directions for neck shaping.  Her buyers, and Brooklyn Tweed  fans in general, deserve better.

As for the finished sweater . . . .  I don’t love variegated yarn, I don’t love mohair, so I am pretty sure I will not be wearing this top much.  On the other hand, I do like how the sleeves turned out:  even though I also don’t like reverse stocking stitch in general, the purl fabric works well for this variegated yarn.  Maybe some day, someone will see me wearing this sweater and love it so much that I will just give it to her!

Knitting in the Fall: Svalbard Redux

Svalbard.2.1
Svalbard
Svalbard.2.2
Svalbard

Pattern:   Svalbard, by Bristol Ivy, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 6.

Yarn:  Laramie, a hand-dyed merino wool in worsted weight from Mountain Meadow Wool (Buffalo, Wyoming), in color Prairie.  The yarn is rustic but soft, in a color that is outside my comfort zone — but the ladies at the yarn shop convinced me that it goes with my complexion . . . .

Modifications:  I knitted this cardigan a few years ago but never liked the Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn: it had almost no memory and was unaccountably itchy around the neck.  Svalbard 1 became one of the few sweaters I never frogged, and I gave it away without regret.  But I liked the pattern itself, hence Svalbard 2.  The only modifications I made were shorter sleeves.

Thoughts:  It was a fun knit four years ago, and it was a fun knit this time around.  I like this version much better, I even like the colour!  It is a big long on me, but now that I am solidly middle-aged, coverage is a good thing.

Knitting in the Fall: Stonecutter


Stonecutter1
Stonecutter

Stonecutter3

Pattern:  Stonecutter by Michele Wang, from BT Fall 2013.

Yarn:  Merino wool/silk/cashmere blend yarn from Lambspun.  I recycled the yarn from a cardigan I knitted for Mom about 10 years ago.  Green was her favorite color, and though she loved the cardigan, she didn’t wear it much because she thought it too nice for everyday wear.  I found it neatly stored away in her closet, brought it home, took it apart, and waited for inspiration to strike.

Modifications:  I made it pretty much according to pattern but with usual adjustments for length of sleeves.  The sweater grew with blocking, but I don’t mind the extra room.

Thoughts:  I like Michele Wang’s patterns; she does interesting designs that are aesthetically pleasing and fun to knit.  Having said that, today’s knitters seem to expect over-written patterns, and this one is no exception.  I continue to be surprised by 16 pages of instruction:  does anyone really need 4 paragraphs on how to wash and block knitting?

On to specifics:  I also continue to be surprised by many knitters’ enthusiasm for the tubular cast on, particularly the perception that the tubular cast on gives a sweater a more “professional” finish.  I have not seen too many hand-knit sweaters where the tubular cast on looked truly polished, and the model for this pattern is NOT one of them.  The cast on looks very bulbous to me and does not flow into the ribbing.  Obviously, the cast on is a design choice, and I prefer the traditional long-tail cast on for an edge that is flexible, clean, and does not draw attention to itself.

The designer also spent too much bandwidth on the selvedge:  I personally do not find the “wrapped chain stitch selvedge” particularly neat or structured.  In my experience, careful sewing together of edges can correct pretty much any minor imperfections in the knitted flat pieces.  This is another area, as with the cast on, that knitters should be able to figure out on their own.

Finally, I must comment on the Elizabeth Zimmerman “sewn bind off” recommended by Michele Wang.  Clearly I did not use this method:  it is fiddly, and for this particular neckline, unwarranted.  The usual bind off gives a neat and flexible finish that disappears into the gentle roll of the reverse stockinette neckband.

I am not against designers having their personal preferences, but there are many knitters tackling these patterns who are not experienced, and who may think that because a designer says to do this or that, that these methods are in fact the best.  The best, of course, is whatever works and produces the result desired.

Gravity!

Gravity1
Gravity

This is the Gravity quilt by Jaybird Quilts: it is the first time I have ever bought a kit, as well as the first time I used all solids — I loved the pattern that much!  If you are as compulsive as I am, this is THE quilt to piece:  I marked every piece, check every angle before and after cutting — and it was the funnest quilt I have ever made.  The directions are precise, the templates and specialty ruler work, and of course the color wheel palette is spectacular.

I made the quilt smaller than the original by leaving off 10 inches of background on each side.  I just could not face wrestling with a 90″ x 90″ quilt, and I knew I would be hanging this on a limited wall space in my living room.  I wish I could have afforded custom quilting, but I think the edge-to-edge pattern I chose at Jukebox Quilts complements the geometric nature of the quilt.

Learning Curve: Lone Star Quilt

“I am missing Texas . . .  Will you make me a Lone Star quilt?”

GF is from Houston, and every once in a while, she threatens to move back, but mostly she tells me she misses Texas.  I don’t understand it, but I take her word for it.  So I went searching for a Lone Star quilt pattern, and found Terri Ann Swallow’s Jellied Lone Star Quilt on the Moda Bake Shop website.  I liked her pattern so much that I hunted down what may have been the last existing jelly roll of “Feed Company” by Sweetwater.  How hard could it be?  After all, it’s supposed to be appropriate for ambitious beginners, and I was under the impression that I was now an intermediate quilter.

I should have paid attention to the part about starching the fabric first . . .

And this is what happened:

Lonestarversion1
Lone Star Quilt #1

See those huge puckers?  When your points aren’t at perfect 45° angles, your sewn top is never going to lie flat.  Ever.

Sigh.

So, the quilt top is going to become this floor quilt (some day):

Lonestarversion1.1

After much stomping and whining, I made some DIY sizing using potato vodka and distilled water (1:2 ratio), bought a new jelly roll — “Mama Said Sew Revisited” by Sweetwater — and unleashed my not-so-hidden OCD with a vengeance:

Lonestar 2
Lone Star Quilt, version 2!

 

The finished quilt is 90 inches by 90 inches, and I did the quilting at Jukebox Quilts on one of their super duper Innova longarm machines.  I fell in love with the stylized modern “chain link” stitch; I think it provides a nice counterpoint to a very traditional quilt pattern.  The star I made is bigger than the original pattern, and I chose to insert the white pieces surrounding the star using Y seams.  In retrospect, I probably should have used the same off-white fabric for the entire background, but at the time I thought it would be more interesting to have two different whites.

I will not make another Lone Star again; as with knitting, I don’t like using the same pattern twice.   It’s a learning curve, right?

Road Trip: Golden, Colorado

DH has been preparing for this bucket list ride for months (or arguably, for years).  This was his year for the 2017 Triple Bypass cycling event . . . and it was cancelled.  But for the ride, we would not have been in Golden — not that we would NEVER have gone there, but we have lived in Colorado 24 years and never even driven through the city.

We loved our short visit:

IMG_0923
Not named after gold, but after early prospector Thomas Golden.
IMG_0918
On the campus of Colorado School of Mines. No donkeys, no mining …
IMG_0925
The one-room Guy Hill schoolhouse at Clear Creek History Park, with the mountainside “M” (for Colorado School of Mines).

DH still went for a 64-mile ride:

IMG_0933
The city, from Lookout Mountain.
IMG_0931
A denizen of Lookout Mountain.
IMG_0932
Juniper Pass

Other fun things:

IMG_0913
A much-modified late-19th century house . . . .
IMG_0912 (2)
. . . . with a modern shed-roofed addition around the corner to the rear . . . .

and, wait for it:

IMG_0914
. . . . a set of row houses attached to the other side of the original house.

Sigh.   But what fun would it have been if I couldn’t laugh at some atrocious renovations?