Dancing With Lord Stanley

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The Captain kisses the Cup. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

As you know, in addition to being an avid knitter and spinner, I am also a sports fan and a self-described hockey nut. I love watching ice hockey, and I’m a big fan of the NHL. So big a fan, in fact, that my husband has started buying me Center Ice for my birthday every year so that I can totally pig out on hockey.

My very favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and since we now live in Pittsburgh, we are able to actually attend some games instead of just watching on television. The DH and I attended four games this past hockey season and saw the Pens win three time and lose only once, and that was in OT.

It was a rough season for the Penguins. Second year head coach Mike Johnston seemed to be in way over his head, and the boys didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves on the ice. They were inconsistent from one game to the next, losing more games than they should have given the level of talent on the team, and playing the most boring style of hockey imaginable.

Thankfully, after a couple of months, GM Jim Rutherford saw fit to fire Johnston and bring up Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to take over the duties as bench boss. He also realized the team needed more speed if they were to turn things around, and he made some brilliant trades to achieve this. Between the acquisitions last summer and before the trade deadline in February and players brought up from WBS, the team was revamped and went from being a slow, plodding, boring team to an offensive and defensive juggernaut driven by skill and speed.

When Sully took over the team, they were out of a playoff spot, but that soon changed. The Penguins moved up to a wildcard spot in the standings, then made a charge in the month of March that pushed them up into a solid second place in their division.

Playoff hockey started in April, and the Penguins had a tough row to hoe. In the first round they faced a strong, physical New York Rangers team; in the second, they went up against the winningest team during the regular season, the Washington Capitals; in the third round, they had to play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals finalist, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Going into the first round, we were without our starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and our back-up goalie, Matt Murray. The third goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, stepped up to the plate and won the first game of the series, but lost in the second game. Fortunately, Murray was able to return to the line-up, and except for a hiccup when he was pulled in the third period of a game and sat out the next game, he played brilliantly and joined an elite group of goalies who have won 15 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs as rookies.

Going into the final series, the Penguins were up against the Western Conference Champions, the San Jose Sharks. Not many people outside the Pittsburgh fan base were giving the Penguins much of a chance. In the past 10 years, the Western Conference has won most of the finals, and the sports pundits all seemed to think that the bigger, harder-hitting Sharks would overcome the skill and speed of the Penguins. But there’s a reason why the games are played. Reality painted a different picture. The speed and skill of the Penguins neutralized the Sharks’ attack, and the Penguins won the best-of-seven series in six games, holding the Sharks to just two shots in the third period of game five in San Jose. It’s hard to score if you cannot get the puck to the net, eh?

Had it not been for the stellar goaltending of the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones, the Penguins may well have swept the series and every game probably would have been a rout.

The Penguins faced and overcame a lot of adversity to make it to pinnacle of sport, and for us fans, it was amazing to watch this team go from being directionless to being single-mindedly focused on playing the best hockey they could play. The young players who were called up from WBS to become starters or to fill in temporarily for injured players fit in smoothly, and the newcomers quickly developed chemistry with veteran Penguins and with each other. Coach Sullivan was able to put four strong lines out on the ice knowing each line would play well in all three zones, and all three defensive pairings were reliable. Add the solid netminding of Fleury and Murray and you have the perfect recipe for winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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A moment to remember. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let’s do this again next year!

Rememberance

On the 17th of September, 1940, 19-year-old Thomas A. Snodgrass of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, traveled to nearby Pittsburgh and enlisted in the U S Army Air Corps as a private.

Following his training, he arrived at Nichols Field near Manila in the Philippine Islands on July 9, 1941, where he served as Chief Metallist with an Army Air Forces ground crew.

That is where Pfc Snodgrass was when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just hours after bombing Pearl Harbor. On August 13, 1942, his family was notified that their son was missing in action. On January 30, 1943, they learned he was being held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war. He had survived the Bataan Death March and was doing his best to survive the extremely harsh conditions of PW Camp #1 Cabanatuan, PI. His family received occasional cards from Pfc Snodgrass up until they received word from the U S government that their son had died on October 24, 1944, when the Japanese prison-ship on which he was being transported had been sunk in the South China Sea. He was 23 years old.

The prison-ship that took Pfc Snodgrass to his death was the Arisan Maru, a Japanese freighter that was a so-called hell ship used to transport POWs from camps on the Philippine Islands to camps in Japan. 1783 U S prisoners of war were crammed into the hold of the Arisan Maru, which had no markings on it to indicate it was transporting POWs.

As the Arisan Maru was sailing along with a convoy of Japanese destroyers, it was torpedoed by the USS Shark, a submarine that was subsequently lost with all hands. After the Arisan Maru was hit, the Japanese crew locked the hatches to the hold, cut the rope ladders, and abandoned ship leaving the prisoners to their fate. The POWs managed to get the hatches open, and most if not all of them escaped from the hold. But then the ship broke apart and sank, leaving the men stranded in the water. Many tried to swim to the Japanese destroyers, which had picked up the Japanese crew, but the destroyers were moving away from the wreckage, and the Japanese crew on board the destroyers were beating off any POWs who got close.

Only 8 of the POWs survived, and of those, only 5 escaped the Japanese and made it to China.

The sinking of the Arisan Maru is the worst maritime disasters in U S history. To give you an idea of the scope of loss of life, more people died when the Arisan Maru went down than in the sinking of the Titanic.

On this Memorial Day, please pause to remember people like my mother’s cousin, Tommy Snodgrass, and the suffering he endured and the sacrifice he made in military service to his country. Let’s remember people like my father’s brother John, who died when the B-17 he was piloting was shot down over France. There is nothing glorious in war, just death and destruction. Remembering those who lost their lives in war and honoring their sacrifice is perhaps the best way to remember that war is a horrible thing to be avoided at almost any cost.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin's memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin’s memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

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A young man’s life ended far too soon.

I Decided!

So, here’s what I decided to do with Caribou and Take Me Out to the Ball Park.

I took one bobbin of Caribou and wound it on my ball winder to make a center-pull ball, then I plied from both ends of the ball to make a 2-ply.

Bobbin #1 of bump #1 is now a 2-ply spun from a center-pull ball. The entire brown section is hidden under the gray. We will have to wait until I wind the yarn on my niddy noddy to see just how spectacular (or not) the finished yarn will be.

This probably wasn’t the best colorway to use for this method because the colors are not repeating, and each color is very long. I think it would work better with a colorway that has short color repeats and lots of different colors. But it is a technique I really wanted to try, and I ended up with a beautiful marled 2-ply, although the picture doesn’t show just how much color variation there is in this yarn since most of it is hidden.

I am going to chain-ply the other bobbin of singles. I don’t know how I will end up spinning and plying the other bump of Caribou, but I am pretty sure I will do something completely different from what I did with the first bump.

Take Me Out to the Ball Park ended up as a 2-ply, just as I originally intended. I’m so happy that I stuck to my original plan.

Here’s the skein straight off the niddy noddy. It will look a little more organized once I have set the twist.

Here’s the obligatory close-up shot.

A skein of handspun just hanging out on the front porch with a geranium.

I included this picture because–GERANIUMS!

Decisions, Decisions!

When I start a spinning project, I give a lot of thought to what I want to do with the fiber. I have to decide before I start spinning whether I want to spin end to end, then chain ply or ply from both ends of a center-pull ball, split the yarn in half and spin up each half separately to make two skeins that are pretty much identical or to make a 2-ply, split the yarn in various ways to make a fractal, a chain-plied fractal, or a gradient, etc. There are lots of possibilities, but they all need planning.

But sometimes the best laid plans go by the wayside. I have two spinning projects that have singles sitting on bobbins. One is waiting to be plied; the other still has a wee bit of spinning left to do. What they both have in common is that I cannot decide how I want to ply them.

I had originally planned to make this gorgeous BFL/silk blend from Frabjous Fibers into a 2-ply yarn.

The colorway has all the colors you see at the ball park–the brown and green of the playing field, the white of the lines and the clouds in the sky, and the blue of the sky.

I split the braid in half vertically and spun each half onto a separate bobbin.

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Yes, I spun these singles on my little-used Lendrum in flyer-lead (Scotch tension). I haven’t spun in ST for quite a while, and my Lendrum needed to be used. This fiber wanted to be spun up fat. Or at least what passes for fat in my spinning universe. I love how heathery the colors became when I spun the fiber.

I intended to ply the two singles together, but once I saw how pretty the colors spun up, I was paralyzed with indecision. Should I go ahead and make the 2-ply, or should I chain-ply the singles to keep the colors separate and make a self-striping yarn? I just cannot decide, although I am currently leaning toward sticking with my original plan.

Then there is this lovely superwash Targhee from Spunky Eclectic.

This colorway is called Caribou. It is even prettier IRL than in pictures. The colors are almost a gradient, but not quite.

It goes from deep browns to light browns to deep grays to silvery grays to silvery white to white, and my original plan was the same as the other one–to split the bump in half vertically, spin two singles end to end, then ply them together. But once again, the singles are so freaking gorgeous, I’m tempted to  chain-ply them instead.

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This yarn wanted to spin up very, very thin. So I obliged and used the hi-speed whorl and hi-speed bobbins on my Matchless in double drive. This fiber spins like butter!

Or to make a 2-ply from a center-pull ball. Or maybe I’ll just stick to my original plan. I have another 4-oz bump of this yarn, so I can have a do-over.

Did you ever have to make up your mind? (Apologies to John Sebastian.)

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Purty Flars

So, Sunday was Mother’s Day in the the USA, and my son and DIL sure didn’t disappoint. They showed up at my door late Sunday afternoon, a surprise to me but not to my DH who knew they were coming. (No, they didn’t come from far away. They live around the corner.) And they were bearing a gift.

Beautiful pink New Guinea impatiens all ready to hang on the front porch. As soon as we can scare up an S-hook. :-)

A basket of beautiful pink New Guinea impatiens all ready to hang on the front porch. As soon as we can scare up an S-hook. 🙂

Be still, my heart. I love impatiens, and this basket will look fabulous hanging on my front porch.

Mitts Are My Master

There was a time when I looked at pictures of fingerless mitts and… Meh! Really, why would anyone except maybe toll collectors wear fingerless mitts? thought I. Then smartphones. That was my A-ha! moment. I knitted my first pair of fingerless mitts for my DIL, and I haven’t stopped. Really, they are as addicting as socks, maybe even more addicting because they take so little time and yarn to knit. They are a great way to use up leftover yarn and can be knitted in any weight yarn. Fingerless mitts are the best thing ever.

And fingerless mitts are far more useful than I ever dreamed. I have always hated driving in gloves, so in the winter, my hands would be cold on the steering wheel. But now I’m nice and cosy when driving in cold weather because fingerless mitts! I can keep my mitts on in the store and handle money with no problems. I can read and send texts and answer or make phone calls without having to take off my mitts like I would have to do with gloves. I can carry shopping bags more securely with fingerless mitts on than with gloves on. And when it is super cold outside, I can slip a pair of fingerless mitts over a pair of gloves for extra warmth. Fingerless mitts are great!

I am always on the look-out for fingerless mitt patterns that appeal to me, and I recently found a free pattern from the Cascade Yarn Company. The Alhambra Hand Warmers really struck my eye. I thought the cable pattern was interesting, and that the pattern would look great worked up in worsted weight yarn. And I had some leftover lovely purple-blue worsted weight wool in my stash that I thought would show off this pattern perfectly.

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Because I worked the cables with a cable needle instead of using the method in the directions, and because I wasn’t paying close attention, I crossed my cables the wrong way, to the right instead of to the left.

But I thought the mitts as pictured on the pattern instructions left a lot to be desired.

The color of the yarn used doesn’t show off the cables very well.

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I don’t think this color would sing to anybody.

And the stocking stitch palm means the mitts will not fit a wide range of hands. On the model, the mitts look ill-fitting and sloppy.

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The mitts droop around the wrists when the wrists are flexed. Ugh!

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Really, just looking at these pictures might turn anyone away from making these mitts. The yarn they are knitted from is acrylic held double, the they just don’t look very good. And both mitts look like they have biased, but perhaps the model just didn’t bother to make certain they were on straight before the mitts were photographed.

So I decided to do some modifications to the pattern to produce a better fitting mitt.

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My main modification was to knit the palm in 2 x 2 ribbing. Now the wrists won’t be all droopy and the mitts will fit a wider range of hand sizes.

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I knitted an extra repeat of the cable pattern and did the thumb gusset increases every third round instead of every other round so that the mitts would fit my hand better. Otherwise, they would not have been long enough for me. Ignore my thumb. It looks worse than it is.

My modifications are detailed in the notes on my Ravelry project page, which you can view by clicking here.

The yarn I used is Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted weight wool, my favorite basic wool yarn, in Sapphire that I had left over from another project, and I was pretty sure I had enough to knit these mitts. I don’t normally play yarn chicken, but I decided to give it a whirl and, YAY! I won!

Nearly completed. The yarn that is left is on the left. The mitt on the far right still needs the thumb. There will be just enough yarn to do the thumb and probably a yard or two leftover. Perfect!

The little ball of yarn that is on the left is all that remains. It should be plenty to finish the thumb on the right-hand mitt, which is on the far right of the picture. I was cutting it close.

These mitts were a lot of fun to knit, the pattern is pretty well written, and I found only one mistake. It is written for one size only, but the knitter could easily adjust the size by using larger or smaller needles or a different weight of yarn. The directions for the cables are written only, no charts, so if you prefer to work from charts, you would have to make your own. This is a free pattern, so I’m not complaining about these “deficiencies,” just making sure that anyone who is interested in the patterns knows that there are no charts and only one size.

As an aside, I really hate it when knitters complain when a free pattern doesn’t have multiple sizes, or doesn’t have both charts and written out directions, or contains a few minor mistakes. They are usually the same knitters who bitch about having to pay for a pattern. If you want all the bells and whistles, you are going to have to pay for it. Tech editors and test knitters don’t work for free, nor should they. End of rant. End of post.

Feed The Stash

My fiber stash continues to grow. Here are some recent additions.

From A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Pro-Verbial Club, April 2016, I received 56g of Merino wool (purple) and 56g of silver alpaca (gray), meant to be spun separately, then plied together. This is my last installment of this club, and I don’t plan to sign up for the next installment. The fiber is gorgeous, but with the exception of this final installment, I really don’t know quite what to do with it.

This was something of an impulse buy when I was ordering some things from WEBS. It’s a limited edition colorway from Frabjous Fibers that was offered at an irresistible price, and it’s BFL and silk. And it has a baseball theme. And it’s gorgeous.

This is the April installment of the into the whirled Classic Club. The fiber is Cheviot ♡♡♡ and the colorway is Cattywampus. I think the colorway should be called Go Bubblers! because the school colors of the high school where I used to live, Boiling Springs Pennsylvania, are purple and gold, and the school nickname is the Bubblers, in honor of “The Bubble,” the place where a huge underground spring bubbles up to the surface and feeds the lake that you see in the picture at the top of my blog.

This fiber is Manx Laoghton wool, which is similar to Shetland wool, and just as wonderful to spin. It was dyed in the colorway Big Thaw by Amy King, the brilliant dyer behind Spunky Eclectic. This is the April 2016 installment of the Spunky Club. I’m really happy I chose the double shot for the Spunky Club.

I subscribed to the Spring fiber club offered by the amazing Felica Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns. Felicia is know for gorgeous saturated colors, and she has never failed to thrill me. This is the first of three installments. More BFL/Silk. Yum!

I made a big mistake. I was browsing on Etsy, and I just couldn’t resist this braid of Cheviot ♡♡♡ from The First Draft. I love the other braids from The First Draft that I have spun, and as a bonus, each braid comes with a small card on which to record all the technical stuff when you spin the fiber and a lovely hand-crafted stitch marker. This colorway is called For Alice, and the braid is 4 ounces.

Here’s another braid from The First Draft. I think Lindey is a brilliant dyer. Not only are her colors gorgeous and perfect for spinning self-striping yarn, a lovely fractal, or a marled yarn, the fiber is handled gently during the dyeing process. I’ve yet to get any that is compacted or felted. This colorway, which is called Indiana, reminds me of summer–blue skies and sunflowers. The fiber is Rambouillet, which I have never spun before but want to try. I couldn’t resist this happy colorway.

Yes, this is another braid from Lindey at The First Draft. This one is a gradient called Spring Shoots. The picture doesn’t do it justice. I plan to split the braid to make four skeins of a chain-plied gradient yarn for fingerless mitts and maybe a matching hat. If I don’t have enough yarn for a hat, I should be able to make a second pair of mitts.

I probably shouldn’t mention that I have also purchased yarn recently. Oh, my!