Saturday, 30 August 2014

Another Bag and Tag

One of my knitting peeps, Donna, is leaving for a wonderful holiday tomorrow. Her hubby is newly retired and they've been planning a river cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia for a year.

I made her a zipped bag with the most Asian fabric I could find.

I found a zipper to match the outer fabric and used a contrasting fabric for the lining.
For the zipper pull, I just use a few inches of bias tape that I poke through the hole on the zipper tab. I then true up the two ends and tie them in a knot. Then I put Fray Check (or clear nail polish) on the raw, cut edge.

Of course, Donna needed a baggage tag

She could also use the bag for a project bag for her knitting.

I look forward to hearing about her adventures in the Far East.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Ruddington Socks

While sitting and knitting with Mo last night, I finished the second Ruddington sock.
I really want to start the cardigan and will have to go cardigan yarn shopping this afternoon.
I like the way Fiona has the ribbing (from the bottom of the sweater) flow into the cable pattern. Nice detail.
This 32-stitch pattern worked well for socks. I customarily use 2.25mm needles to achieve a nice, tight, wear-resistant sock fabric. For myself, I cast on between 62 and 68 sts.
Because this pattern has lots of cables, I did a 72 stitch cast-on to compensate for the tightening effect.
This was easily achieved by adding 4 stockinette stitches on either side of the leg.

This is the first time I've used Spud and Chloe Fine sock yarn and it really isn't that fine. It feels like the same thickness as Kroy sock yarn or maybe even a bit thicker. I liked it for the stitch definition  because when knitting cables one really wants them to 'pop'.

So after a few (5) false starts, the socks were a pretty quick knit once I got the tension and mis-crossed cable issues sorted out.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Last One of the Summer

Our last larva pupated last night.
I knew it was coming because it climbed to the top of the Bug Bottle and was hanging from the lid in the 'j' formation.
Apparently the sex of the butterfly-to-be can be determined at this stage by looking at the cremaster, the structure from which the pupa hangs. This is the best I could do in a hurry with my camera but I venture to say that it will be a male.
 I'll have to look closer with a magnifying glass to be sure.

We will be releasing our last butterfly in about 10 days.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Butterfly Marking and Release

Today Skip and I attended a Monarch Butterfly Marking and Release event in Garden Hill, a few concession roads north of Port Hope at Dorothy's House Museum.

The first thing I saw was this aquarium literally crawling with monarch butterfly larvae.
There were in all stages of larval development.

Hanging from the screening on the top were several pupae.
There were several containers (buckets, plastic bins) with larvae. Here, a larva was in the final stages of forming the pupa. The arrow is pointing to its last shed skin.
Rod Parrott is very knowledgeable about different kinds of butterflies and has an extensive garden where he nurtures them. This article (it was laminated under a second layer of plastic) from 2010 outlines his activities.
He displayed cecropia larvae which are beautifully coloured. This gorgeous blue one was feasting on choke cherry leaves.
Here it is closer up.
This one on the same plant appeared to be leaning back, perhaps taking a break after gorging itself. I am fascinated by the different colours on the one larva - green, blue, orange, yellow, black.
I'm already thinking of how I can knit one of these.
Rod had several field guides on display and encouraged me to take photos of some of the relevant pages. I will be definitely acquiring my own butterfly and moth field guide in the near future.
These were some black swallowtail butterfly larvae.
These spicebush swallowtail larvae prefer a diet of sassafras leaves. Those 'eyes' are not really eyes but a type of camouflage to psyche out their predators.

The marking of the butterflies is done with adhesive stickers that are about 1cm in diameter (These are sample ones). 
The guru of monarchs is Don Davis shown here with a blowup of the information found on the monarch stickers.
He keeps the monarchs in a cooler - each in a little envelope. They are fairly dormant at cooler temperatures. He then attaches the sticker to the underside of the hind wing, fairly close to the body.

He then handed this one to me so I could release it (please excuse my unsightly thumb cuticle - ahem).

I then released her for the beginning of her flight down to Michoacan Mexico which, according to this poster, should take her about 35 days.
Don Davis has had documented success with his program over several decades. He received this Guinness award in 1989.

More recently, he received word via Monarch Watch that one of the monarchs he released in August of 2012 was recovered in Michoacan, Mexico having travelled 3350 miles (over 4300 km - the certificate is mistaken). The tag was found on a dead butterfly.

First Ruddington Sock Done

I was happily decreasing the gusset stitches after turning the heel when I happened to look at what I had knit on the front of the sock and noted a miscrossed cable back before the heel. Argh! Again I frogged it and fixed the problem and re-knit. This time I finished the sock. It only took 6 tries. I could have knit the two of them if I hadn't had to frog so many times.
I added 2 extra knit stitches on each side for a total of 72 stitches in the round.
I used my usual 'eye of partridge' heel flap.
This is the Ruddington pattern on the back of the sock. I didn't do anything fancy design-wise before starting the heel flap.
 I continued the pattern down the instep of the sock.
At the toe I rounded off the cable by doing a series of passing slipped stitches over back and forth between each needle reducing the 4 stitch cable to 1 stitch and also making 3 stitches to make up for the ones that were slipped over; two on one side of the remaining stitch and one on the other. I thought that would give the cable a nice rounded finish.
Sock number two will be started today.

To summarize: (my generic sock pattern)
Cuff - 2.25mm needle casting on 72 sts and following the first two rows of the Ruddington chart adding 4 knit stitches on each side of the sock.
Leg - switch to 2.5mm needles and knit 7.5"
Heel flap - Eye of partridge for 32 rows
Gussets - decrease to 70 sts.
Toe - decrease every other round to 32 sts, then every round to 26 sts.
Graft using Kitchener stitch.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Combo Update

The larva that hatched early last week is growing steadily. It's half an inch long now. I have no idea where the other hatchlings are going. They just seem to disappear. I'm wondering if the bigger larva is eating the smaller ones...
I haven't found any eggs this week so that might be it for this summer.

On the knitting front, I have started the Ruddington sock four times and finally have the right yarn, tension, and needle size. I had to frog the previous version with 2.25mm needles as it was just too snug. I used 2.25mm for the cuff and switched to 2.5mm needles for the leg. It is working out much better.
I did an 'eye of partridge' heel flap, have picked up the gusset stitches and am on about round 6 of the gusset decreases. I will continue the cable pattern down the instep.

We have a new member of our Monday night spinning group. Alexa is fairly new to spinning and in two Monday night sessions has already noticed a significant improvement in her spinning consistency. She owns an alpaca farm with 10 alpacas of various colours. I hope to visit there sometime soon.

Only 60 days 'til Rhinebeck!!! Wheeee!!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Three Tries

I've been trying to find the right sock yarn to show off the Ruddington pattern. First I used a tonal hand-painted yarn which didn't do it any justice.
Next I tried a marled yarn that didn't work either. I frogged that sample before I had a chance to take a photo of it.

I knew I needed a solid-colour yarn with a nice twist to show off the cables. I found two skeins of Chloe & Spud Fine sock yarn - 80% superwash wool and 20% silk (what Cat Bordhi calls 'nature's nylon') in my stash. The skeins are 65g and 248 yd (227m) each.

I am much happier with the result. The cables really 'pop'.
Here are the details:
- 72 sts
- 2.25mm needles
- added 2 knit stitches on either side of the 32 stitch pattern.

They're Girls!

Skip and I went on a mini-holiday last Wednesday to Friday to the last LPGA event being sponsored by Wegmans in Rochester, NY. Coincidentally, the butterflies were scheduled to emerge from their chrysalises while we were away. My bug-loving friend, Mike, consented to look after the 'livestock' while we were away.

On Wednesday, the first chrysalis got dark and you could see the furled wings through the clear casing. This is a photo of the second one getting ready to emerge with the empty casing of the first one beside it.
Mike missed the emergence of the first one but was there when the second one came out. He got an amazing video of it but I can't get it to upload. Here's the first one outside, getting ready to fly away. Because of the thicker veining and absence of a black spot on the hind wings, it's a girl.
The second one hatched on Thursday and was also a girl.

The egg on the milkweed leaf I took over to Mike's hatched as well. I told him to look for it developing a black dot on the tip of the egg which indicates that hatching is imminent. Once he knew what to look for, he spotted it easily.
After it hatched, it ate part of the egg casing and started in on the milkweed leaf. He sent me another video which he shot through his microscope. It was pretty exciting.

We got back last night and I picked up the 2 larvae today. We can't really figure out what happened to the other two eggs/larvae that hatched.

I'm hoping to get these two to the pupa stage and will look for more eggs tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

September Sock a Month Early

I finished the first of the ninth pair of socks I've knit this year. I am using Lang Jawoll Color Aktion yarn from my stash. This yarn comes with a spool of reinforcing yarn which I forgot to use - d'uh! Instead, for the heel I used a combination of eye of partridge and a shadow wrap heel. I extended the reinforcing on the sole for another centimetre beyond the heel.
It was getting dark when I took these photos but you get an idea of the colours.
Using 2.25mm needles, I did a tubular cast-on of 68 sts and knit 2 x 2 ribbing for an inch then 3 x 1 ribbing for the rest of the leg - 7" including the cuff. Then I knit 1" of stocking stitch before starting the eye of partridge heel on half the sts (34). I then knit the rest of the sock in stocking stitch, sizing it for a man's medium size foot - around size 10.

For once, I'm not starting the second sock right away. Instead, I'm starting a sock version of Fiona Ellis' Ruddington cardigan. The stitch pattern will work well for socks and I'm adding 4 sts on each side for a 2 x 2 cable. I found a ball of handpainted yarn in blue-black tones with a nice twist in my stash. Unfortunately there was no ball band.  There will be photos as I progress.

On the butterfly front, I found yet another egg today. So we have 2 pupae with one of them due to emerge within the next couple of days and the other will follow a day or two after. The third larva didn't make it. It did adhere to the top of the Bug Bottle but didn't form the chrysalis. Skip thought that because of the injury to its midsection, perhaps it couldn't get its last skin off. It just died up there.

There is one larva which has almost doubled in size since it's emergence from the egg two days ago. And with today's found egg, there are a total of 3 eggs. I would be so pleased if I could get all three eggs through the larva stage.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Another Hatchling

A few days ago I found two more monarch butterfly eggs under leaves of the same milkweed plant. Hurray! Last night, I could only find one egg. I'm not sure what happened to the other one. Anyway the one egg had a black dot on the end which indicates that it's getting ready to hatch.

The leaf the egg was on had all dried up so I removed all but a bit around the egg and put a fresh leaf right beside it. This morning, I checked and there indeed was a new little larva. If you don't know what to look for they're hard to see.
Here it is metrically.
Again, this will take about 10 - 14 days to reach full size before pupating.

The two chrysalises continue to 'hang in there'. The third, ailing larva has crawled up to the top of the container but doesn't seem to be doing much of anything.

Although it is very small (about 2/3 the size of a full-grown larva) I thought it was getting ready to shed its final exoskeleton in preparation for pupating but nothing seems to be happening. I'm afraid that without food, it's just going to perish up there. I found two more eggs just now very close to the stem of each of the leaves. I've got the stems in water hoping to keep the leaves somewhat fresh 'til the eggs hatch.

In spite of continuing to find the odd egg here and there, I haven't seen a single monarch butterfly in our yard. They are very stealthy this year when laying their eggs.

It has been somewhat disconcerting this year to a) not find very many eggs, and b) not have had more larvae make it to the pupa stage. Next year, I plan to keep the leaves moister so they don't dry out by the time the eggs hatch.

In spite of the setbacks, I have 2 pupae that will most likely make it to the butterfly stage and at least one larva that might make it to the to the butterfly stage. We'll see about the two eggs I found today.