Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can Blocking Save This Project?

What happened? I've never had a knitting project come out so misshapen. I followed the directions carefully and my stitches are usually very even. I have ripped this project back twice already and it looks like I may have to do it again. The pattern is from Rowan Magazine No. 47 and the yarn is pure silk Mandalay by Reynolds. The name of the pattern? Relax. Hmmm... Rowan's yarn for this project is only 70% silk and 30% cotton. It's called Summer Tweed. Could the type of yarn have something to do with it? I read on the Internet that silk blocks well, but I think I would rather start again with fresh yarn.

This little shrug knitted up in a flash. It's made from some hand-painted yarn I bought while on vacation in Northern Pennsylvania this summer. It's a mohair bouclé called Forever Annie. (Love the name.) The company is called Handmade in the Hills and is owned by Deb Schildt. Check out her website. She has some very interesting stuff. The pattern, Shrug This, came from the book, One Skein Wonders, by Judith Durant.

Last but not least, here is the finished Bam Boo Tank from CEY's Make it Modern. It was done in a hand-painted yarn also called Ambrosia by Knit One Crochet Too. And the name suits it perfectly. At 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, and 10% cashmere, it is heavenly soft—one of the nicest yarns I have worked with. I have one hank left so I will have to search for a pattern for it. Maybe something for Baby M.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Butterflies and Other Insects

On a walk through Oak Canyon last week I found so many new plants and new butterflies to identify, that it has kept me busy for several days. The frustrating thing is that for several of the butterflies, there were two, sometimes three species so similar that only dissection would be able to tell them apart. And we don't do that. We just take photos.

Mournful Duskywing, Erynnis tristis, likes oaks and there are plenty of oaks at Oak Canyon. After careful examination of this one, I eliminated Funereal Duskywing because mine doesn't have any pale patches above the white fringe.

This is a Mormon Metalmark, but whether it's Apodemia mormo mormo or Apodemia mormo virgulti I can't tell. This butterfly lays its eggs on Buckwheat but the one in the photo is nectaring on a Sweet Bush, Bebbia juncea. You can see his proboscis going down into the flower.

Vivid Dancer, Argia vivida, (California? Aztec?) mating. Anyway, the male is the pretty blue one. You have to look closely to see the female. Getting this shot was tough because the wind was blowing and I didn't want to disturb them. As it is, they flew off still hooked together (like Monarchs?) before I could really get a good focus on them. Interestingly, the nymphs of these damselflies will live through the winter in the muck at the bottom of the year-round running stream at the canyon.

Woodland Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides, nectaring also. Similar species include the Umber Skipper and Rural Skipper. I don't think it is the Rural, so it's either Woodland or Umber. What's a skipper anyway? The name comes from their skipping flight patterns. Skippers generally have larger bodies and are not as colorful as true butterflies, but they do have clubbed antennae, unlike moths. And the club can have a hook at the end. The Duskywing above is also a skipper. Fred Heath in his Introduction to Southern California Butterflies says that skippers are very difficult to identify. He likens them to the "empids" in the bird world, all those confusing little flycatchers. Well, that makes me feel a little better. I still have trouble with the empids after 18 years of birdwatching.

Lorquin's Admiral, Limenitis lorquini, likes Willows, although here you see it on an oak. This one I am sure of. The only other butterfly it resembles on top (dorsal) is totally different underneath (ventral). That is the California Sister. Luckily, I got a good shot of the underneath.

But I have learned that to get really good photos of butterflies, I will need some more equipment to go with my macro lens. In order to stop the motion and increase the depth of field, I need to use a flash. I'll have to look into it, although I wonder what the Dancers would have done if a flash had suddenly gone off in the middle of things.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Native Plant Society Meeting

Seaside Daisy, Erigeron Glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

I went to the meeting of the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society on Monday evening. It was held at the South Coast Botanical Garden on Palos Verdes. The meeting was all about the upcoming native plant sale which will take place on October 2nd at the garden. Tony Baker and Ric Dykzeul were on hand with sample cuttings to tell us about the natives that would grow well in our area. The aroma in the room was wonderful! I was pleased to note that I was familiar with about 80% of the plants on display and many of the ones I was not familiar with were cultivars or hybrids. In all, they had about 35 to 40 plants represented.

After the meeting, Tony told us we could take any of the samples we wanted because they were just going to toss them. So I helped myself to a few, stuck them in water when I got home and took photos.

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum

Black Sage, Salvia melifera 'Skylark'

I hope to get one of these Black Sages called 'Skylark' for my new native plant garden. There will be a preview for members of the Botanical Garden and/or the Native Plant Society on Friday evening October 1st. If I couldn't make the Friday preview, I was told to come early on the 2nd because the plants go fast.