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The High Country Knitwear Newsletter

Starting in early September, here, the nights dip down—high 40s, low 40s, high 30s, edging down Autumn in Ft. Collinsto first light frost, though it is warm in the middle of the day.   Our first hard frost is usually in the first two weeks of October.

The cool mornings and the slanting light put us a few minutes closer to winter, but, in the garden, the roses bloom with their strongest colors of the year, not washed out by long hours of sunlight.  I pick a few for the house and arrange them, short-lived as they may be, and cut back fading plants a little each morning, hang some herbs for drying, pick the last and sweetest of the raspberries straight off the bushes for breakfast, and return to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee. 

I wrote up the little cidering party, with how-to tips, and it ran in the local paper, which was kind of them, and heard from cheerful cider maniacs from all over the state.  I also ordered a crusher for apples, to work for the rest of this season, and next, and beyond.  It’s a 35- pound piece of gear, awkward and unbalanced with a big handle on one side, so it was in need of secure mounting.  I cut a spare piece of pine with rounded corners, cut out a hole for the chute, painted it to be truly cleanable, furnished it with comfortable handles for easy carrying by two people, and made it of a size to sit on lightweight plastic sawhorses.  I drilled it to take carriage bolts, topped with washers and wing nuts, so it won’t be hard to take the mill off, should cleaning be needed.

The sawhorses have small tool platforms built into them, perfect to take a ten gallon container.  This rig permits one person to grind, feeding the grinder from a basket of apples at the back of the board.  The ground apples fall down the chute, either into a nylon bag held to the cast-iron housing with magnets, or directly into the container.  This just fits my smallish, back-sparing hand truck, should it be touring the neighborhood, as my picking gear and some of my canning gear does. 

I do like making stuff, and I enjoy designing and executing virtually anything useful.  If this was a practical design executed with wood with a circular saw, a jigsaw, a drill, and paint and brushes.  It doesn’t strike me as different in kind to lay out and execute a modest carpentry project, and it’s the same thing I do when I design a knitting project and execute it with needles and yarn, so that, with any luck, it works.

Marylin S's hatThis is the time of year when I’m grateful for warm sweaters and socks, and scarves to tuck into a jacket front on a cold evening or early morning.  I’m also glad that I know how to make them, as you must be. 

Marilyn S., a reader in Kansas, made her first cowboy hat from stash, and I'm as pleased as she is with it.  Very zanzy, and perfectly shaped, isn't it?  Come on, dear readers.  I know you're swamped with holiday planning, but I'd love more photographs of work as good as this.

I’m also glad that I had the old windows in the house renovated when I first moved in—repairs done, old weight pockets insulated, double-paned glass installed—at a monthly savings of about 35% of the natural gas use that the house had before.  I remember with a smile the engaging father/son team that parked their mobile workshop in the driveway, and did the whole job in a week (in November, and, yes, it snowed, so it was not a whole pile of fun to have three openings wide open to the weather for part of each day!). 

They worked hard and steadily. I made big hot lunches and kept the gas fireplace going so we could all warm up.  By the time they left, the house was much cozier and more efficient, and significantly quieter, at about 2/3 the cost that would have gone to the purchase and installation of new windows.  The savings have been substantial because this is a 1922 house in which, come a windy night, it had been impossible to keep candles lit in the dining room.  The consumption of natural gas dropped by about a third, and has stayed down, so this effort is on its way to paying for itself, especially as prices for fuel have risen.  And the good windows have made the place much quieter, especially in summer, when there are sometimes loud concerts in the nearby park, and fireworks over the lake (otherwise known as Goose Poop Pond) on the Fourth of July, terrifying Chewbacca, who is otherwise unafraid of anything.

The local yarn stores are packed with new inventory, some of it inspiring, some of it—as always—not so much.  There are lots and lots of new books, too, for every taste and every level of skill, covering every range of pattern and technique.  My favorite patterns, though, seem come from the increasing number of designers who, like me, are independent, and sell their patterns on the internet.  My favorite: Jen Appleby’s felted mukluk slippers (see:  http://www.thewoollenearth.com/knit_patterns.html )

But, dear readers, if you have oodles of money but no time to make a few Not-A-Scarves for Christmas, here—very like it—is the sole product of a new business in Connecticut,  at this address:  http://www.3feapparel.com/pageShopOnline.html   Hand knit cashmere, very expensive, and no pocket for a handkerchief.  I figure you could make about 20 Not-a-Scarves for that price!  Thanks to the reader who noticed this, and let me know.  No, I’m not screaming “copyright infringement.”  It much more resembles Leah Wulster’s two-button scarf, downloadable free at http://www.knittingsoftware.com/pinteractivepatterns/demo.htm and sorted out, like some of her other software (Sweater Wizard, Stitch and Motif) for letting you select your own gauge.

What can one say?  Anyone can tweak a strip of knitted fabric, so it’s hardly  an idea at the extremes of originality.  But this, the only item in their “line”, made me laugh, and I hope it makes you laugh.  It also made me shake my head to think there might actually be a market for this, at these staggering prices.  

Oh, and anyone sewing buttons on knitting is better off using shank buttons, one on each side of the button band, sewn to one another, so that they don’t pull on the fabric at all.  I finally sewed the button to my red sweater coat this morning, having set them with the lazy-woman’s answer, special little button safety pins, when it was new in time for the May newsletter (see:  http://www.highcountryknitwear.com/news052507.shtml )  And then, abruptly, I put it away for the summer, with the pins still in place.

Knit on,

sig