The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Surprise! A Sweater!

I've been holding out on you all. A couple months ago I started working on a child's sweater, knitted in Cascade 220 Superwash. The idea, first of all, was to work on a sweater, something with actual construction involved. I also wanted to make it something that could be worn by the grandkids. Actually, to make something sturdy enough to last through a few kids. To that end, I went with the Cascade 220.

This is the Cameron sweater from Leisure Arts' Kids Knitted Sweaters & More. I was very pleased with the pattern. It was knit in the round with no sewing involved; the sleeves were picked up at the armholes and knitted to the cuffs. I really enjoyed this little knit. It used up two skeins of Cascade in teal, and part of another skein of light teal for the contrast stripes.

This isn't one of my Alaska projects. I didn't take it with me on the trip, because I didn't want anything fiddly with me. Since coming back, though, I wanted to get it finished up pretty quick so I could get going on more projects from this book. There are at least three other projects that I want to knit up for the grandkids. This sweater is a size 6 and is on the big side right now. But I'm sure that won't last for long.

More details on my Ravelry page.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

U is for...

Unbelievable beauty. Water and sky, spruce and mountains, the Inside Passage, the glaciers of the north.


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Monday, October 27, 2008

T is for...

Totems and Tlingits.

When we were planning out our trip, we decided that we would concentrate on historical and cultural tours. There were no regrets about this, once we had completed the trip. We learned a lot and saw first hand the difficulties that the gold rush settlers had to endure, and the challenges that the current residents deal with on a daily basis. There is great beauty in the remoteness, but life must be adapted to the environment.

We spent time over several days visiting historical parks and museums. We learned about totem poles, a lot more than I had known up to now. We learned what their purpose was and how to understand them, as well as the uses for which they are carved: to proclaim who lives in a certain area; to memorialize the deceased; to commemorate important events, etc. We visited a village workshop where totems are still being carved today, as a craft still living in this modern day. We learned about the woods used and the tools, as well as the dyes and paints used to decorate them.

The first three pictures were taken at Sitka Historic Park. We walked through the forest of spruce and hemlock in a gentle rain. The air was filled with the smell of the wet pine. The park is out on a small finger of land that two hundred years ago was the area occupied by the Tlingit people. The native people did not get along well with the Russian settlers at Sitka. Eventually the Russians and Tlingits fought and the Russian ships shelled the native fort that used to stand in this peaceful, green meadow. The Tlingits decided that they could no longer resist the Russians, and they escaped in the middle of the night, not to return for several decades.

Our first contact with the Tlingits -- who are still very much present in Southeast Alaska today -- was at Icy Straight/Hoonah. We took a tour that took us into the small, isolated town of Hoonah which is occupied today by a predominantly Tlingit population. Our tour guide, a young Tlingit woman, explained many aspects of the Tlingit clans and their society. I was impressed by her descriptions of clan relationships; how any member of a clan will look out for any other member of the clan, even those who may be perfect strangers. In fact, it would seem that there are no perfect strangers in Tlingit society; every one is made welcome. There is a concept of voluntary sharing among the families that would probably put the rest of us to shame. It was also obvious that the Tlingits are a proud, happy people, despite or perhaps because of the fact that they have very little of the consumer mentality found in the lower 48.

I found it quite fascinating that the people here live a basic subsistence lifestyle. In other words, they mostly live off what the land and sea have to offer. Fishing and hunting provide a great deal of the food, as well as shellfish and seaweeds. Herbs and plants are used for medicines, and very little is allowed to go to waste.

The remaining pictures posted were taken at Saxman Native Village just outside of Ketchikan. The presentations at this village were excellent. Saxman Village was settled when the Tlingits moved here from another remote area at which they could no longer exist. What could be brought from the old village was taken to Saxman, including some of the totem poles. It was obvious that their family histories were very important to the residents. There is a great sense that the people do belong to the land and the land to them.

The "long house" or "clan house" was where all the members of the clan would live. Nowadays the clan houses are used for gatherings and dances. They are still painted with the symbols that identify the resident clan. The houses would face the water as this one does here, so that visiting clans could see who lived in this particular place.

We were privileged to see two dances/programs that were educational and very moving. There was a third program we attended in Sitka, but other than being charmed by the children taking part, we were not as impressed by that one. At each location there were elders of the Tlingits that danced and explained the culture; their dignity and integrity of life was impressive.

The Tlingits wear ceremonial blanket robes for the dances that are made of felted wool and decorated with symbols that represent their clan identity. At the dance in Hoonah, it was explained that the designs truly represent the person who is wearing the robe, and that it was proper to respect and honor that identity. It was requested that photographs not be taken of the symbols on the blankets, unless one is specifically permited to take the picture by the wearer. In Hoonah the audience was invited to come up and join one of the dances. I did so, as well as perhaps another ten people, and we were given felted blankets to wear that did not have any clan symbols on them.

In Sitka we were also invited to join in a dance, but were not given any robes. Then in Saxman, when I went up with three other people to join the participation dance, I was surprised to see that the Tlingit dancers were taking off their own ceremonial robes and allowing us to dance with them. A young Tlingit lady took off her beautiful robe and placed it over my shoulders, and then taught me how to do the simple dance. Then the drums and singing began. I danced in the ceremonial robe, feeling its' weight on my back and shoulders. I think I was feeling more weight than just the wool itself, the weight of hundreds of years of an ancient people. I know that for a few minutes there I was absorbed into a culture that I will always remember.

After the dance the young woman helped me out of the robe, and I thanked her for the honor of being allowed to dance in it.

We walked about the totem park and met a Tlingit man who explained much about the totems. He was one of the tribe who still carved totems, and it was easy to see that this is an art that is still being kept alive.

A person can travel many miles over land and sea, and consider that this is a good trip taken. A person can also travel many miles in time and culture and experience, and say that this is an even greater trip taken. A person can travel many miles over land and sea, and still be the same person at the end of it. A person can also travel many miles in time and culture and experience, and not be quite the same person at the end of it. I think back frequently to all that I saw and experienced on this trip, and I imagine that I will continue to do so for quite a while to come.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday's Fauna

Again, instead of Friday's Flowers, we have Friday's Fauna, just so I can share with you a few more pictures of the many critters we saw on our trip. Bald Eagles in Juneau; a harbor seal in Oregon; a water bird (sorry, I'm no ornithologist!), also in Oregon; and the seals at Pier 39 in San Francisco.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walking in the Silk Garden

The first of the Alaskan projects is finished. The Noro Striped Scarf by Jared Flood was my airplane knitting, as well as balcony knitting throughout the trip.

The scarf was finished on Sunday. I used a full four skeins of Noro Silk Garden.

255 and 258 were multicolor skeins. I picked two similar skeins to complement each other.

I used two skeins of 267, which were varying values of the same brown/gray color. This made an excellent base for the two multicolor skeins.

I did not find this in the least boring. I love the finished scarf and of course love the Noro. Nothing I've ever seen can compare to the way the Silk Garden slips so easily from one shade into the next. So much depth and uniqueness to these scarves!

I doubt that this will be the only one I knit.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday Sky - Hoonah Morning

Most of the time we were in Alaska, the sun only played hide and seek with us. Very early in the morning that we sailed into Icy Straight/Hoonah, there were some bits of blue sky and evidence that the sun was still up there. The early morning light, the fog hanging over the water and mountains, and about all the pervading stillness of the early dawn made for a memorable morning. There is something to be said for the habit of getting up every day with the sunrise.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday's Flowers

Out walking in the Alaskan woods and wilderness, there wasn't much in the line of wildflowers blooming. I did take a few shots of what there was in flowers, grasses, and leaves. The new camera did come through for me very nicely.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kitchen Projects

Last week Joe's new KitchenAid mixer showed up, and he took advantage of this last weekend to put it through its' paces. On Sunday he mixed up a chocolate cake that turned out very light and moist. On Monday it was time to make sausage. My maternal Polish grandparents made homemade kielbasa every year; my grandfather taught Joe how to do it and now we are the only family members who keep the tradition going. About ten pounds of pork butt was purchased and cut into cubes. Some of the heaviest fat was trimmed off but a fair amount of fat is needed to keep the kielbasa from being too dry.

Four cloves of garlic were crushed with salt, marjoram, and ground black pepper.

The casings (dried sheep intestines - we are nothing if not traditional sausage makers) were soaked to remove the salt they were packed in.

The cubes of pork were ground up using the grinder attachment on the mixer.

The spices were thoroughly mixed into the ground meat, and a bit was fried up and tasted to make sure the proportions were correct.

The casings were threaded onto the stuffing attachment and the mixer did its' job admirably.

Five long kielbasa, a little over a pound and a half each. About a pound was packaged and frozen in a chunk to be used later in stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey.

Dinner's ready!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Walk With Me Wednesday

We did get the opportunity to take a few beautiful walks while we were in Alaska. While in Juneau the fog lifted enough to allow us a picturesque walk in the woods.

The trees were changing colors and it was intoxicating for this high desert grrl to see the spectrum of greens, yellows, and the blues of the water.

Some of the trails were closed because of the salmon spawning and the prevalence of bears at stream-side. But soon we could see chunks of ice floating in the mirror-like water.

Beautiful Mendenhall Glacier!

And the perfect view from the trail.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

S is for...

Salmon and Sea lions.

We saw several salmon canneries on our trip. We were there during the last week of the official fishing season. We often saw the fishing boats as they sailed in and out of the ports.

Hoonah Packing Company is in Icy Straight, Alaska, an out-of-the-way area that only allows one cruise ship per day. There are no jewelry shops lining the streets, no tshirt shops or tacky souvenir places. This is the real Alaska, a small native town depending on fishing and subsistence living, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The cannery and the machinery you see here is no longer commercially functioning; it has been converted into a museum, a restaurant, and a few shops with Alaska and native made items. We had a lunch of halibut and chips. The portions were so huge, we could have gotten away with just splitting one order. We bought a case of canned salmon and had it shipped home, as well as shopping for some other souvenirs and Christmas gifts. Everything was on sale for the end of the cruise season. We shopped and shopped and had it all mailed home. (It was a little like Christmas when we got home. Barbara had everything stacked up and opening all the boxes was an adventure in rediscovering what we had purchased a week or so ago.)

In Sitka we went walking along the water's edge and came to a salmon stream. Although it was near the end of the spawning season, we saw many salmon working their way upstream. On this trip I ate Alaskan salmon for the first time. It was the best!

We saw this small island with sea lions while in Juneau. There had to be a couple hundred clustered on this little bit of dry land. The noise was incredible. Several groups were playing in the water, splashing and diving and wrestling with each other. At other times, when we would be in port, harbor seals would come up to the ship and pop their heads out of the water. I guess they enjoyed seeing the ship and the passengers just as much as the passengers enjoyed seeing them.

Of course, S is also for the Ship! Beautiful Radiance of the Seas!

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