Sunday, February 03, 2008

Birds & Books

If there were any groundhogs around here (they aren’t native to west coast Canada) they would have seen their shadow yesterday. And it’s still mainly sunny today — must be some kind of record! Here’s the Hamamelis I mentioned yesterday.

That’s much more fun to say than “witch hazel” which has nothing to do with witches at all. It really means “dousing rod” and I don’t think we need to douse for water around here. There’s altogether too much of it available right now. It just falls out of the sky. Heh. But I digress. Isn’t this a pretty variety? I want one.

The snow isn’t melting very quickly even with the sun and my front yard is still completely covered. I got this cool photo of frozen crow prints:

Those crows have started making more noise earlier in the mornings now and many of the birds that are visiting my feeders are getting their spring colours on. The male house finches are an especially pretty orange-red. Yesterday we saw a northern flicker, a nuthatch and a downy woodpecker in the yard at the same time. This morning T said he saw a Cooper’s hawk and of course all the other birds had disappeared the instant it showed up. I love watching the birds. I could do without being woken up by the crow chorus though. It gets earlier and earlier along with the sunrise. And louder and louder to a really noisy crescendo when the young ones are fledging. I actually like crows. Most of the time. They’re interesting and smart and quite pretty when you notice the iridescence in their feathers. Yes, I also like spiders and snakes and hate the cute little squirrels so take my opinions any way you want.

Before I went off on a nature tangent, I thought I’d do another book review. This one is a Japanese book “Knitting Patterns Book 250” by Shida Hitomi.

You can get it directly from YesAsia or the Needle Arts Book Shop in Canada. Marsha at Needle Arts also has a PDF tutorial on following Japanese patterns and some links to more online help. The Japanese books are worth figuring out how to use because the patterns are exquisite! This one has stitch patterns consisting of mainly cable, rib and lace combinations of breathtaking beauty and complexity and all in charted form. Some of the symbols will be familiar to western knitters but some are totally new stitch manipulations, at least to me. There are several pages of illustrations explaining many of these stitches in the back of the book but it might be worthwhile getting another book “Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols” which has 60 stitches clearly illustrated — though it too is totally in Japanese except for the title. Since I only recently learned about this helpful book, I plan to order it next time. Meanwhile I do have the advantage of having a good friend who is both Japanese and a knitter, so hopefully if I get stuck she can help.

As someone reminded me recently, Japanese writing is already “pictorial” so it makes sense that they would be very innovative in charting knitting patterns. They must also have some pretty darned experienced knitters in Japan. The “Knitting Patterns Book 250” shows a few lovely and tantalizing garments made using the pattern stitches. Of course the instructions for them are not included. In the books that have garments, they are usually given in only one size which is really teensy compared to your average North American. If you are not that particular size and want to adjust the pattern for your own body, you have to do all the work of resizing it yourself. When the pattern includes really complex stitch patterns as well that’s a daunting task! Add not being able to read the text to the mix and the Japanese pattern books become a challenge only for the brave and intrepid among us. But what a challenge! The results if successful would sure be worth it.

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