Tag Archives: flowers

Lupines in Wool

Route 4 through Nova Scotia does not have the vistas offered by many of the other roads in the province, but it does have lupines. In June, the verges were lined for miles with tall purple, blue, and pink inflorescence. Nothing, it seems, is more purple that a purple lupine.

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Upon returning home, I started knitting lupines. This is something that I have tried out with before without satisfactory results. It turned out that buying almost every purple available from Jamieson and Smith was essential, and I was able to design a motif that unmistakably represents a lupine in full bloom.

I have wanted to knit a sweater for my mother for a long time, and for a long time I have wanted it to be purple. This is because she once owned a purple Archie Brown & Son yoke knit of Shetland wool. She says that she bought it in 1983 while vacation in Bermuda. Sometime in the 80’s, the sweater was stored away in the basement and it remained there until my sister and I found it around 2000. There were dozens of moth holes, and I wore holes and all it for a decade before discovering darning. It now has mends, some more visible than others, as well as elbow patches, and I wear it regularly.

Shetland_SweaterThis photo was taken about two years ago, before the elbow patches.Shetland_Yoke

Using Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern as a template, my sister and I decided to knit a lupine cardigan for our mother’s birthday. In July 2017, I shipped main color yarn to M, she knit the sleeves and shipped them back to me, and then I joined them with the body before knitting the yoke. When my mother’s birthday came in early August, I had just joined the body and sleeves. She was patient through the fall and early winter as I finished knitting the yoke, cutting the steek, and painstakingly sewing a ribbon over the steek’s raw edge.

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For those interested in knitting details, Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern is available as part of her YOKES book. Kate Davies’ sweater sits nice and flat across her chest, but this is not the case for many other knitters. Based on Ravelry photos, I think that knitters have struggled with the yoke shaping and the neckline sits high and wide on many women. I modified the yoke, beginning with extra short rows in the back at the join of the arms with the body, and then more short rows at the top of the colorwork. I also decreased more within the yoke than is called for in the pattern. This allowed for a closer neckline that is wide enough not to scratch our mom’s neck. I cut the steek without reinforcement and then hand stitched it in place, rather than using a crochet reinforcement. The method that I used is described in Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and works well with Shetland wool. My Ravelry project page is here.

We are all three – M, Mom, and me – very happy with this cardigan and hope it sees decades of wear.

Spring Ephemerals

Each year, I measure the arrival of spring with firsts.

The first maple trees flowering by my house…
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the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
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the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
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the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
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the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
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and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
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My cousin and I found marsh marigold deep in the woods at Darien Lakes State Park. At the Niagara Escarpment Preserve, there are violets, toothwort, bloodroot (my favorite), white trillium, and squirrels corn (a close second). They are like long-distance friends, in my life for a weekend visit, and then gone for far too long.

Spring Ephemerals

Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Kentucky for work. Other than a brief visit to Mammoth Caves, back in 2005, Kentucky is a new place for me. Most of my time was spent working, but since this work was outside, I was able to enjoy the SPRING weather. Of course, “spring weather” means that it rained. Thank goodness for boots.

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Where I live in Buffalo, NY, spring is a slower to arrive. The skunk cabbage at Great Baehre Swamp are blooming, the red maple flowers are falling, and our snowdrops are making an appearance, but the beautiful, wonderful spring ephemeral wildflowers are not on display yet. In Kentucky, these very special plants were already visible throughout the meadows and woodlands.

There is really no other feeling like the one that I get when seeing woodland wildflowers for the first time each year. This feeling is a mixture of exitement, gratitude, and relief. The relief comes because spring ephemeral wildflowers are not as common as they once were. The bluets (Houstonia sp.) below were growing in someone’s mowed lawn, but with American’s obsession with uniform, green, grass-only lawns, herbicide use makes such finds rare. Other woodland species are threatened by over population of deer and by soil disturbance from poor forest management.DSCN5613I love the simplicty of bluet flowers. Each bloom has four petals, characteristic of the coffee family (Rubiaceae), and is pale blue-purple with a bright yellow center. (I designed a hat based on these flowers in 2013. Seeing them makes me want to knit a few more!)

There was also Carolina spring beauty (Claytonia caroliana), with its delicate pink lines…DSCN5617 DSCN5618

toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)DSCN5626

rue anemone and its neat tulip-shaped leaves…DSCN5683

adorable Dutchman’s breechesDSCN5714

bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (This may be my favorite flower of all. I love the smooth white petals, I love the intricate leaves, I love that they bloom for just one or two days, I love remembering the first time that saw this flower on the Appalachian Trail in 2009)…  DSCN5681    DSCN5687

and, of course, the star of most spring ephemeral shows, trillium…DSCN5629This one is toadshade trillium or sessile trillium (Trillium sessile).

Back in Buffalo, we still have few weeks before our spring ephemeral displays are at their peak, but the sun is making frequent appearances, and the air smells like wet soil. They are coming.