Knitted Kitty Hat

So here is the pattern I came up with for a knitted kitty hat with ears. I wasn’t going to post it, but I’ve gotten so many delightful comments on it that I thought I should share it so others could make one. :-)

I used 1/2 skein sensations rainbow classic worsted weight yarn. The pattern this is originally based on says to use 143 yards or 100 grams.

You’ll need a size 8 (5mm) circular needle and a size 10 (6mm) circular needle.

With smaller needles cast on 68 sts using the long tail cast on method.

Divide the stitches so that 1/2 are on working needle 1 and 1/2 are on working needle 2 with a loop of cable between them.

To join the round, move the top stitch from the left needle to the right needle. Pull the top stitch on the right needle through the stitch transferred from the left needle and place it on the left needle. a crochet hook comes in handy for this.

http://www.az.com/~andrade/knit/twocirculars.html describes the above procedure well.

On smaller needles
Row 1: knit every st
Row 2: purl every st
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until the piece measures 1.5 inches. End on a purl row.

Change to larger needles
Row 1: knit every st
Row 2: purl every st
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until the piece measures 11 inches. End on a purl row.

For ease, I’ll number the stitches
On working needle 1 there are stitch groups 1-10, 11-24 and 25-34
On working needle 2 there are stitch groups 35-44, 45-58 and 59-68

Place stitch group 11-24 onto a stitch holder.
Place stitch group 45-58 onto a stitch holder.
Place stitch groups 1-10 and 59-68 onto working needle 1.
Place stitch groups 25-34 and 35-44 onto working needle 2.

Ear 1:
Row 1: knit every stitch (20 sts)
Row 2: purl every stitch (20 sts)
Row 3: k8, k2tog, k2tog,k8
Row 4: purl every stitch (18 sts)
Repeat row 3 and row 4, decreasing until only a single stitch remains.
Fasten off.

Ear 2 is worked the same way, except that you need to join yarn to the piece to get started. Join to the outer edge of the hat.

To join the 2 stitch groups that are on the holders. Place each stitch group on it’s own needle. Place them so that the wrong sides of each piece are facing each other with the needles parallel. ***Insert a 3rd needle through the first stitch on each needle as if to knit. Knit these stitches together as one, leaving one stitch on the right hand needle. Repeat the last step and slip the older stitch over the newer stitch. Repeat from ***.

Yours in Health and Prosperity,

Melissa

T minus 4 days…

In 4 days, I’ll be heading out to the DZ early in the morning to take an all day AFF first jump ground course that is designed to prepare me to do my first solo skydive later on that day. For the most part, I am completely ok with it. Occasionally, I feel a bit overwhelmed; mostly because it seems there is so much to learn and remember.

The Category A dive is done with 2 jump masters, one on either side of you. They jump with you and hold onto your harness or grips on your flight suit. They instruct you in free fall; all 40-60 seconds of it. ;-)

This jump is all about attaining a reasonable arch and getting stable, being reasonably altitude aware, deploying your parachute within 1000′ of the assigned altitude, and then planning, flaring and landing your canopy with ground assistance.

I’ve been preparing and will continue to do so right up to the class.

The United States Parachute Association (USPA for short) has a 237 page document called the Skydivers Instruction Manual (SIM for short). It has everything in it and is the foundation for all AFF first jump ground courses. I’ve been reading that for the last week.

I’ve also been reading posts on The Drop Zone, a great place to familiarize yourself with the sport and to see what others had issues with and possible ways to address those issues – of course I’ll also ask my jump masters about these techniques as well.

We also did a session at Sky Venture NH this weekend (previous post) and after looking at the raw video footage, I realize that I need to work on my legs a bit. It may have just been a wind tunnel thing, but I don’t want to develop bad habits that will be hard to break down the line and will ultimately cause me to fail an AFF level which would mean a re-take. I will not be surprised if I have to do some re-takes, but I’m trying to head off a deluge of them because it gets expensive and it gets disheartening. I’ve read how multiple re-takes of the same AFF level affect new divers and it’s not pretty.

In looking at what arch position is, I came to realize that it is a modified ‘super man’ position. ‘super man’ is one of the positions that is part of my personal training routine, so I’m going to do it in a modified form a little more often to get my body on the right track for arching as I exit the aircraft and while in free fall.

I’m planning on getting video taken of the jump so that I can go over it with my jump masters and make any necessary tweaks to my body posture. I really think that doing it correctly as soon as possible will make all the difference in how I progress. You know, like the old adage… A stitch in time will save nine?

So for the rest of the week, I’ll dream of the sky, continue reading and continue strengthening my body as I draw nearer to my first dive. I’ll also meditate, get plenty of rest, nourish my body with clean water and fresh food, work in the garden, and take proper care of myself. I want to be my best as I go through training. My goal is an A license before end of season. It’ll mean lots of work on my part and every weekend possible at the DZ, but the rewards will be so worth it.

The wind tunnel

Yesterday my husband and I went to Sky Venture NH to do 10 minutes each in the tunnel. I decided that it would be a good way to see if I would be stable while in the air.

I had told them that we were starting AFF training the following weekend. They gave us the skydivers discount… Sweet and unexpected!

We each had 5  -  2 minute sessions with an instructor. He knew we were starting AFF so he did drills with us to start to get us ready, instead of what is normally done. It was exhilarating. Learned quite a bit too.

I found that being stable is not too hard. It didn’t look like I was potato chipping in the video. I was floating all around the tunnel though. Keeping a straight heading not on the menu quite yet.

It’s all in the arch just like they say which is really just a pelvic thrust. I tried to smile to foster relaxation, but it’s hard to do consistently when you’re trying to pay attention to the instructor, be stable and not get blown around and run into the walls too much. And I looked like I was whistling due to way I was breathing, slow and easy.

As would be expected, I don’t have the fine control at this point that would allow me to stay centered in the tunnel. I tried to keep my legs at a 45 degree angle from level but they were a little less than 45 degrees from level (level being flat on your stomach). Maybe that caused me to move  slightly forward which then meant touching the wall, losing concentration, de-arching slightly, arching again, getting turned a bit due to touching the wall, etc. But I also see in all the pictures on skydiving sites that the students and instructors legs seem to be at 90 degrees from level and I’m not sure what that does. I know if you move your feet closer to your derriere, you move backwards. So I’m now wondering what is the best position? I need to remember to ask that question in class next weekend.

I should note that a lot of the practicing was done on or very close to the wire ‘floor’. I think that was a bit distracting and I’m pretty sure I lost my arch a number of times due to brushing the wire ‘floor’ which caused my body to flatten out in response which was not the best thing in this case, but it is best to start there I think seeing as we’ve never been in a wind tunnel before and we’ve not even taken AFF 1 yet.

We also practiced some turns and going forward and backward.

Going forward and backward is a bit of a challenge. I did manage to do it, but I need lots of work on going in a straight line and not veering off. I wonder if it’ll be easier in open sky.

Turns were a bit easier and lots of funs. At times I was thinking too hard though. This happened in part because of how the instructor described turns. My brain just couldn’t wrap around it. He said that the opposite arm raised over your head while the arm that causes the turn goes down. Made it seem like it was a separate step almost.

Whenever I tried to do this, it didn’t quite work right and I moved what should have been the arm that caused the turn back instead of down. If instead I just stopped thinking about it, I found that to turn you just rotate your upper torso a little bit to one side while keeping everything in plane, then you turn. To stop, you leveled out. When I stopped analyzing it, the turns were pretty effortless and I found that I could turn fast or slow and stop almost right in front of the instructor if I wasn’t going to fast and if I thought a little ahead. Again, I do think that the wire ‘floor’ was a bit distracting.

When I got home and analyzed what the instructor had said, the light bulb went on and all of a sudden it made sense. Your non turning arm does raise slightly above your head due to the rotation of your torso but not because you did anything extra.

We paid a small fee and got the raw footage so that we could look it over.

After our session was over the instructor got to show his skills. He was able to stay right in the middle of the tunnel and effortlessly move forward and back with the slightest body movement.

Being able to have such control is one of my goals amongst a while host of others. I can see more tunnel time and many many weekends at the DZ (dropzone) in my future. I love the feeling of my body flying through the air and I am looking forward to learning how my movements affect that flight and then there is the icing on the cake, the canopy ride down which is so peaceful and serene.

I’m really thankful for all the weight training I’ve been doing with John, my personal trainer. I am only a tiny bit sore today and I’m not even sure if it’s because of Fridays workout or yesterdays drills. We’ve been working on creating strong nicely sculpted arms (amongst other things of course). My poor husband is feeling it in a number of places.

I wonder if there are ground exercises that you can practice at home to improve your free fall posture. I’d like to be able to practice stable position and strengthening my derriere muscles so that I can hold those legs up even easier. My trainer and I have been working on the derriere and legs, but not quite in this way. So the legs and derriere are strong, but I think a little more strength would be good.

I would have loved to go out to the DZ today and just watch the chutes come down, but we had lots of chores to do including the dreaded grocery shopping! :-P

Next weekend I’ll be taking the ground course and my Category A jump, the first jump of many.

The second tandem jump

June 27th, 2010 – 5 pm appointment

We arrived about 30 minutes before our jump.

My husband had decided to take a second jump as well. He knew that I was considering going for AFF training and he had decided that he’d join me in the training because then it would be something that we could do together. If it wasn’t for my desire, he’d have been happy just taking the occasional tandem jump. He’s such an amazing man and I’m so glad to have him as my love and life partner.

We were put on the board immediately because we are waivered for the season. Due to an earlier weather hold, they were 8 loads behind. A load takes about 20 minutes round trip, so we had a long wait.

I wasn’t nervous at all. I was just curious. I had been told that Keith lets his passengers steer and so I’d requested him. Mark had requested Rich, who he had jumped with the previous weekend. I know Rich also lets his passengers steer and pull the rip cord. Mark had done both things last time.

We finally went out at 8 pm. Keith was great. I told him I needed to know if I’d get ill under canopy even if I was steering, so could I please steer? I also asked to pull the ripcord. I told him that I was contemplating AFF training and that this was to help me solidify my decision. He said no problem on any of my requests.  I also asked him what position my arms should be in. He told me they should be held up as though I were being held up at gun point. Basically, like you would do if you were solo skydiving. He also showed me the sign for pull the ripcord. In free fall you use hand signs to communicate. Pull the ripcord is a finger point.

We went up. We ended up being first again. My initial thought this time was ‘Wow! I’m actually doing it again!” and out we went.

I quickly went from crossed arms to open arms. I let them relax and tried to push my hips forward so that I’d be in proper arch. I’m not sure what my legs were doing, but apparently it was ok. Afterwards, I asked Keith how my arch felt, he said it was good.

We fell and I watched the landscape below me. It was so vast. It was like watching a motion picture. I saw the whole river as it snaked along this time instead of just unconnected parts of the river. I noticed all the trees. Skydiving at Pepperell in the Autumn would be an inspiring sight. I also saw housing developments and cars. And at the start of our dive, we went through a cloud. It was strange to say the least. It took me a second to realize what we’d just gone through.

While watching the landscape below me, I was also watching for Keith’s signal to pull. It came and surprisingly my hand went right to rip cord. I pulled and the main chute went up.

Keith told me to look up and check the canopy and proceeded to teach me how to do a canopy control check. He said that you look for the 3 S’s – square, stable and steerable. After he did the check as I watched, he handed me the controls. I learned how to turn left, right and to make the chute go slower or faster. After the brief lesson, I had the controls and I was not nauseous at all! I even did a few sharper turns to test the theory. I’m not saying that you’d never be nauseous under canopy, but it would not be the norm.

This time under canopy was also like watching a motion picture and it was so serene. I noticed that there was a big peace sign carved into a field and I could see the landing strip below. Of course I also saw houses and cars and people below. The most memorable moment was looking out at the sun which looked like it was shrouded in mist. It was gorgeous.

At some point Keith had to take the reins and land us. I got up and could have gone again on the next load. That is how great I felt.

Mark and I signed up for AFF training that day. We start on July 10th.

My only regret is that I didn’t get this videoed. Only because I felt totally different about it and I wonder what gems of knowledge could have been gleaned from the footage that wold have helped me in AFF training. Cie La Vie!

The day arrives, my first tandem jump

June 19th, 2010 – 2 pm appointment

Today was the day I’d be overcoming my fear of jumping out of an airplane. Yay me!

Our original appointment was for noon, but they had called the previous day and asked if they could move us up to 2 pm because they had gotten so busy due to the” Jump of the Cure” event that was going on Saturday. We said that was fine.

So we puttered around the house and headed out at12:30 pm, so that we’d have some time to look at the booths and raffle items. We got there around 1 pm.

The day was hot and humid. We checked in and immediately went into waiver.

Waiver is a video that tells you in detail (but I’ll do it in a nutshell) that in order to go on the dive you have to sign all your legal rights to sue or get damages away, including those of your family and friends. You agree that you and those that are related to you will not sue, no matter what happens, even if it could be proved that Pepperell was at fault. You also agree that you won’t try and get any medical expenses paid for by Pepperell’s liability insurance if there is an accident. It’s serious stuff. But in order to go, you have to sign the legal documents. Without that sign off skydiving would disappear because no insurance company would cover them all because of the perceived notion that it is so dangerous, regardless of the statistics.

They also explain all the checks that the equipment and the tandem divers goes through. There may have been statistical information given as well, such as in North America there are over 2 million jumps (tandem and solo) taken a year and only 20-30 deaths. Pepperell itself has not had any deaths.

Proper body posture is also gone over. I paid a lot of attention. I’m a detail person. The two postures were arms crossed or palms out and close to your sides. We were also told that we’d have time to go over this topic with our tandem dive partner. More on that later.

Once we were done, our names went up on the board. Load 18. And so the waiting game ensued. We checked back every so often. We got moved to Load 19.

Then I realized that I wanted to be first out the door. You may be thinking… why? Basically, I didn’t want to feel anyone else’s anxiety and anticipation except my own and the way I figured it, as people left the craft, the anxiety and anticipation would probably mount. I didn’t want to try and have to sort out what was mine and what belonged to the guy next to me.

I think this request caused us to get moved to Load 20.

Eventually we heard our names called. Just before going over to be suited up, I verbally, mentally and metaphysically placed all my fear in the ground. I didn’t want to be terrified going up so I choose not to be.

They put you in a jumpsuit. It reminded me of the coveralls that my dad wore as a vending mechanic. Then they put you in a harness and because it has to fit everyone, it has lots of buckles that need to be adjusted.

Everyone else on the load was being suited up by their jump master. My jump master, Dalton, was on the previous load and hadn’t landed yet. So one of the woman who helped organize the loads was helping me get suited up. She said Dalton would make the final adjustments.

The plane landed, everyone else headed over. I was still waiting for Dalton. My fear tried to come back, but I refused it entry. They notified him over the loud speaker that he was turning (which means he was going right back up). I saw him start running in from the landing field.

He got there and we said a brief hello while he was looking around for his parachute. He wasn’t seeing it. My fear tried once again unsuccessfully to come back, but I said no, you’re stating here! And I know that this will be fine. I accept and trust that it will be so and that was that!

One of the riggers told Dalton that it was over by him. Dalton picked it up, told me he’d adjust me in the plane and out we headed to the plane. I did manage to ask him to take me down slow (turns can make you nauseous… more on that in another post). He agreed he’d take it slow.

I never really got a chance to ask about other hand positions. It was too noisy in the craft for long conversations and we were up to altitude in 5-10 minutes. During that time Dalton had me stand up and he adjusted my harness, back and front. Then he had me sit down and he latched me to him. I felt like an Oreo cookie that the filling had just been squeezed out of, we were that close!

I had a moment when I asked how we would exit. He said arms crossed, then palms out. We didn’t have time for a more detailed explanation, so I just went with what I remembered from the video.

The door was opened. We waddled over to the door. The wind was fierce. Dalton was holding the sides of the door opening. We went a bit up and out (I took a deep yogic breathe), we went back and a bit down (I breathed it all out) and then we went out (I wondered in that brief moment before we encountered the open air and there was no going back, what it would be like. I never thought I’d die and I wasn’t scared.). Then we were riding the wind and my first thought was OMG! This is awesome! It was the most amazing experience and much to my surprise I loved the feeling of being in freefall. I also confirmed that you don’t get nauseous in freefall and you don’t feel like your falling. Riding the air in is truly indescribable.

As we fell I saw the river and some mountains off in the far distance and the curvature of the planet we live on. It was breath taking. I felt so connected and was in a state of pure wonderment. But I realize my memory is like a series of still photos taken seconds apart. There is a lot of detail, but a lot was missed due to the flood of data.

After 35 seconds of freefall (we figured it out from the video), Dalton pulled the ripcord. I quickly found out that being under canopy with someone else steering made my tummy feel queasy whenever he had to turn. It was beautiful, but I dreaded the turns. He only made those that were absolutely necessary to get us down safely. Due to the nausea, this part also is like a series of beautiful still photos. One thing that stands out is the moment when I closed my eyes as we turned to face the sun and I felt the warmth of it on my skin and realized I was feeling that warmth up where the birds flew so gracefully.

We landed and my first remark was that I thought I had to throw up. As I opened my legs so I wouldn’t mess up the jumpsuit, I realized my head was too hot, so I quickly stripped off the helmet you have to wear. My head started to immediately cool and I think that is why I only had one dry heave, but for the next few hours I was woozy.

As I looked back on it, I quickly realized that I really liked free fall. That was the opposite of what I had initially thought. Also being under canopy was not as pleasant as I had thought due to the unexpected nausea – more on that in another post.

I also realized that I’ve always wanted to do what is called Relative Work. You know, where the skydivers make beautiful patterns in the sky? And I’d love to do aerobatics too and fly like a bird in a bird suit. But I had dismissed ever doing that because I had convinced myself that I could never exit the aircraft.

All of a sudden a new door was open and if I could get rid of the nausea while under canopy I was willing to walk through it and start AFF training.

So I decided to do more research and ask the other skydivers if the nausea ever went away. I was told that you don’t get nauseous if you’re steering. So I scheduled another dive for the following weekend to test that theory out.

On a side note: We won a very nice basket of goodies for the kitties in the raffle.

If you’re my friend on FB, you can see the video and still pics of this dive.

The next 2 months

The next 2 months was filled with lots of activities that allowed me to forget that I was going skydiving in June. Every so often I would think about it and then I’d do what I always do when I’m unsure of something – I’d ask questions and do web research and talk it out. That’s my way of processing. It helped calm me down a lot, but not completely.

I talked to some other people at Pepperell when another question or doubt came up. They were always ready to help. It helped, but not as much as if I had known them. They weren’t friends; they were nice crazy people who liked to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

I wanted first hand information from a friend. Eventually I found out that two of my friends had done tandem jumps. Both of them described it as the most terrifying thing they’ve done and the most amazing and oh yeah, they’d go again. I really couldn’t grok how an activity whose description started out with the word terrifying could morph into such an amazing experience that they’d want to go again. Their descriptions didn’t exactly sound appealing.

With only a week to go, I finally asked one of the friends who had done it to break it down. Then the real story came out. The ride up was terrifying, tipping out and diving was amazing which is why he’d do it again. This was confirmed by my other friend.

So I decided that what I needed to do was to leave the fear on the ground. Breaking it down really helped me. I was still a bit scared, but anything new is scary.

Making the appointment

April 24th, 2010 – 10am

I called Pepperell (www.skyjump.com) and made the arrangements to jump June 19th at high noon.

The staff was great! The woman I talked to spoke to me for about an hour.  She was so kind and calming. She allowed me to be in the moment and ask as many questions as I could think of and then she answered questions that I hadn’t thought of.

I was really convinced that I’d dislike free fall -more on that in another post. She explained that you don’t have the sensation of falling. That air is rushing up to meet you and you feel like you are on a cushion of air. I took her word for it, but I must admit I had a hard time believing it!

She also explained that you don’t get that feeling of your stomach rising up in your throat and the attending nausea during freefall because the plane is going horizontally 80-100 mph and when you exit the craft you only pick up 20-40 mph. So it’s like gunning your car. No problem.

She also took the time to tell me just how many jumps and the amount of training a tandem diver has to go through before they can take a passenger like me. It’s a lot. I know it was at least 1000+ jumps – may have been a lot more.  500 solo, 500 with other experienced divers and many hours of additional training.

I didn’t ask any questions about being under canopy because I thought that would be the really enjoyable part. After all I really liked parasailing, how different could it be? More on that in another post.

The purchase

April 23rd, 2010 – 10pm

Just before going to bed, I decided out of the blue to check that days Groupon because I had forgotten. Much to my surprise and horror it was 37% off a tandem skydive.

My husband has always wanted to do a jump. Before he met me he had tried to go twice, but the winds had kept him grounded, so it was a no brainer that I’d purchase one for him.

Then came five minutes of me working up my courage to buy one for myself.

I’ve always been convinced that I’d not be able to jump and I hate nausea and my brain kept telling me that jumping would be like the parachute ride at Knott’s Berry Farm and that my stomach would be in my throat the whole way down, followed by feeling ill for a number of hours. Plus, you’re falling! That has got to terrifying! Doesn’t exactly sound appealing, does it?

But I also recognized that I’d probably regret not doing it.

Additionally I was being given an opportunity to overcome my fear on a platinum platter.

So with quite a bit of misgiving, I purchased two and turned out the lights.

Apple Pecan Pie

Serves 8-12

1 package (15 oz) refrigerated pie crust

1 TBS butter, melted
1 TBS Agave Syrup
1/2 C pecan halves, coarsely chopped
1/4 C brown sugar, packed

7 C apples, peeled & sliced (about 6-8 apples)
1 TBS lemon juice
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/3 C flour
2 TSP cinnamon

Gently unroll one pie crust into a deep dish pie plate (either glass or stoneware). Press into the bottom and up the sides.

Combine 1/4 C brown sugar, butter and agave syrup. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pie crust. Chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the sugar mixture.

Combine the apples and lemon juice. Toss gently to coat.

Add 3/4 C brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Mix gently.

Spoon the filling into the pie plate.

Unroll the remaining crust and place over filling.

Fold edges of top crust under edges of bottom crust. Seal and flute edges. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Place a pie shield or 2-3 1″ wide strips of aluminum foil over the edge of the pie. Bake 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

Remove shield. Bake 25-30 additional minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

 

Upside Down Caramel Apple Pie

Serves 8-12

1 package (15 oz) refrigerated pie crust

1 TBS butter, melted
1 TBS Agave Syrup
1/2 C pecan halves, coarsely chopped
1/4 C brown sugar, packed

7 C apples, peeled & sliced (about 6-8 apples)
1 TBS lemon juice
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/3 C flour
2 TSP cinnamon

Combine 1/4 C brown sugar, butter and agave syrup. Spread evenly over the bottom of a deep dish pie pan (either glass or stoneware). Chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the sugar mixture.

Gently unroll one pie crust into pie plate. Press into the bottom and up the sides.

Combine the apples and lemon juice. Toss gently to coat.

Add 3/4 C brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Mix gently.

Spoon the filling into the pie plate.

Unroll the remaining crust and place over filling.

Fold edges of top crust under edges of bottom crust. Seal and flute edges. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Place a pie shield or 2-3 1″ wide strips of aluminum foil over the edge of the pie. Bake 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

Remove shield. Bake 25-30 additional minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

While still warm, turn the pie out onto a serving plate so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pie plate. It you decide to leave it in the pie plate, it will be necessary to heat up the whole pie in order to get a single piece out, especially it is has been refrigerated. This is due to the caramelized sugar/pecan mixture.

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