Hello Summer: Rainy Day Knits

Yesterday was the first day of summer. It was a cold and gloomy day. It rained, it hailed, it snowed in the mountains. The afternoon was filled with flashes of lightening and the booms of thunder. I kept the television on and watched the footage of a storm chaser stalking a supercell on the plains east of me while I knitted. (Here’s a supercell shot by Meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen last month.) Yep, just another crazy day in Colorado.

Hello summer. I thought you would never get here.

There has been so much water over the last two weeks it has been astonishing. I’m not complaining, really I’m not. The water is free, I don’t have to pay to put any on the lawn, and unlike many others in the United States, I haven’t sustained damage. Okay, the roses have taken a couple of hits and there was the matter of a destroyed tree, but I’m still grateful that we weren’t hit by a flash flood (even through the phone went off with a flash flood alert one day this week…) or baseball sized hail. Life is good.

I’ve been attacking the yard in the short rain-free openings in the weather, but mostly I have been knitting. There has been lots of knitting. Check it out:

I’ve made a lot of progress on a Suburban Wrap (Joji Locatelli) for my extremely knitworthy niece. This is such a fun knit: because of the color and pattern changes I just keep knitting and knitting so that I can get to the next fabulous section. My project notes are here.
I’m also knitting on my new arm warmers that will match my No. 5 Union Street socks that I made a few weeks ago. I’m having so much fun knitting on these in the evenings while listening to The Clockmaker’s Daughter. The book is excellent, full of rich detail and compelling characters who are introduced as the story evolves; the story is centered around a remarkable old home. How fitting that I’m listening to this book as I knit arm warmers that are designed to reflect the architectural details of an old home located at No. 5 Union Street in Stonington, Connecticut.  My project notes are here.
I have another What the Fade?! shawl going too. I love brioche knitting (after surviving a rather traumatizing learning curve that left me dreaming nightmares that involved picking up dropped brioche stitches…), and this shawl is the one that I pick up in the evenings while binge watching Netflix. My project notes are here.
Finally I have this little sock going as there always has to be a small project that can be stuffed into a bag that can head out on a trip with me at a moments notice. This is another of my ubiquitous 64 stitch vanilla socks based on the Dave pattern by Rachel Coopey.

Today is the second day of summer, and guess what is happening outside? Yep, you guessed it: it is raining!

As soon as I get this posted I will be settling down to knit. Again. June is going to be a pretty productive month when I total up all of the yarn that has been used up this month. The “Get 50 Skeins Out of the Stash” resolution project is looking pretty good at the moment.

I just have to get some of these projects done! Maybe I can just weigh them to figure out how much yarn has been used by the end of June? Must knit faster!

Have a great (knitting) weekend everyone!

MacKenzie Speaks: Busy Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat helping hold yarn.
Do you see how much help I am to the Mother of Cats? 

The weather has turned nice and the Mother of Cats and I have been busy working in the yard, knitting lots of projects, and getting yummy things cooked in the kitchen. I love hanging out in the kitchen with the Mother of Cats since she gives me extra attention, cookies, and even plates of tuna. Sometimes the Mother of Cat can be fun. Sometimes.

I have been so busy that I hardly know what to do with myself. Now that I am able to get back into the yard there is a lot for me to do. I need to inspect every corner of the yard, nap in all of my favorite places, make sure that all the other cats in the neighborhood understand that I am back (ahem… I do my business in all the right places…), and then there are the plants that I like to chomp. And bugs! The moths are back and every night I have another epic moth hunt that goes on for hours. The Mother of Cats hates the moths…

Cat munching on catmint in the garden.
The very best thing about summer is that I can get back to my catmint!! I can take naps under this plant when I’m not snacking on it. Next time I chat with all of you about the yard I’ll send some pictures of the flowers. The Mother of Cats likes the flowers, but for me, it is ALL ABOUT THE CHOMPS!!

Unfortunately, the Mother of Cats doesn’t let me stay outside as much as I would like. Always, we have to go back in before I want to. The Mother of Cats just doesn’t place my needs first like she should. She can be so MEAN to me! Okay, there are some thunderstorms in the afternoons… If she loved me she would make them go away so I could stay outside!! Why can’t the Mother of Cats understand how important the outside is?

Cat sleeping with ball of yarn.
But she does let me take care of her yarns while she is knitting in the afternoons.
Cat asleep with knitting.
This knitting is also a blanket for me while the Mother of Cats is taking a break. I kind of like this shawl. It is going to be really big when it is done. My new Blankie!!

The Mother of Cats spent a few days working on the new shawl (a What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry) and then became completely distracted and started working on some arm warmers to match the socks that she made not that long ago. I can be reasonable… I helped her knit those, too. After only two days of knitting in bed listening to an audiobook she was able to get one of the arm warmers done solely due to my devoted attention. Look at how nice it looks!!

Arm warmers in progress.
I don’t know when she will wear these as it is pretty warm these days, but you never know. For some reason she was just on fire to get these all knitted up. Here are the socks that they will match.

As you can see, I am just terrifically busy. Taking care of the Mother of Cats and the yard is kind of a full time job. Then there is my mouse. Do you remember how badly I needed a mouse? The Mother of Cats bought me a mouse (she says it is a hamster… whatever!) a few months ago and last week she moved her downstairs to be with us in the evenings while we knit.

Cat snoozing with hamster.
I love my mouse! I spend a lot of my time right by the mouse cage every evening when she wakes up for the night. She makes me happy, and the best thing ever is that she RUNS IN A WHEEL! She even has her own little cookies to eat. Miss Pitty-Pat is my best friend these days.

I can’t believe how much I have to do every day.

I am such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • My neighbors (I have the best neighbors in the world!) have been collaborating with me to spruce up our yards. Mulch has been spread on the side yard, a new flower bed started, and I’m even moving bricks to extend the patio/deck area in the back (we all had a brick swap!). Wait until MacKenzie sees the new patio umbrella I bought this weekend!
  • The downside of all this yard work is that sunshine is not kind to people with autoimmune diseases. After a week of bravely tackling yard projects in the late afternoons the flare arrived anyway and I had to hole up in bed for a few days being kind to myself. Not wanting to manipulate multiple balls of yarn with MacKenzie sleeping on my legs I switched over to the small arm warmers. The project notes for them are here. They are based on the No. 5 Union Street socks that I made earlier this spring.
  • I have several other projects going right now, but the major one is the What the Fade?! shawl that I am working on in shades of rusts. My project notes are here.
Yarns for shawl.
Check out the yarns! And no, this new shawl is NOT a blankie for MacKenzie!
  • I’m still deep in my flare, but I am knitting and listening to audiobooks like crazy and eating comfort food ; I am still in charge here, you bad boy autoimmune things!! MacKenzie isn’t happy about not being in the yard all day, but his issue is really with scleroderma, not me. Somehow he isn’t grasping the finer details of the situation… What can I expect? He is a cat. I bossy, self-centered cat who drips entitlement like none other. Seriously, I couldn’t function in a flare without this furry monster at my side. 🙂
  • It looks like we are going to have an epic miller moth season; every time I open the door to the garage another moth flies in. Great. MacKenzie is specializing in 1am moth hunts these days…

MacKenzie Speaks: Nordiska Sweater is Done!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see how closely I worked with the Mother of Cats this time?

I am happy to announce the arrival of our bouncing baby Nordiska after weeks of effort. I really supervised the Mother of Cats closely this time and kept my paw on the knitting at almost all times, and I do say that my efforts have really paid off.

Looking good, huh! Now that the weather is nice again the Mother of Cats and I are starting to hang out in the yard again.

The Mother of Cats totally freaked out within hours of finishing this sweater and pulled out boxes of yarn to wind for new projects. So emotional, the Mother of Cats. She simply can’t function without me and at least 4 different projects to work on at once. I helped her with all of the yarn winding and we’re hard at work getting new shawls and mitts done now. Next time I write I’ll show them all off!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The sweater is Nordiska by Caitlin Hunter, and you can find my project notes here.

Here are some of the photos showing the entire knitting process:

Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
The yarns!
The cable detail along the raglan sleeves.
Close-up of the Fair Isle colorwork. I used a slightly darker gray at the bottom of the sweater and you can see the slight difference in the gray in the colorwork.

I posted the picture of MacKenzie sleeping in the knitting to a Facebook knitting group and he already has almost 550 likes. No wonder he has an outsized kitty ego…

 

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The Ankle Adventure

The last few weeks have been hard : rain, snow, an exceedingly badly behaved ankle, and all the fun of never-ending chronic complaints. Ugh! The weather fronts just kept rolling in, sending the air pressure swinging wildly and my breathing and joints into their own little crises. “Will it never end,” I asked my ankle and MacKenzie? “Nope!” said the ankle with a little sneer in its rotten little ankle voice. “Don’t count on it,” said MacKenzie as he squirmed deeper into the current knitting project with one paw extended, claw flashing, reaching for my yarn.

As you can guess, I’ve developed a nasty mood of my own.

There was a nice week with sunshine that made me and the ankle feel better: I got some yard work done and planted flowers. Then the weather turned on me and once again I was in bed, listening to audiobooks and knitting with my ankle propped up.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning I woke up to the crack of breaking branches. Six inches of heavy spring snow (the latest storm this bad in 17 years in the Denver area) had done my tree in. No wonder my joints are cranky… even the tree gave up! I took this picture the next day after most of the snow had melted.

What is up with this ankle, you ask? Good question! Three weeks ago it suddenly developed a hard, red, and hot lump that radiated pain ruthlessly. The infection began spreading under my rhino-hide scleroderma skin. I was started on antibiotics, but the pain continued, the redness continued spreading around the outside of my ankle, and a dent in my leg appeared where the redness was. I chatted with a doctor online and she decided that I should be checked for cellulitis. Cellulitis?! Off to urgent care I went, and as soon as that doctor saw my ankle he ordered testing: another blood clot hunt and  x-rays to see if the bone was damaged. Limping and in pain, I headed off to get the testing done. As I drove home from the ultrasound a call came in with the results of the testing: a benign tumor was found, and I was being referred to a dermatologist for treatment.

It’s like they forgot about the cellulitis! “Where are my new antibiotics?” I asked MacKenzie when I got home.  MacKenzie just carried on for attention and cookies, so I made the appointment for the dermatologist to look at my ankle before returning to my knitting and propping the ankle back up. I made a little cage out of a box to put in my bed so I could sleep without the covers touching the ankle… “I have a tumor,” said the ankle in its nasty little voice.

The next day the redness and heat were a little better, but the pain and lump on my ankle remained. I resolved to head back to urgent care if I got worse, and carried on with my knitting. Tumor, whatever. I have scleroderma and I was betting that was what made the lump appear unusual in the ultrasound. I was pretty sure this was just another chapter in the scleroderma adventure.

Two days later I got in to see the dermatologist. Wow. Just wow. I am in love with this doctor. This is the doctor that I have been waiting for since my first diagnosis FIVE YEARS AGO!

Aside: I have been battling eczema for months. All of my doctors have seen my eczema face. Since I have noticed that a dose of ibuprofen (which I’m not supposed to take because of my iffy kidneys…) will give me 24-48 hours of happy joints with no fatigue or brain fog symptoms, and some eczema relief,  I have literally begged for some type of anti-inflammatory drug to help me. Even though I am taking drugs that are crushing my immune system unto submission, there is something else that I need. I have cried in my internist’s office. Evidently there isn’t anything that can be given to me that won’t hurt my kidneys…

This dermatologist entered the office, took one look at my swollen, red and itchy face, and said that this was unacceptable and she was going to put a stop to it. Then she said that she had looked at the ultrasound and that there wasn’t anything that worried her there: scleroderma had caused fibrotic tissue to form. Then she wondered out loud why they had forgotten that I had cellulitis? Then she prescribed antibiotics that are also anti-inflammatory along with an anti-inflammatory cream to get my eczema whipped into shape. I was told to email her in a couple of days if there wasn’t a dramatic improvement to my ankle and face because she was going to make more referrals to get to the bottom of the eczema with an allergy specialist. And that the ankle should continue to be watched.

Look at how well my flowers came through the snow storm! I put a plastic garbage bag over them to keep them warm propped up over a tomato cage. You’d never know that they had 6″ of snow dumped on them! Just like my flowers, I came through the ankle adventure storm looking pretty good!

By the next morning it was obvious that I was better. Much better. Within a week my face was clear and the eczema was gone. My ankle is also much better, the lump is gone, but it continues to ache and carry on when I walk. My brain fog is gone. Fatigue? What fatigue? It’s like I needed an anti-inflammatory antibiotic or something…

My new, most wonderful in the whole world dermatologist is going to maintain me on the antibiotic. I’ve been on this drug before so I’m not worried about my kidneys at all.

I’m sorry I said all those nasty things to you, ankle. All in all, you were a blessing in disguise.

But anytime you want to stop with the achy hurt, that would be fine!

MacKenzie Speaks: Nordiska Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this knitting? The Mother of Cats and I are working like crazy on her Nordiska sweater.

She got cranky at the beginning of the sweater when she decided that she didn’t like the look of the cables that are on the edges of the raglan sleeve increases. She kept checking the pattern, knitting, grumbling, eating cookies and fussing about the look of the cable. Not always stable, the Mother of Cats…

See how the cable edge isn’t clean on the right side? The Mother of Cats went crazy about this.

I think that she should have just gotten past this little design flaw and gotten me more cookies, but NO! She had to rip everything out and started again with her own idea of how to make the cable.

Here is her revised version of the cable. Glad that crisis was over as she really neglected me something awful while she was deciding whether to rip/not rip. Once she ripped out the sweater and started over (MAJOR CAT FUN!!) she was back to normal and paid much more attention to me. About time, Mother of Cats! She is just exhausting some days.
I settled down for a little nap while she worked her way through the boring upper body of the sweater…
Grabbed some more nap time while she got herself organized for doing the colorwork at the bottom of the sweater…
And really poured on the attention and support while she was knitting with different colors of yarn.

What can I say? I really like knitting that has more than one ball of yarn involved. The Mother of Cats keeps flipping the different colors back and forth, and then she moves the balls from one side to the other. I help her as much as I can and grab a little yarn chomp when the opportunity presents itself. Why does the Mother of Cats get so emotional about my help? I think that it means that she loves me, don’t you? But if she loves me, why does she keep cutting my claws short? I don’t understand why she doesn’t trust me more…

This is what our work looks like now. Pretty good, don’t you think?

There is no way that the Mother of Cats could have done such a good job without my help.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I’m still not sure if the issue with the edge of the cable was me or the pattern, but I have to say that I just love, love, love how this sweater is working up. I put my notes on the change I made to the shaping increases in my project notes in case you are interested.
  • I did take a picture of the whole sweater the way it looks right now.
Can you see the V-neck? It is there…
  • I am using a different dye lot of the light grey yarn at the bottom of the sweater; it is a little darker. I made the switch when I started the colorwork and plan to finish up the bottom ribbing with the darker color. I’m saving the lighter yarn to do the V-neck ribbing, which I will do next, and then to start the sleeves until I get them down to the colorwork that will allow me to switch to the darker grey.
  • The Estes Park Wool Market is in two weeks and I have hopes that this sweater will be done in time to wear there (and that it will be cold enough in early June for a sweater…). I’m on a deadline, people! Must knit faster!!

FO: No. 5 Union Street Socks

Check these babies out!

Late last night I finished up the new socks. These socks, part of the Stonington Project, are designed to reflect the house at No. 5 Union Street. My project notes are here.
Here is the other side of the socks. As you can see, they are complementary and not exact matches.

These socks were a ton of fun to knit. They kept my interest as I knitted my way through color changes and different textures. The red is “brickwork”, the grey stripes remind me of the siding on the house, and the light grey cable might be the gingerbread details on the cupola… (if you navigate to the Ravelry pattern for these socks you can see pictures of the house).  The heels are Norwegian short row heels, which were new to me, but easy and fun to do. The best part of these socks?

They match my new Haflinger clogs!

I have lots of yarn left over from the socks, and I’m already thinking that I should whip out some matching arm warmers using these colors and textures. But first, I have a few sweaters to get finished.

Have a nice rest-of-the weekend, everyone. I’m off to do some knitting on my Nordiska sweater.

Casting On Again

Last week was great; I finished up a big knitting project, read a good book, baked cookies, and began planting flowers and doing yard work again. Yay! The leaves are bursting out on my trees, the roses are looking good, and I think that we have finally had our last freeze warning. Spring is finally here! Good weather has arrived for a few days, I have energy, and I made lots of progress over some really excellent days.

And yet, there was a downside to getting things done… I suddenly found myself rattling around the house at loose ends. I aimlessly flipped between books on my tablet, unable to find one that would hold my interest. I listlessly looked through knitting patterns, unable to commit. Where is my next project, I asked myself. I dove into the yarn stash hunting for inspiration.

Enough of that, said the stash! Here are some nice yarns, truly excellent colors, and ideas galore. It really does pay off to have a well-fed stash at times like this. Look at what I am casting on for the next round of projects…

I bought these cute shoes over the winter, and they so deserve socks to match their cuteness! What are the shoes, you ask? Those are Haflinger clogs, and my feet love them. 
Here they are! These socks are part of the Stonington Project by Ruth Garbo, and this particular pattern is No. 5 Union Street. How stinking cute can a pair of socks be? My project notes are here.
Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
I had put together the yarns for Nordiska last month but kind of forgot about them while knitting the VNeck Boxy. Yippee! I sang to myself as I pulled the kitted up yarns and pattern out of the stash. I wound the yarns…
cast on and began knitting away Monday. I love the way the “construct” colorway is working up, and the cables that show off the raglan shaping are looking great. Next month is the Estes Park Wool Market; if I knit like crazy I might be able to show off the finished Nordiska then. My project notes are here.
I kept collecting these coral and rust colored yarns through the fall and winter. Unsure of what to do with them, I kept feeding the yarn stash knowing that eventually the right project would come along. Behold! These yarns have told me that they want to be a What the Fade!? shawl. Who am I to argue with them?

So, there we are. I have projects going again and I am excited with the drive to complete more knitted yumminess.

Still hunting for the book, but it is sure to come. I have two audiobook credits to burn, so as soon as I settle on some titles I will be in business.

After all, I need something to listen to while knitting!